to all those who might write me ...
just a note to all those ecademists who write to me via the messaging system here, it is not to be rude or because I am not interested that I do not reply, it is because, being a mere member, they only grant me rights to communicate with the first 10 people to be entered into my contact list. Since I now have 42 and there's no way to weed the list, I am unable to add you in and thus unable to send any response. Sorry, but it's not my rule. If you'd like to contact me, simply follow the links to my personal home page at teledyn.com and you can find the contact links there.
Who is it?
I came in by the side door. In 1980, my neighbour saw my astronomy programs running on a Sinclair ZX81 and contracted me to write bond futures arbitrage software for the Bank of Montreal.
The memo read, "Don't talk to the fuzzy haired man, you won't understand him."
He's got the knack:
In 1991, Professor Paul Milgram asked the Defense and Civilian Institute of Environmental Medicine to send him someone to do everything involving computers in their augmented reality telerobotics control lab. Dr. Julius Grodsky sent me.
In 1994, the Ontario Science Centre wondered how they might leverage $50,000 to build a million dollar permanent exhibit about the Information Highway. Dr. Grodsky sent me. I arranged the first-ever industry/government collaboration in a major exhibit that still stands to this day.
In 1996, Bell Canada needed someone to teach their customers why they should shell out for ISDN. Guess who they asked for ...
In 1997, Sympatico, Canada's million-member national ISP, outsourced their mySympatico portal to me. I was given biz-specs and one mock-up, and delivered a full CMS solution so fast, Peter Rowley said he was 'psych'd by how fast it all came together' -- 6 years later, this code still delivers their news.
Easy ... when you know how
In 2002, I was contracted to craft their public event tracking site for the CBC because, post 9-11 "This site must not go down.". Our site took the heat (remember the Canadian Women's Hockey?) and our interaction design ensured no one was never forced to say Aych-Tee-Emm-El
Did I mention our method also saved the corporation $2M in development costs? Yes, that's two million -- of course the corporation would have had kittens if the bill had been in 7 figures, but without me, they'd have deployed hastily hewn hackworks; instead we had seasoned professional-grade production-quality code that exceeded specifications, and, including data acquisition, page design and XSL, for a 5-figure cost.
I turn such cost/power miracles by walking the walk. I don't sell "Internet communities", I live it, every day. I apply these methods as much to the product design as the development process.
Some call this opensource. I think it's something more.
We only need remember what is most human about what we do: talk. Talk reaches deep. Talk is in the products we place online. Talk is in the roots of product development.
'Taiken': The knowledge from direct experience
People do not hire me for my code or because I can make a unix box speak. They like my code, certainly, and just like all my peers, I can do impeccably patterned and object-orderly Java/JSP/EJB/JDBC/RMI, code C/C++, perl and prolog, ruby and python, and translate requirements into schemas, squeeze triggers from Postgres and XML from them all, do dances of HTML/DHTML/XHTML, wrought RESTful webservices in Tomcat, Turbine, Velocity, PHP, ePerl and oh so great a many more tools and buzzwords ... but these are only the tools.
Design Question #1: Why?
Too many tender offers are shopping lists of tools, checklists of skills. They've forgotten to ask, "what should it do?" They need to step back and think about interaction design. They need a guide. Calling someone like me after you've picked your tools is like placing your order with the building supply company and then calling the architect. It's the cart before the horse.
The magic is not the tools. Java the Hutt, dot-whatever, what is all this if it serves no one's needs? The magic is in our participation in the living communities of practice surrounding the task, and this includes the people who use the tools as much as those who craft the tools. There is a whole ecology that goes with any software project, and if you seal up some of it in a bottle, expect it to suffocate.
Poet for Sale
Building IT services means building communities, social ecologies. IT is people connecting needs and wants, drawing channels through a whole ecology, and finding balance we can all afford.
And finding that sweetspot is a rarer talent than cobbling class diagrams in a UML.