Is ‘Mandatory Community’ Still a Community?

July 17, 2008

In the public domain people form real communities out of true, intrinsic personal interest and gain (or at least that is the motivation initially). As such the cost of entering those web2.0 communities – ‘purchasing’ the infrastructure to gain access the the web (i.e. a pc and a pipe) and conforming to the globally agreed web protocols and community behaviours, is trivial when compared to the benefit we attribute to being part of a community and gaining the knowledge, support, respect, participation, belonging, etc.

The phenomenal growth we see in specific aspects of the web community, especially those formed by knowledge based or more proactive open-source engineering communities has changed the world in a sense that a new, viral, problem solving engine has been created to harness the grey-matter of an ever increasing resource-pool.

It’s amazing to think that such a powerful entity has been formed on a purely volutary basis by people sharing little more than a common interest. Looking to this kind of community model as a means of increasing innovation and collabration within the workplace is a natural aspiration, and a valid aspiration, but I’m wondering if the essence and the inherent success of the open community model does actually translate effectively into the closed community model (I refer to that which exists between employees within a large organisation).

When we look at the motivations of individuals in the workplace I am guessing that the vast majority see their labour as a means of generating income and as such tune their labour inputs to a level which is comfortable in respect of the income generated. Within that population we then have a subset, and I would argue a small subset, who generally aspire to going the extra mile and see their labour as an opportunity to take things to the next level – using that as a means of justifying increased effort with the goal of longer term reward. Regardless of the numbers/ratios, my point here is that the population within this kind of community is less interested in the value of the community model than those who choose to opt-in to an open community such as those we see in the public domain.

If we therefore make participation in the community a ‘mandatory’ obligation, with an expectation of quantifiable value, over and above meeting the daily functional goals against which we are measured and rewarded, I fear we are likely to alienate more than inspire. This does not mean I have no faith in the community model, I believe I am someone who aspires to more than ‘breaking-even’, but more of an interest in terms of how much we can expect to gain from the imposition of community on a mixed popultion of employees, who at best may form pockets of shared interest. I guess a large part of this is the business-as-usual model by which we stay in business. Add to that the associated issues of corporate regulatory policy and intellectual property rights which further isolate the enterprise community from the public domain and again we’re further limiting the viral expansion and value generated from this kind of model.

Funny that probably the most effective shared-interest community I can see in my enterprise today is the Union, which is not entirely focusing on the same goals as that of an innovation-centric community like apache now is it?

“In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.”

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Architect, Developer or Mineral?

March 17, 2008

Working within the IT community of a large Telco I am fortunate enough to work with a range of specialists across a range of IT related disciplines. I use the term specialist intentionally, as one of the biggest culture shocks I encountered when joining the corporate entity from a start-up and freelancing background, was the degree of specialisation afforded IT professionals within the protective enclave of the corporate firewall. Terms like ‘I only deliver software I don’t support it’, ‘I am a solution designer, not a developer’ and ‘I don’t do customer’ were sadly common and although strategic programmes have re-aligned focus on what matters (i.e. customers) there is still a great degree of specialisation by choice rather then specialisation by demand as in the open-market.

So why is this important. Well I constantly hear and experience (mostly) light-hearted jousting between Developers and Enterprise Architects (such as I). The fundamental basis for this banter is the fact that the Developers believe the Architects are ‘wannabe developers’, seemingly detatched from the build process because they are too busy sculpting new ivory towers in which to postulate the meaning of next months’ ‘strategic strategy for planning’. Developers meanwhile, (I’m led to believe) keep the business running by cutting code in their sleep, being part of some niche music scene, knowing why Ruby is far better then Perl, and have discovered cool t-shirt and bag shops where the doors are closed to anyone with MS Powerpoint installed on their laptop !

Having recently made the transition from a pure Architecture to a pure(ish) Developer role to get a closer appreciation for skills I had stopped using some years ago, I now consider myself able to understand a little more clearly, this perceived void between Developers and Architects. It is simply a matter of specialisation through necessity.

Enterprise Architects have a role in which they are rewarded for looking toward the horizon, and dove-tailing business and IT activities to make optimal use of available resources whilst mindful of all the constraints in the delivery engines. The number of bases one must cover (speaking from painful experience) if one is to be an effective Enterprise Architect, does require a similar degree of intensity as that of a developer with head-in-code, albeit detail of a different nature. It is unlikely that Enterprise Architects, however technically minded, can find time to drop beneath a system-level perspective.

Developers have a role in which they are rewarded for effective delivery of solutions involved in a current or near-term horizon, by ‘going vertical’ into the detail with a narrower ‘enteprise’ scope but becoming a domain expert within a specific field. The level of focus required for a developer to become fully integrated with the evolving solution, leaves little ‘free memory’ or ‘cpu cycles’ for engaging in the Enterprise planning activities keeping the EA guys so busy.

Moving between these roles does take a period of mental refactoring of one’s head-space from a horizontal to a vertically arrangement, so it’s not the sort of thing one can do on demand (unless you are one of the lucky ones with unbounded mental scalability which I aint!). So I am emphasising the specialisation thing again, where we specialise on either 1) What we get paid to, or 2) What we enjoy. So to round off this ramble…

An Enterprise without Architects is a ship without a rudder…

An Enterprise without Developers is a ship without an engine…


So let’s start appreciating each other…

It Aint All About the Tech…!

February 19, 2008


No words necessary…

Summer Beach Rugby…

January 10, 2008

A rare log entry about R&R. My days of full contact rugby were ended after a pair of serious injuries about 10 years ago. I’ve since attempted to get back into the game but just can’t get motivated enough simply because it now takes longer than a week for me to recover from each game…yes I’m getting old. That aint good when you’ve gotta play each week. So gradually I became deskbound and my active/potato ratio began to take a turn for the worst. Recently my brothers and a group of friends came up with a master stroke. We’d play informal touch-rugby as a means of getting fit without getting broken. It started small – and grew, and now we’re turning out weekly with an extended squad of about 20 guys. If you enjoy rugby as we do, but can no longer commit to the required level to compete in full-contact, then touch-rugby is an excellent way of getting a fix and is a fast, skillful, addictive game too.

The beauty of this plan is that now that our standard is improving we’ve broadened our horizons, and are now heading to the South of France to compete in a sponsored tournament circuit. Combining this with a family weekend in the sun – excellent. I never would have thought is – competitive touch-n-pass rugby on a beach in the sun with no physical risk to life and limb.


This link provides a taster

and so does this


Hello world!

November 26, 2007

So I finally made it. I took the long and winding road but I got here in the end. First job, purge my back-burners onto these pages to enrich your lives. Second job, work out why I did that. So that sounds like a plan. This blogging thing is easy !