Progress markers are starting to appear, now with a set of files that seem to look more like something that could become a book, as opposed to drafts, links, images, and notes. Here are the latest progress points:
- Completed Chapter 11 on schedule, marking the finish of the ‘first write’ of the manuscript. The content is mostly there, in sections and sentences, and with graphics. This was due on 10th March and go in about 9 days early.
- Spent about 3 weeks getting each of the 11 chapters back from the two Technical Editors, with comments and suggestions. Somewhat laborious work going through each of these 22 chapters and making changes to my original files. All credit to my editors for turning these round quickly and including lots of comments and extra information. Also noted was able to add more ‘experience’ to the content based on what they’ve seen as well.
- Completed the Technical Edit incorporations (including many graphic edits) and all sent to publisher on 2nd April.
- Did count up of the manuscript so far:
- 227 pages of text – without graphics/final formatting.
- 241 graphics – mostly screenshots and diagrams
- 126,000 words approximately
- Next the draft manuscript goes to editorial review which is a copy-edit cycle for grammar, typo, style etc. As such another long process of reviewing all 11 chapters (+intro and appendix).
I have been enjoying the book ‘Bounce‘ by Mathew Syed and learning how 10,000 hours of practice is generally standard to gain real expertise. Mathew goes on to mention that this is not just ordinary repetition however, but something he calls purposeful practice. In essence this is working hard and working cleverly, using specially developed techniques to continuously improve. He refers to driving a car, where most people have spent more than 10,00 hours however very few improve significantly because they are just running on personal autopilot.
I was thinking about this after reading a very technical document and realized that purposeful practice applies at work too. I have spend years working in a certain areas however would say that I have expertise in only very few, even though I have spent way more than 10,000 hours in many. I am certain it is because I have not really had a singular purpose for many topics, with no real focus to produce a result that requires full immersion and practice. I have done lots of tasks on the topics I know best.
I also found the diagram below that supports my thinking that to gain real expertize, even for knowledge, it requires some kind of associated physical movement, it’s true for me anyway. Examples include writing a related summary or article, or sharing the knowledge with someone else through talking or presenting. Certainly I’ve bought and half-read dozens of books that I can barely now because I never really applied them.
I’m therefore now looking out of opportunities for purposeful practice, where I can take on practical tasks in areas I wish to develop, and move towards enlightenment. Or to put it another way, I hope to reduce the amount of time I waste on looking at things I then forget!
My new job is currently focused around blogging out content also right now, so wordpress (and others) is becoming my best friend. Isn’t is weird how things change, usually when you almost give up hope.
Anywhere here is my recent progress report.
- Submitted Chapter 9 (first write) on 10th Jan, actually four days early! A shorter chapter, although still rich, mostly because some topics were better served by summary and directing the reader to specialist content (books, articles etc) than me trying to pretend I know everything about everything.
- Got a full month until Chapter 10 deadline (10th Feb) which is nice. This is a “bringing it all together” type, and the challenge is getting the messages clear rather than technical content particularly. I also found some old content I wrote intended for another book (never published) with some similar topics so go a good start there.
- During research I stumbled over some additional items for other chapters, which I regard as lucky and a blessing, rather than giving concerns about why I missed this the first time! Fortunately additional content can be still added so a good catch.
- Got my first Advance Payment cheque also, paid in installments after submission of a certain amount of content. After taxes and $-to-£ exchange rate it didn’t look quite such a juicy figure at all, however it was really great to receive after the Christmas overspend and a little reward for the hard work.
- Once this is done I am on the LAST CHAPTER – hurrah! It doesn’t mean its finished just yet, with the Introduction and Appendix to do, plus all the technical and editorial edits. But compared to facing a blank word document and a legal contact to submit a chapter in a month, what’s left is a breeze.
I have worked with these kinds of services for over ten years now, starting back when a cloud on a diagram meant the internet in general, and as new providers and consumers come into the market it is worth sharing a few personal recommendations and considerations.
My hope is that support is not an after-thought and is considered as a core part of cloud service design.
Accessing applications over the internet is hardly new, but exactly what is being offered has reached a tipping point. Using just a modern web browser and a standard internet connection, it is now finally practical to access the internal business systems that were previously the reason people had to travel to an office. Evolution of I.T. security, networking capabilities, and user interface technologies has finally untethered corporate workers, not to mention allowed the delegation of their provision to expert teams, including from outside the organization.
This is all fabulous, however the reality of trying to work with Business Applications that are managed, maintained, and supported externally contains many subtle considerations that many providers seem to leave as an after-thought.
- Transparent Processes. Often consumers of cloud services are frustrated by the fact they cannot get administrative tasks done quickly. This can be just as bad internally too, however usually someone knows someone who can help. Once you step outside the organization, the provider creates a process black-hole. As such everyone should be clear how each main category of request is raised, and who is responsible for its completion.
- Severity Setting. If googlemail is unavailable it’s not critical but if work tasks are impossible things escalate quickly. Many people like to use the utility metaphor, inferring uninterrupted operation and consistent quality, but I think it’s more like TV service than water or power, as even a slight or temporary change in quality is obvious. Any issue that impedes task completion is inherently critical, so automatic fail-over or temporary workarounds need to be readily at hand.
- Time To Resolution. Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) are certainly good in principle, however they’re often vague commitments based on operating targets, with little negotiation available to include additional consumer requirements. A classic is the response time targets for different categories of problem, where the actual quality of the response is not-specified, meaning that it could just be an update saying thank you and they’re looking into the issue.
- Service Administration. Like SLA’s, custom service provision is not scalable, however Business Applications require a certain amount of options. Just like website providers offer pre-built templates, utility tools, and ready-to-install components, the Application provider should consider what value-add services surround the applications use and how these can be implemented in a hands-off, totally reliable way. One example I have seen is a integration hub that allows setup and management of messages in-and-out of the application.
- Functional Administration – Business Applications rely on extensive feature setup, and some of these items have dependencies that spill over into the technology stack. As such it should be documented exactly which features can be configured under the different levels of access available, including what might require assistance of the service provider – and how to get this completed.
- Technical Administration – With cloud services now including Platform and Infrastructure as a Service, the provision of administrative consoles and management tools to service consumers should not be of concern. The problem is that for Applications they often run in standardized technology stack configurations that are locked-down to ensure consistency and reliability. Also multi-tenant deployments helps provider cheaper services but prevents any one consumer from changing the underlying shared technology components.
- Configuration and Customization – In exactly the same way, messing with configurations and adding custom objects and code impacts standardization, the foundation of scalable service provision. Modern applications solutions understand the requirement and are offering ways that abstract changes away from the core instance, thereby retaining the stable base whilst offering the features demanding businesses require. More on this in future posts.
- Troubleshooting Tools – They key here is to understand WHO is expected to do WHAT and WHEN, and WHICH tools are available to do it. Often cloud-based applications offer some diagnostic tools, however they are rarely publicized and getting solutions requires the service providers input, slowing things down considerably.
Future posts will illustrate in more detail how various features and recommendations can be used to enhance these tricky parts of Cloud support.
Anyway, here is a bit of detail to bring things up-to-date, and I’ll try to keep this moving with some insights/tips too.
- I decided to defer doing the Introduction until the end of writing, so I can properly describe what is in the book. Hopefully it’s not far from what I intend, but you can never tell!
- Chapter 1 First Write completed on target 13th July 2012. Few more pages than I expected, and flow needs a bit fine-tuning, but its a good first draft I think.
- Chapter 2 First Write completed on target 25th July 2012. Nice to rework and refine my ‘model’ created in my first book.
- Started getting my Technical Editor feedback on chapters. Doing the incorporation of these comments after the full first write, however obviously noting significant items so I don’t keep making the same mistakes!
- Chapter 3 First Write completed on target 24 August 2012. Again good to rework existing material than start from scratch. Much easier.
- Person responsible for the book art (3rd party consultant) gave feedback on some samples I sent. A few adjustments to my PC settings for screenshots needed, but seem OK otherwise.
- Chapter 4 First Write completed on target 14 Sept 2012. A small chapter that bring together the others and launches the next 5 big sections.
- Chapter 5 First Write completed on target 28 Sept 2012. This was tough as is all new stuff. Also I was traveling on business which actually helped give me the time at the end. Loads of great new content though.
- Chapter 6 First Write didn’t work with my original target of 12th Oct 2012, just not enough time with some other major commitments in that period. Fortunately my nice publisher agreed on schedule rejig which means new achievable target.
- Probably around 60 art items created so far, am hoping the visuals enrich my words.
Recent progress on writing my book – Research and the writing begins:
- The contract/agreement from the publisher finally came through. Detail on advance payment was a nice surprise as wasn’t included last time around. Not loads of money after taxes and exchange rate, but an incentive for sure (staged payments upon manuscript delivery). Needs printing and copies signed and fedex’d back. 19-June-2012
- Found a very similar titled book, but from more than ten years ago. Different content but shows my draft title is a bit misleading/unsuitable (originated from publisher). Shared this with the publisher and agreed to revise. Have to delay contract signing until this is firmed up. 20-June-2012
- Sent out request to my best technical contacts to ask if they’d be Technical Editors for the book (review and feedback). Amazingly each one agreed! One (Scott) is very experienced at this and works inside our development org, so will be great. The other (Jim) is a real hands-on guy, generally regarded as the best we have, with a fabulous approach and lots of real product experience. I’ve also got an informal reviewer (Chris) who is working on another book that I am also assisting with -quid pro quo. 21-June-2012
- Finally did an initial draft writing schedule sketch, 11 chapters into 9 months is about 3 weeks per chapter. Shared with publisher. Must write down hard deadlines, but keep delaying it! 25-June-2012
- Finished my Basic Research phase, and now have 11 documents (one per chapter) filled with ideas, notes, links, and raw materials. They’re a mess obviously but it’s a start. Got a few hours in at the weekend too. 24-June-2012
- With time ticking away started filling out Chapter 1 from my basic ideas and research. Got some great research notes on the product history, although needs putting into sentences. 25-June-2012
- Seemed a good idea to try to describe all the features of the product I am writing about, so tech folks could better relate to what users are doing with the software. This has turned into huge task however, although I think it’s worth it as I’ve never seen such a useful or comprehensive summary (without opening the product documentation one by one). Should be a handy reference, although has taken >10hours to write. 26-June-2012