Oct 032013
 

I recently wrote about a long shot opportunity I thought I had to attain a “dream job”.  In the aftermath of failure, a friend mentioned that we don’t always land our dream jobs.  I had to reply that I did have one, once, in a quality assurance role in a former Nokia factory from 2005 to 2007.

Of course defining a dream job is very personal, and for me there were some distinct, key elements that inspired me to literally race to work most mornings and hate leaving some times:

  • Management trust.  My boss made it clear she trusted everyone on her team to have the necessary skills and do the right thing on every occasion.  She never hovered over us, never micromanaged.  And when I doubted myself on a tough, critical project, her faith in me got me past a brief approaching-deadline panic and on to a satisfying solution.
  • Clear goals and communications.  I was never caught off guard with ad hoc expectations.  I always knew what I was supporting.  In fact a large part of my role was to improve the team’s data mining and reporting solutions so that we ALL knew.
  • Ideal work environment.  On the first day my boss was embarrassed, she said, that I would have to sit near the edge of a mezzanine overlooking the factory floor.  I thought she was kidding– for a Maker, that was workplace heaven!  Not only that, but cube walls were almost non-existent– so low that I could actually see my colleagues at any moment.  That may bother others, but I loved it.  Out of the maze and right over the frying pan!  Not to mention that I got to spend a lot of time in a test lab.
  • Travel opportunities.  When I was told I would be going to Finland sooner or later, I was terrified.  I had never left the states and did not know how I would handle a foreign country.  A trip to Mexico was not really a big deal; it was just southern Texas with different laws.  But not only did overseas travel turn out to be tolerable, I actually enjoyed it.  I’ve been to Finland 13 times now and eagerly look forward to getting back as soon as I can.
  • Beneficial training.  Oh, the training I received!  Useful.  Interesting.  Not the usual rote lecture stuff but engaging sessions where I came away a much better employee and person.  Nokia had training down to a fine science.
  • Opportunities.  For a while, the sky was the limit in Nokia.  I have a feeling it will be again before too long.
  • Enjoyable culture.  I’ve worked for many companies but only found myself truly at home in two: Texas Instruments and Nokia.  A large part of that was culture.  The previous bullet points are reflections of rich, rewarding corporate culture.  Where employees feel empowered and even encouraged to contribute, and not just treated as cogs in a cube farm.  True, no company is perfect and even TI and Nokia had some cultural failings, but they were still far above many of their peers.

Of course those attributes work for me but may not for everyone.  They thing to take away though is that a dream job is one that easily fits your aptitude and interests.  One you might even do for free, for fun.  I think we can all agree on that sort of definition.

But I’m eager to hear from others: what defines your dream job?  Please add to comments.

Jun 232013
 
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Gathering in the cool TECH Fort Worth foyer…

After months of exploring civic hacking possibilities for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a brainstorming session finally came together early this month.  Held at TECH Fort Worth on a breezy Saturday, the event sought to identify challenges and develop plans for future events that bring needful municipalities and contribution-minded citizens to the same table.

We decided to take a traditional brainstorming approach, throwing ideas on the board and carefully guiding them toward a refined, useful set of actionable items.  TECH Fort Worth is the right facility for it!  But first, I shared a presentation on the subject.  I’m sure I violated some unspoken rule by launching a Prezi from a PowerPoint deck, but at least it worked!

Instead of the traditional lecture presentation style, I prefer a more inclusive, audience-friendly approach.  It can take a little longer to get through, but I find the attendees come away more informed and engaged.  This technique also better sets the stage for true brainstorming afterward.

We were extremely fortunate to have Pete Anderson and Brian Chatman from the city of Fort Worth and Karen Siddall of Irving Public Works.  The strongest civic hacking events enjoy a high degree of municipal involvement, as demonstrated by Palo Alto seeing around 5000 participants in their Hack for Change event this year.

It’s very doubtful DFW will see such numbers in 2014, but we feel a year’s worth of planning and preparation will lead to a successful event for us.  We are targeting a participant level of 75 but it could go even higher.  It comes down to the support we get!

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What’s a meetup without pizza? Pizza Hut was fast and courteous, and the food was great.

Discussion continued over lunch, although we lost Cone Johnson and George Battle III beforehand.  They had a good reason to leave, though: as it turned out, small Hack for Change events sprang up in south Dallas and Red Oak, and the two of them went to check on progress at both.  Even though the core goal of this committee is to put together a metro-scale event for 2014, smaller surrounding events are of course welcome and we will support them any way we can.

Oh, and thanks to the Microsoft Tech Affiliate program for buying the meal!

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Jorge Varela moderates. So glad to have him aboard!

We were every fortunate to gain the participation of Jorge Varela, assistant director of TECH Fort Worth.  Jorge was invaluable in leading the discussion from the storming to forming portion and development of specific action items.

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Discussion results

As brainstorming discussions do, this one wandered over vast territory before reaching critical paths.  I had originally proposed CentrePort business park as the ideal general location, and was pleasantly surprised to see our talk end up there.  As I blogged previously, it really is a great spot; we just need to identify a site host.  We narrowed top three candidates down to:

  1. New KXAS Studios
  2. AT&T
  3. American Airlines

I drove out there after the session to reacquaint myself with the property.  I could not find the AT&T site; even an internet search was no help, which I found to be very odd.  I’ll have to do a little more digging to find it.  They would make an ideal partner for this sort of event… however, I got nowhere with them this year so I’m not very optimistic for next year.

The under-construction KXAS news studio was number one on our list so I made sure to check it out.  The building looks nice, but smaller than I expected.  KXAS would be a perfect partner for the event, but I’m not sure their facility will work as an event site.  We’ll see.

The American Airlines campus is huge, and given their high level of community involvement and social media awareness I believe they would be able to support us.  We will definitely pursue them.

There are other possibilities to explore as well.  Bottom line, CentrePort is the place to hold a DFW event.  New bus lines will be added to CentrePort Station soon, which just increases its attractiveness for our planned use.

Wrap-up

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Backpack winner Raj Daniels

As a thank-you for participation in the brainstorming session, I conducted a random drawing among participants for a sharp Nokia DVLUP-branded Wenger backpack.  Karen Siddall was kind enough to bring various useful items promoting water conservation.

For future communications purposes, we have a Google group set up, and have taken out the domain DataLibreDFW.org.  Nothing on the site yet, but that’s coming!  We’re going to be holding periodic meetups, and welcome anyone wanting to attend.  Follow this blog and the Twitter account MakeDFW for future developments.

Amidst all the successes, there remain some challenges.  I was disappointed that the following cities neglected to respond to requests for involvement: Keller, Southlake, Grapevine and Coppell.  It’s critical that between now and next year we get every local municipality to understand the huge benefits of civic hacking [note: the linked article is a must read for team members!].  Of course, we can pull an event off with backing by Fort Worth and Irving, but we don’t want to leave anyone out!

I want to encourage anyone reading this to get involved in civic hacking for your locality, or even on a larger scale.  For North America, start with the Hack for Change organization, which puts an incredibly big effort behind the activity in general and specifically the National Day of Civic Hacking events.  Here in DFW we’re going to need a lot of help making this happen here.  The growing Maker community stands ready.  If you’re interested, contact me to see how you can contribute, or just join the Data Libre DFW Google group.  I guarantee you there’s a way you can help!

Mar 102013
 

SMU Hackathon

The last time I did a “Where I’m At” post was too long ago, so let’s get this thing going without much preamble.  And no, this isn’t about US college basketball playoffs.  Just feels like it sometimes.

Nokia Stuff

As many if not all of you know, I returned to Nokia on a part-time contract basis in late 2012.  I still have a full-time day job, and commit a large part of my other hours to sharing the Nokia Lumia story with current and hopeful developers in North Texas… with some virtual forays into neighboring states.

Here in DFW there’s been a steadily growing increase in interest, something I’ll blog in more detail about later.  But it’s still a mostly Apple world in these parts, at least from a user perspective, while the local developer community largely feeds on Android.  The Dallas-area Windows Phone developer crowd has reached a respectable size, though, to the point where this part-time gig feels more like full-time.

That last part has been mitigated through cultivation of additional community leaders.  For instance, Bary Nusz in Amarillo, Texas and Patrick Hefner of the Nashville, Tennessee area have been phenomenal in growing the Nokia developer and enthusiast base for their regions.  They’re being rewarded with Lumia phones and something maybe even more useful: Nokia Developer Champion nominations.  The Champions are volunteers recognized for some form of advanced leadership– technical, community-oriented or both.  The perks are very nice.  I have not heard yet if Bary and Patrick will have their nominations approved [update: both were], but they are both deserving in my opinion.  I’ll be spending a great deal of time this year on Champion development.  If you’re interested, contact me!

And if you haven’t checked out our DVLUP incentive program, what are you waiting for?  It’s out of private beta so no registration codes required now.  The challenges have been updated and cool new rewards added.  If you’re an existing Windows Phone developer and haven’t joined, you’re already cheating yourself out of some really cool stuff.  If you’re new to the experience, you’ll find helpful people there and at Nokia’s core developer community as well (our wiki is legendary).  So get engaged!  Some lucky DVLUP participant and Cowtown Code Camp attendee stands to win big– more on that in a following post.

The Maker Space

Being a founder and director of the new and rapidly-expanding Fort Worth Makerspace community keeps me pumping as well.  To minimize conflicts and make it easy on this old body, I’m focusing on areas where Makers can play in the Nokia product ecosystem.  This goes beyond simple app development into some really cool areas, like 3D printing.

As I shared over at post404, I helped kickstart Nokia’s involvement in crowdsourced 3D printing and have been assisting John Kneeland as he promotes this venture into even bigger proportions.  The project started with the sexy Lumia 820 and has recently been expanded to include the newer 520 model.  It remains to be seen if calls for supporting unibody devices like the 920 prove feasible.  I’ve formed a mobile technology special interest group at our local makerspace for those interested in participating.  See Nokia’s developer wiki for more details.

I’m trying to get some sort of contest developed around 3D printing of Lumia back covers, and hope to share something soon.  Meanwhile, Shapeways has announced a 3D printing API and I’m very excited about the possibilities it presents!  Check it out.

Before 3D printing took off in the consumer space, the Internet of Things was largely about mobile and embedded devices.  Sensors everywhere would feed data to the web, turning the Internet itself into a rich field of environmental I/O.  Arduino and Netduino devices are especially designed to participate in this space, and I plan to bring the latter into my Nokia outreach efforts.  Ideas welcomed!

Perceptual Computing

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked by Intel’s awesome Bob Duffy to whip up local enthusiasm for their perceptual computing challenge.  How could I resist?

In a nutshell, Intel is promoting the development of novel interactve solutions built around Ultrabooks and Creative’s Interactive gesture camera.  Consider the latter as a laptop-scaled analog to Microsoft’s Kinect camera and you get the picture.

This article at Venture Beat provides an introduction to what Intel is trying to do:

The latest laptops, known as Ultrabooks, will have multiple ways to interact.  Nuance-based voice controls will let you talk to your computer to run Google  searches, start playing music, or share links on Twitter. Perlmutter, who is  from Israel, said the technology will eventually be able to understand even his  accent.

Intel is also working with SoftKinetic to bring 10-finger gesture recognition to the PC. With it, you can wave your fingers in front of the camera of a  computer, and it will recognize your gestures. [Intel executive vice president Dadi Perlmutter] showed how he could use his  fingers to control a catapult game demo and hold a crystal ball, by waving his  hands in front of a computer and not touching it.

I’ll be using my Maker channels to organize activity around this one, although I have also been informing the local Nokia outreach community of the opportunity.  I have developer devices available for loan and session work; I’ll have something more formal to announce soon for the next phase of the challenge, but feel free to hit me up via email if you’re at all interested in learning more.  First, however, get familiar with the program and tools.  Note that my direct support of this activity will be limited to the immediate Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Bob has an analysis of where the challenge is currently, and it’s worthwhile reading.

Getting Qt

Sadly, I have not had much time for Qt lately.  I do want to rectify that, but at the moment I don’t see how.  I’m still interested in the platform, especially where Jolla is concerned, and even in coding for my coveted N9… but overcommitment is a bad habit that I’m working hard to break.  I’ll still share Qt news, mostly on twitter, and continue trying to make time for learning it.  I’m thrilled at its prospects and assured by its recent advances.

!Spam

As noted before I have a lot of work to do with this site.  Most of it has been invisible: theme-searching, plugin-testing, etc.  The necessary grunt work that feels like time wasted.  I definitely need to add some resource pages, and that’s in the works.

One of my goals is to push content to your preferred channels so you don’t have to subscribe to MY preference(s).  So besides this site, here’s a list of outlets where you can expect updates:

Twitter

Texrat (general)
NokiaDevNorthTX (Nokia outreach specific)

Facebook

Texrat (general)
Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas page
Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas group
Mobile Monday Dallas

Google Plus

Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas community

Meetup.com

Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW North Texas

LinkedIn

Develop with Nokia
Windows Phone Community
MobileMonday
IdeasProject
Windows App Developers
Developer Evangelists

Nokia Developer

Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW Dallas Texas
3D Printing and Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas

Website(s)

Fort Worth Makerspace

Up Next

I’ll be attending a Board of Directors meeting for the Tarrant County Maker Community Foundation this week.  If you have anything you want me to raise there, let me know!

Here are some upcoming events:

Cowtown Code Camp 2013
Mobile Monday Usability/Accessibility Brainstorm DFW

Much more to come!

Oct 302012
 

Yesterday I received an email from a Dallas entrepreneur who wondered why he kept seeing my name pop up a lot.  Then today I got a call from a former Nokia colleague following up on a LinkedIn update, wondering what I’ve been up to lately.  So it’s no doubt time for Yet Another Boring Update.

Only it hasn’t been boring for me.  Far from it!  Here’s why, explained by what I am and will be doing, in order of priority:

  • Full time job and family.  Hard to say which really comes first, since I could only go without a full-time job if I had no family.  But I’m stuck with both, and regardless of pecking order they come before all else.  I love working for BNSF Railway and hope that continues as long as I need it to!
  • Nokia developer outreach.  As many already know, since 2005 I have supported Nokia’s business in some form or fashion, and it just got real again.  I am now officially working part-time for my former favorite employer, as a project coordinator with the cooler-sounding label of Nokia Developer Ambassador.  The goal is to get developers cranking on Windows Phone.  I’m currently working on getting my embassy in order.  That would be home office (corner of our bedroom and a tiny spot on a living room table), this website, twitter account, a local meetup site, and various coffee shops around town.
  • Qt.  I can’t give up on this platform, even though I sadly retreated late last year and set it aside.  I’ve been asked by Digia to help with Dallas-area meetups and I believe I can fit that in.  I just hope there’s enough interest!  I’m also eager to find out what’s brewing at Jolla; the new mobile phone manufacturer may offer renewed hope to mobile Qt developers.
  • Tarrant County maker community.  Since returning from the Devaamo Summit in Finland some months ago, full of fire and foolishness, I have been trying to pull together a local maker community.  There’s no shortage of talent and interest in my home county; just little in the way of Big Picture Organization.  That hurdle appears to have been crossed, thanks in large part to Sherry Huss of O’Reilly Media and the visionaries at http://DFWI.org.  A makerspace website has been constructed by the hardworking Robert Bradbury, and the community is taking shape!  There’s synergy with Qt and Windows Phone efforts, which will help minimize my time.
  • Hildon Foundation Board.  This is a new organization chartered to find a future for Nokia’s Maemo assets and community.

I’ve also been helping Scarlet Motors on community-building.  But you’ll notice no specific mention of 3D printing or Tribal Method in that list.

Where the former is concerned, I’m not stopping activity– just reducing it.  3D printing will be a large part of maker community activities, and I’ll still putter with my inventions as I find time.  But it won’t be as high a priority as it has been… unless something changes in the list above.

As for my ventures, aka Tribal Method, I’m putting that on a distant back-burner.  I still have big ideas, and strongly believe one or more of them could create many millionaires, but I continue to struggle in selling my business ideas and building the teams necessary to bring them to life.  Yes, for those in the know that includes Kintegrity, Conkin, unfolo, Resuflex, Cocoa Labs and others.  Maybe at some point I’ll be able to get something going on one or more of them, but it isn’t now.

I’m busy enough.  ;)