The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Technology

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Work Project I Never Politically Worked On

Ah, company politics. They can be anything from mildly amusing to wrenchingly painful. In any case, they are at a minimum something you shake your head at. Unfortunately there are politics of some form in every work place and it really depends on the people involved as to how bad the politics can be.

The following story is one of company politics that to this day I still shake my head and laugh at. However at the time I admit I was pretty pissed off about it. It is a true story – one that I went through myself about a dozen years ago. The names of people in the company of all been changed to protect the innocent or feeble.

I was working in internal IT for a software company supporting the software and hardware for its public Web site and Intranet. Along came a major project where the company was going to implement PeopleSoft, an enterprise resource management or ERM system. As a result, everyone in IT was supposed to be working on the PeopleSoft project and not on anything else, including the work I was doing on our Web site and Intranet. Of course reality is always something different, as there was nobody else to technically support either of those projects, and I continued to support both.

One day I got a call about a major project the company was undertaking. It was going to go through a significant rebranding effort, keeping the same logo but rebranding all products and services including a new Web site. Although we had plenty of technical people in the company, I was the person to work on the new Web site as I knew it best, from the marketing team to the infrastructure to code behind it. The call had come from the marketing manager whom I had worked with since I've been there supporting the Web site. I then told her what the new “situation” was in IT, where I was not supposed to be supporting the current Web site, let alone build a new one. Needless to say this didn't make any sense to her, but she understood well how the company politics was, especially in IT.

Next up for her was to raise the “situation” up through her management, which then brought it up to the IT management and then came back down to me. I got a call from my manager who told me that after all I was supposed to work on the new Web site. But there was only one stipulation: I wasn't politically supposed to be working on this project therefore I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about it. So technically I was wasn’t working on the project, even though it was going to take most all of my time for the next several months.

Makes perfect sense right? I didn't think so.

Despite the insanity of the “situation” I had a job to do. A lot of work went into building the Web site, but it was something enjoyed doing very much and it didn't seem like a job at all. I was working very closely with our marketing manager, where I was located in Boston and she was in Vermont. Throughout the entire project we never actually saw each other, but despite that we were extremely successful at what we built.

In addition to building the Web site, I was also responsible for registering and acquiring new domain names for our rebranded products and services. As this was a publicly traded company, the rebranding was very secretive and very few people knew what the new product names were to be. But I was one of them. So that's a lot of faith and confidence in the guy that's not officially working on the project.

Overall the project was a success and we launched the new Web site on the day the company launched the rebranding. A lot of hard work and long hours went into it, and where we were very relieved when it was over, there was a lot of pride in the work we did. About a week after the rebranding, an email came out from the president of the company thanking individually all the people who worked on the rebranding. That is, all except for me. Of course this made complete sense because the president wasn't told I worked on the project because for political reasons I wasn't working on the project as nobody from IT was supposed to be working on anything else but the PeopleSoft project.

No sooner did the email come out from the president, I got a call from the marketing manager who was completely shocked that I was left off the list. I have to admit I was slightly irate I didn't get official recognition, but I knew the “situation” and took it for what it was. At least my immediate colleagues knew I worked on the project and I got kudos from them. Where I did not get credit from the president, I knew what I did and was just as proud as I was before the email came out.

Several weeks later we had an all-hands meeting for the IT organization. As I wasn't really in the mood for going to listen to this meeting in person, I decided just to dial into it from my desk. At the conclusion of the meeting the chief information officer, or CIO, brought up the rebranding project and even singled me out for the work that I did on it. What? Public recognition from the guy who had decided I technically didn't work on the project and made sure that I didn't get credit for it from the president of the company? Needless to say I was mildly irate and may have even made a gesture at the phone as I was listening to this. Interestingly, the CIO himself never personally thanked me for the work that I did on the Web site, and knowing how he operated even his public acknowledgment was very halfhearted.

It's one thing going into a consulting project or a contract knowing that for proprietary reasons you can't reference you worked on a project. When it comes to political reasons for not working on a project, they typically make absolutely no sense and are more to cover for someone than anything else. This was the case here, in a company with plenty of resources and a “leader” who would not acknowledge a significant company effort in order to keep to his marching orders that all-hands would be working on the ERM initiative. Of course by that statement alone there is no leadership shown.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How would you have reacted if it was you? 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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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/10/14 at 08:52 PM
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 29 2014

photo of Friendly’s Black Raspberry ice cream

At an early hour with a full cup of coffee…

  • While browsing the aisles at the local Jewel supermarket, something caught my eye, and something I was not expecting to find in the Midwest – Friendly’s ice cream. Friendly’s is a predominately East-coast chain of restaurants which is headquartered near where I grew up. As I looked through the flavors, one caught my eye – black raspberry. Now note this is black raspberry ice cream and not sherbet – out East black raspberry ice cream is very common, but I have yet to see it in Chicagoland or Wisconsin. So of course I got some and had a small trip down memory lane. Now if they only had maple walnut, then I would have cried.
  • Speaking of crying, I did shed a few tears of joy and Dad pride as my oldest daughter rode her bike with 2 wheels and without training wheels for the first time this week. As we are now closer to a park that is kid-friendly, she has simply been able to ride her bike more, and was determined to do it.
  • Now that the Ventra system is the only way to pay for transit rides in Chicago, I am noticing more and more usability issues with it. One thing that bugs me is the auto-replenishment of your account, where you can enter credit card numbers online, and choose 1 to do the replenish. With the old Chicago Card system, it would send an email alert when it replenished your account, or if it was unable to. The new Ventra site does not do that, so the time you find out if your account is at zero is when trying to board a train or bus, or more likely a bus as there won’t be a replenishment kiosk there. I should probably keep a running list of the things I find for a separate blog post on it.
  • An esteemed colleague shared with me information about the Kuando Busylight, a device which you attach to your computer monitor and changes colors when you are on the phone or when you set your status to “busy” so people won’t disturb you in the office place. Where the idea is clever, in my opinion I see this more of a Band-Aid approach to the failings of the modern office setup… something else I could probably write a whole blog post on.
  • I received a “video bill” from Comcast this week. It used my first name, and told me my balance for the services I have and the due date. I thought this was extremely clever not to mention informative, even for a techie person like myself. The only problem with it? I cannot share or embed the video! The video is done using a service from a company called SundaySky. Not having this feature is something that could really make this service successful. Now I wonder if I will get a video bill every month?
  • If a vendor had a hard time getting to you and parking once, they will most likely do it again, so don’t even bother giving them a second chance.
  • This week I was browsing a few stores looking for a “temporary table” – something I could use for a short period of time before I bought (and first found) a permanent, nice table to use. As I looked around a thought came into my head from the wayback machine – you don’t find cardboard furniture anymore in stores. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I remember you could get cardboard tables or shelving or other furniture made from cardboard. So of course I looked online and I found vendors there. Granted today we have particle board furniture from IKEA, but there’s something about lighter, collapsible furniture that meets the need.
  • I am still offering my loft condo in the Chicago Loop for rent. The price has been reduced – act now!
  • Another esteemed colleague shared with me this timelapse video of 1,000 years of European borders changes. It is fascinating to watch, and the music is so appropriate to it. I have embedded it below or follow the previous link to watch it on YouTube.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/30/14 at 06:07 AM
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 22 2014

photo of lights on the ceiling of The Maxwell in Chicago

Armed with a to-do list, and an item named “write blog post” has helped me get this relatively on-time out the door!

  • I visited “The Maxwell” this week. It is a retail complex in Chicago’s South Loop, whose name comes from the now-gone nearby Maxwell Street retail area. It combines street-level stores, upper level stores accessible through a lobby and parking. The lobby is nothing to look at, but its ceiling is, and is pictured here.
  • Did you know I am renting my Chicago Loop loft condo?
  • I had keys made this week at that big-box orange-logoed hardware chain. They had this machine that scanned the keys then cut them. Impressive, only that one of my keys did not work in one door. Then I went to the local Ace hardware store who had one of the “old-fashioned” key cutters where you manually trace the key to make a duplicate, and the key worked perfectly.
  • I had an extremely positive experience with Comcast customer service this past week, and an incredibly painful experience with their technical support a few days later.
  • The more I learn about mobile app development, the more I realize people don’t really know what their app is doing, such as what and when it is accessing something either on your device or over the Internet.
  • I have heard about IRS form 990, which a non-profit must file with its taxes. However, I have not ever really looked at one at depth or compared them against other organizations. I did so this week, for the group Barrel of Monkeys whose Board I have joined, as well as for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Just create an account at GuideStar and look away!
  • Strep – it’s not just for your throat, and you can get strep in your nose and other body parts I won’t mention.
  • You can stain concrete. It is similar to staining wood, in that you are enhancing the appearance of the texture.
  • My 10+ year old grocery cart finally came to an untimely collapse when one of the wheels snapped off and I wasn’t able to repair it. I am honestly surprised it lasted that long.
  • Amazon has a new feature called Amazon Smile where a non-profit organization you choose can earn a percentage of your purchases when you use the specific URL smile.amazon.com. It is unclear if the charity can earn money when you use the Amazon mobile app. I chose the Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company Inc. to receive whatever pennies they can earn from my purchases. Omayra was a long-time client of my Web consulting business and she is an amazing dancer and performer. Check out her Web site and look for videos of her online to see, and choose her dance company to earn whatever you can send their way.
  • This blog was down for about 8 hours this past week – did you notice?
  • After my ordeal with Comcast I hooked up a new wireless router, a Cisco/Linksys EA3500. When I went to run the setup, I noticed something called “Smart Wi-Fi” which immediately caused me to shudder – this wasn’t the typical, very techie setup and router administration I was used to. First off, it wanted me to create an account to remotely administer my router. Really? Then, the setup failed, which never – ever – previously happened to me. After a little searching, I found similar people lamenting to this, and a solution to revert to the traditional, previous router administration Web interface. Not surprising, everything worked as expected.
  • Did I mention I am renting my loft condo in the Chicago Loop? Actually, I did blog about renting my condo.
  • This week someone closed an email with “be good to yourself!!!” This took me aback. First, this is nothing I have ever gotten in writing from someone. As I thought more about it, I was trying to think of the last time anyone ever said it to me. Then it dawned on me, it did happen, and way back in the day, by people I have never met in person. Yes, I am referring to the song Be Good To Yourself by Journey. Watch it on this link to YouTube or see it embedded below, and either way take a trip back in time… and be good to yourself!!!


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/23/14 at 11:26 AM
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What I Learned This Week For July 18 and 25 2014

photo of household to-do list

Typically a 2 fer 1 offer is something people look forward to. I am now finally getting around to posting this almost a week late and for 2 weeks, which means if I keep this up, I will most likely lose readers, especially if this is all I ever post. But I digress…

  • July 18 marked 6 years of being a Dad. And talk about learning!
  • I sat down and made a list of all of the small things that needed tweaking, tightening or fixing around the condo. My, what a long list – you would think the place was falling apart. It took a couple of days to get through them all, but it felt really good to get them done.
  • Have you ever had a Rainier Cherry? I hadn’t until last week – they look like tiny Macintosh apples and are very sweet. My guess is they are also not a GMO fruit. Thanks to my colleague Mike G. for the proper introduction.
  • Whenever I hear about food deserts why is it grocery delivery services like Peapod or food trucks are never considered as a solution? I guess that isn’t something I learned, but more an observation I learned from repeated exposure to it recently.
  • Yet again, I was reminded not everybody knows what a “browser” is, especially when related to the Internet.
  • I got a check in the mail from CentUp for a US$15.84, which was my earnings thus far. How did I earn it? People clicked the little CentUp icon at the bottom of my blog posts, and I earned whatever pennies they sent my way. It’s a form of micropayment which I think can be quite successful, but many more people need to get on board – both readers and publishers!
  • Now everyone around the world can be as stylish as a member of the European Union Parliament with your own EU Parliament sash. For only 146.95 euros, you can show your true colors, either in the chamber or on the street. Who knows, maybe these will next show up in the Chicago City Council chamber.
  • If you are using Microsoft Lync for a conference call that was scheduled in Microsoft Outlook, and while you are in the call you decide to cancel the meeting series altogether in Outlook, not only will it delete all meetings in Outlook but it will throw you out of the meeting you are currently in, with no way of getting back in.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago has a mobile app to digitally store your membership card. That’s one less thing I need to stuff in my wallet, and I usually have my mobile device within reach at all times, which comes in handy for getting into special exhibits in the storied museum as you have to show your card to get in them as well as the front entrance.
  • A while back I was thinking of a lot of the DJs I used to listen to in Boston back in the 1990’s, and started searching for them online. One of them, Nik Carter, I wasn’t able to find. But low and behold, he is hosting VH1 Classic On Tap, a segment highlighting bands from back when he was on the air on WFNX and WBCN. I tweeted him and he responded back in the style I was expecting from him, self-deprecating and hilarious. I’m catching up on On Tap segments whenever I can.
  • A few bus shelters in Chicago were turned into Coca-Cola advertisements, playing on their latest campaign where you can get bottles of the carbonated beverage with your name on them. Of course they don’t have every name, so this shelter had a large touchscreen where you could spell out your name and take a picture of yourself with it. When I saw the first one, I had to “test” it and tried a few choice words that would never end up on a soda bottle. As I typed them, the letters turned to stars like I was typing a password, then I got a message that the name was not in the database – a safe message I was expecting from the global drink giant. Fortunately my Goddaughter’s name was allowed, so I got a picture for her as she was not expecting to see it on an actual bottle.
  • YouTube has been running ads all over the place in Chicago, promoting certain content creators. For as many of these ads I see, I am still not compelled to watch any of the videos, especially when someone who is supposed to be Al Capone looks more like Mark Cuban.
  • Clearly nobody at Foursquare heard the famous phrase by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “less is more.” The once popular social media check-in service has lost much of its luster not to mention purpose of hopes for a revenue model over the years. Last week they formally split into 2 apps – Swarm, which is for checking-in, and the old app will be more Yelp-like with reviews and suggestions. Even seeing this spelled out doesn’t make it any clearer to me why they did it, and I have yet to find anyone to explain how this will make the service – or services – even better.
  • I’ve had some déjà vu moments recently on a project I have been working on at work which is an animated promotion for a mobile app. The flashback is back to the mid 2000’s when I produced one for a client. Where the steps we went through were very similar to today, the style and length of it are 2 things that stand out as being much different, not to mention it was the “splash” page for the Web site, a concept that fortunately has all but vanished. Years later I had the animation converted to a video and we uploaded it to YouTube, and you can view the animation for Boston Village Auto Body on the YouTube site or view it embedded below.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 07/30/14 at 08:51 PM
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Learned This Week For July 11 2014

photo of a hole in clouds letting in the sun in Chicago

As the sun rises over a city that a few hours ago had a tornado and flash flood warning…

  • They (whoever they are) say that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. I found an exception – when the line goes through some not-so-nice neighborhoods in Chicago. Though I did debate actually writing this altogether, let alone as the first one on my list, it is a reality many have shared with me over the years.
  • The above statement being said, the above photo was taken at a stop light on the journey which prompted that statement, proving there is hope everywhere. The photo was taken in color but made it greyscale by accident, and decided to stick with it.
  • I was a witness to a colleague, visiting from India, having his very first tater tot. We sometimes forget things around us are new to many people.
  • I read this sad story about a young boy in Toronto who was starved to death by his grandparents. To add insult to injury, DC Comics, the mega-publishing giant of comics and related merchandising, would not allow a statue being created to honor the boy to sport the Superman “S” logo. The boy was a huge Superman fan, but DC Comics “didn’t want the character connected in any way to child abuse.” Sure, in life it was ok for the boy to have money spent on him, but in his death he can’t be memorialized because of how he died?
  • Troubleshooting a technical problem sometimes means you need to work with the right person who knows why something may or may not be working, though finding that person may not always be obvious.
  • In the course of a conversation with a very wise person, they mentioned the term “find the cracks.” I perked up when I heard this, as I feel this is an even better way of describing looking for niche markets. Only if I heard this term years ago, but that will be covered in that book I am slowly piecing together.
  • Solid state hard drives are the only way to go <- they are small, wicked fast and don’t come with all of the moving parts of a standard hard drive. Though they come with a price tag much higher than said standard hard drives.
  • I was thrilled to learn my favorite beer brewery Harpoon became an employee-owned company this week. With the retirement of one of the founders and the sale of 48% of the company stock to an employee stock ownership plan, the future of Harpoon has been set. With many smaller craft breweries, like Chicago’s Goose Island, being sold to mega-brewers in order to grow and compete, this is a great sign that Harpoon will remain independent and brewing the awesome beers they do.
  • This week a public video was released on YouTube for something called Business Chemistry, a method for identifying patterns in personalities in the business world. Granted that description is in no way the best way to describe it, that is why I was happy to see the video to be released. It came from my employer, and I myself have taken the personality test, and have been identified as a “pioneer” with alignment to an “integrator” – traits I identify and embrace. So from my own point-of-view, I think this process is spot-on. Check out the video embedded below or view it on the YouTube link above, and contact them if you want to bring this unique program into your business.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 07/13/14 at 07:16 AM
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 27 2014

photo of a warning message on a waterski

With the Pandora Smooth Jazz channel playing, and though I am confused at some of the music they are classifying as “smooth jazz” I am nonetheless liking it as I collect my learnings for the week…

  • I learned 2 things along with the above photo. Presumably if you are putting on a water ski, it is probably too late at that point to read the warning fine print. Also, this modern ski was not sufficient for my lovely wife, as she strapped on wooden skis she used when she was a kid to be pulled behind a boat for the first time in at least a decade, and with great success – go you!
  • Sometimes, spontaneous fun has to be scheduled.
  • Facilitating the listening to the earlier-mentioned Pandora channel are my iHip Patriots lanyard headphones. I have had these for a while and am surprised I have never talked about them as I love them! Most of the cord is wrapped in lanyard material sporting the Pats logo, which means they don’t tangle just by looking at them. And for under ten dollars, they are a great deal. Where mine have the logo of the greatest NFL football team ever, they are offered in other team logos, including the local team the Chicago Bears.
  • Where I didn’t need headphones was last Monday when I saw Bob Mould perform at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. I have mentioned him and his original band Husker Du many times before, and this was the third time I saw him over the years. In short, he rocked, both in his new music, songs he has recorded as a solo artist over the years, and even a few songs from Husker Du days, including Hardly Getting Over It, Flip Your Wig and Makes No Sense at All.
  • Building on my original blog post on Managing Your Email Inbox To Zero from 5 years ago, a great way to get your inbox down is to sort by recipient – it’s a great way to clear out notifications, newsletters, junk mail and other spam. It is also a good way to action on a group of emails pretty quickly.
  • The Boston Market restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago closed abruptly on the June 15 and I found out about it when I went to take the family there for dinner, and we found out from the attendant at the free parking lot next to it that they shut down. As someone who had been to the original Boston Chicken before renamed and franchised, which itself closed years ago, it’s sad this decent meal option for the family becoming more scarce.
  • I am not a therapist nor do I play one on TV, but if I was a PhD and I wanted to prescribe certain medications I now could in Illinois, after taking over 2 years of additional education, based on a new psychologist prescription bill that has become law. Even in this hypothetical situation, to have a PhD then take more education, especially in this uncertain time in healthcare worldwide, I would rather refer them to a true MD who would buy me a beer for every referral. Again, in this hypothetical situation I would.
  • While the City of Chicago has been thrust into turmoil over the addition of the name TRUMP to the eponymous skyscraper and winning the future George Lucas museum, what has been hardly talked about is the installation of sensors to monitor, among other things, sounds and mobile device activity. They are due to be installed along Michigan Avenue and the Loop starting later this year. Of course they won’t look as ominous as they sound as they will be concealed with a decorative shield. As expected, they are being proclaimed not in the name of Big Brother and Big Data, but for our safety. Looks like I will be placing my phone in Chicago Mode (similar to airplane mode) as I walk around the city.
  • When you say you don’t know, chances are you probably do.
  • Version 7 of ownCloud is now in beta. The suite of tools which you can use – just as I do – to replace Google Docs, Calendar, Address Book and similar “cloud” services from others has been an invaluable tool for me, and I haven’t even yet installed version 6 yet, which is out and has been given high marks.
  • Where the next book from my good friend John J. Wall may not be coming out anytime soon, I have finally taken the first baby steps towards writing my own first book. Note the term baby steps, so don’t expect my book signing bus tour to commence anytime soon.
  • I ran across Musicless Music Videos almost by accident, where popular music videos are stripped of the music and you hear what could have been the sound when the video was shot. Below I have embedded the video for Dancing in the Streets by Mick Jagger and David Bowie with this treatment – follow the link if you can’t see the video below, and follow this link to the original video, including music.


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


Did you enjoy this? Subscribe to The Hot Iron by RSS/XML feed or Read by Email.

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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/29/14 at 03:03 PM
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Monday, June 23, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 20 2014

photo of the back of a Lands’ End catalog

As the original Disney classic Cinderella plays in the background, allowing me a few minutes to post my learnings and thoughts from the week…

  • Clearly whomever schedules Lands’ End catalogs is the only person in the world who doesn’t know that the Sears store in downtown Chicago closed over a month ago now.
  • After a search for a mobile phone that would be good for my Aunt who is, let’s just say, a few years older than me, I came across the Doro PhoneEasy 618. When I looked to see where they sell them, of course the closest location listed was the above-mentioned closed Sears store. But as others are still open nearby, I will investigate it to see if it will work for my Aunt, and also won’t lock me to a particular network carrier.
  • Speaking of mobile devices, Web retail behemoth Amazon announced its forthcoming Amazon Fire Phone. It runs the Android operating system, has a 13 megapixel camera, has something called Dynamic Perspective for 3D effects, and you can buy it with or without a phone contract, or as it is known as unlocked. Oh, and it makes it easy for you to buy other things from Amazon. I like the phone. The only thing I am curious about is why the Amazon logo is only on the back of the device and not on the front.
  • The Web browser Firefox, the direct descendent of the original NCSA Mosaic Web browser, has something called “safe mode” and apparently you can get stuck in it, as I was this week. The only thing is I don’t know if I am completely out of it, and cannot disable annoying but surely ignorable browser plug-ins. Ah, to remember the day when the Web browser just did what it needed to.
  • Last weekend was the annual Chicago Blues Fest, held in Grant Park by Lake Michigan. For several years after we first moved to Chicago, the festivals in the park were truly “open” where you could come and go as you wanted, and providing you didn’t break the law, you could set up a tent, flags and have a great time. Shortly after Chicago started bidding for the 2016 Summer Olympics, events like the Blues Fest were “locked down” with large fences and entrypoints put around what were still events with no cost to attend. As my lovely wife and I were walking towards the lakefront we passed the Blues Fest and decided to check it out for a little while. That is, until I saw people with “security” shirts patting people down who were entering the area. Really? Why? Because the number of murders from the previous 2 years doubled… to zero? I was appalled, and simply walked away.
  • A few hours prior to the Blues Fest dismay I started my day on a high point, participating in the annual Liver Life Walk in Chicago to benefit the American Liver Foundation. We exceeded our team goal and raised over $2,000 to this worthy cause, who also spends almost 90% of monies raised on programs, research and advocacy for liver diseases and the people affected by them. As many of the first contributors to the team found the link here on The Hot Iron, a special thank you in advance of a formal thank you to arrive in your post mailbox soon.
  • There is nothing like a new battery for your notebook PC.
  • In a previous lessons learned I had mentioned my daughter’s school pictures were taken in front of a green screen and using chroma key technology I could choose the background. This past week we put up her picture, along with my other daughter’s picture, which was taken the old-fashioned way with a backdrop. Where her picture is beautiful, it just doesn’t have the “warmth” of her sister’s. When school resumes I will be requesting they give the option to have a standard backdrop.
  • My good friend Pete finally… FINALLY had his business’ Web site redesigned. Check out the new Web site for Foresight Childproofing. If you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area and have kids, call Pete to have him make your home safe for the little ones. With the redesign he also took my advice and had my good friend Emily Brackett and her studio Visible Logic not only build a great site that looks great on a standard computer or mobile device, but she also made some nice changes to the Foresight logo. Wherever you are, Emily and her team can do wonders for you and your business with its presence, from print to Web.
  • I lost count of the number of emails I received with approved job offers from Apple and Facebook. Where I laud the creativity and timeliness of spammers, they may just want to throw a few slices of spam rather than a few cases if they want to better deceive people.
  • I finally ordered something from Freshii, a chain of fresh food restaurants. I say finally here as I tried to order from them twice before with no luck. The first time I went into one store and, realizing there was a process to ordering, followed everyone else and grabbed a clipboard and paper to place an order. As I didn’t have my reading glasses with me I couldn’t read the microtext on the sheet. The second time Freshii was the offering of the day from Fooda in my office and the service was wicked slow, with a huge queue of people. This time I went to a new store around the corner from me. Where I didn’t see any clipboards, I did see video screens with small text, but this time I had my reading glasses. Several customers who came in at the same time clearly did not know where to go as we were standing in line at the part of the counter where you didn’t order. Clearly the employees couldn’t read the confused faces as they didn’t offer any real help, only to take our order. I chose a salad, and other around me got other things. The salad was good – not the greatest salad I ever ate, but it was good. As I was finishing my salad a woman who was in line with me before was leaving and said to me, “well, we figured it out!” I will probably go back, but the next time I will explore the options more.
  • My how time flies. 2014 marks the 28th anniversary of the Marketing over Coffee Awards. Where I don’t have strong memories of this from my high school days, what I do remember well is the movie Ghostbusters, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. With the anniversary has been a lot of talk about the title theme song of the movie by Ray Parker, Jr. and how it came into being, and the article linked here goes into its detail. The video itself was unique in many ways, not to mention the set not bursting into flames from all of the hairspray worn by the people in it. I embedded the video below but if you don’t see it you can follow this link to YouTube to view the video for who you gonna call.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/23/14 at 10:08 PM
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Monday, June 16, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 13 2014

photo of the complete 1,004 Portrait sculpture at Millennium Park, Chicago

After waiting all total about 30 minutes for Windows 7 to patch itself, and a few other lame excuses for this being posted late…

  • The installation of the 1,004 Portraits at Chicago’s Millennium Park, which I mentioned in last week’s post, is complete. This is what it looks like at around 7:30 am Central time with the sun’s reflection off of buildings on Michigan Avenue.
  • Speaking of the last blog post here on The Hot Iron – it was my 750th post. After the last several years of not blogging much, it is good to hit a milestone like that.
  • Morrissey, who came to fame in the 80’s as the lead singer of The Smiths and since has had a prolific solo career, canceled the remaining dates on his US tour as he caught some form of virus in Miami, including tonite’s show. The fact that I had great seats for that show makes me sad, but I hope he gets better and books yet a third show in the city, which hopefully be the charm to see him here.
  • I did get my fix of 80’s music last Friday night as I “heard” Foreigner and Styx. They were performing at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, an outdoor ampitheatre that sits where the former Meigs Field airport was. If you look at this aerial map of the venue, you may see water around it. That water is Lake Michigan and Burnham Harbor, where boats are docked or do dock by it for concerts there, where they can hear them extremely clearly, and for free. I know as I was on a boat in the harbor singing along with Foreigner, who’s 45 rpm single “Urgent” was the first record I ever bought in the late 70’s. It was wicked awesome, and thanks to Kristy and Edi for having us aboard.
  • People are more inclined to give to a specific cause or item rather than just to a general fund. For example, ask people to contribute any amount to a charity, and you will not get the response like asking someone to donate to purchase a specific piece of equipment for a charity that has a fixed cost. It also works better if you repeatedly go back to those same people and ask for another specific item.
  • Just recently Hailo, my choice for taxi hailing app, added black car service. So rather than riding in a standard taxi cab, you can choose a black car – a leather-lined sedan or SUV or even a limo – for just a little more than the cost of a standard taxi. This new option is so easy to choose, and it could become addictive.
  • This past week I learned the terms information foraging and information scent. Though I had just learned these terms, I was very familiar with the concepts and have used them in Web design and content development for years. For those of you that are not technical, follow the link above and read the article and let me know if it makes sense to you, and if you have experienced this yourself.
  • I don’t need someone pimping out their new biography to make it “Ideas Week” – for me, every week is ideas week.
  • Upon catching up on podcasts this week, I got to listen to the 100th episode of The Voicemail. It is a weekly, around 30-minute podcast on mobile technology hosted by 2 very smart and witty guys, James Whatley and Stefan Constantinescu. If you are interested at all in the mobile device industry you must listen, and thank me later.
  • My good friend and colleague Tom Ordonez is launching Miami Startup School. Being billed as a “3-month bootcamp that teaches you the right way to create a business. Sales, marketing, legal, tech. Everything you need to do it the right “lean startup” way and stop wasting time and money” I am sure it will be a success for those who attend and for Tom. He is a serial entrepreneur and takes a no-nonsense approach to building thriving businesses.
  • I was amused by the story of how ad agency Cramer-Krasselt parted ways with Panera Bread. Where I personally don’t have an opinion either way about their advertising, they certainly need a creative touch in the presentation of their in-store menus. Most of the time when I am in there, only to buy a loaf of their fresh bread, I am behind people who can’t make heads or tails of their menu. With numerous colors and fonts, it is not a quick read by any stretch.
  • Though it originally aired over a year ago on national TV in the US, I was just made aware of this dialogue in the CBS-TV show “Mike and Molly” which interestingly takes place in Chicago. The exchange is between 2 older men, an Italian-American, and the other who is apparently a farmer or lives in a rural area. Their exchange is full of stereotypes, making references to life on the farm and being Italian. Where comments about an Italian man’s mother’s moustache is one thing, calling him a WOP is another. The term is a racial slur against Italians, and is clearly not an apples-for-apples comparison to the insults the Italian said to the farmer, yet it somehow cleared for broadcast? You can view the excerpt from the Mike and Molly episode on YouTube at this link and I have embedded it below. Where I usually end my weekly lessons learned on a high note with a video, this one is surely a low point. Seeing this only reinforces why I don’t have cable TV or an antenna.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/16/14 at 07:18 PM
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What I Learned This Week For June 6 2014

photo of the base of 1,004 Portraits sculpture at Millennium Park, Chicago

Processing the virtual sticky notes in my BugMe app on my iPhone that I accumulated with what I learned, here they are…

  • So what is that pictured above? It is a large toilet? Or a statue of Jay Leno’s chin? No, it is the start of one of the 4 new sculptures as part of the 1,004 Portraits installation at Chicago’s Millennium Park. The artist who created the Crown Fountain is behind this, as this sculpture and 3 others in a more inconspicuous location are extensions of the original 1,000 portraits that are illuminated on the glass block towers that is the hottest attraction on summer’s hottest days. This giant head will be looking at me for the next year and a half.
  • Speaking of the Crown Fountain, they finally aligned the video with the spitting water, so the water looks like it is coming out of the people’s mouths, rather than their lip or moustache as it has been for the last couple of years.
  • Like many of you, I have been wondering what Goldie Hawn has been up to the last few years. It turns out she has a foundation, appropriately called The Hawn Foundation, which aims to create programs to help kids learn and grow emotionally stable, all without pharmaceuticals. I haven’t looked into this fully, but I have been following them on Twitter as their goal sounds noble.
  • screen shot of the BugMe appThank you Chicago Blackhawks for another hard-fought exciting season of hockey. Watching you lose in overtime in the final leading to the Stanley Cup was heartbreaking, but you made it interesting leading up to it.
  • The Caribou Coffee shop at 20 Michigan Avenue in Chicago is closing on June 15. Right next door to it is a Starbucks, and next to that a Panera Bread and around the corner from it is another Starbucks. Going the other way is a Caffe Baci where you can get coffee, a Walgreen’s where you can get anything to drink, then next to it a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts, and next to it Toni Patisserie where you can get coffee too. Oh, and around the corner is the Pittsfield Café, which serves a great inexpensive breakfast and, you guessed it, coffee.
  • Though I will still be drinking coffee, my warm weather drink has become the margarita – on the rocks with no salt.
  • I received an email that the Box Tops Marketplace, where you could earn virtual Box Tops for Education for your favorite school by simply clicking on a store link, is closing as of July 31. With the simplicity of earning points which are essentially affiliate referrals, I am surprised it has been around this long.
  • Good luck Jen on your new adventure! We will miss you, and I am sure you will miss us when you’re cashing in all of those frequent flyer miles and sitting in first class.
  • When I took my daughter on a play date with her friend to a Chicago White Sox game, her first large sporting event, I was a little sad when I found out the tickets were virtual, a QR code to be scanned from the TicketMaster app. But low and behold, upon scanning them the ticket agent printed an “MLB Fan Pass” which is essence a ticket stub. So now she has something for her scrap book.
  • This past week baseball journeyman Don Zimmer died too young at 83 after serving three score and 6 years in the game he loved. I will always remember him as manager of the Boston Red Sox when I was growing up, and with all of the other teams he played or coached for, many people will have their own memories of him. One thing I learned about him was he was the catalyst for baseball introducing batting helmets.
  • Is it just me or am I the only person trying to do enterprise mobile app adoption, marketing and promotion?
  • Something happened this week when trying to rearrange my work schedule and I said out loud, “great googly moogly” and thought of the infamous Snickers commercial. I have embedded it below or click the above link to watch it on YouTube, and tell me in the comments ot this post if we should try to bring back that phrase!


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/10/14 at 09:55 PM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Government Breakdown On A Small Level In Chicago

News about the latest government scandal, no matter when, seems to consume the mainstream media… at least until the buzz or outrage dies down or another story takes its place. As it is hard to get any attention for anything smaller or doesn’t make the cut for a 23-minute newscast, people like myself take on telling these stories, in hopes they are heard, spread and people can hopefully can avoid it happening to them.

This story is about something that happened to me, and is still in process. It may not sound like such a big deal, but it highlights how a breakdown across government agencies can happen at any level, from the parks department in Chicago to the US Veterans Administration.

A not-so-special events parking ticket

photo of parking sign on South State Street in Chicago

A few weeks back I parked my car along South State Street in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. There are several types of on-street parking spaces there – metered, resident, open with the exception of during an event at nearby Soldier Field, or some combination of these. Where I parked was a combination of the last 2. It was a Saturday afternoon, and in my mind there was no event going on at Soldier Field, the home of the NFL Chicago Bears, so I parked and went on my way. Little did I know there was a beer festival going on at the stadium, and upon return to my car I saw a parking attendant put a ticket on my car, a US$60 fine for a “special events restriction.”

Needless to say, I was a little upset about this, but clearly I was in the wrong. To reinforce this, had I simply followed the instructions on the street signs I could have avoided the fine and parked elsewhere. As shown in the photo above, the sign clearly tells parkers to check Soldier Field’s Web site or call 311, Chicago’s non-emergency information hotline, to see if there is an event going on a few blocks away. I would surely do this the next time, as I had 60 reasons to do so.

Next time a communication breakdown

Fast forward to this past Saturday and I am getting ready to drive down to the South Loop, and would be looking for on-street parking. Remembering my last experience, I decided to check if any “special events restrictions” were in play. Where the concept was easy enough and I had the places to check, I was unsuccessful in this cross-functional communication breakdown.

First I called 311, and the conversation went something like this:

311: (after about a minute on hold) Can I help you?
Mike: Is there any events going on at Soldier Field today?
311: Yes, there is a walk going on.
Mike: What time does it end?
311: It started at 9 and I don’t have when it is supposed to end.
Mike: Really?
311: Yes.

So much for that channel, and I decided to check the Soldier Field Web site at soldierfield.net, and I got the following:

screenshot of soldierfield.net

This was odd, as I know I had the right URL for the site, so I tried searching for the site and linking to it that way, and I got the same result. I had been to the Soldier Field Web site before, and I had no idea what was wrong or where it was. Where is the Web site? Is it temporarily down for maintenance or is there a bigger problem.

I then took to Twitter, first clicking on the link on their profile to the Web site and got the same error. Then I sent a tweet to @soldierfield and then checked the time and had some place to go, so I left and found on-street meter parking not far from my destination and paid a few dollars and all was good.

Well, all was good except for the Soldier Field Web site. Now almost a week later, it is still down. In the course of that afternoon I got a reply to my tweet from @soldierfield on my mobile phone – I saw it on the lock screen of my iPhone as an alert from the Twitter app. It only showed the beginning of it, and it said something to the affect that “they were sorry for the inconvenience” – I don’t recall exactly what it said, and a few minutes later when I went back to check it, the tweet was gone. I certainly was not hallucinating or doing anything to cause me to dream about it. After checking the Twitter app, it was certainly gone, and they must have deleted it after they sent it to me.

Though it is not American football season, there are other events going on at Soldier Field, one being soccer with Mexico vs. Bosnia this past Tuesday night. Here it is Thursday and still no Web site or even an explanation where it is, and a tweet is a common way to get the word out.

Where 311 did not have all of the information, and Soldier Field’s Web site had none of it, I was not willing to risk it that the parking authority or the outsourced ticket attendants that roam the streets of the city were not there, as I was almost certain they would be. The workaround was paying to park for US$6 for 3 hours, and that was fine for me. Less hassle, namely from barking up the tree of various city agencies or the local alderman, as I didn’t have the time or interest to fight that battle, and my time, effort and frustration would certainly be worth more than 6 dollars.


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


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 06/04/14 at 11:44 PM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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