Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Multitasking Considered Less Harmful?

As you know if you're close to me or follow my twitter stream, I'm reading Graham Wallas' Art of Thought.

I was reading through his chapter on Stages of Control, and was struck by this:
The Incubation stage covers two different things, of which the first is the negative fact that during Incubation we do not voluntarily or consciously think on a particular problem, and the second is the positive fact that a series of unconscious and involuntary mental events may take place during that period. [...] the period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems, or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work. The first kind of Incubation economizes time, and is therefore often the better. We can often get more result in the same time by beginning several problems in succession, and voluntarily leaving them unfinished while we turn to others, than by finishing our work on each problem at one sitting.
When so much of the writing resonates deeply with me, this particular paragraph's ending is jarring.

Could Dr. Wallas, writing in 1926, be entirely wrong about multitasking? Was the world of psychology and behavioral study so young that he attributed merit to practices now considered harmful or inefficient?  Or is he right that task switching is good for encouraging creative thought; perhaps merely that it is better than continuously focused thought?

I have noticed that leaving a task for a while can help me think more intuitively about it later.  When I learned about the incubation stage, it seemed to me that the breaks have allowed the new information to "cook" in the background and seep into my intuition where it can inform more intentional decision-making.

Perhaps incubation is one more benefit of switching programming partners mid-day. It could be that leaving an idea behind to incubate will make it all the more clear when we return (or make it more clear why it is not).

I have no certain conclusion here but I welcome your comments, complaints, discussion, rationalizations, etc.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Continual Improvement In A Flash - edits underway

Last month I released the first copy of Continual Improvement In A Flash, and you have all been very kind in providing feedback and corrections. Thank you for your purchases and your interest in the work.

This weekend I hope to make all the edits you've suggested and release a new copy. Since it is a leanpub book, anyone who has a copy is entitled to all updated copies; watch your email for details.

Again, thanks for your support and encouragement.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Personal Note on the Passing of my Father

I usually don't put anything deeply personal on this blog, but today I make an exception.

For three years after his massive stroke, my dad was severely handicapped and struggled with his reduced mental and physical capacities, recurrent illnesses and infections, and the inability to eat or drink except through an abdominal tube. As a strong, stubborn, self-reliant man whose habit was to dig in and work hard instead of receiving aid, it was a difficult time for him.

Around 2am today (16 Jan 2013) he found peace.

It is best to remember the beefy guy with the Amish-style beard who always had projects, cared so much for the wild animals that frequented his property, just couldn't stop working, couldn't stop learning, and taught himself anything he wanted to know.  His fascination with the natural world and many technologies was entirely out of line with the background and opportunities he was allowed as a young man.

We can also remember his stubbornness, frustrations, and the prejudices and preferences that marked him as a product of his time. This too was part of a very real human life.

I think we'll never forget how much he loved music, nor how incredibly tone deaf he was. It was astounding. There was usually some music playing at our house when he was home, often 50s country music and southern gospel (his tastes and mine varied significantly) but sometimes swing.

He and I had many differences, and I was not what one might call a devoted son in my teen years. I was a mess, and a hassle, and my relationship with my father was a wreck. We shared a stubbornness, but my "values" were quite far from his and frankly I was a self-important and self-involved young guy with an income and a car and a chip on my shoulder.

Once I became a man, working a job, building a career, learning and developing, taking on responsibility, we were able to develop a respect and genuine fondness for each other. We enjoyed walking the property, talking, sharing projects with each other, and of course old movies and older jokes.

Though he was an imperfect guy and had a very rough start in life, he gave us a good start and passed on his curiosity and stubbornness.

He was our first advantage.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Continual Improvement Book for Scrum Masters: first public release.

I've pulled the trigger on my first release of the scrum master book.

You can pop over to the leanpub page and grab a sample, or even buy the book for $USD12.00.  If you buy it, the future versions (when the price goes up) will be yours also. It's a subscription deal.

I don't know what to expect in the way of response, but I'm hoping to get feedback on what parts provided value and which parts the book could do without.

Thanks for staying with me while I got the first version ready for initial release.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Home IT Suggestions?

I put up a note in facebook and g+ about how I want my home IT reworked.

I've bought a new router that will help me with getting my wifi (used by family for non-work stuff including ROKU and other streaming video) separated from my work networking (netbook, macbook pro, printer, etc). I probably will have to run some cat5 through external walls to get this done, unless I can come up with some smarter solution. Helpful recommendations are appreciated.

I already have one wifi printer for family use. I want to get a wifi laser printer because ink is expensive. I might even try a color laser, but I don't know how those are with consumables. I know that monochrome laser is dead cheap to run.

I use darned few non-web apps. Almost all my mail, docs, notes, etc are in the cloud via google or EverNote or the like. This is necessary because we use linux, mac, and android devices around here. Everything has to be accessible.

But the fact that this is even possible, or that "home IT" is actually a non-eyebrow-raising phrase is incredibly cool. When I was 8, we never saw this coming. This is Star Trek, Lost In Space, and The Time Tunnel all wrapped up in one reality.

I'm interested in knowing how you would like your home IT to work. 
I'm particularly interested in what you have done as far as NAS and offline storage. We have a lot of digital photos I would hate to lose. I do have some online accounts, so we have some backup of some pix, but we have thousands to sort through to decide which ones we want to keep.