Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ira Glass on Storytelling

Ira Glass (of "This American Life" fame) has a 4 part VLOG on storytelling. I really enjoy listening to Ira when I have the opportunity and he has had some compelling stories.

My personal revelation is that I should look more to people I respect and study them. As someone who never formally studied creative writing or storytelling, it was interesting that the mechanics of building a story outlined by Ira were more natural and easy to follow than the myriad of rules found in various English composition books I've read. I believe this the difference between trying to define a simple set of rules on how to master the mechanics of doing something as opposed to learning to bend your mend into the shape of a master of the art.

A further revelation is that I realize that I am very often reading books about subjects written by people who aren't necessarily skillful or even successful at that particular subject. As an example, when reading about some very successful writers (written by the writers themselves) their techniques were almost always different from the techniques outlined in many books about creative writing.

In my own professional life, many technical books about programming or software development are written by folks whose technicals and skills I do not particularly admire. While this can be good because it gives a different perspective on things, I need to to remember to temper the amount of credence I give their potentially crappy ideas. Too often I spend time trying to do things the "right way" as told by a person with meaningless credentials, and a "better way" is staring me in the face and used effectively by practitioners of the art.

While it should be obvious, I'm now going to devote more time to seek out masters with contributions that I believe are cut above the rest to seek out and learn from them.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The elves leave middle earth

I just stumbled across a great article about the difficult transition from a startup into a more sustainable business.

The elves leave middle earth

I'm currently working in a place that is going through this change in the IT organization. Right now, we have a mixed team of heros and good performers.

A key problem I'm having is that one of the managers is having a tremendously difficult time even fathoming the difference between these two modes. As a former hero coder, he spends his time fiddling around with code and inventing new "cool" requirements and almost zero time even thinking about how to keep the team performing.

This has the predictable side effect of the team faltering and thrashing while this person sits around and bemoans how slow and confused the team is. Where I'm going is that if you're going to decide to change modes, you need to make sure you have a management team that is able to function in that mode. If it's necessary to move folks in/out of management to make things a good fit, don't be afraid to do so... waiting just causes MORE problems.