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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Top Five Technology Fanboys Wed 18 Aug 10

Apple has its lovers. Microsoft and Google have fanboys who love to hate them.

A popular theme for technical writers is to compare one product or technology with another. PC vs. Mac, iPhone vs. Droid, IE vs. Firefox, etc.

These debates include well-reasoned disagreement and other critical commentary. They also gather a lot of fanboy reaction. Fanboys are the folks who never let manners get in the way of their passion. They are loyal no matter what. Loyalty trumps facts and personal attacks suffice as sound, logical reasoning. Believing the best defense is a good offense: "You're a moron/idiot/shill/[insert favorite derogatory term here]," is the best way to showcase your analytical rigor for a real fanboy.

When you look at it in this light, the PC vs. Mac debate isn't all that different than Yankees vs. Red Sox or Ford vs. Chevy. Different topics, same passion.

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Driving E-mail To The Cloud Wed 12 May 10

With the right applications, e-mail in the cloud could be a productivity boon.

Autoroute à emails There has been a lot of discussion about companies moving their email systems from in-house operations to a cloud application--in other words, to a hosted platform on a remote server or data center. Much of the talk centers around two topics: cost and functionality.

The cost question explores whether or not going to the cloud saves companies enough money (or any at all) to make it worthwhile. Arguably, large IT shops may be able to provide email services less expensively than using the cloud. For smaller operations, the savings aren't always enough to entice people to take the plunge.

Much of the functionality question deals with whether or not the cloud's calendar/scheduling functionality--as characterized by Google apps--is good enough to replace the in-house Outlook/Exchange standard. As the incumbent, Outlook seems to have the edge. Google hasn't been able to make an overwhelming case yet.

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Who's Watching Windows 7? Wed 14 Oct 09

Microsoft has lots of company ahead of the launch.

Windows7_v_Web A lot of people, myself included, are eagerly awaiting Oct. 22, the day Microsoft will launch its new operating system, Windows 7. As the manufacturer, Microsoft is obviously the one most concerned, but they aren't the only ones with an interest in seeing that it is a successful product launch.

Based on their latest latest earnings reports, operating systems are very important for Microsoft. The reports indicate that client systems, which represent all the various PC operating systems, account for roughly 25% of Microsoft's revenue but about 54% of its income. Microsoft does note that "revenue from Windows operating systems declined reflecting PC market weakness, especially PCs sold to businesses, and a decline in the OEM premium mix."

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Step Away From The Computer Wed 08 Jul 09

Don't Let Technology Inhibit Communication

Avatars brtsergio E-mail, instant messaging and social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter have dramatically changed the way we communicate. While technology has made communication easier, it hasn't necessarily improved the quality of our communication.

The reason: We can hide behind technology and avoid the human interaction that is essential for good communication. But this doesn't mean we should abandon our technology. Rather, we need to strike a moderated balance in our use of technology.

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Career Management With The Help of Technology: Nurturing Your Network Wed 25 Feb 09

This is the fourth in a series of four posts regarding managing your career with the help of technology.  I've chosen the title words very carefully as I wanted to talk about the life-long process of career management not to be confused with the job search process.  Oh for sure, the job search process is a part of this but the management of your career should not start and stop with each job search you go through.  I am eager to learn what has worked well for you.  Please leave your comments and suggestions. 

Watering_plants_at_dunwoody_jstownsley Okay, you've told people who you are, branded yourself and have established your network, time to kick back and relax, right?  Not exactly.  Your network is really about relationships.  It needs care and attentive nurturing.  Would you be inclined to help out a former network who only calls every few years when they need something from you?  Of course not.

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Desired Windows 7 Features - Dependable Availability Tue 04 Nov 08

Window_h_wren_3I saw Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer speak at a Gartner Symposium a few weeks ago.  He was touting Vista and suggesting it has actually been a very successful product launch despite all of the perception to the contrary.  He also suggested that people not wait until next year's launch of the new Windows 7 operating system to switch from the XP operating system.  His reasoning was that Vista is a good system that can benefit you now and going from Vista to Windows 7 will be easy and trouble free.  Judging by the audience reaction I would say he still has a lot of convincing to do.

We are now starting to hear a little about Windows 7 and some of its features.  One of the things that is getting the most attention is the multi-touch capability that is very similar to the iPhone touch capability and Microsoft's own surface computing.  As you can see from this demo video it really is a cool feature and you'll apparently be able to do this on currently available PCs.

While this feature is cool and will certainly generate a lot of excitement I'm not sure it is enough for the corporate computing world to finally say "It's a great operating system, Microsoft has really gotten it right."  While this touch capability is probably then next big breakthrough in user interface I think there are a couple of things that the business world would rather see first.   The touch capabilities will take some time to become the dominant interface mechanism, applications will have to be developed and our way of thinking about how we interface will need to evolve.

The things I think the business world would like to see first are rather basic and rather than represent some new thinking are an outfall of current shortcomings.  These things are basic concepts that will only be complemented by new developments such as multi-touch.

So what are these things?

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The Paperless Workplace Mon 04 Aug 08

Paperless_office_thaths_2One of the great unfulfilled promises of technology is the paperless office.  Computers were to rid us of all that clutter and paper shuffling.  To be sure we have seen a significant reduction in paper but it is certainly not the nirvana we were led to expect. 

When was the last time you got a real inter-office memo on paper?  It's been a long time hasn't it?  Email has made the inter-office memo extinct.  However there are days when I look at the number of emails in my inbox and can't help but wonder if this is a good thing or not.

A recent post by tech consultant Vinnie Mirchandani, outlining about his attempts to go paperless, illustrates that going paperless is certainly not easy--nor is it for the faint-hearted. As Mirchandani illustrates, there are just some situations when having paper is the right solution.

The biggest advantage paper has is the usability factor.  I can quickly scan the entire page, add notes to it, highlight important sections, hand it across the table and say "take a look at this", or fold it and put in my pocket and take it with me.  Oh I know there are technological answers to all of these but now of them are as easy as the old methods. 

The reality is that although technology promised a paperless world most of the technology effort was directed elsewhere.   Technology just wasn't that focused on usability. 

We have a monitor tethered to a computer and interface via a keyboard and mouse and we've had that arrangement for a long time.   Voice recognition and touch screens have continued to evolve and improve but these alone aren't enough to solve the paperless usability issue.

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Antikythera Mechanism - An Update Thu 31 Jul 08

Antikythera_mechanism_drobnikmBack at the end of 2006 I wrote about the Antikythera Mechanism, a astronomical calculator from more than 2,000 years ago.  Recent reports indicate that this wasn't just an all purpose astronomical calculate but had a specific purpose.  It was used to keep track of when the next Olympics would take place as described in this Scientific American article.

It is rather interesting that this was the purpose.  When you think about the resources of time, effort and probably money needed to do this it is truly amazing.  Two thousand years ago doing something like this wasn't something you do lightly.  It really indicates the importance of the Olympics back then. 

"Antikythera Mechanism" photo by drobnikm

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Quick Tip: How To Get Your Lost Laptop Back Thu 10 Jul 08

Luggage_tag Security expert Bruce Schneier recently had an interesting blog post referring to a study by the Ponemon Institute.  In a study sponsored by laptop maker, Dell, they concluded that approximately 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen every week in US airports and that two-thirds are never claimed.  While I view those figures with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do believe  that the number is no doubt quite large.

Although as Schneier points out some TSA employees do steal, there are dishonest people everywhere.  I believe that people are basically honest and will try to do the right thing and that includes TSA personnel taking extra effort to get lost property back to their owners including a system to track lost items.  I've personally had a pleasant experience with honest folks going the extra mile to help out a stranger.  A few years back I lost my BlackBerry in a cab on the way to O'Hare airport in Chicago and didn't realize it until I had gone through security and was at the boarding gate.  The cab driver found it after dropping me off, returned to the airport, and gave it to the TSA people at security.  The TSA personnel figured out who it belonged to by looking at the "owner" information and called my office.  About that time I discovered that I had lost my BlackBerry and called my office to report it and to have them disable it when they informed me that the TSA was on the other line and that I could pick it up at security.  What a relief!

Because of this I believe that if you accidentally leave your PC behind at airport security or some other place many people will try to get it back to you.  So let's make it easy for them to help us.  We routinely put luggage tags on all our luggage but put nothing on those laptops with all that valuable company information.

So for the tip: Make it easy for people to reunite you with your lost laptop by taping your business card to the PC. 

That's it, plain and simple, but effective.  Sometimes the best solutions are low-tech or even no-tech.   There is no guarantee that this will get your laptop back but without any identifying information on it the you know its not going to happen.  If you are in charge of PCs you may want to get someone's business card when you give them a new PC and tape it on for them.  Who know it may save you a lot of trouble recreating their data for them when it is lost.

Thanks to Vinnie Mirchandani for the link on screener's system to track lost items.

"Luggage Tag" photo - Microsoft clip art

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