Saturday, September 20, 2008

Writing in Cursive

My youngest son, a senior in an American high school, will be old enough to vote in the upcoming 2008 Presidential election. I helped him fill out his new voter's registration form with some trepidation, as I assume he will always lean in a completely different political direction than his father.

He went through the standard U.S. voter qualification checklist, claiming such obvious things as being of sound mind, being an adult, not being incarcerated somewhere, and so forth. When he was done with that, I said, "OK, when you sign here, be sure to use your full name."

"You mean, sign my whole name in cursive, even my middle name?" he asked in a disbelieving tone.

"Yes, that is your legal signature that you use for formal statements," I answered, wondering at what early age he stopped believing that I might sometimes be right.

"Well…" He paused and then admitted, "I'm not sure that I know how to write my middle name in cursive. I only use cursive for my first and last names."

What? He doesn't know how to write in cursive? I thought that every American third-grader learned to write in cursive!

But my teenage son not being able to write in cursive should not really come as a surprise to me. If you are never forced to use something you learned early in life, will you really retain it in memory or be able to use as an active skill when you are older?

Way back when I was in school, my teachers would explicitly state that some homework had to be written in cursive. Today, educators are probably instead telling children what file format to use.

"Remember children, I will only accept your essay on 'How I Spent My Summer' if it is in a Microsoft Word 97 format. If you have Word 2007, be sure to save in a backward-compatible format! (And no more PowerPoint, Billy!) Oh, and Arial 11, please. If you have any questions, text me. I will follow your Twitter to see how you are doing. OK, line up quietly at the door for dismissal. Don't forget your iPods!"

If you are the parent of a teenager (God bless you, by the way), see if you can get them to stop texting friends for 15 seconds and have a simple conversation with you. No hard topics, just a question or two. When did he or she last write a document in cursive? Is cursive writing important anymore?

If you are a vendor of legacy BI tools, ask your customers if they are still writing new applications in your technology. What? They are no longer writing programs in NOMAD, RAMIS, FOCUS, DYL280, or SQR? They own the product, have trained users, and still pay the annual license fees! When did they stop writing in legacy code?

Sometimes, people stop doing things that they did in the past. Things that we assume will always be done in the future. This declining usage may happen slowly and we do not always notice until long after the fact. Legacy BI tools, for example, may still be out there, installed somewhere on the enterprise, but they may not be actively used.

If your organization owns legacy BI tools, consider consolidating them to newer, more productive, technology. By the way, if you have a teenager, encourage them to vote (even if they are going to make different choices than you would).

1 comment:

Larry Eiss said...

Very nicely written, Doug. It reminds me of my style in the From Where I Sit column in the WebFOCUS Newsletter.

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I am a project-based consultant, helping data-intensive firms use agile methods and automation tools to replace legacy reporting and bring in modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics. For several world-class vendors, I led services teams specializing in providing software implementation and custom application development. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven methodologies and automated software tools.

During twenty years of technical consulting, I have been blessed to work with smart people from some of the world's most respected organizations, including: FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, graduating summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS BI and iWay enterprise integration products, and for over a dozen years served in branch leadership roles. For several years, I also led technical teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting.