Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Where's 1:1?

Got a jar of dead scorpions the other day.

It was just sitting there, in my cube over in Computing Commons. Not sure how it got there. Wasn't sure what it was at first. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I know exactly what it is even now I've identified it as a jar of dead scorpions.

Perhaps its a traditional welcoming gift? A warning? A gauntlet? (you know..."Think you've killed scorpions?...Hah!...Behold my prowess!!) The sender/collector/gifter also included a list of the things one might do with a jar of dead scorpions:

  1. Sell raffle tickets for guessing the number of scorpions in the jar, and donate the money to the SIS replacement project.

  2. Dip them in chocolate and market them as the next disgusting consumption stunt on Fear Factor. [Yum.]

  3. Use them as ingredients, for the development of a scorpion cookbook.

  4. Use as an ice-breaker on your next motivational speaking tour.

  5. Use them as calling cards.

  6. State a novelty paperweight business.

  7. Use them as a case study to teach marketing students how to sell generally repulsive product concepts. Regent's Arachnids anyone?

  8. Put them in a bigger jar and ponder the questions, is it half full, or half empty?

Apart from this rather dramatic increase in dead scorpion activity, the killing of the live ones has settled into routine around my house. And since the exterminator's been in the game, the volume has gone way down too.

Which leaves more time for thinking about 1:1.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Investment issues...

A couple of comments from the president's blog over the weekend illustrate the potential for interplay between wide and deep.

One from Gerald Thurman, asked how we might attract more high performance computing expertise to campus. As you might imagine, I am a big fan of HPC and think it will continue to grow in importance to a whole host of areas of research, inside and outside of Computing. Gerald is right that it is a challenge to attract HPC resources and talent in a highly competitive landscape. An ASU bright spot in this area is the work of Dan Stanzione and company. Funded by Mr. Ira Fulton, the Fulton High Performance Computing Intiative not only established a new high performance research cluster here, but has provided a focal point for cluster operations and program development support here at ASU.

Another comment on the prexy's blog near and dear to my heart was a question from Erik Gibb asking about the state of the computers in the engineering computer lab. Erik wants them upgraded and who can blame him? This is one of the principal challenges in maintaining centralized computing. My antidote, Erik, is to change the campus' focus from centralized computing to 1:1 computing. It would allow us to support your personal machine, including providing mechanisms to give you access to software tools that have previously been exclusively provided from the lab. Wondering how you feel about that idea Erik?


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Introducing Sri Kalluri...

For the past several weeks microelectronics masters student Sri Kalluri has been reviewing the most recent changes in the ASU-TechPlan Wiki. Sri is new to ASU this term, and in between studying and writing poetry, has been monitoring the various new posts to the wiki on a weekly basis. To follow Sri's unique perspective, visit his blog. For those using RSS, his blog's feed URL is


Props to the Prexy

President Crow launched his new blog this past week. For those of you using RSS, the feed URL is

According to his first post, he's planning on using it as:

...a source of direct discourse, enhanced understanding, and maybe even a bit of humor...If you walk away from reading an entry with a better understanding of how your university works, an interesting idea to ponder or an opportunity to share something on your mind, then the blog will have fulfilled its goal.

As anyone who's ever spent any time in a room with MMC can tell you -- whether you agree with any particular point of view of his or not -- you can't help but be struck by the energy of the man. I'm hoping some of the similarities between President Crow and the polymath President Bartlett come through his posts. And at the very least, we'll know what book is by the bedside table and what DVD is in the deck.

One of the things I think blogs can do within an institution like ours is connect the wide with the deep . And the president, at the top of our particular pyramid, has the widest perspective of all. The blog can give the rest of us a break from the deep dive into our own particular concerns and give us the opportunity to see what it looks like from the institutional perspective, the one that must find some balance among all of the various institutional pressures and aspirations.

So blog on, Big Man. Welcome to the 'sphere.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Going Beyond...

This morning at the Web Advisory Group meeting Guy Mullins was giving a talk about Web 2.0. Now he said a bunch of cool stuff, about various elements of Web 2.0 that you can learn more about as soon as Guy gives us a link to his presentation.

Apart from the content, I though it was interesting that Guy -- even though he is a known opponent of all things PowerPoint -- nevertheless gave a Powerpoint like presentation. Not built with PowerPoint of course. The universe has certain laws after all. No Guy made his slide show using S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Administrative Computing Update

Yesterday Max (you remember Max?...Davis-Johnson?...Max From the Mountains?), well anyway Max had a meeting of about 20 people from around the University to give us the latest on the Regents Vanilla project (the project must be real, since if you Google "Regent's Vanilla" you'll find it). For those who weren't there, here's the rundown:


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

RSS is cool...

So last week I was talking to a bunch of folks and the question of RSS came up. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a simple idea with a lot of applications. For keeping up with blogs, RSS is the bee's knees. Sri Kalluri has written a handy introduction to the use of Google or Yahoo's RSS aggregators to keep up with yours truly's blog. If you have interesting RSS feeds to suggest, put them here as comments.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Academic Senate Remarks...

Last week I had the opportunity to address the Academic Senate in Tempe to update them on the ongoing technology planning process underway here at ASU. Since I thought those comments might be of general interest, I include them here. If you know someone who is unfamiliar with what we are doing, but would be useful in moving the process forward, I think this post might provide them with the needed background.


Monday, October 24, 2005

On Coconut Telegraphs

Lately I've been running around telling a mythical story about a made up Research Program and their quest to install a coconut telegraph. Not a word of it is true, of course. It's just a parable about responsibility centered management and what I think the impact will be on how information technology standards are driven at ASU.


Desperately seeking feedback...

Aging University Technology Officers desperately seeks feedback on draft version of the outline for the Current Assessment document for the section.

Please post comments on the associated discussion tab, or make changes/additions to the outline by directly editing the wiki. As always, feel free to use the askUto or utoWiki email addresses.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dickson's Database Diagram - The PeopleSoft Mix

The latest version of Dickson's Database Diagram was posted to the wiki last weekend. You may remember previous versions of Dickson's Tuftian masterpiece, posted here on the blog in September.

But where the previous versions attempted to document what the current state of ASU's system is, this new version attempts to predict what will be different if we replaced the existing SIS and HR systems here at ASU with Regents Vanilla.

Since this version will be helping to guide our decision making, please take a look at it if you think you are in a position to evaluate it and direct your comments to the wiki.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In Defense of 1:1

So, as you might imagine, a bunch of people have been forwarding me the article from Friday's Wall Street by Gary McWilliams, "Laptops in classrooms not working out as hoped".

It quotes Dennis Adams, a University of Houston computer systems professor, as saying:

"You can be in the front of the classroom and your hair could catch on fire and they'll never see it because their eyes are glued to the 14-inch screen at the end of their nose,"

The article goes on to assert that, because the laptop/wireless combination allows students to do other things in class, there is "a rising backlash against classroom computer use from professors and schools". Responding to faculty complaints, several schools have even investigated wireless blocking mechanisms, only to find that blocking the net is an arms race that can't be won.

So is this article the death knell for ASU 1:1? I don't think so...


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Meeting with the Moderators...

Last week I had a great meeting with the moderation team. Given how many moderators there were (24), I figured it was fruitless to try and find a perfect time so I took a chance and scheduled a meeting for the dinner hour 5:30 - 7:00 on Tuesday. Pretty thoughtless when you think about it, but I didn't. If I had, I guess I would have expected to be in the room alone.

But I wasn't alone. Not even close. A full 21 of the 24 showed and the other 3 sent regrets. For a new guy in town with noone working for him, I was extremely excited by the turnout. And not only was it a great turnout, but I thought the group had some excellent ideas on how to move the wiki based planning process forward...


Friday, October 14, 2005

New Email Addresses...

As promised, I've got two new email addresses to help get more input for the strategic planning process.

The first one is If you:

  • have a question about technology at ASU,

  • you're frustrated by a technology failure,

  • wish we had a service we don't have,

  • or you can’t understand why we do it the way we do?

then send an email to We'll get you an answer and your input will be used to guide the strategic planning process.

The second address is If you want to contribute to the Strategic Plan -- say you have content for the strategic planning process -- but you don’t have the time or inclination to submit it to the wiki directly, just send it in an email to

Include or attach your article, and give us an idea of what section it fits into. We’ll put it in the wiki for you, and either attribute the article to you, or if you prefer, we’ll keep your identity secret.

All input is welcome. Looking forward to hearing from you.


Email the Wiki

Dear Asu Person,

Want to contribute to the Strategic Plan, but can't work the wiki? If you have content for the strategic planning process but either don't have the time or inclination to submit it to the wiki directly, just send an email to

Include or attach your article, and give us an idea of what section it fits into. We'll put it in the wiki for you, and either attribute the article to you, or if you prefer, we'll keep your identity secret.

Thanks for your input…




Dear Asu Person,

Have a question about technology at ASU? Frustrated by a technology failure? Can't understand why we do it the way we do? Wish we had a service we don't have?

Let someone who cares know what your issues are...

Just send an email to You'll get an answer and have some impact on the strategic planning process...

Thanks for your input...


PS - Some examples of things you might ask...

Why can't I as a student have a space in myASU where I can archive my documents?

Why can't I set up my ASU account in 5 easy steps, as opposed to the convoluted START process, which requires an activation code when I try to use it from off campus?

Why can't I register for classes via the Web?

Why isn't there a link on the main ASU page where someone can walk through the registration process in 5 easy steps?


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Old Friends...

... have a way of cutting to the chase. You know, you've been gone a while, doing a bunch of different things that you're excited about, you meet a bunch of new people who show polite interest in what you're doing. But your old friends push you a little harder, trying to get to the meat.

So when I was back in Iowa, I met a bunch of old pals that asked me how things were going down here in the desert. We talked scorpions of course, and dry heat (so's your oven!!! hahaha!!!), but they really wanted to know how things were going.

"Done anything?" they ask, in that way only old friends have. "Have they run you out of town yet?". You know, those 'right to the point' kinds of questions that clarify one's thinking. I guess two months in is a good time to take stock, so this is what I told them.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Last Week...

You may have noticed that the blog was sort of quiet this past week. Last week was a complicated week for me - I spent several days in Iowa, going to a funeral for a friend on Friday, and a Ph.D. defense on Monday. A combination of death and rebirth if you will.

Jamie Wade succumbed to brain cancer last week after a year long fight. His funeral was a somber occasion, made the more difficult because Jamie's was a life interrupted in its prime. He leaves behind his wife Marti and their two daughters, Maggie, a college freshman, and Ann-Charlotte, still in high school, as well as extended family and many friends. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett delivered a moving eulogy that recalled what a multi-faceted person Jamie was. A wise counselor and a good friend, Jamie will be sorely missed.

On Monday, Bryan Walter successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in the HCI program at Iowa State University. Bryan did a terrific job in his defense, and it left me excited about the value of a graduate education. Bryan is currently enjoying flying around the country presenting this work and generating a host of job opportunities. He's going to be a dynamite addition to whatever team he chooses to join.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Hoping the moderators for each section will convene groups to brainstorm ideas for the SWOT lists to drive them toward greater coverage. Also hoping the moderators will drive those lists to conform to the following style:

  • Strengths - This < condition exists > making < have this benefit >

  • Weaknesses - This < condition exists > making < have this handicap >

  • Opportunities - This < action > will improve < by providing this advantage >

  • Threats - This < condition > may < create this disadvantage >


Monday, September 26, 2005

More Wiki Questions

So we're up to 100 users today. Good going. I have also had very encouraging responses to the process thus far. We need more content and more editing, but I am confident it will come in time. So far, so good.

Several more questions came in today that I want to address briefly here…


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The relative importance of keeping score

Its been a while since I talked on the blog about the Student Information System (SIS). As you know, its a central component of the scorekeeping system here at ASU. The scorekeeping system includes Finance, HR, SIS, DARS, the Data Warehouse, and all the other data stores in Dickson's Database Diagram. These are the systems that let us keep track of who's who and what's what; how much we spend; who gets what grades; what classes are offered next term. You get the idea. Important? You bet. Absolutely vital. Can't play the game without a scoreboard; the match would be chaos without referees.

But as important as this function is, the scoring system isn't in any sense strategic. No student is going to choose ASU because of the student administration sytem that we pick. NSF won't select ASU to lead an ERC because we have a state of the art ERP (aren't acronyms great?). See "Good Enough! IT Investment and Business Process Performance in Higher Education" for more on this line of thinking.

So why are we even talking about the SIS now? If it isn't strategic, and it ain't broke, why fix it? And why now? Well, this is how the argument goes for me...


Read all the way to Q4...

At last the weekend, when I can do some serious wiki-ing. But I thought before I got started, I'd drop in a quick post to address some questions that have come up this week.

Q1: What happened to the WebDev podcast?

A: This past Tuesday I did a question and answer session with the WebDev group. The podcast of that session is available here. Another discussion of the wiki based strategy process, this one focused on Academic Technology and It's another hour of your life.

Q2: This Wiki is just another form of meeting. Its the same old arguments people have been having for years. There's an article up there that is so off base I don't even no where to start. I don't even want to dignify it with a reply. This is not going to work.

A: Have some faith. At this stage of the game, if there's an article that you feel is way off base, don't feel your only option is some sort of point by point refutation. Instead, think about a new article that puts forward an alternative conception.

If the wiki space is not filled with the ideas you think are important, whose fault is that? Mine? The Wiki's? The people who don't share your views? I don't think so.

So inject your ideas into the process in a non-defensive, positive way. Don't allow your initiative to be extinguished. You do not have to respond or cross edit a page that does not serve as a basis for what you think is important. Instead, present an alternative view. If you have something to say, say it. Rally people to your conception. Don't just complain because others with different viewpoints are embracing the process.


People get ready...

One of my favorite old songs is "People Get Ready".
If I was putting the lyrics together for our purposes, I'd rearrange them a little, like this:

People get ready
There's a train a comin'
It's pickin' up passengers from coast to coast
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just hop on board

The wiki train is comin, that's for sure. This week 80 people registered as contributors and twice that number visited pages. We have twenty people signed up already as monitors. So we're pickin up passengers from throughout the University. At this moment -- when the wiki is so chaotic, most of it is still empty, the style hasn't emerged, and things seem so out of focus -- we all certainly need faith to hear the engine going. But if we keep focused on the goals, make sincere contributions, respect the views of others while forcefully advancing our own, I promise you will be surprised at the progess that gets made.

You don't need no ticket, just hop on board...


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Ok, so I spent a good part of the weekend knocking together the first version of the ASU-Tech Plan Wiki. At this point it does not even qualify as a skeleton, but if you read the Methodology post or listened to the podcast then you already know that I expect this wiki to be the vehicle for creating a strategic plan collaboratively, right out in the open, without the need for expensive committees.

Applications are now being taken for moderators.


My First Podcast....

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to talk with a hundred or more members of the central IT organization at the monthly All-IT meeting. Guy Mullins and the DMIT team captured the event as a podcast.

It records a free-form, extemporaneous conversation I had with the team built around a short powerpoint presentation. (Conversation is being was a monologue interspersed and followed with a few questions. But if you've spent much time with me lately, that's what passes for a conversation with me. Can you say "listening challenged"?)

I don't think I said anything too outrageous, but the meeting did have the feeling of an old fashioned tent revival at times. The purpose was to introduce myself, brief a wide audience on the current status of the technology planning process, and describe my plan for using a wiki-based process to collaborate in creating ASU's technology strategy.

If you have an hour to kill, this would do it -- handily.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sannier Bio

I studied Systems Science at Michigan State University from 1979 to 1982, when I received my Bachelor's Degree. I began my graduate studies in Operations Research at Cornell University in 1983, but returned to Michigan State in 1984 to study at the Case Center for CAD/CAM, and received my Ph.D. there in 1988. My thesis research dealt with speciation and co-adaption in parallel distributed evolving systems driven by a genetic algorithm.

After graduation I began my career as a research engineer with Schlumberger Technologies in Ann Arbor, MI (owners of MDSI and Applicon). Applicon was founded as a spin-off of an MIT lab in 1972 and in 1983, Applicon introduced BRAVO! the first 32-bit VAX-based mechanical design/NC system.. In the mid 80s, Applicon was acquired by Schlumberger and then merged with MDSI, an Ann Arbor based startup was known for its workstation based CAM products. In my two years at Applicon, I was part of the team that created the first line of CAD software for the Macintosh, marketed under the MacBravo brand. I did most of my work on FIT, the Flexible Interface Toolkit. FIT was a c-shell like scripting language that allowed users to create graphical user interfaces and reconfigure them on the fly, a forerunner of languages like Tcl and Visual Basic.

In 1990, I joined Cimlinc, a startup CAD company based in Chicago and Troy MI. Founded in the 1980's by Mike Sterling and John West, Cimlinc reached $40M in 1986 annual revenues selling its own brand of CAD/CAM software on workstation hardware they designed and manufactured. But as workstations became a commodity in the late 1980's, Cimlinc moved to a software only model. Cimlinc's Linkage product was a component of an early ERP implementation at Boeing. I worked in several capacities at Cimlinc, finally as Vice President of Product Development.

While at Cimlinc, I helped design, develop and implement Envelop, a freely downloadable, object oriented RAD environment not unlike Visual Basic. Envelop never caught on commercially, but it was pretty cool all the same. It is still available for download on the web, from Janus software.

In 1995, I left Cimlinc to become Vice President and General Manager of EAI Interactive, one of two business units of Engineering Animation (NASDAQ:EAII). EAI was founded in 1990 by four Iowa State Cyclones: Marty Vanderploeg, Jim Bernard, Jeff Trom, Jay Shannan. Joined by CEO Matt Rizai, they built a dynamic 3D visualization company from the ground up. When I signed on to EAI in 1995, we had about 80 employees. Two years later Engineering Animation had grown to almost 1000, after a successful IPO on the Nasdaq and a string of profitable quarters.

As GM for EAI Interactive, I was fortunate to work with an extremely talented group of programmers, project managers and sales and marketing people. We made everything from litigation animations and educational CD ROMS to museum installations and computer games. At Interactive's peak, with $22M in annual revenue and about 200 employees, we worked on some 70 projects at any one time. Our customers were the leaders in their respective industries: Ford, General Motors, Disney and Hasbro, McGraw Hill and Elsevier to name a few.

EAI was acquired by Unigraphics in the fall of 2000, which was subsequently acquired by EDS in 2001. EDS combined UG and EAI with SDRC later that same year to form UGS the world's largest CAD and PLM company. UGS sold to a private equity group in 2004 for a little over $2 billion.

In 2001, I joined the faculty of Iowa State University as the Stanley Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering. The Stanley Chair was endowed by Mary Jo and Richard Stanley, BSME '55, BSEE '55. The Stanleys, known worldwide for their thoughtful work toward global peace and justice, gave the College of Engineering a gift in excess of $1 million to endow the Stanley Chair in Interdisciplinary Engineering in 1995.

Richard Stanley, from Muscatine, Iowa, is chairman of Stanley Consultants, Inc., international consultants in engineering, architecture, planning, and management. He is also vice chairman of the board of HON INDUSTRIES, and chair and president of The Stanley Foundation, a private foundation that works toward the goal of a secure peace with freedom and justice by encouraging study, research, and discussion of international issues.

I also served as Associate Director for the Virtual Reality Applications Center at ISU. Research at VRAC focuses on the applications of immersive visualization and next generation human/computer interfaces to challenges in science, technology and the humanities. The students who study here are among the best and the brightest.

In August of 2005, I took a position at Arizona State University as University Technology Officer. I’m working out of the Office of the President to implement a long-range technology plan in support of President Crow’s vision for the New American University. I am concentrating on working with folks throughout the University to identify ways to apply new technologies to improve ASU’s academic, administrative and research environments. Some of the ways I have worked to accomplish these goals over the past two years include:

Administrative Computing Systems Replacement: ASU has successfully replaced ASU’s aging Student Information and Human Resource systems with an Oracle-based PeopleSoft system. The OASIS project was executed in a year and a half for a total cost of $30 million. We know of no faster, leaner ERP implementation of similar scale and complexity.

1:1 Computing: By partnering with Dell and Apple Computer, we have helped our students switch to personal computing so they can keep up scholastically and technically with their peers and retain detailed ongoing records of their education.

ASU on iTunesU: In partnership with Apple, ASU has introduced ASU on iTunes U to the ASU community. This library of video and audio educational material allows professors and students to share and listen to lectures, public events, special productions, online courses, research materials, and more.

Google Apps for Education: ASU’s strategic alliance with Google has allowed ASU to introduce Gmail for ASU to its student community, as well as Google calendaring, Google Maps, the Google Personal Start Page, and Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

Mobile Computing: ASU has partnered with Verizon Wireless to provide discounted cell phones and calling plans to its faculty, staff, and students. We have also introduced wirelessly-equipped buses that allow students to work and study in transit.

Wireless Residence Halls for Students: In partnership with Qwest, students can now access the Internet wirelessly right from their dorm rooms, making student computing and access simple and efficient.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Why the New American University Must Go 1:1

The quill pen has special meaning in the Sannier household. It’s a symbol to my family of an education system mired in the past. When our kids were in elementary school, they’d often be at the kitchen table scrubbing away with a pencil eraser making an unholy graphite mess, on the verge of tears. “Why can’t I use my computer to do this?” they would cry out with an angst only a geek can truly appreciate.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

What might have been…

I love bookstores, especially Borders and Barnes and Noble. I like the coffee. I like the chairs. I usually like the music, but I often bring my IPod instead. I roam around looking at the tables of new releases, wandering around my old favorites on the shelves. I’ll usually grab 4 or 5 titles and head off to a comfy spot for an afternoon’s read. Very occasionally, I’ll buy one.

I do my serious book buying at I make my own coffee. My chairs are pretty comfortable too, and I always like the music. I like to buy from Amazon because of the browsing experience. Since Amazon keeps track of what I buy, their collaborative filtering is like having a personal shopper tag along, someone who knows what I like, knows what other people like me like, which gives me serious help picking out books. And it couldn’t be any easier to buy. It is a pain to wait the day or so to get the book, but it’s exciting to open the packages when they come. If I was cooler, I’d just download eBooks I guess. And as soon as I find a device I like as much as a paperback, I will.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last Week in Review...

Last week saw a dramatic increase in comment activity on the blog, which is great. So in case you're not following the comments, (and even if you are), I thought I'd review some of the issues that folks have been raising -- adding my own comments of course. :)


Monday, September 05, 2005


Last Tuesday, I met with a group of about 15-20 people in a Computing Commons conference room. I did a short monologue, recapping some of the themes in the blog, and then we did 40 minutes or so of question and answer. I wish I could remember all the questions, if for no other reason than to see if I'd give the same answers after reflection that I gave on the spot. I like to think I'd be pretty close, but you never know.

I can only remember three of the questions clearly.


Props to the House

What better day than Labor Day to say "Hats Off!" to the men and women who make ASU the amazing place it is.


Version 2 is Here!!!

Based on input from far and wide, Nancy Dickson has put out version 2 of Dickson's Database Diagram. Version 1 generated a lot of positive reaction, due most of all to the sheer Tuftian grace of its execution. Just seeing so much of the system in one place is exciting.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Check out Max!!!

If you haven't already, read Max's comments on Revolution....Rock on Max!!!

And while checking out Max...check out Rudy,Roger, Jon, Ron, and Nancy!!!

The dialog begins!!!


Saturday, August 27, 2005

This just in....

This is my third post today. And its Saturday. I think I might need to get a life. I did go to Cactus Jack's last night for a while, though I must admit that Shawna and I didn't connect as tightly with the band as we might have liked. Still, it was nice to get out and take a "thin slice" of Ahwatukee night life. There were some folks there deeply into CHG...

I'm also fired up about this diagram the data warehouse folks put together. I have it as a powerpoint file and as a jpg file.



By the way, just FYI, I had a great time up at Northern Arizona University last week. Apart from the beautiful country and the break from the heat, I was very impressed with Fred Estrella (the NAU CIO), his crack IT team, and the administration folks that helped craft their PeopleSoft Human Resources and Student Administration implementation. From what I gathered, their implementation did take somewhere between 3 and 5 years, and while they managed to skip the worst of the "monster" phase, their system did have to "grow live" rather than "go live". But all the participants in the project that I met -- and I met easily 20 from both the technical and "business" side -- were unanimous that the new system meets their needs better and gives them a better platform for meeting the future.

It was also interesting to learn that their decision to go PeopleSoft did have its roots in a crisis -- a registration failure one fall that sent all the students to the gym with pencils and 3x5 cards.

Given that we want to avoid a crisis, I wish there was a way to wave a magic wand and be where they are now.


Revolution #9

Hope folks are reading the comments here too. Both on the forum and in private emails, we are starting to talk about more than scorpions. Not that I didn't appreciate the help with the vermin, but I am anxious to learn from and respond to what people are thinking about the future of technology here at ASU.

In the past couple of days some questions have been raised that I'd like to respond to. I'm doing it as a post instead of a reply to the comments to maximize the chance that people will read both.

Please remember, as I will try to, that we're having this dialog for the good of ASU. So it’s incumbent on all of us to tell the truth as we see it, to look for common ground, and to be open to being convinced of another way.

So here goes. 


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

You Say You Want a Revolution...Well, you know...

I love music... Really.... Love it. I'm a frustrated guitar player; I like to sing; I'm an eclectic fan of all kinds of different stuff, from Blues to Bluegrass, from Mozart to Phillip Glass. But my mainstay is the music that now goes by the name of "Classic Rock". The Beatles. The Who. Dylan. James Taylor. Crosby, Stills, Nash and "not-so-much-anymore" Young. All the usual suspects...

A lot of times pieces of these songs get stuck in my head and I can't get them out. I sing them while I'm out walking around campus (which might account for the extra "personal space" I seem to get?) Anyway, I've learned over the years to listen to those snippets, because sometimes it’s my subconscious trying to tell me something.

The past few days the internal tape loop has been running fragments of a real classic, Revolution by the Beatles -- John Lennon style.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Parable of Frankenstein...

(with apologies to Mary Shelley.)

NOTE: I am just trying to get a point across with a little humor here. If you can't take a joke, don't read this posting. There are no secret or veiled references to individuals at ASU or elsewhere, so don't look for them. I mean no disrespect. Also, please note that I am not a qualified fiction writer or satirist.

Proceed at your own risk.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Step Back...

Does it rain every day here in the "desert"? Based on my two weeks of observation, it sure looks that way to me. As far as my personal experience goes, seems we're going to run out of umbrellas way before we run out of water!!

Which tells you how easy it is to jump to the wrong conclusion when you've only been looking at an environment for a short time -- probably my principal occupational hazard at the moment.

Of course, on the other hand, there's the "go with your gut" school of thought, the rapid cognition crowd. Malcom Gladwell, author of the best selling "The Tipping Point", recently released a new book, "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking", which explores this decision mode -- what he calls "thin-slice cognition" -- basing a judgement or decision on a broad, but not deep, look at a situation.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Closing the Gap"

Got another scorpion last Friday. Well, in fairness, my son Andy got him. My wife spotted it in one of the moving boxes, and did the only sensible thing. She promptly closed it and waited till I got home. The box was full of that paper that movers seem to use so very much of. Anyway, while I was gingerly pulling individual sheets out of this box one at a time, my son was tearing into it willy-nilly, clearly not appreciating the gravity of the situation. When we were done, the box was empty, and still no scorpion. So we started folding the paper to throw it away and, of course - THE SCORPION FELL OUT ON THE FLOOR. It was hiding you see, as scorpions do. Same color as the paper. Squish. Current score: Sanniers 2, Scorpions 0.

Apart from scorpion hunting, a big chunk of last week was devoted to learning about ASU's Student Information System (SIS). Taking this opportunity to showcase my ignorance, here is my 30,000 foot view of the SIS.


Glossary (am-a-zohn-daht-kom-if-ah-kay-shun)

1. The act, process, or result of transforming a complex, organically developed, interrelated information system into a user friendly, easily accessible tool that works well for a wide variety of user groups.
2. A system thus transformed, as in "This new tool is the amazondotcomification of a student information system. See personification.
3. Often shortened to amazonification.

[Middle English, from Latin Amzon, from Greek Amazon, probably of Iranian origin.]

In classical legend the Amazons were a tribe of warrior women. Their name is supposedly derived from Greek a-mazos, “without a breast,” because according to the legend they cut off their right breasts so as to be better able to shoot with a bow and arrow. This folk etymology, like most folk etymologies, is incorrect, but the Amazons of legend are not so completely different from the historical Amazons, who were also warriors. The historical Amazons were Scythians, an Iranian people renowned for their cavalry. The first Greeks to come into contact with the Iranians were the Ionians, who lived on the coast of Asia Minor and were constantly threatened by the Persians, the most important of the Iranian peoples. Amazn is the Ionian Greek form of the Iranian word ha-mazan, “fighting together.” The regular Greek form would be hamazn, but because the Ionians dropped their aitches like Cockneys, hamazn became amazn, the form taken into the other Greek dialects. < >

The Amazon River, or Rio Amazonas, was named by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana, who fought a battle against a tribe of Tapuya savages, in which the women fought alongside the men.

In Internet Bubble legend, took its name from the Amazon river, which founder Jeff Bezos believed was a great metaphor for "The World's Greatest Selection".

Making an information system work as well as's is


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Technology and the desert...

Killed my first scorpion this weekend. Hardy, dangerous, well-adapted little devil. Nearly put my hand right on him, which I am happy to learn from AZ veterans would not have killed me - just hurt like hell. They tell me that short of squishing nothing kills these guys. A good metaphor for what early settlers of Arizona must have been like. Facing this whole monsoon season (forget that whole "dry heat" thing during monsoon), the brutal heat of the summer, the scarce water...that must have taken a hardy brand of people...whether they were the Hohokom, the Navaho, the Spanish, the Franciscan missionaries, the gold prospectors, or the cowboys...These are people who could handle themselves and cope with whatever got dished out...

Not like me. I wouldn't last a week out here without the benefits of civilization.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

No more pencils, no more books...

At least part of the old student song will be realized at Vail Unified School district's new Empire High School. At $850 dollars a head, each student will receive a laptop computer in place of the typical textbooks. I can't help feeling this is an exciting step in the right direction. I realize that technology by itself does not make education better, and I know that computers can't substitute for good teachers.

But I believe that issuing a laptop to every student can create a new, more effective educational platform; one that improves students' ability to access, store, organize and retireve information.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Post

Next month I start a new job at Arizona State University as University Technology Officer. I'll be working out of the Office of the President to develop a long range technology plan in support of President Crow's vision for the New American University. Over the next six months, I will be working with folks throughout the University to identify ways to apply new technologies to improve ASU's academic, administrative and research environments.

We live in exciting times, in large part driven by unprecedented technological progress. Increasingly powerful, portable, interconnected and ubiquitous computers are dramatically enhancing people's capabilites in nearly every area of human endeavor. In the past decade IT has injected a host of exotic new capabilites into everyday life ...

Cell phones and Camera phones, IM and Email,
Web pages, Firefox, IE and Google,
Amazon, Ebay, Broadband and Bluetooth,
DVD and MP3, JPEG and VoIP,
Word and WiFi, Laptops and PDAs
Playstations, Xboxes, IPODs and Thumbdrives

Suddenly, everyone types -- from grandmas to grade schoolers. Kids in elementary school make Powerpoints like their parents once made posters. Wireless headsets and voice recgnition make phone conversations more like telepathy. Anyone interested in the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow can now -- in seconds -- find not only science's answer (24 miles an hour) but King Arthur's as well. In the past ten years, IT has brought the movie business its biggest revenue stream (DVD sales more than double ticket revenues) and threatened its survival with peer to peer downloads.

And its not near over.

The computer keypunch, once a symbol of the Space Age, is now a museum piece. In ten years time, the mouse and keyboard we associate so closely with our own high technology will surely follow the keypunch into obsolescence. In their place will be new interfaces that streamline the interactions between people and the rapidly increasing network of computers that work for them. These new interfaces will redefine the relationship between people and the net, blurring the boundaries between devices, blurring the boundary between the real and the digital.

In the face of this kind of change, I believe that technology can do more than streamline the University's back office administrative processes. These dramatic changes in communications, and the capture, storage, retrieval, and presentation of information can be used to enhance every student's academic experience while at the same time lowering costs and increasing the university's reach. I believe that present and future technology advances can help make ASU -- its resources, its discoveries, and its people -- more accessible to its students, its alumni, and the citizens of Arizona. There is an opportunity for ASU to be a leader in the application of these technologies to the academic enterprise. I look forward to meeting the people who are making the New American University in the Valley of the Sun, and working with them to chart ASU's technical future.