Pound of Obscure

Though no one sets out to fail, failure is an essential aspect of learning. You can’t learn if you never fail. But it is important to remember that failure is but a means to an end – learning – and not an end in and of itself.

Failure should not be sought out, but when it happens you should squeeze it for all it’s worth and learn what you can from it. 

A quick thought on failing

Pound of Obscure

The phrontistery is now on WordPress.com


WordPress10I’m not really sure why it took me so long to move from a self hosted WordPress.org setup onto WordPress.com. Probably just inertia, a holdover from when I first set up WordPress on DreamHost back in 2005, before WordPress.com provided the fully featured hosting platform it is today. And before I had the ability to do my playing in a local dev environment on a laptop instead of needing to use the DreamHost servers.

Over time my self hosted WordPress installs all ended up using my WordPress.com account in one way or another, either for Akismet spam protection or for all the great features provided by JetPack, so it makes sense that I just use WordPress.com, cut out the middle man so to speak. Plus it is a lot cheaper. While I’ve got the bare bones hosting over at DreamHost, it is still more expensive than free. Well, mostly free if you don’t worry about the $13 annual fee to map the domain. And the occasional ad that will get fed into my posts. If I do ever decide I’m tired of the ads or want some of the more advanced options (like unlimited posting and storage) from the Premier plan, $99 a year is still a good value. True, I have less “control” and flexibility of the overall environment, and no longer have a hosted sandbox in which to play, but that leads me to the second reason I don’t really need a separate host any longer.

At WordCampUS 2015 in Philly back in December I learned how to set up my MacBook for local WordPress development using Varying Vagrant Vagrants (VVV), including both working on the core and doing some theme / plugin development. I did a little of the former while in Philly, and have been playing around with the latter on and off since. It occurred to me over the weekend (no idea why it took so long) that this was my sandbox, why bother with all the hassles that come along with an online hosting service, especially one that I don’t use for any real “production” sites.

A long way of saying, Brett’s Phrontistery is now hosted on WordPress.com. Just thought I’d let you know.

ps. It is also worth mentioning that all pages from WordPress.com hosted blogs are automatically served as https, leveraging the free Let’s Encrypt service. DreamHost provides the ability to configure Let’s Encrypt certs on the site, but it is not one of their one-click installs. 

Ounce of Perception

Organizational forgetting

I wrote the following back in November 2005:

My early days in Knowledge Management included a lot of time developing, deploying, and getting people to use “knowledge repositories.” (At least trying to get people to use them.) A worthwhile endeavor in some regards, I’ve always had misgivings about the whole idea, at least how it has been implemented in most cases. The cheapness of mass storage these days, and the way we just keep everything, has nagged at this misgiving over the past couple of years.

I finally realized one day that the problem has become not, “How do we remember all this knowledge that we’ve learned?” but rather, “How do we forget all this knowledge we’ve accumulated that we no longer need so we can focus on what we do need?”

That post also included a reference to memory and forgetting in the human mind, taken from the book The Trouble with Tom by Paul Collins:

Memory is a toxin, and its overretention – the constant replaying of the past – is the hallmark of stress disorders and clinical depression. The elimination of memory is a bodily function, like the elimination of urine. Stop urinating and you have renal failure: stop forgetting and you go mad.

explored this idea a bit further in March 2007, where I added the following to my thinking:

In the context of mastery, especially of something new, it is sometimes hard to know when to forget what you’ve learned. You have to build up a solid foundation of basic knowledge, the things that have to be done. And at some point you start to build up tacit knowledge of what you are trying to master. And this, the tacit knowledge that goes into learning and mastery, is probably the hardest thing to learn how to forget.

Sometimes, though, it is critical to forget what you know so you can continue to improve.

And yet again in June 2009:

I’m at a point now, though, where the project is going through significant changes, almost to the point of being a “new” project. My dilemma: How to “forget” the parts of the old project that are no longer important and start with an “empty mind” to build up the new project without the baggage of the old.

In his book Brain Rules, author John Medina writes, “It’s easy to remember, and easy to forget, but figuring out what to remember and what to forget is not nearly so easy.”

I was reminded of this train of thought today when a colleague shared a link to a TEDx talk by Pablo Martin de Holan titled Managing Organizational Forgetting, based on a paper of the same name published in the MIT Sloan Management Review. If you read my quotes above, I’m sure you understand why this opening paragraph from the paper grabbed my attention (emphasis at the end is mine):

Over the last decade, companies have become increasingly aware of the value of managing their organizational knowledge, and researchers have investigated those processes extensively. Indeed, the ways in which organizations learn and have stocks of knowledge that underlie their capabilities can be a powerful tool in explaining the behavior and competitiveness of companies. Yet something is missing in the current discussions of organizational knowledge: Companies don’t just learn; they also forget.
Pablo Martin de Holan 

There is a lot of great info in the paper (about 12 pages worth), but for now I’ll just mention the two modes of forgetting – Accidental and Intentional. Obviously, you will want to limit the former and maximize the benefit of the latter. At the risk of a giant spoiler (you should still take the time to read the full paper), de Holan summarizes nicely:

Some companies forget the things they need to know, incurring huge costs to replace the lost knowledge. Other organizations can’t forget the things they should, and they remain trapped by the past, relying on uncompetitive technologies, dysfunctional corporate cultures or untenable assumptions about their markets. Successful companies instead are able to move quickly to adapt to rapidly changing environments by being skilled not only at learning, but also at forgetting. Indeed, as companies work to increase their capacity to learn they also need to develop a corresponding ability to forget. Otherwise, they could easily be learning counterproductive knowledge, such as bad habits. The bottom line is that companies need to manage their processes for forgetting as well as for learning, because only then can they deploy their organizational knowledge in the most effective ways for achieving sustained competitive advantage.

I really wish I had come across this paper back in Winter 2004 when it was published. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

And for those of you interested in the TEDx talk, here you go.