What is it? A line-by-line analysis of the second verse of Jay-Z’s song “from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor. It’s intended as a resource for law students and teachers, and for anyone who’s interested in what pop culture gets right about criminal justice, and what it gets wrong.”
It’s a terrific example of a focused, detailed explanation by a technical expert who’s also a teacher. Mason uses the specifics of the song (and of Jay-Z’s experience related to it) to highlight principles, legal issues, and practical problems related to the fourth amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As Mason says, “When I teach the Fourth Amendment, I ask my students what the doctrines tell us about, on the one hand, how to catch bad guys and not risk suppression [of evidence obtained improperly], and on the other, how to avoid capture or at least beat the rap if not the ride.”
In The Diaries of Adam and Eve (“translated by Mark Twain”), Adam writes at one point:
The new creature names everything that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always the same excuse is offered—it looks like the thing. There is the dodo, for instance. Says the moment that one looks at it one sees at a glance that it “looks like a dodo.” It will have to keep that name, no doubt. It wearies me to fret about it, and it does no good, anyway. Dodo! It looks no more like a dodo than I do.
Names do stick, though as Stewart Brand observed, names associated with technology gradually fade.
We have only another decade or so of carrying on about computers as the big new bad/good thing. They’re about to disappear from view the way motors did. Engines were cause for wonder and speculation when they ran ships and railroads.
Nobody called the automobile or truck a personal railroad, but that’s what it was, and people still were impressed. Then motors got smaller and disappeared into lawn mowers, refrigerators, toothbrushes, wristwatches, and nobody…speculates now about what motors will become or worries much about what they are doing to human dignity or economic inequality.
I think perhaps the coming of personal computers was slow enough — starting with the Altair in 1975 and slowly accelerating with the Apple II in 1977 and the IBM PC in 1981– that we’re still talking about “computers,” though that’s shifting. Everyone knows what you mean by a laptop or a tablet.
The speed of technology in phones is such that “smartphone” is starting to sound a bit quaint, like “automobile” for “car.”
I was at the Institute for Performance and Learning’s symposium in Vancouver last week. In his session, Steve Blane argued for “elearning” as a term (no capital L, no hyphen), much the way he’s seen “e-mail” turn toward “email.”
I’m not entirely sure of the latter, but I agree with the spirit. In fact I’d like to stop talking about e- things generally, except perhaps to distinguish one subset from another. Elearning, however spelled, is a format for encouraging learning.
Which is why I so much enjoyed Michael Erard’s Remote? That’s No Way to Describe This Work in the New York Times. He and his wife moved from Texas to Portland, Maine; she manages a geographically dispersed team, and he is a researcher for an organization in Washington DC.
They found a number of people in Portland in similar positions, and in looking to form a community, wondered what to call such people.
Remote workers? “Such a headquarters-centric label.”
Telecommuters? “Such a dial-up-era feel.”
Virtual workers? “As if the work is somehow less tangible…than in traditional offices.”
It was at the first face-to-face meeting my wife and I had with Creative Portland representatives (we had been communicating by Facebook) that a new label came to me: We “work in place.”
It’s worth reading the linked article for Erard’s full discussion. As he points out, it’s worker-centric. And it carries a connotation of the work that suits you in your circumstances (assuming, of course, that you’re not frantically scrambling to make ends meet).
I’m lucky in that I’m connected to a lot of smart, generous people in my field or closely connected to it. A great deal of my professional (and personal) development has come through those connections. When I think about the next opportunities or challenges I’d like to encounter, I may not be sure of the details, but I do aspire to accomplishments like these people achieve.
Sometimes, though, I get real benefit from people whose specialties are much further removed from my own — lawyers (and more than one barrister in the UK), nanotech scientists. Even a well-done Twitter parody account (of which @AngrySalmond is a lapidary example) brings unexpected insight and ideas.
That’s something Damian Roland has done for me. I honestly don’t recall how I first learned of him — most likely through a retweet. He’s a specialist in pediatric medicine in the UK, and “a passionate believe that education exists to be shared.” To that end, he participates in #FOAMed, a movement for Free Open-Access Medical education.
This kind of reflection is aspirational for me — as with going to the gym, I know it’s a good idea, but I don’t manage to pull it off that often. That means Roland’s regular reflection is inspirational as well. It goes with James Clear’s idea of committing to a process, not a goal.
I’m trying out some new or modified processes to encourage reflection and exploration. (One of them, which I’ve been calling “the tool of the month,” has me consciously trying out one new or unfamiliar tool over the course of a month.
I’m not necessarily going to write a post or review about it, but I’m going to kick it around to see how it works in my own life. An example of small but very welcome results with the first tool, IFTTT (If This, Then That): I’ve learned how to:
Have my phone automatically set itself on mute at 10 pm.
Have it set itself to 30% volume at 6 am.
Have it lower itself to 10% when I connect to the wifi at work.
Have it set itself to 80% when I connect to my home wifi.
(I tend not to carry the phone around the house, and so I’ve often missed calls and texts because the sound was off or nearly inaudible. That doesn’t happen any more.)
An image I saw on Twitter last week turns out to be the work of Hugh MacLeod, @gapingvoid:
Many people have come up with their own take on this, often adding a third panel. I might put one on the right, fewer dots and more motion or flow: knowledge being applied, which is how you build skill.
There’s a gap between knowledge and skill, though:
Good judgment comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgment.
I’ve always liked this saying. I try to remember when it matters that the bad judgment doesn’t have to be yours in order for you to harvest the experience.
And that leads to one of the best experiences I’ve had recently. In a private setting, one colleague I respect shared a portion of a project that’s underway, and asked for candid feedback.
I saw the posted request during the workday, when my link to the wider world is my phone — not the best tool for musing, editing, and commenting. And, to my embarrassment, I forgot about the request until the weekend.
That’s when another colleague I respect did offer critiques — thoughtful, specific ones — and encouraged others to do the same. She pointed out that the original sharer was “practicing what he preaches” by inviting comment.
I’m not always comfortable offering public critique, even in the context of a small group. I know the theory; I just need to practice overcoming this reluctance.
I had been thinking about sending private comments, but decided to trust the sharer and the process by posting in the group’s forum. It wasn’t easy for me to get started, but it felt good when I got into it.
Experience, I see, has its roots in Latin: the verb experiri, meaning to try, to risk, to test. I’m glad I got a little more.
On several projects lately, I don’t know what I’m doing. Or at least what I’m doing next.
A way to cope is to ask someone who seems to know more. I’m lucky in having smart colleagues at work who will not only share what they know, but will work with me to reshape that knowledge so I have a better understanding.
I’m lucky professionally as well, because I have people I can and do consult with on issues apart from my everyday job.
Sometimes, though, I’m not quite ready to do that asking. Usually that’s because of the particular type of don’t-know I’m experiencing. Either I don’t know what (as in what to ask, or what’s the difficulty, or what’s the domain), or I don’t know how (to take the next step, to choose the right option, to switch points of view).
To that end, in a nod to the Working Out Loud concept, I’ve been making what I think of as Talk To Myself notes. (The TTM nickname just came to me, and I like it enough that it’ll become a tag in Evernote.)
The idea is that for a specific project or domain, I write down what it is I can’t figure out or what I want to know.
This is hardly an earthshaking idea, but it’s a concrete one. The effort to form a question, even if I’m not good at forming one for the topic at hand, gets me to run through what I do know, and I think primes me to think more expansively.
Here are some examples:
I’ve written about this music-composition software here and here. I got it so I could scan choral sheet music and produce audio files — especially for the tenor, since that’s what I sing.
I think I’m at the “relatively good apprentice” level with Sibelius. I can handle basic tasks pretty well, and I’ve developed some good-enough workarounds.
One side effect is that I’m more aware of things I don’t know how to do but want to. So onto the TTM note go thoughts like these:
How can I add a blank page on the end of a score so I can add text there — like block lyrics, or background notes, or even a pronunciation guide for Gaelic?
Can I export the melody for just a portion of the piece (say, bars 12 – 24 for the tenors)?
Is there an easy way to change the instrument for a given line? So far I only know how to add a new staff for a new instrument, then copy the notes from an existing instrument, then delete the staff they were copied from. That seems… kludgy.
Forums in WordPress
As a follow-up to my Building Job Aids workshop last month, I wanted to learn how to create a private online community for interested workshop grads — a place where they might share how they apply what they learned, and maybe even do some show-and-tell in a safe space. At DevLearn I heard Tracy Parish talk about how she did something similar, and I got some ideas from her.
This is one of those don’t-quite-know-what situations for me. Through trial and error, I’ve installed plugins to enable forums (threaded discussions) but I still feel I lack understanding.
Talk To Myself in this case means repeating questions till they make sense, at least to me.
Do I have to have open registration?
If I do, can I keep out the obvious spambots?
What should be recording the registration (if anything)? Do I need some kind of sign-up form, and if so, where does the signing-up go?
At a broader level, what’s the flow from inviting someone to that person’s reading and posting in a forum?
At work, a practice database
So many core corporate systems have no way for people to safely learn and practice how to use those systems. A rich, low-risk environment like Amtrak’s training trains will support and encourage learning in a thousand different ways.
We have such an environment for a key system at work–but it hasn’t been used much, and the documentation I can find is sketchy. So I’m making Talk To Myself notes here, too. This is a tougher area because it involves a lot of database security and management.
Borrowing from advice I received from a graphic artist, I’m framing these questions in terms of what I want to accomplish rather than how I think I should go about getting that accomplishment. For example, I don’t know the steps or the stakeholders or the timeframes needed to copy data from another environment into this practice one. I don’t know how (or if) it’s possible to search for certain types of data in the practice database.
I’m pretty sure I need a conversation with one of my IT contacts — but that conversation with her will go much better because I’ve spent time Talking To Myself… and taking notes.