People ask me how we handle development work at the credit union. There is no simple answer or formula that one can recite as to how ideas flourish into a product, a process or a service. You wonder if they sometimes appear out of thin air.
Today was a prime example. Our e-statement project is finished, done, complete. Next Wednesday the interface will be in place for actual use by the members. All the components were developed in house except for the web site interface which was done by Central 1’s MemberDirect people. What does it do? It puts a link on the web site to a monthly PDF which is an exact duplicate of what the members have been receiving in the mail in paper form. For all the benefits it saves money and paper. But then as we talked about it, something happened.
Why not have a link for an up to date, real time PDF statement? If it is the 10th or 20th or whatever date in the current month, why not just click and a PDF created on the fly and delivered. Your transaction of 1 minute ago would be included. That means besides the depository of a few years of statements on your account, you could get a real time version statement anytime. As all of the methods and code were built, it looks like it would only take a half a day to do that. That means before Wednesday of next week this added feature will part of the launch.
But where did that idea come from? From a simple suggestion that with our ability to trigger real time transactions we could move that forward to being part of triggering real time statements. Was it valuable? I spoke to a few people and yes it was valuable. In fact it would make some businesses very happy in reconciling their accounts on a daily basis. The beauty of the whole function is that we aren’t using an outside supplier to do this on a month-end batch basis. What has been built is real time in-house the ultimate IT mantra. Expanding what we can do in real time gives us the idea for another product. If statement processing had been done by a 3rd party we would have been stuck in thinking in a ‘batch’ mode and never contemplated doing it differently.
I believe that innovation comes from dynamic thinking. Thinking how something can be done now and not later is important in what you have to offer. In today’s instant age much is possible by keeping everything fluid. It is important that you work in the environment you want to live in. There is always another step. If I ever have to get into a lifeboat I want a life preserver now, not pink plastic water wings later.
This morning my MacBook Pro started to freeze up. There was no response to the keypad or trackpad no matter what. I tried booting about 6 times all with the same problem. Dug out the CD and rebooted but again it didn’t work. Holding the ‘C’ key down wasn’t being seen by the Mac so it started to boot from the hard drive again. The only solution left was to take the battery out and let the machine ‘die’ from a complete lack of power. After putting the battery back Voila! everything is back to normal. It wasn’t that scary as I did have a current backup I could get to.
I wonder if sometimes life could be like that. Brent’s post today talked about him feeling like a hamster. I don’t know about you but his words rung pretty true. You tend to just get stuck with all the noise around you. Then you realize most of this crap is not life threatening, it is just noise. I just wish I could remove the battery and get a quick restart but that isn’t going to happen. You need to take care of what needs to be taken care of, just slow down and become human again instead of machine like. We need to remove ourselves of the A + B algorithm that becomes our existence and get outside and pick a few daisies. So if you get to do that today make sure you are barefoot and don’t step on the worms!
Morriss recently wrote about the 4 stages of Twitter which was as close as it gets to emulating the stages of experience with this product. I hadn’t realized how long I had been on it and then thought about why, after e-mail, it is the one thing that is always checked.
At first it seemed that the community that would built up around Twitter, with you deciding who to follow and who is following you, would be limited. How many of your face-to-face friends would actually use it tended to be few if any and wasn’t everyone on Facebook anyway. But a community did build and it reached beyond any geographic location that you could imagine. Now you can see people responding to each other were you know you were the conduit in getting them followed or following each other. How many people have you interacted with because of someone else’s introduction to that individual?
There also seems to be a grouping of like minds. I have never asked or heard of anyone’s political persuasion, not that it would matter. There is not much knowledge about age or generation. In fact unless the person blogs and has posted the link you really don’t know much about them. Some post frequently, others rarely. There is a link or a connection to each person that proves to be different with each post. There is a unique insight when someone updates you on what is taking place in their life or their thoughts at that specific instant. There seems to be a common bond that is unexplainable. That unknown connection is why I love Twitter. It is an amazing way to communicate with some amazing people.
At the same time I am always somewhat hesitant on what to post. When compared to what some post, mine seem like drivel. Once in a while you can contribute which is satisfying. But one also needs to say what one doesn’t like. I really don’t like it when someone posts 6 or more times, right in a row. Thankfully everyone has a specific icon so when that starts you can quickly pass through the stream. It is also hard to follow a thread of thought when someone posts a short cryptic message to some unknown @person. If it sounds interesting you can click on @person and hope there is something there to understand. There is tinypaste if you want to go beyond 140 characters but it is rarely used.
Finally it is great to hear what music someone is listening to or where they are but I really don’t want to know that you have arrived at Starbuck’s and are having a double non-fat latté. Sorry but I don’t drink coffee and it irks me that I can’t be sitting across from you with a tea.
I was approached by the people at Cornerstone about writing a piece about me and the credit union. If you have done this a few times it tends to be much of the same. Who, what, why, where, when and how. Pretty standard stuff. But the people behind Gonzo Banker were different and when the article was published it was a pleasant surprise. They are good. The best part is that the Credit Union Foundation of B.C. gets $250 in U.S. dollars.
It is July, the time of vacations, with the weather finally something other than wet. You seem to wait most of the year for this kind of weather and when it arrives it is nice.
The staff got the rest of their iPhones today so everyone was setting things up, getting a bit lost in menus and experiencing what all the hype of the past week is actually about. It comes with some limitations that’s for sure but overall it is a tribute to Apple and their ingenuity.
First and foremost it is a phone, SMS communicator, email device, calendar, address book….well you get the picture. What it does well is that it is an extension of the Mac OS in what you can do and it works together with what you have on the desktop. I think of it as a mobile extension of a pretty good OS. And then there are the things that seem like science fiction coming true like the map function that shows you as that pulsating dot moving across a map. Why would you need step by step directions when you just follow the purple line as a pulsating dot? With a hybrid map choice it is so simple and almost unreal. We are just starting to learn what it can do and are pretty sure that a few unanswered questions can be solved with what this device offers.
Yesterday Tim (Currency) and William (Vancity) and I got together downtown for lunch and to go over what is needed for BarCampBankBC. Those two are right on top of it and we are well on our way to putting up the framework to make this a memorable event. At one point I had the iPhone out to update the Twitter bunch. After a picture and some text I quickly looked at the SMS messages and email. While I was doing this Tim and William were discussing something and I realized that I had actually left the group for a few minutes by what I was doing. This morning after thinking about what I had done I thought it needed a name so I called that type of action ‘hiving’. It is made up of hive with the -ing. I thought of a bee hive and how busy they always seem to be doing something and yet they are in close proximity. When you have that iPhone or BlackBerry in the midst of people and are doing something with it you are busy, doing what is anyones guess. It seems we do need a verb for what is being done as it is becoming very commonplace. To hive – to be busy or have the appearance of being busy, always within the midst of people, with a small computer-like device.
Doug has presented an excellent post about CUs and innovation. But as I commented there is another side.
First I am not saying that all 3rd level CU organizations or 3rd party suppliers fit this pattern. There are a number of organizations and people within these organizations that get it. But in large part most fit the same pattern — keep it comfortable and maintain the status quo.
That pattern and the underlying mantra of most credit unions that their brand is sacrosanct creates the problem for innovation. Please don’t ask me for the answer on this one as I don’t have it. It is almost like the system governs the outcome and there is no reasonable explanation as to why it continues. Why can’t we work together to a greater degree? Because we have a brand to maintain and maybe some collaborative effort will diminish it. Our competitive edge will erode if it was know our CU competitors were involved. Or when we are at the table trying to collaborate we can’t agree because the brands get in the way. Maybe it would be just too difficult to have to re-build something by having to admit previous failures that were never fixed. Common sense doesn’t event get a chance to exist.
When you have a culture of innovation in your credit union it is risky. There are daily challenges as to why you continue to do things as before. In having this view you constantly challenge not only your CU but everyone else. There is acceptance in that you do have a proper product or service in place but that it could always you a bit of tweaking when you have the time and resources to do it. There is always this impatience and not being completely satsified. There is always the frustration of trying to arrive at the right solutions for your members. There is the fear of failure. There is the consequence of having spent so much time on something to see it not working as you thought. But all of this leads to the healthy.
You don’t do anything for the recognition but you do it to serve the members better and to make the staff’s daily routine easier and less mundane. You do it from an open source attitude. If another CU can use what you have and make it better isn’t that something better for all of us? You learn from the mistakes because you are willing to take the risk to make mistakes. You always move forward from a position of the positive. The health of your CU is certainly measured by it’s financial performance. There are also some subjective measures such as what have you produced for the members that they can use and value? Cloning a free checking or youth account doesn’t count. Challenging the status quo both inside and outside the CU is the starting point. Asking a simple 3 letter question is maybe the best way to start. “Why?”
I saw where Apple updated their OSX to 10.5.3. Usually I would wait and let others suffer the challenges but there have been some minor irritations for me with loading a series of tabs in Safari. For the past month if there were 20 or so loading the last 10 would fail to load. It wasn’t working properly at work. Then at home it would be ok with everything loading. We checked everything and nothing. With this update everything works fine. The pages load quickly and all the tabs loading.
This morning I had a great discussion with Morriss Partee of Everything CU. We discussed the upcoming BarCampBankDallas and BarCampBankBC which we will both be attending. The great thing is that we can continue these discussions shortly, face to face. He is one interesting person who has a great deal of passion for credit unions.
Was able to snap up “The Mind of the Market” by Michael Shermer. The inside cover states that the author uncovers the hidden psychology and biology that shape the way we think about money. That sounded interesting. Further down the page it said “Drawing on the new field of neuroeconomics…investigates what brain scans reveal about decision-making processes such as bargaining, snap purchases and establishing trust in business”. This looks interesting. I just hope the writer doesn’t wander off into the Land Contrived Assumptions.
And tomorrow is Friday!
There seems to be so many different points in one’s life that move you in one direction or another. You reflect on your recent and distant past and wonder how things might have been different had you chosen a different path.
And then there are times of transition. Those seem to be the areas where you know there are changes happening around you with more to come but you aren’t sure of what the ending will be. It’s like you are in the middle of the book but only at the 2nd chapter. You can be in the middle of a few transitions at once or be at a point where nothing seems to be moving at all in your life.
I think the most important thing to realize is that what is happening does have some purpose. We tend to be much more comfortable when we can at least see some land in the distance. Most transitions are not life threatening. They tend to be a defining moment well remembered. And they do lead us to change something, move something forward, leave some baggage behind. It becomes a new start in ways and fashions that we hadn’t expected.
When you think about it there is always something changing and moving in so many circles of your life. Physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, work-wise or whatever. We need to realize that this is life’s journey. I’m thankful that I still have the capacity to see and perceive these changing forms because that is what life is all about. We capture growth in such economic terms and neglect to distinguish the growth in our own human lives. Reflection on life’s transitions — something important, something that keeps me human.
This has been somewhat of a strange weekend. On Thursday I was feeling pretty bad so left work early. Friday I was sick but unusually so was Marjun. For the past 3 days we have been at home not going anywhere or seeing anyone. That has never happened before. Very different and not like us. My wife is an extravert beyond comprehension so it is really tough for her.
Besides reading ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami and delving into the finer points of the Nikon, convalescing is extremely boring. You have limited energy don’t do much of anything. Sitting outside has been nice except when having to listen to the neighbour next door tell the world through his cell phone every business deal he has conceived is brilliant. This megaphone neighbour has this dog who has an extreme dislike of me. I like dogs having had everything from Bulldogs to Daschounds but with this pooch there are no warm and fuzzy feelings. In fact all the neighbours don’t like this dog. It is like a spoiled child that does no wrong even though there is more evidence on everyone’s lawn than we care to clean up. But Mr. Businessman thinks nothing wrong. This is a continuing narrative.
The time of BBQs has begun in earnest. You can hear the clank of empty propane bottles being taken to vehicles. The wire brushes are scraping in earnest. Depending on which way the wind is blowing it is either hamburger, ribs or steaks. I think we are having Maui ribs tonight.
And what will Victoria Day have in store for us? Here’s hoping some movement farther than the front door.
Yesterday Tim, William and I had a conference call about the upcoming BCBBC. During the conversation we talked about the Seattle Bar Camp Bank and how we viewed it. It was interesting to hear that we all wanted to repeat Seattle’s success by having something similar.
But are BarCampBanks always similar? The format and the way the event is held is unique and it contributes a lot to its success. No one owns the agenda. You vote with your feet. Sessions can continue until everyone says its over. Discussion, dialogue and conversation are great ways to communicate, debates aren’t. Relationships have already been created through Internet means (blogs and Twitter). Meeting people face to face after you have know them online is a phenonemal experience. Venues can add to the flavour of the event. It is a time of incubating ideas. It is the Olympics of conferences. No talking heads telling you what you already now. Inexpensive. Unbelievable value. The points are numerous and everyone who attends can give numerous examples as to why they will attend again.
But each one that I have attended is unique. And I keep trying to nail down what makes it so. There is a climate of networking and relationships that form at these meetings based on the individuals present. The BarCampBanks are made up of such a wide range of characters that they can’t be the same just by the fact of who attends. Maybe it is because we don’t really have such a strong expectation of what will come from the event. We already know that will happen. The expectation is the excitement of the discussions, the passion shown by everyone, the energy in just being in a room with such remarkable people. We thought we came seeking a holy grail but found that each of us had the capacity to create something unique in our relationships and our being together for this short time. The time you have is limited and you want to make the most of it.
BarCamps cannot really be explained. You could add numerous paragraphs to the above and still just touch on what they are. You have to be there and experience a BarCamp to understand fully what it is. With everyone being different you realize it really is the people that are important here. The focus is us. And that is so different from those expensive, boring, talking head, self-appointed expert sessions we have all fallen asleep at.
It has been close to a month since the last post. April is the month of meetings and this month was no exception. After a month of holidays and arriving back April 7th it has taken 3 weeks to feel somewhat comfortable back at work. The physical and email in-baskets are under control finally.
Something that really bothered me in my travels was the lack of wireless Internet access in so many places. Copenhagen and Barcelona had limited access. The airports were all over the place. Some hotels had it, some didn’t have wireless, some only had landlines. And then there were some with fees of up to $14.95 per day. If there is anything needed in this day and age it is inexpensive free or cheap wireless access. You don’t know how wired you are until you are unplugged.
BarCampBankBC has been announced for September 20 – 21 in Vancouver, B.C. The wiki is already filling up with people and Tim, William and I haven’t sat down together yet. It is exciting to think of who will attend and we are hoping for a good turnout. But BarCampBankNE showed me that you didn’t need a lot of people to make a successful event.
You know it is spring with the NHL playoffs and the tulips in bloom. The weather hasn’t been the warmest but it is around the corner. Right?
I am going to go out on a limb here. I have been reading a lot of blog posts over the years but there seems to be a stream of self-gratulation that is fast becoming a river. Some posts take a point, expand on it, and offer some thoughtful critique and whether you agree or not, bring home that the world really is round not flat. That the world we live in has various meanings and perspectives and not anyone group has all the answers. They are usually intriguing and thought provoking.
Now, I see much more subliminal writing that purports to have a unique point of view but really is representing a business. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a fairy tale ‘The Emperors New Clothes’. Though considered a fairy tale there is a school of thought that says the stories were satires on the Danish way of life. There seems to be a similar set of clothing being offered in the blogosphere. The bias is for business, and the posts do not necessarily distinguish the framework for further discussion. Sure we can all throw in little ads of our accomplishments but when the blog becomes solely a business grandizement and that under the guise of an individual, it really isn’t a blog. It is more a subliminal message of a business.
What eventually will happen is those blogs get glanced at rather than read and eventually they get dropped of the daily reading list. I am glad there are more and more blogs being written because the choice to read something mentally stimulating is important.
When you are in the credit union business for long time you get to meet a lot of people. Sometimes you are very fortunate to meet some pretty wonderful people. When I first came to the credit union Frank was on the board of directors. He was a nurseryman, blunt, outspoken but a true co-operator and a fierce credit unionist. Over the years I got to know Frank quite well going for the occasional lunch and visiting him at his place. We had rousing discussions about member loyalty, the responsibility of the member and how important it was to be relative to the members. Beneath that harsh exterior was a very kind and gentle person who was true to himself. He used to show up with boxes of produce to give to the staff. The potatoes he grew were unlike anything I’ve tasted and it was an honour to have Frank give you some of his vegetables.
Everyday when coming to work I have passed Frank’s place and seen his trees grow to be harvested and his wonderful garden and hedges kept perfect and proper. This morning when I drove by I noticed a number of vehicles in the yard that hadn’t been there before. It just appeared strange. This afternoon we were told that Frank had passed away.
Today is a sad day. We will always remember Frank and when I drive by tonight it will be difficult to hold back the tears. He was a good man, someone you will genuinely miss. It’s people like Frank that make this job worthwhile. It’s people like Frank that make this life that much brighter. Take care Frank as we are all going to miss you.
At the recent Northern Voice conference Alan Levine made a presentation of WordPress Web sites that don’t look at all like a WordPress blog. Jim Groom also had a presentation about this. Alan had a tag on del.icio.us that he used to keep track of these sites and suggested anyone use it if they also found examples. There were a few people that mentioned work they had done in this area, Alan hit the sites, tagged them, and the source of the information was complete. It was the first time I had seen that happen at a public session.Wikipedia has an interesting introduction on social bookmarking that deserves reading. The article mentions other sites including Simpy and Ma.gnolia. There are a vast variety of features in them all but it brings up the Twitter vs Pownce debate again. Trey twittered William’s quote this morning — community beats cool. With the plethora of web apps available does one choose to use something because it works, works better, has more features or there are more people using it?I would like to use Pownce but there are so few of us there that everyone has drifted back to Twitter. (Flock does a decent but not perfect job of helping one keep informed about the feeds.) So community has outweighed function with that choice. One of the problems we all face is filtering. There are volumes of information pushed out onto the web daily that make it impossible to keep up with. Here again the ‘wisdom of crowds’ comes into play. The use a common social bookmarking service could filter and highlight for all of us those areas of interest. I would love to have an RSS feed of informative bookmarks suggested by friends and peers on a daily basis. It can only add to keeping current on so many important subjects. But again who does one pick? De.licio.us, Ma.gnolia, Simpy or ??
Yesterday I went through the drive through at the local Starbucks. Pretty simple order, medium sized coffee (what do they call it grande?) with cream and sugar. So the speaker comes on and this over friendly voice takes my order, asks all the same questions and it seems that life is really good from her voice tone. “That will be $1.97”.
Moving along the line up I get up to the wicket. Of course the change tray in the truck has pennies galore so I add 2 cents to the toonie to get my nickel back. The same girl is cheerfully talking stating this and that and I hear the final ‘Thank you’ and ‘Here is your coffee. I’m fine with the chatter, somewhat overdone, but friendly.
I pull forward, stop and begin to pour the paper cup of coffee into my thermos mug. Black coffee, no cream, no sugar. Aaarrrgghhh!
Now the moral of the story — it doesn’t really matter how friendly you are to the customer or if you are Chatty Kathy extraordinaire, if you screw up the order you really haven’t done your job. Pseudo-relationship building comes at a cost.
This is a tough decision. There are a lot of people that you connect with on Twitter but in the last few weeks I am getting frustrated. Using Twitteriffic is good but there seems to be missing posts. Conversations and threads have holes in them or you miss someones’ single brilliant post. I ended up flipping back to the browser to get some completeness in posting and that was a step back.
Caleb (that creative genius) mentioned Pownce so I tried it out. Sorry to say this but this is what microblogging and Twitter should be. Here’s what impressed me:
– I don’t have to constantly condense my message if it doesn’t fit. Sure Twitter keeps things short and limited but it was taking more time to fit the message than write the message.
– I haven’t tried this but you can grouo your friends. The possibility of sending a message to a specific group (family, work, bloggers) was something I had only wished for.
– has a number of additional features that could prove useful (event posting, file transfer, links).
– introduction to Adobe Air which is very well done.
So to all my fellow Twitter family members you maybe should start exploring. What was that byline in that TV commercial “Try it, you’ll like it!”
Today was my day off so headed to the barber (or do they call them hair stylist’s these days). I mentioned my trip to Europe next month and he said “you know we should cut your hair shorter.” I trust the guy and said ok. Now without my glasses I can’t really see what he is doing but I am hearing the buzzing haircutter as it chomps away quite a bit of hair. A little worried I keep my mouth shut remembering to trust the guy. After it is all over and I get my glasses back – it doesn’t look bad. And when I pick my wife up from work she is delighted. So it worked.
The PVR had the Super Bowl taped on it so this afternoon I would get to watch it. I kept away from the papers, radio and TV but yesterday the Twitter group gave it away so I had a clue as to how it would end. (Note to self: turn off Twitteriffic next time) But with all the darn commercials the program didn’t tape the last 7 minutes. Subesquent reading of the sports page then clues me in on how the Giants won. AARRRGGGHHH!!!!
Moral of these stories – trust your barber before you trust your PVR.
CU Hype has an interesting take on Second Life.
When I compare the state of the art gaming machines (PS3 and Xbox) to SL it doesn’t take much to say which is better. I have never been much of a gamer but recently bought the full meal deal, Sony Bravia LCD and a PlayStation 3. Why? The state of gaming has changed quite a bit since Zork and Wizardry. The graphics are better than the cartoons I used to watch as a kid. And with my beginner skills some of these games are going to last me a lifetime. Most of them have a real-time, Internet connection that brings the game into a non-virtual arena. You are playing with and against real people so it lends some concept of a larger human community. In a smaller way that is what SL brings to the table but in a pixelated setting.
Sony has something similar coming out on PS3 so the battle for virtual worlds is heating up.
There are some serious costs of both time and money for a business to set up shop on SL. It would be tough to get any ROI here. People don’t view money and the financial aspects of their life in virtual terms. In fact there is nothing virtual about a handful of cash.
Maybe in some future formats there may be some greater value in CUs using SL or something similar. Is it too early to tell? or are we seeing a technology, hearing the hype, and thinking it can help us. I don’t know for sure but blogging, twittering, YouTube, and Jott seem to be more than adequate in this First Life.
We were successful yesterday in moving our core banking system to Linux, changing our switch provider to Threshold and installing a new Diebold ATM at the branch. Months of planning and some extremely dedicated staff were the major contributors to a long but satisfying day. Everybody wants to take it easy for the next few days just to catch their breath.
I came across these 3 quotations this morning in an email. They ring true.
- Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether its at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.
— Earl Nightingale 1921-1989, Author & Speaker
- Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
— Helen Keller 1880-1968, Blind/Deaf Author & Lecturer
- I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Author
It seems we are brushing against new realms, new ideas and the fallout, new ways to do things. And yet we use old words and concepts to try to make some meaning for ourselves in these new realms. Those involved in blogging and twittering are sometimes at a loss explaining this new realm because how do you explain something so new that never stops changing.
I recently used the word ‘geekoid’ to explain how a program automatically setup a recorded TV show’s mpeg for streaming with a new http address. ‘Geek’ because it is using technology at the edge in a unique fashion and ‘oid’ because it sounds cool and as a suffix it means to form an adjective/noun with the sense of having the form or appearance of something related but not identical. It suggests that it is a cool use of technology but using TV technology that isn’t the same as we are used to. The program is Elgato’s EyeTV and its wi-fi access preference.
The word micro-blogging has appeared a few time recently to describe what twitter does. Users of twitter had just been calling it twittering, everybody who used this means to communicate easily understanding what it means. Micro-blogging seems to limit what it means.
One of the more interesting concepts is what credit unions do which is offering banking services. Who would understand them as offering credit unioning services? Our quest to make meaning of the new and redefining the old goes on. What seems to be taking shape with twittering is the quick sharing of concepts and ideas, off the cuff remarks that stick and begin to be used again and again until they find some small fashion of usage.
We as English users have a rich heritage of words to use, in fact probably more than most languages. But with 26 letters the capacity of understanding exactly what we say seems limited at times. I would suspect the challenge for bloggers/twitterers is to mold and message our communication not for the coolest of words but for the most understandable language. We shouldn’t be afraid to create something new or reuse words. We should not be persons of indolence.