meaningful work

Kourish Dini says that, “Mastery and meaningful work develop from guided play.” This is pretty well the direction behind my personal knowledge mastery framework and the notion of ‘half-baked ideas‘.

“There is an error in our focus on productivity. I may even be labeled as a productivity talking-head. I’ve more than likely made the error myself.

The error is that the focus should not be on productivity so much as it is on mastery.

Mastery is a process, a development over time for something you care about. That could be your family or that could be a craft.

This way, you choose the thing or things you are mastering and the remainder of your world is around supporting those. You don’t need to master everything, so much as take them to a point of being strong enough to support what you find meaningful.

Secondly, I strongly believe that mastery absolutely requires play.” —Being Productive 2022-12-05


“the future cracked open”

Race Bannon sees AI (or really machine learning) changing many jobs, such as technical writing, in the near future.

“I believe within 5-10 years much of technical documentation will be written by AI. Certainly, the basic procedural stuff (Step 1, Step 2, and so on) will be written by AI, but even the contextual stuff surrounding the procedural documentation (use cases, examples, and implementation tips) will be written by AI eventually too.” —The Future of Technical Writing

In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson thinks that creativity will not save our jobs from AI.

We may be in a “golden age” of AI, as many have claimed. But we are also in a golden age of grifters and Potemkin inventions and aphoristic nincompoops posing as techno-oracles. The dawn of generative AI that I envision will not necessarily come to pass. So far, this technology hasn’t replaced any journalists, or created any best-selling books or video games, or designed some sparkling-water advertisement, much less invented a horrible new form of cancer. But you don’t need a wild imagination to see that the future cracked open by these technologies is full of awful and awesome possibilities. —The Atlantic 2022-12-01


exit left authoritarian father figure

John Batelle notes that many of the thousands of people who were fired from or have left Twitter after Musk’s purchase of the company were women. He provides links to the profiles of 17 of these women.

“Twitter was probably the most intentionally open, accommodating, and thoughtful work culture the Valley has ever produced at scale. And it’s not a coincidence that a healthy percentage of Twitter’s senior executives were women. Nor is it a coincidence that nearly all of them have left. I started keeping a list of the extraordinary women I worked with over the past few years who have recently departed the company. And just for posterity, and perhaps for you all to add to, I present it here. Think about all the men cheering on Elon’s ‘Hardcore’ philosophy, who agree with him that the people below, and countless others, are unnecessary. Read through these names, click on their profiles, and ponder the roles they played in the nuanced ecosystem Twitter once was.” —John Batelle 2022-11-28


PKM in perpetual beta

I recently wrote — from platforms to covenants — that I firmly believe that open protocols connecting small pieces loosely joined is a better framework than any privately owned social media platform. Twitter was just too darned easy for many years. I am now connecting more on Mastodon though I have not mastered all of its functions. Mastodon is an open protocol and anyone can put up a server and connect to what is called the ‘fediverse’, a federated network of hosts using the protocol.

During the past decade I have used Twitter as an aid to learn about social networks on my personal knowledge mastery online workshops. As Twitter continues to not only crash and burn but reinstate accounts that promote hatred, I no longer wish to advocate for any use of the platform. I am still there, for now, as I am connected to so many friends and colleagues. (more…)

revisiting self-determination theory

Self-determination theory states that there are three universal human drivers — autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We need some control over our lives, we want to be good at something, and we want to feel that we can relate to other people. These three drivers are what make us do what we do. Skills are just one aspect of being engaged at work. Even highly competent skilled workers can be disengaged or aimless.

One effect of the network era, and its pervasive digital connections, is that networks are replacing or subverting more traditional hierarchies. Three aspects of this effect are — access to almost unlimited information, the ability for almost anyone to self-publish, and limitless opportunities for ridiculously easy group-forming.

Clay Shirky discussed this third aspect in Here Comes Everybody (2008). (more…)

the knowledge artisan era

An artisan (craftsperson) is a skilled manual worker in a particular craft, using specialized tools and machinery. Artisans were the dominant producers of goods before the Industrial Revolution. ABC Co. are the Artisans of the post-Industrial era, retrieving old world care and attention to detail, but using the latest tools and processes. To ensure that we stay current, we are members of various Open Source Guilds, such as the Drupal development community. —ABC Co. Business Plan 2005 (PDF)

I wrote the ABC Co. business plan for a small company with several years of development experience that had embraced open source software as a way to reduce customer costs, ensure long-term stability of their software, and focus on what they did best — custom development. As Ton Zylstra remarked in 2010, too often skilled workers are treated like replaceable cogs using standard, employer-provided tools. (more…)

voices of the people

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“Smart people don’t learn because they have too much invested in proving what they know and avoiding being seen as not knowing.”Chris Argyris

Vox populi, vox Dei

An early reference to the expression is in a letter from Alcuin to Charlemagne in 798. The full quotation from Alcuin [of York] reads:

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.

[Translation] And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.


an agile sensemaking framework

Agile sensemaking could be described as how we make sense of complex challenges by interacting with others and sharing knowledge. More diverse and open knowledge flows enable more rapid sensemaking. I discussed the idea of agile sensemaking in 2018 and later created a sensemaking model (framework). This week on Twitter [yes, it’s still there], Ismael Peña-López shared how the framework resonates for him. (more…)

from platforms to covenants

I wrote in agile sensemaking (2018) that radical innovation only comes from networks with large structural holes which are more diverse. This is why social networks cannot also be work teams, or they become echo chambers. Work teams can focus intensely on incremental innovation, to get better at what they already do. Communities of practice, with both strong and weak social ties, then become a bridge on this network continuum, enabling both individual and interactive creativity.

Connecting work teams, communities of practice/interest, and professional social networks ensures that knowledge flows and that people have the information needed to make well-informed decisions, especially when dealing with complexity and chaos. I have noted before that the world has become so complex and interconnected that the individual disciplines developed during The Enlightenment — like medicine — are no longer adequate to help society in our collective sensemaking, especially during global crises.

Experts in all disciplines have to get out of their silos and connect in multidisciplinary subject matter networks. A lone expert, or even a lone discipline, is obsolete in the network era. Only cooperative networks will help us make sense of the complex challenges facing us — climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, war, etc. In today’s world, connections trump expertise. (more…)

culture eats sanity for breakfast

Last year I came across a book — All for Nothing — about the collapse of the German Army in Prussia during the Second World War. It is written from the perspective of a young boy and the characters are mostly civilians. My mother, as a young girl, lived through this.

People in the book for the most part cannot comprehend a Soviet invasion or the defeat of the German Army. These are impossible concepts for them. Everyone in the book sees events from their unique, egocentric bubble. But then people start dying randomly and everyone becomes focused on survival. There are some acts of generosity, especially at the end of the book, but for the most part it’s everyone for themselves. (more…)