Saturday, May 28, 2011

Microsoft & Marketshare

While reading the latest post over at (looking at Windows Phone 7's Mango release & Windows Live below), I started thinking about Windows and the rest of Microsoft. Windows became strong by allowing a huge spread of machines to run it; particularly low cost ones. Even if you couldn't afford a Mac, there is a Windows PC out there for you. Oddly, with Zune and WP7, they've focused on the premium market. Why isn't there an entry priced Zune? Even Apple has lower priced iPods. Funny to think that price plays a role, I guess. Pundits tend to focus on features and innovation. Yet most consumers must deal with price, at least some point in the purchase process.

Friday, May 27, 2011


The notion of transparency really fascinates me. First, how fluid the definition is. What does it mean to be "transparent"? One way to look at it is the opposite of secret. A commitment to transparency does not ensure there will not be any secrets. Many would say that there is need for secrecy, at least in certain areas. Defining those areas is, not too surprising, is also changeable. Everyone seems to have differing opinions. Certainly part of that stems from who benefits/who is harmed. For me, and this thread (at least), I clearly identify two macro-areas: security (keeping someone/people/things safe) and inhibiting distraction. The later is less about "secrecy" (and it's assorted baggage) and rather, more gently, "limited transparency". As a leader, having your team fully "in the know" about greater strategy, issues, etc, would first and foremost keep people from getting their "work" done. Or, closely related, is avoiding "boring to death with details". Anyway, there are also larger issues of morality, et al. These are all interesting, and important, related topics. However, I'm focusing on the role trust plays.

Establishing trust is critical before the need for secrecy comes. For secrecy often entails, dare I say implies, deception. Especially if trust is damaged in any way, the assumption of a request for secrecy is deception. So many leaders assume/expect/demand the requisite trust without building relationship, with establishing respect and trust. They, of course, are then shocked with any absence of detail causes distraction and confusion.

Trust comes from relationship, from people living their principles and establishing a record of quality. Then holding back detail is tolerated, accepted.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End Of The World

I expect everyone with any connection to the greater outside themselves has heard of Camping and his prediction that the pseudo-Christian Rapture will happen today. It's had been much too easy join in the smug mockery. I'm reminded this morning that people sincerely believe this, and have made many life decisions based on this. And they're lives will be abruptly upended. Some will laugh it off, mildly to extremely angry that they were duped. But able to externalize the blame. There are those, though, that will deeply internalize this failure. And our wholesale mocking of this won't help them through the personal mess they've created. Compassion will be crucial. For some, today will be a rude and painful day of betrayal and heartbreak.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughts on Intimidating the Press

I just read a piece over at Cross-Cut about the Perugia Public Prosecutor's use of his office to harass members of the press. Let me start by stating, though I reside in Seattle, I have no skin the Amanda Know case. I don't know Ms. Knox or her family, and have no standing to offer any critique of the case, either pro or con (so please, I don't care to debate it...not my bailiwick, so to speak). So, this is not about the murder case. No, it's much bigger: freedom of the press. This cornerstone of democracy looks to be under serious threat in Italy.

I find it particularly disturbing that Mr. Mignini, the aforementioned prosecutor, an agent of the government, is so aggressively seeking to undermine core democratic underpinnings. This is someone who has an inherent responsibility towards these principles. To see him trample upon them pains me deeply. The destructive impact of this in manifold, and not just in Italy.

The Committee To Protect Journalists has written to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano seeking his intercession. I hope that President Napolitano sees fit to intercede. This sort of chill is deeply detrimental to Italian democracy, and democracy worldwide.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Macprotector Scam & Trojan

Hey folks, there's a nasty Mac specific trojan running through the wild. It looks to be mostly transmitted by social engineering means. Particularly, with alarming "virus alert" messages from an infected website demanding you install MacProtector, MacSecurity, or MacDefendor.

If you have this beast, I recommend following the instructions posted in Apple's forum.

There are a few discussions about this going on over the web right now. I came across this via Ed Bott's pieces today over at ZDNet (#1 & #2). Bott's replies to John Gruber's "Wolf" post @ Daring Fireball has birthed some interesting discussion, including a clever rip by Walt Mosspuppet. In the end, it seems to be more of the old Mac vs. PC bickering that's been going on for decades.

My concern, at this point, is that there are those who think that the Mac OS "superiority" towards virus and hack exploits makes them immune from concern. There ARE Mac viri out there. As a long-time Mac user who's passionate about the platform, I think this attitude is not only bad but dangerous. We should remind people that they should be aware of the latest exploits out there and how to protect themselves. We can't let ourselves get blinded by arrogance.

So, folks, don't click on strange links, exercise caution surfing porn (if you must surf it at all), don't trust alarmist pop-ups, and don't give out your credit card number to a site that you don't trust implicitly. To paraphrase a quip by Graham Hibbert (via Twitter), we need to make sure that, when the wolf comes, we are ready.

Now, go and practice safe computing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Avoiding the Blame Game

While reading the latest post of Don Dodge's "Next Big Thing", I was reminded of what I call the "blamearama". We've all seen it. Something goes wrong in a project, or any other endeavor, and everyone points the fingers at everyone else. Rooted in fear, it's a particular issue in large companies, where everyone is risk adverse and living in terror of failing. Oddly, so many companies afflicted with this also think they're innovative. There is NO innovation without risk. One can incrementally improve, refine execution and such, but no innovation, no radical change will come out of that mindset.

Only in an environment where you can openly say "these are the things I would do differently next time", and not worry about being fired, can innovation thrive. In a healthy, innovative and creative environment, you are encouraged to take risks and be open to new ideas.

I also believe that, even in large companies where risk-aversion is the norm, it's still possible to focus on quality and abandon the need to blame. To be open to changing circumstances and assuming the best if your staff. At that point you can start to achieve execution excellence, to hear all points of view and all pieces of process. Openly understand where the breakdowns occur and find ways to overcome them. I do believe this is possible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Technology Solutions? Not So Fast...

My wife spent the end of last week and part of the weekend in a conference. Upon returning home we noticed the hotel had a $100 hold on our account. A quick call showed it as legit, and I have no problem with the action. However, what flummoxes me us that it will take several days to process. In today's world, this is stunning. I can't understand why any transaction is NOT closed out upon checkout. I can see waiting until housekeeping had cleared the room. There doesn't appear to be any benefit to the hotel, either. No cash changes hands, so it's not like they're making interest on the held money. Seems simply to be a weak system process. One that makes the hotel look disorganized and non-service savvy. Of course, most folks probably wouldn't watch their accounts like we do.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blogs, Speed & Relevance

Speed is a core part of the blogosphere. Current event discussions happen fast, pretty much instantly. To be relevant in that dialog, one must write fast, post quickly. That's dangerous, I fear. It's how innuendo and rumor become accepted facts. We writers become so focused on relevance that we lose sight of accuracy.

Consider disaster coverage. Networks feel obligated to divert all coverage, even when there's nothing to say. So desperate for something, and wanting to get the "scoop", pure junk often gets dumped into the discussion. I've found that it often takes days to weed through the initial coverage to find accuracy.

Ironically, that said, I still feel a compulsion to watch that event unfold. I'll remain glued, catching every detail, all the while knowing that a high percentage is pure bunk. I drive me crazy, I guess.

Another example, methinks, of change begins with me. I understand at a deeper level, so why do I engage the same way. I need to let my knowledge guide me. And don't continue rewarding that media behavior. Ultimately, news is driven be views. Needing eyeballs upon itself, viewership (whether page hits or Neilson ratings) pays the bills.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Facebook vs. Google Part ii

Just read this piece over at PCWorld. Geez, it just seems that the parties involved are hell-bent on damaging their own brand. First, Facebook still is denying that they were trying to smear Google. Please! Gotta call BS on that. If this was about "the people", then do it openly. Facebook seems to think we're stupid. Own up, grow up and move along.

And Burson-Marsteller...the "pros". I'm shocked they accepted this project, though give them credit for owning up and giving a mea culpa. But I'm stunned that they went and deleted a negative comment from their Facebook page. At times like this, you must be hyper vigilant and extremely sensitive.

Both Facebook and Burson need to grasp they've damaged trust. Angry denouncements only expand that divide. Every decision in the near-term needs to be focused on rebuilding trust. I don't know if they'll find themselves with lost profits or such, but the potential exists. Trust is the currency of the modern economy. Especially in social media (Facebook) and PR (Burson).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Facebook vs. Google

Finally reading up on Facebook's campaign to smear Google. My first thought was how laughable it is for Facebook to defend this by stating "they're concerned about Google's privacy concerns" just makes my head spin. Let's pretend that this is legitimate. Then it should be done in the open, acknowledging their own issues with managing privacy. Otherwise, you look childish and deceptive. In today's media saturated space, losing consumer trust can be fatal (not that I think this will kill Facebook. It can be one proverbial nail-in-the-coffin, though).

My impression? This was an attempt at being hyper-competitive and has backfired. Facebook looks childish and grossly unprofessional. Burson-Marsteller (a whole 'nother post) looks grossly unethical. A bad, bad choice that will add ammunition to the anti-Facebook crowd. There is a point which this energy can obtain critical mass. Facebook needs to work on building up the trust "bank account", not continuing to draw it down. When it's empty, the house of cards collapses.

Media Tracking

As I'm updating my resume and looking over past work, I came across some media tracking spreadsheets I'd crafted. The company is international, but the data I had was (mostly) national (US), with little bits of Canada thrown in. Anyway, what I received were spreadsheets from an agency covering all media stories. The main thing I did with this was break it down by focus (positive vs. negative, for the most part).

So, I've been considering what I would do differently now. This is just a stream of ideas, so please understand them as such. I would like to build reports with more depth. Look at regional coverage. Map out city by city, etc, across the globe if possible. Layer this on top of a map. Then with that report I'd break out positive, negative & neutral focus. It's important to note that it's hard to ascertain focus when one doesn't see the coverage. Anyway, I also thought it would be good to look at what's generating the coverage: new products, new markets, "issues" (which should be tracked by individual issues/campaigns. It would be elucidating to track how the issue moves across the landscape.). I also would add social media to this. I want to see/show how awareness is impacted by those tools.

On a technical note, I would not use Excel for data collection. Collect raw data in a database. The challenge is being proactive with the structure. I'd love to build something that was accessible at a more macro level. Perhaps with SQL and displayed in a Sharepoint site. I have an aversion to myriad individual databases globally distributed.

Anyway, I'm learning and growing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Millennium Falcon Coffee Table?

The folks over at Galatic Binder posted this awesome little table. Quite the piece of work, methinks. Were I a wealthier man, this would be on my "must have" list. It looks like it's made of bronze, so I'd hate to need to move the thing.

Thoughts on Google's $20 Per Month Laptop

So, Google is supposedly launching a $20 per month laptop (per Forbes). This will include hardware and software. What's critical for the success of this is whether it's "only" a web appliance or a fuller featured laptop. (ZDNet has a good discussion going on that.)

Personally, I expect it will have at least some offline capacity. Even in the Seattle area, expecting 24/7 web access is just not practical. And I'd like to think Google gets that. Without the ability to port to a coffee shop (yes, there are several without wifi...even around here), etc, the device's usefulness for students is severely restricted. Heck, a simple power outage turns it into a paperweight brick.

Will such a thing have access to other Linux-like/Open Source apps, or be solely limited to Google apps? Will there be a GIMP, for instance? I would greatly miss a full featured image editor. Don't know if that would be a deal-breaker, but...

I want to know how Google will deploy storage. Having a significant amount of the devices device's storage cloud based would be unique, and allow work to be more portable. Especially across platforms. It would really need to be rather seamless, but that doesn't look like a great challenge anymore. Perhaps that's how a web device would be billed; you take your notes on the device and edit them on some other device.

Any of you going to run out and get one? Drop a note in the comments.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Favorite Storycorps Interview Yet

I've been enjoying Storycorps for years. The ones aired on NPR always seem to touch me, either warming my heart and bringing tears. And each one seems to be my new favorite.

I've just discovered the little animated bits that they've been putting together with the articles. This one (below) follows the tradition of becoming my new favorite. The grandmother of this story reminds me so very much of one of my own.

So, enjoy!

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Sentimental Pitch

I sit here watching one of those "save the world and starving children" pitches. You know the ones; watching some child in the ruins of poverty, tears flowing down their face. As I've developed a deep and abiding cynicism of marketing of any stripe, these tend to annoy me (and I'm a liberal). Yet, yet I know the reason these tactics are used; it works. It's what gets people off the couch and to the phone/web. I suppose I should embrace this, the effectiveness. However, I wish that we could become deeper, that we could be reached by the logic and compassion of the need. That we weren't so numb. I guess I shall continue with that wish for some time to come.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I Will Make It Through This Year

With nearly 42% of 2011 completed, I can clearly say that is shaping up into a rough year. Well, at least career-wise. Rough spots, though, are when you get the deepest insights and, for me at least, tend to be the most life changing. Part of what's telling is the lack of angst I feel right now. The past few years have taught me the value of work and career. Most specifically, that's it's not the inner core of my being. There are things far more important. What's really amazing me is how much better I feel about myself right now. My last two roles, though rather successful on the surface, left me feeling quite empty, and struggling with lingering feelings of anxiety and exhaustion. Those feelings are blessedly absent now.

Oddly, life seems to reinforce the notion of Murphy's Law. Thus, both of our cars have needed work, medical bills came steaming in, and that sort of fun. Not economic implosion, but certainly annoying.

The absence of call-backs right now is a bit disheartening. Doesn't make you feel valuable and vital. I worry that, with my career focus on administrative assistant roles, that I've been competing with far too many people. As a role that needs "little preparation", pays modestly well, and is (technically) a growing occupation (per the Occupational Outlook of Snohomish County., I expect that many, many applicants are in this pool. Thus, I am starting to expand my focus, mostly into more project management roles. We'll see what comes.

John Richard played this tune onKEXP earlier this week. I think I might adopt it as my 2010 theme song.

The Mountain Goats "This Year" from A Bruntel on Vimeo.