Sunday Sales Passes!!

Many people know that I’ve been a huge supporter of Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota for a long time. We’re the only State in the area that doesn’t allow liquor stores to open on Sunday and it drives revenue away from border towns, as well as gives us a bad taste in the mouth of people considering relocating here. In 2014 I penned an Open Letter to Minnesota Liquor Store Owners that was picked up by local media, outlining many of the reasons I felt this law was antiquated and needed repeal. In 2015 I once again lamented my home State’s lack of foresight.

In 2016 I didn’t even have much hope that anything would happen, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, this year, things seemed to suddenly be possible. There was a large influx of new legislators, as well as a few key people changing their minds. I didn’t want to hold out too much hope, but then when the bill started passing through committee I got excited.

Last week the bill passed the house with an overwhelming margin, and then Monday I watched the live stream of the debate and vote, as the last vestige of antiquated Puritan protectionism fell. The repeal passed, and after a couple more negotiations in committee and the governor’s signature, Minnesota will join the ranks of modern America.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in useful regulation, and efforts to help small businesses, but when a law targets a single industry, my equity radar goes off. Many arguments were made about how bad Sunday Sales would be for small liquor businesses, but I guarantee you that there are thousands of small businesses out there that would love a required day off. It’s time to address how to protect small businesses directly, and stop hiding behind an outdated law that only benefits a small handful of municipal and local businesses, and harms many border businesses.

I’m proud that Minnesota took this step today, and I’ll be sure to take advantage of supporting my local liquor store as often as I can to show my support for their new found freedom.

Practical Enterprise Architecture, pt 2

In our first installment of looking at Enterprise Architecture, we looked at the foundation of what I am calling the house of EA. This foundation is focused on vision, strategy, and knowledge, as a basis for how all of Enterprise Architecture is built. As we move up into the pillars of the house, we move into what are called the four ‘domains’ of architecture. The four domains are the areas where the work of EA happens.

enterprise-architecture-drawing

The first of these domains is Business Architecture. Business architecture is concerned with what makes the business tick. It asks the tough questions about how business goals can be met utilizing the tools that are available. BA is the area of architecture that is most concerned with how the vision of the business meets the practical needs and capabilities of the organization.

It’s important to note, that just because the word ‘business’ is in the title, it doesn’t mean that this area of architecture is limited to corporations. Every organization can benefit from looking at how they “do business”. The term ‘business’ is more about the actions of the organization, not a definition of what type it may or may not be.

Some of the work that happens in the business architecture domain revolves around the capabilities of a business. One of the key elements about moving a vision forward, is having the knowledge of what you’re capable of, at the current time. Business architecture helps an organization look at it’s capabilities, and then aligns those capabilities with the vision of where the organization wants to go. Then once you understand the current state, you can start to examine a path to move forward. This also helps identify gaps that need to be fixed before change can happen.

Sometimes this can sound very corporate and structured. However, if we look at our fictional cafe from the first part of this series, we can see how business architecture would apply in a very real way, despite not being a big corporation. In our first part we identified a cafe that has a stated vision of being a central place of community within a neighborhood. Business architecture would then examine the capabilities of the cafe, and how those align with the vision of where it would want to be in the future.

This means first identifying everything that the cafe has at it’s disposal to build itself up. Perhaps there is space that is not being utilized as best as it could, or perhaps there are improvements to how the marketing of the cafe is being done. These types of outcomes result from a solid understanding of how the business is architected. Once this understanding is complete, then plans could be put in place for how to make changes.

Let’s say that there is space in the cafe that isn’t being utilized the best that it could be; perhaps it’s closed off from the main area, and doesn’t feel as connected to the primary space. Business architecture would ask how this capability deficit could be turned into a benefit for the business. If the stated vision of ‘community’ is driving the analysis, then perhaps showing how this space could be used as a private meeting area for community groups would be a benefit to the cafe, turning something that wasn’t useful before into something that helps drive the overall vision of the organization.

Business architecture would be the domain of EA that would be looking at these opportunities and presenting them to the ownership of the business as potential ways to meet the vision of the organization. In a formal corporate structure this involves the development of capability models, impact analysis, gap analysis, goal to outcome mappings, and other various artifacts. Yet, I feel that the basics of what business architecture is trying to accomplish can be done on any scale. It just comes down to being willing to do a through analysis of how business is being done, and use that analysis to plan for the future.

Business architecture is a key element of of EA gets done. Many big organizations see business architecture as a small part of EA, but it is really one of the most crucial. It’s very easy to want to skip over doing all of the business analysis and jump right in to how to solve problems, but if you don’t understand the foundation of what you’re dealing with, you can’t plan for the future in the best way possible. Good planning helps to avoid pitfalls of jumping too fast, and makes an organization stronger and more capable of achieving what they want to become.

The Internet of Babel?

The world of today is one of many differing viewpoints. Different religions, values, and cultures are clashing at an almost constant pace. We open up the headlines in the morning and we read about the rise of radical religious groups, and political movements that seek to regain lost glory. What is happening in the United States is not an isolated movement, and you can see it’s long tendrils all across Europe. We’re standing at a crossroads of two different world-views; one of peaceful integrations and coming togethers of cultures, and an opposing view of isolation and maintaining our unique identity.

It got me thinking about a story from the Old Testament about the Tower of Babel, found in Genesis chapter 11:

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing the story from Scripture, but I want to tie it to today’s world. Throughout the history of the world it’s been hard to learn about those around you. Even going back only into my childhood, the main method that I had to utilize for learning about another person, religion, or culture, was a visit to the library. One of my most prized possessions as a kid was my World Book Encyclopedia set, which at least got me the basics of a topic.

Additionally, meeting people from around the world was much more difficult. It’s only within the last 100 years that people could reasonably consider traveling the world casually. The advent of air travel allowed people to move freely from one side of the planet to the other, and back again without completely changing their lives. This means that most people were rarely exposed to other cultures from around the world, or if they were, it was as a tourist.

One could argue that the world really started to change when air travel became prevalent, and I would agree that was a fundamental shift on our planet. However, I would stand by the real change in our world as the advent of the Internet. It was one thing to have the ability to travel to another part of the world, but it was another step to be able to research and plan your trip without having to talk to another human being. Today, anyone can plan their own adventure into the world with hundreds of thousands of sites of information, while sitting in their underwear.

The Internet has also shrunk the world into a place where anyone can communicate to another person around the globe in real time. We can share information, ideas, friendship and love, all through an electronic portal that makes it feel like we’re sitting right next to a person. This type of power has the ability to unite the world in a way unlike we’ve seen outside of the story of Babel in the Bible. That’s where I start to wonder if we’re approaching another “tower” moment in the history of mankind.

When you look at many of the troubling moments in the world right now, many of them sit at the point of conflict between unity and autonomy. Many of the jihadist movements in the middle east are centered around the idea of a superiority of a militant religious ideal, to the exclusion of others. Many of the conservative moments that are taking the western world, are focused on maintaining an idealized vision of a superior Christian nation, composed of people who all act and believe in a similar way.

Much of what people attribute to liberalism, is often in opposition to those ideals, seeking inclusion (even to the point of absurdity). The liberal movements around the world seek to be open to others, accepting and inviting to the stranger. Immigration, LGBT issues, church/state separation, and the myriad of other liberal tent pole issues, often revolve around being open to how other people want to live their lives and being accepting of that. Even if that openness means giving up a bit of your own personal convictions for the benefit of another.

All of these world views are available for digesting, support, and participation, with a click of the button on the Internet.

Which brings us to the current conflict. Humanity is standing at another precipice moment where our attempt to come together in unity is being thwarted. Unlike the story from the Bible, this thwarting is of our own undoing, enabled by our capability to unbounded information. Every step towards bringing different groups of people together seems to be opposed by a step towards keeping the people of the world in their own bubbles. The harder we push for unity, the harder we get push-back for separation.

What will the outcome be? This musing is really just a moment to ask some questions, as I don’t think any of us know the answers. However, I think it’s interesting to note that humanity has (supposedly) been at this point before. We’ve tried to come together as a unified people, and been forced apart. Is this the point in history where we can overcome this? Or, will our complete and total interconnectedness be our undoing. Can we build enough of a resistance to autonomy to actually push our society towards a unity that can advance humanity as a race?

Or, will my lifetime be the one where we see the world devolve into even deeper divisions, suffering through the undoing of our own technological drive for connection? If our only option is segmented cultures, and we must live with that type of a world, how can we achieve something like that peacefully? I feel like we’re standing at a fork in the road, and the future is murky. What I do know is that the Internet, and our continued technological development, is going to be a key point in whatever direction the world continues to take.

Because Science is geeky

One of my little YouTube pleasures is a series from Nerdist called Because Science. It’s a fun little show where Kyle Hill presents science facts about geeky things. He sets up a hypothesis at the beginning of each segment, often based on a question from a viewer, and then tests it using various elements of math, physics and chemistry. It’s nice and short (<10 minutes usually) so you don’t need to commit hours to watch it, which fits perfectly in the YouTube world. One of the most recent editions in this was his examination of if The Flash is faster than the teleporting mutant Nightcrawler. However, his latest is about the physics of Kirby sucking up human sized objects.

Kyle is also the host of a show called Mythbusters: The Search, which is a competition show to find the next Mythbusters. It’s yet another thing I need to add to my watch list, as it looks like a fun way to present science concepts, which is what Mythbusters was all about. For now though, I encourage you to check out the playlist embedded above and have fun with some cool science facts and geeky knowledge.

 

Considering some Pi

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I’ve been toying with the idea of picking up a Raspberry Pi to play with. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a piece of pure hardware that you have to mold and shape into something. I’m actually coming late to the party on this, as the Pi is already on it’s third generation, and I know many people who have been using one for many years.

I got the idea to pick one up when I was walking through a store the other day and saw kits for sale. I started thinking to myself that maybe this would be something fun to do, and that I could make something useful with it. That’s where my dilemma comes in, as I’m not 100% sure what idea I want to go with. Here’s a couple of the thoughts I had:

  • Media server to serve up content that isn’t on a digital subscription platform
  • Retro gaming console, maybe with some controller integration through EmulationStation
  • Home automation server to start automating some of the appliance items around the house (similar to my old x10 days)

That’s where I want to ask my readers to chime in. If you were to pick up a Pi what project would you do? It doesn’t have to be one of the three above, I’m genuinely interested in any ideas that people might have. Toss me a comment or message with your thoughts, and maybe in a few weeks I’ll have something to show for it all!