Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Note: If you are looking at this blog for serious professional reasons, and only want to see the non-silly entries, skip this one.

Welcome to the next episode of Ruthbert, wherein two non-colocated sardonic female information workers search for life, love, meaning, and original puns about bears.
K2: I spelled "for example" as "for exmaple"
this particular field goes out to all of you ex maples out there
don't ever go back, man
Ruth: snort

K2: Oh god, I'm sorry for this:
"I know you're pining away.... but don't fall off the wagon"
Ruth: NO

K2: "I'm not ON the wagon, man. I AM the wagon"
Ruth: NO K2 that's a BAD K2

K2: HA
Ruth: now you go to your room and THINK about what you did

Ruth's statuses for April 08:

  • One two three o'clock four o'clock BARACK
  • Solid as Barack
  • Barack-a-bye baby, in the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will Barack
  • We built this city on Barack and roll
  • Hush little baby don't say a word, Obama's gonna buy you a Barackingbird
  • Walk this way, Barack this way
  • Barack me Amadeus
K2: His travel doctor ALSO suggested he get the same blood test I suggested he get.
Ruth: travel doctor? is that like a miniature version of a doctor, that comes in a plastic carrying case?

K2: it's nice because he's magnetic on the bottom and doesn't tip over
Ruth: makes it harder to lose him under the seat, too

K2: sometimes you drop him and find him sticking perpendicular out of the gearshift
Ruth status: "whipped topping" is a phrase disturbing in its vagueness

K2 status: Officemate: What would you do without me? Me: I don’t know! Probably become a Pollyanna optimist with nothing but hope for the future and respect for Microsoft products. Officemate: I doubt that.
K2: crashed
Ruth: oh, that's no good

K2: I would like to drive a requirement into today's Ruth Release
it's a pry 2, but will support many other releases
it's called: More Talking
you'll note if you take a look at the process workflows that we would like at least 15 Funny Jokes included in this piece of functionality
Ruth: I don't know if 15 Funny Jokes is a realistic expectation of deliverables this late in the Release
what are your KPIs for the jokes?

K2: well
we're measuring them by funny sounds
like "ingers" and "oogle"
that's going to have the greatest customer satisfaction impact
also references to bears
Ruth: Those success metrics sound reasonable
here is my counter-proposal:
I should be able to get you 10 Funny Jokes by EOD
Ruth: we can push the remaining 5 out to tomorrow's release

K2: hmm
Ruth: and supplement in the meantime with Talking About Boys

K2: iiiinteresting
Ruth: my research has shown that customers respond almost as well to Talking About Boys
but admittedly, the sample size is small

K2: that may be bad news to our Future Humor Writers of America division, but the 13 Year Old Girl stakeholder group has been trying to push that change request through forever
I think we can ship this one
I crashed again
K2: my midday lonesomes are hitting
Ruth: you are not alone
you are at Microsoft
Steve Ballmer is probably spying on you right now
K2: it's going to be cloudy all weekend
but warm
Ruth: it better not hail

K2: I screwed up and scheduled a bunch of meetings for Memorial Day because nobody had blocked it off
including me
Ruth: oopsie

K2: this is how I covered my tracks: "On second thought, I'm going to declare Monday Memorial Day and give all of you guys the day off. No need to thank me. "
I have godlike powers
this is why it's valid and useful for you to bring your concerns about hail straight to me

Ruth: cows
I am wearing jeans yay!

Ruth: yay

K2: that's why we're friends
Ruth: does that mean we're only friends on fridays?

K2: yes
you are ALSO usually wearing something that I also am usually wearing
like shoes
we could base our friendship on shoes
Ruth: or a bra
or an air of superiority

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gina Neff: Work and Power

Note: I have resolved to: (1) make my posts shorter so they stop eating my life, and (2) swerve, with a deft flick of the steering wheel, from my former outline of stuff that I was going to cover, to concentrating on my "Technology as Social Intervention: Discuss" topic, where I hope to learn more and rant less. It's all the same basic subject, though, so you may not even notice the difference.

That said, I went out a few weeks ago and interviewed Gina Neff, who is faculty at the UW Department of Communication. Gina is very taken with the concept of "work and power," and I wanted to ask her: what's the connection between the two? How do organizational structures dictate how power gets allocated to its members? And what happens to those power structures-- or to the communication dynamics of the org as a whole-- when you introduce new problem-solving technologies? If you are also geeky enough to find these topics interesting, you will find some of Gina's answers to those questions in the following few blog entries.

Information, Power and Tools

Gina has been studying these type of questions for years, and she has seen organizations' implicit power structures change radically with the addition of new technological tools, "magnifying existing power disparities," she says, "or breaking them down." The power-holders in an org may try to restrict how a tool is distributed or employed, or might even rally against it, if it seems like it has the potential to redistribute the power to make things happen. Alternatively (as in the following example), it might level the playing field, causing an initial chaos that leads to large changes to the org's workflows and the way its members define their own roles.

Gina is currently undertaking a study about the adoption of building information modeling tools in the construction industry. She explains:

Historically, contractors (the folks who build the buildings) and architects have lived on opposite sides of the organizational divide. They spoke different languages and had different goal sets; they communicated via blueprints. This mutual organizational isolation allowed each group a lot of control over their spheres, but frequently made collaboration a painful, contentious mess. Each group guards its information and works at cross-purposes to the other, with miscommunications leading to mutual stereotyping, which itself helps reinforce the divide.
Gina is studying a transition that's taking place right now, before her eyes as she studies it: Today, builders and architects are beginning to share their visions via 3-D computer graphic tools and databases that represent the building being built. In other words, these groups are adopting a communications- and design- based technological innovation, and it is creating dramatic changes in the way they work together. The stereotypes are being put to the test as the groups are forced into proximity with one another, and each silo's private language is being opened up to the other. As Gina describes: "Their entire communications infrastructure has been channeled into different visual symbols, and is hardwired through different network pathways." Each group is also, in the process, losing some of the autonomy that came with that defended isolation.

Heterophily: Difference and Group Intelligence

It's not far-fetched to imagine that switching the wiring in an organization's communication structure could lead to huge changes. Cultures large and small, since the civilization of man, have kept themselves alive by employing one or another form of isolation: a mountain range, a separate language, secrecy, stereotyping, a forbidding initiation rite; Jews, for example, have kept Jewish culture alive, despite the diaspora, with the aid of lengthy and complex conversion processes, services conducted entirely in Hebrew, and dietary restrictions that can help limit who Jews eat with. If you move a culture's boundary devices, you change the way the culture lives. Build a highway, raise children bilingual, install a phone system, the internet: suddenly you find cultures blending, changing, and questioning the way they do things.

The contractors and architects in the system Gina is studying have historically been heterophilious. "Heterophily" is an amusingly polysyallabic term for "different in a way that makes communication between them hard." The words heterophily and homophily describe two ends of a spectrum: on the one side, you have two groups (or individuals) who are different to the point where they can't communicate at all (an American economist and a Bolivian witch woman); on the other side, you have groups who are so similar that communication between them is easy, but totally uninteresting (an American economist and an American economist ;) ). They have nothing to say to one another that they don't already know.

Want More of This Stuff? Check out:

And four "easily accessible" books Gina suggests everyone read:

... Gina recommends all of the above except, technically, the following blog entry. :)

Image pulled from here.