[sugar] OLPC's bizarre behaviors

Frederick Grose fgrose
Thu May 22 08:27:28 EDT 2008

Thank you Martin for your insightful perspective.

The teams' excellent work has produced such high expectations that they can
easily run away and lead to temporary disappointments.  Remember the
alternatives, be encouraged, and keep up your best efforts.

We applaud you all.

On Thu, May 22, 2008 at 1:38 AM, Martin Langhoff <martin.langhoff at gmail.com>

> On Thu, May 22, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Kim Quirk <kim at laptop.org> wrote:
> > Lots of things that we do don't meet any normal expectations of a
> > 'company'. Most people at OLPC will tell you we are not a 'company'.
> ...
> > I have been trying to understand it, explain it, live with it ,
> > and improve it for a year now. What I think is going on is a unique
> > and somewhat chaotic (perfect storm?) intersection of non-profit, open
> > source, research lab cultures with the need to ship a real product.
> This is excellent analysis. And I'd go a bit further than Kim actually
> in saying that I don't feel particularly bad that we are a bit of a
> mess.
> Being a bit of a mess means that we are breaking new ground so quickly
> that the ground is changing faster than the org gets used to it.
> Which leads to a few observations (which overlap somewhat with what
> Kim is saying)
>  - IME, people complaining that "we don't know what we are doing" can
> be a positive indicator. The scenario outside the car is changing!
>  - Learning to organise and handle new situation X is only worthwhile
> once we are confident that X is here to stay.
>  - Therefore, there will be many situations that are impossible or not
> worth to be well prepared for. So "being a constant mess" is a
> reasonable approach. We can handle that by saying that "strange new
> situations" are common, and we have to keep an open mind and be ready
> to work w the team to get new and strange things done.
>  - Prioritisation is important. Some things are too much of a
> distraction. Letting them go to hell can be less disruptive than an
> all-hands effort. This is - IME - the hardest part. When everyone is
> ready to take on whatever comes, it's hard to avoid getting the team
> distracted.
> Which can also be stated in more blunt terms: We are doing development
> of new stuff! If you want it predictable and organised, I hear EDS is
> hiring - the processes and procedures manual is 800 pages :-/
> All of the above is from my experience in various organisations large
> and small, and govt and private. We are radically diffrerent from a
> big corp, and even from established non-profits. In this space you can
> expect us to be very good at a couple of very specific things, and a
> complete mess about a lot of other stuff. We will have to get good at
> "some of that other stuff"... in the meantime it'll be frustrating.
> :-/
> There's a good book about this - Waltzing with Bears by either DeMarco
> or Yourdon, that says basically: if you are considering a
> project that doesn't take you into uncharted territory, *can it*. It's
> not worth it if it's not so new that you feel lost and helpless. It's
> written for big corps that are frozen in terror ;-) but it applies to
> what we are doing @ OLPC.
> Uncharted territory. So everytime we spot something in the horizon
> there's some fear that the earth might actually be flat.
> http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/EUR/2400-0070~Sailboat-and-Waterfall-at-Earth-s-End-Posters.jpg
> but I think we should keep sailing no matter what.
> m
> --
>  martin.langhoff at gmail.com
>  martin at laptop.org -- School Server Architect
>  - ask interesting questions
>  - don't get distracted with shiny stuff - working code first
>  - http://wiki.laptop.org/go/User:Martinlanghoff
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