People are dumb (like me)... A person is smart (like me).

In the 1997 summer blockbuster "Men in Black" the two main characters, played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, discussed the capabilities of groups of people and individuals.

Will Smith's character suggested that it would be safe to tell the entire earth about Aliens, saying "people are smart..." they can handle it. Tommy Lee's character responds "a person is smart, people are dumb..." which implies that while a person is capable, but as a whole people are not.

In general I tend to disagree with the idea that the majority of people are dumb, stupid or some other negative quality. I strongly believe that the vast majority of people are very capable and given the right circumstance they are able to surprise, delight and in general exceed most expectations. However, keeping in mind that the "squeaky wheel gets the oil" or in other words the most vocal people get the attention, it seems for some reason that the most vocal people also tend to be the "less" capable.

I've noticed in my day job that often, with respect to software development, users who complain/list issues the most are often the lest capable of diagnosing an actual problem versus "user error" (a.ka. "it's their own fault).

In my mind it would be simple to resolve this issue if I could simple get all users to learn the one principle that I always turn to when troubleshooting problems. "It's my fault" (meaning I probably caused this issue myself and not some other person/thing).

Often when resolving problems in my software I first assume that it's something I did. Unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I'm typically correct. I might fat finger an entry, produce an off-by-one error, or some other trivial mistake. Because this seems to be the case so often with developers they have devised a brilliant process to resolve these issues, it's called TESTING. This amazing, revolutionary and ground breaking process helps to eliminate most bugs/issues. So when a user (of an already TESTED system) reports a bug, most troubleshooting begins with attempting to recreate the issue reported, when this can't be accomplished it can indicate that the user who reported the bug/issue did something "different" than expected. While this could be considered an edge case (a topic for a different post) most often it comes down to basic user error.

If only all users could be taught how first think "it's my fault" but then, people are dumb.

K.I.S.S.

One principle in development that can NEVER be stated enough is "Keep It Stupid Simple" (or Keep It Simple Stupid or Keep It Super Simple). In any case, this development principle can be used in many aspects of life, but obviously it can be used when working with every day computer tasks.

One task that most people perform is keeping notes about various "things". Sometimes when people start to get lots of notes they think they should try and get some fancy program or a spreadsheet or even specialized software for keeping track of all these notes.

However, I've found that the simplest solution is still the best, Notepad.

Notepad has been around since the days of Windows 3.x and I'm sure that even in the DOS days people would keep notes using EDIT (a dos command to edit a file). Even as I being moving more and more of my electronic tasks onto my smartphone I've found that the simple "notepad" like app that came with my phone has become extremely valuable.

Some might say that notepad lacks features; however, the "lack of features" ensures that you stay on task. Instead of spending a lot of time formatting and inserting clip art you have to capture the important information with... TEXT.

At first a simple text app might seem "too simple" but with a few tips and ticks you can capture and convey a lot with these simple little notes.

A few tips I've found helpful:
- A healthy amount of white space will ensure that various sections stand apart.
- You can use any NONE alpha numeric character to indicate bullet/lists.
- You can "underline" with the use of the underscore.
(i.e. this is a title)
------------
- You can "double underline" with the use of the equal sign.
(i.e. this is important)
============
- You can use a tab space to create a point, sub-point.
Main Point One
Sub-Point One
Sub-Point Two
Main Point Two
Sub-Point One

After you start to use simple text notes, you'll also enjoy the fact that almost without exception they are transferable to almost any device with a modern OS, including many smart phones.

So as I've learned, KISS as much as possible.

The "Really Big" problem


I had the opportunity to attend a meeting wherein the presenter discussed all of the amazing ways that SharePoint 2010 was going to solve all the problems of the company I work for.

I work at a company that is made up of 1,000s of employees across most of the globe, and as I listed to how facet search and managed metadata where going to resolve communication and collaboration problems I begin asking myself what is the underlying problem that plagues the company I work at and how is SharePoint going to resolve this problem.

Thinking of how most problems boil down to communication issues I realized that while the company I work at (a middle of the road financial institution) is not the "biggest" company by any means it does the the "big" problem, that is, the company is made up of a lot of people.

When ever you have an organization, be it government, company or even a family, as the organization grows the issues it faces in keeping everyone in the group "on the same page" also grows.

This can actually be expressed mathematically (n2-n)/2. This equation, which I discovered from Joel Spolsky's article in Inc. Magazine (http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100201/a-little-less-conversation.html) shows how every time you add another person to a group it becomes harder to keep the entire group on the same page. The table below (also borrowed from the Inc. Magazine article) helps to illustrate this very well.

PeopleConnections
10
21
33
46
510
615
721
828
936
1045

As it shows once you get to around 5 people the issue of keeping everyone up to speed get's very complicated. You might be inclined to think that if only one person makes any decisions that this helps limit the issue; however, would you want to work at a place where out of 5 people only 1 person has any real input? I know I wouldn't part of the reason to work in a group is so you can benefit from other people's ideas.

So how does SharePoint 2010 plan on solving this issue? Well it doesn't SharePoint 2010 is a tool just like any other tool and will only be as useful as the craftsmen who use it.

Hopefully as the rollout of SharePoint 2010 continues the "really big" problem will be on more people's mind and a focus on it will grow and less emphasis will be placed on the tools used to resolve it.