I just calculated interns' hours as full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. If you're not familiar with this, it means adding up all their hours per week and dividing by 40 (for a 40-hour work week), which can give you the equivalent number of full-time employees. So we have 16 interns right now, but only two are genuinely full time. All their hours together come to 4.78 FTE interns! I think it will be closer to 6 during July.

Here's a graph of my FTE intern management experience over time:
 
 
I hate Powerpoint. Do you hate Powerpoint? Almost everyone I know hates it. Normally I don't write about technology stuff here, but this is important, because so many people give mind-numbingly boring presentations using Powerpoint.

I was recently at a conference, and was blown away by several presentations I watched by two presenters. I asked one of them afterward, and she told me she had used the web service called Prezi to produce the presentations. Below is the first presentation I made using Prezi. Without the benefit of our narration, you may not get much content out of the presentation, but you can see how the presentation looks and feels.
What makes Prezi amazing is two things, in my mind. First, it uses a completely different paradigm from Powerpoint. Prezi is not based on slides, and does not force you to chop up complex ideas into slide-sized pieces. It also doesn't force you to shoehorn a nonlinear idea into a linear format. The way it accomplishes this is through a completely different, non-slide paradigm. Instead, it provides you with a blank, endless canvas on which to formulate ideas and draw diagrams. You create a presentation by choosing a path through the canvas. This makes it easy to create a narrative that doubles back on itself, returns to earlier points, and shows hierarchical and interrelated ideas.

The second thing that makes Prezi amazing is its professional look and feel when presenting. When you create a path throughout your canvas, Prezi automatically zooms and rotates the view as necessary to focus on whatever you want to show your audience. The result is a wonderfully polished presentation. It takes much less effort to create a beautiful presentation than it would with Powerpoint.

Because of the ease of creating engaging presentations that don't oversimplify complicated issues, I would love to see more people using this web service. Try it out!
 
 
I once heard a story about a plant manager in a World War II airplane factory who radically increased his employees' production. The factory operated around the clock in three eight-hour shifts, and he achieved the improvement by writing on the wall the number of airplane engines completed by the previous shift. Each shift wanted to beat the previous shift's performance, and they worked harder to make that happen.

Whether the story is true, I don't know. But it illustrates an important point - that people want to do well, and it helps to show them how they're doing, and give them something to work toward. I personally believe that the competitive element is useful, but not necessary, for this point.

I heard this concept described another way recently. I was listening to a podcast about activism (I think on the excellent Big Vision Podcast, by Britt Bravo). The guest explained that people are often apathetic because they feel that their efforts are just a drop in the bucket. She said that drops can fill a bucket pretty fast, though. What's important is being able to see the bucket, and see all the other drops from other people, so we know we're making progress.

So the important thing is to provide some context, and show people what other people are working on, so you know you're not the only one working on something.

It was with this in mind that I printed a graph of our progress with our response letter backlog. My intern team does a great job of writing letters, but I think the seemingly-endless assignment of response letters must wear down on some of them. To use the metaphor from above, I wanted to make the bucket more visible by showing how many responses we had left. We have been making steady progress through our backlog, so I figured showing our team how we're doing would give everyone a bit of hope - we are doing well, and we're almost done!

I printed out a graph and showed it to the three interns in today, and asked them all to think about how we're going respond to everyone. I explained that I would show the latest graph every day to keep people aware of where we stood. I had expected a few more letters to come in, but was surprised to have nine letters in my inbox in the next half hour! What an effect!

We'll see whether this sort of effect is sustained over the long run, or if it is only a short-term boost that only occurs the first time I show someone the graph. But I have hope that it will really help give people an understanding of where we are, and remind people to focus on what they can do to help us get to our final destination.
 
 
Picture
I like maps - they're great examples of how to visualize things properly. Some data just shouldn't be displayed except on a map.

We have maps of Senator Steinberg's district, of course, but most of them are printed out. The maps we do have electronically are images on websites, which aren't interactive.

So I decided to create a map of Senator Steinberg's district so I could not only visualize it, but also use it.

I used CommunityWalk, an excellent website that uses the Google Maps API. I could have created and saved a map on Google Maps itself, but CommunityWalk has many more features, including the creation of different categories of markers, which can be toggled on and off. (On another blog I've written up a comparison between Google Maps and CommunityWalk.)

What's great about this map? Well, as I said, I love maps. But besides entertaining me, it also has real uses. For example, the system we use to determine whether an address is in our district or not doesn't always work - sometimes it chokes on the address, and claims the address is invalid. I can look up the address on our map, however, and find out immediately whether it falls inside our boundaries.

The map also allows us to map other points of interest within our district - for example, mapping our office locations, the locations of community centers, the boundaries of the 9th Assembly District (which Darrell used to represent), libraries, schools, the boundaries of neighborhood associations, etc.

Creating the map was an extremely painstaking process - CommunityWalk cannot import the data format most maps are stored in (I'm not familiar with that format, anyway). I had to manually enter each bend and turn of the district's boundaries, using a large physical map for guidance. Whew! But it was worth it.

I like maps - they're great examples of how to visualize things properly. Some data just shouldn't be displayed except on a map.

We have maps of Senator Steinberg's district, of course, but most of them are printed out. The maps we do have electronically are images on websites, which aren't interactive.

So I decided to create a map of Senator Steinberg's district so I could not only visualize it, but also use it.

I used CommunityWalk, an excellent website that uses the Google Maps API. I could have created and saved a map on Google Maps itself, but CommunityWalk has many more features, including the creation of different categories of markers, which can be toggled on and off. (On another blog I've written up a comparison between Google Maps and CommunityWalk.)

What's great about this map? Well, as I said, I love maps. But besides entertaining me, it also has real uses. For example, the system we use to determine whether an address is in our district or not doesn't always work - sometimes it chokes on the address, and claims the address is invalid. I can look up the address on our map, however, and find out immediately whether it falls inside our boundaries.

The map also allows us to map other points of interest within our district - for example, mapping our office locations, the locations of community centers, the boundaries of the 9th Assembly District (which Darrell used to represent), libraries, schools, the boundaries of neighborhood associations, etc.

Creating the map was an extremely painstaking process - CommunityWalk cannot import the data format most maps are stored in (I'm not familiar with that format, anyway). I had to manually enter each bend and turn of the district's boundaries, using a large physical map for guidance. Whew! But it was worth it.
 

Timeline

02/06/2010

1 Comment

 
Here's a timeline of my work and other projects.

If you want to see how much time I spent per week on various activities, see this post.
 
 
I was surprised when I actually graphed this out - I hadn't realized I was so busy! Between work and school, plus Davis Dollars, it makes sense, though.

You can see the summer breaks when I was at UC Davis, and during which I increased my hours for my mom's business, Barryscientific. (You can also see a timeline of all this.)

As Davis Dollars ramps up, and as work and my studies at USC continue, I don't expect free time any time soon. Good thing it's all stuff I love doing...
 
 
At work, in Senator Steinberg's office, we have a swell of interns every summer. The same happens with Davis Dollars interns.

2008 was when I really started supervising and managing other interns at work.

I worked on Davis Dollars beginning in the Fall of 2008, but didn't bring interns on board until the summer of 2009.