Revisiting My Web Site Redesign Checklist

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, May 01, 2015 at 12:22 PM with 0 comments

photo of The State of Your Web Site Web Redesign Checklist

There comes a time when we reevaluate something we are doing. This thing may be an ongoing activity or something is simply still “around” that requires little to no attention, but is something we are aware of. The thought process involved in determining to continue or suspend something can be interesting in itself, and can lead to a go or no-go or a change to what it is we are doing.

Among my seemingly too many projects and activities is something I am still proud of, but wondered if I should keep it out there. About 5 years ago I launched The State of Your Web Site within my former Web consulting firm. It is a checklist of 34 items which I felt are important to the vitality of a Web site. As I later wrote in a post about the process of creating it and naming it, a lot of work went into it. That being said, should I still keep it out there in the Internet eye?

The evaluation process boiled down to 2 points – 1 for and 1 against it. The con is the amount of time that Is needed to keep something like this current, as tools and technology and trends are always evolving and changing. As it is almost 5 years old now, there are some parts of it that are in need of updating. The pro, however, is that people still seek my advice on their Web site, despite that I no longer offer that as a service any longer (if they need someone, I simply refer them to Visible Logic). For that reason alone, I felt it was worthwhile to keep The State out there, and to spend some time to update it and keep it fresh.

Once I made this decision, another “pro” came to mind – this is a good way to keep my own Web skills sharp. As I am still in the profession of building great Web sites and Web applications, to have a “home” for my research and thoughts would be an ideal use for the checklist.

The first step of this process is to do just that – establish a new location to host and offer The State of Your Web Site. This will be the place where, when I review the checklist items and update it, I will post and announce the updates. What better place than right here, at The Hot Iron? Going forward, you will be able to find the latest post on The State at thestateofyourwebsite.com. Right now that link points to the very post you are reading. If a new post had more current information, the link will redirect to it. By clicking on the image at the top or this link you can view the original version of The State – as I said, it came out in 2010, and the list does need some updating, but as you review it you will find some “timeless” items to consider for your Web site.

As I work on updates to The State I of course welcome your thoughts and comments on it – on the list overall to specific elements within it. You can leave them as comments to this post or contact me directly. Your feedback will be vital to the validation of changes to The State of Your Web Site, and I thank you in advance for your time.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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photo of television test pattern art at Columbia College in Chicago

Where the Anchorman movies were a good laugh, weaved in between the puns was a story of both the “golden age” of local broadcast television and the genesis of cable television, which had a transformative effect on local television.

As I grew up in western Massachusetts, the local TV station to watch was WWLP channel 22 in Springfield, MA. It was an NBC affiliate who consistently was the ratings leader for news and local programming. Part of that local programming included editorials by the station’s president, Bill Putnam, which were highly informative, opinionated and entertaining. When I heard that Putnam and his then business partner (and now wife) Kitty Broman Putnam wrote a memoir about the formation and the behind-the-scenes of the operations of WWLP, I had to get a copy of it. That memoir, How We Survived in UHF Television A Broadcasting Memoir 1953-1984, includes insider information and photos about not only the founding of the TV station, but the UHF television band and entities like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Though there are many tales which are local to western Massachusetts, from places to politicians, it is a book for anyone who is interested in broadcast communications and its history. For someone like myself who is interested in that and local history in general, it is an interesting tale, spanning over 30 years, of the creation, evolution and positioning of a local television station during a time when broadcast television was evolving and positioning as well. It was of course interesting to learn the why’s and what-else’s about the TV station that I probably spent too much time watching during my own evolution and positioning.

Learning the “inside baseball” of WWLP (whose call letters come from Putnam’s full name, William Lowell Putnam) was of course a great takeaway for me from this book, but there were others that make this an interesting read for others, including:

  • Entrepreneurial ventures come different forms - When you think of a business labeled with the word “entrepreneur” one often thinks of a small space with a shoestring budget in a remote office. This was the case with WWLP, whose studios were atop a mountain and was built by Putnam and other staff. Where what you saw on TV looked polished and expensive, it was far from that, and the station also had a stable of investors who help funded the lean operation. Plus in those days, long before high-definition television, studio sets could have been made of cardboard colored by markers and you wouldn’t know the difference.
  • The tools are always getting better - This is a term I use quite a bit, especially when describing the evolution of my former Web consulting business, where changes in technology often drove changes in the business model. The same can be said for television, whether it was in broadcast transmitters or from black and white to color pictures. Being aware of these changes and having the capital – both money and time – to address and adapt to them is important in the survival and thriving of any business.
  • You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em - Putnam, Broman and company sold WWLP in the mid-1980’s and got out of broadcasting altogether. This was in the early days of the large expansion of cable TV across the US. Though local broadcast stations would get their signal carried on the cable, the revenue model for those same local stations was not defined, nor was it understood what the real impact of cable would be on broadcast. With this on the horizon, Putnam got out of the business early, at a time when he was able to sell for a good profit.

Though How We Survived… hasn’t made many national top-seller lists, it is an entertaining read. It starts technical where Putnam goes into the definitions of what the story of people and places is about. It then ends with recipes by Kitty Broman, who in addition to her leadership role hosted a daily TV show. One thing the book doesn’t do is get into too much detail about all of the various on-air personalities, and only mentions a few of them. One is Bill Rasmussen, who was the sports director at WWLP prior to founding ESPN.

As I do with all of the books I read, I like to give them to others. I am giving this to my friend Tom, as he grew up watching WWLP like myself, and lived near the access road to the mountain-top studios.

Have I convinced you to read this book? Have you read it? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Guest Post On The Barrel Of Monkeys Blog On The Big Wedding Gala Fundraiser

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 08:47 PM with 0 comments

Barrel of Monkeys logoThis past Saturday night, Barrel of Monkeys, a non-profit education arts organization in Chicago, held its annual gala fundraiser. Barrel of Monkeys teaches creative writing to schoolchildren in Chicago, and what the kids write is adapted into sketch comedy and performed by the same actor-educators who are teaching them. It is an amazing program that gets even more amazing results, which is why I am proud to be on its Board of Directors.

The fundraiser was called “The Big Wedding” and was based on a story written by a student in a past creative writing course. A performance of the sketch was part of the event, and it was a not-to-miss event on the city’s social calendar.

You can read my thoughts on the event in my guest post on the Barrel of Monkeys blog. After you read it, I welcome you to peruse the entire Web site and learn more about the entire organization, especially its weekly showcase of sketches, That’s Weird Grandma, which is performed every Monday night year-round (and Sundays for the month of April).

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, or are thinking of taking in a show, I welcome your questions in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Personify Plus Literally Put Me In Front Of The Class

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 08:35 PM with 2 comments

photo of remote presentation using Personify Plus with 3D camera and mobile app

Going into my recent guest lecture on blogging at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I know I couldn’t physically be there. This wouldn’t be a problem for the professor, Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen, as she has had remote guest lecturers in the past using Skype. Though Skype was also a viable option for me, it would not truly represent “me” as I would want it to – both in my presentation style and how I wanted to present my material.

Pondering this, I recalled a presentation I saw by my esteemed colleague Dr. Dietmar Schloesser, where he used a 3D webcam and software and the service from Chicago-based Personify where he literally “inserted” himself into his PowerPoint presentation which he was giving remotely. So I wondered, could I do the same, without adding unnecessary complexity to Dr. Hansen and deliver an engaging presentation to her classes that would be like me being there?

The Next Best Thing To Being There

Leading up to the lecture, I reached out to Personify and asked them if I could use their “technology” for the lecture. I use that term in quotes as I really had no idea what was involved in this, and to what extent the effort would be on my part as well as on campus at UW-O in the lecture hall. Thanks to help from Personify’s director of marketing Kira and solutions executive Nick, they explained the extremely straightforward concept, got me setup with their service and allowed me to use their office and one of their 3D cameras, when plugged into my notebook PC, allowed me to interact with the students some 4 hours north of me.

Using Personify Plus is similar to what a TV weatherperson does, where they stand in front of a large green screen, and the effect is that it appears they are in front of whatever image is selected, which is usually weather maps. With Personify Plus, the 3D webcam fulfills the role of the screen, where it isolates you the presenter (or presenters if there are more than one) from the background, then allows the image of you to be literally inserted into whatever presentation or what you put on your screen to share. In this case, I had a PowerPoint presentation. But as you can see from the photo below, I was able to bring up a weather map and use it just as any meteorologist would. Also notice the close-up of the 3D camera and the configuration panel on the left side of the screen.

photo of Personify Plus test with 3D camera and weather map

The Personify Plus software consists of a program installed on a PC or Mac that connects to an attached or installed 3D webcam, as well as to the Personify service. These are both intriguing elements of the Personify experience. Going into this, I really was not aware of 3D webcams, but they have been around, and more and more notebook PCs are being sold with them preinstalled. Also PrimeSense, the maker of the camera that Personify let me use, was recently acquired by Apple. Where everyone has been wondering what Apple would be doing with Beats headphones, I am more intrigued into what they could be doing with 3D! Also, the Personify service allows you to not only run presentations with you in them, but to record them as well. There is also a mobile app which, when logged in, serves as a remote control for the service, allowing you to make adjustments to your positioning as well as advance PowerPoint slides.

Putting it all together was very straightforward. Installing the Personify Plus software and mobile app were also easy. When I plugged in the 3D webcam, the drivers loaded, and then there I was, literally on my desktop. To transmit the presentation, I used Join.me, a free (and paid) screen sharing service. This was recommended by the Personify team as it had a much better streaming and video refresh rate than Skype or other services. So I connected with Join.me, went full-screen on my presentation and there I was, standing in the presentation.

I had to make small changes to the layout of my PowerPoint slides to allow for myself to not block any of the content on the individual slides. This process allowed me to rethink some of my presentation and what I was going to say as compared to what I put on the screen. It was my choice to use the lower quarter of the presentation, as I could have had myself be any size, which is a great option to have for just one person or multiple people.

Just As Successful In The Classroom

Where thus far I have talked about the technical and logistical aspects of my presentation using Personify Plus, what I have not mentioned – and what I was equally concerned about – was how it was received in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus. Even though I had discussed this fully with Dr. Hansen, she really didn’t know what to expect. And even though I have seen a presentation using all of this, I did not know how giving one myself would be like without the visual feedback you get from the audience, as this can influence what and how you present.

Fortunately, everyone’s expectations were exceeded with Personify Plus. It felt very natural for me to present, and the students in the classroom were engaged with my presentation, almost as if I was there. Feedback from Dr. Hansen was very positive, and so were the reactions from students in the class which they shared with the #uwonewmedia hashtag on Twitter.

The Next Level Of Online Presentations

I have sat through many webinars and other online presentations, and I admit that many times my full attention is not focused on it. Personify takes presentations to the next level not only with inserting the presenter but increasing engagement. I will sit there and watch all of a presentation, especially as the presenter or presenters themselves will also be changing, more like watching a video and not just a stack of static slides. Where I haven’t given another presentation since using Personify Plus, I am eager to, and have thought of other uses for it, everything from creating business videos to comedy and improv – similar to how many movies use green screens for background scenery, you could do the same for local actors on a small budget.

Have you seen a presentation using Personify Plus, or would you want to? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Takeaways From The Book One Word That Will Change Your Life

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 06, 2015 at 04:52 PM with 0 comments

Goals by nature are complex. At least that’s how I see them. As they segue to an action plan to achieve them, they must be clear and not too wordy, yet not vague or they will lose their meaning. Often times goals are “boiled-down” to a phrase or even one word for marketing and promotional purposes as a simple rally cry to those who are a stakeholder to these goals.

In the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page (not the guitarist), they propose you simply have 1 word as an overall goal for yourself for a year. They present a rather simplistic yet thoughtful process by looking inward, opening yourself up to discovering the word, then applying it to your year.

As I read this several takeaways came to me, including:

  • You need to find a process that works for you – The steps in this book may work for you, and also they may not. Sometimes it takes a book like this to help you though such a process.
  • Divine intervention is not for everyone – The book is based on faith in God in order to open one’s self to ”receive” their word for the year. This may be a turn-off for some, perhaps those who do not believe in a supreme deity. That being said, if you are a spiritual person, you can still follow this process without acknowledging a god to open up and find your word.
  • Maybe simple is all you need? – If you are typically someone who does not set goals, or are someone who belabors the process to do so, following a simple process in this short book may be exactly what you need.

As simple as the concept is for One Word, the book is as short. It was written to be read in less than an hour, and tells a good story on how the concept was formed, how it works and how it has been used by others. One Word was another book I owned and found when I moved – note there are more to come! I don’t recall the inspiration for getting it, but my guess it was its process meaning around goal-setting.

So I set a phrase and not a word

As I started 2015, I thought about this book that I had read a while back and decided to open up and see if I could come to a word to guide me through the year. As I reflected on where I was and what I was doing, what came to me was not 1 word but 3, and after trying to come up with a good 1 word for the 3, I decided to stick with the 3 – mix it up. As I am creeping up to my sixth decade on this planet, I often find myself getting a little stodgy and repetitive. I could be going to the same stores or reading the same blogs and sites or simply doing the same thing. Why not mix it up, expose myself to new things, foods, places, people, even if the change is slight. This way, I am making small, incremental changes in my life, which won’t seem as obvious while in the process.

For myself, I will use the hashtag #mixitup to mark things new and different for me.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on the concept of One Word and the book itself. Have your goals so far this year been a challenge and you’re looking for something new? Or have you followed One Word and chose your own? Please share in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Guest Post On The CorporateStays.com Blog

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 06:51 AM with 1 comments

CorporateStays.com logo

I was recently invited to write a guest post on the blog for CorporateStays.com, a service which matches luxury accommodations for travelers in select cities in the world like Montreal, Miami and Panama City. Digging into my experience with travel, I decided to write about tips for traveling in the winter months. My post, Travel Tips for Travelling to a Wintery Destination, is now live.

Where my typical writing is about business and technology, I file this under the “occasional diversion” I refer to in the description of The Hot Iron. The more I write, the more these come to mind, and the more these may be available to read by you and others.

Thanks to my good friend CT Moore and the staff at CorporateStays.com for the opportunity to write this.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Mixing It Up In 2015 And The Hot Iron Turns 8

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 02, 2015 at 07:52 AM with 0 comments

photo of 1983 Boston Red Sox program

Happy 2015! As today, the second day of January, officially marks the first business day of the year, and by now most have recovered from the merriment of New Year’s Eve, I would like to wish you all a great new year.

Where rolling to a new calendar also comes with resolutions, mine is simply to mix it up in 2015. I started the new year off much differently than I did in past years: sans kids, just me and my lovely wife at a Spanish restaurant, where just about every year that I can remember has involved Chinese food (a Boston tradition) and the past several years have been with our kids, even if they were sleeping in the next room. This was a fun change, and a great way to ring in 2015.

So in mixing it up in 2015, I am not looking to make major strategy changes, but smaller, incremental changes that I see as adding up to something bigger and better. Maybe I take a different route to go someplace, or a different approach to reaching out to someone, or simply wear a different color socks on occasion – I am hoping to stop and think when I get into doing something routine or that comes too natural to me, and think how to change it in some way.

The Hot Iron at 8

December 30 marks the official anniversary of the launch of this little blog which is now 8 years old. It’s almost wild to think I have been at this, at varying degrees, this long. Writing is something I have enjoyed more and more over time, and it has been both a creative outlet as well as a way to vent some of my frustrations over business and technology – the overarching theme of this repository. Whether this is your first time reading or you are a long time subscriber – thank you!

I have written an anniversary post of mixed sorts over the years, and if you’re so inclined you can read them for the following anniversaries of The Hot Iron: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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My Worst Managers Never Took Me To Lunch

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 12:02 AM with 0 comments

photo of menu at Starbucks in Gold Coast, Chicago

When I look back across my career at the variety of managers I have had, there is a broad spectrum of them from amazing to horrible and everything in between. As I was recently thinking of those I considered the “worst” – those whom I had a poor experience working with – a common denominator came to light that I feel is central to why things did not work out well.

They never took me to lunch.

More Than A Meal

Don’t get me wrong, I am not just looking for a free meal, nor do I think these people are cheap in any way. Frugality with a corporate spending account has come up in dealings with past managers, and for me it is near the bottom of the list.

The fact these managers did not take me to lunch goes well beyond the meal itself and its cost. It has to do with the overall action itself – getting out of the office, a 1-on-1 meeting in a different setting and the discovery and insight about each other that comes with the conversation over the meal. Or in short – the manager getting to know me better, and me getting to know the manager better. This deeper knowledge about a person is important for a working relationship, going beyond the surface and skillsets to truly get the most of that person, and ensure they are happy and satisfied in the work environment.

Meals Alone Don’t Make A Manager

Where I feel that the invitation and act of taking someone to lunch is important in a working relationship, it is not the defining moment for a manager if they do so. In all honesty, most all of the managers I have had in all my years have broken bread with me, some at least once and others on a regular basis. And those managers would be represented across the above-mentioned spectrum. Even those whom I would rank along the lower end of that spectrum, I feel by having had a meal with them, and getting to know them as more than what was written on their business card, outranks those few who did not take this time or see it as important.

My Own Experience With Meal Invites

Where I have been talking about being on the receiving end of a meal invite from a manager, in my own role as a manager over the years I have taken many people to breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, snack or food in some capacity outside of the office and away from the grind to have a conversation. Call it the Italian-American in me, or just call it effective, but this opportunity to further connect with a team member or colleague is a very important part of how I have been successful throughout my career.

Here’s a couple of ways I have integrated lunch and my teams.

Re-energizing After Being Dazed And Confused

It was one of those meeting where you sit there and wonder, with all of this brain power, could we possibly cure cancer? But alas in the end really nothing was accomplished other than puzzled looks on everyone's faces and bad tastes in everyone's mouths.

I was asked to come to an "emergency" meeting and to bring my developers and even my graphic designer. As the manager of the front-end design and development team part of my job was to be the conduit between my team and senior leadership, who called the meeting and the people who did the great things to make our application a reality. In short, I would shield them from the insanity of such meetings. However the requesters pulled rank - literally - and demanded all of us in the meeting.

To make a long story - and long meeting - short, we all didn't need all of the king’s horses and all of the kings subjects to be in the meeting, and after an hour or so we all staggered out of the meeting room with the above mentioned looks and tastes.

Once we all collected in the lobby I decided the team needed to be rewarded for enduring this, so I told them that I would be taking them to lunch. The meal would be on the company, but only if we did not talk about work; if anyone brought up work they would have to pay for their own meal. Needless to say everyone agreed. As we walked back from the restaurant, I realize that we had bonded even deeper as a team than we had before and learned a lot about each other's backgrounds and beliefs, and I feel it had a great impact on our teamwork going forward.

Not When But When I Want To

After joining a start-up company and signing my life away (and possibly my future first born) I was then given our business plan our operating guides, policies and procedures. Reading through all of it I noticed there was no mention about specific business expenses, namely meals. I raised this with our HR director who told me to talk with our CFO, and my conversation with him went something like this:

Me: “Hi Homer (not his real name), what is the policy on expensing meals?”
CFO: “Um, who are you taking to lunch?”
Me: “Members of my team, and others in the company?”
CFO: “Um, when?”
Me: “Whenever I want to!”
CFO: “Um…”

At that point I talked with the company president, whom I had interviewed and talked with extensively during the onboarding process to the company, and he knew my leadership philosophy and told me to take whomever, whenever, and to expense it. These meals, sometimes, at the local mall food court, sometimes at a sit-down restaurant, were integral to me getting to know the team I inherited at the start-up, who they were, what motivated them, and importantly issues they had within the company. Although I was only with the start-up for 6 months and 5 days (a story for another time!), it was a productive time and I got some great things out of our team.

More Than A Skillset

If you read other posts here at The Hot Iron you will see I talk quite a bit about managing and leading people, and it involves a deeper knowledge of who they are, in addition to what they do. Frankly, it just works for me – always has, and I believe it will in the future. Some have labeled my approach as “touchy-feely” and so be it – we all have our styles, and in the end it’s up to the person as to whom they want to work for. Needless to say, I am not looking to work again with those past managers who didn’t take me to lunch.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on my approach in the comments to this post. Has meetings over meals worked for you or not? Do you see it as a way to deepen a working relationship, or just fill your belly?


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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What I Learned From Writing What I Learned This Past Year

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 12:15 AM with 3 comments

photo of the last page of The Giving Tree

Earlier this year I decided to write weekly posts here at The Hot Iron about what I learned over the past 7 days. Over 8 months I wrote 32 posts sharing numerous things that I learned. I wrote the last one on August 29, 2014, which will be my last in this series.

Fun for me while it lasted

The catalyst for this topic thread was simple - I had too many things I learned and/or wanted to write about but not enough time to write the posts. As much as I would like to simply “bang out” my thoughts on the keyboard, for me the writing process is more elaborate than that, from the thought on the topic to writing, to editing, to an accompanying photo… it takes me time. That being said, writing is something I enjoy and is a great creative outlet for me.

Writing posts that were more of a collection of nuggets of information was a good idea at first and something that interested me. I was also hoping to write single-topic pieces as well. Over time though the thrill waned and then it got to where I was not writing one every week, then the most recent gap of a couple of months. As for those single-topic pieces, they were few and far between.

Back to where it began

I've decided to retire this thread and return to writing as I gave before - posts on single topics on business and technology and other occasional diversions. For those of you who are my loyal readers I thank you and I hope that you'll enjoy this change as well. As always, I will never fully promise any number of posts, but am hoping to at least write one a week.

Still learning

As I still get disappointed when a day goes by when I don't learn something, I am still logging those thoughts and will be sharing them on my Twitter account – you can follow me there at @thehotiron. Of course there may be more diversions than in the blog itself, as well as more conversations and other thoughts but I still share all the business and tech news with my unbiased opinion as much as possible.

I hope you won’t miss my “learned” posts – or will you? Please let me know either way in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Quick Poll – What Is The Work You Do Really To You?

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 02, 2014 at 11:15 PM with 6 comments

Is the work you do a vocation, career or simply a job?

This is the question I am asking in this quick poll. As I am reading the book 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal by Dan Miller, this question is the activity of day 6 of the 48, where one is supposed to discuss this with 2 people about what they do for work and if it is a vocation or their calling, part of the progression of their career path or if it is merely a job where they are collecting a paycheck.

I have decided to go wide with this query and am asking all readers of this post to answer this poll. In addition, I am interested in the discussion of why you made your selection and welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post. As the comments are moderated, you may respond anonymously, and providing you are not spamming the comments with ads for knock-off merchandise, I will post them.

Thank you in advance, and I am eager to see your votes as well as your comments as to if what you do for work is a vocation, career or job.

Please make your selection below - if you cannot see the poll question please answer the poll here.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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