Cloud Culture: Reality has become a video game [Collaborative Series 3/8]

This post is #3 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

DO VIDEO GAMES REALLY MATTER THAT MUCH TO DIGITAL NATIVES?

Yes. Video games are the formative computer user experience (a.k.a. UX) for nearly everyone born since 1977. Genealogists call these people Gen X, Gen Y, or Millennials, but we use the more general term “Digital Natives” because they were born into a world surrounded by interactive digital technology starting from their toys and learning devices.

Malcolm Gladwell explains, in his book Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop a core skill. In this case, video games have trained all generations since 1977 in a whole new way of thinking. It’s not worth debating if this is a common and ubiquitous experience; instead, we’re going to discuss the impact of this cultural tsunami.

Before we dive into impacts, it is critical for you to suspend your attitude about video games as a frivolous diversion. Brad explores this topic in Liquid Leadership, and Jane McGonnagle, in Reality is Broken, spends significant time exploring the incredibly valuable real world skills that Digital Natives hone playing games. When they are “gaming,” they are doing things that adults would classify as serious work:

  • Designing buildings and creating machines that work within their environment
  • Hosting communities and enforcing discipline within the group
  • Recruiting talent to collaborate on shared projects
  • Writing programs that improve their productivity
  • Solving challenging mental and physical problems under demanding time pressures
  • Learning to persevere through multiple trials and iterative learning
  • Memorizing complex sequences, facts, resource constraints, and situational rules.

Why focus on video gamers?

Because this series is about doing business with Digital Natives and video games are a core developmental experience.

The impact of Cloud Culture on technology has profound implications and is fertile ground for future collaboration between Rob and Brad.  However, we both felt that the challenge of selling to gamers crystallized the culture clash in a very practical and financially meaningful sense.  Culture can be a “soft” topic, but we’re putting a hard edge on it by bringing it home to business impacts.

Digital Natives play on a global scale and interact with each other in ways that Digital Immigrants cannot imagine. Brad tells it best with this story about his nephew:

Years ago, in a hurry to leave the house, we called out to our video game playing nephew to join us for dinner.

“Sebastian, we’re ready.” I was trying to be as gentle as possible without sounding Draconian. That was the parenting methods of my father’s generation. Structure. Discipline. Hierarchy. Fear. Instead, I wanted to be the Cool Uncle.

“I can’t,” he exclaimed as wooden drum sticks pounded out their high-pitched rhythm on the all too familiar color-coded plastic sensors of a Rock Band drum kit.

“What do you mean you can’t? Just stop the song, save your data, and let’s go.”

“You don’t understand. I’m in the middle of a song.” Tom Sawyer by RUSH to be exact. He was tackling Neil Peart. Not an easy task. I was impressed.

“What do you mean I don’t understand? Shut it off.” By now my impatience was noticeable. Wow, I lasted 10 seconds longer than my father if he had been in this same scenario. Progress I guess.

And then my 17-year-old nephew hit me with some cold hard facts without even knowing it… “You don’t understand… the guitar player is some guy in France, and the bass player is this girl in Japan.”

In my mind the aneurism that was forming just blew… “What did he just say?”

And there it was, sitting in my living room—a citizen of the digital age. He was connected to the world as if this was normal. Trained in virtualization, connected and involved in a world I was not even aware of!

My wife and I just looked at each other. This was the beginning of the work I do today. To get businesses to realize the world of the Digital Worker is a completely different world. This is a generation prepared to work in The Cloud Culture of the future.

A Quote from Liquid Leadership, Page 94, How Technology Influences Behavior…

In an article in the Atlantic magazine, writer Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains) cites sociologist Daniel Bell as claiming the following: “Whenever we begin to use ‘intellectual technologies’ such as computers (or video games)—tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.

In other words, the technology we use changes our behavior!

There’s another important consideration about gamers and Digital Natives. As we stated in post 1, our focus for this series is not the average gamer; we are seeking the next generation of IT decision makers. Those people will be the true digital enthusiasts who have devoted even more energy to mastering the culture of gaming and understand intuitively how to win in the cloud.

“All your base belongs to us.”

Translation: If you’re not a gamer, can you work with Digital Natives?

Our goal for this series is to provide you with actionable insights that do not require rewriting how you work. We do not expect you to get a World of Warcraft subscription and try to catch up. If you already are one then we’ll help you cope with your Digital Immigrant coworkers.

In the next posts, we will explain four key culture differences between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives. For each, we explore the basis for this belief and discuss how to facilitate Digital Natives decision-making processes.

Cloud Culture Series TL;DR? Generation Cloud Cheat sheet [Collaborative Series 2/8]

SUBTITLE: Your series is TOO LONG, I DID NOT READ It!

This post is #2 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and I about how culture shapes technology.

Your attention is valuable to us! In this section, you will find the contents of this entire blog series distilled down into a flow chart and one-page table.  Our plan is to release one post each Wednesday at 1 pm ET.

Graphical table of contents

flow chartThe following flow chart is provided for readers who are looking to maximize the efficiency of their reading experience.

If you are unfamiliar with flow charts, simply enter at the top left oval. Diamonds are questions for you to choose between answers on the departing arrows. The curved bottom boxes are posts in the series.

Culture conflict table (the Red versus Blue game map)

Our fundamental challenge is that the cultures of Digital Immigrants and Natives are diametrically opposed.  The Culture Conflict Table, below, maps out the key concepts that we explore in depth during this blog series.

Digital Immigrants (N00Bs) Digital Natives (L33Ts)
Foundation: Each culture has different expectations in partners
  Obey Rules

They want us to prove we are worthy to achieve “trusted advisor” status.

They are seeking partners who fit within their existing business practices.

Test Boundaries

They want us to prove that we are innovative and flexible.

They are seeking partners who bring new ideas that improve their business.

  1. Organizational Hierarchy see No Spacesuits (Post 4)
  Permission Driven

Organizational Hierarchy is efficient

Feel important talking high in the org

Higher ranks can make commitments

Bosses make decisions (slowly)

Peer-to-Peer Driven

Organizational Hierarchy is limiting

Feel productive talking lower in the org

Lower ranks are more collaborative

Teams make decisions (quickly)

  1. Communication Patterns see MMOG as Job Training (Post 5)
  Formalized & Structured

Waits for Permission

Bounded & Linear

Requirements Focused

Questions are interruptions

Casual & Interrupting

Does NOT KNOW they need permission

Open Ended

Discovered & Listening

Questions show engagement

  1. Risks and Rewards see Level Up (Post 6)
  Obeys Rules

Avoid Risk—mistakes get you fired!

Wait and see

Fear of “looking foolish”

Breaks Rules

Embrace Risk—mistakes speed learning

Iterate to succeed

Risks get you “in the game”

  1. Building your Expertise see Becoming L33T (Post 7)
Knowledge is Concentrated

Expertise is hard to get (Diploma)

Keeps secrets (keys to success)

Quantitate—you can measure it

Knowledge is Distributed and Shared

Expertise is easy to get (Google)

Likes sharing to earn respect

Qualitative—trusts intuition

Hopefully, this condensed version got you thinking.  In the next post, we start to break this information down.

 

 

Cloud Culture: New IT leaders are transforming the way we create and purchase technology. [Collaborative Series 1/8]

Subtitle: Why L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs

Brad Szollose and I want to engage you in a discussion about how culture shapes technology [cross post link].  We connected over Brad’s best-selling book, Liquid Leadership, and we’ve been geeking about cultural impacts in tech since 2011.

Rob Hirschfeld

Rob

Brad

In these 8 posts, we explore what drives the next generation of IT decision makers starting from the framework of Millennials and Boomers.  Recently, we’ve seen that these “age based generations” are artificially limiting; however, they provide a workable context this series that we will revisit in the future.

Our target is leaders who were raised with computers as Digital Natives. They approach business decisions from a new perspective that has been honed by thousands of hours of interactive games, collaboration with global communities, and intuitive mastery of all things digital.

The members of this “Generation Cloud” are not just more comfortable with technology; they use it differently and interact with each other in highly connected communities. They function easily with minimal supervision, self-organize into diverse teams, dive into new situations, take risks easily, and adapt strategies fluidly. Using cloud technologies and computer games, they have become very effective winners.

In this series, we examine three key aspects of next-generation leaders and offer five points to get to the top of your game. Our goal is to find, nurture, and collaborate with them because they are rewriting the script for success.

We have seen that there is a technology-driven culture change that is reshaping how business is being practiced.  Let’s dig in!

What is Liquid Leadership?

“a fluid style of leadership that continuously sustains the flow of ideas in an organization in order to create opportunities in an ever-shifting marketplace.”

Forever Learning?

In his groundbreaking 1970s book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler pointed out that in the not too distant future, technology would inundate the human race with all its demands, overwhelming those not prepared for it. He compared this overwhelming feeling to culture shock.

Welcome to the future!

Part of the journey in discussing this topic is to embrace the digital lexicon. To help with translations we are offering numerous subtitles and sidebars. For example, the subtitle “L33Ts don’t buy from N00Bs” translates to “Digital elites don’t buy from technical newcomers.”

Loosen your tie and relax; we’re going to have some fun together.  We’ve got 7 more posts in this cloud culture series.  

We’ve also included more background about the series and authors…

Continue reading

7 Open Source lessons from your English Composition class

We often act as if coding, and especially open source coding, is a unique activity and that’s hubris.   Most human activities follow common social patterns that should inform how we organize open source projects.  For example, research papers are very social and community connected activities.  Especially when published, written compositions are highly interconnected activities.  Even the most basic writing builds off other people’s work with due credit and tries create something worth being used by later authors.

Here are seven principles to good writing that translate directly to good open source development:

  1. Research before writing – take some time to understand the background and goals of the project otherwise you re-invent or draw bad conclusions.
  2. Give credit where due – your work has more credibility when you acknowledge and cross-reference the work you are building on. It also shows readers that you are not re-inventing.
  3. Follow the top authors – many topics have widely known authors who act as “super nodes” in the relationship graph. Recognizing these people will help guide your work, leads to better research and builds community.
  4. Find proof readers – All writers need someone with perspective to review their work before it’s finished. Since we all need reviewers, we all also need to do reviews.
  5. Rework to get clarity – Simplicity and clarity take extra effort but they pay huge dividends for your audience.
  6. Don’t surprise your reader – Readers expect patterns and are distracted when you don’t follow them.
  7. Socialize your ideas – the purpose of writing/code is to make ideas durable. If it’s worth writing then it’s worth sharing.  Your artifact does not announce itself – you need to invest time in explaining it to people and making it accessible.

Thanks to Sean Roberts (a Hidden Influences collaborator) for his contributions to this post.  At OSCON, Sean Roberts said “companies should count open source as research [and development investment]” and I thought he’s said “…as research [papers].”  The misunderstanding was quickly resolved and we were happy to discover that both interpretations were useful.

Understanding OpenStack Designated Code Sections – Three critical questions

A collaboration with Michael Still (TC Member from Rackspace) & Joshua McKenty and Cross posted by Rackspace.

After nearly a year of discussion, the OpenStack board launched the DefCore process with 10 principles that set us on path towards a validated interoperability standard.   We created the concept of “designated sections” to address concerns that using API tests to determine core would undermine commercial and community investment in a working, shared upstream implementation.

Designated SectionsDesignated sections provides the “you must include this” part of the core definition.  Having common code as part of core is a central part of how DefCore is driving OpenStack operability.

So, why do we need this?

From our very formation, OpenStack has valued implementation over specification; consequently, there is a fairly strong community bias to ensure contributions are upstreamed. This bias is codified into the very structure of the GNU General Public License (GPL) but intentionally missing in the Apache Public License (APL v2) that OpenStack follows.  The choice of Apache2 was important for OpenStack to attract commercial interests, who often consider GPL a “poison pill” because of the upstream requirements.

Nothing in the Apache license requires consumers of the code to share their changes; however, the OpenStack foundation does have control of how the OpenStack™ brand is used.   Thus it’s possible for someone to fork and reuse OpenStack code without permission, but they cannot called it “OpenStack” code.  This restriction only has strength if the OpenStack brand has value (protecting that value is the primary duty of the Foundation).

This intersection between License and Brand is the essence of why the Board has created the DefCore process.

Ok, how are we going to pick the designated code?

Figuring out which code should be designated is highly project specific and ultimately subjective; however, it’s also important to the community that we have a consistent and predictable strategy.  While the work falls to the project technical leads (with ratification by the Technical Committee), the DefCore and Technical committees worked together to define a set of principles to guide the selection.

This Technical Committee resolution formally approves the general selection principles for “designated sections” of code, as part of the DefCore effort.  We’ve taken the liberty to create a graphical representation (above) that visualizes this table using white for designated and black for non-designated sections.  We’ve also included the DefCore principle of having an official “reference implementation.”

Here is the text from the resolution presented as a table:

Should be DESIGNATED: Should NOT be DESIGNATED:
  • code provides the project external REST API, or
  • code is shared and provides common functionality for all options, or
  • code implements logic that is critical for cross-platform operation
  • code interfaces to vendor-specific functions, or
  • project design explicitly intended this section to be replaceable, or
  • code extends the project external REST API in a new or different way, or
  • code is being deprecated

The resolution includes the expectation that “code that is not clearly designated is assumed to be designated unless determined otherwise. The default assumption will be to consider code designated.”

This definition is a starting point.  Our next step is to apply these rules to projects and make sure that they provide meaningful results.

Wow, isn’t that a lot of code?

Not really.  Its important to remember that designated sections alone do not define core: the must-pass tests are also a critical component.   Consequently, designated code in projects that do not have must-pass tests is not actually required for OpenStack licensed implementation.

Success Factors of Operating Open Source Infrastructure [Series Intro]

2012-10-28_14-13-24_502Building a best practices platform is essential to helping companies share operations knowledge.   In the fast-moving world of open source software, sharing documentation about what to do is not sufficient.  We must share the how to do it also because the operations process is tightly coupled to achieving ongoing success.

Further, since change is constant, we need to change our definition of “stability” to reflect a much more iterative and fluid environment.

Baseline testing is an essential part of this platform. It enables customers to ensure not only fast time to value, but the tests are consistently conforming with industry best practices, even as the system is upgraded and migrates towards a continuous deployment infrastructure.

The details are too long for a single post so I’m going to explore this as three distinct topics over the next two weeks.

  1. Reference Deployments talks about needed an automated way to repeat configuration between sites.
  2. Ops Validation using Development Tests talks about having a way to verify that everyone uses a common reference platform
  3. Shared Open Operatons / DevOps (pending) talks about putting reference deployment and common validation together to create a true open operations practice.

OpenStack, Hadoop, Ceph, Docker and other open source projects are changing the landscape for information technology. Customers seeking to become successful with these evolving platforms must look beyond the software bits, and consider both the culture and operations.  The culture is critical because interacting with the open source projects community (directly or through a proxy) can help ensure success using the software. Operations are critical because open source projects expect the community to help find and resolve issues. This results in more robust and capable products. Consequently, users of open source software must operate in a more fluid environment.

My team at Dell saw this need as we navigated the early days of OpenStack.  The Crowbar project started because we saw that the community needed a platform that could adapt and evolve with the open source projects that our advanced customers were implementing. Our ability to deliver an open operations platform enables the community to collaborate, and to skip over routine details to refocus on shared best practices.

My recent focus on the OpenStack DefCore work reinforces these original goals.  Using tests to help provide a common baseline is a concrete, open and referenceable way to promote interoperability.  I hope that this in turn drives a dialog around best practices and shared operations because those help mature the community.

Why I’m learning open source best practice from Middle School Students

Engineering in open source projects is a different skillset than most of us have ever been trained for; happily, there is a rising cohort of engineers and scientists who have been learning to work in exactly the ways that industry is now demanding.   Here’s the background…

hedge_teamI’ve been helping mentor two FIRST Robotics teams (FLL & FTC) this season and had the privilege to accompany the FLL team (which includes my daughter) to the FIRST World Festival where a global mix of students from 6 to 18 competed, collaborated and celebrated for a wide range of awards and recognition.  The experience is humbling – these students are taking on challenges (for fun) that would scare off most adults.

While I could go on and on about my experience and the FIRST mission, I’d rather share some of what my 12 year old daughter wrote to her coach after the competition:

Thank you Coach for all of the lessons and advice you have shared with me this season. I really appreciate all of the time and effort you have put into making this team the best we could be. You have taught us so much and we will definitely walk away from this season with the new skills and experiences. You were an amazing coach and not only did you help and support us, you also gave us the freedom to be independent so we can learn skills like leadership, time management and meeting with busy schedules. I loved being on this team and I hope this will not be the last of the Hedgehogs.

FIRST designs the program so that these experiences are the norm, not the exception.

Here are some of the critical open source engineering skills I observed first hand at all levels of the competition.

  • Collaboration: at all levels, participants are strongly rewarded for collaborating, mentoring and working together.   Team simply cannot advance without mastering this skill.
  • Consensus: judges actively test and watch for consensus behavior.  This is actively coached and encouraged because the teams quickly learn to appreciate a diversity of strengths.
  • Risk Taking with Delivery: the very nature of competition encourages teams to think big and balance risk with delivery.
  • Celebration: this has to be experienced but the competitions are often compared to rock concerts.  Everyone is involved and every aspect is celebrated.   FIRST is a culture.
  • Situational Judgment: this competition is fast and intense so participants learn to think on their feet.  This type of experience is amazingly valuable and hard to get in class room settings.

In my experience, everyone in open source needs more practice and experience DOING open source work.  I suggest getting involved in these programs as a mentor, judge or volunteer because it’s the most effective hands-on open source training I can imagine.