Monthly Archives: September 2014
Witness to a Murder (of crows)
Taking a diversion from the usual technology-related topic to share a bit of what most people will never see, Sunday morning, 5:30 AM, the first day of Fall, 2014. My internal alarm clock wakes me up. It is still quite dark outside. Charlie, our rooster hasn’t even woken up yet. That reminds me of something I have wanted to do for a long time: watch the large flock of birds by UW Bothell leave their roost. Would there ever be a better day to do it than today? Probably not. So I got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and headed over to the bike trail by the UW Bothell campus.
I got there by 6:00 AM. The air was mild and very calm. It was still dark enough that the dark side of the New Moon with a brighter thin crescent edge was visible to the east, looking out over the roosting area.
I set up my camera and waited. It wasn’t long before the first birds start to fly, around 6:10 AM. It started off slow at first, but very quickly the sky was full of them – A Murder of many thousands of Crows!
I was able to capture the sunrise as they left their roost in rivers of birds flying out to greet the world. I noticed that they don’t just fly out in all directions. Instead, they follow flight paths as if Air Traffic Control were giving them instructions. The stream of birds went on for over 30 minutes. Since it was early on a Sunday morning, the traffic noise from the highway was quiet. The result is a very peaceful, almost meditational video. I can imagine leaving the video playing on one of my computer monitors for a calm white-noise effect to offset the chimes of meeting reminders and email alerts while I work. It is recorded in HD, so it’s worth watching in full screen.
Don’t let the conditioning of modern television’s 5 to 20 second long clips between scene changes make you anxious after a minute or two of this. Consider finding a time when you can sit and let the video play in its entirety as if you were there yourself, filming it. If you are looking for a moment of excitement, you will have to create it yourself. Count the number of times you see a lone bird flying in the other direction. Or count the number of times a bird flaps its wings as it passes by. Or count the number of times a pair of Canada Geese fly by. Or count the number of distinct caws you hear. Or simply count the number of birds that fly by. Or just watch the rhythm of the stream of birds as the sky gradually changes color. This far north, we have long sunrises. Enjoy.
The Bothell crows make up a murder of many thousands of crows that roost every night at the 58 acre wetlands restoration site sandwiched between I-405, Hwy 522, and the University of Washington-Bothell campus.
The restoration project was started 12 years ago. This is what it looked like back then:
You can learn more about this flock of crows at the UW website.
And their Facebook page.
You can also get a better idea of just how large this murder is from this footage of them gathering again at the end of the day.
Quick Tip: Using the “like” feature in IBM Connections for more than just liking a file
The Like feature in IBM Connections is a great way to show you “Like” a file that has been posted. But don’t get caught up in the mindset of Facebook “likes”. This feature can also be a shortcut for a document review cycle. Instead of creating todos in an Activity and assigning it to each person, you can just send them all the link and ask them to “Like” it when they finish their review. Sounds almost too obvious, but I see people overlooking shortcuts like this often. This applies to the “home” edition of IBM Connections as well as in IBM SmartCloud Connections.
SmartCloud Tip #05: Problems for mail and calendar delegates. You’ll get tons of helpdesk calls if you don’t do this.
One of the points IBM stresses during your migration to SmartCloud is to migrate delegates of mail files, calendars, and contacts either ahead of or at the same time as the people who delegated them (delegators). This is necessary because a user cannot access databases on the SmartCloud servers until their own account has been added to the service. This is part of the security model. In other words, mail files in the service can only be viewed by users that are in the service. No problem. As you build your batches for migrating, the migration process alerts you who the delegates are for the people in a given batch and those delegates can be added to the same batch with one click.
But what is missed is that the delegates have bookmarks and calendar overlays pointing to the delegators mail or calendar. Those bookmarks point to the servers on-site, not in SmartCloud. So as delegators are migrated to SmartCloud, the old links that other people have to their mail don’t get updated. The end result is that delegates will continue to view the old data in the database on the server on-site even after the delegator has moved. The delegate gets no warning that the delegator has moved. The only clue is that they no longer see any changes that are made in the delegators’ mail or calendar. What makes this more insidious is that the problem begins when the DELEGATOR is moved, not when the delegate is moved. So an administrative assistant that manages many executives’ mail files has to constantly monitor when those executives are moved and then update their bookmarks.
That is why it is a best practice to be sure to promptly delete mail files from the on-site servers after their owners are successfully migrated. Life for delegates can also be simplified if all of the mail files that a delegate has access to are moved in the same batch. Then the delegate can update all the bookmarks at the same time. You could go a step further by creating database redirects as the databases are deleted from the servers on-site. If you do this, you don’t have to alert the delegates every time a delegator’s mail file is moved to SmartCloud. However, this can’t be done if you just approve the database deletions posted in adminP as part of the migration process. You need to create these some other way. One method is to delete the databases manually in the admin client where you can also add the redirect when it is deleted. You could also do this programmatically with an agent. I invite any developers to post a comment on the details for doing that.
I have posted an idea in IdeaJam requesting an enhancement.
as well as in Greenhouse.
How Your Learning Mindset Can Cost Your Job (and how to avoid it)
It’s Labor Day (U.S. Holiday) A great day to write about work. If you work in a computer-related profession you can never stop learning if you wish to remain employed. And that trend is spreading across professions like wildfire as the benefits of technology influence almost every profession. But not everyone is cut out for a lifetime of success through learning. In a recent article published by Salman Khan, the creator of KhanAcademy.org, he wrote about Learning Mindsets:
“Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.”
In other words, as I often tell my daughter as I’m dropping her off at school “Have fun and make lots of mistakes!” Why? Because we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. This philosophy is a companion to “Turn your weaknesses into strengths.”
But back to my original point: lifetime learning. If you aren’t investing time in your professional development, then you are likely to become obsolete soon. Adopt a growth mindset and feed your mind. There are some fantastic education websites out there to cater to everyone from Kindergarteners to Post-graduates and every kind of special interest in between. Many of these are free, operating under the philosophy that knowledge should be free to everyone. Here is a selection of what I have found. If you know of others, please share them in the comments for all to benefit.
https://www.khanacademy.org Broad range of classes from math & science to business & entrepreneurship FOR FREE. Many public schools are integrating this free site into their lesson plans. (spell it right. There is an imitation out there that you don’t want.)
https://www.coursera.org A partnership of universities supplying a broad range of classes FOR FREE. Check out the wikipedia article.
https://class.stanford.edu/ Stanford University offers access to a variety of classes FOR FREE online. Not for the feint-of-heart. Check out the class on cryptography if you want a challenge.
http://www.lynda.com/ Drop the cable TV subscription and spend $25 a month being entertained and educated with unlimited access to thousands of courses. (Including classes on IBM Connections software taught by my friend Bruce Elgort)
http://www.w3schools.com/ Learn computer programming languages FOR FREE. Sponsored by a cool Norwegian web development company.
I know there are many others out there. Do you have any to share?