30 June 2005

Slides Aside

A few days ago The Jenius was asked to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a start-up project. Like a bad weed, PowerPoint has become ubiquitous, the central part of just about every presentation made in the Western Hemisphere. And despite its frequent use, almost all PowerPoint presentations create partial vacuums as if from titanic aspirators.

In other words, they suck bigtime.

The problem with PowerPoint is that the average user decides what s/he will talk about, then divides the material into "slide-sized" pieces, decorates the slides with colorful background and images, adds sounds, animation and movement and then proceeds to bore the living daylight out of the audience by READING THE SLIDES.

Spare me.

For one, practically everyone can read faster than the speaker can recite. For two, once We grasp the speaker is a "reader," We'd much rather read than listen. For three, We feel insulted that the speaker has eschewed that role in favor of the role of "reader," making no real effort to expand the material beyond what's slapped onto a slide.

The problem lies, of course, with the deceptive "ease" that PowerPoint creates. "Hey, I can make slides! With colors! Look! This one spirals in and makes a quacking sound! This is great! Let me see if this one can dance the tango and shoot stars!" Plenty of razzmatazz, no real value added. The focus is on style while substance is cast aside.

You see the point now. Lousy ideas in colorful slides are like gift-wrapped rotten meat. The impact of PowerPoint and "Title--3 bullets--next slide" chopsockey presentations has justifiably waned. Unless the content has true value and is presented so that the value is preserved, then enhanced by the methodology used, the overall effectiveness of these exercises will continue to drop. The mediocre and stupid will seek out more color, movement and sounds; the smart, visionary ones will sit back and think deeply about their content.

What happened with The Jenius' presentation? It came out to 12 slides, only text, with no slide having more than 50 words on it. It began at the client's key question, answered it and ended at another--stronger--answer to the same key question. It narrated a solution, told a story of progress and success, answered all the expected questions...and was never shown. The client took the 2-page, 6-slide per page handout, read it and initialed it.

He bought the project based on a text-only, two-page slide handout. Total prep time for the slides: under 20 minutes.

Total planning time for the slides: About 7 hours. Maybe 8.

Sounds like The Jenius is tooting His Own horn? Damn right I am.

Sounds like a lot of work? It isn't. That same handout is being used by the client to get others on board, slashing project development time from months to weeks--maybe even days. It has definitely reduced our start-up costs at least 40% and may even reduce them to the point where the entrepreneurs are getting paid to launch the project.

Which is harder work: creating a powerful value-based presentation that sells itself or creating subdivided drivel that forces you to sell it over and over and over and over again?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

29 June 2005


What are the top three economic strengths Puerto Rico has for the global marketplace?

If We eliminated everything We have now and started from scratch, would We still have those same top three economic strengths? Why or why not?

What should our top three economic strengths be?

What do We have now--in terms of business and industry--that cannot be eliminated?

What are the biggest obstacles We have right now to economic growth? What are the biggest obstacles We have to becoming global economic players?

Where is Our educational system strong? Why? If you can't think of any strong point, what is the least weakest? Why?

If education were sold in stores, what would you be buying?

On a scale of 0 (nothing) to 100 (all), how much does the average Puerto Rican know about the countries of the world (except the U.S.)? How much should We know?

On a scale of 0 (none) to 100 (total), how much cultural identity does the average Puerto Rican have about being Puerto Rican? How much should We have?

The Jenius Has Asked.

28 June 2005

OSM Lunch 002

Yesterday We held the second Open Source Minds Lunch with the addition of two new members: Ms. Ivette Cases and Mr. Ramón Barquín III. To say it was a success may sound like self-flattery (for The Group, not The Jenius) but any observer of the interactions, conversations, reactions and expressions of the people participating can only come to the conclusion that the gathering fulfilled its purpose of fomenting and developing ideas for Our Future.

And no, this was not some somber, agenda-driven, pie-in-the-sky "we want world peace" meeting. It was fun and free-form and multi-leveled, ranging from technology to education to marketing to science and public relations. With amazing consistency, a table-wide discussion would break into small chats, all related in some way to the main topic and then branching out into other themes and ideas.

If it sounds like chaos, it was. If it seems creative, it was. If it doesn't seem productive, you are wrong. Productivity is not a number, but a result. To truly make changes, one must seek far beyond the superficial solutions and dig deep. Changes are a matter of leverage and finding the crucial point where the largest effect can be created with the least amount of force. Nothing worth doing right is worth doing hastily, without time to explore and understand. The difference between the banter of Open Source Minds and the endless drivel of other groups (Senate, House, ISOCPR, Center for New Economy, et al) is that We speak in order to act for a greater good, not just to make noise about how we can hide personal interests under the disguise of "the greater good."

Is OSM a fount of nobility? No. We seek to see Our efforts rewarded beyond the satisfaction that "charity" supposedly enforces. We merely choose to see Our Future improved first, knowing that benefits--if We seek them--will naturally follow. Think of it as the tide rising and raising every boat with it. OSM aims to raise the tide...not the boat.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 June 2005

Breeding by Pigs

The inimitable Dave Pollard does it again. In a brilliantly incisive post about American's apparent ignorance and/or apathy towards politics, Dave expresses a deeply trenchant Truth: "Ignorance and apathy both mitigate against change. If you're in power and you can breed both in the electorate, you're laughing."

The post is well worth a careful read and it brought to mind a column I wrote for a now-defunct website. Here it is:

Puerto Rican.com 008 – Week of 10 December 2001

Animal Farm
By Gil C. Schmidt
Editor of eRevista PoRtal

When I was a youngster, I overheard a man’s brief rant about “those in power” and how they had a “conspiracy” to keep Puerto Ricans ignorant, and thus, controllable. He pointed out how the educational system (this was in the late 1970s) was a mess, how the newspapers were written “for morons” and how politicians and others, “those in power”, kept manipulating “everything” to retain their grasp on the populace.

At the time, I thought he was crazy. A conspiracy? To keep people, as he said, “stupid”? A deliberate effort to not educate people? What was wrong with this guy? Hell, nobody seemed to be paying attention to him… Seemed to. For a little, insistent voice in my head was saying he might be right…and no one there was even trying to contradict him.

This was a small incident, but over the years, I’ve recalled it several times and mentioned it once before. The whole incident came roaring back when I saw the latest TV ad campaign and the title “Animal Farm” flashed into my head as the commercial ended.

The government has created a series of ads featuring business leaders encouraging effort, and now another series with “commoners”. (I only saw one, but I imagine there are at least one or two more) Their catch-line now is: “Adelante con Fuerza, Puerto Rico”. (Roughly: “Onward with Force/Strength/Energy, Puerto Rico.”) Supposedly common citizens urging their fellow citizens to make a greater effort. And all I could think of was the Horse, in “Animal Farm”.

George Orwell’s often heavy-handed fable of animals taking over a farm and creating a progressively-debased “utopia” is great reading. In it, the Horse is by far the strongest animal, capable of doing almost all of the necessary heavy work. But, his muscle is not matched by his brain. As things are going to pot on the Farm, his only comment and response is “I must work harder. I must work harder!” And so he does, with simple-minded, but poignantly noble strength. And while his muscles struggle, the Farm leaders--the Pigs--wallow in excess and create more chaos.

Oh, the parallels.

The reason I could never forget that man’s rant so long ago was the niggling feeling that maybe, maybe he was right. The points he made are still valid: The educational system is a mess, the media often does treat its audience as morons and what we see every week from our “leaders” has the acidly-sour taste of rampant manipulation in it.

• “Give them to me as children and I shall own them forever,” are words ascribed to Adolph Hitler.
• “The strongest protection of liberty is an educated people,” is ascribed to Thomas Jefferson.
• “Let him work harder!” is the Pigs’ implied response to the news that the Horse is struggling and dying.

And now, “Adelante con Fuerza, Puerto Rico”: Am I the only one who hears the subtext: “Work harder! It’s your fault! We have other—better!—things to do!” and the drunkenly-delighted cackle-grunts of the Pigs?

Almost four years have gone by since that column. Seems like it's been only a week.

The Jenius Has Spoken

24 June 2005


Happy Birthday, Carol!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

It's hard to argue with Einstein, the quintessential benevolent Genius, so The Jenius won't try. I will, however, point out that Albert was not entirely correct.

Imagination, as a driving force, is unlimited, whereas knowledge, however broad, is always limited. What you don't know you can discover if your imagination--your creativity--can lead you to discover a path to that knowledge. In that sense, Einstein was on the mark.

But what happens when imagination is completely unfettered, totally free to roam without direction or guidance? Exploration, fantasy, whimsy, self-expression... but seldom knowledge. Yes, the unbound imagination can eventually uncover or stumble over knowledge, but as My words convey, in an accidental manner moreso than a deliberate one.

The best example is that of children, whose unbridled imaginations are fiercely displayed, to the chagrin and even fear of many adults. If We are so certain that imagination is more powerful than knowledge (empiricists obviously excluded) then why do We rein in, stifle and even crush the imagination of children? Because We also know that imagination without guidance, without rules for its use--in short, without knowledge--leads one astray.

For imagination to exceed knowledge's power it must first accept the strictures of knowledge: cause and effect, identity, correlation, deductive and inductive reasoning, comparisons, data manipulation, corollaries, theorems, rules and laws. It is by knowing these strictures first, then having still the power to cast them aside to seek new ground, is where imagination reaches its Einsteinian potential.

Imagination leavened with knowledge, not battered by it; knowledge as tools, not sledgehammers. In the hands of imagination, a modicum of knowledge can become a torrent. But when imagination is crushed like an awful, hideous bug, crushed by the pathetic fears of "authority figures" who cower in the darkness of their own feeble minds, then a modicum of knowledge remains just that: a teeny bit.

To embrace the full value of knowledge requires embracing the fullest expression of the imagination. Striving to seek the first while suppressing the second is the act of a sick mind. Or of a sick system, masquerading as "education."

Imagine "education" that fails to properly develop one's potential...

No need to imagine it, unfortunately.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

23 June 2005


catalyst noun 1: Something that causes an important event to happen; 2: An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action. synonyms: accelerant, accelerator, activator, causal agent, cause.

By definition, catalysts are present in smaller quantities or numbers than the elements they catalyze, i.e., it can take as little as one unit or a small amount to make a big reaction happen. In chemistry, catalysts are often unchanged by the reaction they cause. Outside of chemistry, catalysts are always changed by the reaction.

Are you a catalyst? The Jenius perceives that most of you will either ignore the question or blithely answer "Yes." Please avoid doing either. Think about the question, review the definitions presented and then ponder: Are you a catalyst?

Here's a checklist of key elements that determine if you or anyone else is a catalyst:

1) Do you focus on results instead of process? Catalysts focus on results--what will be achieved--rather than on process (who will do it and how.)

2) Do you need to have visible power or recognition in order to give your best effort? Catalysts can and often operate in the background or without much notice. The focus is on results, not process.

3) Do you insist on security or minimal risk in order to make an effort? Catalysts are not risk-seekers, but often avoid "safe" conditions to achieve a goal. If it is "safe," then a catalyst really isn't needed for spectacular results.

4) Do you need to work with big groups? Catalysts seek effective groups, not necessarily big ones. In fact, large groups are notoriously ineffective and resistant to catalytic effects.

5) Do you insist on working alone? Catalysts, by themselves, are simply another element in the universe. They must interact in order to achieve results.

6) Do you insist on getting what you want in order to participate? Catalysts do not force reactions, they make them easier.

7) Do you have the "superman" or "superwoman" tendency of trying to do everything? Catalysts create big reactions with little relative effort. Trying to do everything is like trying to replace the Universe: you are faced with doing an infinite number of things in order to succeed. If you see this tendency in yourself, understand this: you are not capable of doing an infinite number of things.

8) Do you seek out new situations or repeat ones you already know? Constantly seeking new situations is not the vision of a catalyst: it's the vision of the wanderer. Catalysts find situations they can positively affect and then seek out similar situations they can apply themselves to. Again, the emphasis is on results.

9) Are you a "starter" or "closer"? "Starters" are people with an ability to get projects off the ground. "Closers" are people with an ability to complete projects. There are easily more "starters" than "closers." (Just look around you.) Effective catalysts are both starters and closers.

10) Are you actively part of a network or are you isolated? An effective catalyst must avoid isolation (thus precluding the insistence on working alone.) Catalysts without a network of contacts or a support system are inert elements. Often the isolation is unintended, or product of being in the wrong environment. In order to be a catalyst, a person must seek out and find the right mix of elements for his or her environment, then initiate action.

Now, are you a catalyst?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 June 2005

Hyena Swarm

In what is arguably the most important government department, We have yet to confirm a Secretary. Dr. Gloria Baquero withdrew from the nomination process as Secretary of Education prior to what was expected to be a non-confirmation vote in the Senate.

Although everything involved in political processes must be taken with ample quantities of salt, several comments stand out:

*** Dr. Baquero stated that she was asked for "political favors," to which she declined, prompting Senate President Kenneth McClintock's reply that "These persons need to understand the system, adapt to the system and work within the system." The implications seem to be that Dr. Baquero's refusal to "play politics" is a bad thing and that no less a "leader" than the Senate President agrees that, indeed, it is a bad thing (although he disagreed with Dr. Baquero's "opinion." Only a politician would call a fact an opinion.)

*** Dr. Baquero sharply criticized the lack of leadership mettle of Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. Like pointing out that the Sun rises in the East, the comment barely evinced a reaction, possibly nothing more than a heavy sigh from partisans and foes. Partisans sigh because, well, Acevedo is...flabby...in the leadership area. And foes sigh because, well, flabby is just no fun to push around. Flabby leadership is never a solution, but Acevedo's next big step is attending a biotech conference in Philadelphia, delaying any decision on an Education Secretary until he returns. No Plan B for what was obviously a hung nomination? Flabby. And stupid.

*** Senator María de Lourdes Santiago pointed out that her colleagues were miffed at Dr. Baquero for naming school principals without consulting mayors. (Okay, I'll bite: what rational reason could there be for this "consultation" that doesn't involve political favoritism? I'll give anyone who wants to invent an answer a decade to come up with one.) In addition, Santiago said her colleagues were "offended" when Dr. Baquero, after a Senator's repeated questions about rats in only one school, retorted that "she didn't know she needed an exterminator's license to be Secretary of Education." Chalk up one for the nominee.

Dr. Gloria Baquero may have been the right person for the job, or the wrong one. Without a doubt, she was worthy of the Governor's full support, for he selected her. Backing off from her nomination as the Senators in his own party balked at her "independence of thought" sent a clear message: I am weak, I don't stand by my decisions, I can't make a difference.

To say that this "political process" works well is either naivety or outright denial of reality. If this were the plains of Africa, a nominee could be as dense as a musk ox or as noble as a lion, but with enough hyenas slashing at the flanks, both can be consumed. The lesson is: the hyenas win because they are savage, brutish and swarm in cowardly numbers. Can anyone actually believe that the "hyena swarm" is a benefit and boon to the democratic process? That it empowers the citizens rather than merely preserving the power structure of the hyenas?

The Jenius does not advocate blindly accepting any nominee and placing him or her in power. We already have evidence that that process doesn't work: it's called the elections. What The Jenius advocates is leadership, which is tantamount to saying that The Jenius wants world peace, free oil and the starting shortstop position on the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Leadership is not an accident: it is the end result of a process that must be chosen. Unless We expect--and demand--leadership, not political leadership, but real leadership, We are going to see nothing come of the vapid, malodorous sound and fury that is Our current "political process."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 June 2005

Knowledge, Learning, Collaboration

As promised, William Cabán's thoughtful second e-mail concerning The Jenius' original question: Does the phrase "Learning Economy" have more power than "Knowledge Economy"?

William wrote:

"Now I just look at:

Economic system is a mechanism which deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in a particular society. The economic system is composed of people, institutions and their relationships. It addresses the problems of economics like the allocation and scarcity of the resources.

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge or skill through study, experience or teaching. It is a process that depends on experience and leads to long-term changes in behavior potential. [snip] Education is the conscious attempt to promote learning in others.

Based on this I will say that most probably for a sociologist "Learning Economy" is the part of an economy directed to the Education of a particular society.

So probably what I defined in my first email I might call it "adaptive knowledge economy" and I might define it as: a knowledge economy which depends on the mutation of itself based on new knowledge, whose changes are driven by the newly acquired knowledge of it components. (This new knowledge is again acquired from research and development)."

The Jenius thanks William for defining his terms, a rare quality whose value is all-too-often ignored. For readers interested in My definition of knowledge economy, you can find it here.

So what do We have? "Knowledge" economy seems to be inner-driven, emerging from individual or group information. "Learning" economy is more about the process of acquiring knowledge, so the terms are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, one may argue that either could include the other.

Kevin Shockey suggested a new term: "Collaborative Economy." [And Note: SNAP Platform is ranked 3rd--3rd!--in SourceForge's worldwide rankings of open source projects. Sit up and take notice: THIRD.] For those who read The Jenius from way back, you might remember an earlier post that lead to Dave Pollard's definitions of coordination cooperation and collaboration. Note how Kevin's "Collaborative Economy" defines a much broader and yet also more specific type of economy.

Upshot? A simple question placed among bright minds leads to a brief discussion that helps polish concepts We have already accepted as important. If you think that's a waste of time, then maybe you're not really "getting" what a Knowledge, Learning or Collaborative Economy is all about.

Your loss.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 June 2005

"Knowledge or Learning" Economy

The Jenius asked Open Source Minds (OSM) colleagues what was intended to be a simple question: Does the phrase "Learning Economy" have more power than "Knowledge Economy"?

The purpose of the question, in The Jenius' mind, was to seek a more penetrating phrase to "sell" the concepts We need to reorient Puerto Rico's economy. Kevin Shockey has pointed out that "knowledge economy" has become too "common" and Ramón Barquín III has also added that the Governor has "appropriated" the phrase without seeming to know what it might mean.

However, ask bright people for a simple answer and you get more questions, ones you actually need to consider before moving on. Here are some examples:

Iván Merced: "...saying knowledge economy means economy powered by
the use of knowledge... learning economy sounds like economy in a
learning process..."

Gilberto Faisca: "...KE is based on managing knowledge, as an archive, knowing how to use it to our convenience. I understand that LE is fast learning, adopting more efficient methods as they appear, discarding what's obsolete. I believe that LE is a more modern form, an evolution, of KE."

Roberto Filomeno: "The two of them have the same power depending on the moment and the connotation of where and how it is used."

Francisco Santana: "It seems to me that 'learning' implies 'lack of mastery' about something. In the other case (KE) the impression is that of a 'solid base' of previously-acquired knowledge (experience, for example?)"

William Cabán and colleague: "1) Learning Economy: (me): an economy that depends on the mutation of itself based on new knowledge, meaning, the adaptation of its business to the new acquired knowledge. A continuous adaptation of the economy of this society will be driven by the new acquired knowledge.

(my friend): an economy based and targeted to the education of its components.

2) Knowledge Economy:(me): an economy that depends on the knowledge of its human resources. The quality and quantity of the knowledge in those human resources will define how valuable or not that economy is. Research and development is an intrinsic part of this economy.

(my friend): an economy driven by research and development."

What strikes The Jenius here is the breadth of the answers, even without William's second response, to be covered in tomorrow's post. Remember these are brief responses to a question fired off as an almost-random thought, one that was expected to generate a mere "Yes/No" response.

Why mention it, then? Because it is a clear example of what happens when bright minds come together: the overall vision is significantly broadened. What We need is exactly that: a broader vision.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 June 2005

Serious Thinking

"When engineers build a suspension bridge, first they draw a thin cable across a body of water. Then they use that cable to hoist a larger one. Then they use both cables to pull a third, and eventually create a thick cable of intertwined wires that you can drive a truck across."

"Throughout history, only a small number of people have done the serious thinking for everybody."

From the always-thoughtful How To Save The World, by Dave Pollard.

"So here's the situation as I see it:

-- Very few people are doing much serious thinking.

-- Those people who are, tend to be cliquish, partly because so few are interested in what they are thinking about, partly because it's so difficult for the rest of us, uninformed and unpracticed, to keep up. As a result, their ideas and their implications are largely closeted.

-- The media, which could help bridge the chasm between these people and those who could learn from these ideas and put them to effective use, are disinterested in doing so, partly because they don't think their audience is interested, partly because they don't think their audience is capable of understanding, and partly because their background is substantially in non-scientific disciplines and they are a little miffed at the idea that scientists are doing most of the important thinking.

-- The rich and powerful, who could actually employ the results of this important thinking, are convinced that preserving their wealth and influence has little to do with imagination and innovation, and so are disinclined to pay much attention to it, and many of them are also anti-intellectual by nature (just look at what they read in their 'spare' time) and hence incurious and skeptical of what little seriously novel thought they are exposed to.

-- The political elite is threatened by new ideas and also shares the anti-intellectualism of the rich and powerful, so unless the message can be captured in a sound bite they are likewise uninterested in exposing themselves or their citizenry to new ideas.

-- Modern conservatives are overwhelmingly populist, and hence like things simple and unchanging. They don't do any serious thinking themselves and certainly don't want anyone in their families exposed to such dangerous stuff.

-- Many modern progressives distrust technology (for perfectly understandable reasons) and by association distrust science, which they see as technology's handmaiden. They don't see the need for or practical value of serious intellectual discussion, don't see it as actionable, and hence don't see it as important. 'The people have the answers, if only we would listen'".

"The consequence of all this is that serious thinking is considered a pastime, an exercise of dubious value primarily for students in university. Beyond that, serious intellectual effort is only respected when it is tactical, applied in the context of a specific short-term task, towards achieving a known, practical goal. In a world of immense scarcity, in which time is the scarcest commodity of all, this vicious cycle of anti-intellectualism is perfectly understandable. It explains why Michael Jackson's trial hogs all the news headlines, and the lion's share of social discourse, while global warming and Darfur are substantially ignored. And when we are inclined to think about things we don't want or like to think about, we find we are seriously out of practice (present company [ex]cepted, of course.)"

"There was a time when people were motivated to invest in serious thinking and thoughtful social discourse. That was a time when people made more time for serious thinking and discussion, when people did most things for themselves, and when great ideas were respected and talked about. But today we are entrained with learned helplessness, convinced that understanding and sharing and coming up with great ideas and thinking seriously about them is a largely useless activity. And why would we want to invest a lot of precious time to study and understand something merely interesting?"

"The legacy media seem determined to abrogate their responsibility to inform and engage the public on matters that are important, especially when they are complicated and make the public uncomfortable. So it falls on our shoulders, as the alternative media, to be the advocates for the truth, and to assume that responsibility. I believe it is essential that we bloggers tone down the jargon and the 'in' conversations, and the rhetoric and partisanship, and ratchet up the information and thought leadership and conversation and debate in our online journals, to reach a much wider and under-served audience, and hence to fill that void."

If you doubt whether The Jenius is on this wavelength or not, read the slogan beneath this blog's title, go through the Archives and then drop Me a Comment.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

16 June 2005

Doom or Zoom?

Note: SNAP Platform--created and based in Puerto Rico--is now ranked in the TOP 10 PROJECTS over at SourceForge, the leading compiler of open source software projects in the world. It means that SNAP is one of the 10 highest-rated projects in terms of usage, in a community of over 101,200 projects.

The Jenius was asked earlier this week if Puerto Rico was doomed. The Jenius asked the person to define "doomed" and she replied, after much thought: "To become a useless and forgotten part of the world." (Convertirnos en una parte inútil y olvidada del mundo.)

Of course, the answer is yes.

Are You surprised? Miffed--if not worse--at my lack of patriotic fervor? Annoyed at My apparently hypocritical turnabout? Upset that I said "of course"?

The Jenius was asked "if Puerto Rico was doomed" in the sense of opinion, not mathematical fact. As the question was posed, the only honest answer is "yes."

Fact: Puerto Rico's competitiveness--the measure of national attractiveness and effectiveness as a production center--is dropping relative to most other countries.

Fact: Puerto Rico's graduation rate in scientific and technical fields is dropping, Without these experts, key factors in the new global economy will have to be found outside of Our shores, no matter how talented the dwindling few are (and believe Me, We have world-class talent.)

Fact: The current educational system--based on a curriculum developed in the mid-1950s--is falling farther behind every year in its ability to create the knowledge workers of The Future.

Fact: The Fools continue to act like they run the country, doing so in the manner of drunken apes in a battered 1953 Ford pickup. (My apologies to Ford.) The Fools don't see the road We must take and We are thus headed for further disasters.

Fact: Our media is more intent on slapstick and chatter than on vital issues. If the media doesn't define what's vital to Our interests and foster proper debate about those issues, We are left at the mercy of frenzied parrots, squawking magpies and the largely-irrelevant mutterings of media sources outside of Puerto Rico.

Fact: We can change all this.

Are We doomed? If We continue what We are doing--and not doing--yes, We are doomed to becoming irrelevant and mostly useless to the world.

The Jenius will do His best to see that that doesn't happen. He is one of hundreds, hopefully thousands, who will alter the course from doom to zoom, from useless to peerless, from irrelevant to irreplaceable.

You know what you're going to do. You do, right?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 June 2005

Going Nova

How often does it happen that you get excellent minds together working in unison towards a common goal? Indeed, not very often. But here's the description of one such happening.

It is still a seed, but from it will spring an oak forest of unmatched proportions. To an established set of resources that long produced technology-related content comes a person who embodies the bridges between business, technology and society... and can communicate those connections in the two major languages of this hemisphere.

No false modesty here: It is The Jenius and He knows what He is setting out to achieve.

But far above and beyond The Jenius lies the impressive intellect, talents and experiences of now 10 other writers. Those 10 will grow to 20, then 40 and eventually become thousands of writers adding their minds and voices to a unique blend, one capable of reaching from classroom to boardroom, from home office to Oval Office, from student to scientist to software. (Oh yes, software.)

We will produce content for airwaves of sound and video, reaching eyes and ears in one country, then two, then 200. We can't reach 200 countries with 200 voices: we need thousands.

Radio astronomers like to say that, if based on (reflective) luminosity, the Earth is a very, very dim speck in the Universe. But if one looks at the radio spectrum, the Earth is like a nova in the darkness. What We will achieve with Our output in this Gathering of Excellent Minds, Our effort targeted at telling the world what We know, think, imagine and achieve, will transform Puerto Rico into a nova of brilliance.

It will happen. It is happening as We speak.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

14 June 2005

Knowledge to Power

"Knowledge is Power." True, but not accurate. Let Us explore this.

Knowledge in and of itself is not power. The application of knowledge is where power emerges. Therefore, having knowledge is a prerequisite of power, but knowing how to apply that knowledge is also required.

Applying knowledge is a skill that can be learned, for it is far from instinctual. Applying knowledge correctly can only be achieved if the person:

A) Understands the current situation through proper evaluation of the major (vital) factors involved
B) Has an idea of what can be done in the situation to alleviate, correct or otherwise improve it in a beneficial way
C) Has the knowledge (facts, procedures, strategies, tactics, skills, etc.) of how to make changes to achieve benefits
D) And has the ability to convey that knowledge and its potential benefits to the person or persons authorized to allow or who must be involved in making the needed changes.

Note that the definition does not specify to whom the benefits apply. That allows for knowledge being used for personal gain, the greater good, criminal intent or social revolution, an accurate portrayal of reality.

Therefore, Knowledge is Power IF:

* One has pertinent information in a personal context (knowing what a bomb is doesn't mean one knows how to build or defuse one safely.)

* One can imagine or visualize use of one's knowledge within the confines of the situation at hand.

* One can convince others that one's knowledge is worth using.

Seems there's an educational triad in that list:

1) Information must be taught so it becomes enmeshed in a personal context, i.e., direct experience, experimentation, trial-and-error, and not mere memorization.

2) Cause-and-effect, situational analysis, contextual framing and creativity are needed to develop a person's "knowledge toolbox" to a greater degree than just "read the book and answer the test."

3) Communication skills--from conversation to debate--must be strengthened in every language a student encounters in school.

Knowledge is Power. Puerto Rico has long shortchanged acquiring Knowledge, so why are We surprised that We lack Power?

NOTE: SNAP Platform has risen to #20 in the SourceForge rankings; 20th out of over 101,000 open source projects available for sharing. That isn't luck, folks.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 June 2005

Pigs and Fools

The Jenius has a brilliant friend who is writing a book with the title "Lipstick on a Pig." In Puerto Rican tradition, We have "La Puerca de Juan Bobo," a fat sow covered in jewelry and fine clothes that, nevertheless, remains a pig. It seems that the concept of external trappings being unable to disguise innate crassness makes a disturbingly frequent appearance in Our lives.

So what can We expect when We hear that some 40 organizations and agencies are coming together under the banner "Action Agenda for Puerto Rico," and that a Steering Committee will meet "immediately" to determine goals and a work plan?

Very little. Even less of it good.

And when We hear that representatives of the Legislative and Executive branches of Our "government" are part of that "Steering" Committee?

We expect nothing at all. Forget good: We'd just settle for silence.

So are We surprised to note that the first meeting of the "Steering Mob" degenerated into a "my daddy's got a bigger wiwi than yours"-type shouting match between José Aponte, president of the (Out)house of "representatives" (no, no capital letters) and Gustavo Vélez, economic "advisor" to the "governor" over which branch (twig?) had "done more to improve the local economy?"

Here's the Truth, Fools: Neither of you. At the risk of repeating Myself: Shut up and get to work. If you know how.

Puerto Rico does NOT need a multiorganizational mob made up of the usual slackers intent on seeing their mugs in papers and on TV, their words cluttering up the airwaves. It does NOT need government "advice," for that's like asking a crack whore for marriage counseling. It does NOT need another "SuperPlan Screeched Loudly" to distract attention from the pathetic state Our economy is in, largely due to The Fools playing pocket pool with Our dignity, Our money and Our Future.

The Executive twig We tolerate is led by a confused invertebrate bereft of any qualifiable skill to turn Our situation around. The Legislative twig is caught in the machinations of a deranged desperado flailing to protect himself from the punishment he and his sticky-fingered cohorts rightly deserve... with the rest of the twig's Fools playing along to cover their sorry butts and feed in the frenzy.

The Fools cannot--cannot--create an "Action Agenda for Puerto Rico." They can't do anything, much less FOR anyone except for their own benefit. To leave such a vital process in their hands is to throw away more of Our Future, compounding the dreadful waste of the past 20 years.

"Action Agenda." "Steering Committee." Empty phrases and empty efforts from empty minds.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 June 2005

Craft of Craft

Taken from the ever-interesting BoingBoing blog:

Crafter manifesto: entrepreneurship and the Enlightenment
Ulla-Maaria Mutanen, a Finnish crafter who presented today at the Reboot conference in Copenhagen, has written a draft crafter's manifesto that reads like a blueprint for the Enlightenment crossed with an entrepreneur's prayer. Good stuff.

1. People get satisfaction for being able to create/craft things because they can see themselves in the objects they make. This is not possible in purchased products.

2. The things that people have made themselves have magic powers. They have hidden meanings that other people can’t see.

3. The things people make they usually want to keep and update. Crafting is not against consumption. It is against throwing things away.

4. People seek recognition for the things they have made. Primarily it comes from their friends and family. This manifests as an economy of gifts.

5. People who believe they are producing genuinely cool things seek broader exposure for their products. This creates opportunities for alternative publishing channels.

6. Work inspires work. Seeing what other people have made generates new ideas and designs.

The Jenius can only add that "craft" is defined as the skilled practice of an occupation or trade, thus rendering any kind of skilled work worthy of a sense of artistry.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

09 June 2005

Stupid Li(n)e

Over at Kevin Shockey's Portal al Exito, he points out that you have to register off-line to access Puerto Rico's e-government system online.

Bril. Liant.

So, based on that logic, my e-mails should be sent through the Post Office, my online tax payments are to be made with paper checks and my online requests for documents must be picked up at the nearest government office, a site reminiscent of cheesy zombie movies.

Did The Jenius already say bril? And liant?

Ostensibly the purpose is to protect citizen's identities. Bull. Poppycock. And drivel. The threat of identity theft has been reduced to near-negligible levels as any bank or e-commerce website can prove. Danger still exists, but to claim that registering off-line is the way to handle this "concern" is stupid. Let me be blunter: it's a lie.

It is stupid because solutions exist and better solutions are being developed all the time. Furthermore, unless the whole investment in the pathetic excuse for e-government We have was laced with waste and graft (as unlikely as sunrises, The Jenius believes) then We must conclude The Fools screwed up (and Us) royally.

The "off-line for citizen's protection" line is a lie because The Fools have no concern about that, but are very concerned about what an e-government system can do. It represents something The Fools cannot accept: citizen access to government. Anything The Fools cannot understand is a threat, so everything more complex than a door or a towel is a threat. The Internet and its obvious power to the individual is The Fools' worst nightmare.

Is a true e-government effort for Puerto Rico thus an impossibility? No. The Fools can always be led by proposals that appeal to their base self-interest, even if means doing something right for once. We can gamble on that. We have no choice.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 June 2005

Natural Change

Sometimes concepts emerge after a studious process, often called "analysis" or "creativity." Other times concepts are discovered like gold nuggets in an oft-visited stream. One such gold nugget is the realization that part of what The Jenius has been talking about in these posts and on His radio show is the notion of "bottom-up," individual innovation.

The concept is not new: Nature has always been innovating from the bottom-up, with individual changes adding up to collective momentum. On the opposite side of Nature is Government, a void that believes that "top-down" thinking and planning will actually make a difference. Big Business often makes the same mistake. The end result is that real change hardly ever comes from the "top-downers" for the simple reason that real change is not imposition, but evolution.

By proposing personal responsibility, the need to act and small groups over waiting for tidal change, The Jenius has been reiterating the natural way to create change. It is not a magical formula, nor is it a secret. It doesn't require massive inputs, but with consistent effort, produces massive results. So if it's such a great concept, why is there so little real change?

The often-brilliant Dave Pollard suggests a reason: "I think it's likely that people with good ideas are just disconnected from those with the skills and resources needed to implement those ideas." The Jenius agrees: disconnects exist at many levels. But as Pollard also points out, in these days of ever-increasing connectivity, the old excuses are moot: "Where there's a will, there's a way. It's a question of priorities, of combining energies, and of collaborating in a focused, informed and urgent manner to fix the disconnects and make it happen. We have a responsibility to make it happen. We certainly have the money, the ingenuity and the organizing technologies to make it happen, so what are we waiting for? We need to get past our learned helplessness and start talking to each other about things that matter, things we can fix, and enrolling ourselves to do so."

One person can lead to two, two can lead to four, then eight, sixteen... It is individual changes leading to collective momentum; true change done naturally. We don't have to be brilliant, just focused and consistent. It's up to Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 June 2005

Open Source Relevance

Kevin Shockey, of SNAP Platform, told The Jenius that over at SourceForge, the virtual laboratory for open source software development, SNAP was ranked 77th. Not impressed? Okay, try 77th out of over 101,000 potential projects. That's right: SNAP Platform ranks in the top one-tenth of one percent of all projects in terms of user activity in a worldwide community of over 101,000 projects. If the current level of growth continues, SNAP could rank in the Top 50 very soon. Which leads The Jenius to the following:

The world leader in open source adoption, at the government level, is Brazil. With roughly 14% of its population able to afford a computer and abundant natural resources (including a population of some 186 million) without equal, Brazil leads the way in targeting technology as an economic engine at the individual level. Rather than invest in software licenses and potentially limited growth (an argument too complex to cover here, but worthy of discussion), Brazil seeks to leapfrog monetary barriers and quickly develop a nation-wide community of technology users. The strategy is now being implemented by China--yes, 1.3 billion-strong China. Close on their heels: India, with 1.1 billion in its population. Obvious users of this strategy: African nations, desperately mangled by colonialism and internecine warfare, incapable of competing globally without massive infrastructure development, making free software the only choice. And Asian nations needing to compete with the Tigers (Japan, South Korea, Singapore) and the rising Behemoths (India and China.) Upshot: over 4.4 billion people targeting open source software right now, roughly 70% of the world's population. Sure, they are the "poor" 70%, but the battle isn't for money, it's for users. Who will lead these users, the upcoming--inevitable--global majority? The open source programmers of platforms and software that make user-tasks efficient.

Not impressed by 77th place? In a world of six and half billion people, The Jenius would take 77th place over being irrelevant any day of the week. Admit it: so would you... unless your name is Microsoft.

Addendum: "Our legislature" (forget capitalizing that wasted word) has definitely gone beyond the pale. The Jenius recently compared The Pathetic Fools to monkeys flinging poo. Due to the inherent disrespect of the comparison, The Jenius wishes to apologize to monkeys. And to poo.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 June 2005

Creative Class Discussion

Richard Florida wrote The Rise of the Creative Class and was severely criticized for indicating that a new creative class was emerging as an economic engine, one characterized for being strongly influenced by bohemians (so-called "dropouts" and "hippie artists"), immigrants and gays. The core of his thesis is that "3Ts" are driving economies around the world: talent, technology and tolerance (of diversity.)

Under Florida's thesis, the U.S. is losing ground as an economic leader due to its increasingly-restrictive economic and security policies, along with its declining image in the world. Many of his arguments are expanded--and his critics refuted--in his new book The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent. The following are selected excerpts of commentary and passages of Florida's latest book, as found in the excellent blog Creative Generalist:

...The future is more likely to belong to dozens of smaller and more open creative nations than just a few superpowers. “More and more countries are coming to understand that lasting economic advantage relies on attracting and retaining talented people, rather than simply competing for goods, services, and capital.”

-“...the economic leaders of the future will not, I believe, be emerging giants like India and China, which rank far down the list, in forty-first and thirty-sixth place, even as they are becoming global centers for cost-effective manufacturing and the delivery of basic business processes. Instead they will be a host of smaller countries, such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, that have built dynamic creative climates, investing in talent, leveraging technology, and increasing their effort and ability to attract creative talent from around the world.” (p.155)

--Competition for creative talent, which is increasingly mobile and adventurous, is worldwide and its fierce. Open, stimulating, and networked cities, regions and countries will prevail. But it's not a zero-sum game; think of it as 'brain circulation' rather than 'brain drain'.

--The Creative Age is directly producing a range of damaging externalities, including everything from social and economic inequality to high stress and anxiety. One point Florida emphasizes often is that everyone has the capacity to be creative and that a healthy creative economy requires a healthy creative society.

-“The sprawl that demands and in turn is demanded by traffic congestion also wreaks havoc on our competitiveness. A stretched-out, sprawled metropolis, where professors no longer live near universities, where laboratories and high-tech firms can not co-locate, where entrepreneurs and newcomers are forced to the economic periphery, will lose the advantages that come from proximity, density, spontaneity, and face-to-face interaction. Factor in the hours upon days upon weeks lost to commuting time, missed meetings, and missed breakthroughs that don't occur when people can't get together and pool their brainpower, and it's clear that traffic is clogging more than our streets and decay is more than environmental.” (p.201)

-“…we can no longer afford to cater only to the monolithic notion of rote memorization that was important for the Industrial Revolution but has now become woefully outdated. ... What we really need in order to prepare our children for the creative economy is a comprehensive education, something that takes them from aesthetics to algebra without pretending the two are mutually exclusive. ...As society diversifies and specializes, more and more different kinds of education and teaching styles must be made available.” (p.254)

The Jenius Has Quoted.

03 June 2005

Carol and Our Leaders

One of the greatest gifts The Jenius has received in His life is that of extraordinary people. One of the most special is Carol Baugh, a dear friend and Web entrepreneur developing a business, with her husband Lon, based in Texas.

Carol sent The Jenius the following comments about His recent posts:

"I think people who are blessed with ability DO have a moral responsibility to help others. Everyone sits under trees they didn't plant. In trying to turn around PR, those who help in the effort won't always see ANY fruit of their labors. But that doesn't mean the fruit won't be there growing on those trees in the future. I think you have to take a long-term view, which is what y'all are trying to do with Open Source Minds.

Everyone involved won't always make the altruistic decisions, yet over time, you are trying to find a path that benefits your local society as a whole. When you build a new road, it isn't usually straight. But when it's completed, it does allow people to travel more easily where they couldn't before."

And yes, Carol wrote "y'all." She's from Louisiana, or as The Jenius prefers to call it (when very far from Carol) "East Texas."

By self-definition, We in the Internet Industry are people of special ability. However, it is obvious that not all of Us are blessed with the perspective of leadership. Those that are take actions befitting a leader's role: We develop, educate, inform, support, guide, nurture, examine, analyze, communicate and act to create a better industry whether We benefit directly or not. The key point is "whether We benefit drectly or not." Up until that point, the group was large; from that point on most of the mass dropped off the radar.

Is Carol one of Our Leaders? Without a doubt. Even from Texas, she is doing her part to help Puerto Rico take the steps needed to achieve its potential as a global economic player. After reading the definition above, you will know if you belong in the group of Our Leaders or not. What you do after that will go far in determining Our Future.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

02 June 2005

Commenting Comments

The Jenius noticed two significant points (amongst many) of the comments made about My last two posts.

Gabriel Pagán indicated that I had "summarized" Eli Goldratt's "Theory of Constraints." Having read The Goal, The Race and It's Not Luck, The Jenius acknowledges that the Theory of Constraints (TOC) is very much a part of "planning by negatives."

Briefly, TOC indicates that the total productivity of a system is determined by its constraints, or bottlenecks, so that the potential capacity of the total system is directly related to its smallest constraint. Expand or remove that constraint and the system's total capacity increases to the potential level of the next constraint.

Goldratt does point out that you can use TOC to plan a system, so that if a component (human, machine, process or resource) implies a limit, then you design the system to that limit (if it represents a vital, irreplaceable component.)

Okay, in English now: "Planning by negatives" starts with constraints (obstacles) that will consume resources (time, money, energy, etc.) By placing them in the context of time (chronological order), you are essentially "lining up" your bottlenecks and then, when you select the 1 or 2 that are "biggest" (hardest, most difficult, whatever) you are basically "opening up" the system (your plan) to greater potential. As you continue that process (eliminating bottlenecks called "obstacles") you are advancing the plan--the system--to its greatest potential: success.

And you thought The Jenius was just typing to keep his hands limber...

Kevin Shockey quotes the gargantuan Anthony Robbins to say that "the conversation with yourself is the most important." My friend Carol also pointed out that one has to BELIEVE first before achieving. To accept "pessimism by osmosis" is to allow others--demostrably less capable than one is--to dominate and limit one's potential. In earthier terms, you can't soar with eagles if you're surrounded by squirrels.

Yes, talk "good things, great future" to yourself and try to ignore the pessimists that swarm like gnats. Since shutting up the naysayers is impossible, the next-best step is to surround yourself with yea-sayers (Open Source Minds, anyone?) And remember that yea-sayers don't have to agree with you so long as you agree that a solution can be found.

Okay, on the count of "Three," We'll all become raging, focused optimists: One... Two...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 June 2005

Planning By Negatives

Building upon yesterday's post, The Jenius presents a planning method that takes advantage of the pessimistic tendency most Puerto Ricans have, one that leads them to quickly find obstacles, but not solutions. As planning is a skill that is never taught in school (not directly), having a method that is easy to use and flexible goes far towards helping people focus more effectively and develop solutions.

Step One: Determine the goal or objective desired. (To clarify, The Jenius sees "goals" as strategic directions, for example, "Make my company the leader in its field," whereas "objectives" are more defined, for example, "Outsell Company B by 35% this year." Use any definition you feel comfortable with, but make sure you choose a goal or objective on which to plan.)

Step Two: Write down all the obstacles that keep you from achieving that goal or objective. You'll notice (if you are a pessimist) that these will come fast and furious. Write them all down: it's easy.

Step Three: Once the list is complete (or you simply run out of ideas for obstacles), place the obstacles in chronological order of when you would encounter them. For example, if your goal is to buy a new house by 2008, "Raise my/our income" would come before "Save $20,000 for down payment," unless you already have or are close to that amount in savings. This doesn't sound easy and it isn't, but planning is so valuable precisely because so few people do it and even fewer do it well. Just remind yourself that every step you take in this method will save you hours, days or even weeks of work down the road. (Pat yourself on the back!)

Step Four: Look at the list of obstacles, now in chronological order, and evaluate if it is a complete picture. Add obstacles that you may have overlooked or remove those that have suddenly become irrelevant. Rearrange the list until you have a clear path of obstacles from Point A (where you are now) to Point S... for Success.

Step Five: Circle the obstacle or AT MOST the two obstacles that if you overcome it or them, the rest of the list seems to shrink. In every plan there is always 1 or often 2 "sticking points" that absorb most of the time and effort needed to achieve Success. Figure out which ones they are and make them your targets for destruction or avoidance. And if you can't narrow it down to only 2, there's something wrong with your goal or objective. You may be trying to do too much at one time.

Step Six: Use the list to keep you on track of what you need to do next. Tackle the first obstacle, or the first set of obstacles (you can often group them) and get to work! Notice how confident you feel about the plan: it's real, it's realistic and it's really useful.

An hour invested in Planning With Negatives could lead to a whole new panorama for you, your company, industry or nation. And you don't have to stop being a pessimist to use it. Just stop being a pessimist when it comes to making good things happen. For that, the Plan is a Map to Success.

The Jenius Has Spoken.