Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Huge Price Tag for a De-Centralized Implementation. Twenty Four Billion dollars.

What if you could take a minute to look into a certain spectrum of Department of Defense (DoD) spending on a particular element of Information Technology (IT) just because it interested you?
Okay, maybe it doesn't interest you, but since I've had my eyeballs, sometimes firmly affixed, on the conduits of information ebbs and flows I often like to check in, if you will, and see how things are going.  (That was alot of commas; wasn't it?) The takeaway you can have is, how much money does it take to get the armed forces on one sheet of music with regards to logistic enterprise resource planning?  This is how much (at March 2012) that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports (all public information):
  • Army systems = around $10 Billion
  • NAVY systems = around $4 Billion
  • Air Force systems = around $8.5 Billion
  • USMC systems = around $1.1 Billion 
  • Defense Logisics Agency (DLA) = $209 Million

Twenty.   Four.   Billion.   Dollars.
The GAO report is here:  http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589796.pdf

Are you at least curious what I'm talking about?  Of course you are, you are still reading.  Or watching a Google advertisement - I insist you do one or the other before you leave.  Check out this video of a 3 minute walk through of what the Army says Global Combat Support System (GCSS) is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMgDJNo2_PM Did you gloss over 1:06?  Watch it again and listen to LTG Charles Mahan (Ret) emphatically say that SAP (also known as Systems, Applications, and Products in data processing) was the only company that could accomplish this.  (Soldier for 35 years and a VP for SAP circa '05/'06 via LinkedIn) I'm only mentioning this because in the world of contracting the pool either has 1 ring, 2 rings, or 3 rings.  (I don't want you to think that hard; most kiddie pools stop at 3)

Could they (SAP) not have also accomplished this for the USMC?  In 2020 allow the ability to perform data mining on the same systems too.  Together.  One team.  One mission and purpose.  There is my problem - being logical.  Let's not get carried away--thats too big of a mission and purpose! (like healthcare.gov)  If we build one system structure then it will be undermined by security nuances.  Wait, why is it that there is so much information out there about how GCSS is being built (read: if you know how I built it; you can undermine it)?  I heard someone once say that SAP, Oracle, whatever, they would all be interfaced to one another.  Let's consider:  Does a contracting company who has invested over 10+ years in building this solution - will they build in easy integration?  I'm looking at you sideways, only you can't see me.

What confounds the concept is that the ideas of centralizing the efforts, nay, stopping to take a moment of pause, and recognize that implementation of a SAP (for GCSS) system for the Army and an Oracle based solution for the USMC didn't make good business/data (ha) sense but decentralizing key concepts did.  Consider hacker attacks-they build to target one type of system, for the most part, so the complexity for attacking both SAP and Oracle a little more difficult.  At least that's what we can argue (cough).  It is (dramatic pause), complex.

A thesis, public information, was written in September of 2010 by Mark Jones.  This paper identified the struggles that GCSS was plagued with, the Government Accountability Office (GAO)'s identification of some issues (in 2010) and clear recommendations to continue. Thesis paper here  I've extracted the meat (grain fed organic!):

This  two  release  strategy  reinforced  the  philosophy  that  designing  and implementing  smaller  increments  of  capability  over  short  periods  of  time  allows capability, even if it is reduced from the original plan, to be fielded earlier to the user (it's like waterfall to software developers).  Know that the "user" is the warfighter.  The men and women we laud on days committed to them and commit our reverence to their very existence.  (Without them; we can't write informational blogs.)  This is a key concept in building systems to support DoD - at the end of the day if your requirements don't fulfill that end means; then fail.  Bean counters sweat bullets.  If you catch my drift.  But, is the end product supporting real users.

The question I pose (oblivious to the one above), why should the DoD spend as much money as they have in six systems when maybe one system could be developed to be used by all four Services with key security components tailored specifically to thwart common hacks.  Again, I'm visited by ghost past: Healthcare.gov
Effort: RICE (customized Oracle) Objects ACTUAL- Severe customization. SHOULD HAVE - Conform to core software functionality and change business processes of each Service (but we'll say USMC because, well yes).
Post Deployment System Support - ACTUAL - SCATTERED to the winds with multiple contracts, configurations, and release mgmt.  SHOULD HAVE - Centralized, single contract, configuration, and release mgmt.
The GCSS-MC program recognized the complexity and technical challenges in customizing the COTS product and moved the RICE objects for the cross domain solution and data synchronization capability into Release 1.2 allowing the GCSS-MC program to field the basic capability of supply and maintenance management sooner to the war fighter and speed up the process of eliminating the legacy supply and maintenance systems.
I couldn't have stated it any better than Mark, "Therefore, the perception of buying a COTS product to minimize development effort is exactly that, a perception. In addition to not supporting the functional and technical requirements, the COTS product does not provide the unique Service Component business processes nor does it provide the unique ...financial requirements. The implementation of the unique DoD requirements translates to a large development effort in terms of customization and configuration."  I'm sorry; I know you are bored...

The intent of the Strategic Plan is to share information across DoD and with mission partners, in summary this includes: the information itself; the Department’s management over the information life cycle; the processes associated with managing information to accomplish the DoD mission and functions; activities related to designing, building, populating, acquiring, managing, operating, protecting and defending the information enterprise; and sharing of related information resources such as personnel, funds, and equipment.
To develop such a system, a Lead Service or external entity could act as the Program Office and manage the entire life cycle support of the system.  ----that right there?  Is just insane.

But I don't think it is.  I have experienced the lack of subject matter expertise in software and system development and I'm almost certain that years of drowning in legacy systems only inebriated value added development.  One vision, multiple missions, and end product that is usable, repeatable, and has outputs that drive decisions.  Magic.  I heard somewhere that magic was expensive.  It certainly is when division comes in play.

Stumbling Across Evidence Based Design (EBD)

The Veterans Administration (VA) has been taking a lot of heat lately.  Dad is a veteran; but his silent health issues never extended into the VA system's quagmire seen here lately.  He's safe and comfortable within the comfort of his own home with his caregiver; Mom.  While we're very lucky to have Mom provide this care, it is now two, not one human life, that is being denied environmental joys each of us take for granted on a daily basis.  A walk in the park could be jarring for an Alzheimer's patient.  But what if it wasn't?  What if even a walk in the park was designed specifically to visually assist someone to start...and finish.

If you aren't personally touched by a life with dementia related disease then you probably don't know about Dementia Friendly Cities (DFC).  "A DFC survey found that many people with dementia feel constrained by the condition and are not confident to get out and engage in their areas. Overwhelmingly, 63% of people with dementia did not want to try new things and the underlying issues of confidence, worry and fear must be overcome in a dementia-friendly community."

http://www.actonalz.org/dementia-friendly
http://www.actonalz.org/sites/default/files/documents/Dementia_friendly_communities_full_report.pdf

This week I was introduced to a community hospital in Virginia.  Naturally I did my homework to get an overall idea of what/where/how.  I don't even have cable television and yet I still see the many social media and news site's reports of VA sins-a-grievous.   Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (FBCH) introduced me to Evidence Based Design (EBD) and it goes well with understanding what environmental comforts people with dementia related issues might find less stressful to navigate.

"As a result of the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations released May 13, 2005, the decision was made to close DeWitt Army Community Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center" and realign staff and resources from DeWitt and Walter Reed National and to Fort Belvoir.  FBCH began serving patients in 2011.  "FBCH is part of National Capital Region Medical, a Department of Defense joint-service medical command based in Bethesda, Md.   FBCH is a $1.03 billion, 1.3 million-square-foot facility [Wikipedia].  The hospital is part of an integrated health care system under the Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical (JTF CapMed) providing health care to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families."  Lucky Armed Forces and their families.

FBCH is "the first integrated healthcare facility serving all branches of the U.S. military’s active-duty service members, retired veterans, and their families using evidence-based design (EBD), sustainable design principles, and structured cultural change criteria."  It makes you wonder how on one hand, we have such ugly reports of grievous errors against our patriotic warriors, and yet on the other we talk sustainable design principles and cultural change criteria!

"The original directive for the art program, according to the dictates of biophilic design and current evidence-based standards, called for realistic and representative imagery with subjects that were clearly recognizable."  This is key for someone with Alzheimer's.  Finding a recognizable form with which to grasp is integral to survival.  The shape of my face has meaning.  It does not mean that Dad can say, "Connie".  It means that in his mind the curve of my smile, the crease of my brow...has meaning.  It means comfort of knowing.

"Research shows that meaningful engagement with the arts improves quality of life for those with dementia-Non-pharmacological interventions use a wide range of approaches, characterised as behaviour-, emotion-, stimulation- or cognition-oriented, that aim to improve quality of life and maximise function in the context of existing deficit." http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/201/5/344.full  Alzheimer's care givers are usually spouses.  The profound sense of loss is rarely shared because an Alzheimer patient finds the outside world very stressful so caregivers maintain the same distance.

"At Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, the art program rests on a solid foundation of nature-based imagery, a central tenant in EBD, based primarily upon the findings from Roger Ulrich’s groundbreaking 1984 study of patients with and without access to views of the outside."  I read these words and quietly hoped that some veteran and their spouse would be able to appreciate such dedication to design.

Alzheimer's patients tend to wander.  "Wandering is often seen as a “symptom” of Alzheimer’s, but it is more realistically seen as a natural tendency to look for something, to explore, but in a setting that has no self-evident layout" "Cues can be photos in the hallway of seascapes and urban streets that remind people of the places they spent their lives".

Like stumbling in a half lit room, sleepily, as you make your way to and from the safety of a bed.  Your hands reach out, grasping for a sure hold, and the shapes in the room become your compasses.  Shapes that are familiar and certain, but sleep-blurred.  Sounds of a fan comfort the space or the slow rhythmic breathing of a pet.  If you squint your eyes sometimes at everyday objects; you might see those shapes that bring some clarity.  The curve of smile and crease of a brow.  Details are for the faint hearted.

Dementia related diseases seem to be growing; and when you are the child of family history you tend to take stock in data related research.  "An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.  By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.  By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million."
http://www.alz.org/downloads/facts_figures_2013.pdf

Ultimately, we all must bear the weight of an aging nation.  I like the idea and implementation of Evidence Based Design and I hope that when I'm stumbling in the dark one day that someone has taken it upon themselves to look into my eyes and know that I recognize the curve of their smile and the crease of their brow.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Get Happy.

Feeling the holiday blues?  Has the post festivities and cold got you down?  Career woes?  Consumer debt scaring you?   A little insomnia?  Go and make someone happy.  If you aren't already happy it will immediately pick you up.  If you are already happy then it will double it.  It's the little actions that people appreciate.  You don't have to go paint their house...or fix that age old plumbing issue that only happens when it rains...those things just add more stress. 
How about take some of those old digital photos that rarely get seen after a few sorry moments on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and turn them into something fun.  Write a message...take an older person back "to the day".  Remind a child of their parents loving care...  One photo?  Make a shadow box!
Check my Pinterest for ideas of good printing choices.
Be happy.  Make happy.  Make happy happen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I, Career

I don't know how he did it. Over twenty+ years as a US Marine then switching to a desk job because he had experience in things like fuel bladders and equipment supply. No longer able to tell me where to find the joy in a profession that last year almost took every ounce of pride I had in being in a field predominately made up of men. It must have been quite a shock to his system to go from olive drab to endless meetings about quality improvements and value engineering. As I roll through our birthplace I'm ever mindful that the simple feeling of loss and homesickness sometimes has absolutely nothing to do with where you are.

I often wonder what happens in the mind of a person who knows, or assumes, that they will be working for the same company until retire age. My longest stint was 12 years and I will admit that the security of said job felt like an old leather jacket. It kept you warm and comfortable when needed and tossed aside where appropriate. When I started my second job with a government contractor at the very least I'd have something to discuss with Dad. Not anymore. While I'm sure he'd like to help me out with my current professional decisions and dilemmas he certainly won't be able to now.  Unless you count those knowing looks he still, thank God, gives me.  Eyes that say a million things and words that will never again happen.  I can almost hear him railing and pounding his anger at a disease that has robbed him of his quick judgment and sound advice.

But back to my current affairs...In some cases being the contractor can be such a boon to the system because in most cases there was a stated need (requirement) at the inception of said effort versus an employee who had seemed to forget over the years that not only has that need probably changed but it left said employee behind...oh but the ideals of box checking and pip punching are safe....they are secure...and in an ideal world do have merit. They have to, right? It's like a time warp of fat log books and the worn, pale torn off corners of process improvement posters from years gone by. There's no revitalization for the time tested govvie - only new carpet every twenty years and cement blocks smooth from the dinosaur age lead paint under fifteen coats of process change.

I would have thought that 3 year changes in leadership would have some positive effect on employee morale but what the reality is... The ideology of meeting expectations on those on their way in or out is a little different. Although one would think that it would bring a fresh new set of eyes to make significant improvements of the employee workforce it appears as if its just another box to check.

Yes, my fathers experience commingled with my latest theatrics are perfect for a boring yawn of a play.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Meridian, MS

Monday, May 20, 2013

Implementing Persuasive Incrementally Complex Technology for Seniors

I had you at implementing persuasive technology; didn't I?

Aging has its downside but there is the whole increase in inductive reasoning and verbal ability in opposition to how we lose our desire for the latest gadget when our eyes weaken (from hours at a computer/tablet/phone) and when our patience level decreases with age.  Let's be honest, I could probably guess that anyone younger than 50 will see how long this article is and lose patience without reading it.  Someone once said that the Internet/Web was the breakdown of our mental capacity to focus on anything of length--to invest our time and focus on one subject.  You probably already have 3 Chrome tabs open (I have 29) and your mobile phone buzzing with Facebook updates (I turned 95% of mine off).  Your parents probably don't because they can still focus on one thing at a time; in fact, they want to.   Hasn't our our mental capacity been shown to increase much later than some might think?  Take a look at the graph here that shows "while some cognitive functions peak at around the age of 25, which correlates with peak brain mass,  it appears many other cognitive functions including inductive reasoning and verbal ability do not peak until sometime after 50 years old"!  Interestingly enough, that's when manufacturers start ignoring you.

[Source: http://www.brainhealthhacks.com/2011/01/06/how-much-cognitive-ability-do-we-lose-over-time-as-we-age/ ]

Quite frankly technology completely overwhelms the aged at a time when their inductive reasoning and verbal ability are peaking and yet manufacturers and designers haven't done anything to positively influence or appease the aging generation with technology that is meaningful to the aged or even useful to someone who becomes easily frustrated with options, E-mail addresses, passwords and threats to security.  What does that mean to to you and me?  It means that the aging generation needs to be able to verbalize the incredible amount of critical thinking with the years of experience they have.  And SHARE it.  Inductive reasoning is about pulling in information and inducing an opinion-age only enhances that.  To quote a review of the movie The Big Lebowski, "the power of inductive reasoning lies in our ability to listen: to be open to new experience, to collect raw data and play with it until we detect a pattern", which was what the main character allowed to happen when all the complicated pieces of the movie seemed somewhat irrelevant. [Source: http://dudespaper.com/the-mind-limber.html/ ]

You sometimes see social network blogs or technology posts about the lone grand mother who successfully traverses the technological frustrations and navigates the land of the iPad.  What's worse is that Apple has produced a seemingly simpler product and the aging generation was made humorous by placing a mature couple in the line for the latest iPhone during a Android advertising campaign.  What does that say (besides ageism)?  Does it say the aged are simple minded?  Or does it say that Apple produced something that rarely causes frustrations, is very intuitive to the user and doesn't need to be tweaked, modified or have several apps removed to get it to work correctly.  Doesn't really matter at this point but herein lies the crux:  our aging generation are being ignored as technology expands.  Never mind the youth culture that continuously ignore the fact that several generations of experience coupled with inductive reasoning can be tapped into to gently shape the dips and turns on the road of life we travel day to day.  If life blips, nay accidents or wrong choices, can be avoided then why aren't we tapping into that double flavored expansiveness knowledge that can be our own parents?  Or grand parents?  I told you so could be irrelevant!

One of the problems is that our over age 65 generation isn't in the sweet spot of product marketing which is those tweenies and then the biggest group of all 25-54.  The median age here is 37 with a life expectancy of 78.62!  So basically you are pandered to until you hit the ripe old age of 55 then it's all downhill from there.  Products are not created for you!  Unless of course you have kids who want to implement the Incrementally Complex Technology Project on you!


  • 0-14 years: 20% (male 32,344,207/female 31,006,688)
  • 15-24 years: 13.7% (male 22,082,128/female 21,157,025)
  • 25-54 years: 40.2% (male 63,802,736/female 63,581,749)
  • 55-64 years: 12.3% (male 18,699,338/female 20,097,791)
  • 65 years and over: 13.9% (male 19,122,853/female 24,774,052) (2013 est.)


[Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html ]

Hundreds of tiny icons.  Several E-mail accounts.  Applications installed on mobile technology that you cannot remove.  A myriad of confusing applications that do virtually the same thing.  Millions of e-books published by home authors that have something to say.  News beyond Fox and CNN.  Geographically dispersed extended family members who have something to share but have lost the ability to keep and maintain hard copy communication.  The answer lies in designing and producing for this niche market.  The aging generation needs mobile devices which are light, easier to use, protected, and allow for easy web navigation--and please don't mention the Jitterbug to me.  Let's at least act like adults who don't believe our parents are dancing silly phone fanatics and have to use an entirely different service.  The product just needs to be easy on the eyes and the user has to be able to change the font at will.  When WebTV came to market this could have been the start but someone needs to mix tablet and television viewed technology in a very simple way--who wants to type complete sentences on a remote? Sadly, that hasn't happened yet (not in an awesome and intuitive way), so in order to garner that treasure of expanding your aging parents or grand parents inductive reasoning and verbal gifts back to you regarding those turns in life- then honor your mother and father by implementing persuasive incrementally complex technology. That's what Apple couldn't do.

The first thing you need to do is assess.  My mother had one of the basic cell phones without all the crazy bells and whistles.  Two years ago I could have suggested an iPhone or Android device and she would have punched me in the face.  I'm kidding about the punch - she balked at the idea.  She was tired of slow PCs because she didn't want to fiddle with emptying cache, or history, or clearing cookies.  Yahoo card games were doing nothing but frustrating her because she didn't know when or how she was supposed to upgrade to the latest Java release.  I moved a state away and couldn't respond to her technological needs fast enough.  So to give her a smart phone?  Wouldn't be prudent.  My assessment was that Mom wasn't ready for such technology but because I wanted to share what I knew she could tap into I needed my incremental plan.

An incremental step was next.  It really only took 2 or 3 text messages sent, after I believe my sister and I teamed up to ensure her plan was capable.  We didn't overwhelm her with options or messages.  Just one or two, "I love you." and "I miss you." text messages and within a few weeks we were getting, "I love you too!" and "WHEN COMING HOME" back.  I love her caps--simple and straight to the point.  Her inductive reasoning was that I had been home several times since moving and I was also expected soon--wasn't "Are you", it was "when".  She learned the numeric alphabet way to send a note during our busy work days.  We cracked the door open and let her peek out during Fox news breaks - thank God.  Within a few short months Mom was texting us every day and since I was 1 state away I really loved that I could continue that daily connection with Mom on demand without stopping.  Yes, my selfish persuasive technology implementation was going marvelously.

The next step was sending a photo taken from a cell phone camera.  When Mom got to see her grandchildren or a beloved pet (she loves all our pets) it was opening another window in a retired life of her home-bodied situation.  She used to love to take film photographs but even that became frustrating in the digital age.  Then one day my sister showed her how to take a photo with her cell phone.  (wink, wink)  More persuasion and Mom wasn't frustrated because while her (current) technology was gradually increasing in complexity she was having feelings of joy and wonder in her new found hobby. A critical success factor and key performance indication that my project was going well.  Joy and wonder?  Check.

The next step involved an Amazon Kindle.  I gave Mom my old Kindle V1 (circa. 2007) when I upgraded to the Kindle V2 (circa. 2009).  If you think about the Amazon Kindle products before the Kindle Fire (circa. 2011) came along most think of it as a "simple" e-book reading device.  I think of the first Kindle as implementing incrementally complex...you get the idea.  Mom was reading books at a veracity few can match and she was limited to just that.  I have both of our Kindles synced to the same account and when she finishes a book it updates my Facebook timeline and I know I need to start looking for another book which Amazon has made extremely easy for me because quite frankly, after all my Amazon purchases, they know exactly what we like (by reasonably inducing that I like that book so surely I'll like one similar).  It has to be either Holocaust memoirs written by actual survivors for Mom and historical non-fiction or odd scientific/textbooks reading for me.  Eventually I upgraded Mom to the Kindle Paper White so that she could more easily read without having to clamp a light to the Kindle. Joy points increased by double and have persuasion points to accept new technology.

A smart phone upgrade would have been a nightmare.  Why?  Try being over 65 with not-so-savvy eyesight and dealing with a small screen in addition to the aforementioned frustrations.  You are just asking for your persuasive project to fail!  Another CSF:  Easy to see.  The whole thing almost fell into a crescendo of failure when we attempted to get her to view our Facebook updates more often and had the audacity to bring a laptop into the mix.  Laptops will do just as much damage because they are heavy, get laden with unexpected installations when Mom doesn't know not to install something upon pop up or has insane lockups.  I find Facebook can be an effective tool with which to communicate with an entire extended family I may never see and it allows me to share with my Mother, Sister, two Brothers, Son and nephews/nieces with just a few clicks.  I took upon the complexity of arranging my security in a way that only they see certain things where as my friends see an entirely different thing.

One day Mom casually asked if she could watch movies on her Kindle. (Requirement noted.)  I knew then that this was my chance - this was the moment in my persuasive technology project that I needed to make a (incremental) bold move.  The information world that brings me data is also a way to expand the thoughts, ideas and inductive reasoning talents to the forefront.  (While it isn't deductive reasoning--the power of experience is a gold mine.) Being at a distance, how can I get that reasoning if I know that the world viewed may be a very myopic one where news channels only report negative stories?  Even a deductive reasonable thought would start to discern a very ugly world. There is light and love out there somewhere and a difference in opinions.  There are old friends and school mates who are waiting to reconnect.  There are photos of children laughing, soldiers fighting, and articles about Alzheimer's research that will never come in print.  Print is becoming a thing of the past and while the tactile nature is nice I still have the same amount of print books I had 5 years ago.  My mother has over 75 new books in the last 12 months on her Kindle.

The next step in this process is the last one I note here because although it's the end result I sought; it's not a final one.  For a mix of Mother's Day and Mom's Birthday I hit the crescendo of persuading more complex technology by getting her a Google Nexus.  That could have never happened when the first generation iPad came out in 2010.  I got the 7" version because I knew by analyzing the way she used the Kindle Paper White that a 10" tablet was probably not the best choice and I own a 10" tablet so I knew the weight of it would be an issue if she were reclining in bed reading or now, viewing a movie.  Before I sent this new technology to Mom I did several things.  I removed extraneous applications that I knew would do nothing but confuse her, I added her favored card games and cross word puzzles plus memory games.  I added  various news apps plus Facebook, E-mail and I tossed in a few digital family photos for good measure.  I configured her Facebook account such that notifications were of minimal nature, secured it down as best I could and disallowed the crazy brain killing Facebook app invites.  It has a strict/strong password for any other application installs which means Mom won't get confused or frustrated about those and I can keep an eye on it on subsequent visits.

Has this technology transition been perfect?  Well, there have been a few days where she told me she couldn't access the Internet (also known as success) and because we've shown her how to reboot the cable modem that was an easy fix.  The Amazon music play list I put on the Nexus didn't go off without a hitch but I know on my next visit with her I'll be able to do another analysis to see how she's been utilizing the Nexus and fix that pesky music play list so she can plug in her ear-buds while Dad watches Fox.   I've had to be a little more helpful during navigation of using E-mail for her to view a YouTube video I uploaded so that she can see video that I specifically made for her--but because of the success of my project I now have 3 (mobile phone, E-mail, Facebook) ways to send those (communication conduits) and if 2 fail the 3rd usually does the trick.  And has.  Facebook worked for simplicity because as of yet; there are no junk messages to rifle through to get where she needs to be.  The simplest form text, "What E-mail? I don't see it.".  Open Facebook, look in messages.  Easy.

Mom insisted I read up on Google Glass because as she put it, "Have u heard about Google glasses!  If not they will blow you away!".  Yep, I'd been ignoring Google Glass so she can share all that with me on my next visit.  I also find that some of the requests she has of technology seem very inductive and she reasons that it should work that way.  If she thinks it; that's what should happen - a natural user that is in a demographic that is largely ignored. The tablet should just know when she wants to see something it naturally happens.  This generation could be a focus group that skips wasted efforts such as WebTV (circa OLD).  Google Glass?  Might want to think about this under served demographic for user acceptance.

And God said it was good.  My Mother is pretty much a creature of habit and gets in bed at the appointed early time.  She's up fairly early too.  One day I sent Mom a text and did not get a response.  It was after 10AM.  I sent another.  Nothing.  I panicked just a little then called.  Nothing.  I messaged my sister who said she'd not heard from her either.  Just before we were going to send in the rescue crew Mom called me.  She was taking a nap.....because she'd been watching Netflix offerings late into the night on her Nexus.  She has no patience for television commercials.  By the way, she texts me less because she's too busy engaged in new technology.  The honor I felt like I'd done?  Honored me.

Remember your parents/elders and feed their technological needs even when they balk at you but know that anything that needs updating, tweaking or option after option won't get good reviews and unaccepted.  Understand their frustrations because one day you too will be tired of all the options.  Take the time to improve their world, gently and persuasively, because they certainly took the time to improve yours.  Manufacturers are so focused on demographics and what's the latest craze when it's our elders who can pare life down into much simpler terms and help us naturally use technology by being reasonably inductive.

United States Population Pyramid


Monday, April 8, 2013

Creating Your Trusted Facebook List and Stop Telling The World Your Business

I've found in facebookian culture that there are times where users really don't want 564 friends to see a status about a particularly exciting event or even a sad one but that perhaps sometimes there might be say 53 or possibly even 5 people that they want to see their post without using a group E-mail - because even in facebook that can be annoying. While this post may seem long I'm going to give the exact steps to garner a little tighter control on what you post on facebook. Before you get to the creation of your list/s I have a suggestion as how to keep it down to 3 groups.

First you need to think about your inner sanctum of information like a circle with 3 repeating rings. The inner sanctum are your circle of trust. They are the ones that you won't mind sharing some of life's major catastrophic events, joyous outbursts, photos that you don't want the world to see, special messages calling out ones you love and any number of other things. The 2nd ring are the ones that while you may not want to share special moments there are things such as work events, general photos re-shared for comical use, news about professional organizations, etc., that you will create--we can call this list work or professional. The final list are friends who can see a few details, some very seldom posts, general information, things you might want to push for attendance, etc.

Name the group something that gives you a hint about what you are posting. Sometimes you do not need a 3rd list because in my case this is the "friend" list. Those are users I've added as friends as a courtesy but do not want them seeing my life on display. You do NOT want to post public images or status posts unless you, like me, sometimes like to share something so informative or interesting you just want the world to know so in that case Public Post away! So think about your group or groups before you proceed - think about how your posts could be subdivided...maybe you just want two groups "Circle of Trust" and "friends". Either way, if you create 3 lists remember that you can add more than one group to photographs. Not only that but from this point forward each time you add a new friend you will be able to add them to the group at the same time.

So here we go:

On the facebook main page where you see the regular news feed there are several sections listed on the left side: Favorites, Apps, Groups, Pages, Interests, More or Friends at the bottom. If you don't see Friends, then click the More word and Friends will show up.


What we're concerned with is the Friends group because this is where you are going to create your 1 or more groups. Roll your mouse over the word Friends and you will see "More" pop up. Click more and the news feed now changes to show you the few groups that comes default with facebook. The only one you really care about is Close Friends - that's the group that every time one of them posts you get some sort of indication in your news feed or mobile device. Just remember that for later. We'll come back to it.

Next to Friends you'll see two boxes: + Create List and See All Friends. Click + Create List
Type in the list name of your first group - whichever group that you trust the most with your private information is the group you should start with because you might get lazy and not ever get around to creating the 2nd circle and finally the 3rd, which is the people like work mates.


Once you type in the List Name you could actually start typing in names but that would take forever and sure enough you will forget someone who won't appreciate your hidden posts so just click create for now--there is an easier way to add everyone quickly.

After you clicked Create you can see the title of your list at the top and a place to post a status but you don't need that right now. On the right side of the screen it says "Manage List". Click that box and then click edit list. Here is where you need to select your regular facebook "friends" to put them in the list. At first you see "No results" because it's only showing you the new list with no friends.
Click "On This List" box and change it to "friends". Now you see every one. Now all you need to do is go through your entire list, very easily, and choose which friends you want added to this group. When you are done click finish.

It may be wise to have thought about your groupings beforehand before you proceed because you want to just add each group when you go through the next steps.

Now using the list is entirely up to your preferences. I prefer that all my default posts are only seen by my inner circle - or rather, that first layer of trust. That's not everyone who may be my "friend" on facebook--otherwise there would be way too many people who know way too much about me. So, to do that you should click the tiny settings icon in the upper right hand corner of the facebook page.
A menu comes up, click "Privacy Settings". See where it says, "Who can see my stuff? Who can see your future posts?" I would change that to whatever you just named your first group. Just click "Edit" and then a box will pop up, now choose your new list.

There are other settings in privacy where you can do this. It's not just limited to status posts, but birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, where you work etc by going into "Timeline and Tagging" as well as using the "About" link which you find on your own timeline page under your profile photo.
Click "About" and then look inside each box, you can click "Edit" and change who sees what. After you clicked the edit you will see a little icon that you can change to your new list(s). Sometimes, especially with photos you can use two lists if say for example your work friends and your circle of trust needs to see something you just posted or an album so in that case you'd just click both lists.

Now here's the best part: you can check your new privacy settings by going to your timeline and using the "View As" tool. It's over there on the far right next to activity log. Click the down arrow and "View As...". What comes up is a page that shows you how your timeline looks to the general public.

Surprised? I hope not. Now use the "View as a Specific Person" to test some names that you know you dropped in different lists. One person who is only a friend and then other people who are in your circle of trust list. The page changes each time you put a name in to let you know you've done something right.





Finally, remember that mobile phones are notorious for following the last post privacy. Meaning, if you change your cover or profile photo which is mostly public then the next post you might have as public. On your mobile phone you can ALWAYS change the setting of what you are posting. Taking a few moments to make sure where the post is going takes about just as much effort as it did to correct the spelling mistake on that last post. It's worth a 2nd look.  For the Android Facebook app it's a little icon that you touch to bring up your new groups. Facebook wants you to post everything public because it keeps users interacting, ads popping and paying plus applications that inevitably mean cash for someone- but your privacy is also important as facts about you (found in facebook) can always be used for illicit purposes and once you surpass 300 or even 1000 friends there are just some facts that that many people don't need about you.



There is a great article about how social networks are used for identify theft here: How Social Media Networks Facilitate Identity Theft and Fraud
Yes - when is the last time you used your mother's maiden name, dog name, child's name etc for a password to a banking site?
And here is another: AARP: Restrict your personal information or your risk of identity theft may double Serious business! Also, once you add a new profile photo you can always go back in and change that privacy setting. It's just good common sense.
Now for the Close Friends group - if you look who is in the group you'll see their little gold star - you also see that if you look directly on their timeline.

If Close Friends is checked that means you'll get notifications. You can change this how you see fit but creation of these groups will not change the fact that you may still get notifications from others on your friends list. Just start reviewing who's in your news feed and begin to visit their timeline to uncheck "Close Friends" OR "Show in News Feed" OR "Get Notifications". Eventually your news feed starts showing the things or people you want to pay attention too.

Use the following links to make more changes:
Timeline Security
Privacy Settings
Finally, go to your timeline, then photos, then albums and make the necessary changes there to hide photos.
I hope this helps!!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Old Mothers and Thuds of Thunder

When I see paintings of mother and child I grow melancholy.   When I accidentally, and very seldom  see a breast feeding mother I grow misty eyed and mournful of a seemingly long lost purpose.  Perhaps I hadn't had enough children but the one I did seemed perfectly balanced for what has been my life.  While I'm not an old mother - I am among the astute pupils of age who've raised a young one that brings wisdom beyond any years I could ever number.

In 2008 when my young one was preparing to graduate high school I was mentally preparing for his exodus in the fall.  Little did I know that the chosen college would insist on an early enrollment and just as soon as he would graduate, two weeks later he would take his flight.  You never think about those moments when you make the favored mac-n-cheese or disallow onions in the spaghetti sauce.  It's an invisible thing to you all the while projectile vomit covers the floor-or worse-and even when those moments you look in the rear view mirror to see two dark eyes staring out at the world you worked so hard to protect them from.  The same thud of thunder that shook the foundation of that mother's heart in those moments exists even today.

From a divorce in 1995 we were products wrapped up into the statistics and data.  Single Mom, Single Parent Household and Latch-Key Kid.  It was never easy being that single mom or that household tick marked into the demographics but it sure was easy being his Mom.  It was probably the most natural thing I've ever done and I have to consider it the most important and defining moment of my career(s).  While I may enjoy business intelligence, technical work or managing projects, they were just justifying my ability to maneuver through the world of motherhood in contemporary terms.  Of course later, in 2007, when I lost a 12 year career to the unfortunate side affects of a plant closure I was shaken to the foundation and made a decision to allow something like a career to become loved enough to be my 2nd career after mother.  I still thank God for bringing mentors into my life who could see outside my limited view, understand the things it would take to move beyond that, and encouraged me to flourish beyond that role.  One particular woman had a profound affect on me because in those first moments we met she really didn't like me at all.  I never gave a good first impression, but stick with me and find out what salt of the earth really means.

So there began the 2nd chapter in my life when he left.  I had finally finished a degree that, I kid you not, started when I graduated high school myself and only finally completed in 2007.  Every time I spent an hour in a class and he was left, or when I tried to focus on studies when he was playing video games I would just get wrapped up in the sense of loss.  Today I am thankful I recognized it and while I am unlike many traditional college graduates the education I received at the time I got was so much sweeter.  I remember reading the text in a chemistry course and exclaiming, "OMG!!!  No way!".  Yea, simple mind, simple mother, simply divine.  It was as if the everyday education which loses its luster in a mire of boring echoes and repetitiousness became new and opened to me in a divine way because I had chosen to forsake it so early on.  I still can't get enough--and that was my reward.  It continues to be--I am insatiable when it comes to information.  Thank God.

Still, the joy of being an old mother has its downside.  I committed myself to the professional career once I was no longer in mom mode and jumped in with such passion that I almost lost sense of time.  My second wind allowed me to ignore the fact that my heart was still broken.  It simply told me that the separation of mother and son was a fact.  It is finished.  You've done your job and now it's up to him.  There can be no coddle, no slaking of mom thirst; it must be a ridiculous and silly notion that this now grown man has such a hold on this old heart.  I've had many a male person shake their head in doggedly man-style when I lose the leash on my old mother's ways and voice my opinion of this.  Guys tend to openly, and sometimes vehemently, voice their opinion about how I feel.  Over protective, helicopter Mom, gonna make him weak, etc., etc.  And they would know- I guess; since it is very difficult to watch a woman push another human being into the world.  Puts hair on your chest.

When I was younger I remember a moment in time as if it were yesterday.  Details aside I was made aware that while both parents loved me; one of them did not like me.  This is not a bad thing - just a fact of my experience.  Though, at 17 or 18, I could have cared less.  I was kinda glad they didn't.  It would have meant they wanted to spend more time with me. Not my cup of tea.  Now when I think about it of course I'm stymied that as great as I am how was it possible they could not have liked me?  Maybe I just wasn't that great.  I've navigated parenthood in a completely different style than my own parents.  Not that I think they were doing anything wrong but with each generation we become self delusional that our intelligence says we're going to do something different.  Thousands, maybe millions of years feeling that thud of thunder in an old mother's heart is probably the lesson - not how we got there.

So while I wasn't going to be a big disciplinarian I knew that as a single mother I would have to balance discipline and softness in such a way that most women can't understand.  The courage and strength built from that still comfort me today.  It is as if, in the 13 years of walking the balance had given me insight into something that allot of women never really have to understand.  Thankfully, I was afforded a sister who had not only been doubly blessed with children but came into the same experience and even as a child not really knowing her very well I can look into her eyes today and see the effects of that same thud of thunder.  Old mothers are we.  I can see the thuds of thunder in some of my friends too - mother's who've gotten past the soccer practices and drivers license stage and ultimately seen the exodus of their progeny's.  I like that feeling of motherly camaraderie.  Old mothers are we.

Recently my son went through a thing that stymied my sage wisdom; it curdled in my mother's belly and made me a sky pointed fist shaking wretch.  That's code for:  This shit is not right.  I railed at the unforgiving situation around him and devised master evil plans of tormenting our nemesis.  I had it all worked out, standing in front of the judge of the righteous:   Sir!  My son has been jack-knifed, flim-flammed and bull shitted into the very ideals of youth and those guys (pointing very demonstratively at the bad guys) need to be  taught a very valuable old mother lesson!  I will not stand for anything less.  Then quiet permeates the air around me when I realize that when I look in the rear view mirror to an adult face.  I looked good in shining armor and a sword of injustice but the old mother acquiesced to reality and quietly worked into my place as supporter...and

I have considered lately that I have become his friend.  It was recently when my mind was brought to the moment when I, as an 18 year old, acknowledged (with satisfaction I might add) that a parent did not like me.  I also remembered when he was a youth that there was a slippery slope when it came to being mother, father and everything else.  I never became his friend because I believed in the power of those two roles I wielded.  There is a difference in enjoying the partaking in the youth of your child and being a "buddy".  But in these last times I saw my son, I have recognized that this human being that was part of me--my God, my God, I really like him.  The raw shock took me by surprise because I realized that I just like being around this person!  He's really neat!  He even ended up liking some of the same things I did and our minds meet on issues that even my closest friends don't talk about.  I can't get more satisfaction out of life when he's over correcting me on my lazy video game tactics.  He can't leap tall buildings in a single bound...and he can't fly...without a cape anyway, but he's really funny and he treats people with a genuine kindness you rarely see.

So now, when the visit is over and the thud in my heart threatens to make me cry I remember that I am so grateful for this person in my life.  If I were to die today I would have been the happiest woman in the world the moment I realized that this person, who I shoved into an ugly world so many years ago, has become a person I truly like to be around.   It is without any verbal commentary to understand what The Mother could have suffered in that thunderous sorrow of age old and eternity that haunts me to this day.  To be grateful for our experience--as alternative as it may.  What more could I ask for?  I am an old mother whose thunderous heart cannot believe that one day his experience as a father will teach me all the more of this lesson.  It is information worth waiting for.