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Snap Shots Link Preview Wed 31 Dec 08

Snapshots-logo I have just added Snap Shots link preview.  Now when you mouse over an external link with the Snap Shot icon ( ) you'll get a preview of the linked site allowing you to look at it before clicking on it. [Update January 3rd - I've removed the icon as is seemed to be cluttering things up.  The preview will still work as you mouse over the external links.]

The configuration of the preview window was easy and installation was a quick install of some java script on the template pages.  The also have 1-click installation of widgets for a number of blog platforms.

Let me know what you think of this.  Is it something helpful or just clutter?

Logo and icon are trademarks of Snap

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I'm On Twitter! Tue 30 Dec 08

Twitter_logo_sIt's official, I'm now on Twitter (MikeSchaffner)!  I've been thinking about doing it for some time but to be honest I've been holding back because a lot of it seemed to put it simply, inane.  I really don't care what TV show someone is watching nor can I figure out why someone would care what show I'm watching or even what would ever make me think that someone might care.

Jason-Alba However, things have come together to change my view due to two good friends, Jason Alba and Kent Blumberg.  Jason runs JibberJobber, a Career Management 2.0 tool and blogs regularly about career management.  A few days ago he wrote "Okay, I’m Sold On Twitter" explaining why he thought Twitter was a great tool in your career management.  Then today he had announced his December Personal Branding Winner of the Month - Warren Sukernek which included some pretty compelling reasons on why it makes sense to use Twitter.

Kent_blumberg To top it all off I had a phone conversation with Kent Blumberg today.  I met Kent during my job search and he is the one that introduced me to Jason.  Kent is a fantastic executive coach so if you in need of a coach for your career (note I said career and not just job search) give Kent a call.  Kent is also the one that got me started on blogging so I alternate between loving him and damning him depending on how the blog writing is going.  During our conversation he reiterated the benefits and explained that it if someone is blathering you can simply stop following them and that I can Tweet as much or as little as I care to.  He closed the deal, I'm in!

So from this point I'll start using Twitter.   When I signed up I got set up to follow both Jason and Kent who quickly reciprocated and I also put Twitter in my sidebar.  Interestingly enough within in a few minutes I had my first follower that I didn't even know.  Amazing!  I promise to keep to try to be interesting and keep the inane out of it.  But if you don't like it blame Jason and Kent - I will (just kidding).  If you're so inclined I be pleased to have you follow me on Twitter (MikeSchaffner)

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Protecting The US From Foreign Hackers Tue 30 Dec 08

Hackers_jose_goulao A recent Op-Ed piece in the Houston Chronicle, "U.S. must update laws defending against foreign hackers" caught my attention.  Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) wrote the piece in concern about foreign threats to our information technology systems and made some suggestions on possible improvements.  Although not in total agreement I do think they make some excellent points.

First, however, I feel the need to comment on the emphasis on foreign threats.  Putting the argument in terms of a "foreign" threat smacks of sensationalism and xenophobia.  If an American hacks my computer and steals my personal information I find no comfort in the fact that the thief wasn't a foreigner.  Cyber security is an issue of real significance.  Let's not trivialize it with sensationalism.  The bottom line is that a threat to cyber security is an important issue regardless of where that threat originates.

Langevin and McCaul get to the heart of the issue nicely when they say:

"Our national leaders have been far too slow to understand the scope and significance of this threat. America's laws for cyberspace are decades old, written for primitive technologies in a less-connected era. Our bureaucracy is organized for an industrial age. We are not prepared to meet the threats of the 21st century."

They then make a suggestion with which I whole-heartedly agree:

Continue reading "Protecting The US From Foreign Hackers" »

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Unexpected Christmas Presents from Bloggers Dave Weiss and Debra Hamel Fri 26 Dec 08

Please_can_I_open_it_casch52 Christmas morning while waiting for our girls to get up (Caitlin and Allison are in their 20's so no early morning risers here) I checked my email.   I was pleasantly surprised to see an email from Dave Weiss in response to a query I posted regarding styling author comments to make the stand out from the other comments.

I had previously done that by highlighting my comments with a light blue background and putting a logo on them.  However, I recently switched to TypePad Connect to have threaded comments and lost all author comment stylization.  I had tried a number of ways to re-format this to re-style them but was unsuccessful.  Dave's email gave me some tips and I was able to quickly make the changes needed.  Dave has indicated that he will make a blog post on this technique and I'll pass along the link when he does.

I also recently was upgraded by TypePad to their new platform and unfortunately this broke a hack that allowed me to quickly open a post for editing from a link on the post itself.  After again being unsuccessful in figuring this out I went to the original source of this hack and found a comment by Debra Hamel with the revised code needed and was quickly back in business.

Two nagging problems solved easily in one day - what great Christmas presents.  Thanks to Dave Weiss and Debra Hamel.

"Please can I open it??? 1197" photo by casch52

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TypePad Connect and Blog Comments Fri 26 Dec 08


I've just switched my platform for managing comments on my blog to TypePad Connect (Beta) and so far have been very happy with it.  Interestingly enough it is designed to work with a number of major blog platforms including: Movable Type, WordPress.org, Blogger, Tumblr, and of course,  TypePad.  TypePad Connect offers a number of advantages for both bloggers and commenters. 

  • You can add a profile which is important for those of you that are trying to build and manage your digital presence by commenting on blogs without having to have your own blog.  If you had a TypeKey account this has now been migrated. 
  • You can add a picture of yourself which will appear alongside your comments when commenting of a blog that uses TypePad Connect.
  • For me the biggest advantage was that you can "thread" the comments.  I was always frustrated that the comments appeared in the order entered and as a result I would have:
    • Comment 1
    • Comment 2
    • Comment 3 which was actually my response to Comment 1
    • Comment 4 which was my response to Comment 2  

Now with TypePad Connect my responses (and your comments about a comment) can now appear directly following the comment regardless of when we make them.

  • TypePad allows you to use CAPTCHA technology for comment anti-spam validation but recommends against it as they have a way of preventing spam.  I've decided to follow their recommendation and see how well their anti-spam technology works as CAPTCHA can be a real pain at times for commenters.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

"TypePad" logo copyright Six Apart, Ltd.

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Trying Harder In Hard Times Wed 24 Dec 08

IT departments with poor customer service might not survive the recession.

Customer_Service_Heres_Kate Perhaps the most common topic at holiday parties in Houston this year was the ramifications of Hurricane Ike, which hit us pretty hard in early September. The conversation typically started on what I call Phase 1 of the hurricane--the damage it caused and the resulting cleanup and reconstruction.

Since many have successfully completed Phase 1, or are well on their way, the conversation would typically quickly move on to Phase 2--dealing with the insurance companies. I think it's fair to say the frustration and exasperation levels of dealing with insurance companies easily go beyond those of dealing with the hurricane itself.

Typically the conversation would go something like this:

"The insurance company is dragging its feet. I'm on the third (or fourth or fifth) adjuster. They keep asking for the same information, even though I've already given it to them. They don't return my calls and want to give me a lot less than they should. I don't understand why it has to be such a hassle."

A sharp IT guy would look at this and see a number of ways that process and system improvements could greatly improve the situation. Unfortunately, these suggestions wouldn't be welcomed by the insurance companies--it's to their competitive advantage to be inefficient and provide poor customer service.

The aim is for the claim filer to become so frustrated that he is willing to settle for less, just to complete the process and get some reimbursement--thus saving the insurance company money. And since all insurance companies have the same incentive and operate the same way, no one has to worry about their poor customer service driving their customers to the competition. It's just normal industry-accepted practice.

So how is this relevant to IT? Let's just change a few words to the story above:

Continue reading "Trying Harder In Hard Times" »

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Job Search Tips: Business Cards,a Free Book and Holiday Networking Wed 17 Dec 08

Camiseta_cv2_jlori Last week I was working at the Houston Growing Globally conference put on by the Houston Strategic Forum.  It was a great conference providing a lot of insight from Houston business, medical and educational leaders.

Helping out at the conference were some MBA candidates from the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University (what a great networking opportunity for them).  I was talking with one of these volunteers and at the end of our conversation he asked for my business card (as a good networker should) and then offered me one of his.

Wait a minute!  A student with a business card?  Yep, the business school apparently provides the students with business cards as part of the career search process.  It was complete with the school logo and title of "MBA Candidate, Class of 2010".  What a great idea.  Smart guys those Rice profs.

What else stood out about this is that I've talked with and helped a number of people in career "transition" and have been shocked to see the number that don't have cards or perhaps just as bad use their old ones and pencil in the updated contact information. 

Business cards make it easy for me to contact you - isn't that what you want and a professional looking card says something about your professionalism.  And yet for some strange reason they are not willing to invest the $20 bucks to do it right.

Take a tip from the Rice guys and get some business cards.

The second job search related occurrence was that I was just contacted by David Perry co-author of  "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters: 400 Unconventional Tips Tricks and Tactics to Land Your Dream Job [John
Wiley and Sons
]" with some holiday networking tips and a free e-book offer.

Continue reading "Job Search Tips: Business Cards,a Free Book and Holiday Networking" »

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Selling Web 2.0 To IT Wed 10 Dec 08

IT departments are still skeptical of social networks, wikis and widgets

Web2 One of my favorite bloggers, Eric Brown, recently wrote a great post, "Web 2.0 in the Enterprise." He states that even though companies are using more Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networks and widgets, to reach employees and customers, there aren't a lot of successful implementations so far.

"Why are so many organizations failing at Web 2.0?" Brown wrote. His answer: "Poor technology strategy and a poor understanding of what value the available technologies can really bring to the company."

Based on that statement, I left a comment referencing some of my past columns [See "Why Companies Need Web. 2.0"] that suggested ways Web 2.0 could be used in the enterprise. I also stated that I believe IT would need to "sell" this concept within the enterprise.

How do you plan to sell Web 2.0 to IT? Let us know in the Reader Comments section.

Brown agreed and responded to my comment by saying, "If we sell it correctly, the enterprise should pick it up well."

However, he then went on to say something that gave me pause. "The problem is that I've found is many in IT don't understand the power of Web 2.0 and many are even scared of the technologies," Brown wrote. "I think we need to sell Web 2.0 into the IT groups, then sell it into the enterprise."

Wait a minute! We're the technology guys. We shouldn't need to sell technology concepts to our own. I mean, of all people, we get technology. Don't we?

Continue reading "Selling Web 2.0 To IT" »

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CIO Rockstars – Twila Day and Paul Yust Tue 09 Dec 08

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Houston CIO Leadership Dinner.  This was an event put on by Techxans (Technology Executives Network)Tony Huang and Pam Terry put on this event to honor Twila Day, CIO of Sysco Foods and Paul Yust of BJ Services for their work in encouraging high school students to look at IT careers.  Matt Miller of Compuware graciously underwrote this event.

In a recent post I suggested that President-Elect Obama’s new CTO look at the issue of technology workers specifically in the area of “what can we do to "grow our own" technology workforce by encouraging people to study IT in college and to come enter the technology field when they graduate?”

Government policy is important in stimulating people to go into IT careers.  However, what is especially great about what Twila and Paul have done is that they’ve demonstrated the leadership and commitment to address this issue without waiting for the government.  There is a lot that can be done within the IT community.  Government has a role to play, but so do we.  Let’s not wait!

Thank you to Tony, Pam and Matt for putting on this event and a special thank you to Twila and Paul for leading the way in getting young people to look at IT careers.

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What's In A Title / Job Description - Programmer, Developer, System Analyst, Business Analyst Tue 02 Dec 08

Programmers_aid_dunkv_2A reader from Singapore (fantastic place by the way) wrote me with a question a few weeks ago -- " Just wonder how a BA [business analyst] is different from a SA[system analyst].   My understanding of a good SA has attributes given in the 'job description. "  This is an interesting question as the two titles are often used interchangeably along with 2 other titles: programmer and developer.

If we look as some simple descriptions from Wikipedia we see some similarities and overlap and a progression.  There are lot more that can go into the job descriptions but these simple description do illustrate the point.

  • Programmer - A programmer is someone who writes computer software.
  • Developer - A software developer, one who programs computers or designs the system to match the requirements of a systems analyst.
  • System Analyst - A systems analyst is responsible for researching, planning, coordinating and recommending software and system choices to meet an organization's business requirements.
  • Business Analyst - A business analyst or "BA" is responsible for analyzing the business needs of clients to help identify business problems and propose solutions.

What we see is a progression from highly technical orientation to highly business orientation.  Graphically it might look like this:

Continue reading "What's In A Title / Job Description - Programmer, Developer, System Analyst, Business Analyst" »

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