Sunday, October 31, 2004

Cobbler's Children's Shoes

Well, I know what I'm likely to be spending most of my day doing. Apparently the fan is out on the power supply for the old computer I use as a print and scanner and weather station server. Alarms started going off VERY late last night and I just sat and stared at it wondering what the heck it was till I figured out it was the overheat alarm. What a drag.

At least I was still up (working on the background info for the project that I've decided to take on as part of NaNoWriMo). It would have been even more of a drag to have been woken up by those rather obnoxious alarms. Of course, now I can't really print until I get this thing taken care of.

I don't fool myself though - the job is not really just as simple as changing out the power supply. This is the second time in about a year I'll have had to do that so clearly something else is up. Which means, of course, that unless I want to keep changing out power supplies and risking further damage, I'm going to have to take the time to figure out what is up and do it pretty darned soon.

I don't exactly have a great track record there though - like many techies, I tend to have my systems running closer to the edge (at least for my own capabilities, if not always the true edge) than really works to keep it all running in top condition, which means my equipment regularly crosses the line into inoperable or barely-operable-using-annoying-workarounds. And I don't always take the time to fix it right, just fix it enough to get it back operational again. It's a case of the cobbler's children having no shoes. Such minor problems invariably are simply larger problems waiting to happen.

On the good side, when the larger problems raise their heads, I usually recognize that I myself am the root cause for ignoring the earlier warning signs I and don't go looking to point blame anywhere else. Strange how the reality that things are FUBAR and it's all my own fault should be in any way a good thing. Hmmm, maybe I can prepay for a trip to de Nile.

I'm curious how you approach important, non-urgent issues and hope you'll send some thoughts to me at And if you happen to know what (besides replacing the whole box) could readily be done to fix whatever keeps sending my power supplies into never-never land, go ahead and let me know that too.

What are you putting off today that could become a serious issue tomorrow?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Geekier Than Thou

With most geeks, only one thing matters - being smarter, or more of a geek, than the next person. The odd thing is that for the rest of the world, being a geek is the last thing they want to be. Of course, since they're not geeks, most of us who are don't much care what they think. And therein lies part of the problem.

There are entire message boards of geeks telling each other off for not being smart enough, since the ability to be clever is the only measuring stick worth using. Everyone else is stupid so why care what they think?

There are stupid people out there, certainly and it frustrates me to no end when I run into them. Don't confuse different types of intelligence, though, with stupidity. And I beg of you not to think that your kind of intelligence is the only kind that matters. In my book, people who only think one way are as difficult to be around as those who don't use their heads at all.

So you make a great product... so what? If only people who are as smart as you can make it work, do you think you're going to have much of a market share? So you're the best troubleshooter or the best programmer who ever walked the earth... so what? If no one can work with you long enough to find a solution that meets more than just the needs you think are important, then what good are you?

And don't worry, I'm not talking about you or where you work, at least not on purpose. I've seen this more places than I can count. I also realize that what I'm saying is likely to only hit home with those who already see things the same way I do (if you do, I'd love to hear from you - we're in the minority and need to strengthen our numbers). Everyone else is likely to point out that I'm only a manager and not smart enough to be credible. Fortunately, I don't worry about that a whole lot. My friends and family know better. I'm geekier than they are, so clearly I'm a geek. They usually forgive me, though, because I work pretty hard at speaking human most of the time.

What experiences have you had on either side of this fence? Have you or anyone you've seen crossed that fence and seen both sides? Is there hope for the human race? You can always let me know at

Managers - how well do you understand and address this aspect of geekdom? How do you establish and maintain credibility?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

More on Toys

One of the people who picked up on the Trillian kick pointed out that it maintains a weblink history. This can prove very handy for capturing all the links that tend to fly back and forth. It also means there's no pressure to go visit every last site right this minute. Of course, given my own level of impulsivity, I probably will anyway. In fact, that's probably the single biggest reason why I hadn't really noticed before now.

For storing and managing links, I still prefer Backflip. I like their Daily Routine feature and the notion that I can visit my favorite sites without worrying which computer I'm using. Plus, the ones I visit most often float up onto a Top 10 list that I find very convenient. I'm curious, though, to know more about what everyone else uses - besides the Favorites or Bookmarks lists in their browsers, that is.

If Backflip counts as Something Old and Trillian as Something Blue, then the Something New must be Monday's announcement of the pending availability of the Treo 650.

Yes, it will have BlueTooth, just as everyone has been expecting, and it will have an MP3 Player too. I could care less about VersaMail, as I consider Sproqit to be way better, but then I admit to a certain amount of bias around that one. What I don't know is how much they plan to charge for this puppy - that bit of detail is noticeably absent from the marketing literature I received though I can't say I'm really all that surprised. It should drive down the cost of the unlocked 610's on ebay though.

Help me fill in the gaps by sharing what you know about prices, other technologies you prefer, functionality, etc. at If you'd rather talk about functionality you wish was available, that's okay too.

What role does technology play in your life?

Friday, October 22, 2004


The recent posts on the new Google Desktop utility got some folks to thinking a bit about toys and other new things.

So far, I've been pleased with Trillian as a substitute for all the various forms of instant messaging I use; it does IRC too. The only other IM tool I still have on my system is MSNIM - apparently it's "integrated" too tightly at this point to remove; go figure. I just leave it logged off though and don't actually use it anymore now that I've got a "one-for-all" solution.

I also had Mooter pointed out to me as a new search tool. Having been a Lycos fan way back (was that the original? I forget; my memory is failing me), only gradually making my way through the other search utilities until Google became more popular, it's tough for me to say yet how I'll feel about Mooter and whether it will ever entirely replace Google for me... I will say it's a pretty interesting approach though.

Speaking of interesting approaches, how about the Can't Find It On Google site. Help each other find stuff you can't locate and (presumably) help out the search utilities improve their products at the same time. Cool, eh?

Then there's this Sproqit thing - way cool, true desktop access (in theory, for anything at all that you've got there; in practice, they're starting with the most important stuff - mail and files) from anywhere you can get to the internet from a Palm or Pocket PC device (other devices to follow, I'm sure but my favorite at the moment is the Treo). Now that they've got a release out, you may want to check it out for yourself.

What other toys do you know about that could help save the world? Send links or other info to and let's talk about how you use this stuff to make your lives better.

How well do you use the resources available to you?

Friday, October 15, 2004

What Privacy?

At least one person is surprised and several more are rather dismayed at just how effective that new Google utility is. Here's what I want to know - exactly how private did any of these people think their email would be, accessing it from a tradeshow floor computer?

Even with passwords, there is caching, there are Sniffers (the original, plus others going by the genericized name), keystroke-capture utilities and all sorts of interesting (and much more hidden than a big ol' icon in the systray) methods of snooping if somebody really wants to know what you're up to. Sure, this is easier. It's also more obvious that you can't expect the level of privacy you wanted.

For that matter, what sort of privacy are we really expecting when we're using computers at work, even when we're the only ones on them? My personal policy generally was to stick with writing and keeping only that information I truly believed in.

Sure, there is a time and a place for everything and there is some information I might prefer stay private, at least for a while. That said, if I conducted myself authentically, there was no point in feeling badly if anyone discovered the "real me". Having anyone read what was on my computer (in theory anyway) would have been no worse than having them overhear a conversation that I held in public.

Aside from making at least basic attempts to be un-snoop-worthy, I also always made an effort to keep my computer locked so that no one else would be able to readily browse around my files & email (Google desktop or no)... I came from the old school where if you want privacy, you have to think about your own security. Teaching that to others in the computer lab at school (WAY back when) usually involved installing a "" file on their account if they walked away from terminals where they were still logged in. The next time they logged in, those students usually found themselves being cursed a blue streak or in some looped program where the only exit was to go to the person who wrote the thing and admit you were an idiot.

My files were mostly nicer than that but I'm guessing that a gentle reminder to "hey, remember to log off next time, dufus!" is not nearly as effective as getting called another crude name every time you tried another command.

So - how big a privacy concern is this utility for you? Will you be using it? Send your thoughts to so we can get an sense of the opinions out there from the sorts of folks I care about.

What does privacy mean to you?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Where Did I Put That?

Sometimes I lose things. I tend to think that it's largely a matter of my brain moving too quickly onto the next thing. The point is that I regularly need to go looking for something I know I've had, said, or written.

And herein lies the problem. My brain collects a lot of stuff. What I've discovered is that I hang onto trivia well because it's information that's tougher to locate otherwise. Anything I think I can look up later, I don't store in my head for very long - FIFO, you know. My brain does a good job of keeping an index of all these things, just not such a good job at tracking the location.

Google may have come up with a GPS locator for the tangible representations of my thoughts with their new Desktop Search capability. Downloading this thing, I had this vague thrill for a moment, not unlike the time I first jumped off of a 25-ft cliff into the water - an activity that was great fun and scarier than all get-out at the same time.

With the cliff jumping, I decided the "scarier than all get-out" feeling sort of took out a lot of the fun, so I stopped as soon as I could be sure I was quitting for the right reasons (fear alone not being a good reason, as far as I was concerned). I don't know yet for sure how I'm going to feel about the Desktop Search tool. Certainly I have to wonder a bit about privacy issues down the road. Of course, I also used to wonder about privacy issues using credit and then debit cards but that didn't stop me from using them instead of cash for purchases... and I still use my grocery store loyalty card even though the very existence of these things makes me madder 'n heck.

I will say that the searches I've tried so far have turned out great. I frequently remember things by a key word or two along with an approximate feeling for when. Oh, and I also tend to remember words by some odd consonant in the middle but I doubt anything will help make use of that particular facility anytime soon. Googling my desktop, I came up with good (and relevant) matches right away - much faster than normal document searches on my hard drive and the searches include my documents, my email, my websearches and (when it's done indexing) my instant messaging chats too. I'm impressed so far.

That FIFO problem also causes me a certain amount of angst when it comes to my literal desktop. I have loads of papers piled up, fearful that I'm going to forget I have this information available to me. Here's what works for me: choose a storage method that aligns with my style (I'm very visual, so storing papers where I can readily see where and what they are is better than locking information away into file drawers) and then work on organizing my papers for just ten minutes a day.

If ten minutes a day doesn't seem like much, then you've got nothing at all to lose for trying it. You'll probably be quite surprised at how well this works... and how easy it will be to stay with it because it doesn't cause a huge time crunch. Face it, you may know "exactly where everything is" but if you can't (near-) instantaneously produce what you're looking for, then you're just wasting time; spending a few extra minutes a day to save you from wasting all that time would clearly be a worthwhile investment.

You may also be surprised that I learned this little trick of spending such a small amount of time on a thing and expecting to make progress from a website on housekeeping (don't laugh, one motorcycle-riding dev dude I know is totally into the whole FlyLady routine). I hear the timers are great. You can choose their recommended 15 minutes if that works for you; in a busy environment, sometimes the ten minutes is less stress-inducing, easier to maintain and just about as effective.

How do you find stuff? Send your ideas (or your Google Desktop Search reviews) to Curious minds want to know.

Is frustration a normal part of the creative process?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Nurturing the Great Idea

One of my great-grandfathers apparently obtained a patent once for an idea he had for a "dishwasher". Back in the era when washing dishes was still assumed to always be done by hand, there was still the matter of making the most of the water that had to be heated - and often hauled - to do dishes and his invention centered around conserving as much hot water as possible during the dish-washing process. I saw the patent once before my grandfather's house burned down, so I can verify its existence though I have yet to uncover it in any of my searching of the online databases. Perhaps it is simply too old to be part of the digital record.

In any case, having done plenty of dishes by hand myself, I could appreciate what a clever design it was and I know that it could still be useful today in certain applications. Unfortunately, the fact that it was a great idea is not the point. The sad truth is that the world is full of great ideas and simply having a great idea is not good enough.

Apparently this is a truth that my great-grandfather learned with at least some disappointment. In uncovering the patent, we also uncovered letters that made it clear that he had attempted to sell his great idea to somebody else he hoped would build and then market his hot water-conserving system for washing dishes so that he could make money off of his idea without having to do any of the work to bring it to reality.

It is also clear from the letters that manufacturing did not work that way - at least back then. If I were a betting man, I'd say that the manufacturing world probably STILL does not work that way - disappointing news, I'm sure, if you just spent money on one of those many Inventor's Kits I see advertised on television these days.

No, the point is, that great businesses are built less on great ideas than they are built on great execution. So as much as I stress strategic planning that includes some unique way you plan to deliver some unique product or service (the great idea - or even a good one will do), I like to be sure that people aren't forgetting the realistic steps it takes to achieve the visions we set out for ourselves. I also like to offer this reminder - those performance evaluations we hate doing so much are the only consistent way I know to build a solid bridge between the strategic and the tactical.

What hassles do you have around performance evaluations, strategic planning or implementing the tactical pieces of your plan? Send them to and let's explore some answers.

Executing our Great Ideas shouldn't be about killing them.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Getting There Together

Do geeks have a sense of vision for what they want for themselves and their organizations? I certainly hope that they do. My experience has been that it's not too uncommon for them to have a vision - and then not recognize it for what it is or not know what to do about it when they see that they have it.

The other night I had an opportunity to hear Stephanie Reynolds speak about strategic planning. While I feel I have a pretty good handle on these things, I almost always learn something new when I hear a fresh perspective and this was no different.

Then, yesterday, I was talking with a manager I used to coach about doing performance reviews and realized there is some overlap. My life is full of synchronicities like that and I find it to be a lot of fun to notice this when it happens and then run with it a bit.

The overlap that I find between strategic planning and performance reviews is that essentially to get the best work out of anyone - yourself, a co-worker, a boss, or an employee - it's important to recognize what your own strategic vision is for them and what their strategic vision is for themselves. The question then becomes a matter of how do you align the two visions and how do you make (and track) progress against such a joint vision.

I pose that it takes a better-than-average leader to be able to pull this off, especially when you're talking about geeks because when they see their image of how they want things to be, they see it so clearly and it makes so much sense to them that they can't even understand that there might be others who need help seeing it as clearly as they do.

So, are you a great leader or do you want to be? How do you resolve the two visions, yours and theirs? And how do you make the progress you want to make against both? I have some ideas of my own - which I'll share - and I'm always interested in hearing your thoughts too. Send them to me at and let's see what we can learn from each other.

Ending up in Minneapolis in January by way of China when your original plan was to go to Boston for a relaxing vacation on a warm gulf beach can only be considered a success if your ultimate vision was to have a random adventure.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Staying Informed

I find it helpful to stay as up to date as possible on the various technologies and thinking methodologies regarding contact center management. Any information I get has to be carefully reviewed for relevancy to the organizations I'm working with at any given time (of course!) but there is nothing better than a good trade show to get a quick glimpse of the broad universe of alternatives in a short period of time. It's also a great way to find and meet like-minded individuals.

The 2004 Annual Call Center Exhibition in Seattle this year turned out to be just such an event and I'm glad that I went.

They thoughtfully provided networking tables as well as meeting sessions that were particularly relevant to small to medium sized contact centers (of particular interest to me since that is my primary market at the moment) and there were a number of vendors participating in the Exhibition hall who had products in display I was interested in learning more about.

The ACCE will once again be held in Seattle in September, 2005 so it's probably worth marking on your calendars now.

One of the situations I ran into more than once was that the managers working in the contact centers didn't always understand all of the technological requirements behind various solutions that were presented (or if they did, they were not sufficiently familiar with other IT initiatives to understand how some solutions might fit into overall plans), while the IT managers were not always aware of the issues faced by the contact centers that needed solutions. Just as it is a huge help to develop a relationship between departments within the work environment, it's also of great benefit to send a person from each department to a trade show such as this one.

Have you been to any events recently that you think are of particular use for staying up to date on technologies & trends and/or for networking? Sending details to will help keep the information flowing.

All the best minds working together will accomplish far more than any one brain on its own, no matter how great that one brain may be.