Yesterday my friend Chuck asked me how I have the time to write for my blog. I told him that doesn't take as long as it would appear, as I usually write and edit the first draft in my head before I type it.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with someone recently (sorry, I forget who) about the concept of making time. Unless you are a supreme being, super hero or maybe even Adam Sandler, we don’t have any control of time itself – it's what we do with the time that we have control of. Or as it appears to me and many people, we don't have control of.
I have found that it's about scheduling time, not making it. Open-ended appointments usually don't happen or do not go as well as they should, usually due to lack of preparation. I strive to schedule appointments, prepare for them, and execute on them efficiently. The fact that the appointment is written down also adds a level of accountability to the meeting or event.
This has worked well for me. Does anyone else have other ideas on scheduling time?Diversions • (2) Comments • Permalink
LaLa.com is a CD swapping service. It is a true Web 2.0 application in its functionality, and in this case it works well as getting pop-up details on CDs and artists is a great help. I literally ran into this service at the main post office Chicago over the holidays of all places – there was a giant sign in the lobby. Here’s how it works in brief: you create a free account, list CDs you are willing to swap, then you search for CDs you want, and initiate a swap. Shortly thereafter you get a set of special mail envelopes (thus the USPS connection?) and CD cases that fit nicely in them. If someone initiates a swap for a CD you have made available, you register the code on the special envelope and you are given the address of whom to send the CD to. There is a charge of $1.75 for each CD you receive.
Out of curiosity I signed up, and have sent and received a few CDs without problems – only mail delays over the holidays slowed some deliveries to almost a month. The CDs are coming directly from members, and sometimes there are notes on the back of the envelope. On the back of a Throwing Muses CD I just got, there was a note from the sender hoping that I was as much of a Muses fan as they were. No fear, as my college radio days in the late 80’s, complete with skinny leather ties and gelled spiky hair, says it all.
Though I don’t know how many CDs I will post, I am wondering how long it will be around. Once I receive a CD, it goes onto my list of CDs available. So am I supposed to send it back out? That should be a huge red flag to the lawyers at the RIAA. The $1.75 comprises 75 cents for postage and $1 for the service, with a portion – 20% - going to a foundation to support performing artists. Not sure how that will be executed on, but maybe it will keep the lawyers away for a bit. Now I will go see if I can complete my Husker Dü collection.Technology • (2) Comments • Permalink
This Thursday, January 25, 2007 is the next TechCocktail. As you can guess by the name, it is an tech networking event where drinks are served. This is the third of what has become a quarterly event, and will be held at Amira at the NBC Tower in Chicago.
I went to the first one, missed the second, and I am looking forward to this one. Its success can be contributed to many reasons. It was heavily promoted on blogs, and as a result brought in a wide variety of people in technology including programmers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, venture capitalists and lawyers. As a quarterly event, it is not overdone, and still has momentum. And free admission and drinks aren’t a bad thing either.
TechCocktail's success is in its simplicity, and that’s why I think it will be around for a while. Many user groups or other organizations fail because of the complexities of their services and offerings. As well, when there is a turnover in the organizers, it is hard to regain much of the momentum the group had. I have seen this personally with tech user groups as well as established organizations like the Jaycees, and it falls in line with the team development model of forming, storming, norming and performing.
Are you going to TechCocktail? Hope to see you there!Business • Technology • (0) Comments • Permalink
I just got off the phone with a good friend, QA guru and fellow entrepreneur Eric Patel, and he used this phrase in our conversation, and it's one I have to share:"It's not in the encouraging column..."
I'll make sure to use that to put a positive spin on my next not-so positive encounter.Diversions • (0) Comments • Permalink
Years ago I worked for a large international company who was a partner with Microsoft. The partnership was so strong we had a full-time Microsoft consultant on our development team. This was a huge benefit for us, as we had access to a top individual, plus their access to double-secret knowledgebases and internal communications. At one point, we were working with newly-launched technology and when we had a question on it, we literally had the Microsoft management for the technology on the phone.
I just got back from attending an afternoon roadshow put on by Salesforce.com. I am working with it for one of my clients, and I attended to learn more of the meat from the hype. Needless to say, my head is swirling with ideas and things I need to investigate further.
A new offering Salesforce has is its "AppExchange Incubator," which is office space made available to start-up companies who are developing applications to run on the Salesforce platform. The concept is that you are in a Salesforce office, along with Salesforce staff and other start-up companies. Not only do you get the benefit of having incubator space and its trappings, but by direct contact and osmosis you will be more successful. A single cubicle is reportedly $20,000 a year.
Some may say this is a steep price – how many people will fit in single cube anyway? But if you look at it from a learning-curve perspective, and depending on what your business model is, it can more than pay for itself. Developers of Salesforce add-ons sell them through AppExchange, an iTunes for software if you will, which is built right into the Salesforce platform.
When I heard about this, the first thought in my mind was why Microsoft never offered anything like this. Then again, having companies pay you rent is right in line with Salesforce’s subscription-based business model, not one-off licenses like Microsoft. The folks in Redmond could learn from the folks in San Francisco, maybe more than from the folks in Mountain View?Business • Technology • (0) Comments • Permalink
Today Netflix, the popular DVD-by-mail service, announced it will begin offering the ability for customers to instantly watch movies over the Internet. You can read their press release here:
As a Netflix customer and someone who likes to see companies break from the mold of purely physical music and video, this is a step forward. Though it is only available to Windows PC users, I think it will be popular as they are planning a phased approach and have worked it into their existing pricing model. This way, you should actually be able watch a movie without the servers being taxed too much, and you won’t have to change anything to do so.
Of course this enhancement is not perfect. You are not downloading a video to watch at your convenience, you are watching a streamed movie on your PC. Also, not all movie titles will be made available for viewing. But after waiting weeks to receive DVDs over the recent holidays, it will be a nice option to have, and an even nicer choice when Comcast’s On-Demand service does not have anything I am interested in, which for me was the catalyst for signing up for Netflix in the first place.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the movie industry to this offering – will they jump on the bandwagon, or just make their back catalog available? It is a step by a major player in the direction of a pure digital world of watching or listening to whatever, whenever, a step towards convergence that is easier to use without having to buy a pricey, flat-screen telephone.Business • Technology • (3) Comments • Permalink
I start my mornings with the TV news on in the background, with the hope that subliminally I will retain the overnight activities of the world. On occasion, there is a useful nugget from a guest on a non-news topic that sticks in my mind, and today it was the topic of words.
The author of Words That Work, Frank Luntz, was on the tube stumping his new book. He is a political consultant and the example he gave was from the 2004 presidential campaign, comparing the words spoken by John Kerry, which tended to reflect his Yale education, and the words by George W. Bush, which… um… tended not to reflect his Yale education.
As this was swirling in my head, another good work on words came to mind. Dr. Peter Meyers of Tminus2 Consulting wrote a "geek guide" (a.k.a. white paper) on the topic of Speaking geek to customers which he makes available on his blog, debabblog. It offers good advice for technical folks in talking to clients or customers about technology without causing their eyes to roll to the back of their head.
Now the classic 80's song Cult of Personality by Living Colour is playing in my head, with its edited quote from Malcolm X, “[w]e want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” Though I can't recall what today's weather forecast is.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
Business • Technology • (4) Comments • Permalink
I don't receive as many email newsletters as I used to. Part of it is due to reading the same content in the author's RSS feed, part is due to an effort to reduce the volume of email newsletters I receive. Of course, I always welcome email from real people!
One newsletter I look forward to reading every morning is from Perfect Customers, a firm that offers training on how to attract and retain your best customers. With no disrespect, this is a touchy-feely, motivational email. It offers tips to give you a boost as you start your day. But it is welcome among the spam and the latest news on what Web 2.0 company has been sold.Diversions • (2) Comments • Permalink
As today I experienced two incidents of what I would consider poor customer experiences – both before noon – I thought I would share a couple of positive encounters I recently had with large companies.
Realizing the problem
Did you know you can pretty much return a Staples-brand product at any time for a replacement or refund? When I returned a shredder several months back, the clerk and on-duty manager did not know that. After realizing the cost of shipping a shredder for repair, as the manager advised me to do, would cost more than the shredder itself, I went to the form on the Staples Web site and submitted my problem.
Within four hours, I received a call from the assistant manager of that Staples store – not from the headquarters – apologizing for the problem and offered to process the exchange personally plus a coupon for a future visit. By the end of the day, I was back shredding and wondering what to buy next from Staples.
Not their problem, but still
Midway Airport in Chicago has two gates for AirTran Airways that are down what appears to be an add-on corridor from the main concourse. It’s an interesting setup, as it literally hovers over the exterior wall of the airport. Realizing that flyers would be taken aback by this, AirTran has several humorous signs along the way, which help make the trek easier. What is not down the corridor are recycle bins (there is also not a rest room, but I digress). As I had a stack of just-read magazines to throw in a typical Chicago blue bin, I managed to get to the main concourse and make it back to the gate before my flight took off.
I know this is clearly an airport issue. However, I decided to contact AirTran, and went to the form on their Web site and submitted this issue. Within 24 hours, I got a personal reply to my query. They acknowledged that it was not their direct responsibility (as I stated in my submission) but offered to forward it to airport management. The respondent thanked me for flying AirTran, and also for recycling – clearly not a purely canned response.
It’s nice to think happy thoughts, isn’t it?Business • (0) Comments • Permalink