May 202014
 

Last week I blathered a bit about where I’m at and hope to go.  For those interested, I’m gonna share more details today.

In case it doesn’t come across in other contexts, I’m ultimately a maker at heart.  Nothing pleases me more than to be designing, writing or building.  Something.  Anything.  I’m even happy with repairing stuff– assuming the designers put reasonable thought into that aspect of their product.  I’m convinced though that pointy-haired bosses excel at ensuring all products leaving their domain are as repair-unfriendly as possible.

For most of my adult life, I’ve made things at the direction of others.  At Texas Instruments, as a (now-reformed) defense worker, I contributed to radar and guidance system design.  At Stanley, I worked on ways of improving existing mechanics’ tools as well as inventing great new things that Marketing feared to approve.  At Medtronic, I mainly supported development and testing of surgical tools designed to cut into your skull and spine.  At Nokia, I designed quality-monitoring software solutions and supply chain processes.

All of that was wonderful. Continue reading »

Nov 132013
 

For a while now I’ve been limiting articles here to various community outreach items, but today I’m going to ramble a bit about personal stuff.  Don’t worry: no drama.

As I’m sure most of you do, I tend to reflect a bit towards the end of any year… what’s been accomplished, what was missed, where corrections are needed… the usual crap an aging soul indulges.  More and more the subject becomes what sort of life I want right now, as my sons venture into adulthood, and age discrimination (yes, it’s real) tries hard to reduce my career prospects.

Ultimately, like many, I want do Do My Own Thing.  When I can manage spare time in the course of working two jobs, I’ve been hacking away at projects designed to get me there.  Starting slow and simple with plans to progress to bigger, better things.

It’s when I sit down to code, often struggling to get into The Zone, that I’m struck by the main thing occupying my mind lately: the need to simplify.  I’m surrounded by artifacts collected over a lifetime, a maintenance nightmare bordering on hoarding proportions.

While I’ve always had a tendency to hang onto books and certain knickknacks, it wasn’t until marriage/fatherhood that this took on a life of its own.  Suddenly my collection combines with those of other household members, and a critical mass is reached.  A point far beyond any one garage sale’s salvation.  I need to get rid of it.  I need time to get rid of it.

In younger years I was highly mobile.  Without my own family trappings, I was free to wander at will.  I just neglected to take enough advantage at the time.  Now, burdened by familial anchors, I yearn for that twenty-something space-time agility.  Too much house in the way though.

I’d love to dump the house, along with the bulk of its contents, and move into a motor home.  Then drive/park where ever needed, wanted or interested.  I’m just not sure if my wife is as ready for that as I am, despite occasional claims along those lines.  She’s starting up her own thing, and it depends on shipping/receiving handmade goods.  The shipping part is no problem, but what about receiving raw materials?  We need a mail service that can follow mobile people.

Hmm… I smell another project…

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.  ;)

Mar 022012
 

Ok, so I last wrote about a little venture I am starting called Tribal Method, and already the questions are rolling in (just not here for some reason).  So I’ll explain a bit more.

First, I need a gathering place for my own ideas and projects.  Just to manage them if nothing else.  So I’m going to incorporate as Tribal Method first to start organizing my own efforts.  The initial website will host them and provide links to services that support what I’m about to describe.

As I mentally explored ideas on project organization, I realized the if I could solve MY needs I could solve ANYone’s.   Just… unconventionally.

See, I deal with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I refuse to say “suffer from” because although the syndrome can be a major pain in the butt, it’s also ironically responsible for my success in many areas.  ADD is a common cause of unboxed creative thinking and I would not trade this curse for any gift.  But– constantly generating countless revolutionary ideas is rather useless if there’s no mechanism for moving them forward.  In my career I have often had to depend on others for that.  I’d rather not.

Project management tools have not helped, because they don’t work the way I do.  Too often they demand too much labor in setup and maintenance, and lack natural connectivity to my other systems and data stores.  This makes project management extremely inefficient.

Everyone with ADD or ADHD right now is nodding in sympathetic horror.  We HATE inefficiencies– even our own.

My idea count has just been mounting with no end or solution in sight.  Pulling together teams has been frustrating because the people I know well enough to trust have their own things going.  Part of the solution has been getting out more and getting involved on the business side, but even that has made me realize there’s still a need out there for herding ideas through the development process and into actual products and services.

So I’m going to bite the bullet and focus foremost on crafting a solution.  I need something immersive.  Where my often-erratic workflow automatically incorporates the actual management part.  Something that Just Works.  Seamlessly.  Invisibly.

As I said last time, technology should be an enabler.  It should support solutions that work the way users want to work rather than forcing us into awkward, counterproductive corners.  And while not everyone has to deal with ADD or ADHD, other constraints impose on them the same problems I experience.

It’s time to create something to address that.

Mar 012012
 

Update: plans for Tribal Method have changed just a bit.  See the website for details.

Just recently I sat down to share with whoever is interested what I’m up to lately and where I hope to be going.  Instead, the article turned into a screed on introvert exploration.  Which is okay, because it was a topic I wanted to talk about anyway, and with it now out of the way I can try the other bit again.

I’ve rambled quite a bit about my past in other places, mostly at Tabula Crypticum, so no need to dig into that deeply.  But a synopsis is worthwhile still before revealing the new stuff.

At age fifteen I started in the plumbing business, a family obligation.  After ten years of that torture I stumbled into a product design career, my goal at the time, starting with 7 highly educational years at Texas Instruments.  When that ended I bounced around a bit in various technical ventures as US manufacturing outsourcing reduced opportunities for a maker like me.  And after losing a too-short dream opportunity at Nokia I ended up in IT application support.

And that’s really not where I want to be.

I have some ideas, guys.  Some small and easily rendered by myself into something real, and some so big and potentially game-changing in some way that I would need to wrap a sizeable company around them.  They’ve been popping up for decades, and each job change has just opened up more possibilities to explore.

I have so many ideas that I can’t manage them all.  So I’ve tried assembling teams, virtual and local, to get things going.  With very little, if any, success so far.

So most of these ideas are stagnating, which is really eating at me.  But one thought keeps me optimistic.  It’s that I don’t need to be their ultimate owner; I just want to be their launcher.

You see, I’m not as big on monetary gain as I am on accomplishment.  And I’m also a huge believer in the team approach… including team recognition over my own.  Because I was insecure enough as a kid; having outgrown that long ago, I have motivators other than the need for attention.  My biggest satisfaction comes from helping someone else succeed.  And if it’s with the germ of an idea I had, even better!  But I want the attention on the solution and the team that made it happen.

As my ideas accumulated and lingered, I realized I was seeing the same sort of thing I had seen in the Maemo and MeeGo communities: plenty of needs, plenty of people wanting to work on needs, and yet a big gap in execution.  Organization was required, but these were contributors who resisted organization.  After all, that leads to bureaucracies.  Which lead to dead projects.

But then, so does inaction.

I’ve been thinking for some time that a solution to this dilemma would be big.  And every now and then I toyed with creating one.  I know many of the issues: different opinions on best practices, resource fragmentation, etc.  I also know that the answers lie in solving functional disconnects, automation gaps, and similar.  If people can work the way they want, without being burdened by technical obstacles and personality clashes, it’s a lot easier to get them on board a project.  After all, technology is supposed to be an invisible enabler!

With those thoughts in mind, I believe I’m finally pulling a solution together.  Participating in local entrepreneurial, social media and application development groups has really helped.

So yesterday I took out the domain tribalmethod.com.  Because I have this idea that will help me solve the team assembly problem holding back other ideas, and very likely help you, too.  It will work for open source, closed source and gradients in between.  There will be opportunities for recognition, money and whatever else motivates you.  I just could use help developing it.

There’s nothing at the Tribal Method domain… yet.  I’m going to need to assemble a team for that.  A chicken-and-egg dilemma, but hopefully I’ve piqued the interest of the right people.

Hop on board.  Ask anything.  This is going to be fun.  ;)

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