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Bringing the StarScribes Collaboration Back to Life

StarScribes Collaboration Universe Seal

Five years ago, a group of science fiction writers got together to create a universe in which to set a serial space opera. Characters were created, plots were thickened, plans were made, but life drew a line in the sand that many of us could not cross, and we disbanded. Over the years we’d check in on one another and talk about writing material using characters within this universe but other projects and responsibilities always took us away again, leaving these stories untold. In August of 2016 I had an idea and sat down to type out a really bad story prompt using our character, Simonee Saran. I had written some material years ago that fleshed out some of her back story, but it wasn’t a plot, just a flashback, a device I use to help me flesh out characters. That prompt sat again for almost a year, until I got the itch again.

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Of Teletransporters and Xerox Copiers

I’ve been reading Susan Blackmore’s book, Consciousness: an introduction, and have come across a thought experiment that I’ve actually given quite a bit of thought on my own when contemplating consciousness transfer into computer hardware as a form of immortality by transcending biology. The experiment, first proposed by Derek Parfit, is used to determine how you view consciousness, from either an ego centered view or a view that the illusion of an ego is the emergent property or bundle of sensory inputs and qualia.

The experiment goes something like this. Imagine that you need to get across town and a crazy physicist tells you that he can transport you there instantaneously using his tech-tacular teletransportation device. How it works is that it scans every molecule in your body and sends that data to another terminal on the other side of town which recreates your body exactly the way you are. The catch is, in order to do this the scan also destroys your existing cells. Would you do it? An exact replica of you would step out on the other side exactly as you are right now. All your memories, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and bodily odors would be reproduced down to the quantum position of every proton of nitrogen in the urea of your moderately full bladder. If you wouldn’t because you feel that the replica that stepped out of the machine on the other side of town wouldn’t actually be the you contemplating this decision, that you would, in effect die and merely be a copy on the other side, then you are an ego theorist in terms of how your consciousness operates. If you don’t think there would be any difference as long as you came out exactly the same on the other side, that your consciousness would continue due to the emerging states of thought, sensory input and feeling, then you are supposedly  a “bundle theorist”. Continue Reading


Agile in Life

When the above TED Talk by Bruce Feiler came out, I didn’t even have a clue about Agile development practices, and more-over, I didn’t know how such a thing as project management could apply to family living. As a father of four, I salivated over the thought of my own children taking responsibility for anything let alone their own punishment, and I have been racking my brain on how to make this work for my own family. Since then, while I haven’t had any luck getting a 2, 4, 6, and 8 year old into this mindset, I have seen a marked difference in attitude when I have had them choose the chore they were responsible for on any given day.

Can this same principal work in education? Can it be applied to group projects in Science? History? In kindergarten, we all sat as a group at a table. Why did this practice end late in Grade School and especially High School? It seems that we are rooted to our Victorian education style, and that the next generation would benefit greatly from more group related education and team building projects.
I think Agile methodologies can be applied to just about every aspect of human interaction, by allowing people to choose the value that they bring to the table. After all, various living elements once came together to form the cell, and cellular systems are possibly the most successful in the known universe.

Perhaps a Scrum team can be viewed much like a cell, with each part of that cell doing it’s part for the whole, and as these cells work together, a company or organization can thrive. After all, we see how well small franchises work. Small teams of 5-10 people operate in a group, and if the group works well and there are enough resources within the market to sustain them, then they are successful. Each bases its business model on the genetic code of the larger organization, doing what it can to survive while passing some of that success up the chain.
From a top level standpoint, however, their success benefits the organization, but their failure does not kill the organism. If the organism dies, it is because its cells were not allowed to fulfill their function, whether by a lack of environmental resources (food, water) or a failure of the nervous system to allow these cells to do their jobs (self destructive behavior, poisoning the system with drugs and foods that satisfy the nervous system, but suffocate the body, like certain management practices, or overpaid CEOs, harmful price fixing and hefty product costs. I’m looking at you Quiznos.)


Agile in Business

Agile Development Poster

Over the years, I have worked for several companies where software development was at the core of their product offerings. As a Software Support Engineer, I’ve worked closely with the development team, and witnessed project management first hand. Some of the teams were small, only a few individuals with one level of management. These teams tended to work well, even without using any formal project management ideology. These teams were more like families than co-workers. Their relationships extended beyond the office walls, and none were afraid to speak their mind. Each was willing to speak up with what they had to offer, and ready to take on the tasks assigned to them. The methodology of this smaller team was “whatever it takes to get the job done,” and the company prospered. There was a limit to this cooperation, however, and it had to do with size. As the company grew, so did the projects, and the naturally scattered free-for-all methodology that had been so successful in the past, began to create bottlenecks in development velocity.

This leads me to a particular example that outlines the tragedy of cowboy-development, when it doesn’t turn out the results expected. A pair of brilliant developers were assigned the task of converting a Windows based application to a web based application using the latest ASP.NET architecture in the spirit of creating a platform independent contact management product. They were given their parameters and sent off to complete the project on their own. The project manager at the time was the CEO himself, and he thought he was clear on what he expected from the project. The developers also thought he was clear on what was expected. But at the end of several months worth of development, it became apparent that those expectations had not been communicated as clearly as they could have been.
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How to be an Expert in Everything, Without Knowing Anything.

In the Age of Information, Ignorance is a Choice.

In the age of the internet, knowledge is literally at our fingertips. Information that was available only to university students and doctoral candidates a few decades ago, is now just a click away, but the amount of information available is growing at an exponential rate. It’s growing so fast, in fact, that we are having to develop new technologies just to cope with it all. This arms-race between information and technology is growing faster and faster. Once can almost drown in it all, and experts are relatively few. In fact, the concept of an expert in information technology is almost a misnomer. Not only does technology grow, but it also changes. This evolution is so frighteningly quick that new positions and titles are being created every few years just to have something to call the experts who work on it. Currently, I’m a Voice over IP engineer. That didn’t exist a decade ago, and wouldn’t have been dreamed of twenty years ago. When I entered the information technology arena, I had no idea what VoIP was, nor that I was going to become an “expert” in it. But what did it take for me to gain this expertise? It certainly wasn’t a college degree, I only have a GED and when I went to college it was for anything but information technology. I became an expert because I had to. It was a strategy of adaptation. I took something new, and I figured it out. I studied what I could, both online and off. But is that all I know? Am I a VoIP Engineer, full stop? No. I had to become an expert in quite a few different kinds of technologies, on-the-fly, and without an iota of an idea of what I was doing. This didn’t come from some cowboy ideology of not needing the “system” to get by, in fact, there weren’t any classes at my local college that even covered this subject. The technology was brand-new and I was growing right along with it. There were no experts, just devices and instruction manuals.

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The Fall of Hardware Telephony

[This post originally appeared on http://zimmerontelephony.wordpress.com on April 13th, 2009.]

Most telephony solutions these days rely on expensive hardware to interface with the PSTN or provide VoIP services. Historically, this has been a necessity, but developments in conventional server hardware and software based telephony platforms over the last decade have effectively nullified the need for dedicated, proprietary and above all, expensive telephony hardware.

Companies like Pika, NMS, Aculab, and Dialogic each have a line of server expansion boards that provide an interface to the PSTN as well as provide voice processing resources (known as digital signal processors, or DSPs). These boards, being complex and proprietary are therefore also very expensive. Decade old, refurbished, legacy models of these boards still run over a thousand dollars in the used hardware market, and this for only a single T1 or E1 interface. Newer boards with multiple T1/E1 interfaces or access to VoIP processing run an average of ten thousand dollars and in many cases more. Until recently, this was the price of admission into the computer telephony marketplace, not to mention the development costs for integrating with this technology.

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