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Uniting Reason and Passion

Reason and Passion need not conflict. Reason without passion is dusty, dry, and dead. Reason without passion leads to moral relativity. If nothing moves the thinker to passion, then all subjects are equal and without distinction. As well to discuss the economic benefits of the euthanasia of infants as the artistic merits of urinals.

Passion without reason brings the indiscriminate energy of a summer's thunderstorm. Too much energy unbound, without direction, it's fury as constant as the winds of the air.

Passion provides energy, the drive to accomplish, change, improve, or destroy. Reason provides direction. Reason channels Passion and achieves goals by identifying targets, foci, leverage points. Passion powers Reason. It brings motive power. Passion knows that things must be done and that change is possible. Reason knows how change may be effected.

I was reminded of the fallacy of Passion without Reason recently. At lunch with a friend, she talked about working with a non-profit organization. Workers for non-profits epitomize those who are driven by Passion. Agree or disagree with their aims, you must admit that they earnestly mean to change the world. My friend, who comes from the profit-driven corporate world, was explaining some aspects of statistical process control and how it could be applied to improve fundraising results on their website. She was told that she needed to have more heart and feel for those unfortunates that this group helps.

Her critic obviously felt that her approach was too analytical. Too driven by Reason, not enough Passion. In fact, the opposite was true. She was applying the combination of Reason and Passion. Passion showed her that the cause was worthy and that she could help. Reason showed her where leverage could be gained and a small effort input could result in a large change in output.

In various disfunctional organizations which I have inhabited, I've seen many examples of the opposite. Reason reveals problems and solutions to those poor sapient cogs in the low levels of the machine. They lack the Passion to see that change is possible and so divest themselves of the power to improve their own lot in life. Problems or challenges will always overcome such people, because they give the problem power and remove it from themselves.


More Wiki

My personal favorite is TWiki. It has some nice features like file attachments, a great search interface, high configurability, and a rich set of available plugins (including an XP tracker plugin.)

One cool thing about TWiki: configuration settings are accomplished through text on particular topics. For example, each "web" (set of interrelated topics) has a topic called "WebPreferences". The text on the WebPreferences topics actually controls the variables. Likewise, if you want to set personal preferences, you set them as variables--in text--on your personal topic. It's a lot harder to describe than it is to use.

There are some other nice features like role-based access control (each topic can have a variable that says which users or groups can modify the topic), multiple "webs", and so on.

The search interface is available as variable interpolation on a topic, so something like the "recent changes" topic just ends up being a date-ordered search of changes, limited to ten topics. This means that you can build dynamic views based on content, metadata, attachments, or form values. I once put a search variable on my home topic that would show me any task I was assigned to work on or review.

I've also been looking at Oahu Wiki. It's an open source Java wiki. It's fairly short on features at this point, but it has by far the cleanest design I've seen yet. I look forward to seeing more from this project.


Wiki Proliferation

Wikis have been thoroughly mainstreamed now. You know how I can tell? Spammers are targeting them.

Any wiki without access control is going to get steamrolled by a bunch of Russian computers that are editing wiki pages. They replace all the legitimate content with links to porn sites, warez, viagra, get rich now, and the usual panoply of digital plaque.

The purpose does not appear to be driving traffic directly to those sites from the wikis. Instead, they are trying to pollute Google's page rankings by creating thousands upon thousands of additional inbound links.

If you run a wiki, be sure to enable access control and versioning (so you can recover after an attack). It is a shame that the open, freewheeling environment of the wiki has to end. It seems that the only way to preserve the value of the community is to weaken the core value of open participation that made the community worthwhile.


Moving on

The latest in my not-exactly-daily news and commentary...

As of December 10th, I will be leaving Totality Corporation. It has been a challenge and an education. It has also been an interesting time, as we uncovered the hidden linkages from daily activities to ultimate profitability. The managed service provider space is still new enough that the business models are not all so well-defined and understood as in consulting. I earnestly hope that I am leaving Totality in a much better place than it was when I joined.

Still, a number of positive attractions to the new position and some negative forces away from my current position have overcome inertia.

I will be joining Advanced Technologies Integration as a consultant. I will be forming a team with Kyle Larson, Dale Schumacher, and Dion Stewart to do a development project for one of ATI's clients. The project itself has some moderately interesting requirements... it's not just another random commerce site. (I'm really, really bored with shopping carts!) The thing that really attracted me though, is that this is a hardcore agile methods project. We'll be using a combination of Scrum and XP.

For a long time, I've advocated small teams of highly skilled developers. I have seen such teams produce many times the business value (and ROI) of the typical team. ATI and this client are willing to subscribe to the theory that a small, high-caliber team will outperform an army of cheap morons.

It's going to be a blast proving them right!