29 April 2010

Reality Quotient

There is a fairly subjective measure I've only recently been able to give a name to:
Reality Quotient = ability to keep context while working toward a specific goal

This has to do with how deep you allow your stack to be, which if you allow it to get too deep, this affects your net throughput on Cockburn's "unvalidated decisions" or Demarco's "Total Useful Mental Discriminations (TUMD)". If the stack is too deep, you end up wasting a lot of time making useless decisions about things that have ceased having anything to do with the REAL task at hand.

The tendency to accept decisions that pin you into a corner is closely related to lowering the Reality Quotient. There is a whole book about the attitude of Getting Real, and I equate that attitude with a high Reality Quotient.

I did a search to see whether anyone else had published a writeup under the "Reality Quotient" heading. Although I found a lot of stuff on the web, none of it really matched what I wanted to say. The topic of this post is NOT:

The measurement I wanted to talk about is how capable you are of focusing on the problem you set out to solve until 1) it is truly solved and published to the world, or until 2) you have redefined the problem into another solvable one and published that transformation to the world.

In short, a high Reality Quotient requires a short stack, with tight feedback loops, focused on publishing real stuff to real people.

28 April 2010

Expert genealogy answers

The focus on "expert answers" really helped me to better understand the shift in focus that was recently announced for StackExchange.

The obvious application is to the genealogy domain. There is a huge "long tail" to genealogy. FamilySearch's wiki is opening that space up -- but there may be some room for a Q&A kind of experience.

IntelliJ patches don't seem to install

When I started IntelliJ (9.0.1, community edition) today, it popped a dialog up with an option to download a "patch" to install 9.0.2 release.

I've clicked "Download Patch" before, but nothing ever happened, and I ended up resorting to a full install.

But today, I came across a comment that described how to apply the patch:


And it worked great for me.

Others on my team said their patches installed just fine. To be clear, I'm using the Community Edition, and it may only be an issue with that edition.

BYU Conference on Computerized Family History & Genealogy

I attended BYU's Conference on Computerized Family History & Genealogy Monday and Tuesday this week.

It was really informative and disorienting in a good way. I've been working on New FamilySearch for a long while and not realized fully what kind of a target audience I've been developing for. When I was one of the only 30-somethings in the room, and we were talking about a more-than-a-decade technology generation gap, it finally sunk in that the world was different than I had thought.

The main topics I came away with were:
  • The technology generation gap is NOT ok, and needs to be bridged (by both the younger and the older generations).
  • Among serious genealogists, there is a very real drive to publish, similar to the scientific community's reputation-based drive, but motivated also by a desire to preserve research that would otherwise be obliterated by death or lack of interest on the part of direct descendants.
  • There is also a gaping technological hole in the genealogical community: Lack of Internet-style content-driven collaboration on genealogical research. Even serious genealogists seem to be content with this state of things.
  • The Next Generation (TNG) looks really nice. I want to use it for the Sumsion family tree on sumsion.org/genealogy.
The idea that I can make a difference here is VERY motivating.