Posts

Day One

I woke up this morning at 3am local time. Full day of briefings and a bit of a break now until 7:30pm. Hopefully back to the room by nine. Just not used to being up for that long in a day. Even though I will go to sleep as soon as I get back, I will still get up at 3am tomorrow. I don’t adjust well to time zone changes.

I think the agenda for these two days was too tightly packed. Oh well. One more long day tomorrow. Some photography on Friday and then a readjustment back to eastern time when I make the flight back on Saturday.

Looks like a bit of a break with the weather on Friday. Forecasters are now predicting a few showers as opposed to a full day of rain.

The briefings today were really good. Some very bright and passionate presenters at Microsoft and I was exposed to some interesting perspectives. And some cool software.

Liberty Grand

I gave a talk on Web 2.0 and Innovation at the Liberty Grand in Toronto last week. And someone took this shot while I was pondering the meaning of life, the web and everything.

The device I was holding in my hand was supposed to advance my slides. Sadly, it merely triggered a light to a person behind a computer at the back of this large hall. What I was saying at this point was: “Next slide, please”.

RC at Liberty Grand

Five Ways to a Workplace Superstar

As I get older, I find that there are way too many success lists. Five of this, six of that, seven of the other.

I came across this article, Five Ways to Make Yourself a Workplace Superstar.

  1. Have gaps in your resume
  2. Cut corners at work to make time for the gym
  3. Start a side business
  4. Turn down promotions
  5. Start a blog

Except for the blog, I haven’t tried this approach to career success. Looks interesting.

A Job, A Career or A Calling

I came across this article from the Leonard Stern School of Business, New York University. The author makes the following observation: no work is, in itself, a job, a career or a calling. Some people do not seek fulfillment through their work and are still happy in life. All options are legitimate and possible.

No Show

With all of the focus on the importance of managing customer relationships, I always find it odd when even the most basic of promises are broken.

We had arranged to meet with several companies this week to review our heating and cooling requirements for our home. And if you are a homeowner, you know that replacing an air conditioner and a furnance is an expensive undertaking. It requires a site visit to correctly determine the appropriate configuration and it requires consultation in terms of reviewing product alternatives and potential solutions.

We contacted a local company in our community. We made an appointment that was convenient for this company. Like most families, our time at home is valued. To make time available to this company meant that time was not available for other family activities.

We had supper. We cleaned up the kitchen. We waited for the folks from this company to show up. We waited. And waited.

They did not show. They did not call. And, as far as I am concerned, they did not care.

And by failing to honour the most basic promise of meeting at a specific time, we will not give them another meeting. If this is how they handle prospects at the beginning of the sales cycle, it does not bode well for how they might handle customers in the service and support cycle.

I thought about basic, common courtesy. If the company was unable to show up for a meeting that they scheduled, a simple telephone call would have been sufficient. Something along the lines of “We’re sorry. We are not able to get to your home this evening. Would it be possible to reschedule to another time?”

Blackwater USA

A friend strongly recommended that I read Blackwater USA by Jeremy Scahill. I had never heard of Blackwater USA.

Blackwater USA is a a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and based in North Carolina. The company describes itself as a “military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company.” Their services are for-hire. And there is some concern that fundamentalist Christians are bankrolling mercenaries. Blackwater specializes in training and deploying contract mercenaries, however it is simultanously reframing its mission, calling its work “humanitarian” and “peacekeeping.” I do find it a bit odd that Christians are in the business of selling contract soldiers to government and other agencies. But, digging deeper into the company, there are reasons why I am not surprised.

This article reports that the company does about $500 million in revenues and employs about 2,300 people with another 20,000 or so on call.

Erik Prince inherited a small fortune when his father died. His father had a very successful auto parts business and the family business was sold for over $1 billion. He used the capital to build the largest privately owned military training base in the world. 7,000 acres in North Carolina. And another 80 acres near Chicago.

His sister married into the DeVos family. The Richard DeVos family. Richard is the co-founder of Amway. Poor guy. Richard’s net worth is only about $3.4 billion. I guess someone makes money at Amway and Quixtar. And the DeVos and Prince families are strongly connected.

Amway. Blackwater USA. Isn’t it great that Christians are bringing these types of businesses into the world? Multi-level marketing and war profiteering. Wonderful.

Jigsaw

Over the past few months the number of emails from salespeople began to overwhelm my inbox. Why am I receiving so much more traffic? I decided to push back against one company. I asked them why I was receiving so much traffic from them through their U.S. operations.

“Jigsaw.”

Jigsaw? What is that?

An evil creation is what it is. Somehow my contact information was uploaded to their database and I have no ability to remove it.

Jigsaw Data Corporation is an online business directory whose website allows users to find, collect and trade business contacts through a subscriber built database. Members can access the database by paying a monthly fee, or gain free access by entering 25 new contacts a month. Free access is based on a point system and members get a contact back for each contact they enter. Members are also given points for fixing inaccuracies.

Annalee Newitz, vice president of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, an international organization based in San Francisco, called Jigsaw a “stalkers’ paradise,” as well as a breeding ground for identity thieves and spammers.

I did confirm that my information lives on their database. I tried to find a way to remove my information and here is the statement off of their website:

Submitting Your Suppression Request Form

To request suppression, you must submit a Suppression Request Form (use of this form will ensure that you provide all necessary information). To be considered, the form must be accompanied by all appropriate supporting documentation as described below:

  • If your information was stolen or entered in violation of a non-disclosure agreement or similar restrictions, a copy of a police report or documentation of any legal action resulting from the violation.
  • If you are a person whose professional position places you at risk of serious bodily injury or death, a letter from your supervisor stating that your position exposes you to a threat of death or serious bodily harm and describing your responsibilities.
  • If you are a victim of identity theft, a copy of a law enforcement or similar official report documenting the identity theft.
  • If you are otherwise at risk of physical harm, a copy of a protective court order, a law enforcement report, or documentation such as a letter from a social worker or a health care professional. 

I cannot remove the information. And, as you can see, suppressing the information is based on a ridiculous set of conditions. Hopefully the privacy issues with this type of nonsense will result in legal proceedings against the company. I for one will be highly unresponsive to anyone that contacts me through such a service.

E-tool Bill of Rights

Always connected. Always available. Always responding. That seems to be the way of business these days.

When I took the break to Bermuda a few weeks back, I did something unusual. I left my Blackberry behind. And I left my notebook behind. I was, for the most part, unplugged. I did continue to blog and I also checked my gmail account. But everything else was left behind.

What was troubling to me was that this had become an unusual act. Leaving work behind while on vacation seemed inappropriate.

Fast Company carried a piece on instant-communications technology. They outlined the following articles for an E-tool Bill of Rights:

  • Article 1: There shall be no assumption of unlimited e-access simply because the tools allow it. Excessive messaging shall be considered electronic littering.
  • Article 2: The right of the people to be secure from unwarranted electronic work intrusions at home shall not be violated. Nights and weekends shall be considered unplugged zones.
  • Article 3: The people shall have the right to switch off email notification and other noisemakers and instead check messages at designated times to prevent attention deficit.
  • Article 4: There shall be no requirement of immediate response to messaging, unless urgency is determined.
  • Article 5: The time of the people shall be respected. Therefore, book-length thread emails, short acknowledgment notes (“Got it,” etc.), and lame chain jokes shall not be allowed.
  • Article 6: Companies shall establish written policies to manage e-messaging.
  • Article 7: The people are not on vacation if they are still in contact with the office. There shall be no requirement while on holiday to carry pagers, or check email or voice mail.
  • Article 8: Any email longer than two paragraphs shall not be sent. Instead, time shall be saved by telephone contact.
  • Article 9: BlackBerry users shall be allowed to turn off incessant mail sound effects and shut down their devices at the end of the workday.
  • Article 10: E-contact-free zones/days shall be negotiated to improve performance and jump-start innovation. Fines shall be levied when anyone sends e-messages after 7 p.m.

Via.