Goodbye UW, Hello Chicago!

Last Tuesday was my last day as an employee of the University of Washington.

I’m excited to say tomorrow I start in a new job as Senior Director for Emerging Technology and Communication with IT Services at the University of Chicago. I’ll be part of the leadership team that Klara Jelinkova, their relatively new Chief Information Technology Officer, has put together. I’ve known and admired Klara as a colleague for a number of years now as she’s held increasingly more responsible positions at the University of Wisconsin and Duke before coming to Chicago in March. Klara is one of the new generation of higher-ed CIOs – whip smart, completely grounded in the technologies, but understanding the role that modern IT organizations must play to work with and serve the university. I couldn’t imagine a better person to work for. The other folks I already know in the Chicago organization (Tom Barton, Greg Anderson, Bob Bartlett) are also top notch, and I look forward to working with a whole new group of colleagues.

While I’m sad to be getting ready to leave Seattle, I look forward to getting to know Chicago, a great and vibrant city. It’s gonna be hell on my downhill skiing, though.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences in getting to know Chicago and our work in IT Services as it happens, but I wanted to at least take a brief look back on my 16.5 years at the UW, and all that we’ve accomplished over those years, because over the course of that time we did play a part in changing the world.

It’s easy to forget that in the 1990s computer professionals at academic institutions were busy inventing the future. When I first came to the UW in 1994 it was not generally accepted in industry that internet protocol networking was going to be the way to go, nor that open protocol applications for email and other purposes would be adopted on a wide scale.

In 1994 we were excited about new emerging Internet applications and standards such as Gopher (invented at the University of Minnesota by my colleague Mark McCahill), IMAP (pioneered at Stanford and the UW by Mark Crispin and colleagues) and z39.50. The World Wide Web had been recently invented at CERN, the European particle physics research lab, and the Mosaic web browser, created at the University of Illinois’ supercomputing center, was wowing us with its ability to integrate images, text, and hypertext links in an open way that made it easy to create rich content.

Since that time we pioneered the use of developing technology time and again, we helped convince major commercial interests that the Internet was the way to bring people and business together online (for better and for worse), and we built a large and growing community of technologists and technology users at the UW.

Some of the areas where we can take some credit for being among the first include developing standardizing on IP-only transport on the network, creating a university web presence, building large collections of streaming audio and video, using IMAP as a widespread protocol for email, building web-based interfaces to administrative systems, creating an enterprise web portal before the word was even in use, creating widely-used independent tools for collaboration in teaching and learning, building a GUI interface for searching library resources, having a web-based single-sign-on system, deploying a campus-wide online events calendar, building web services interfaces to enterprise data, and many more.

Recently, we’ve been engaged in projects to really get a handle on how we organize, manage, and budget for IT work at the university. While not as sexy perhaps as some of our past technical adventures, I believe that being organized about how we plan for, manage, and communicate about IT services is a foundational discipline for being effective, agile, strategic, and innovative in supporting the work of the modern university.

The last couple of years have been tough ones in the UW Information Technology organization. It’s no secret that these are not easy times for public universities in general, and Washington’s state budget picture specifically doesn’t look too rosy. Constant cutbacks and layoffs have become part of “the new normal”, as admittedly outsized ambition and reach has been scaled back to a more modest scale.

Throughout all of the years, the people I’ve worked with at the UW have been a wonderful, extremely skilled and talented group. I’m honored to have worked among them, and I’m extremely proud of having played a part in the UW’s efforts over the years.

Gnomedex 09 – Christine Peterson – Life Extension for Geeks

Approach has been personal – what should I do extend life?

Have a group in the Bay Area called the Quantitative Self – measuring everything about our lives.

Permanent health, or health squared is a better term than life extension.

We’re made out of meat – eventually things start to go wrong with meat. And our computational substrate is fragile gray pudding which you can’t back up. Would you hit a soccer ball with your laptop? And that’s backed up!

We just want a pill – but there isn’t one and won’t be one soon.

The FDA doesn’t view aging as a disease. Leon Kass, Bush’s Chairman of President’s Council on Bioethics said that to even want to extend health and life was a bad idea.

A couple of ways to come at it – soft way and hard way. Someday we may have machines that can fix the body, but in the short term we’re stuck with biological approaches.

Is your doctor your friend in life extension goals? Probably not, because they’re not trained at all in that approach.

Many things help: Stress reduction, physical risk reduction, mood improvement, sleep, sex, laughter, biomarker testing, supplements.

Start with stress reduction – gains are huge and gives you energy to tackle everything else. When you reduce stress you make changes in your brain. In three months you can turn on or off over 500 genes.

You’re doing an experiment, with you as a population of one. Get a baseline. If you’re in your 20s get a baseline now, when you’re as healthy as you can get. Kronos in Phoenix is one place you can get this done, but it’s not cheap. Life Extension Institute can provide mail order blood tests. Get your insurance in orer before you find out anything bad.

Supplements – Keep detailed records – what did you take, what were the effects? Figure out what to take – levels of confidence: pure theory and speculation vs. evidence. Supplements can do damage!

Medical studies are often done poorly because it’s expensive or sometimes impossible to do double-blind studies. Often rely on patient-reported histories.

You need an advisor – MDs (many won’t give supplement advice), the FDA, RealAge.com, Kronos, ConsumerLab.com, RaySahelian.com, Fantastic Voyage by Kurzweil & Grossman, Life Extension Foundation, Ray Kurzweil’s personal program, with extensive testing. Not for amatuers – work with a professional, get tested. Watch out for additive effects. Watch out for human hormones – they are powerful and can be risky.

Eat less calories. Be very slow and gradual. If you lower calories, don’t come back up.

Oren’s blog has moved!

After five years of writing this blog on my staff web account at the UW, I’ve moved it to blog.orenblog.org, hosted at wordpress.com.

Why?

  • There are lots of good options. The future for IT is in the cloud, and great services are available all over the place. When I first started the blog it was at least partly a demonstration that it was possible for a fairly numbskull unix user to install newfangled software on the servers at the UW. That was partly responsible for a whole set of documentation on how to install blogs and wikis and MySQL. I had hoped that this would lead to a generally available campus blog and wiki service, but that never became enough of a priority to happen. It looks to me like now we don’t really need to do that anymore – there’s lots of great options available for people on the Internet that are cheap (or free) and easy to use. There’s no reason for me to continue to run my own MySQL server or have to install and upgrade blog server software, which is good, as I no longer have the time to pay attention to that level of detail. I do want to say that the hosting on the UW staff servers has been terrific for the entire five years – the systems have been responsive and uptime has never been a problem for me. UW Technology’s Distributed Systems staff are a top-notch crew and do a wonderful job of keeping these critical systems functioning very well.  
  • There are lots of things to write about! While I intend to continue to mostly write about the issues that are relevant to practicing IT professionals in higher education, there are other interests I might choose to comment on from time to time, including music, politics, family life, etc. My life doesn’t neatly compartmentalize into work vs. non-work, and I don’t want to have to worry about trying to invent that dichotomy for blog-writing purposes. 
     
  • WordPress.com is a killer service. While there are many good blog services available, I’ve chosen to put this blog on wordpress.com. I will admit a little regret in leaving my long time environment of Movable Type – I think MT is wonderful software, and I look forward to trying out the social networking features in MT Pro on some future projects. But wordpress.com makes it really easy to host the blog. I’m able to tweak the design to my satisfaction using the templates and I used the predefined widgets to get my del.icio.us links and my music listening twitter feed onto the sidebar. And – a huge plus – my initial experiences with contacting support have been nothing short of amazing in helping me get my content migrated properly, including going so far as writing a brief custom  script to properly import my tags from MT – and that’s for the free version of the product!

So I look forward to continuing to write in this new environment, and hopefully you’ll be seeing more regular posts, though I’m finding I’m writing less in the blog and posting short things to twitter.

5,000 miles and counting

Today on my way in to work I reached 5,000 total miles on my bicycle. That’s about the same as going from Seattle to Detroit and back (assuming one would want to go to Detroit in the first place). It’s been almost exactly five years since I got my current bike, so that averages out … Continue reading “5,000 miles and counting”

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Today on my way in to work I reached 5,000 total miles on my bicycle. That’s about the same as going from Seattle to Detroit and back (assuming one would want to go to Detroit in the first place).

It’s been almost exactly five years since I got my current bike, so that averages out to about a thousand miles a year. It’s definitely been more than that in the past year. While that doesn’t make me Lance Armstrong, or Kole Kantner for that matter, it sure feels good to be riding regularly, and I’m comfortable enough doing it in all kinds of weather that this year I gave up my parking pass (though I can always take the bus or use commuter parking tickets).

Reliable, human-powered transportation. What more could you ask for? I’m looking forward to passing the traffic jams on the first couple of days of Fall Quarter!

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Organizational changes

I don’t think it will surprise anybody when I say that as far as work goes here in UW Technology, it’s been a terrible summer. Hopefully I’m not hallucinating, but I think that now I can begin to see a faint glimmer of light that I’m hoping might be coming from the end of the … Continue reading “Organizational changes”

I don’t think it will surprise anybody when I say that as far as work goes here in UW Technology, it’s been a terrible summer.

Hopefully I’m not hallucinating, but I think that now I can begin to see a faint glimmer of light that I’m hoping might be coming from the end of the tunnel.

We’ve now found new homes for all of the folks who remained in UW Technology after the May layoffs, all within various parts of UW Technology Services

I am now reporting to Associate VP Scott Mah. While we’re still working out the details of job title and description, I’ll be generally continuing to work on issues of technology strategy, coordination, and communication with other parts of UW Technology and university units, as well as continuing to coordinate new technology evaluation and integration for the UW. I’ll also continue participating in representing the UW in regional and national technology forums (as much as time and budget allow).

Scott is someone I’ve known since coming to the UW, and as I’ve worked with him more over the last couple of years I’ve been impressed with his growth as a leader over that time. Scott is smart and works incredibly hard at developing his organization and moving the UW in the right directions. I’m pleased and excited about this opportunity to work closely with Scott.

RL “Bob” Morgan is joining the Identity and Access Management (IAM) group within Distributed Systems. Most of Bob’s UW work over the years has been very closely aligned with the IAM folks, so this comes as a natural evolution. Bob will report to Nathan Dors, and will also continue his work with Internet2 and other national groups working on issues of identity management and associated issues.

Fang Lin and Leman Chung, who are software developers who work on the My UW portal and associated apps, have joined the Applications Engineering team in Distributed Systems and are reporting to Janice Granberg. As part of the Apps Engineering team Fang and Leman are situated in a new home with engineering folks they’ve worked closely with over the years.

I’m also pleased that others from my former Emerging Technology team have found new homes within the UW. Bill Corrigan is working with Chuck Benson’s team in Health Sciences, Tony Chang is working as an Integration Architect in the Office of Information Management, and Melissa Albin is also working in OIM.

While I still miss the eTech team and the work we were doing, it feels good to be able to start moving forward towards whatever comes next. Stay tuned – film at 11:00!

New Orleans last weekend with KEXP

I realized that I hadn’t blogged about our trip to New Orleans last weekend with KEXP.The story of the discussions between KEXP and WWOZ isn’t really mine to tell (I was just there as a technology advisor), but the conversations were really interesting. David Freedman and his ‘OZ crew were terrific hosts, and it was … Continue reading “New Orleans last weekend with KEXP”

I realized that I hadn’t blogged about our trip to New Orleans last weekend with KEXP.The story of the discussions between KEXP and WWOZ isn’t really mine to tell (I was just there as a technology advisor), but the conversations were really interesting.

David Freedman and his ‘OZ crew were terrific hosts, and it was great to be part of an insider’s view of the Jazzfest. Everyone had interesting stories of Katrina and New Orleans pre and post. It was terribly sad to see some of the remaining devastation and drive through neighborhoods where there were still FEMA trailers in front of the houses, and to see how much abandoned and destroyed property there is.

It did seem like there was a lot of optimism in the air, and a feel of New Orleans coming back to life. Hard to say how much of that was just Jazzfest optimism.

WWOZ is an amazing part of the music community in a town where music really does matter in ways different from other places. We got to hear a lot of fabulous music – including Aaron Neville’s first appearance in New Orleans since Katrina, in the gospel tent at Jazzfest.

Some pics of the trip are here.

Pixar’s Brad Bird on innovation

The McKinsey Quarterly has an interesting interview with Pixar’s Brad Bird about innovation. I was struck by this passage, among others: The Quarterly: If you ask most companies how they innovate, they’ll say, “Know your customer. Find out what your customer really wants you to do.” It sounds like you think about innovation differently. Brad … Continue reading “Pixar’s Brad Bird on innovation”

The McKinsey Quarterly has an interesting interview with Pixar’s Brad Bird about innovation. I was struck by this passage, among others:

The Quarterly: If you ask most companies how they innovate, they’ll say, “Know your customer. Find out what your customer really wants you to do.” It sounds like you think about innovation differently.

Brad Bird: Our goal is different because if you say you’re making a movie for “them,” that automatically puts you on an unsteady footing. The implication is, you’re making it for a group that you are not a member of—and there is something very insincere in that. If you’re dealing with a storytelling medium, which is a mechanized means of producing and presenting a dream that you’re inviting people to share, you’d better believe your dream or else it’s going to come off as patronizing.

So my goal is to make a movie I want to see. If I do it sincerely enough and well enough—if I’m hard on myself and not completely off base, not completely different from the rest of humanity—other people will also get engaged and find the film entertaining.

Catching up on some reading

After chatting with Richard Katz about the idea of an ECAR book club a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a need to catch up on some professional reading lately – I get plenty of reading about specific technologies, but not enough on strategies that make technology useful. I was impressed by Web Worker … Continue reading “Catching up on some reading”

After chatting with Richard Katz about the idea of an ECAR book club a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a need to catch up on some professional reading lately – I get plenty of reading about specific technologies, but not enough on strategies that make technology useful.

I was impressed by Web Worker Daily’s list of the Top 10 Books for Web Workers 2007 and immediately picked up a bunch of them. I started out by reading local author Scott Berkun’s Myths of Innovation which is interesting and insightful, if not revelatory. Also on my shelf now are Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die; Dave Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous – The Power of the New Digital Disorder; and Lois Kelly’s Beyond Buzz – The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.

I’m also working my way through Richard Florida’s paper on The University and the Creative Economy – I’m intrigued by his ideas that it’s the creative class of workers (artists, software people, the gay community, etc.) are a driving engine of success for urban areas in today’s economy.

And when I don’t feel like reading business books, I’m really enjoying Michael Chabon’s delightful alternative history detective novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

At the urging of a couple of friends, I’m also exploring the world of social book-listing – I’m using the Visual Bookshelf app on Facebook along with Richard and other friends, and at Tom Lenon’s suggestion I’ve also joined Shelfari. We’ll see if they stick.

A morning of cryptic status messages from Facebook

Is there something in the air today? xxx is . Yes she is. 21m ago yyy is getting more abnormal all the time. 49m ago zzz is thinking of crawling under a desk. 50m ago Technorati Tags: facebook

Is there something in the air today?

xxx is . Yes she is. 21m ago
yyy is getting more abnormal all the time. 49m ago
zzz is thinking of crawling under a desk. 50m ago

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Rohit Bhargava on 10 Truths of Marketing in a Web2.0 World

Boy – today must be the day for presentations shared via SlideShare – here’s another good one from Rohit Bhargava, who is Vice President of Interactive Marketing at Ogilvy Public Relations, on the 10 truths of marketing in a web 2.0 world. Unfortunately for all you iPhone viewers, SlideShare uses Flash, so you can’t see … Continue reading “Rohit Bhargava on 10 Truths of Marketing in a Web2.0 World”

Boy – today must be the day for presentations shared via SlideShare – here’s another good one from Rohit Bhargava, who is Vice President of Interactive Marketing at Ogilvy Public Relations, on the 10 truths of marketing in a web 2.0 world.

Unfortunately for all you iPhone viewers, SlideShare uses Flash, so you can’t see the presentation, so here are the 10 truths (minus the great illustrating graphics):

  • Your secrets are not secrets
  • Authenticity, not transparency
  • Personality makes it real
  • They know you are marketing
  • Falling asleep on hold is bad
  • Screwing up is an opportunity
  • In strangers we (now) trust
  • Features don’t matter
  • Your mom reads blogs (seriously)
  • Relevance is content, not ads

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