Bits of Meaning: Towards a Computational Theory of Emotion (BOM-TAC-TOE Rough Draft)

December 24, 2021 § Leave a comment

[These are my initial musings. It may take weeks or months to turn these into a coherent analysis, so I figured I should publish them as-is to get them out into the world. Merry Christmas!]

Challenge Question: What is the minimum number of bits necessary to meaningfully simulate some aspect of an emotion? « Read the rest of this entry »

Psycho-Analytic Engineering (Coalesce 2021)

June 6, 2021 § Leave a comment

Using Data to Differentiate Our Selves

Keynote Talk Proposal for Coalesce 2021

Google Slides

Based on “DBT as Organizational Therapy

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DBT as the “Couch” for Organizational Therapy

May 13, 2021 § 1 Comment

Or, “How ELTT is the Key to World Peace”

Draft Submission Script for Coalesce 2021 « Read the rest of this entry »

SSO Login into Salesforce from Node via samlp SAML IdP

October 4, 2019 § Leave a comment


Documenting this in a blog post because it drove us crazy trying to figure out exactly what was involved, even though it was actually easy to implement once we understood all the terminology.

In order for our previously-authenticated users to automatically log into Salesforce, we needed to:

  1. Create a “/sso-url” on our node server for our web app to access
  2. When our web app GETs that URL, create and a return a SAML Identity Provider (IdP) using samlp
  3. That IdP is interpreted by the web browser a redirect to the Salesforce URL (returned by the function assigned to `getPostURL`)
  4. Salesforce just needs to have the IdP certificate and Entity ID in its SSO Settings

Below are additional details on why we needed this.

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A Spirited Defense of Consciousness

August 12, 2018 § 1 Comment

Dear Scott,

I finally found some deadlines to force me to put forward an account of consciousness. 🙂 Here it is.


The 3+1 Model of Consciousness

While rather simplistic, I have found it a useful model for clarifying my own thinking. The key innovation is defining Spirit as “the ability to reflect on our thoughts feelings and desires in order to decide what kind of person we want to be.” I equate Spirit with the interiority of your Ghost in the Quantum Turning Machine, while the boundary of the triangle defines the Digital Abstraction Layer. I sometimes use the terms self-awareness, attitude, and willpower as loose synonyms for Spirit.  I also plan to name you as both Prophet and Chief Skeptic of my newly-formed Cult of the Digital Abstraction Layer!

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The Celebration-Driven Church

October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

[A follow-on to Spreading Effective Vision and The Agile Church, addressed specifically to the Church Spread of Kingsway Community Church.]

In less than twelve months, together with the Holy Spirit, we have completely reinvented Kingsway Church.  While our overall numbers may be the same, we have spread to two new neighborhoods, dramatically expanded our pastoral staff, and filled much of our congregation with renewed vision for reaching our communities.

What if that was just the beginning?

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Spreading Effective Vision

October 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

While discussing The Agile Church and Metrics versus Goals, I realized that our organization’s primary motivation for adopting Agile practices is to spread the ownership of effective vision.

That is, we start with a shared belief that vision ought to be:

  1. Effective: timely, clear, actionable & aligned with the organization’s overall purpose
  2. Spread: distributed from the core leadership out to every member
  3. Owned: each person takes responsibility for how they implement that common vision

Working from there, we can adapt techniques from, e.g., Scrum, that will help our organization achieve that goal.

Here are what I consider the most powerful suggestions:

  1. Adopt a mindset of continuously developing and implementing new visions
  2. Care about improving how we do things, not just what we do
  3. Maintain a written backlog of “things worth doing/changing”
  4. Innovate in seasons of 4-8 weeks, tied to, e.g., a sermon series
  5. The leader (pastor) prioritizes 1-3 items from the backlog to focus on each season
  6. The team owns the vision (together) and its implementation (individually)
  7. Define the conceptual goal and practical metrics in terms of the value delivered to the customer (e.g., God)
  8. At the end of each season, celebrate what was accomplished (“thanksgiving”) and reflect on what did or did not go well (“confession”)

To me, the key is moving from strategic once-a-year vision-and-budgeting meetings for leaders towards tactical “sprints” that mobilize the entire organization (congregation).


This pace may sound a bit exhausting, but that very awareness forces us to alternate “productive” and “relaxing” sprints to keep the whole community healthy. It is already too easy to fall into ruts where some people never do much while others are continually burning themselves out.  A good process should make explicit important issues that were previously implicit, so we are forced to consciously manage them.

Metrics versus Goals

October 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

As a followup to my post on the Agile Church, our elder’s board is having a spirited discussion of the appropriate role of metrics and goals when leading a church.  My perspectives is that the main purpose of SMART Goals is to inspire operational metrics that enable continuous innovation.

In other words, knowing where we want to go is essential for prioritizing what we want to do; but, in an Agile world, we won’t know where we should be going until we get there.

To that end, I am deeply indebted to KISS Metrics for their article on How to Use a Single Metric to Run Your Startup.

“The One Metric That Matters (or OMTM) is a single number that you care the most about at the current stage of your startup (the OMTM will change).”

  1. It answers the most important question you have.
  2. It forces you to draw a line in the sand and have clear goals (defining success).
  3. It focuses the entire company.
  4. It inspires a culture of experimentation.

In particular, I love the point that “A rate or ratio is better than an absolute or cumulative value.”  Agile is all about improving velocity — doing better work with the resources we have — not contorting ourselves to reach arbitrary goals.

To be sure, finding the right metric for a non-profit is a perilous endeavor, in that the wrong choice can be devastating to individuals and the organization; of course, that is also true of for-profit metrics!  However, there is a growing body of research from impact investing that demonstrates the enormous value that is created when you do find the right metric .

The reality is that churches already measure crude metrics such as attendance and giving. Either we ignore them as irrelevant (at our peril), or we focus only on those (which could be worse).  I believe we owe it to God as our customer to wisely discern how  He wants our churches to grow in each “season”, and identify metrics to keep us accountable. Some possible metrics include:

  • First-time guests
  • Church members added
  • New baptisms
  • Number of regular, tithing attenders
  • Leaders trained/sent out
  • New ministry initiatives launched

There are no obvious right and wrong answers; the question is rather “What is a workable way to capture where God wants us to be growing?

To be clear, this is primarily a matter of spiritual discernment from the pastor (as the “Product Owner“). But, supporting that vision with the right metric will help flesh out the spirit!

The Agile Church

September 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

The modern church is typically structured like a 20th-century business, with distinct, mostly autonomous departments focused on executing an agreed-upon “business plan” that changes very slowly over time. The church adds a layer of relationship and prayer, and relies on volunteer labor, but overall mostly matches the model invented by Alfred Sloan at GMover 50 years ago.

The important thing to realize about this model is that it is optimized
for better doing the same thing over and over again — what’s known as
“disciplined execution.”  This is contrast to “rapid innovation”, which
is better done by small, high-performance teams.

For years, management theorists assumed that a single organization could not do both. This split is somewhat reflected in the historic distinction between “church” (execution) and “parachurch” (innovation).

In the last decade, a new approach to managing software projects has
emerged called “Agile“, which has achieved remarkable success at doing both
disciplined execution and rapid innovation. The key cultural values

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

If that sounds a bit foreign to the church, try reading it as:

  • People and relationships over processes and tools
  • Transformed lives over written agreements
  • Glorifying God over fulfilling the Law
  • Responding to today’s culture over following tradition

The critical term is “over”: the items on the Right side are still valued, but are explicitly subordinate to those on the Left.

These aren’t just nice-sounding values; there are very specific structures, practices, and choices (e.g., Scrum) that flow out of (and can help create) this shift in mindset.

Further, there is an ongoing movement called Stoos to apply these practices beyond software to the general problem of organizational management. Interestingly, many of the attributes of “Stoosian” organizations matches what we want to see in our churches:

  • The workers, not the leaders, “own” the work they do.
  • The job of leaders is to articulate the needs and desires of the Customer (in this case, God) in way workers can fulfill.
  • The measure of work is not how much we do, but how much value we deliver to the Customer.
  • Everybody takes responsibility for improving how we do things, not just what we do.

I believe there is enormous opportunity for the church to radically improve how we “delight our Customer.”  Below are some early attempts. I look forward to further dialogue around this issue.

Agile/Scrum in the Church

Excerpt from “Scrum in Church”

The ways we organize ourselves, the structures we create to order our lives, and our work, reflect our deepest theological understandings. How is power understood? Does it flow from on high? Does it emerge from the people? Does it take a completely different configuration? Who benefits? What is most highly valued? What cognitive styles are preferred? What or who is on the margins? What is not seen because it cannot be imagined? Who is not “like us”? How do we treat them?

One of my favorite questions as I enter a congregation is “How does power flow around here?” One answer I’ll never forget is, “Well, it’s sorta like water in a bathtub, it sloshes.” We laugh, perhaps in recognition?

In short, the ways we live, what we do, and how we do them reflect one’s deepest values.

Can Startup Thinking Solve the Innovator’s Dilemma?

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I discussed theories about how and whether Apple has solved the Innovator’s Dilemma, I neglected to mention my favorite theory:

Institutionalizing Startup Thinking (IST)

Apple has solved the Innovator’s Dilemma by institutionalizing startup thinking.

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