Archive for June, 2005

Ongoing internal debate about technology

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Can’t understand why the Treo is acting funny in a different way now. I’m typing away on my wireless keyboard and inexplicably the light goes dim. Then suddenly it turns off in the middle of working. It hasn’t done that before, so this feels like a whole new issue.

What is it like to live in a world where you don’t have to battle technology? Of course, you don’t have the advantages of it–like being mobile with your work and in contact wherever you are (if you so choose–but that’s a topic for another time).

So I thought I had reached the stage where I could write and edit documents while sitting on the floor doing bunny time–which would be a good thing: Angelina gets her petting and I can get stuff done. But after spending many hours trying to get the documents, the email, the wireless keyboard, and the rest to work simultaneously, now I have to face this strange fading light and sudden blackout stuff.

I guess we’ll see. No patience tonight to start the troubleshooting process again. Been through it too many times in the last week. (Strange, when I touch the screen, the light gets stronger again…. hmmm.) Sounds a little psycho, doesn’t it? Or paranoid maybe. Who knows. Do machines have a personality that can become scarred and dysfunctional like us people? I know, it sounds silly. But when you look at how not long ago we didn’t believe, for example, that trees and plants having “feelings” and now we’ve learned that they can and do react to external stimuli such as talking, it makes you wonder.

Yes, I know. Technology is created by humankind; plants are from the Universe. Well, maybe the question will be answered one day when we’re all long gone. For now, I think it’s safe to assume anything is possible.

And this morning, Documents to Go is once again causing a system reboot everytime I try to open a document. You know, I just may be bringing this Treo phone back to Verizon Wireless today.

Technology versus productivity

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Man, I have been so frustrated with trying to get my new Treo 650 phone fully set up and functioning. The glitches and software bugs and funny little issues have eaten up hours of productive time. I’ve been bitching about it to people all week long.

So I thought I’d do a little research. Here’s a good study done at MIT Sloan School of Management that says, it’s a paradox that with the incredible increase in information technology, our actual productivity isn’t going up. Makes sense to me. We were talking about this last night and somebody said, yeah, look at the server crashes and hard drive crashes that happen regularly. Yes, I agreed that can be a pretty terrible loss of critical business information. Then It occurred to me that the only way that sort of thing ever happened in the pre-IT days was if your building burned down and all your files in it. How often did that happen? Once in 20 years? Never? Yes most businesses today suffer crippling losses of data quite often.

I track my time each week. Now, not only was I paying my assistant’s time all week to do all the learning curve stuff on the Treo, but in addition I’ve logged nearly two whole days’ worth of time dealing with this. And I just discovered that we’re back where we started–some programs seem to be incompatible with others and so one or more become unusable.

And the whole purpose of this exercise is precisely so that I can be more productive. Sigh.

Air traveler's tip

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

If your airport is like Cleveland’s and you take hub airlines often, the crowds for your flights vary outrageously. If you leave at 6 am or 8 pm, you probably breeze through security, but if you leave at a more popular time, you can end up spending anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours standing in line.

Makes it hard to estimate the time you have to leave the house or office. Naturally, you bring your laptop and/or cell phone so if you end up sitting there for 60 to 90 minutes, you can be productive. But wouldn’t it be nice to know ahead of time how much time you have to plan to spend in line or fill with work?

This tip from the National Association of Women Business Owners newsletter looks promising:

Several hours before your flight time–or the day before, because it gives you approximations based on historical, not actual passenger traffic data–visit http://waittime.tsa.dhs.gov/index.html. There you enter your state, name of your departure airport and the hour of your official time of departure. The site is supposed to give you the estimated security checkpoint wait time–when I tried it this morning it wasn’t working.

If you like this idea, let’s all email the folks at tsa-contactcenter@dhs.gov and ask them to get the site fixed.

Positive emotions = health = productivity

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

The evidence is in, and it’s conclusive. Heartmath.org is a site full of scientific research findings about the strength of the heart for creating health.

Yep, that’s right. Your heart can create good health–and you can control it. This is revolutionary stuff that huge corporations like Hewlett Packard are paying big bucks to put their executives through.

And recently they simplified the measuring apparatus to the extent that you can buy one for at home or office.

Here’s how it works: You stick a sensor on your finger and can view a moving image of your heart rhythms. If you’re stressed, the pattern is erratic and freaked-out looking. But in 30 seconds or less, by focusing on a positive emotion–love, caring, appreciation, anything like that–you can change that pattern to a smooth even one.

And in the process you are lowering bad hormones, increasing good ones, changing your electrical output, and so on and so on. It’s almost miraculous–but it’s absolutely solid science.

I’ve been waiting for the day–and it is upon us. No more need to be embarrassed to talk about the value of emotions for productivity at work, etc. The evidence is in.

Well, well, well – Venture Capitalists love the Internet again

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

The game has changed since the big bust back in the late 90s. This NYTimes article says:

“In 1999, a Web site that drew millions of visitors had a hard time turning those visitors into profits. Now the same site can do a robust business selling advertising as companies large and small collectively pour billions into Internet marketing.”

Fascinating. Big monies are changing hands because the broadband has made the Internet so quick and easy and accessible that the new name of the game is “advertising”–and any entrepreneur smart enough to be able to generate a ton of traffic is ripe for a buyout–sometimes by the big guns like Google and Yahoo.

Thus we have the growth of search engine optimization–which is really a new branch of direct marketing/advertising. Companies in that sector, too, are scrambling to buy each other out both to eliminate competition and to build critical mass in revenues–it becomes a high-margin, repeat business once you’ve acquired and set up a customer.

Isn’t it fun being alive at a time when everything around you changes in the time it takes you to order a whole-grain roll and a latte? ” )

Taking back for unethical behavior

Monday, June 13th, 2005

Sometimes justice triumphs–at least partly.

Wal-Mart Rescinds Exec’s Retirement Deal: “In April, Wal-Mart said it had frozen millions of dollars in benefits for Coughlin. According to the regulatory filing, Wal-Mart suspended Coughlin’s vesting of 186,407 shares of restricted stock, worth $9.77 million at the end of the company’s last fiscal year, and 302,503 stock options exercisable within 60 days pending further investigation into Coughlin’s actions.

“…interest credited to Coughlin’s own deferrals to the deferred compensation plan account is to be reduced by 50 percent. His supplemental executive retirement account will be recalculated as if no employer contributions were credited on or after Jan. 31, 1996, the filing said.

I guess it’s the gesture that counts.

Pictures with everything – single-use digicams

Sunday, June 12th, 2005

Getting pictures to go with your ad/website/newsletter/etc. used to be a huge deal. Now that digital cameras are becoming ubiquitous, it’s a snap–though of course the quality on most is far below the standards for film.

But people are getting conditioned to seeing–and accepting–photos that aren’t high-resolution. It’s what’s in the picture that counts for most of us for most purposes (though I use that screen saver from Microsoft that rotates through your own “My Pictures” folder and I gotta tell ya, when a good high-res photo comes up, I’m mesmerized, even though the display is only 72 dpi, the quality of the original still shines through). But anyway, Daniel Greenberg writers in the Washington Post about rentable, single-use digital cameras (25 pictures–the store processes them onto a CD for you).

“The camera itself feels fairly rugged and seems simple to operate, with an automatic flash and a timer. The color display is great for checking whether you want to keep or delete a photo–which we often did, thanks to slight shutter lag that left many shots misaligned (although this lag was, surprisingly, less than on some pricier cameras).”

With the explosion of photo-sharing software and programs that let you email pictures to your blog, I predict we’re going to see more and more photos everywhere on the Internet–people love to look at pictures and now that it’s incredibly easy to make ‘em and pass ‘em around, businesses should begin to take advantage of that fact.

What should you photograph? Well, for example, just a picture of a customer service rep could be an exciting subject–somebody your readers talk to but never get to see. How about the CEO’s dog? I mean, what you’re trying to do is engage people–pique their curiosity, etc. Think about what YOU would enjoy seeing on your vendor’s website–let your own thoughts be your guide.

Unbelievable: a mouse that takes fingerprints

Saturday, June 11th, 2005

Too much. This eWeek report says a company called APC has just introduced a USB optical mouse that reads fingerprints and works with a password system for Windows systems.

If you worry about security for transactions over the Internet (maybe your bank account, your web-based email) you can spend $59 and get the Biometric Mouse Password Manager. Of course, you have to remember to carry it with you but–here’s the cool part–the writer says the mouse automatically logs you in to these sites. Makes it simple and fast–especially if you have complicated passwords. All you do is lay your thumb on it and it does the rest. Check it out.

Also posted at Blogcritics

Censorship in China

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Suppress the Internet? Yes, it’s possible. Forbes online reports that the Chinese government is actually censoring online content as well as withholding business news even sometimes from business people staying in hotels there (the Wall Street Journal, for example, doesn’t get delivered until late in the afternoon because the censors have spent time with it).

“Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist Party’s propaganda,” said Reporters Without Borders, which defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. “This decision will enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively.”

In this day and age of globalization, we ask? Yes, it’s just another signal that you as a business owner need to conduct strict due diligence when deciding when, with whom and how you will do business in or with China.

Poor corporate ethics show no favoritism

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

If we think the stockholders at Enron and other high-profile corporate cheaters got hurt, what about disabled people in the Washington, DC area who rely on a subsidized public access bus service to get to work–and their buses often arrive hours late or don’t show up at all?Washington Post reports this bus company is lying about its on-time statistics–and getting paid BIG performance bonuses for its “great” service.

Well, congratulations to some of the disabled–some of whom lost jobs because these buses consistently didn’t get them to work on time–who have decided to sue. But what a shame it takes that kind of upheaval in so many lives to bring the shoddy performance and the misrepresentations and the lies to light.

Who ARE the people who can lie so outrageously and accept money for services not rendered? Who raised them? Is this a case of whatever the head honcho says, people who want to keep their jobs just close their eyes? No wonder Adolph Hitler could do what he did. Can fear make cowards and liars of us all?

also posted at Blogcritics.org