Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fail Big - Count Me Out

When startups are encouraged to fail big, I'm pretty sure no one had in mind the recent troubles with Count Me In, the same company Small Person's soccer and baseball teams have used over the years to handle registrations. I'm just glad now that I did not end up working with them as I'd imagined a year ago that I would. Sometimes there does seem to be some grand design in the universe.

At the very least, it's one more reason to believe the adage, "it's better to be lucky than good."

For those impacted and those associated with the company who I know to be good people, I wish the best. I'm sure this isn't an easy situation, but hopefully it can all be resolved with a minimum amount of damage all the way around.

For the rest of us, I'm sure we're just glad to be clear of the blast zone.

What are the potential long-term consequences of today's decisions?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Raising a Compassionate Geek

Amidst the chaos of students readying their collection of engineering contraptions based on ancient Chinese technology, Kristen found me and put a copy of ParentMap into my hands. "The story on the Dalai Lama starts on 42," she said as I started to thumb through the pages.

The story wasn't about the more general relationship between the Dalai Lama and his native Tibet. She had read an article I'd written about Small Person's encounter with His Holiness last spring and wanted follow up on what sort of lasting effect he and I had noticed since then.

The educators at Seattle Country Day School get it - science and technology are important, but these are not the only keys to success. Learning how to collaborate with others and to see the world from more than one point of view are important too.

I see this pretty clearly when I'm coaching geeks. When technology professionals have more than sufficient technical skills but still aren't achieving all that they want, we often discover that the missing ingredient is further development of their (sometimes neglected) soft skills - collaboration, compassion, and building strong working relationships.

Small Person is most definitely well-rounded in that respect. As innovative as he is, and as good as he is at building things on his own, he also shows a talent for working well with others, listening to differing viewpoints and integrating them with his own ideas. I have no doubt he'll go far.

As a parent, I encourage that balance because I see how much it helps my clients. It is important to play to our strengths, and it can also be a good idea to take another look at areas we may have dismissed in the past as unimportant and consider the possibility that there may be some value there too.

What role does compassion play in your work and life?

News for the Pressure Prompted

On balance, I'm not a procrastinator; I'm simply pressure prompted. Last night I finally registered for the PSCA coaching conference. If you are a leader, an educator, a coach, a parent, or anyone else who is interested in self-improvement, you'll want to register too, I'm sure of it. There's still time to get the Early Bird discount but time is running out, and that is the primary distinction between being pressure-prompted and procrastination.

Being pressure prompted (for real - not just a rationalization) means that the closer we get to a deadline, the more crystallized our thoughts become. Where earlier on, there seems like too much time and too much space, suddenly when it simply must be done, everything becomes clear.

Sometimes I let it go too far and I'm sure others do too. Too much pressure, and then my thoughts become muddied; I've gone past the point of clarity and I'm too stressed to think clearly anymore. In this stage, I begin to feel slightly panicked.

Being pressure-prompted is often a good thing but it's not without its problems. Sometimes in the midst of all that clarity, I realize I have a perfect idea or solution... but without enough time to execute. This puts me back smack in the middle of procrastination-land. Nothing is happening or plans have to be dramatically shifted to accommodate the issue of not enough time.

When it's a matter of being pressure-prompted, there is still action. Like a seed germinating, the activity is just all internal or underground, where you can't see it. Procrastination generally involves being stuck, with no real action, activity, or progress taking place at all.

Sometimes I perceive (rightly or wrongly) obstacles in the way of my goal that I have trouble seeing my way past. When I'm smart, I realize that I'm stuck and I get my coach on the phone. Usually a quick conversation is all I need to get myself back on the path of movement. This external viewpoint helps get past the blinders we each tend to have - yes, even those of us who are trained to know better.

You can benefit from some of that training too, even if you're not a coach. You're going to hear more about this upcoming conference in the next few days and I promise to make the rest of the information that I include worthwhile, even if you're not planning to attend the conference. Be sure to subscribe to the TechSurvivor blog to receive updates so that you don't miss anything.

In the meantime, be sure you check out the information about the conference, Creating Conscious Choice and Change - Learning and community-building for individuals and organizations to be held on February 5, 2009, in Seatac. Do it now, before time runs out.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What To Do If Your Job Survives the Lay-off - Top Ten

Today we've all just begun to absorb the news about the Washington Mutual layoffs yesterday, significant enough to necessitate early notification under the WARN Act. At 34,000 affected over the course of the next year or so, the actual number on the WaMu layoffs is huge. While that is a lot of people planning to be out of work, some people will be dealing with survivor guilt rather than dealing with losing a job.

For the people hititng the streets, it can seem like an enviable position, still going to work every day. The truth is that it doesn't always feel that way when you're the one wondering how you were spared when so many of your co-workers were let go and you're trying not to think about how you're likely to fare in the next round of layoffs that could come along later. Surviving a layoff can be just as stressful as getting a pink slip. Officially hearing what we've suspected for a while now, that we're in the midst of a recession, just makes it worse, wondering if and when the other shoe will drop.

Despite the downsides, there are clearly considerable upsides to surviving a layoff. Here are some tips to make the most out of the opportunity.

1) Take time to grieve - Grieving can seem counterintuitive when your job has been spared, but the significant changes involved when others around you lose their jobs means that your life and work will be different somehow. Those changes mean some kind of loss for you too, so take time to recognize that loss.

2) Take Stock - Take time in the midst of everything else to identify your strengths and your accomplishments and collect evidence of these while you still have easy access to that. Not only will it help you realize that you do indeed deserve (as much as anybody) to continue working, it will be helpful material in the event you too find yourself looking for work.

3) Identify top priorities - Figure out what work most needs doing now that there are so many fewer people to get it done. And decide what tops your personal priority list. You may have a lot more on your plate for a while, so it's more important than ever to plan on purpose how to spend your precious time and attention.

4) Sieze opportunities - Change generally means chaos and while that can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, it also can mean increased opportunities. Take advantage of being in the right place at the right time and step up to meet the new challenges with vigor.

5) Stay positive - You may be asked to do a lot more with a lot less and you may worry about your own job down the line, but for now, you can protect yourself best by keeping a positive outlook. If you do find it necessary to speak up about a problem, look for the most positive way to present it and make it clear you are willing and able to participate in finding and implementing a solution.

6) Start (or keep) networking - Network to help out-of-work friends. It will help them now and can help you in the future if you should find yourself pounding the pavement later on.

7) Save up - With the possibility of more uncertain times ahead, this is a good time to use the job you still have to set aside money as insurance against loss of income, even if it means cutting back expenses to do it.

8) Stay in touch - Go ahead and meet with ex-co-workers (or soon-to-be) for coffee, lunch, or drinks. They're your friends and you can help each other network. Try to keep it one-on-one, though to avoid large numbers of ex-employees who may still be in grief mode or to spare a handful of ex-employees the "business as usual" conversations likely to predominate amongst groups of people still employed.

9) Cultivate a new perspective - Take advantage of the changes going on around you to spend some time questioning assumptions and playing with new perspectives. You never know where these might lead.

10) Get help - Find a helpful and supportive online group or form your own mini-support group to get through some of the biggest changes, If you feel like it's worthwhile, you can also hire a coach to help you strategize your next move. Just don't think that you have to figure it out and deal with it by yourself.

If you are in the more awkward position of being in a job that's on life support, do the prudent thing and take advantage of being able to work for as long as you can, look to Sylvia's list for how to prepare for not having a job later on, and plan ahead for what to do if you're not working for a while.

How can my friends and I help each other right now?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Customer Service Fiasco at Seattle City Light

Remember Lily Tomlin from the days when there was a monopoly on phone service? "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company." Apparently, the same has been mostly true for at least one power company the past few days. The good news is that with a spotlight on the story, and enough public outrage, apparently Seattle City Light discovered they do have a heart after all - or at least found one they could borrow, under pressure from the mayor's office.

In what surely must have been a PR nightmare, a 13-yr-old boy who is well-known in his neighborhood for fundraising for good causes lost his cat up a 40-ft utility pole when it was chased by a dog. When KING aired the story in their news broadcast last night, I wasn't the only one shocked and bothered by the stupidity of SCL in claiming the cat could come down on its own from that high up a pole (as opposed to a tree), surrounded by buzzing electrical wires.

While plenty of trolls began advocating rocks and BB guns, there is something about the plight of an animal that finds itself in trouble through no fault of its own that tends to get people motivated to take action. Eventually SCL was talked down out of their own tree and apparently rescued Kitty from the pole. Hurray for angry customers.

Why do I bother to speak out about this in public? I regularly comment on customer service issues because it's not just about technology for me. It's technology AND interacting well with other human beings with an eye toward making the combination personally and professionally profitable whenever possible. In this instance, Seattle City Light shot themselves in the foot though with any luck, their efforts this morning may have redirected the shot so that they'll only have suffered a glancing blow.

Telling strangers motivated only by their own sense of justice to call in support of rescuing a cat on top of a utility pole that (as reported by one such caller) that the owner should have kept better watch on the cat is not good customer service. Some of these people were even in the neighborhood expected to be impacted by a brief power outage, were it to be necessary to rescue the cat and if they are willing to go dark for a bit, then that ought to have been a good indicator of public sentiment.

As a customer service agent with no power to actually change policy, what could these folks who were receiving phone calls have done? Tough call, but here's my best guess from the sidelines...

First, once you realize that you're dealing with more than one call, get more information and take the time to check out the story yourself. It should not be a surprise, even to people who don't care that much about cats, that this issue isn't going to just go away on its own.

Next, notify a supervisor immediately of the issue, just like you would report a power outage or any other big event that is likely to result in a lot of calls. Then begin collecting data on the calls and let each caller know that they are not alone in their outrage and that their comments are being collected and forwarded on for further review of the situation so that they truly feel heard and that some sort of action will result.

For those callers who tried to reach supervisors and were denied, my recommendation is the agents should have put them through. This is not the sort of thing you should try to deal with on your own. If the supervisor already on the line with another outraged caller, then say as much and ask if the individual would like to hold or to have their comments added to the others.

Ultimately, it may be necessary to point out that there is such an extensive response on the matter that supervisors can't talk to callers and take action but worded correctly, this should be taken as good news by the callers.

If they were really smart (and it's probably not too late for this), SCL would begin posting cat rescue updates on their website. I realize that might sound like poor resource management, but really it's not, when you consider the importance of call avoidance. Now that the cat is no longer up the pole without a way down, you don't really want to keep fielding more calls from irate pet lovers. Plus, if you have some good photos and a good story to talk about how you came to realize the situation was a much bigger deal than you originally figured it to be, yada yada yada, you might even be able to turn a PR nightmare into something else that makes you look a lot better.

Whether you're an employee (of any kind), a politician, or a power company, it's as much about perception as anything else. SCL has stopped the bleeding in that area but could really benefit from a blood transfusion now after the fact. Openly pointing out what they did right along with an appropriate amount of humility over what they did wrong will go a long way to improving their public image.

How do you recover from personal PR nightmares?

Before the Lay-off

My post about dealing with a lay-off seems to have struck a nerve with some, so I'm glad I put the information out there where it can be useful to people. It was very much written from the perspective of dealing with the shock of going home from work early one day and not going back for the rest of the week - or the week after that.

There is another perspective - when you know (or suspect) the shoe is about to drop - and my friend and colleague, Sylvia Taylor, has excellent suggestions for facing a lay-off. In five important points she details how to prepare for getting laid off and begin moving on from there.

I agree wholeheartedly with Sylvia's suggestions, believe they dovetail nicely with my own that apply a bit more after the fact, and I totally love her writing. Regardless of whether you might foresee a potential lay-off in your future, you should check it out. It's good information to keep in your back pocket, if nothing else, and chances are good that in this economy you will know someone who needs it, even if you don't need it for yourself.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to hang tough together and help each other out as best you can. That's what makes the ride worthwhile.

What moves now will prepare you for greater success later?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Off-the-Grid Internet Scenarios

A while back, I mentioned the possibility of a future where we might have internet off the grid. Based on comments I've received and ongoing search statistics, this seems to be a popular topic these days, so maybe it's time to elaborate further.

First, let me make extremely clear - while mostly knowledgeable in most of the areas I delve into here, I am far from expert. I would, however, love to get a dialogue going on the subject, as I believe it's a useful converation to have. At the very least, there are enough different implications here for multiple science fiction stories. There may be some business opportunities too.

Scenario - Commercial power available but in limited quantities
If society has access to some but somewhat limited amounts of commercial power, then obviously there would have to be some kind of prioritization or auctioning to decide who has access to that power. Think television/radio spectrum frequency distribution. Under such a set of circumstances, I can imagine that at least some server farms might have access to at least some commercial power but it might not be 24x7. Average businesses and individuals would likely not have access to commercial power - if they did, we wouldn't need this conversation.

If this scenario were to come about, then much of the internet might look from the outside like it does today, except that businesses and individuals would need individual power supplies such as from solar, wind, or geothermal sources in order to connect to it. You'd have access to the internet pretty much as you're used to now, just not all the time like we have today.

Since others would be in similar circumstances, you might be able to access static data (such as website pages) right away but something like an email response to a question (especially involving other individuals and smaller businesses) would be somewhat delayed. Solar-powered wi-fi routers mentioned in my previous post would be an important element in keeping such a system working.

Scenario - Little or no commercial power available
In a more post-apocalyptic scenario, there might not even be enough commercially-available power to run server farms but that doesn't mean the internet has to go away altogether. We've gotten used to the near-instantaneous nature of data transmission across the internet but those of us who remember the days of Store and Forward know that data can still move even when it gets held up for a while.

In my imagination, it would look a lot like the ham radio National Traffic System which uses local traffic nets to help move information. Ad hoc peer-to-peer connections would come up and down according to each individual's access to power and like a bucket brigade, or BitTorrent sharing, we'd pass along each other's traffic while accessing what we want for ourselves the same way.

Quite possibly, the data requests we make ultimately will be delivered to servers that aren't themselves up 24x7. The result would be request, delay, fulfillment - or, a lot like how cross-oceanic calls used to be placed where the request would be made of an operator who would make the connection while you're off-line and then ring you back when it was available. If that's too challenging for modern minds to fathom, think instead of holding for a call from the President.

In such a situation where data must regularly travel multiple intermittently-available routes, it may be that some additional protocols must be developed to optimize transmission but it's surely possible, even if it means falling back to simpler data types. Error correction would be the biggest problem. If a packet gets dropped along the way, it could take days to put it all back together again, depending on the severity of power accessibility. We're definitely talking about a different sort of animal than what we've become used to.

The solar-powered wi-fi routers would be a virtual necessity to make such a system very workable and almost certainly some social engineering would be required too along the lines of scheduling uptime so that data requests could be made and forwarded in a "timely" fashion.

Each scenario would have its own impact on what everyday life might look like but some commonalities exist. With a shortage of fuel, it's likely we'd be living in smaller communities oriented around food production. But instead of the near-isolation of frontier towns or the relative lack of communication between older European villages, we could still communicate and share with one another digitally.

If there is enough commercially-available power, we may even be able to continue with much of what we've come to expect is normal in terms of information-age business and commerce except that working in remote virtualized groups would be more common than larger groups housed together in cities.

Of course, if cities get better about their own food production, that would be another game-changer and there are some interesting possibilities around that as well. For that one, you'd have to talk to my brother-in-law - he's got some great ideas. If it's something that interests you, let me know and I'll put you in touch.

How do you see the future?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What to Do When Your Job is Dead - Top Ten

Starbucks, Zillow, Redfin and now Insight and Circuit City - these are just a few of the organizations who have recently had tech-related layoffs and it wouldn't be surprising in the current economic climate to see continued impact on the technology sector. Most notably in Seattle, it's likely a number of Washington Mutual tech workers could be on the streets soon with the redundancies in operations expected with the JP Morgan acquisition. The question of what to do if you find yourself caught up in the midst of a lay-off comes up regularly, so here are the top ten tried and true tips that I've used myself and passed on to others with some success.

1) Take time to grieve - There's no way around it, losing your job sucks. If you see it coming, you've had plenty of time to get anxious over the possibility that you'll be involved and if you don't, you'll be blind-sided. Either way, you'll be feeling bad about it for a while, so give yourself some time to deal with the emotional fall-out. The key is to make it a planned, limited amount of time so that you can quickly get on with the business of the rest of your life.

2) Take stock - What areas of your life are in need of critical attention and what tangible and intangible assets do you have? Where are you ahead in the game and where do you need to begin playing catch-up sooner rather than later? Whether you've got some pleasant surprises or some serious concerns, it's always better to know exactly what you're dealing with.

3) Schedule your priorities - To avoid devolving into a total pity party, make yourself a schedule that moves you forward and stick to it like you would stick to a job schedule. I like to establish a healthy mix of job hunting, skills development, networking and some fun - approximately in that order, but you decide what's important for you. Presumably, job hunting is your top priority, so make sure your actions back that up. But that doesn't mean it should be your only priority to the exclusion of everything else. Remember to have fun along the way and nurture your other needs in addition to keeping up your efforts to track down another source of income.

Part of keeping it a healthy mix means making what time you do spend job-hunting really count. Target the job boards (are you more likely to find work on Dice or LinkedIn? Monster or Yahoo?) that are most likely to carry your kind of postings and stay current with them. And whatever you do, don't forget to target specific companies that are appealing to you.

4) Learn something - Time spent unemployed is great for brushing up on your technical skills and these days, there are lots of low- (and even no-) cost options for doing so. I have spent time between jobs teaching myself skills such as JavaScript and XML. Back when I was working in television, I'd turn the sound down on the weather reports and practice the sort of on-air patter common for broadcast meteorologists. Make updating your marketable skills a priority - it will improve your resume and you'll have something to show for the time.

5) Stay positive - This one's a two-fer. Staying positive means avoiding both cynicism and pessimism. The best antidote for cynicism is to develop a philosophical attitutude. It may be someone else's fault you are where you are, or it may be your own but in the end, it doesn't really matter a whole heckuva lot. Blaming yourself or others won't help you find another job and in fact, could cost you opportunities if you come across in interviews as too negative. What you don't want to is to get stuck in the past and that's all that cynicism or dwelling on problems will do for you. Work hard at finding what's good in the situation and use that to propel you forward.

Pessimism is best dealt with by focusing on the possibilities, however unlikely they may seem at first. You may have legitimate reasons to be concerned about finding work or making ends meet in the meantime but it just keeps you stuck to spend your time thinking about it. Instead, keep your eye on what might be possible and do whatever you can to increase your chances that you'll be one of the few to buck the odds. Somebody out there is still hiring geeks and someone will get those jobs, even if they're far and few between. Do what you can to be one of them. For some geeks, that learning time mentioned in #4 might be better spent on developing soft skills like those used to develop good working interpersonal relationships than on learning Ruby on Rails.

6) Keep (or start) networking - Keep in touch with people you know from past jobs and other aspects of your life. If several of you find yourselves out of work at once, consider meeting for coffee on occasion to help each other through this tough time. You can look over each others' resumes, offer job hunting tips, and practice interview skills. Lunch 2.0 events help reduce your grocery bill and increase your networking opportunities; take advantage of them. If getting together in person doesn't work for you (and even if it does), you can and should also keep in touch electronically. Email and social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can be great tools for staying in contact with people who might be able to help you land your next position.

7) Set goals - Whether it's networking contacts or job applications, make sure you identify interim objectives and track your progress. Not only will it keep you motivated to keep going, it will also keep you pointed in the right direction and you'll feel a sense of accomplishment along the way, even before all your shots on goal land you a new job.

8) Get involved - Use the skills you would bring to a job to help out some charitable organization. They benefit from your expertise, you stay current in your skills and have something worthwhile to show for the time you spend unemployed, and everyone wins. Or participate in events like Startup Weekend or 6-hour Startup as an alternative to drive-by carding-type networking events. Online, you can build credibility by offering your expertise on sites such as LinkedIn and Experts Exchange and other forums.Who knows, in getting involved, you may even meet and impress someone influential in your job search.

9) Reinvent yourself - Sometimes lay-offs are an opportunity to look at things from a new perspective and start fresh. If you're thinking that could be true for you, you owe it to yourself to set aside any fears you have and look at the situation with an objective eye. Do I really want to go in a new direction? What would it take to improve my chances of success? Books can be a huge help in figuring out your position on the matter. What Color Is Your Parachute is a perennial favorite of mine and if you like a bit more structure, you may appreciate my other favorite, Now What - 90 Days to a New Life Direction.

If you're thinking of starting a new business, know that it is likely to be tough but doesn't have to be impossible. Sometimes it's no more risky to go into business for yourself than it is to wait around for the next paycheck, especially if you've had some money set aside. If you're smart about budgeting and business plans, you may be able to turn chaos into opportunity. For those of you not in Boulder tomorrow, be on the watch for notes from the panel discussion, Crash Course - Growing a Startup Amid Uncertain Economic Times as a step toward being better prepared.

10) Get help - Geeks tend to operate in a meritocracy, which is all well and good until we get to the point where we think that means having to be able to do everything ourselves. Sometimes getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself. Another perspective on matters is often very beneficial and don't forget the additional value of making yourself more available for other pursuits more worthy of your direct involvement; sometimes you just can't know and do everything. Help can come in the form of a self-organized support group or an informal buddy system just as readily as from a coach. If what you really want is to work with a career transition coach though, find out about coaching rates and don't assume that it's out of your price range just because you're out of work. Perhaps you know others who are looking for similar services making it possible to band together for group coaching and share the costs.

You can also consider asking the coach to negotiate rates. I've found a lot of coaches and prospective clients really like the formula F = 0.1*(V-A) + A , where the coaching Fee is calculated using V for the Value of the engagement and A for the amount deemed by the client to be Affordable, as a way of preserving value in the coaching relationship while making the coaching services workable for the client.

The upshot is that we all know there are fluctuations in the tech sector - there have been for a lot of years now and some would argue that we never did fully recover from the bursting of the dot com bubble. Still, my sense is that technology is here to stay in one form or another, and that means there will always be tech jobs out there somewhere. If the work isn't going away entirely, it means that we have only to figure out how we fit into the new paradigm and do our best to adapt.

What adaptations will help you survive the downturn?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tech Support of a Different Kind

These days, we're often too busy to nurture relationships. Sometimes we don't even get to know our our own neighbors very well. The isolation and relative anonymity of the internet sometimes exacerbates this problem - but not always.

My friend, Mike, tells me today that his brother-in-law's house in Gig Harbor burned down earlier in the week - the kind of event that is always tragic and hugely impacts a family. Someone has already been kind enough to have posted a website with information and photos about the fire - started by a raccoon, most likely.

Best of all, the site also makes it easy for people to contribute to a fund supporting the family and it also lists various other kinds of contributions that would be helpful for them. Something like this makes it so much easier for friends and neighbors to support one another in times of need and I'm always impressed by the ingenuity and compassion involved.

More than once, I have seen friends and family support one another through grave illness via the CaringBridge website. Caring Bridge has been descibed as "social networking for sick people", providing "connection, love, and support when you need it most" by making it easy to post updates and photos to people who want to stay in the loop, with minimal impact on those immediately involved. Guest book entries where people can express their love and support work even better than filling up answering machines and keeping people notified of news is hugely helpful, whether it's a premature baby waiting to come home from the hospital or a loved one battling some disease process.

Network for Good helps us find charitable organizations looking for contributions - and makes it easy to give to them. I love using this site to handle all of my year-end donations all at once. They also make it easy to match volunteers and organizations needing help.

Sometimes the internet helps bring us together. Let's celebrate that capability and help it help us to be better humans.

Do you know of sites that help us help each other? Please do share. It's the time of year when it's that much more important to be thinking of how we can help one another in an economic climate that demands we do whatever we can. However badly we may each be hurting, someone else is hurting more. Even if it's just to reach out a hand or a thought, it's something that can make a difference.

How can you improve your connections with other people?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pause. Think. React

Just because we grow up doesn't mean we get that much better at behaving like adults. More than once as a manager, I've had to referee disputes between employees that would have been more fitting on a playground than in the workplace. It's worse though when we receive one-sided reports of poor behavior. When it's kids, we call it tattling, and there are good reasons to hold a bias for kids/employees to work it out amongst themselves.

Parents generally know something about getting dragged into the middle of such "Did!" "Did not!" arguments that managers often forget and voters hardly seem to know at all. Smart parents understand the importance of taking a moment to pause before reacting, to think about whether what's just been reported is actually true. They ask themselves first, "Does this even make sense?"

They also recognize that sometimes individuals providing their accounts of the matter often have their own agendas or biases that color their perceptions even when they are honestly trying to be truthful. The only sure-fire way to ascertain the truth is clear-eyed research using objective resources although sometimes getting both parties in front of you to respond to probing questions works too.

Then, when you have a better understanding of the truth, ask yourself what the potential impact is and how much it really matters. Only at this point is it safe to react, so it helps to practice your poker face for all the time in between.

I'm just glad I've already voted. Now I can ignore the rest of the crazy-making accusations flying around this last few days before election day. It will be like turning up the music in the front of the car while kids argue in the back.

What research do you need to do to make an informed decision based on objective fact?

Easy Money - Developer Focus Group Week of 11/3

Why should you consider the focus group below? My personal experience is that focus groups

  • are almost always interesting - and are often fun
  • provide insights around what's next from companies
  • sometimes provide a forum for providing feedback that will actually be taken into account
  • are occasionally worthwhile financially
  • nearly always lead to more focus group opportunities
Extra exclamation marks aside, here is an interesting one aimed at Developers. Since I'm a very low-grade hack, I don't come anywhere near qualifying for this Gilmore Research focus group scheduled in Seattle for next week - but maybe you do...
Attention: Mobile Developers!

The Gilmore Research Group, a highly accredited marketing research company, is currently undertaking an especially interesting project which we hope you find fun and exciting! We are conducting an interesting study in our office the week of November 3rd, 2008

We are seeking Mobile Developer across various platforms for a developer study and if you qualify are participate you will be paid $225 for 1.5 hrs of your time!

If you are or know a mobile developer, we would like to hear from you!

All information is kept strictly confidential and we are in no way selling anything.
Data collected is for research purposes only.

In order to qualify, Please email the following answers. Based on your answers we will then give you a call.

1) Name:
Best time to reach you:

2) What is the primary context you develop for?
Laptops/desktops 1
Cell phones 2
Handhelds (e.g., game boys, Palms) 3
Other (specify) 4

Again, Please email us your answers and based on your qualifications, we will call you.

If you have any questions about this please call 206-219-1942 and ask for the study about Mobile Development.

In advance, we thank you.
-The Gilmore Research Group

For further information about our organization, please visit our website at
If you qualify, I encourage you to contact them - they've always been pretty cool to work with in the past. And if you are accepted, post a comment about your experience (the parts you're allowed to share anyway) here for others to enjoy.

Have fun!

What do you want to know?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some of the Best Marketing I've Seen

Coming out of Top Pot this morning, I came across a smiling gentleman selling copies of Real Change newspaper. Ever since I learned that the paper is a vehicle for homeless to get back on their feet while educating the rest of us on the issues they face, I make it a point to try to buy a copy whenever I run across a vendor. Heading into the doughnut shop, however, I hadn't seen the guy, and I said as much while locating a dollar to give him.

"No ma'am," he responded, smiling even more broadly. "The new issue comes out on Wednesday, so I had to get down there and pick up my copies." He thanked me as he handed me my paper, then asked, still smiling, whether I had last week's issue.

Great question - I'm actually not downtown that often so in fact I had not seen the issue before the fresh one he'd just handed me, and I said so. He sealed the deal by pointing out an important article he thought I might appreciate. I handed him another dollar and he flipped over the stack of newspapers in his hand, pulling out a leftover from last week to give to me.

Smiling that charming grin of his, he thanked me again as I walked off, one delicious Top Pot doughnut and two Real Change newspapers richer - I felt certain that the 65 cents he just made on each copy will make some bit of difference for someone who is clearly working hard to stabilize his life. And while I'm unlikely to know the outcome for him, I can say for sure that he exhibited excellent marketing and customer service skills and truly made my day.

What makes you richer?

Monday, October 06, 2008

I'm Not There

Too bad they haven't invented functional teleportation yet. If they had, perhaps I'd be in Great Falls this afternoon and evening celebrating the 50th Anniversary of KRTV. It was a pivotal time in my life (one of several, anyway) and I have some distinct memories of that time - the threads of which remain interwoven in the tapestry of my life even still.

Of course, I have special memories from each of the stations I worked throughout various western small markets. Today though, is a day set aside to remember forecasting and reporting around the Golden Triangle.

Some of my KRTV colleagues will remember the guy who would regularly drive all the way to Great Falls from Seattle just for a long weekend (and then arrange for me to receive a dozen roses there at work the day that he left). They might be pleased to know that three television stations and several years later, we finally married and settled here in the Seattle area.

One enduring memory from KRTV would be the struggles I always had trying to wear the battery belt for the light when out shooting news on my own. Being considerably smaller than the regular photographer, the belt was way loose, and with my hands full carrying the light stand, the camera, the deck, and the microphone bag, I always had a tough time keeping it from slipping off my waist.

I also remember one of the first times I edited a story on my own, it took me so long that I had just enough time to run it up to engineering and then sprint out onto the set (think Broadcast News) just as we were coming into the weather segment. I was so out of breath from running up the stairs that one woman called the station to inquire whether I was feeling okay. To say that I was mortified would be an understatement.

Professionally, I learned a great deal about broadcast journalism from the news director, Mack Berry, and everyone else there at KRTV that I was able to then take successfully into stations in El Paso and Omaha where I did health and science and environmental reporting in addition to weather.

As just one example, one day at the police station briefing, the only item of particular note was the theft of some 14 cases of diet bars from the weight loss clinic. Not sure how to make that newsworthy, Mack sat me down and taught me that anything can be written funny and so that’s how I wrote that story. That knowledge (along with some understanding of when to use it) has served me well for many years.

What I remember most, however, was how much everyone at KRTV and so many other people in and around Great Falls took me into their hearts and homes. One elderly couple even drove 75 miles one day just to come to the station and visit with me for a bit, showing me their book of family history in case we might be related. It touched me so much that I was making that kind of difference in people’s lives that I stayed working in television for 5 years until I finally came home to get married.

Thank you all for teaching me so much and for being such wonderful friends while we were together.

What memories of today will stay with you?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pigsquatch, Whales & the Economy

We love My Name is Earl at our house. Watching the final fate of Pigsquatch last night had us rolling on the floor, despite my not being that big a fan of gross. Then in the midst of gasping for air, Tall Person suddenly flashed on a news story he remembered from when he was at KOMO "way back when".

It seems a reporter at KATU, their sister station in Portland, wound up covering a strikingly similar situation in the early 70's. Sure enough, searching YouTube for Oregon whale, he immediately came up with exploding Oregon whale. Bingo!

Our other conversations of the evening turned to the economic crisis, understanding the innate problematic nature of sub-prime lending and how we got into the stinking mess in the first place of trying to decide to do a bail-out or just let nature run its course, and don't forget too the whole "money as debt" issue on top of it all (thanks to Brad for pointing that one out - when I find the exact post, I'll link to it).

We appreciate the dark humor in September Madness, but even so, the whole matter is definitely a stinking whale carcass on the beach and a giant hairy pig in the middle of a trailer park. Stinks to high heaven and no one wants to touch it.

It could be that just like with Pigsquatch and that whale in Oregon that there only seems to be one viable option because everything else is so much worse. If so, history would seem to indicate you do the best you can to avoid the most obvious problems, and then make sure everyone is as far out of the way as possible from the fallout. Of course, the other possibility may simply be that the cure really is far worse than the problem.

The trouble is, how do you ever know for sure? And how do you prevent that uncertainty from paralyzing you in your tracks?

What works best for addressing the stinky problems in your own life?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Healthy Lunching on the Eastside

Seattle Lunch 2.0 was an interesting event this month. For one thing, it was on the Eastside, which always seems easier somehow than crossing the Big Water even though technically it takes me as long to get to Crossroads area as it does to get downtown.

For another, Microsoft was a great host - way too much food and all of it good (geeks like good food) and pretty cool pedometers to boot, complete with USB cables for automatic data transfer to your computer. The pedometers and the lunch were courtesy of the Health Solutions Group which has their new HealthVault platform currently in beta, so we got to hear quite a bit about HealthVault and their plans in that space going forward.

People attending the Lunch 2.0 event had lots of questions - good ones too - and most of them centered around privacy. Listening to the answers, I didn't once hear the sort of 'trust us' comments that always put me on edge.

Instead, what I heard was how closely they'd worked with privacy advocacy groups to make sure they were taking the right approach. And when you work with stakeholders closely enough that they can feel satisfied that you've done all the right things (or done them as well as you can, anyway in some cases), then that's probably the best possible outcome.

Although lots of us were interested in the platform and what it can do, I'm not sure everyone was convinced. I tend to go back and forth on privacy myself anyway so I came away not exactly sure at first. But look at what we've done with debit cards and credit cards over the years. I remember when privacy advocates yelled about the dangers of those in the beginning. My father's tongue-in-cheek approach at the time was to take advantage of his position as an airline pilot to use them all over the world and hope to confuse anyone who might be paying attention. These days, we don't give it a second thought and in fact, many of us operate nearly cash-less.

So - while I do care about privacy myself and certainly care that Microsoft and their partner vendors are taking appropriate precautions in that area, I also take a long view of the risks vs. what I get out of it. I figure it's not unlike my approach to being a first-time mother of an infant - once I heard that mothers of two babies tended to not wash pacifiers nearly so rigorously the second time around and in fact, tended to let the dog lick off the big hunks by the time they got to three or four babies, I jumped straight to the less-than-hyperclean approach with my baby.

And just what do we get out of it with HealthVault? Well, I like being able to upload and track all my new pedometer data, especially since these new pedometers are ever so much more accurate than they used to be. The HealthVault interface itself leaves quite a bit to be desired but once I remembered that it's the platform and the other services are the real interface, I didn't mind that part so much.

Trying to find the right service was a bit of a scavenger hunt. I checked out all the HealthVault-compatible currently available, trying to fine one that made the most sense for my needs. I'm not trying to lose weight and I don't have a particular condition like diabetes where I'm trying to track specific information, although there are services that are relevant for people who are.

Neither am I old enough or sick enough to be taking multiple medications such that I'd benefit from tracking prescriptions and how they interact. And while reasonably active, I'm not training for a big athletic event these days so those services weren't quite what I was looking for either. I also wanted something a bit more comprehensive than a service designed primarily to make health information available to appropriate parties in case of an emergency (ICE).

In the end, I decided that what I really wanted was an all-around tool for managing day-to-day healthcare information and healthcare records once electronic information sharing with my doctor and pharmacist becomes a bigger part of my life. Being able to do that for all the members of my family was on my wishlist too. HealthyCircles appears to meet all those needs quite nicely and, as an added bonus, it's also free so I signed up for that service and started testing it out.

Nearly a week later, I'm starting to enjoy having data to review and have a plan in place for digitizing all my paper health records so that I can keep all that information in one place and more readily accessible. I'm thinking that will make that part of our lives considerably easier - that much more so thanks to digital filing.

At some point, I'll probably want more devices that work with HealthVault. I'll shift to a scale that allows me to directly import data and the same with our blood pressure monitor but manual data entry is probably good enough for now. We already have a HealthVault-friendly Polar heart monitor so I just need to get that set up.

Of course, as often happens in such situations, the more I play with this stuff, the more my imagination kicks in and the more I want to be able to do with it. I've already sent probably 4-5 suggestions to the HealthyCircles people so hopefully they're watching their inbox!

Noticing the issues I have seen as a consumer and having worked with hospitals as clients in the past, how ridulously silo'd information still is these days, the HealthVault platform is likely to be a game-changer. One of the services already offered is appropriately titled NoMoreClipboard. I mean, how stupid is it that I should have to fill out the exact same information from one time to the next - sometimes even on the same day if I happen to be visiting two different doctors in one fell swoop? That alone is bound to give us back some important chunks of time and that is certainly worth a lot right there.

There is so much more around the corner in this space. I'm looking forward to watching it unfold.

What helps keep you healthy?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Save the Date

I received my fall course catalog in the mail today for the University of Washington Experimental College and guess what - my name is in it this time. The Experimental College is one of those interesting organizations that always has something cool to offer so I'm thrilled to be teaching Get a GRIP on Goals through 'ExCo'. I'm looking forward to bringing some great goal management techniques and tips to people who really want to figure out how to get things done in a way that helps them get more enjoyment out of life and work.

The ExCo folks are still busy spiffing up their new website (should be ready by 9/18) but in the meantime, the ASUW Experimental College fall catalog is available for perusal online. Plan on saving Friday evening, 10/17/08 from 6-9pm for Get a GRIP on Goals and be sure to register as soon as registration opens. Bring friends or come on your own - I promise it will be fun and informative!

How can you accomplish your goals when you don't even know what you want (or why you want it)?

Friday, August 29, 2008

iPod Mini Weirdness

I've been feeling like a person possessed lately, what with some of the projects I've been working on, trying to get caught up after my sister's visit to town, and getting (no-longer-quite-so) Small Person ready for school. But really, what's possessed at the moment is my iPod Mini.

I haven't the faintest clue what's up with it - all of a sudden it's on, making little clicking noises like someone is using it and trying to find a song or an album to play, and it won't even turn off anymore. Fortunately, I've got it plugged in so the battery won't drain completely but the most convenient spot for that puts it right near where I work at the computer, so I'm constantly hearing the clicking noises or noticing the backlight go on and off. Urg.

And no, it's not the alarm. Even if it was, I don't believe that would explain why I can't turn the darned thing off. So - when I feel like I have the time, I'll research the matter some more and hopefully will come up with some kind of workable solution. There is truth, though, to the notion that we often put off doing things until it becomes more painful to live with the problem than it is to address it. I am most definitely in that mode at the moment with the Mini.

If you have suggestions or just care to commiserate, feel free to comment.

What are you tolerating and what will it take for you to stop tolerating it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Hero

We're often asked about our heroes - sometimes by friends and family, sometimes for job interviews. My answer is nearly always that my hero is my grandfather, Joe Kimm (for whom I'm named). The true answer is too long to share here today, but here's a thumbnail sketch about why he's so important, and not just to me and our family...

Joe Kimm is an aviation pioneer who didn't take up skiing until very nearly 60 (and didn't give it up until his 90's), learned television repair after retirement and then taught himself about computers - including machine language - and still golfs today. In fact, he played in 95 degree heat just a few short days ago. His one concession is that he now uses a cart.

Sunday, we had a family celebration of his 97 years, the day before his birthday. The cutest photo of the day included Grandpa Joe (Grandy) and a various assortment of some of the younger grandchildren and as many great-grandchildren who could make it.

As for his actual birthday - he celebrated by delivering Meals on Wheels to senior citizens who are mostly all younger than he is and then had dinner with a couple of his daughters and their husbands.

Truly, he is my hero, today and always. Happy 97th, Grandy!

Who is your hero?

Monday, July 21, 2008


Sixteen years ago yesterday (a Monday that year), I walked into the Attachmate offices in Factoria for the first time as an employee. I didn't have a phone, computer or even any furniture, so it was tough to do much, but they sat the two of us who'd started that day down with video tapes of Lisa Ford teaching great customer service skills. I soaked it up because there wasn't anything else to do with my time.

Though I heard lots of complaints from other people about those tapes, I haven't ever come across anything else that teaches customer service any better than that. For customer service, Lisa Ford is my hero.

I'm not sure exactly when the furniture arrived - that was the joke - "Do you have furniture yet?" Some new hires went a couple of weeks or more in those days without even having a chair to sit on because they hadn't found or purchased a spare one yet. Hiring was outstripping the capacity for facilities to keep up.

What I do know is that the first thing to arrive, even before the computer was the phone. That was in the afternoon of Day 2 or 3. Anxious for something to do that approximated technical and/or troubleshooting, I started punching buttons. Hey, why not?

Here's why not... suddenly I found myself connected with an inbound customer call and I had no idea whatsoever of how to handle it. I had no computer, no product knowledge yet, and no idea even how to transfer the call to someone else who could help. Heck, I hardly knew the names of the guys who sat near me.

"Psst! Kevin! I ended up with a call by accident, what do I do?!" Kevin (I think it was Kevin; honestly, it was 16 years - less a day or two - ago!) was kind and patient enough to walk me through the steps to transfer the call and he took it from there. Whew! Get this girl a computer, stat! It'll be so much safer that way and far better for everyone!

The weekend after I started, I got married so in five more days, I'll be celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary too. Somehow, it never occurred to me to negotiate anything beyond an extra hour of sleeping in the day after my wedding so I wandered in at the leisurely hour of 8am that second Monday of work. Somewhere in there, I ended up with a computer and a copy of the software I'd be supporting - EXTRA! for Windows. We wouldn't be trained until the rest of the new-hires started, so I began by seeing what I could figure out for myself. That turned out to be a pretty reasonable strategy as it also gave me an opportunity to assess how intuitive the software was and provide some feedback to Development.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, the rest of the Summer of '92 class started. One of them is, to this day, one of my closest friends, as is another of my co-workers who had started a month or so ahead of me, and a high school friend of mine who had started there another couple of months before that. Another co-worker who first decoded the mysteries of hardware adapter I/O addresses and interrupts ultimately became my boss, mentor, and well-respected (by way more than just me!) friend, teaching me more than any single other person I know about what it means to be an effective leader.

In some ways, the intensity of that time period, all that we learned and gained, and the lasting impact (friendships and otherwise), had a certain summer camp feel about it. It's tough to believe it was that long ago, or that I lasted at Attachmate a total of nine years.

Long gone are the days when so many calls came in that we could never get to them all real-time, leaving the departmental receptionist to keep up as best she could with taking down names and phone numbers such that we would head up between calls to grab a stack of "callbacks". Ultimately we brought in enough new-hires and refined our processes enough to make that particular approach a thing of the past.

We also matured to the point where we were able to have desks all set up for our new hires - with a chair, even! As a manager, I always ensured that my employees never received a phone without also (or first) having a computer, even if it meant I had to steal the phone for a while until the computer arrived. You never quite know what sort of trouble a geek will get into if they haven't got a computer to play with.

If you have enduring memories of a past experience that still impact you today, do share. Or maybe there is some anniversary you're celebrating. Let's hear about it.

In the meantime, thank you from the bottom of my heart to Shawn, Burkery, Toot, and Eric (E). I'm better for knowing you. And best wishes to Renee and Shauna, whatever you're each up to these days. As Garrison Keillor might have said, it was a group that time (almost) forgot and decades cannot improve, at least in my memory.

As for my husband, the tall person, this is about the time when I remember our anniversary is coming up soon, so I'll say now - thanks for continuing to love me all these years. I know that living with a geek isn't always easy and you've made it seem to me and the rest of the world like it is. I love you (still!) for that and so much more.

What (besides a chair) do you need to get started?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tales Worth Telling 2 - What IS That?

I keep up pretty well with current events - at least the sort that make it into the newspaper and broadcast news anyway. So a lot of times I understand what some of the hot searches are all about. Google Hot Trends searches are also a great way to catch breaking news, such as the crane collapse at the refinery in Houston the other day.

Then there are those entries in the top search list that make me scratch my head. I have no idea what they're about until I go look. Sometimes I'm sure I don't want to know or that finding out will simply be feeding some prurient interest. Sometimes I worry that by following the links to learn more, something bad might happen like I'll be placed on some government watch list or something. Of course, if it's on the Hot Trends list, in all probability I'll have lots of company there.

Today, there are a few of these. The first "Wha-aa?" is at the very top of the list, Green Gulch. On investigating, though, it turns out just to be one of those "I know what you're watching" things.

It seems that CBS News Sunday Morning profiled Green Gulch, and it must have sparked people's innate curiosity to learn more. Of course, Voice of America did a similar piece on Green Gulch nearly a month ago and I don't recall seeing that kind of spike in searches. Best guess(es)? CBS got the idea from VOA and more people watch CBS Sunday Morning News than listen to Voice of America.

For a while, I was confused about what that story had to do with "stone by design", considered by Google to be a related search. Then I discovered that Lew French's Stone By Design had been profiled by CBS News Sunday morning back in November. A-ha! Mystery (probably) solved.

Lake Placid Ironman competition - seems pretty self-explanatory. I'm not sure I'm all that curious about it or the results.

From the looks of it, not as many other people are all that curious either. As I write this, that search has dropped to number 17. The occasional spikes in searches on the Lake Placid Ironman probably have to do with coverage from CNN or people wanting to find out more about race results. And, having looked into it a bit more now (see there's that curiosity thing again. Really, the internet is a black hole), I can imagine that thunderstorms today and an expected finish time of midnight for some really would pique a bit more interest.

Roomsaver, pass. Probably featured in some news report and people are even more interested than usual right now in saving money. The most interesting aspect of this hot search item is that I can't seem to get to the website at the moment. That tells me they may be pretty new, perhaps not yet built for scaling, and some news piece grabbed enough people's attention that they're overwhelming the site at the moment.

Which brings me to my favorite on the list. Katie Holmes and her purple hands. Why would I care about Katie Holmes in the first place? And why in the world are her hands purple? Should I care about that?

Guilty pleasure or not. Inquiring minds want to know.

Investigating that one pays off with interesting stuff. Google Hot Trends searches are indeed helping create news. I'm not the only one finding out new things because of what other people are searching. Are her hands really purple? And if so, is it because of some kind of Scientology ritual?

You know what, after finding out that much, suddenly my curiosity has died. It's really not something I care about after all. There are way better things to think about than whether or not some celebrity's hands are purple, and why.

Update on the Roomsaver website - it finally loaded. It's a website (who'dathunkit). It helps you save money on hotel rooms (surprise!). They provide coupons for saving on rooms such as you might find on road trips. Okay, not a bad idea. Not super sexy either, but hey, who am I to judge? Saving money is saving money. Just remember to keep the coupons in the car.

Huntington Bank is a little trickier. It could be a bank robbery, but that was back in April and the most recent news story on the subject was three days ago. It could be because of recently posted profits when we're all feeling a bit skittish about the viability of some banks but again, that story came out Friday and none of the other banks mentioned in it are that high in the searches. Hmmm, still no joy. Time to give up for now.

On the creepy side of that search though, my concerns about randomly following links from the Hot Trends list may not be completely unfounded. It turns out there is a website called Businessuu that seems to operate by taking some of the text from top searches like these and then turn them into something vaguely... icky. I can't tell for what purpose, but surely it can't be good. I'm not linking to it. Trust me, you do not want to go in there. And if you ignore that recommendation and decide to go look for yourself and come across something unseemly or contract some gross virus, don't say I didn't warn you.

On that note, it's time to turn my back on the moving target. So, no storm chasing with Tropical Storm Dolly. I'm going to perhaps indulge in some voyeuristic tendencies and check out the Danica-Milka video of some exchange/fight they apparently had recently while trying real hard to ignore some of the idiotic comments by others. And then I'll see if The Long and the Short of It family can manage to combine some bicycling and ice cream to celebrate National Ice Cream Day.

Happy Sundae!

What puzzles you?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tales Worth Telling

One thing I am, is curious... about a lot of different things. Some of my very best work has been the result of following my curiosities. I've always hoped that various great thinkers are right, that "curiosity has its own reason for existing" (Albert Einstein), that it is "one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind" (Samuel Johnson), and that "curiosity is the key to creativity" (Akio Morita).

Whatever else can be said of curiosity, certainly it's true that curiosity is a sure cure for boredom (Dorothy Parker). Her assertion that there is no cure for curiosity probably explains the extraordinary amount of time I often spend in the black hole of the internet.

Alastair Reid has his own views on curiosity and whether it may have killed the cat - "Only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all." Reid's poem, Curiosity has remained one of my favorites over the years.

Since I spend a fair amount of my time indulging in my curiosities, perhaps there can be some benefit from sharing my curiosity-driven investigations and travels. Who knows, it might be as simple as shortening the time you spend satisfying curiosities of your own, or maybe it will provide further fuel for investigations that may take you someplace new and wonderful.

News and current events make me curious. Popular culture makes me curious. And I'm finding the Google Hot Trends in searches are an endless source of fascination. I don't know that I'd want to spend all my time sharing what I learn about what searches people are making but it certainly would make the time spent chasing down that stuff a bit more worthwhile. We could always give it a try anyway to see how well it works.

A sampling of a few of today's hot search trends on Google...

Starbucks is closing 600 stores. People apparently want to know more about that, especially which ones are on slated for closure (thanks to West Seattle Blog for the link to the full list). Hopefully your favorite one isn't on the list. If it is, the one across the street will probably do just as well, don't you think?

And while lots of people know Salma Hayek, the producer of Ugly Betty and Oscar-nominated actress in the movie, Frida, apparently they're not so familiar with her now-ex fiance Francois -Henri Pinault. Or perhaps it's just that it's easier to find news of their broken engagement by searching on his name instead of hers. Celebrities' lives are always wildly exciting for the general populace for some reason, and I'm not always sure why.

The Science Friday searches are apparently two-fold. On the one hand, people could be wondering more about Earthrace, the bio-fueled boat profiled in today's Science Friday broadcast that recently completed an around-the-world trip in 60 days, 23 hours, and 49 minutes, breaking the world record. Or they could be searching for more information about the announcement that NPR will be drastically reducing funding for the popular Science Friday. Or both. Good news and bad news sometimes travel together.

One search that was hot earlier in the day and is now in the process of being eclipsed by more recent topics of interest is CDARS. The Certificate of Deposit Account Registry program allows you to invest up to $50M in certificates of deposit at one bank, bypassing the standard $100,000 FDIC-insurable limit by allowing banks to apply their own interest rates to CD's purchased from other banks through them. I believe that's how it works anyway, based on what I've read so far. I wouldn't recommend taking my word for it.

In any case, with the current status of banks and the mortgage industry causing some people such concern that bank runs are even making the news, it's no wonder that increased protection is of such interest today.

Bite of Seattle is the one that truly has me puzzled though. Is Google Hot Trends showing me what geographically proximate people are searching? Or are other people really that interested in our annual summer food festival? And if it's somehow the latter, how are they hearing about it? Seeing that people are now suddenly much more interested in the Aquatennial of Minneapolis (trust me, you do not want to click on the blog that proclaims itself to be the official website for the festival without a rock-solid virus-scanner installed) and a collapsed crane in Houston, I'm thinking maybe The Bite really is that well-known outside of Seattle (or there are just htat many of us here asking the question). Go figure.

So that's as much patience (and time) I have for tracking things down today. Clearly it's always a moving target, so I have to draw the line somewhere. It will be interesting to see how far this thread travels. In the meantime, feel free to comment on whether you think it's an idea with legs or not.

What makes you curious?

In the Book

You pretty much know when you get a phone call at 5:15am that it's not going to be good. Today's call was a spoof - sounding like it came from DirecTV, trying to sell me on some new service but caller ID said I was calling myself. WTF?

Actually, if the call had come later in the morning, I might not have noticed my own name on the caller ID but at 5:15am, there was no way I was answering. In another stage of my life, when I was never home and had no answering machine I probably would have, but not these days. Hopefully it will die a quiet death, forever to remain a mystery. It sure beats the alternative anyway of having to track down some phishing punk to get them to quit calling me at odd hours.

Being in the book does have its downsides.

We're celebrating another member of the family being in a different book altogether this week. Tall person made it into the 2008 edition of Chambers USA for his environmental work and he just recently received his free copy. We've been "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing over the printed compliments ever since.

Unlike the Who's Who Among American High School Students that I regret to say we spent money on when I was a kid (it was tougher to know back then what a scam that was), Chambers is a highly respected directory of top lawyers used by many in-house counsel to find attorneys that other top clients recommend. It's a coup to be listed and we're very proud of the tall guy. Fortunately, he's tall enough, it'll be less noticeable if his head swells.

Speaking of books... if you've got some goal you're working on (like, say, getting rid of unwanted early-morning callers) and you care enough about the outcome to want to improve your chances of success, you might want to check out Get a GRIP on GOALS, the new eBook that I just released with Kjerstin Klein. It's totally free at this point but we're sure the value is much, much higher. Maybe not as high as a listing in Chambers but pretty worthwhile anyway and a lot easier to obtain.

By the way - comments are fixed now. Join the fun . Talk about how much you like the eBooks, don't like most lawyers except the ones you know who are actually cool people and "nice too!", whatever. Getting spoofed phishing calls doesn't make me feel less lonely. Hearing from you does!

Where would you want your name listed?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time - Learning or Wasted?

While I believe no time or experience is ever truly wasted, sometimes I totally get into the fun of solving the puzzle and sometimes I just want it solved.

Today, I'd really just like for PayPal buttons to integrate seamlessly into pages. I don't really feel like putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to make that happen. I've already had as much fun as I feel like having learning that I'm not crazy - that there is no easy bridge between Here and There when it comes to PayPal and

Likewise, I anticipate that investing a bit more time into a related matter will result in discovering that Microsoft has broken their own rules. Apparently building a web site with Microsoft Expression Web is insufficient insurance against having code render badly in Microsoft Internet Explorer.

While FireFox is happy to render code from the Adrotator control referencing a non-existent ImageUrl by displaying the AlternateText instead (as the definition implies it should), Microsoft instead chooses to hack up a hairball, announce to the whole world there is no image to be had and not apply the desired formatting to the alternate text.

Sooner or later, I'll figure out how to make it all happy. I'd rather it be sooner than later. Most of the visitors to the Soaring Mountain website are still using IE so even though I'm pretty sure it's not my fault, it's still embarrassing to have it look that bad. To date, I've been happy enough just to tinker away with it every so often and the rest of the time hide my head in the sand, accessing my own website using Firefox exclusively and pretending there isn't a problem... but that's getting old. Now I just want it fixed.

Of course, if you know of any answers or solutions for either issue, I'm willing to consider suggestions. I'm a total hack at coding and I never pretend to be otherwise; my time is definitely better spent coaching.

How would you rather spend your time?

Friday, July 04, 2008

By the Numbers - Apologies to Harper's Index

95 - the number of honks a Yukon Denali car alarm makes before stopping
2 - the number of minutes a Denali car alarm remains silent before starting up again
Random - regularity with which the above pattern is repeated
17 - minimum number of cycles required to establish reasonable level of accuracy of the aforementioned pattern
1 - number of black Yukon Denalis parked in my neighborhood
0 - number of black Yukon Denalis in my neighborhood of which I was aware before last night
1.25 - number of blocks away the Yukon Denali is parked
159 - number of times more annoying a constant car alarm is than a series of severe thunderstorms resulting in 3000 lightning strikes in a 24-hr period
911 and 0330 - the phone number I dialed and the time I dialed it
zip, zilch, nothing, de nada - number of productive actions a police officer can take in the middle of the night with a secured vehicle and a constantly blaring alarm
65 - estimated possible number of neighbors robbed of sleep
2.5 - approximate number of hours it takes for the battery of a Yukon Denali with a sounding car alarm to run down enough to not have to hear it anymore
10 - range, in yards, required to hear a Denali car alarm after 5 hours or more of constant sounding
3 - expected number of days before the owner of the Denali discovers the dead battery
4 - number of hairs left on his head after trying to figure out why his battery is dead
15 - approximate percentage drop in volume resulting from closing the windows
6 - degrees Fahrenheit room temperature rises with no airflow due to closed windows
20 - suggested number of minutes manufacturers should configure car alarms to run before shutting down under the assumption that anyone who can respond will have done so already
60 - maximum number of minutes for the above
59.99 - minimum number of dollars expected to pay for a decent truck battery charger
116.98 - average price, in dollars, of a new battery suitable for a Yukon Denali
priceless - the value of a good night's sleep

How do numbers affect your life?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Runners and Technology

Sometimes the only thing that gets out is technology. For another couple of hours yet, we're not going anywhere. We've got the Seafair Marathon going out our door and with the half marathoners still coming up the "last killer hill" just to the south of us and the marathoners coming up the hill just to the north, there's really nowhere to go.

But you can see the pictures. This is the top three elite runners just joining up with the half marathon runners.

And meanwhile, at City Hall, the Eastside Amateur Radio Support group is participating in Field Day, the annual event where ham radio operators practice using technology to get the word out any way they can when nothing else is working.

So -I'll walk down to City Hall in a bit. That will still work. And in the meantime, we'll tune out with some reggae designed to make the last mile a little more fun for the runners. At least it's a nice gradual downhill from here!

How will you get out?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Men, Women, and Bison

Right next to the embarrassing Attachmate-related article this weekend was an article containing an embarrassing number regarding women-owned businesses - fewer than 3% hit $1M, according to Susan Solovic, addressing entrepreneurial women at the Vision to Venture event put on in Seattle by Microsoft last Friday. And this is despite numbers indicating that twice as many women as men are starting businesses, although the Kaufman Foundation says the ratio of male and female entrepreneurship is just the opposite.

In fact, the Kaufman Foundation is very interested in identifying and addressing the obstacles to success for women entrepreneurs and with the women's entrepreneurial success numbers so low, that's probably a good thing, no matter who's starting businesses more frequently than whom. Personally, after reading Berkun's excellent book, Myths of Innovation, I believe that women are ideally situated to become successful innovators.

Think about even the basics, when it comes to innovation and risk.

Innovation and entrepreneurship both require risk and being in a risk-averse situation or stage of life is perhaps one of the bigger obstacles to becoming an innovator or an entrepreneur. My assertion is that women as a group are in a much better place to accommodate the sorts of risks associated with innovation and entrepreneurial activities.

Single women are just as well educated and have no more to lose than single men, so from a mathematical standpoint, women should about equal men in their younger years.

When men and women share a household as couples, it starts making far more sense for women to take on the risky business of entrepreneurial innovation since on average, men still earn considerably more than women. If you're going to risk a paycheck, make it the smaller of the two.

When those couples have children, higher-earning male partners become even more risk-averse, or would if they stopped to think about the math. At the same time, introducing the cost of childcare into the equation makes having both parents working outside the home less mathematically attractive with each additional child.

Sure, finding the time to innovate or start a business gets tougher with children around but no more so for women than for men, especially if they're willing to share the workload and perhaps relax their standards a bit too. And the more flexible paid work that mothers often seek is well-suited to a side venture, whether that happens while children are still young or whether they wait until the extra time is available for something other than tending to youngsters.

Mothers who get involved in volunteer activities are quickly becoming adept at virtual organizations, providing them with valuable skills in working virtually on entrepreneurial pursuits as well, and they're often great at networking even if that doesn't always include asking for what they want for themselves. On top of all that, mothers who stay home with their kids get to see natural innovators up close and personal each and every day.

Although I have lots more thoughts where these come from, you begin to get the idea. I am sure there are even more arguments that I haven't even yet considered, also supporting the assertion that women are well-positioned to be innovators and entrepreneurs. If you have any - counter-arguments too - please share. I'm always interested.

In the meantime, mamas please don't let your babies grow up to be wannabe cowboys who find it necessary to ignore open-range laws and go around shooting someone else's herd of bison. Aside from showing poor judgment that, as pointed out in one comment, is quite likely is not limited to bison, it's flat out embarrassing to those of us who have any past or present connection to the proud history of Attachmate and WRQ. Help them grow up to be fabulously successful innovators instead. Start with teaching kids innovative thinking. Then think about becoming great role models for innovation yourselves.

Where do you see room for improvement?