Mac new OS 10.5 and how we work

I have spent the last 2 days installing, learning and basically kicking the tires for this new operating system of Apple’s. Besides the new features, and there seem to be more than quite a few, there is a valuable lesson to be learnt when you finally clean up that hard drive.

There is great value in purging all those files that have been in all those folders for all that time. I mean why would I ever need something 7 years old written to a company that is no longer in business? It seems we spend too much time being good “librarians” for all the digital information we accumulate on our hard drives. In his book “Everything is Miscellaneous” by David Weinberger he explains how the digital world changes the laws of physics. We can sort, search, and view most anything digitally if the technology is easy, understandable and fast. So why do we spend so much time creating folders only to stuff them for that one time we think we need to find that file? And usually that one time never comes.

So this weekend I tossed 80% of everything out. Gone, except for passwords, serial numbers, and software applications (music and pictures remain on an external drive). My IMAP mail is still available, my calendar and addressbook contacts all there. But those PDF’s, files and who knows what else, is trash. It feels pretty good to be digitally clean.

Apple’s Mail program has notes and calendar to-dos that will part of your e-mail file. Coverflow allows you to view any file without having to open the file in the application. And Spotlight is very fast at finding anything. Spaces keeps your desktop in order depending on what programs you want the individual desktop to work under. Under the menu Services – Speech – Start talking text just made proof texting what you have written a real joy.

How we work sometimes is the accumulation of habits, both good and bad, over a number of years. This weekend some of those habits are going to have to change. And digital trash is pretty easy to get rid of. Not like those old Gestetner stencils or carbon paper.


Facebook and Twitter and what a pundit said

With Microsoft’s getting a piece of Facebook there is a lot of discussion about what this means. Charlene Li at Forrester Research says “Facebook really represents the new computing platform for this new age of computing and I think any social application that is written in the future is going to have to take into account the Facebook model”. So what exactly is Charlene saying here?

Is Facebook a “new computing platform for this new age of computing”? I hadn’t thought of it as that. It seemed to be a different interface that quickly allowed a connection to a number of people, already registered with the product, who I knew. It compacted a lot of information because the screen fonts though small where readable. And it had a lot of choice on how it would look and how it would work. Is it a new computing platform? No. It is just a nicely designed product that caught a wave of popularity and with this momentum has a large base of users that made it more relevant than other social networking systems. I wouldn’t call it a new computing platform, just a better refinement of how others could enhance your platform for you.

If you use Twitter and Facebook consider this question. What do you find easier to use, what do you use more, what defines social networking in your mind – Twitter or Facebook? Or are there other “new computing platforms” that ring truer to your sense of social networking?

Social networking, just by it’s name, is difficult to describe. It is 90% human communication and 10% technology ( I’ll leave you to adjust the percentages). Do I really care what the screen looks like as long as the result is what one feels comfortable with when using it? If it works, then it is used. If it doesn’t work for you for whatever reason you won’t use it. Twitter works. It connects me in real time to some of the most interesting people I know. It is simple. It is intriguing. Facebook does this in a different fashion, in a slower fashion, much more historic with social aspects defined by the various applications you choose. What it does for me is not the same as what Twitter does. Why? Because it only augments or tries to emulate what I as a person already experience daily in my non-computer life. When I sit across from someone and communicate I am experiencing who I am in the real human setting. This is reality. And all the factors and inputs that I have learned since birth are at work listening and communicating with this person. What they are saying, how they are saying it, what their body movement is, how their hands are moving, everything all your senses offer to establish human contact. Is this the same experience as Twitter or Facebook? No and it never can be. They are only partial facilities in our human connections. They work to a certain point. I think the best part of social networking is when you finally get to meet all these neat people in person. Knowing and realizing that event will someday happen makes these virtual places pretty amazing.

Strategy, what is it?

I was at a meeting last night with a group of credit unions. It was our semi-annual Peer Group 6 meeting and we had a number of presentations. Interesting the number of times the word strategy was used. It seemed to encompass a number of things is these speeches. It was like the ultimate glue that was needed to hold any direction or business plan in place. But it got me to thinking, what exactly is strategy? What does it mean?

John Ralston Saul has come up with the best definition I have ever come across. It really explains what it is and more importantly what it isn’t. When I use his definition it becomes apparent, the word strategy is being misused and misunderstood. We need to be pretty sure what it is before we start using it. So when a speaker says “this should be your strategy” they need to really understand our business. I lot of times I don’t think they do understand our business.

“The key word is strategy. Not tactics. Not the practicalities we deal with on most days. Strategy is about marrying ideas and capabilities with intuition and daring. It depends on finding the point of pivot which converts the apparently impossible into something reasonably possible.”

Monday morning is only 2 coffees old

Today is typical. Rain. So your mood as you climb (or fall) out of bed is a bit sombre. I have only 4 things to do today. Call someone about a possible mortgage. (When you are in the credit union business people always call you – they trust your advice.) Then I have to start on getting 55 congregational graphs together for a package the BC Synod (Lutheran) wants to send out. The template is made so it is just inputting data and printing out the report. Then it’s off to have lunch with my favourite Jewish lawyer. I love to have these wonderful debates with him about technology, law and theology. And finally because it is Monday it’s my night to cook. A real eventful day huh?

You are always challenged to keep your private and business life separate but they meld at times. It’s like being told to be schizophrenic in order to manage who you are. You can’t keep everything in separate jars though. Things, responsibilities and patterns of life are not set down in a distinct line that follows the precise A to Z or 1 to 100 pattern. Remember those small books you would get as a kid that had all of those “connect the dot” pages. Your start at one and connect the dots in numeric order. When you reach the last number you’ve drawn a picture (straight lined, not curved). You start your day thinking you have the complete picture planned and only have to connect the dots. By the end of the day though that picture you thought you would draw and the one that is in front of you sometimes don’t resemble each other. Your day just hasn’t gone as planned.

I have realized that no matter how hard you try you are always going to get two pictures. And that is ok. That is what life is about. There will always be those random events and circumstances that make up the day. And when you think about it would you really want it different. It’s pretty interesting having life’s randomness.

Under the guise of Happy International Credit Union Day

I received an email yesterday from a large CUSO, first of all stating “This e-mail and any attachments may contain confidential and privileged information”. Interesting that a Happy Credit Union Day e-mail would have that. So I continued to read.

One sentence on Happy CU Day and a paragraph about CU contributions to the community in terms of ‘we’. Heah this is getting cozy. The final half of the email is titled with the buzz phrase “navigating the future” and a list of our common threats. You have heard them all before – credit crunch, mergers and consolidations (which should read take-overs), interest rates rising (their crystal ball must be pretty good to see that so clearly), leaders retiring (usually called succession planning), bank competition (instead of CU competition), eroding CU philosophy (how does a philosophy erode?), a stronger dollar (in case a lot of your commercial lending is in manufacturing and exporting) and of course the environment (thanks Carthage, Tennessee). You are then invited to take their poll to number your top 3 threats. WOW! Happy CU Day and here are the threats you face. Sort of a mixed message. The next birthday card I should send will be Happy Birthday Frank and bankruptcy may be the only way to get out of your excessive credit card debt.

And what are they going to do with the results of the survey? Prepare their Christmas message in a similar fashion with updated information? Probably.

I was thinking of taking the survey and stating some new ones.

1. The infiltration of bankers in the CU system.

2. The further and growing chasm between those who pay the bills and those who control the system.

3. The lousy 3rd party companies that we can’t get rid of and only bring us higher costs and bad service.

4. The ignorance of who we are and where we are going.

5. Stupid emails like this which are supposed to do what? Get us scared and run to those speaking today’s business mantras?

But the main point that needs to be said about this endeavour is how lame the message is and what a pathetic way to send it. I can’t show it to you (confidentiality) but it looks pathetic. Really pathetic. And we are supposed to swallow this? No thanks. I am taking the greatest delight of pushing my delete button with this one. We should have a contest to guess who this is from but then what would the prize be?

Boy did we have fun yesterday

It started out with a bad weather forecast for our area. They had been talking about this Pacific storm coming in with rain and high winds from the south west. That usually means a lot of water. In B.C. and the Pacific Northwest you have a number of definitions for rain. Some of them are: Looks a little gray, drizzle, showers, intermittent showers, rain, it’s pouring, it’s coming down.… can gauge how bad it is by how someone defines the rain. Yesterday we were all waiting for it to pour.

We got everything ready and then the members came. We had over 180 people come to our celebration of International Credit Union Day. That represents about 10% of our membership. In fact we ran out of hamburgers and had to head up and get more. We put together a video on YouTube so you can see some of what happened.

Every year, after its over, you sit back and wonder how it went. This year was pretty special. We purposely asked the members what they liked about the credit union and what they wanted changed. We took a video of it all and last night when I was editing the clips it struck me. We are doing a good job but we never really ask and hear directly from the members. This ia a real testimony that all the staff can see. Members really do like us. There is a community and social aspect of who we are. There are a few clips that I will put together for a future download. The one with Earl Lehman speaks of being an owner. It is one we need to watch occasionally. It’s a good reminder.

Our first YouTube posting and Happy Credit Union Day!

Yesterday we let Kelly the videocam girl loose on all the staff in the building. We needed to have a trial run of the camcorder as well as some experience on downloading the scenes and putting something together. It went exceptionally well. The quick interviews, the great responses, and the ease of putting it all together was a surprise. Even if it isn’t that professional it gets the message out very quickly of just who this credit union is from the employees side. Tomorrow we will be doing the same thing from the member’s side.

Doing this puts any business in a very interesting position. The tools to show who exactly you are, what exactly you do and who is involved in your business are available to anyone that wants to use them. The cost is nothing. The outreach is global. This internet that we all seem to be more and more part of is bringing new ideas, new ways of doing things into our homes and work places. When one is able to read comments, blogs and twitters of individuals in geographic locations that you can only dream of visiting it still creates in me a sense of awe and amazement.

So what is stopping individuals and credit unions from capturing and using these various means? I have updated my business formula as to why some don’t use social media, so here is is:

Ignorance + Fear = Control

Those that are hesitant seem to lack the ability to give up this control function that has become so prevalent. They do not understand transparency. They are afraid of it. If they can’t control it they can’t see what it would benefit them. The saddest part is that they don’t realize that the world as they know it changed on them and those old rules don’t work to any great extent any longer.
My circle of associates and friends would be so much less by holding back. How would I have heard “On a Freezing Chicago Street” by Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s if Matt hadn’t twittered about Margot and iTunes hadn’t been invented to be able to buy it? Everyone has these internet events that occur again and again. They are in a sense that small human part of us that we get to share.

Our first YouTube posting was really about us stepping out to share a small story. Our blog is up and running. It’s scary but you know it feel’s pretty good. Shari is right. Happy International Credit Union Day everyone!

What was truly great about Indianapolis

It has been two weeks since the Forum Solutions Trabian Partnership Symposium and there is something that keeps me wondering why it stands out in my mind to such a great degree. The same thing applies for BarCampBankSeattle. Then today I was talking to Lisa Hochgraf at CUES and it finally dawned on me.
Passion. The Oxford English dictionary explains it as “to show, express, or be affected by passion or deep feeling.” And that expression and deep feeling was shown by every presenter during those two days. It was an experience that was there with every conversation you had with other attendees. It was what was core to the  Dianne  Denise/Ron debate. Everything during that time pointed to a group of people who had a passion for credit unions. You usually never experience this when going to the typical conference. You spend your bucks, sit at a table and hear numerous speakers over a few days. After every lunch break you try to stay awake always feeling sorry for the poor guy that is probably staring at so many closed eyelids. You come away thinking “didn’t learn much here, most of the same old thing.” You hear so few speakers with much passion. If you do see one or two you think the conference was ok.
Our credit union system is evolving with an incredible tendency to think that growth for growth’s sake is the prime strategy we need to follow. (Remember growth can sometimes hide a multitude of sins). That economies of scale is the only true mantra. But Indianapolis said something different. It said think smart and stay relevant to the member/owner. The energy and possibility of achieving what we set out to do is only going to be limited by ourselves. It was nice to be with so many people that saw so much opportunity and so few limitations.

What I like about marketing

Most of the time advertising is irksome. I mean it just gets into your face, into your head, into your space just when you want nothing to be there. Could some company ever try to sell you something exactly when you need/want it?
Then there are some companies that when you see their name you look further and want to see what they are saying. Three come to mind – Volkswagen, Apple and Audi. Volkswagen because they had one of the best print ads ever (remember all that white space, a logo and the bug?). Apple because well I’ve had an Apple computer since 1979 and they are just neat and work the way you want (even when it was a CLI). Then there is Audi (What is with German cars anyway?). This morning the Globe and Mail had an insert, a large fold out in black, very little print and their new sports model. All I can remember is 425 horsepower 8 cylinder and a picture of the car. That was more than enough.

Simplicity seems to be the key. A focused message. Nothing busy. It works for me. And that is why I don’t have TV, just can’t stand the commercials. They are like a ball bearing rolling around in my brain.

volkswagen - Google Image Search.jpg

Web 2.0 sites that are fast becoming known by daily usage

There are a number of sites that I use like applications on a daily basis. Listed below are some most known and maybe, just maybe, a few that aren’t.

flickr – this is the picture mecca. If you upgrade you can download everything you every take with a digital camera. And the best part is the Contacts and Groups areas that you manage. Upgrading to the Pro account is well worth it.

Twitter – the Mac has a neat program Twitterific which makes twittering easy. When you get used to it, and you have to because you will initially discount it as a useless program, you can see what it is all about especially if you attend a conference with others of like minds.

Facebook – not much to say here as the main media has been pounding out information. You need to manage exactly what you want to use this interface for. One of the things that to me is amazing is the ability to quickly send a video on the wall. You can save a ton of time videoing instead of writing.

Jott – this is something I use all the time. Walking, driving or whenever you don’t have a pen or paper, send yourself a quick note (usually via cell phone). Sure you can get the audio message but it also is transcribed into text where it can be forwarded into an email or text message.

YouTube – who doesn’t know this one but again they have the facility for you to record and send a video to a specific person. Some may not have a Facebook account.

Linkedin – professional networking. It goes beyond Facebook in that it has a business focus.

tinyurl – change those long and cryptic URLs into something manageable. Simple and effective.

Simpy – the social bookmarking service. It is simple, works great and keeps bookmarks in one space. It has features galore.

WordPress – the most enjoyable blogging site. The more you spend time with this the better you like it. And if you can host WordPress on your own site it will take you days to get through all the themes and widgets offered.

I am sure some sites have been missed. But think about this – would you have thought any of this was possible 5 or 10 years ago?

The upcoming International Credit Union Day October 18, 2007

I was thinking about this at the recent Symposium in Indianapolis so on the way home stopped at an electronics store and bought the easiest to use Sony camcorder I could find. I want to start talking to the staff about getting video clips especially for the upcoming CU Day October 18th. We have a day long event with a BBQ inviting the membership and community to come out and help us celebrate. I think it would be great to post those video clips to YouTube with appropriate tags to be viewed by everyone. I would love to get Fred to talk about the first loan our credit union gave out (he got it to buy a cow) . Think about it if we could get the word out and those with the gumption step up to the plate we could have a number of clips from all over the world of events and messages about that day, about us, about the members, etc. etc. Doesn’t take much effort, doesn’t need to be controlled by those that think in those terms, and would be great to see.

So when is it International Bankers Day anyway?

Do human emotions equate well with business events?

There is a post over on IT Management about Apple and their arrogance. Maybe Mike Elgan has a point. He speaks of Microsoft being humiliated by Apple. I really can’t see the tears here. And do companies the size of Apple and Microsoft exist with some of the feelings he describes? These are both billion dollar businesses. They have brands. They make money. They do not cry.

Remember in the mid 90’s — it was Microsoft that was ‘arrogant’ and Apple the weak and supposedly dying platform. It only lasted awhile before innovation and hard work changed this. Businesses either work to exist or move on to where ever they move on to. Let’s not get too excited here. I can’t see much blood on the floor. And whatever pain Microsoft is suffering because of this ‘bully’ Apple it is a long way from Microsoft’s heart (and pocketbook).

3 Days of Highlighted points

Listed below are 3 days of points some of the speakers made. They are not in any order.
You could call them key points (ideas that hit a home run or were hat tricks). Some of the quotes have been adjusted for clarity but the italics are mine.

1. In a time of highly diverse issues we live with three common themes – detect you competition, destroy your competition or avoid your competition.

2. Brand equity is an investment. So how does an investment blog?

3. A credit union must become more than an ATM. Too bad some ATMs give better service.

4. Why should they care about what you do. You need to show members you do care. Differentiate. Caring and service are not the same.

5. The lowest employee on the organization chart has the great contact with the member. But why are they the least consulted when it comes to any change in process with the member?

6. Promises to members must be fulfilled. Focus on execution. There should be a method to monitor integrity.

7. Avoidance of pain is a great motivator. see point no. 1.

8. Personal agendas can harm collaboration. Tough to collaborate when our system is driven by personalities.

9. Direct mail response sites at 0.28% Read ‘Punk Marketing‘ for a full explanation. Seriously.

10. Not measured, not managed. Tatooable

11. Credit Union’s may have satisfied members but no loyal members. Something we all need to ponder.

Tomorrow we hear Lydia Johnson – Vancity, Jason Knight – Wesabe, Shari Storm – Verity CU & Trey Reeme – Trabian, Doug True – FORUM Solutions and Tim McAlpine – Currency Marketing. These are key individuals in today’s CU world and it is going to be an honour just sitting and listening to them.

The Cleveland airport

Arrived in Cleveland and are just catching our breath before leaving to Indianapolis. Today has been a day of travelling and we had a chance to drive around Toronto for a few minutes. Interesting city that seems very vibrant. Places you have heard about most of your life (Hockey Hall of Fame, Osgoode Hall, CBC Headquarters) and you finally see. Sort of like seeing Niagra Falls for the first time. Nothing eventful other that being a typical tourist in a car that has no idea of direction. We should arrive at our destination and into our hotel room late this evening. Still can’t get used to the time. Events evolve around it but my stomach is still on West Coast time. I should be hungry by 9:30 pm tonight.

Tomorrow begins at 8:30 am with a pretty heavy line up of speakers. There should be a few announcements and presentations that will challenge some of the ordinary positions we have been having of social media and credit unions. We spent some time with Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation fame last night. What you realize from him is that everything is changing and nothing is remaining static. Any attempt to ‘control’ any of what is being tried in the social media ring is going to be viewed with disdain by the audience that it is built for. It is a new way to view and create business possibilities but like that movie, Meet the Parents, you have to build it with the view it is in ‘the circle of trust’.