The Tyranny of Rules Tue 06 Mar 12

Rules are meant to be an means to an objective not an end unto themselves.

Caution tyranny ahead charlesfettingerThis past week, Beren Acadamy, an Modern Orthodox Jewish high school made the headlines when they advanced to the semifinals in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) basketball tournament.  What made this especially newsworthy wasn’t their basketball prowess (as good as they are) but the fact that they decided to forfeit rather than play in a game scheduled during the Jewish Sabbath, a remarkable demonstration of staying true to your religious beliefs.

Beren had appealed to the TAPPS board for an accommodation to reschedule the time that would not conflict with anyone’s religious beliefs.  The board pointed out that Beren was made aware of the potential conflict when they joined the league years ago and denied the request for an accommodation.  Berens admitted that they knew of the scheduling issued but had hoped for an accommodation based upon their religious beliefs.

TAPPS issued a statement that says in part “When TAPPS was organized in the late 1970's, the member schools at that time all recognized Sunday as the day of worship.   The By-Laws were written to state that “TAPPS would not schedule any competition or activities on Sunday”.  At that time, there were no member schools that observed their Sabbath on Saturday.”  They statement goes on to explain that Beren was aware of this and didn’t see a problem as they wanted to play in a ‘district’.

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Found Photos - Japan, 1958 Sun 19 Feb 12

23 glimpses into another place and time

Other than a belated "I'm taking a break" post it's been 13 months since I've posted to this blog. With all of the changes in the world of IT and 13 months to ponder them you'd think my first post back would be a wondrous thought-provoking manifesto on the state of IT. Yeah, you might think that but in this case you'd be wrong, way wrong.

I'm an amateur photographer.  I'v always enjoyed taking pictures and editing them.    Working with photos relaxes me and takes my mind off my worries for a treasured little time.  As far as amateur photography goes I'm an okay photographer, not a great one or even a good one.  Some day with enough time and practice I hope to be good.

Found Photos Japan Aug 1958 (9)In the mean time like so many others I share my photos on Flickr for what they are.  I've just posted some found photos that I really enjoyed.  I didn't take them, I found them, but I still enjoy them nonetheless. 

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I've been taking a break . . . Sat 27 Aug 11

. . . a long, long break.

Hammock time katiew With the start of the New Year I decided to take a break. I stopped blogging, stopped using Twitter, and just made a complete break from the whole social networking arena. The routine of researching and writing articles was taking a lot of time and I needed some time off to recharge my batteries as they say.

I really intended for this to be a short break but free time can really be an addicting luxury. And so my “short” break kept extending and extending and here we are 8 months later.

I was recently asked about my blog and if I had given it up? Was I sick? Was there some other issue? The simple answer to all of these is no. I am simply taking some time off. However, I was remiss in letting you, my readers, know and for that I apologize. I should have posted something about taking a break and failed to do so. Thank you for your patience, your encouragement and your understanding.

Having said that, I do miss the opportunity that blogging provides to voice my opinions as misguided as they may be. I hope to be back soon but I probably won’t be publishing as regularly as I have in the past.

"hammock-time" photo by katie weilbacher / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (That's not me in the picture but it is a great way to take a break)

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Better Communication: Technology Isn't Always The Best Solution Tue 04 Jan 11

Kiddo Discussions Bindaas MadhaviIT folks get a lot of knocks for poor communication skills.   In response we typically react by increasing the number of emails we send out and the announcements we post on our company's intranet.  Ultimately we are shocked to learn all this extra effort doesn't improve the perception of IT as poor communicators.

This is like the comic situation of meeting a foreigner who doesn't speak your language and assuming that they will surely understand you if you simply speak louder.  The sad reality is that when people refer to our poor communication skills they are often referring to the quality of our communication rather than the quantity.

Simply increasing the amount of poorly done communication doesn't make things better.  We need to change our style instead.  Email and intranet posting can be great ways to communicate, just not for all situations.

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A Tale of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Others For The Holiday Season Tue 21 Dec 10

In the spirit of the holidays and with most profound apologies to Moore and/or Livingston my gift to you this holiday season is this little poem written with extreme poetic license.  Please feel free to add a stanza of your own.

Danish Christmas Tree Wikipedia Malene Thyssen 'Twas The Night Before An IT Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and in all of the NOCs

All was quiet with laptops secure in their docks;

The tapes were hung by the racks with care,

In hopes that St. Techolas soon would be there;

The techs were nestled all snug in their chairs,

While visions of the fun soon to be theirs;

And with Ballmer in his suit, and Jobs in his jeans,

Each trading barbs and being so mean.

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Wikileaks Positive Side Effect for IT Fri 10 Dec 10

The disclosure of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks got a tremendous amount of attention. Given that the story involves issues related to theft, sexual assault, the moral duty for civil disobedience and just plain gossip, this is not at all surprising.

We shouldn't take any comfort in the notion that this is just an issue for the government. The corporate world may be next. Recently there have been rumors that Wikileak's next target is Bank of America. In addition a hacker group in support of Wikileaks took Mastercard's website down for a period of time in retaliation for Mastercard blocking payments to Wikileaks.

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A New Blog by HR Competency Expert, Robin Kessler Tue 30 Nov 10

Robin Kessler, a good friend of mine (we went to B-School together way back when) has just become one newest members of the blogosphere with her blog.  Robin is a Competency Speaker and HR Consultant.  Note that I said "Competency" not "competent" (although she is that too).

Robin is an expert on competencies - those skills that are essential to be successful in our job.  She's written 3 great books on them:

Anyone of that's written a resume, had a job interview and performed or received an employee evaluation (who hasn't done these?) will find these useful and you may want to check out Robin's blog to get the latest insights on this.  After all - it's your career - do all you can to make it a good one.

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What Sarbanes-Oxley, Lawyers, and Auditors Really Mean for IT Wed 24 Nov 10

Don't rely on a "higher authority" to justify your policies and procedures

A lot of IT folks routinely invoke a higher authority as justification of why we have to do something or a policy can't be changed.  This "higher authority" is usually included in one of 3 tried and true excuses:

  • We have to do that to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • The lawyers say we have to do that.
  • The auditors make us do that.

Question authority curiousyellow That bumper sticker from the late '70s urging us to "Question Authority" may have been right all along.  In reality those 3 reasons are just spurious excuses, not valid reasons for doing something.  Although the "required" action may actually be the right thing to do, citing an excuse such as one of these is wrong for a number of reasons.

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Why E-Commerce Still Isn’t Easy To Do Wed 10 Nov 10

Recognizing the difference of the Internet is key to online sales success

Shopping Cart Misshap Wiedmaier Doing business over the Internet, whether B2C or B2B, is not the same as the traditional pre-Internet methods.   I’m sure the typical response to this is “well, duh!”  That simple statement is taken as a given by most people.

Amazingly there are still people and businesses that haven’t grasped this seemingly simple concept.  The most recent example was when I ordered a meal to be delivered to my workplace for a late meeting.  I dutifully collected everyone’s selection, went to the website and entered my account information along with the credit card details.

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Making IT Better For Customers Wed 27 Oct 10

Three things to keep in mind when designing applications.

IT spends a lot of time trying to improve our system and the user interface, especially when they will be used by our external customers. Most of the time, we're pretty good at delivering easy-to-use applications. However, I recently came across two examples of how our systems can impact customer perception even when the customer doesn't use them, or when it is a minor utility application.

Headache powders crunchcandy

The first example was when I renewed two prescriptions. The pharmacy I use is a large national chain. It has online prescription renewal, and everything went smoothly. Shortly before I picked them up, I received an automated phone message that one of the prescriptions was delayed. This was a little off-putting since the pharmacy didn't say which one was delayed. It also struck me as strange that it ran out, as both were very common prescriptions.

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"Bring Your Own Technology" Is In Your Future Wed 13 Oct 10

IT leaders need to start thinking in terms of users making their own technology choices.

Consider the concept of BYOT, or Bring Your Own Technology.  The premise is that instead of IT dictating the supported computing platforms and cellphones, users will make their own selection based on what best meets their needs or preferences.

As a result you may have PCs, Macs, iPads and their coming slate competitors, iPhones, Droids and Blackberrys within your environment, and you'll be expected to support all of them.  Add to the myriad various models of each device and it becomes a mind boggling array of technology.

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SIMposium2010 Sun 10 Oct 10

Simposium2010 I'm not a big fan of IT conferences.  For the most part you're just paying for the privilege of attending a vendor sales pitch.  I don't like the free ones and certainly see no need to pay for one.

The one thing that is nice about the conference is the opportunity to meet other practitioners and discuss topics of interests openly and to learn from each other.  When I have gone to conferences this is the factor that draws me in.

I've been a member of SIM (Society for Information Management) for about 10 years but have never bothered to attend their annual conference for the reasons mentioned above.  However, as I became the president of the Houston Chapter of SIM I thought I should attend to see what it was all about - so last week I was in Atlanta for SIMposium2010.

 All I can say is - boy, was I wrong about judging this one.  SIMposium2010 was fantastic!  Although there are vendors there it is not just one big sales pitch.  The vendors are limited in number and there is no hard selling.

As I mentioned the one thing I do like is being able to meet other practitioners.  SIMposium was great for this as it is designed by and for senior IT leaders.  Because of this you have a great opportunity to discuss issues with people that are in similar situations as you and they understand the problems and opportunities you meet on a daily basis.  The panel discussions in particular were very good as they had a lot of open and frank discussion among both panel members and the audience.

My only regret about SIMposium is that I waited so long to attend.  I met a lot of great people and made some good friends.  I'm looking forward to next year's conference in Orlando.  I hope to see you there.

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