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Licking the Stress Ball


1. distraught to the point of behavioral synesthesia

2. flummoxed; confounded; perplexed by conflicting situations

“On the day of Microsoft’s largest layoff in its history, Rufus went to lunch where he saw Microsoft recruiters on his college campus. He grabbed their swag stress ball, licked it, and promptly embarked on his own Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test…..”

origin: See comments at ctoproject.com

What’s Happening Now

I’m preparing some information on cloud computing for the President’s Cabinet–I’ll be attending on Tuesday. I have about 30 minutes on the agenda. My plan goes like this:

  1. explain why network infrastructure is key to any future success
  2. explain what possible future successes could look like
  3. repeat the above but with different words until people understand, fake understanding, or just shut me up

The Possible Impact of Cloud Computing on the Liberal Arts College

For meanings of cloud computing equal to SOA, managed services, software-as-service, etc.

Here’s my short list of potential effects:

  1. network, network, network. Are you ready for more traffic, more reliance, more network monitoring?
  2. wireless, wireless, wireless. If you’re offering more networked services, then you’ll also need more network connections. That means wireless.
  3. IT staff. Are they ready? See this article G-lo mentions below. Do your staff truly understand the interrelatedness of your current operation and any reliance on location-based components? And, are you building expertise in converged networks and virtualization?
  4. Are you ready? Do you have someone who can manage contracts and who can … Continue Reading

Educause recap: and the band played on…

  1. I talked to all vendors all the time — I only made it to one session!
  2. my emphasis was on telephony/networking stuff and on student information systems/ERP integration stuff–not too fun
  3. nice to see old friends
  4. exhausting as ever but this time with an extra soupcon of anxiety regarding the economy and the possibility that all our jobs will disappear into the ether, I mean, the cloud.

Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom

Here in Orlando for Educause. Last night I sat at the bar reading Carr’s The Big Switch, though I should be reading Cory Doctorow (download his book). As services are moving from local to cloud, I wonder if the role for technologists in higher ed is to be invisible enablers. My success will be measured by how unobtrusive technology is and how cheaply I can provide it.  Educause hasn’t even started yet but already I feel like the end is in sight. How long can Educause keep existing, funded by vendors who are going to be challenged to … Continue Reading

Apparently, the future of IT in higher ed has been pwned by ActiveX

Well, I guess not. But the link below requires ActiveX. So here’s my summary for the benefit of the Pure and the True Believers: guy at Arizona State outsourced a bunch of stuff, says we need to stop wasting time and money on stuff that doesn’t actually distinguish us from the pack, says the future of the university and of our nation requires transparent systems and open access–requires the education of the masses not just the privileged, and that, oh yeah, we should burn down the libraries. C’mon, the libraries are so last century. Wait, actually, two centuries ago. Whatev. … Continue Reading

What he said

This presentation by Adrian Sannier (UTO at ASU) will cost you about 72 minutes of your life. But it’s worth it if you’re interested in what the future holds for us IT’ers in higher ed. I’m considering showing it to all the IT staff at our next staff meeting and to the dreaded advisory group too. I think Sannier’s right on the money with where we should be going and what we should be doing. The question is: how much do we let our culture and internal politics affect these ideas, our plans, and doing … Continue Reading

Our Little Library

So last week I talked about organizational operations: culture, strategy, tactics. Good luck with that! Now, it’s a collection of some of the articles which, in toto, suggest that, well, life in higher ed might get a lot more opportunity-ful in the future. Time for your strategery! Here are the articles referenced earlier:

Need More Cowbell: applying 80’s technology to 60’s work processes

Technology has allowed us to communicate more quickly. It hasn’t improved the content of our communications nor has it changed the somewhat linear nature of our communication in the workplace. That is, we don’t present budget proposals as multimedia sensory experiences nor do we incorporate other experiences into everyday meetings, though we could. Instead, we essentially work the same way our parents did, just with more speed and intrusion. So it’s more stressful. Isn’t that nice? I want to begin my next staff meeting in a dark room. Then I want to hear some bass, with maybe a flicker … Continue Reading

Idiocracy is, like, America’s future ‘n stuff

This morning I read the January 2008 SCUP report on Trends in Higher Education. Over the next two decades, levels of literacy and numeracy are predicted to decline in the US. Indirect cost recovery from research grants (which has been a major revenue source for research universities) is likely to be reduced from 50-60% to 35%, where it will be capped. Energy concerns are likely to limit the amount of travel people are willing to suffer for college. Meanwhile, European countries are working together to create a system to account for student learning, to actually … Continue Reading

FCC Guy compares higher ed to the music industry

Check it out. I feel so dirty. Maybe we can threaten kids who download other college’s course info? That’d be cool. But let’s note that the demise of higher ed has been predicted before.

Meanwhile, today our call accounting software puked and then died. Nice. I asked why we didn’t have a service contract for it and was told that was because the vendor went out of business a couple of years ago. It runs on Windows 98 just to complete the picture. The good news is that long distance has gotten so cheap, … Continue Reading

We’ve Traced the Call, and It’s Coming from Inside the House

According to my internal staff interviews, folks within my organization want to be more agile, innovative, and proactive, and to improve communication. According to my external interviews, staff and faculty want us to be more responsive, to support more tools across different platforms, and to provide more ongoing guidance and advice. So, the good news is that external and internal assessments and goals are somewhat in sync. The bad news is that I’m not sure our current staff can change to the degree necessary. I mean, if they think agility is important, why aren’t they more agile now? What’s … Continue Reading

My vote for our school’s new motto: Because You Have To Be Somewhere

Let’s face it: higher ed is on its way down the long slide to obsolescence. It’s too expensive and you can get all the info you’ve ever wanted for free on the internet, so what’s worth the $50K/year price tag? Because I’ve decided I will live forever, I hope to turn my current employer into the one school that will still be relevant after Armageddon.

Why get the degree? For the degree. The credential. That’s why the future for IT is all about identity management/roles and relationship management, connections w/ elearning systems, and assessment, which I ranted about … Continue Reading

Life in the Bush

The summit was pretty good today. A CIO at a large state university gave a presentation on outsourcing “non-distinctive” services such as email. He compared the CIOs/CTOs who are futzing with their email systems and meager 100 mb quotas to Zulu tribesman clutching their spears watching a rocket zip by overhead. He’s outsourced everything to Google. He got out a thumbdrive and started jumping on it to make the point that storage is really cheap, even though it’s expensive for us to administer on our pathetic scale… Someone asked, “but aren’t you afraid that next year Google’s going … Continue Reading

Why give people computers?

We’re moving toward an allowance system for cellphone and pdas. So, we won’t buy them for people anymore, we’ll just give you money towards whatever plan you’re currently on or would like. At least, this is my intention; my proposal hasn’t been approved officially yet. What I like about this plan is that people won’t have to carry two devices; one for work and one for home, and they can just use their personal device for work and receive compensation toward that.

So, let’s extend the idea to workplace computers. Why provide them? Why not give everyone … Continue Reading

What if Doodle 4 Google really does tells us something about our future leaders?

Check out the Doodle 4 Google project. Kids made doodles of the Google logo to address the theme “what if?” and you can vote on the finalists. Reviewing them en masse in about 5 seconds, I would say that apparently, kids want us to save the rainforest and create peace. Bastards!!!!

However, at least one youth has a future in IT. Here’s her caption to her doodle (and her doodle looks it was done by the spawn of Salvador Dali and the evil kid Sid from “Toy Story”):

“What if our reliance on machinery to … Continue Reading

The Honeymoon Game

At Friday’s all staff meeting I handed out index cards and asked everyone to complete three sentences:

  1. When I think about our organization, the word that comes to mind is:
  2. I wish I worked for an organization that was:
  3. I want us to be more:

The exercise reminded me of that 70’s game show The Honeymoon Game. And, yes, I realize that this dates me horribly. I’m a very old mean lady. Just FYI.

Here are the answers:

  1. helpful; campus technology problem solvers; monolithic; sluggish; support; technology (two people wrote this); work; jack of all trades/master of none/emergency room; mistrusted; technology driven; technical; incoherent; computers; dysfunctionally … Continue Reading

Name change

At Friday’s all staff meeting we voted to change the name of our organization from the “office of information services” to “technology services.” Other candidates were “office of technology support,” “office of technology services,” “the magic box,” “technology solutions group,” “technology support,” “technology wizards,” and “support for the human interface with technology.” The latter was my personal contribution… we voted using personal response systems aka “clickers.”

I mentioned the name change to the President’s Cabinet this morning. They think “technology services” is too narrowly defined, preferring “information services.” I noted that my title is “cto” and not “cio.” An interesting silence … Continue Reading

Starting to Sink

Email enters inbox always.

Petty problems appear permanently.

Customers complain constantly.

Strategy suffocates under the scraps,

weighed by the weary world.

Snatch the pebble, little grasshopper!

I can’t let the petty stuff get in the way of el photo grande. Must remove trees to see forest. Wait, where are the trees?

Bamboo. Twine. Dung. Naming Trends in IT Projects.

I’m at CNI‘s spring meeting in Minneapolis. There are presentations on bamboo and twine, among other things. This naming trend reminds me of the old Tweeds catalog in the 80’s where they started renaming colors. Instead of green they had celery. Instead of brown they had sesame. And, my personal favorite: instead of maroon they had madder. But perhaps the names are a holler back to simpler days of yore, when we had elm, and then pine, etc. This is my second conference in 4 days so I’m … Continue Reading

Get Out of My Way: what your IT staff can do for you

At the NITLE summit, Michael Wesch of “The Machine is Us/ing Us” fame presented on his use of a variety of tools in his classes. At the end of the presentation, someone asked him how central IT could help him, and he said, mostly nicely, “get out of my way.” Ah, sweet sweet users. It’s like payback for the day of the bastard operator from hell, when IT staff operated in a “deny all” mode.


So I’ve decided even if we end up outsourcing or no-sourcing all coolness, innovation, and utilities, there are two areas where IT … Continue Reading

Oops, we outsourced innovation!

Everyone’s overwhelmed keeping up with the routine. We’re all managing email, upgrading file servers, customizing widgets for departmental apps, re-imaging and troubleshooting desktops, blah blah blah. When we hear about something new or cool or exciting, it’s hard to find the time to pilot it, let alone making the infrastructure shifts that are sometimes necessary to accommodate it. Infrastructure shifts? Like changing identity management systems, or file systems, web servers, etc. These are big projects which, when done successfully, are completely invisible to the end user yet result, eventually, in a much better, more responsive, more stable, more attractive … Continue Reading

The difference between evil and love is I/O

At the end of the day today I blocked out some “big picture” time and started thinking about Blackboard, Microsoft, and a few other companies, and then suddenly I thought of evil and this phrase popped into my head. I realize it may have no actual (literal) meaning, but late in the work day, it does have an appealing catchiness ….

Flannery O’Connor on Convergence


Have a good Friday and enjoy all your separate technologies while you still have them!

Google’s Summer of Code

Google has announced their summer of code selections. I’m pleased to see that I’ve worked with several of the organizations featured and even helped one of the groups draft its application. I think if I want a starting place for my “potentially cool ideas” list, this is as good a list as any.

Why I Want to Rule My Tiny World, part 2

In part 1 I wrote about why I wanted to be an IT leader; now I’ll note why I wanted to move from a large research university to a small liberal arts college. Essentially, my reasons boil down to wanting to have the greatest impact with the least amount of political cruft. I think that if I”m successful, I could help this college be more competitive, be more innovative, operate with greater efficiency, and attract desirable students, faculty, and staff. Because this is a relatively small institution, I hope that it will be easier to pilot new technologies, … Continue Reading


Yes, today I used the word “visioneering” in an email to my direct reports. I feel so dirty. But everyone is asking for a vision: my boss, the IT staff, the faculty, the executive leaders. This frightens me–do they really want my vision? Aren’t we supposed to develop it together? Hence, “visioneering…”

Yet, I do have a vision, actually: strengthen the admin systems to shift from fire fighting and more toward strategic partnerships with administrative leaders, set up some sandbox environments on the academic side so we can start piloting smaller services to engage faculty and students, develop a few good … Continue Reading