March 17, 2017

Gratitude Porn (not) and Real Appreciation

Posted in Commentary, Israel, politics, society, running tagged , , , , at 3:39 pm by degyes

I have no idea who these guys are.

Security Guys at Marathon.jpg

But they were willing to pose for a photo after I stopped to chat with them. I wanted to express my appreciation for doing their bit among the many thousands of emergency services, military, and security contractors who made today’s Jerusalem Marathon possible. Ordinarily, I feel gratitude in my heart, though I tend to hold it inward. I’ll usually try to remember to say thank-you to an individual or small group if I feel a sense of appreciation, or if it’s just the courteous thing to do. But today was a little different.

I “only” ran the 10K this year. That’s after two years of doing the half-marathon. I just got too darn busy this time around, what with “leaving” Cisco, finding new work, getting ramped up and settled into my new professional life, and all that. I simply didn’t have the time to train the way I had the past two years. I realized that, and decided I’d join the throng doing the 10K, as for me that’s more of a fun-run, not requiring a level of preparation that’s beyond my scheduling constraints. [By the way, yes, also I’m tremendously grateful for being fit and healthy, though that’s not the main thrust of this communication.]

WARNING: if you get easily ticked off and flared up reading religio-political commentary, especially where frictions in Israel society are exposed, in all their ugly hostility, please stop reading now. I don’t want to get folks’ anger buttons pressed, and expose their resentments. That’s not my aim, not my purpose, and it’s not what I’m myself feeling right now. My aim is … appreciation.

There were demonstrators at the marathon this year.

Maybe they were out there in past years, but if they were, I hadn’t noticed. This year, around kilometer 3, on King George St., I nearly tripped over one. Had that happened, I’d almost surely have gone flying. On the infrequent occasions that I fall when running, I tend to recover my balance or at least manage to go into a roll, and thus prevent serious injury. But who knows. The field was so crowded this time, and I was frankly clueless that the person blocking me was actually _trying_ to cause disruption and damage.

Honestly, my mind didn’t acknowledge that there could possibly be demonstrators intentionally blocking the path of the runners. My “תן כתף זכות” (“give the benefit of the doubt”) mechanism kicked in and registered him as a photographer, because there are actually photographers who sit, unobtrusively, along the route, snapping pictures.
So what was I to think when suddenly, I saw a police officer literally drag the demonstrator out of my path, just in the nick of time as I was about to plow into him full throttle. And a few additional cops were guarding some of this demonstrator’s buddies, whom they’d apparently managed to apprehend and pull off to the roadside, moments earlier. The demonstrators were chanting slogans, though it was hard to make out what they were shouting, as I was plugged into my running music.

Further down-route, there was another demonstrator carrying a sign. Something about the marathon being terrible for the Jews, and government policies that harm yeshiva boys. Though to be honest, I don’t know if the latter guy was connected with the first group.
To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t for a micro-second feel any sense of anger. From the get-go, my predominant emotion–really the only thing I felt about the incident–was gratitude and appreciation toward the police officer who exerted himself dragging away the demonstrator prior to my having a collision, and his colleagues who were involved in managing the situation. And also toward the other runners, who stayed focused on the race, and kept their collective cool.

That we’re living in such “interesting” times, and somehow manage to pull off a full-blown city-wide athletic event, in Jerusalem of all places, is to me nothing short of miraculous. Thank you, God, for again bringing us to this season.

May we merit the ability, the willingness, and the heart-felt desire to practice really listening to one another, acknowledging in thought, word, and deed the Essential Humanity that unites us as a Species.

Thank you, everyone.

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January 31, 2016

Springboarding and Radical Flexibility in Technical Communication

Posted in Commentary, Content Strategy, Disruptive Communication, Documentation, Knowledge Management tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:44 pm by degyes

This morning, I did something that I do rather infrequently. That is, I responded to a research survey, this one being conducted by a tech comms professor at a college in New Mexico. The request was to list—in the respondent’s opinion—the most important trends, technologies, and theories impacting the tech comms field over the past five years (with a limit not to exceed ten items).

Having been mostly out of the field for the past almost three years, since transitioning to the financial side of the technology sector, I realized my response might be perceived as a bit presumptuous. Though once I got beyond that initial reluctance, and betting I’d have what to contribute, my thought process got itself into gear. Then, as I started putting together my list (some of which I realize—like outsourcing and apps—are no-brainers), it got me thinking more deeply about the issue of surviving in the brave new world of off-shoring, crowd-sourcing, and rapid paradigm shifts. Which led, in turn, to my evolving theory regarding ‘springboarding’ — or, radical flexibility—as a job survival and career development strategy.

So here are my top 10 items for what we should all be maintaining in our field of awareness as we courageously plow ahead into the ever-changing, but always essential, professional practice of sharing knowledge with those seeking answers.

  • Off-shoring, meaning, expand and deepen training in order to keep US-based TC’s relevant in current market.
  • Outsourcing, similar to above, though focused on “manpower” firms as the competition as opposed to overseas TC’s.
  • Crowd-sourcing, meaning, forcing the question as to ‘why do I need in-house TC’s if the customer will anyway Google their questions’?
  • Cloud-based documentation, meaning, ability to host documentation in a highly modular fashion where updates can be made on-the-fly and in a way that’s transparent to the customer or end-consumer.
  • Video and animation. YouTube contains lots of real gems, offering ‘how-to’ instructions for everyday applications like Word and Excel, as well as for specialized and highly-specialized solutions. Screen-cam tools enable reasonably quick creation of animations and storyboards that have replaced more “traditional” text- and still image-based documentation. These skills are must-haves for today’s TC.
  • Single-canvas presentation solutions (for example, Prezi), which have made fast-paced animations another need-to-have skill for TC’s. (I actually prefer to call these tools “infinite canvas” or “non-linear object path.”)
  • Documentation on-the-go, meaning docs — or any information —consumed via apps.
  • Metrics, that is, the demand for TC departments, teams, and individual practitioners to prove their added value by demonstrating statistically how documentation products and services contribute to the bottom line.
  • Agile methodology, which is a whole philosophy, but I’m referring specifically to having the customer or end-consumer play an essential role in the feedback loop that impacts the documentation that the software (or any product or service) provider delivers.
  • DevOps, which is another whole philosophy, but I’m referring specifically to TC’s needing to keep up in an environment where continuous development and continuous integration rule the day.

In closing, I’ll add that perhaps the most important item, not included in the list above, is what I would call spring-boarding or perhaps “radical flexibility;” that is, the awareness that your professional practice is likely to change considerably in tone and in scope every two or so years, and could even become completely unrecognizable and in need of swap-out after three to five years.

Wishing us all much success as we go forward.

-Dave Egyes

 

October 11, 2015

Dvar Torah – Beresheet – Tzvi and Ne’eman’s Bar Mitzvah

Posted in Commentary, Family, Torah tagged , , , , , , , at 11:05 pm by degyes

Ma’aseh Beresheet

בראשית was your Grandfather Yitz’s favorite parsha. He taught that בריאת העולם, the Creation of the World, was the greatest act of Love that God ever performed … and continues to perform. What a wonderful thing that you both got to read Grandpa Yitz’s favorite parsha, and that you did it so beautifully.

We also know that the Creation of the World wasn’t only an act of Love, it was also a tremendous act of Will … of רצון, and that the Creation of Humans, which happened shortly after, was no less an act of Love and Will.

However, as Ne’eman pointed out in his D’var Torah, it didn’t take long before the Humans that God created weren’t exactly acting in sync with God’s Will, as their behavior both inside and outside Gan Eden would demonstrate.

Eating from the עץ הדעת was just the beginning. By the end of the parsha, sadly, Man has become consumed by evil … and God is preparing to destroy the world. And as Tzvi just discussed in his D’var Torah, society had collapsed and the moral structure of the world had fallen apart.

What can we learn from this story? The world’s very first story?

We have to wait a few months … or maybe a few thousand years … or perhaps a few billion years, to transition from בריאת העולם to מתן תורה, when we receive a set of commandments that we can apply toward Guiding Human Life on Earth.

But we’re still left with the question: How do we bring our own Will into alignment with God’s?

We have lots of great teachings — and teachers. Yet we live in a time when it’s not always entirely clear to us what we ought to be doing with ourselves, our time, our attention, and even our thoughts.

When do we go out and seek answers from our Sources? And when do we focus our attention inward and seek answers from within?

When do we look for guidance in the law, and when do we look into our own hearts?

Tzvi and Ne’eman, I think you’re both developing a toolbox to help you wrestle with these questions. I’d even say you’ve both been working on gathering those tools for a while already.

We hear a lot these days about the importance of making good choices. The news is filled every day with stories about people who made poor choices.

Yet how do we know whether the choices we’re making are the right ones?

In trying to answer this question, I wrote down a few ideas that I thought of today to help guide you.

  • Choose good mentors.
  • Choose friends and companions not for their popularity and status, but for their honesty, integrity, and decency; because they can help you become better people.
  • Strive to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular.
  • Be kind to Planet Earth … and to its people.
  • Remember that people are never perfect. None of us will ever be. Be patient with people.
  • And then, have patience, and even more patience.
  • Remember that the easy answers are often not the right ones. Take time to really think!
  • Most importantly … Keep adding to this list!

I love you boys. I’m happy for your accomplishments. And I’ll admit … I’m proud of you.

Thank you Ilana for making the impossible a reality.

Thank you Mom for your wisdom and love.

Thank you dear friends for your kind support, and for making our simcha so special.

May we all merit experiencing מעשה בראשית … constant creation and renewal … in every moment of our lives.

Mazal tov!

December 28, 2012

Gamification and LinkedIn Endorsements

Posted in business networking, Commentary tagged , , , , at 7:16 am by degyes

OK, I get it. Endorsements are LinkedIn’s way of gamifying its platform. Frankly, I’m finding this constant stream of endorsement notifications a bit pesky (though thank you to those who’ve taken a moment to endorse me). Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I’m more a fan of written recommendations. Even a terse one — provided it’s sincere, honest, and well-written — is far more meaningful and valuable than a point & click ‘endorsement’. Though naturally fewer in number, since they take effort to proactively request, and time for the recommender to sit down and write, wouldn’t an actual recommendation mean more to a prospective employer seeking intel on a job candidate? While I can see why some folks might get a kick out of seeing their endorsements stack up, would a recruiter even take them all that seriously? Is there something deeper or more significant that I’m not getting here?

September 3, 2012

Dvar Torah – Ki Titzei (Hanoch’s Bar Mitzvah)

Posted in Commentary, ethics, spirit tagged , , , at 10:40 pm by degyes

The Torah portion that Hanoch read this past Shabbat—כי תצא—is filled with an impressive variety of positive commandments—מצוות תעשה—mostly concerning proper ethical conduct, including respect for human dignity, practicing דרך ארץ, דרכי שלום, consideration for the feelings of others, plus a whole lot more.

Yet no sooner do we begin reading the parsha, when we stumble upon the obscure and perhaps troubling story about the בן סורר ומורה – an insubordinate and defiant son.

Now, the question you’re probably asking yourselves is, what would בן סורר ומורה possibly have to do with Hanoch Egyes?

The answer is, of course, not much at all.

Those of you familiar with Hanoch are aware of what a warm, caring, and kind person he is.

But the question remains as to why the laws concerning בן סורר ומורה appear, of all places, in this parsha.

What could we possibly learn from this mitzvah? From this unusual story? What do we know about בן סורר ומורה?

Well, for one thing, we know that the law was almost never actually practiced.

In fact, חז”ל saw to it that so many fences would be built around the law, that it would be virtually impossible to implement.

What’s more, the Gemara states “בן סורר ומורה, לא היה, ולא עתיד להיות”.

So why are we telling this story now, of all times?

The parsha begins with the words “כי תצא למלחמה על איובך”.

In the literal sense, the Torah is referring to an actual military operation.

But I believe there’s another war going on here, perhaps on a deeper level. What kind of war would that be? Who is the enemy? And what does it have to do with בן סורר ומורה?

Beyond the mitzvoth that we can easily identify in the Torah, there is, I believe, a greater imperative—דרישה מוסרית—without which the mitzvoth can become rather meaningless.

That is the ongoing struggle against our own aloofness (אדישות), where the enemy is the easy pull toward falling in line with a bad culture, a תרבות רעה.

Some of you may even be asking, where is the תרבות טוב today, if there is any left at all. Is the lack of תרבות טוב a problem unique to our time, or is it just a question of scale?

Honestly, I’m really not sure. Though I would propose that the lesson בן סורר ומורה teaches us today is one of individual responsibility.

That means making conscious decisions to be a good person in a bad world.

Or perhaps, a good person in a good world where you just have to work a little harder to find the good.

What a wonderful message for arriving at the age of mitzvoth.

Hanoch, you’re coming of age at time and in a place when there’s really no one who can force you to perform mitzvoth.

Why is that significant?

Because it means only you can make a conscious decision to be a responsible, considerate, observant Jewish adult, and an upstanding participant in the Jewish community.

Baruch Hashem, you’re off to a great start.

But the decision to do the right thing —now and throughout life—all too often means going in contradiction—בניגוד— to what many others around you are doing.

That challenge never stops. We face it almost every day.

In his book Notes on the Weekly Torah Portion, Yeshayahu Leibovitz draws an analogy between the mitzvot of בן סורר ומורה and the mitzvah of putting up a railing—מעקה—on a roof.

The Torah says כי תבנה בית חדש, ועשית מעקה לגגך, ולא תשים דמים בביתך כי ייפול הנופל ממנו””

Now why are we commanded to ensure public safety?

If one believes in השגחה פרטית, if God decides that someone’s going to fall off a roof, then what can we do to prevent that from happening?

Since we can’t see events from God’s perspective, we’re commanded to take individual responsibility and prevent potential harm from occurring.

This theme of individual responsibility to behave ethically can be applied to so many of the mitzvoth appearing throughout your parsha.

The laws governing what kind of property can be seized in place of unpaid debts. Treatment of women captured in war.

Fugitive slaves. Ethical treatment of animals.

Paying employees their wages on time. Handling the body of an executed criminal. Laws against usury (נשך ומרבית).

And rules governing proper conduct between men and women. And so much more.

We’re living in a very special time. Not necessarily the easiest time. But one where we can see miracles before us every day.

Hanoch, as you begin your life as a Jewish adult, remember these moral lessons that your parsha teaches.

No one—except you and you yourself— can make you do the right thing.

Of course, we’re here to help you along the way. Though starting today, the responsibility is really yours.

The parsha ends with a call to blot out the memory of Amalek, as one of God’s expectations of us in order to ensure our safety in the Land.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that there’s always a direct reward or clear benefit given for performing mitzvoth and conducting yourself the right way.

The reward is the mitzvah itself; to walk with God, to struggle with the responsibility of being a mensch in this world.

To know that you’re constantly striving to become the kind of human being that the Torah had in mind when God gave us these laws.

I love you son.

December 17, 2011

Private People, Public Parts – A Book Commentary in Brief

Posted in Book Review, Commentary, Internet, Social Media tagged , , , , , , at 9:35 pm by degyes

Public Parts, How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live, by new media advocate and pundit Jeff Jarvis (@JeffJarvis), presents—in tones that are sometimes urgent—the case for protecting and preserving the internet as a completely open medium, unfettered by government regulation or corporate interference. As Public Parts has been reviewed widely and extensively from Amazon.com to the Wall Street Journal and beyond, I’ll forgo throwing yet another the full-length analysis into the ring, and instead offer a brief word on what I’m taking home as the key message, and my main gut response.

During it’s almost 20 year run as an open resource brought to masses of users via graphically driven web browsers, Jarvis acknowledges that the internet has transformed—not always necessarily for better—facets of life ranging from the economic, political, and corporate to the most intimate and personal. Yet Jarvis sets forth in often strident terms how the parameters of this transformation must be determined through a free flowing conversation amongst the very audience that the internet serves, that is, its public participants, i.e. the people.

While not always finding myself in agreement with Jarvis’ assertions (my inner jury is still out regarding the extent to which privacy is, or should be, truly dead), I believe his overall message (even if at times a bit crass) needs to be heard, and I congratulate him on articulating it rather eloquently and in a well-researched piece of work.

To whatever degree you live your life online, I would encourage reading Public Parts, as it is likely to widen and deepen your grasp of where this newfound openness is taking us as a global community, not only in the broad, virtual sense, but in ways that are most personal and real.

September 11, 2011

9/11: My Remembrance

Posted in Commentary tagged , , at 8:30 am by degyes

Remembering 9/11. This is my remembrance, 10 years on.

First the incredulousness and disbelief. Then the emerging dread, fear, helplessness, tears, confusion, and rage. The tense, worried phone calls with US family in the moments immediately following the NYC crashes, awaiting those in proximity to WTC to check in. The stunned faces of office colleagues. Wondering how I would travel to a funeral if it came down to it. The immense relief that my immediate US family would emerge in tact. Trying to get a handle on the horror that they experienced close up. The profound grief for those whose family members would not be coming home that night. Imagining what the death tally would be and how the US would respond. The awesome bravery of first responders, emergency services personnel, and common citizens who rushed toward extreme danger and met death attempting to rescue and attend victims. Recalling that High Holidays were only a few days away and wondering if most of us would be in too deep a shock for prayer as ‘usual.’

Waking up to a “new normal,” that maybe wasn’t so new.

Feeling fortunate to be in Israel, yet wanting desperately to stand by US family and friends. The knowledge that something cataclysmic and calamitous was taking place. Trying to figure out how I’d explain it to my kids. The belief that this was a wake-up call for America and that she would respond decisively and uninhibitedly to a direct by attempt by barbarians at undermining her civilization. The subsequent disappointment in leadership. The realization that response would be at most a measured and muted avoidance of confronting the real lessons of that horrible day. The xenophobia, the simple-minded hate. The tremendous respect for America’s warrior class, and emerging sense that they’d end up bearing the brunt of a tragically confused and misguided policy reflecting a pervasive and persistent leadership gap. The fervent hope that sooner rather than later, the civilized world would wake up to the awareness that its existence is under direct threat and that what’s needed goes far beyond tighter policing of airports and border crossings.

Thinking that there are folks with honest grievances, who disagree with you, distrust you, dislike you, and who act out of distress in ways that are annoying. With these folks you try to have dialog, listen, discuss, come together to seek understanding and common ground, and where necessary make concessions to achieve reconciliation.

And then, acknowledging that there are folks who will hate you no matter what, who are ideologically committed to your absolute annihilation and total destruction, who wish for and seek your demise regardless how often you demonstrate kindness, sensitivity, decency, and humanity. With such monsters you negotiate only at your own extreme peril, as you risk placing in jeopardy the cherished values, foundational principles, and very way of life that you hold dear. Negotiating and trying to reason with religio-sociopathic killers will never succeed. It’s been tried too many times before and it’s programmed to fail. Don’t confuse the occasional lull or period of relative quiet for an imaginary peace that we do not have. As I’ve been saying since that awful day exactly 10 years ago, some day, we’ll have a real awakening. At that time, we’ll modify our thinking and behavior accordingly and do what’s needed to defend our civilization, flawed as it might be. The question is what will it take … to what unimaginable loss will we be subjected … for us to get there?

In the time following the attacks, I recall seeing our decision to have another child as a defiant act of hope. Upon discovering that we’d be blessed with twins, expected to come into the world just about a year after those events, I regarded the obvious symbolism as a sign that hope is the only choice for people of faith.

I was surprised to see this article in Israel’s center-left “paper of record” this weekend reporting on what they relate to as an avoidance mentality pervading many in Israel’s leadership echelons, especially with regard to clear and present threats. Perhaps we’re all hard-wired to forget our nightmares, and turn a blind eye to what frightens and confuses us. And when the fear and the nightmares are collective, we avoid and forget collectively. If you learned how to smile again post-9/11—as well as after the innumerable horrors that have befallen America, Israel, and other parts of the world—that’s a good and healthy thing. The ability to experience joy is a necessary part of recovery, and essential for living life fully. But let’s not allow that laughter and joy, necessary as it may be, to slide into the tempting hypnosis of mass-amnesia.

And please, let’s never forget those who perished on September 11th, 2001.

#9_11

August 29, 2011

The Big Switch, by Nicholas Carr

Posted in Book Review, Commentary, Future, technology tagged , , , at 2:42 pm by degyes

The following tweets summarize the main points of Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. Carr’s basic premise is that the migration of data storage and application hosting to “cloud” computing today is no less revolutionary than the construction of electrical grids in the late 19th century, and resultant provision of electricity to homes, businesses, and municipalities. The first third of the book tells the story of Edison, his contemporaries, and the impact of their innovations. The second third discusses the recent evolution of utility computing and its influence. The final third of the book is essentially a treatise on what we can expect from a future where the common individual has yielded any remaining semblance of privacy to governments, corporations, and various institutions.

[1/11] Finished reading The Big Switch, by Nicholas Carr. http://www.nicholasgcarr.com/bigswitch/ #TheBigSwitch #CloudComputing

[2/11] Informative and entertaining, though dark view of future of computers, networks, and connectivity. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[3/11] Claims Internet puts disproportionate power in hands of gov’ts, corporations & institutions.  #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[4/11] Power no longer in hands of individual end-user. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[5/11] Rejects notion that computer systems are technologies of emancipation. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[6/11] Rather, computer systems are technologies of control. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[7/11] Computer systems designed to monitor & influence human behavior. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[8/11] The more we share into databases, social networks, & cloud storage, the more vulnerable we make ourselves. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[9/11] Consumerism long ago replaced libertarianism as prevailing ideology of online world. #9heBigSwitch #Internet

[10/11] Claims Google founders predict direct link between #brain & #Internet by 2020, i.e. physical-neural interface. #TheBigSwitch

[11/11] I’m finished tweeting on #TheBigSwitch. Enjoyed the book & recommend it.