Monthly Archives: April 2008

First from the Farmer’s Market

Last night we cooked the first dinner of the season from the Farmer’s Market. All of the food came from the Dane County Farmers’ Market on the Square except for the Mint Newman-Ohs. We made grilled trout with a parsley pesto (italian parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper), grilled fingerling potatoes (par-boiled, rubbed with olive oil and salt then roasted over the coals till crispy on the outside) and steamed spinach. Lola helped watch over the grill. Here are a few pictures.

IMG_1776.JPGIMG_1778.JPGLola

Digital Neighborhoods – Guiding design

Second LifeDigital neighborhoods seem like a powerful tool for discussing technology and its impact on users (students, staff, researchers, etc) and the concept adds interesting new requirements to projects. Getting a good understanding of your users’ digital neighborhoods can guide design and deployment of new technologies and help predict impacts on the users themselves. Understanding how they move in their neighborhood, where they travel frequently and what places are stable over time, provides insight into the key places you should try to place application.
I came upon Jeff Swain via Twitter which led me to his blog-post about his digital neighborhood. I was wandering in my digital neighborhood and into the surrounding areas when I found his link. Jeff talks about reading David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined. To quote Jeff’s post:

As Weinberger points out space on the web doesn’t work that way. Distance is measured in hyperlinks and proximity is created by interest. In other words, each of us gets to create own own space on the web. Your own neighborhood, if you will, filled with the places you find interesting…. So this got me to thinking, What does my digital neighborhood look like? What seemingly disparate places are loosely joined (pun intended) just because I happen to be interested in them?

Jeff then goes on to do an analysis of his digital neighborhood.

As I read Jeff’s piece, I began to think about the value of understanding digital neighborhoods. If we understood our incoming students’ digital neighborhoods, it would give us a better understanding of how to reach them, what their interests are and places that we should think about pushing content into. One example that we have in place is in Facebook. We now have an emergency notification group and system in place in Facebook. Our leadership can push out notices via Facebook, into the user’s neighborhood.

Another example is our increasing use of RSS feeds for various applications and calendar feeds. This lets users pick up the content and move it to their own neighborhood. I have a calendar feed for our corporate calendar system integrated into my Google homepage. I can check my work calendar while checking personal email, local news and recording my workouts. The fact that my calendar appears among my personal tools means I track changes to my calendar much more closely when I’m at home doing my personal things. In some ways, Google’s custom homepage is like strip-mall with a few anchor stores (Mail, Calendar, Google Apps) and a lot of empty store fronts that you can fill with your own shops.

The value of these virtual malls, is that users can aggregate enough of their own personal content and applications that it makes it worth the trip. Every time you go on the web, you have thousands of possible places you could visit. Yet, you visit a select few. If we continue with the physical store/neighborhood metaphor: Every time you go shopping, you could go to any store in town but you go to a select neighborhood (like our State Street) because of the variety of interesting shops or to a given store because of the shop has some unique value (low price, selection, the one thing you can only find at their store). A similar thing happens when we deploy applications. Users are expected to visit that application because of the unique value it brings. When we bring up applications that are separated from their current digital neighborhood, it is like building your store in a new mall well out of town. The users have to have some reason to visit. The value has to be higher than an application built in their neighborhood or built such that it can easily be included.

This suggests to me at least, that we need to think about our users’ current digital neighborhoods and how we can integrate our new applications and services into those neighborhoods. RSS feeds are a low risk and fairly simple way to move content into their neighborhoods. Facebook groups and applications could reach into the students’ world. Portlet type applications that can be put into existing enterprise portals or into sites like Google’s homepage allow richer interaction. Finally, if if has to stand on its own, it better have unique value that makes it worth the trip.

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Eat your vegis or Have A Little Green Tree – getting EA into the Enterprise

I was thinking about how, when I try to get buy-in for doing Enterprise Architecture as a holistic thing, I tend not get very far with the campus. But, when I parse out little EA bits, they catch on. I was thinking about this in terms of the metaphor: Getting Kids To Eat Vegetables. Before I go on further – this is not meant to demean the campus community nor do I mean to imply they are childish. It is just a good metaphor for my understanding what is going on around me.

There are two approaches to getting kids to eat vegetables. The first is the top-down, holistic approach where you explain that vegis are good for you. You talk about good food and bad food and vitamins and healthy eating. This is the Enterprise Architecture as a holistic practice approach. You talk about why we need to do Enterprise Architecture and the benefits or reducing redundancy, getting a handle on what we are doing and why, setting a clear(er) roadmap for the future. Our institution, like most kids, don’t really get the point of the discussion nor do they buy into the argument.

The second approach (re: kids and vegis) is to sell them on “eating a little green tree” also known as broccoli. Then convincing them that peas with mint are pretty good cold. Once they are eating three or four types of vegis, you can explain the vegetable concepts and start in on nutrition. “You know, carrots make it so you can see better in the dark. That’s pretty cool that a carrot can give you night vision. Let’s eat carrots each night this week and see if on Saturday, we can see better in the dark.” You can get buy-in for the short-term cool gain of one vegetable type.

This is what seems to be working for us architects here at UW-Madison. I have slowly started pushing out some different artifacts and practices. Each one is catching on based on its own merits. We have various places starting with principles using the TOGAF format for Principles .

I’ve started to get people interesting in applying the NIH EA Brick Diagram to various projects and technologies.

This is an interesting approach to “doing enterprise architecture”. I’ll need to focus more on small acceptable bites that are examples of why you should do EA at large. Get them eating broccoli, peas and carrots and then talk about nutrition.

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EA in Academia Presentation

Below is a repackaged copy of my “Enterprise Architecture in Academic Environments” presentation that I gave at EDUCAUSE Mid-West Regional Conference 2008. It is packaged as a Quicktime Movie.