The Information Workshop

Information Interface • Human Connection • The Art of the Explanation

Confusion is the scourge of the 21st century.”
– Mark Halvorson

Confusion is caused by oversimplification, being gaslighted, our own cognitive biases that confuse us, the fallacies others use to confuse us, the trap of conventional thinking, traditions, shame (causing changes in our behavior to avoid the the potential loss of connection with others), altered states of consciousness (alcohol, drugs, horniness, anger, depression, etc), an education on any topic that’s “haphazard, incomplete and out-of-sequence,” peer pressure, complexity, typecasting people instantly by the way they look, further fooled by the “masks” people wear, the news and media, movies & TV shows, social media, politicians, advertisements, clickbait, those with closed-loop minds, and relationships. Did I forget anything?  And a scourge is a thing that causes great trouble.

This site is pretty much my About Mark Halvorson page, and Information Workshop is the name of the consulting company I’ve owned for over 30 years.

What follows below includes what I’m currently up to, some things I’ve done, and a bit of my ancient history.

I am what people would refer to as a polymath – someone who has a wide variety of skills that can be used together to produce remarkable results.

I only know how to work on things that have never been done before. And looking back on my long career of having done only that, it’s also clear that my work seems to be centered on my deep desire to make things simpler and easier to understand. Simplicity allows us to rise to a higher level of accomplishment given the fixed amount of time and effort we each have. Life gets bit easier as a result.

Information Interface is similar to “user interface” in computers in that it’s the study of how we humans interact with information.  It can get complicated, but the objective is to help make our interaction with information, here in the information age, as friction free as possible.  When we ignore it everything gets messy and confusing, just like it is when we use a piece of software and it’s user interface is poorly designed and it’s messy and confusing.

And as for me, if I may humbly say so myself, I have a big heart, I love to laugh, I look after everyone around me, I love showing people things they haven’t seen or thought of before, and I can’t have too many connections to other people (which is what the animated connecting lines above represent). 

Here are some of the things I’m working on…

21st Century Man Movement + Handbook

Men helping men get fit in all 12 areas of life so the best in life shows up for us is our motto that explains it all.  This is a planet-wide effort by men to elevate the lives of all men.  I’m the founder of the movement and the principal author of the handbook that’s at it’s center.  

The movement + handbook combination takes a very 21st century approach, presses the reset button and leaves behind the things that don’t serve us, and for the first time structures both the best existing resources and a lot of new resources to give all men significantly greater traction with whatever it is they’re up to. 

This is the antidote to the massive confusion men suffer from without needing to see ourselves as broken and then needing to be fixed. Instead it takes a fitness approach that provides immediate results in the same way that going to the gym does for our bodies.

Once a man checks out what’s happening here, he will see clearly what’s been missing!  It’s quite surprising, fun and compelling.  

It’s ancient wisdom that whatever it is, we can’t do it alone so us guys are helping each other get fit in all areas of our lives, together, by tapping into the powerful force of brotherhood as we do in the military, sports teams, fraternities, etc.

Check it out at 21cMan.org.

The Clear Thinking Campaign

Since confusion is the scourge of the 21st century, and we’re getting a heavy dose of it here in 2020, there’s only one antidote.

The reason confusion has taken such a stronghold is that the general population is ill-equipped to handle it. The gap between the increasing complexity and purposeful confusion in the world, and the general public’s ability to deal with it, is increasing exponentially.  What to do?

Critical Thinking Skills were born 2500 years ago thanks to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many others. But these skills still haven’t made their way into the general population and they remain stuck in academia. There’s no reason for this.  (We do know that those in power love that the population can be swayed emotionally more than by logic and reason.)

For the first time, someone, me, is making an attempt to get Critical Thinking Skills the last mile, into the homes and minds of the general population so that all of us can more easily sort out the confusion and gain more traction in our lives.  What are the things that make this possible?

What we can do is make it a team sport – family, friends, relatives, co-workers. And keep it simple. And we do everything in our power to not make people feel like they’re in school.  So we call it “Clear Thinking” and make it a campaign like a political campaign – with a goal in mind.

In the field of Critical Thinking Skills I’m just shy of being at the expert level and have been studying and practicing hard for decades.

I’m also an educator and expert in the area of Information Interface – making complicated things understandable and usable by all of us. We’re all smart enough but we’re also very busy, and skill-building takes repeated effort.

The ClearThinkingCampaign.org website is a project that I’m working on to get everyone involved.  It utilizes something we all do 24/7 when we “Learn By Noticing.”  All we have to do is get people to notice these 12 things happening around them (pictured above) and talk about them with the people around them and they’ll help each other learn the basics of critical thinking skills without even being aware of it.

I'm the IT Manager at MPA Architects, Inc.

I’m a computer geek first and foremost.  

I wrote my first program at age 15 in 1968.  In college in the mid ’70s I designed spacecraft-class fault-tolerant microprocessor-based computers for deep ocean research at the Institute of Geophysics within Scripps Institution of Oceanography that’s part of UCSD in La Jolla, California.  That was the big start of my 40+ year computer career and since then I’ve designed a lot of hardware, managed complex networks, written software in over 25 languages, and implemented all sorts of technology.

In 2013 a friend asked me to stop by the architecture firm he worked at because his computer was super slow and had issues. I was blown away because all the architects were using single 4:3 monitors running AutoCAD 2002 on slow hard-disk based PC’s running WIndows XP.  Eeeesh.

Now, seven years later, everyone has multiple HD monitors, fast PC’s with SSDs, and they’re using AutoCAD 2020.  Some of the guys are using my handcrafted super fast liquid-cooled PCs (shown at right). Even the phones are internet based and integrated with the software. All work can be done in the office, in the field, or anywhere in the world. (That’s been well tested!)

Currently I’m implementing the BQE Core software system that manages the hundreds of architecture projects they work on per year, and Core takes care of of project management, company accounting and a lot more. There’s so much to do!  

MPA is a fast-paced, high-pressure, mission-critical place and if any of the technology is down for even 20 minutes all hell breaks loose!  Gotta keep it humming.

Well, this is a job I really love that also pays my bills while I work on my blockbuster projects above.  All the people there are now family and I look after them and their technology.  

One of the best parts of this story is that MPA Architects is located 3 blocks from my house!  The commute is terrible!

Check us out at mpa-architects.com.

Website Development

I think I created my first website in the late 90’s. Boy have things gotten so much better!  I create all my WordPress websites from scratch using Elementor, BeaverBuilder and other tools like that.  My website designs are all unique and pretty nice if I may humbly say so myself! 

Click the links below to check them out.  (They’ll open in a new tab/window.)

Videography

In 2015 I bought my first videocamera and discovered that I had always wanted to be a documentary filmmaker.  Since then I have been learning the basics of the craft.  I’m about to make my first series of documentary style videos in 2020.

In 2019 I completed the construction of my own video/podcast studio and we’ve completed basic tests and have all the lighting, cameras, audio and editing equipment in place and ready to produce content, content, content!

Over the past 5 years I’ve learned just about everything related to video production.  Below are some samples of over 60 videos I have shot, edited and distributed.  I do all the camera work and all the post production including color correction, effects, graphics, sound, and have my own distribution platform on Vimeo.  The bulk of my videos are of entrepreneur-related panels, events, pitch-fests, etc.  I was clever and got to attend paid events for free in return for shooting the video and got to learn about entrepreneurship and make important and life-long connections.

Feel free to sample the videos below.  And if you only watch one, watch the short and fun Old Town Model Train Depot video. The list of nine videos scrolls when you hover the mouse or tap with your finger near the top or bottom of the list. Tap/click the Full Screen buttons from within the video itself for the full experience.

Public Speaking

In 2016 my epic friend and business partner Andy Bayon (on the left sticking out his tongue) noticed that when I got up in front of the camera I didn’t know what I was doing.  

Andy had gone to Toastmasters before when he had to give a best man speech at a wedding, and he went and found us a nearby Toastmasters club called Career Builders (the #2 club of over 150 clubs in San Diego county that’s existed for 20 years).  We stayed in that club for around 4 years and I was it’s president for one year and held other positions as well.  I’ve given over 60 formal speeches in the club.

In 2017 I entered a speech contest and got second place, giving an out-of-the-ordinary speech about The 21st Century Man. This is the picture from the contest with my friends.

From 2001 to 2015 I gave an annual 90-minute lecture at UCSD in the Teacher Education Program and taught teachers how to teach human sexuality using the five fingers on their hand, and an easy way to understand how HIV works using the candy Mentos.

I’ve spoken in many other small venues and I’m now ready for prime time, and in front of the camera too!

Entrepreneurship and Personal Development

Back in 2012 I was tired of doing computers and was ready for the next thing in my life. I bumped into an entrepreneur prep group called Here And Now started by Jon Block. This is where I met Andy Bayon and Ryan Brolliar (4th and 7th in the picture) with whom I would develop a deep bond and brotherhood, and ultimately start a business together with Andy Bayon. 

Since then every last one of us in this picture has gone on to do amazing things. I’ve also done tons of personal development seminars, groups and events, and even put on two San Diego Entrepreneur Summits with my buddy Matt Valdespino.  I think Landmark Worldwide had the most profound and empowering affect on me by far.  I’ve done the full Curriculum for Living™.

Along the way I made a few attempts at businesses that fizzled, which is what’s supposed to happen as we fail forward, and it wasn’t until I started giving speeches on my favorite topics at Toastmasters that the thing I was actually going to devote the rest of my life to formed itself right in front of my eyes over about a year’s time – the 21st Century Man Movement + Handbook.  Amazing how life works. 

My Beginnings

This is text from my first Information Workshop website from about 10 years ago, and I’m including it here as is.  It’s amazing and fun to look back on things I’ve forgotten about, and seeing how things that rang true in the early years are still a big part of my life to this day.

Only read this if you’re curious to know more.

When I was eleven years old my dad gave me a crystal radio (the simplest radio possible with only 3 parts) and I started learning electronics hands-on (and listening to the Beatles’ new releases). When I was fifteen I wrote my first computer program. At sixteen I had a full-blast spiritual awakening (not religious). And when I was seventeen I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook at San Diego High School. 

These four experiences from 1964 to 1971 represent the four foundations of all that’s followed in my life thus far — hardware design, software design, leadership, and the understanding of life on Earth — all while relentlessly pushing the envelope, doing things that haven’t been done before, and being insatiably curious to this day.

Looking back on the timeline of my life thus far I can now see almost 5 decades of arcs of quite varied experiences, mostly amazing and some not so great (but still essential learning experiences).  Interestingly, they all seem to have set me up to pursue my next great adventure here in my upcoming sixth decade.

All of us humans are so different, and I’m no exception, and that diversity is something I rely on.  I’ve learned I can’t do anything alone, and I depend on collaborating with the greatness of others so that we can make great things happen.

The Longer Version

Like a typical geek, I wrote my first program at the age of 15 in 1968 on an Olivetti Underwood Programma 101, and I instantly knew what I loved. (It was so long ago that its memory was a long wire coiled inside, mechanically circulating the bits on the wire with a “speaker” on one end and a “microphone” at the other.)

I wanted to be a psychiatrist too, but I also knew I didn’t have the skills at that time to make it through medical school.  So when I arrived at that fork in the road, I went with computers. It turned out to be the right call.  But my keen interest in psychology and human nature has always remained, and my current interests involve it to a large degree.

As for software, I’ve programmed in over 25 languages and currently work in Objective-C on the Apple platform.  I’ve written software for a myriad of machines from B7700 mainframes in Algol-60 while I was majoring in Computer Science at UCSD, to PDP 11/70 minicomputers in C, to Z80 microprocessors in assembly language.  From PCs and Macs to iPhones and iPads.  At one point in the mid 90’s I particularly had fun being expert with HyperCard/SuperCard and I created packages of XCMDs (compiled extensions to the scripting language) which provided internet access.  I also developed concurrent XCMDs.

As for hardware, I’ve designed spacecraft-class fault-tolerant microprocessor-based computers for deep ocean research while I was the Principal Engineer in Walter Munk’s group at the Institute of Geophysics (IGPP) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  (The photo at right is the view from the institute’s conference room.) That was the coolest job I ever had!  

After that I worked for a small consulting firm called Sorrento Valley Associates and we designed hardware and software for scores of clients, including software that would look up genes in the National Gene Bank (now NCBI) for La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation (now Sanford Burnham Prebys), and the user interface for a diagnostic probe for the fusion test reactor at General Atomics (the reactor was scary).  

I’ve also designed simple interface cards for the Apple II and IBM PC among various other hardware projects in the geophysical field. 

Designing hardware and software for science has given me a broad multi-disciplinary experience with substantial familiarity with geophysics, physics, and molecular biology. 

Well, I’ve pretty much done and seen it all, since before there were monitors, hard disks, or chips. Looking back, I can say that things took a big turn when I got the August 1981 issue of Byte Magazine, which I still have. Here’s a picture of me holding this almost 40 year-old copy very gently.  It contained 13 articles on this new world of object-oriented programming and the strange but somehow familiar graphical user interface.  

In 1982 I was hired as Director of R&D at a startup called CATSystems (Computer Assisted Telemarketing Systems – yeah, I know, telemarketing, booo!)  We bought an Apple Lisa computer and me and my team of seven engineers figured out how it worked, and soon had overlapping windows, icons, mouse interaction, and a rough voice-annotated database all working on an IBM PC just four months before the Macintosh was introduced in 1984.  But the investor was burning money too fast on this ambitious design and he pulled the plug. Everything was thrown away and he started Emerald Systems making external hard disks and became a millionaire, again. (sigh)

In 1984 I started a company called the Computer Workshop and started teaching people how to use these new kinds of systems, but my company eventually became irrelevant because, by design, this kind of interface should be obvious to most everyone.

My life so far has been a stream of widely-varied experiences which all involve understanding and tackling complexity.  And then turning around and using the Art of the Explanation to teach it/explain it to others.  And slowly but surely my mixed bag of experiences has curiously converged together and set me up to conquer my next big thing.

The Information Workshop

And now I’ve become keenly interested in “Information Interface” and the great difficulty we humans have in dealing with the overwhelming complexity of the Information Age and the 21st Century in general.  It’s a human coping mechanism to think things are fine, but there are those of us who see the problems all too clearly, and painfully so.  I started The Information Workshop in 1989 to tackle complexity using the things I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve discovered in American entrepreneurism.

The word “workshop” refers to the approach, whereby I and all the people in orbit around me work to develop ways to push the envelope in applying simplicity against the complexity in an equal and opposite direction.  The purpose is so that we can then do more with the fixed amount of effort we have available to us.  But at the same time, it’s important to have the critical thinking skills to deal with the great complexity of our time and the oversimplification that results, and find the optimal middle ground.

So, Information Interface refers to understanding how humans interface with information, just like user interface understands how people interface with computers and devices.

The Art of the Explanation refers to the means of better discussing and describing complicated things.  It’s an art, a science, and what I consider a technology.  I’ve been developing that technology for the last 20+ years and it’s a big deal to me.  It’s a big mountain to conquer and I continue to push the envelope.

Transformations

I’ve completed all four parts of the Curriculum for Living from Landmark Worldwide.- the Landmark Forum, the Advanced Course, the Seminar Series, and the Self Expression Leadership Program.  Simply put it was one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life, both for me personally and in my business life.  It is now the point of reference for my business life moving forward.

© 2020 Mark Halvorson.  All Rights Reserved.