Achievement Unlocked

We had our little graduation ceremony today for the National Security Leadership Program that I've been participating in over the last year.  The result is being awarded a Certificate in National Security Affairs.

IMG_20150610_162951sWe got to meet with the Lab's Deputy Director for Science and Technology, Patricia Falcone, who handed out the certificates.  She came to the Lab just a few months ago from the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.  She knows Mike!

The certificate program consists of four graduate courses: Deterrence and Coercion (focusing on nuclear weapons), The Role of Intelligence in Security Affairs (focusing on intelligence agencies and operations), Terrorism in Today's World, and National Security Policy (history, structure, application of U.S. national security organizations).

It was definitely a different way of looking at the world and a very different way of writing papers.  A lot of time the papers I wrote I felt ended up being a bit hand-wavy, but then I'm used to writing papers where you have hard data with which to argue your point.

I have no idea what will come of my having participated in this program, but it was a good experience.  I enjoyed being back in a class room setting to really focus on interesting topics and at the same time I'm really glad I'm not a full-time student anymore.  It was really nice to be able to intelligently and maturely discuss controversial topics of national policy in a setting that doesn't devolve into name calling or logically defunct arguments.

Having been through it, I kind of wish passing these courses was a minimum requirement for any politician elected to a national office.

Spammers ruin everything

I've been forced to disable comments for older posts because there has been a spammer or spambot sitting on the site submitting garbage comments about every 10 minutes since Friday.

I'd prefer to not make you answer CAPTCHAs in order to post comments, but parasites like spammers ruin everything that isn't locked down.

For now, older comments will be disabled (comments on current posts are still available though).

Software Wine-Tasting

In the software world there is a term, "dogfooding," (shortened from "eating your own dog food") which describes the act of a team / company using the very software they build--usually as a critical part of their daily work.

That is, if you're the GMail team and you want to produce the best GMail service you can, you want your software developers, designers, managers, etc. all using GMail on a daily basis.  This will expose them to rough edges that need to be improved and the raw exposure will hasten the work to fix issues.  It also serves to show confidence in the product.  You might be suspicious of the quality of GMail if you heard that all the people that work on the product use something else.

This is all well and good for the kind of software that your own team can use on a daily basis.  But what if your software isn't an email client, or an instant messenger, or a music player?  The software I spend my time building is not software that I have any reason to use.  The customers/users are a specialized group of people.

I was having a technical discussion today with a group of software developers on this subject.  We recognized that dogfooding our software didn't make any sense in our environment, but it did make sense to sit down with our users and observe how they use the software and what seems to be confusing or slowing them down.  I described this process as "wine-tasting."  We're not consuming the product, we merely sample it in small quantities to try and understand it better.

So there you have it: if you can't dogfood your software, you should at least by wine-tasting it.