A quote from the book "Good to Great, " from Alex Wheeler and Will Clayton.

The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline – a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives away the right people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which further drives the right people away, and so on.

Huh. Also,

The fact that something is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is irrelevant, unless it fits within the three circles [of passion-for, best-in-the-world-at, and drives-your-economic-engine]. A great company will have many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Yet more evidence that I was smarter when I was 19.

Don't. Burn. Yourself. Out! Help people by helping yourself first... [we] need a benchmark for "reasonable effort."

Reading Beth Sterling's photo puzzle on dendrification makes me miss her. Reading very excited emails from then-also-much-younger class-of-'06ers makes me wonder how we cool down as we grow up. I do miss being surrounded by students my age who were also high-pass and easily excited. It's harder to get some of the same folks excited now; they've found their focus (for now, at least), and they're being remarkably effective where they've landed.

I haven't settled, and I'm not sure I ever will. Then again, we've got to need some people to stay like this - I hope so, anyway, because otherwise I'm going to be a very enthusiastic little old lady of great obsolesence many scores of years from now, scooting around in the fastest electric wheelchair I can buy or make, unsettling the world.

Also, I re-read an article Mark Penner sent me (this webpage is a reasonable stab at a cliffnotes version) on the difference between teams and working groups. As a younger and much more impetuous Mel, I scoffed and said "why would you ever want working groups? I always want to work on teams." Now I recognize the necessity of the first, especially in large, short-term groups with memberships that are constantly in flux, and little time to work together - but I still want to build teams, and to make it possible to build teams. Or perhaps that's just my aversion of power/authority speaking. (Or maybe it's one of the reasons for my aversion to power - I'd like to be able to claim my fear is a benevolent one...)

Sumana pointed me towards Eric Nehrlich's blog long ago. I love his self-description as an unrepentant generalist. It sounds strikingly familiar.

I found a list of dreams I'd written my senior year of college for two years out - deadline date being April 1, 2009. I'm not doing all that badly towards them, despite having forgotten most of them (...who needs a coherent single place to post all their goals? I do! I do!). Of the five I haven't yet done, there are three I still actually care about (for instance, after spending aeons on the OLPC wiki, I no longer feel the need to edit 100 wikipedia articles in order to gain mediawik-fu).

  • be able to run 2 miles in under 15 minutes and/or do 100 push-ups. status: getting there!
  • have developed and released at least one open-source hardware project (probably a circuit design with microcontroller code). status: okay, I slacked on this one, but Chris and I do have plans to fix this before May.
  • be able to go on a solo week-long backpacking trip (currently: have never backpacked) status: uh... yes. I don't even know where to begin on this. I have still never backpacked. Help.

Finally, Bryan Berry's post from May on how to make open source work for education. There are no easy answers, but we're still looking, and I'm proud that we are.

I'm down to a little less than 200 emails worth of backlog - I read, replied to, and archived 571 emails this afternoon. My hands hurt and I need to sleep, but I feel pretty good about this, and it was good to symbolically muck out my brain. Will attempt to finish in the morning.