Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The importance of continual learning

James McGovern responded to my Certified Architect

post with one of his own. He made a great point at the end of his entry which was something I wanted to discuss in my original post but didn’t find a way to work it in. He stated:

I guess the point that I am attempting to make is that certifications are neither good nor bad, and it is important to look at each within the context of the role you expect this individual to play. It is my belief that certifications don’t prove hands on skills at all, but having multiple at least says that there is evidence as an Enterprise Architect that you have the ability to learn as well as the desire…

Personally, I think the ability to learn, and learn quickly, is a critical skill for an architect. While some may think that architects spend all of their time up in clouds working on strategies and reference architectures, many of the architects I know are the go-to people when projects are struggling with decisions and direction. An architect needs to be able to quickly understand what it is that project is trying to do, determine what the most critical factors are, and provide appropriate guidance. At other times, it may not be the tactical project, but rather the senior executive asking the question, “should we be paying attention to any of this Web 2.0 and Social Networking hype?” The architect must quickly develop enough knowledge to make good decisions. Probably all architects will get stung at some point by some lower-level detail, but the good architects probably also take it in stride because they’re always learning.

When I interview people, I always ask a question about how the individual stays current, and it’s amazing how many people struggle with that question. If you’re not taking the time to learn, you’ll get left behind. I hope the readers of this blog learn things, and that’s a big reason why I do it. It’s even better when I get comments, links, or trackbacks, because I’m able to learn as well.

IT in homes, schools

I’ve had some lightweight posts on SOA for the home in the past, and for whatever reason, it seems to be tied to listening to IT Conversations. Well, it’s happened again. In Phil and Scott’s discussion with Jon Udell, they lamented the problems of computers in the home. Phil discussed the issues he’s encountered with replacing servers in his house and moving from 32-bit to 64-bit servers (nearly everything had to be rebuilt, he indicated that he would have been better off sticking with 32-bit servers). Jon and Phil both discussed some of the challenges that they’ve had in helping various relatives with technology.

It was a great conversation and made me think of a recent email exchange concerning my father-in-law’s school. He’s a grade school principal, and I built their web site for them several years ago. They host it themselves, and the computer teacher has done a great job in keeping it humming along. That being said, there’s still room for improvement. Many of the teachers still host their pages externally. My father-in-law sends a letter home with the kids each week that is a number of short paragraphs and items that have occurred throughout the week. Boy, that could easily be syndicated as a blog. Of course, that would require installing WordPress on the server, which while relatively easy for me, is something that could get quite frustrating for someone not used to operating at the command line. Anyway, the email conversation was about upgrading the server. One of the topics that came up was hosting email ourselves. Now, while it’s very easy to set up a mail server, the real concern here comes up with reliability. People aren’t going to be happy if they can’t get to their email. Even if we just look at the website, as it increasingly becomes part of the way the school communicates with the community, it starts to become critical.

When I was working in an enterprise, redundancy was the norm. We had load balancers and failover capabilities. How many people have a hardware load balancer at home? I don’t. You may have a linux box that does this, but it’s still a single point of failure. A search at Amazon really didn’t turn up too many options for the consumer, or even a cash-strapped school for that matter. This really brings up something that will become an increasing concern as we march toward a day where connectivity is ubiquitous. Vendors are talking about the home server, but when corporations have entire staffs dedicated to keeping those same technologies running, how on earth are we going to expect Mom and Pop in Smalltown U.S.A. to be able to handle the problems that will occur?

Think about this. Today, I would argue that most households still have normal phones and answering machines. Why don’t we have the email equivalent? Wouldn’t it be great if I could purchase a $100 device that I just into my network and now have my own email server? Yes, it would be okay if I had to call my Internet provider and say, “please associate this with” just as I must do when I establish a phone line. What do I do, however, if that device breaks? What if it gets hacked and becomes a zombie device contributing to the dearth of spam on the Internet? How about a device that enables me to share videos and pictures with friends and family? Again, while hosted solutions are nice, it would be far more convenient to merely pull them off the camcorder and digital camera and make it happen. I fully believe that the right thing is to always have a mix of options. Some people will be fine with hosted solutions. Some people will want the control and power of being able to do it themselves, and there’s a marketplace for both. I get tired of these articles that say things like “hosted productivity apps will end the dominance of Microsoft Office.” Phooey. It won’t. It will evolve to somewhere in the middle, rather than one side or the other. Conversations like that are always like a pendulum, and the pendulum always swings back. I’m off on a tangent, here. Back to the topic- we are going to need to make improvements in orders of magnitude on the management of systems today. Listen to the podcast, and here the things that Jon and Phil, two leading technologists that are certainly capable of solving most any problem, lament. Phil gives the example of calls from his wife (I get them as well) that “this thing is broken.” While he immediately understands that there must be a way to fix it, because we understand the way computers operate behind the scenes, the average joe does not. We’ve got a long way to go to get the ubiquity that we hope to achieve.


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.