As someone who has worked with computers for more than three-quarters of my life, I can say without boasting that I have a decent proficiency with them. Where I don’t know everything about every piece of hardware or software out there, I can usually get my way around with some analysis and troubleshooting.
The longstanding line, “computers are supposed to make our loves easier” seems more like a fleeting goal for many people. Due to my technical experience, I am often held in a higher regard by those who are more tech novices, namely when something they may not understand or are having trouble with comes more naturally to me.
Don’t get me wrong – ego stroking every once in a while is a good thing! But in all reality it mostly isn’t warranted. Whenever I get a large abundance of praise or witness someone denigrate themselves over their lack of technical knowledge, I usually look at them and smile, then I explain to them the reason why I am smiling.
Why? We all have our place.
My skill and ability with computers overshadow things I can’t and mostly don’t want to do. I can’t iron a shirt without making it look worse than what I started with, I can’t lay tile, I can’t bake, I can’t ice skate, I can’t use a SLR or DSLR camera… and the list goes on. But do I care about these things I can’t do? No. Why? Because others can do them, do them well and I look to them for those tasks and services.
Years ago I was at a friend’s business, an auto body shop. When I was there, he couldn’t figure out how to do something on his computer and asked for my help. I don’t recall exactly what the task was but I do recall figuring it out rather quickly. When I showed him what I did, he was flabbergasted and expressed how stupid he felt that he couldn’t have figured it out for himself.
Then it was my turn. I smiled and said something like, “dude, we all have our place. I know computers, and you know cars. You can take a twisted hunk of metal and turn it back into a Mercedes. So when you have a computer question you call me, and when I get into a car accident I call you.” He’s a smart guy and he agreed with my logic.
So the next time you feel frustrated over something you don’t know, think about what you do know and what your place is in helping others. Plus I have to admit – I get baffled with a lot of technology issues I run into and completely sympathize with you that many things are not more intuitive.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
So why the frustration? For me personally, as I switched to Fever last year, losing the service won’t impact my personal consumption of information via RSS feeds. Before I get into it I’ll offer up an explanation of what RSS is – if you are already in the know you can skip it or go ahead and read it to critique my approach to defining it.
So What Is RSS?
For those who are reading this please note I will not try to get too technical, rather explain the process. RSS is a method of informing of new content published, It is achieved by posting some or all of that content and related meta data, links, inages, etc. to a data file. This data file has a particular structure as it is formatted in the XML language (I won’t get into XML here, but if you must follow this link to learn about XML). That data file is placed on a Web server for anyone to access or subscribe to with a public Web URL (the file can also be private too, but I digress). Whenever content is added or any is changed or deleted, the publisher of the content can update the RSS file. As this file can change frequently, it is referred to as an RSS feed, as in feeding new content to the consumer of it.
The RSS feed in itself is not the only place where the power of RSS lies. Software, called an RSS feed aggregator or an RSS reader processes these RSS feeds that are subscribed to and organizes them to present the content to the consumer. There are a variety of RSS feed readers out there, from installed software, mobile apps, Web services (like Google Reader), as well as Web browsers and email clients. The reader also keeps track of what has been read, so that when the RSS feed is updated, it will show new vs. old content, among other features as linking to the source content on its Web site and social media and email sharing functionality. This concludes this RSS overview – let me know if it is clearer to you, or clear as mud.
Now Back To Our Story
Of all of the RSS readers out there, one of the most popular has been Google Reader, It’s power has been in its simplicity and robust formatting and sharing features, plus the fact it was from Google and integrated well into your Google account and that it was a free Web service. So when it was announced that what may be the most widely used RSS reader is going away in a few months, there was much shock and dismay, not only from people who use Google Reader to consume content but from content publishers as well, as an important channel may go away if those consumers of content do not find an alternative to Google Reader.
So why would content publishers be upset? They are still publishing the content so people can still seek it out to read it. First, I’ll give a perspective to who all of these publishers are. When one thinks of RSS feeds, they often only think of blogs and news. Most all blogging software includes out-of-the-box the ability to generate an RSS feed or multiple feeds, and typically you have to make an effort to turn this off. Many believe – including myself – that RSS feeds plus the ease of publishing have led to the popularity and success of blogs. News Web sites are a perfect match for RSS as they are constantly publishing content. This is why most sites not only offer 1 feed but many have a feed for each section of the site or content categories, such as breaking news.
Beyond blogs and news, many Web sites and information sources offer RSS feeds. A quick look at my own personal RSS feeds show job postings and news from company Web sites, weather forecasts, LinkedIn status updates for all of my connections, sports scores, discount shopping offers, Twitter searches and of course blogs and news.
As I talked about in the previously-mentioned iGoogle post, for me RSS is my main source for information. Moving from Google Reader to Fever has not diminished this at all. However what many fear is that people won’t seek out one of the many alternatives to Google Reader out there, and it could signal that RSS is no longer a viable technology or medium, just because Google is dropping Reader.
RSS Is Simply Not In Google’s Future
This past week’s announcement from Google is not the only activity they have taken against RSS. It has been slowly dismantling and marginalizing its FeedBurner service, which is an RSS “enhancer" providing analytics like subscriber counts, the ability to subscribe to a feed by email and other features to a “burned” feed. FeedBurner has always been a free offering from Google since it bought the eponymous Chicago-based start-up several years ago. Though it integrated inline advertising thru its AdSense service, it never really innovated the overall FeedBurner service or further integrated it like it has done with other acquisitions. Even FeedBurner's look and feel has barely changed over the years.
Recently Google announced it was shutting off the FeedBurner API as well as AdSense for RSS feeds. As a result there have been rumors abound that Google will shutdown FeedBurner altogether. Despite this Google has been silent on these rumors. Now with the announcement of Google Reader, people are biting their lip waiting for the other shoe to drop, and looking to other services like FeedBlitz to replace FeedBurner and keep similar functionality along with keeping their RSS feed live.
RSS Still Not A Household Term
By what I have described here regarding the power and simplicity of RSS, you would think that everyone is using it. However that is not the case. RSS, though a free open standard, has had an image problem in my opinion. It’s as though it’s too “techy” for the average person and as a result has not had universal adoption. Though it has a familiar orange icon and browsers and email clients now process feeds, it is not a completely seamless process to subscribe to a feed. Other than Google, not many large service providers with anywhere near the same name recognition have offered RSS readers. RSS has an identity crisis, with emphasis on the latter word ‘crisis.’
What’s Next For RSS?
Just because Google Reader is going away, RSS is not. And in reality, it can’t! As it’s an open standard, as long as someone is publishing an RSS feed file and someone is processing it, RSS is more than alive and well.
Over the past few days I have seen a lot of activity online from those looking for alternative RSS readers such as Fever that I use. A am also sure that entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative alternatives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another major player makes a goodwill PR move into RSS feed reading as well. On another note, I predict FeedBurner will be eventually shutdown by Google, though that is a whole other blog post on the impact and recovery from that!
#VIVARSS! Do you agree? If so or not, I welcome your comments to this post. And if you do comment, please indicate whether or not you subscribe to The Hot Iron’s RSS feed.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
It’s almost hard to believe that it has been over a year since the TV in our home met its demise. What is probably more surprising is that we never replaced it over that last year, and in all reality my wife and I can’t say we have really missed it.
On January 10, 2012, our TV would not turn on. After checking power and all other connections we concluded the TV had shown its last programming. Why do I remember that date? No, I did not write it down, rather I thought it was ironic that it happened on the day of the New Hampshire presidential primary as I bought the TV at the Lechmere store in Salem, New Hampshire back in the early 90’s. Yes, this was an old TV, a 27” Sony Trinitron with a picture tube. It most certainly was not high-definition, but as of late, but Elmo seemed to look ok on it to our kids.
I’m Not Anti-TV
Before I continue let me make it clear – I am not anti-TV. I did not intend or go out of my way to rid our home of a TV. I have always had a TV of my own since I went off to college many moons ago and have been watching cable TV since it was first wired into my childhood home’s black and white TV back in the early 80’s. Where I will admit that sometimes I let the TV control my schedule and probably watched more than I should, most of my TV diet was of the news and some dramas, and of course Elmo.
When the TV never came back on, we had a decision to make. At the time it was a major expense we weren’t expecting to take on. We also noticed that the kids weren’t really expressing interest in watching anything with it not working. It was the latter more than the former which led to the decision to not replace it.
Have I Missed It?
When you take any element out of an environment which commonly has a great focus to it there is a form of a void. When the massive tubed TV departed to the recycling center, that was the case in our living room. Though we did fill the space with a much smaller replacement –more on that below – it was still a different dynamic, especially as there was not as much noise and sound coming from the spot in the room.
Stimulus aside, not having the TV available to watch “something” was a slight adjustment, but not a major behavioral change, at least for me. Though much of what we watched was news and home and cooking shows, it was nice to have these available when we wanted some (as my wife always says) mental chewing gum. But where we were always aware of our kids watching too much TV, we didn’t always apply the same standard to ourselves. Not that it was always a bad thing though!
In some regards, I do miss having a TV readily available. But on the other hand, I have somehow managed to live without it as well.
Alternate Media Delivery
Though we did not replace our TV, our home is not completely devoid of video entertainment. I connected an LED computer monitor to the WD Live TV box we already had (like a Roku, a media streaming device) and our home theatre so we could still watch movies, videos and some streaming programming. Though not completely ideal, it passed the main test as Elmo looked good on it. Later in the year we got an iPad so we were able to introduce Netflix and Amazon video to the mix, along with apps from TV and cable stations so we could keep up with video news if we needed to.
By the time the TV went kaput, I was already getting my main meal of news and information from sources other than on TV. Using my RSS feed reader, I was subscribed to a multitude of RSS feeds from news outlets, media channels, bloggers and other sources to keep me more than informed. Podcasts and Sirius XM satellite radio have rounded out the text with audio nicely. I was able to scan the headlines much easier and dig deeper as I needed to, all without being beholden to a TV news schedule (I did not have a DVR, nor do I ever want one!).
Where nothing can truly replace anything, this overall experience has come close to what we had before. Couple it with watching TV sporting events at local pubs and watching one of the TVs in the conference at the OfficePort Chicago co-working office space have filled in the gaps nicely, especially as those gaps have mostly been with sporting events.
Is there a TV in our future? Possibly. As the LED monitor isn’t completely ideal (did I mention it’s only a 19”?) or compatible with our other equipment (the LED monitor won’t play Netflix videos because it is not HDTV compatible) we are contemplating buying a TV for better viewing, but wouldn’t go any wider than a 32”. Even with this, we would not get cable TV again. An HDTV would allow us to watch local channels if we really want to, and our limited video viewing (a.k.a. Elmo) will continue as is.
If we really need a local TV fix, we can always walk a few blocks to the CBS 2 street-front studio and see Rob and Kate live.
I’m interested to hear if any of my readers have also cut the cord to their TV and their experience with it. Or if you think I am nuts for not having one, feel free to say that too in the comments to the post.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
A recent article on the Kansas City Star’s Web site by Diane Stafford titled, “Why young achievers don’t stick around” caught my attention, in addition to the fact it was promoted in a weekly LinkedIn email. The topic of team building, motivating, mentoring and leading your team is one that means a lot to me. The article referenced a Harvard Business Review study and research on exit interviews, both of which talked about how young workers will only stay around a company as long as they have opportunities for growth, training and to receive mentorship. Otherwise, they will leave and go elsewhere.
When I read this, my reaction was, “duh!”
The same conclusions of these sources are something I have experienced numerous times in my own career in high technology – as an employee myself, as a manager and as a colleague of other managers who lament over the loss of people on their teams. After reading this, my own beliefs and philosophy in management and leadership were reaffirmed, and I am writing this to discuss this topic and observations I have made over my career.
You Hire A Person, Not Just Their Skillset
Allow me to repeat that, you hire a PERSON, not just their skillset. As obvious as this may seem to some, time and time again I see recruiters and hiring managers looking just at what skillset the person has and how immediate they can contribute to the company, team and bottom like. Of course this is important, however they often overlook the entire person – who they are, what types of experiences they have had in the past, what they do outside of work and what their goals and interests are. The individuals who overlook these important attributes often lack vision themselves, or the manager is more interested in their own goals rather than those of the team.
Many managers are looking to simply make their jobs easy for themselves, expecting their team to just “git ‘er dun” without any regard for their team’s wellbeing and growth. A perfect example of this is the job titles that are prevalent in many Web technology jobs, which include qualifiers like “rock star,” “guru,” and “ninja.” With labels like these employers are looking for the best, but are they also willing to give their best back to the employee, with a positive venue of personal and professional growth?
The True Cost Of Developing Your Team
When management looks at what it takes to give their employees what they need not only to succeed but to grow, they are always fixated on the dollar figure. Many companies have cut back on employee training and other growth opportunities with the justification that once the employee gets this benefit, they will just leave for a new job. Granted that can happen, but they may still leave if the opposite happens and they don’t get growth and mentorship in your company. Where you may have saved on training, conference and time taken for mentoring, you are now spending It on recruiting, recruiter fees and the time it takes to review, interview and vet the replacement employees. In many cases those costs are actually higher but not realized as such as they may be spread over several departments where staff development may only apply to the department they are in.
You Must Believe For It To Happen
In order for people who work for a company to get the growth and attention they crave, management must believe in it. Those managers who do are what I truly call leaders. Sure, some companies may say they do, but if it is not marked against a manager when his staff doesn’t get these opportunities, it truly it not a culture that believes its success is tied to the growth and success of its people.
Like Anything Growth And Mentorship Must Be Defined
In most businesses if it is not defined it will not happen. The same goes for developing your team. To whatever degree you want to do it, write it down, include it in the employee manual and promote the heck out if it. Even small teams can offer budgeted dollars for formal training classes or to attend seminars or conferences. This can include covering either the entry fees and/or the time off from the office. An added feature can be that this budget can be exceeded when the staff is presenting or speaking at such events, where they are a representative – and brand promoter – of your company.
When it comes to mentoring, it should be stated what and how the company looks out for its staff, and what defined meetings or metrics are in place. The challenge here is that not all managers may have it in them to be mentors. In that case, training for mentors can be implemented or mentors from outside the firm who have a vested interest in it (e.g. investors, board members) can be assigned to staff. What better way can there be to ensure of the company’s success than working with its people at all levels?
Strive For Action Not Perfection
If your company doesn’t have a growth or mentorship program or you are a new business, then just start one. Define, review it and refine it with 360 degree feedback from those on the giving and receiving end of the program.
Career Growth and mentorship have always been things I have strived for as a manager. As a small business of 1 person I admit I have not always been the best boss to my 1 employee – me. But if you are to grow, you need to consider the time and cost investment in your people along with everything else you do to bring the on-board your firm.
Agree? Not agree? Not sure? I welcome your comments and questions.
A story that received little press, even tech circles, was how a blogger was flown to Berlin, Germany to attend and objectively cover the IFA 2012 conference by technology firm Samsung. When the blogger, Clinton Jeff, arrived there from his home in India, he was told instead he was to be a rep for Samsung and demo their technology to attendees of the conference. When he refused, Samsung threatened to strand him there and would not pay for his hotel or return flight. In the end, rival mobile technology firm Nokia paid for Jeff’s stay in the German capital and his return flight home, allowing him to cover it as he saw fit. This was first reported on The Next Web in this post.
Where I personally don’t know Clinton Jeff, I do read his blog Unleash The Phones and follow him on Twitter, and I do know people who know him and he is well-respected in mobile tech circlers. So if he says this happened, I have to believe it. And from Samsung’s response it reinforces their blunder.
A part of the story that was barely touched on by the reports out there was how Nokia paid for his extended stay and flight home. Where some may say this was simply a smart PR move by a competitor, I agree it is. However this in line with how Nokia works with bloggers. How do I know this? Because about 2 years ago Nokia flew me to Berlin to attend a conference and cover it how I saw fit, and I had no logistics issues at all.
Nokia has a strong word-of-mouth social media marketing program called Nokia Connects, which back when I went to Berlin was called WOMWorld/Nokia. It is facilitated by Nokia and WOM agency 1000heads. The program loans new mobile devices to bloggers and others to evaluate and, if they choose, write about it. I say it this was as in all encounters with Nokia connects for over 4 years now, since I went to Nokia OpenLab, they have never even eluded slightly that I need to write something or what I should write.
If this concept is new to you, a thought going through your head may be – why? Why would a company spend money on an international flight, hotel, ground transportation food, admission to a conference for not just 1 person but 3 to cover an event without any expectation of the quality and quantity of what they write? That’s exactly the point! Granted the people they invite are people that will be writing something. But this is why Nokia’s word-of-mouth program is popular with bloggers and successful for the brand.
Diary From Berlin
To better explain, I’ll share more of the itinerary of the trip to Berlin in November 2010. I attended Microsoft TechEd, an international developers conference for those who work with Microsoft technology. Nokia was an exhibitor and had a keynote address on its collaboration with Microsoft for an Outlook/Exchange email client app on Nokia devices as well as other sync technology. Nokia invited me, Dennis Bournique and Craig Richards to cover the event. It was by no means an earth-shattering announcement, and we had no idea only a few months later Nokia would announce it was moving completely to the Microsoft Windows Phone ecosystem from its own known as Symbian. But Nokia wanted people to cover it, and we were invited.
We had a host in Rhiannon from 1000heads who coordinated travel logistics, getting around Berlin, making sure we were fed and access to Nokia staff. Never at any time were we asked to sign ANYTHING, never told or even hinted at what to do or any. In addition to the conference itself we attended a Nokia social and had a little time to see the city, and I gave a brief tour of the areas of Berlin I remembered from a vacation there a few years earlier. I’ll reiterate there was no expectation on what – and when – we wrote, and I did write a few posts including this one and this one and tweeted form the conference. And neither Nokia nor 1000heads ask me to write this – when I heard of what Samsung did, I recalled my time there and was compelled to write this on my own.
In one tech media account of the drama that Samsung put Clinton Jeff through it closed with, “basically, it's not a great idea to accept "free" trips or gifts from companies.” I disagree. First off, for decades journalists have been receiving free trips and all the trappings and still do. Of course buyer beware and know the reputation of the vendor and their consultants to determine it it’s right for you. If an invite comes to me from Nokia again, I will certainly accept it if it fits my schedule and interests.
A few weeks ago while going thru my morning routine of catching up on email and news, I noticed something on one of my sources for information, iGoogle, which is Google’s home page product. A box appeared in the header banner as shown below:
The message states, “iGoogle will not be available after November 1, 2013. Learn more.” Upon clicking the link to learn more about this, which you can view at this link, I read the following short message which I am repeating below.
What's happening to iGoogle?
iGoogle will be retired in 16 months, on November 1, 2013. The mobile version will be retired on July 31, 2012.
How did you come to this decision?
We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding down iGoogle on November 1, 2013, giving you a full 16 months to adjust or easily export your iGoogle data.
What will happen to the data stored in my gadgets?
All of your personal data stored in other Google products will continue to be available via those products, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Finance, Google Docs (now Google Drive), Google Bookmarks, and Google Tasks. Other gadgets, like the to-do list, allow you to export your data - look for the “Download all” option under the drop-down menu tied to the title of your list. Most iGoogle gadgets are created and maintained by third-party developers. If you’d like to export your data, you should contact the gadget creator directly.
I really like iGoogle -- are there any other alternatives?
On your mobile device, Google Play offers applications ranging from games to news readers to home screen widgets.
If you’re a fan of Google Chrome, the Chrome Web Store provides a similar range of options like productivity tools and applications to check the weather. In addition, just like iGoogle, you can personalize Chrome with a theme.
Following the Google Product Playbook
This decision by Google, while not initially welcome by me, is not all surprising either. Google is a company that encourages its employees to work on side projects and some of them have become products or services they have publicly offered. However, they have also been quick to shutdown non-performing services or those which don’t have an enormous impact on the enormous company. Compound all of this with their practice of buying companies for people or pieces of their technology then shutting them down, and this move to end iGoogle is in line with how they play – and win - the game on a daily basis.
After reading this short but to the point support document, I had to agree with them – the marketplace has changed, not to mention the types of devices people use. The large-format Web browser home page isn’t as popular as it used to be, especially with mobile and tablet devices, and I have to add myself into that category of someone looking elsewhere for content, as I did say above iGoogle was only “one” place I looked for information.
Say Goodbye To The Web Browser Personalized Home Page
I will go out on a limb and say this is the first of many rings of the death knell for this format of information delivery. The originator of this, Yahoo, is in a new reign of leadership with Marissa Mayer, who after joining them from Google probably has some insight into the business model of this type of product. There are also fewer services out there offering this, as I talked about several years ago when I lamented at the lack of innovation from MyWay.com which looks the same as the last time I saw it back in 2008. I predict the personalized home page sector will end within the next few years.
The idea of the portal home page today may work within a company, but for those of us on the go or using multiple hardware devices – from notebooks to phones to tablets to whatever is next – having one source is a good idea, but it is also easy enough to configure widgets on a smartphone screen to show links or feeds or email messages. But with so much choice for consumers, the ability to get the weather, stock quotes and sports scores easily trumps the desire to get them from one single source, especially when there really isn’t one true cross-platform choice.
It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it’s time to move on from the personalized home page to the next new thing, whatever that may be. I don’t know for sure, but I will write about it when I come up with it!
RSS To The Rescue
As I said I get my news and information from multiple sources, and their common denominator is RSS, or Real Simple Syndication. If you have ever seen the orange icon to the right, then the content on that Web page can be “aggregated” with other content which offers this same ability using RSS aggregator and subscribing to the “feed” of the content. I use Fever, an extremely robust commercial self-hosted RSS aggregator application by Shaun Inman. Fever replaced Google Reader for me, as I didn’t want the search giant knowing everything I read! There are other feed aggregators out there, including most Web browsers as well as mobile apps.
With Fever, I subscribe to over 200 feeds across all categories, from personal to business and beyond. There is no way I can read everything, and typically scan the headlines to get the gist of what is happening, clicking the occasional article for depth on a topic. I am always trying feeds from media outlets, companies, associations and bloggers, in some cases dropping other feeds when I find a new or better one to replace it. Where it’s not the same layout for me, it brings the content together and I can still pick and choose what to scan and what to read.
So do you agree with me, is the personal home page dead? Do you use iGoogle and will you miss it? Or simply how do you keep up with news and information on the go? I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
Why am I asking this question? I will follow up with my reason plus the results in a week or so, depending on the volume of responses. Thanks for participating, and please pass along to friends and colleagues. Also, feel free to add any additional thoughts in the comments of this post.
(Note the above image of the Ribbit Mobile home page was changed to grayscale by me)
Ribbit Mobile was a service for translating voicemail messages to text and delivering that text message with an audio file of the voicemail message, and those messages would be delivered by email and SMS. For myself, I have used similar services for over 4 years, and having the luxury of reading the text of a voicemail when you don’t have the opportunity to dial in to listen (e.g. when you’re in a meeting), not to mention the ready-access archive of messages, was priceless.
And that was just the case with Ribbit Mobile – they were not charging for “beta” this service for the 2+ years I used it. Near the end of last year I recall getting a survey from them on how much I would be willing to pay for the service. Then in January of this year I got an email saying Ribbit Mobile would be shutting down altogether the end of January, and there was no alternative. Ribbit itself as a company would still be around as they offer other services, like an Android app for voicemail and an add-on to Salesforce.com. The service was still running for a couple of weeks after the announced date, and went down altogether on February 16.
As I said, this was a type of service you could get used to. I also have a similar voicemail to text service through Vonage which I use for my business phone. Prior to Ribbit Mobile I was part of the SpinVox consumer beta program which I talked about previously here at The Hot Iron. Interestingly, around the time SpinVox announced they were dropping their B to C service (they power Vonage’s voicemail to text) Ribbit Mobile came on the scene, and I was able to switch over with very little time without this type of service.
In between SpinVox and Ribbit Mobile I briefly used SpinVox through uReach, a company offering virtual voice, email and office solutions used by many small businesses. When Ribbit Mobile went away, I looked into see if it was still offered, and it took a call to uReach to find the “hidden” URL for the service (they offer it, but it’s not linked from their main Web site), and by visiting ureach.com/spinvox one can sign up for the voicemail to text service for $9.99/month plus usage fees for large volumes of voicemail. The uReach offering is not as robust as Ribbit’s, and for some reason breaks up voicemails when sent by SMS into several messages of 30 second lengths. But you can still get an email with the message text and audio file attached.
Am I the only one who will miss Ribbit Mobile? Am I the only one who uses voicemail to text? Please let me know in this post’s comments, as I know nobody else personally who uses, and loves, this type of service.
Most of my career has been in a consulting role. Whether working as an independent or for a consulting firm, I have had the great fortune to work with a wide variety of clients across many verticals.
But why have I traveled so far along the consultant path? Many people become consultants by choice, where others either back into it or take it as a second option.
For me, it began in high school.
There is a picture of my high school mug here, not because it is in remarkably great shape after all these years, but it shows when I graduated, and that is solely for the context of the type of technology I was working with when I took on my first consulting gig.
As I had been programming in BASIC since junior high (a story in itself for another post) by my senior year in high school I was not only quite good at it, but I was known as one of the few people with proficiency. This led to the assistant superintendent of my school system, whom I knew and his sons were also classmates, asking me to write a program to collect survey responses and generate a report with the results of the survey. Remember, this was the mid-80’s, and this is what you needed to do to get such a task done. And I used a Digital PDP-11 minicomputer to do it.
His request, however, was not a favor, as I would be paid for it. Sweet! So I went right to work, first writing the program to collect the data, which would be entered by another classmate who was also being paid for her time. Once that was done I went to work on the report itself – I had the desired format, then I mocked up the report with fillers, then added the computations from the survey data in the database. Knowing my work wouldn’t be perfect, I did many manual calculations of the data to ensure the report data was accurate. When all was done, the school committee got a 2-page report with the survey results. (I know I kept a copy of the survey, and if I ever find it, I will post a PDF of it.)
Of course there was a change in ownership of the project – what consulting gig is without that? The project started in the fall, but at the end of the year the assistant superintendent was leaving the school system. As the project was to be completed in the spring, he told me the superintendent would be my point of contact, and the one who would pay me. Where I didn’t think much about it, I did when it was time to collect my pay, as the superintendent, in his first year on the job in this school system, was a shrewd cost-cutter. He did things like take over the school buses and managed them himself, and after I graduated he even reduced the size of the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows by 80% to save energy. I was worried I wouldn’t get anything at all, especially as I had absolutely nothing in writing!
Shortly after the survey was delivered I asked to meet with him about payment. The conversation went something like this… keep in mind it’s a few years later:
Superintendent – “So Mike, you were promised to get paid for creating the survey?”
Me – “Yes.”
S – “ Well, how much do you want to be paid for it?”
M – “$250.00”
S – “Why that much?”
M – “Well, um, the girl who did the data entry got paid $50, and I certainly did 5 times as much as work as she did.”
S – “How about $200.00?”
M – “It’s a deal.”
Now there’s some negotiating, and not too bad for a kid who not only hasn’t ever negotiated anything more than staying up late to watch Saturday Night Live, going up against a man with w PhD.
It would me several years before I used my computer skills for profit again, and that was in college and in exchange for pizza (yet another story for another time). From thereon in, and with a college diploma, it was all about contracts, invoices and payment or salary. We all start someplace, and my place was very close to home.
Recently the folks at Dell sought out “trade secrets” from small and medium-sized businesses to ensure on-the-job reliability. This campaign coincided with the launch of their E series for their Latitude line, which the E6320 notebook I received from them is a member of.
Ask anyone and I always have some advice to give, so I shared this, one which always creates a win-win situation when in a busy airport terminal or one without enough power outlets. It was chosen for the new Dell Trade Secrets 2 – Reliability eBook which is available for free on SlideShare.
For those of you with your images turned off or using a screen reader, it reads:
When I fly, I always bring an extension cord with multiple outlets on the end. Most always, if there is an outlet, it is nowhere near where you can find a seat. And when you do find one, it is most always taken. This way, you can politely ask if you can plug in, have them tap off of you, and you still have an outlet or 2 to share with someone else!
Mike Maddaloni | thehotiron.com
Though I may get funny looks at first, people realize I am sincere, especially when I show there are open outlets on the end of the extension cord. Thus I believe the merits of it alone were why it was chosen and put on page 10, and not because I am using their notebook. And from what little bit I have written so far can back that up, but I digress.
The Dell Trade Secrets 2 – Reliability eBook showcases some great advice from some other great business experts, such as Barry Moltz and Carol Roth. Feel free to read the SlideShare presentation on their site or embedded below, and if you have a SlideShare account you can download a copy of this eBook.