8 days of meetings with 7 different groups

In a few minutes I head out the door for meetings, meetings, meetings, sleep, meetings, meetings,…well you get the picture. Lots to do but I’m sure my brain is going to fry and the Tylenol is going to be used. We get that hour back this weekend but what the heck it’ll just be used up by these meetings. There are some positives here, I will remain unwired for extensive periods, I re-acquaint with some people I haven’t seen for awhile, and I get to be with some pretty smart (smarter than me) people.

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.

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.

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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?

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).

Innovation as a secret weapon

Ron Shelvin has posted something interesting. I would restate it in terms of “Innovation is a credit union’s secret weapon”. Just the nature of innovation makes it positive, dynamic and well — who wants to be called uninovated?

To innovate means to change, to make changes in something already established, to bring or introduce novelties, to alter or renew. It would appear that the major attribute needed is to be flexible. Now how many FIs could be called flexible? We are painted and stuccoed as rigid, certainly not flexible. This is an industry that has regulators, auditors, SWOT consultants, and inflexibility as part of it’s character. Flexibility and innovation can be viewed as risky by this group. But now is the time we can’t afford to be anything else but flexible and innovative. So here are 4 simple innovative ideas.

  • open the door 5 minutes before the posted time.
  • make sure a person answers the telephone, not an answering machine.
  • make sure the phone is answered by the 3rd ring. That means everyone answers the phone including senior people (who have also been trained on how to transfer a telephone call to another local).
  • phone and attempt to contact a member before you return any cheque.

Not exactly high points of technology. Just small things that have been changed from actions of the past. The key is that we as CUs have the ability to change, to do these things differently, to innovate. We don’t have the monolithic structure that prohibits us from doing this. So somebody please tell me — what is stopping us? Are we afraid to be different?

Bacn (electronic)

I came across this word in Wikipedia. It is the term given to electronic messages which are not spam but are often unread. They state that bacn is email you want but not right now. This started me thinking about how much material other than emails is marked for future reading especially websites and blogs. Those blog entries that are marked for future reading could be called ‘progs’ – postponed readable blogs. Websites are either bookmarks or del.icio.us tags. (I use del.icio.us but would rather use simpy). The easiest is to use the tagging engine of your choice.
So why do we collect so much information for future digestion? It is easy to gather so much verbiage. In a matter of minutes your collection of articles that are specific to your interest are there and the means to prepare this future reading material is possible. The ease to be able to do this was simply not possible a few years ago. (Someone mentioned to me that a family member of theirs still prints every web page off they want to read and has massive paper files for their special interests!) The neat thing about this is that when you get back to reading this suitcase of words it starts you thinking in a focussed manner. The grey matter is really working hard with such a variety of viewpoints. And you can’t find that stimulus anywhere else. These thoughts and ideas are coming directly from the writer without the filtering of any editor or publisher. It’s like getting a mailbox of letters from around the world, everyday.

So bacn is good, spam is not. One is edible pork, the other is a supposed edible pork product. Funny how pig parts have solicited these types of meaning. Oink on!

What is in a motto?

Various businesses have some fairly simple but easy to remember mottos. The one that comes to mind the easiest is Avis – we’re no. 2 (it was Avis, wasn’t it?) or Wendy’s – where the beef? They sum up a core value or core principle but blanket it around the marketing message they want to establish.
Social networking is beginning to be realized as a comprehensive social phenomena. One important aspect that is being experienced is when the social networks meet face to face. Attending an event is like meeting an old pen pal. Key to this is that there is a human interaction that goes beyond the digital characters we view everyday.
Now credit unions have a very enviable position. We always have had members not customers. Members belong to something. Customers consume. We have that experience by maintaining a service culture over a sales culture (though some may differ here). As we move into developing and being part of social networking and as people begin to experience and see what it is, it can only augment who and what we are.
The credit union I work for has a motto – “Where neighbours bank”. And our agency of choice (Tim’s Bunch) presented a marketing byline ‘ “Keeping it fresh”. That puts two 3 word phrases into our daily actions. Easy to remember but sometimes difficult to to consider as a continuing action. What they do is define the culture we work in a little clearer. That is more important than a marketing motto.

What seems to be happening with our knowledge

The book Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger is terribly intriguing. He states that our knowledge of the world has assumed the shape of a tree because that knowledge has been shackled to the physical. He repeats this notion numerous times in cataloguing information onto atoms. [putting the catalogue on index cards] With information being digitized, which allows us to go beyond the physical means, the shape of our knowledge is changing. Note he doesn’t say our knowledge is changing, just the shape of it.

There seems to be a pre-occupation with the notion of singleness [each-only-one-what] when dealing with knowledge in tree shapes. He gives us the following embedded assumptions that are so deep in our tradition of thought that they look like common sense.

  1. A well-constructed tree gives each thing a place. If too many items haven’t a place our miscellaenous category begins.
  2. Each thing gets only one place. Listing something more than once is confusing. Where should it go?
  3. No one category should be too big or small. This really points to an inadequacy in the method, not the knowledge.
  4. It should be obvious what the defning principle of each category is. Exactness, precision.

So where does that leave us? We are still trying to bridge the old model of viewing information with the attempt of trying new ways. We continue to grasp our “belief in the efficiency of rationality“. When one uses the word belief in these terms it becomes dogma and whoa to those who don’t follow that dogma. Dogmas with data are dangerous.

Some new ways – wikis, metadata, tags, facetted classification systems. We need to begin to use these new tools in our look for answers when faced with the magnitude of information we see daily. It’s hard to grasp sometimes and move away from paper and atoms. Paper has its place but when you can choose to store, sort and read it digitally vs the older way which really is the easiest?

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The question Wesabe is asking

Wesabe has an unbelievable product available to anyone who has the facility get get at their transaction data. They have delivered what some of us have thought about for awhile now, financial data and tagging. And they have brought how to use tagging to the easiest method imaginable. Then you have their graphing function, the ability to ‘vote’ on how you think the supplier is, Firefox uploader, browser snapshots, the list goes on. Did I mentioned the social networking aspect of giving financial tips?

So the question is, as a credit union, do you build something like this, which will take time and money and probably be a poor imitation. Or do you say to your members “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here is what we can do to get you going on a truly innovative and valuable service!” But wait, some will say, and so begins the “if we don’t build it others will and we will loose out” discussion starts or “we must build it or it will dilute our brand” discussion continues.

What really should happen is that the member’s data, their financial transactions, should be viewed as their’s, not the banks or credit union’s. They spent the money, and paid for the service, they have every right to do with it as they see fit. And if Wesabe’s service is what they want then we should respond by doing what we can to make it easy for them to do it. And we should work with Wesabe to see how collectively we can serve our members better.

Will this model work? Yes I think it will because a good idea is a good idea is a good idea and you can’t keep something like this off people’s radar screen. Is it a revenue generator? No but does everything we do have to be. It builds a relationship. It assists people in getting a handle on how they spend money. It helps them to save money. It does everything that we have been trying to do, promote common sense and money usage.

As I have said before, banks and credit unions have become something like huge castles with moats around them and the drawbridge up. Then the Wesabians come marching up asking for what is theirs to do what they wish to do with it. We can lower that drawbridge and stop this financial feudilsm that is wasting time and resources for everyone. We need to listen that some have chosen a new financial polity.

The Assh**le book that hits the nail on the head.

I am reading a book titled “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert I. Sutton. (I apologize for anyone that is offended at this particular juncture due to the title but I think most have heard the word before). The book is subtitled – Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.
Most of us have had to deal with these kinds of people over the years. At some point our radar suddenly comes on and we realize that this co-worker, boss, supervisor is an assh**le. The radar is working but what exactly is going on here.
Sutton produces two tests for spotting a person acting like an assh**le.
Test One. After talking to the alleged assh**le, does the “target” feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about themselves?
Test Two. Does the alleged assh**le aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?
The tests work. But then he goes on to produce THE DIRTY DOZEN – Common everyday actions that assh**les use.

  1. Personal insults
  2. Invading one’s personal territory”
  3. Uninvited personal contact
  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal.
  5. “Sarcastic jokes” & “teasing” used as insult delivery systems
  6. Withering e-mail flames
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate victims
  8. Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals
  9. Rude interruptions
  10. Two-faced attacks
  11. Dirty looks
  12. Treating people as if they are invisible

He goes on to say that we all suffer from these traits at times but the typical assh**le lives day to day with these traits. They are consistent.
The book is only 186 pages. His blog expands on the book. Required reading for anyone in an office with more than 2 people.

One very interesting book

Today there isn’t a paper, magazine or news broadcast that we hear or read that does not state something about the Middle East and the conflict that is occurring. I questioned numerous times what was really going on over there. Most, if not all of my perception, was governed by these sources. When living in Denmark I attended a language school for 9 months and made friends with a number of individuals from the Middle East. Kurds, Iraqis, Iranians, they were all interesting people that had some unbelievable stories. I came to know them very well and was always taken aback by their honesty and hospitality. This personal contact confused my understanding of the situation. I wondered how could this area be in such turmoil after knowing such wonderful people?

After reading The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr much of what I understood about the people and this area has taken on a new light. This book is exceptionally well written and goes to explain in depth the Shiism and Shia-Sunni conflicts. This book provides the understanding of the political and theological struggles within Islam. You will not view the Middle East in your pre-defined terms again.

Last day of sickness, really?

I have been sitting at home now for 3 days with this terrible flu. Not really to my liking. Just when you begin to feel a little better you push yourself and wham! your standing in the kitchen as dizzy as ever ready to head for the bed. It seems your mind just gets terribly bored by doing nothing and then expects your body to get going again. I mean how much CBC can you listen to? If it would just rain then at least the raindrops on the roof will be a distraction.
So does the brain every get sick? The only thing I can think of is a headache. Other than that they are pretty healthy. But now I am tired typing this entry…so goodnight.

Nice and honest

It is sometimes amazing to hear people begin to discuss some situation and them get agitated and excited. By excited I mean what bothers them or gets them close to angry. It usually stems from someone in some circumstance showing some unkindness or rude behaviour. One doesn’t always hear someone stating how good a particular person is or what they did that was so extraordinary. The conversation tends to follow about the problem and how the person was the cause of it.

I have a bit of theory here. I think people put up with too much because instead of being honest they tend to be nice. Nice supposedly is the way to go these days. Honesty? Forget that because you will loose “friends”, damage relationships and become the loneliest person on the planet. But really by always being ‘nice’ you eventually become the loneliest person on the planet and also have to do a lot of internal damage control. I can remember the condescending remarks of childhood voiced by an adult “Oh isn’t that nice!” That phrase makes me cringe.

So next time you encounter someone who is pulling your chain be honest, don’t be nice. Remember nice is a four letter word.

Lots of talk about rain…

You know the rain is getting to everyone here when everyone starts talking about it. Nobody says much just something like “It sure has been raining”. Some people seem to get depressed over this which is understandable. But when you live in a rain forest what can you expect. The sun was out last Saturday in Winnipeg and it was very nice. But it was -19 C so you couldn’t go for a long stroll in a t-shirt.

I see that our esteemed Burnaby School trustees have voted not to allow the distribution of Gideon Bibles, somethat that has been happening for 60 years. They seemed to have reacted to one complaint. That is a great way to govern. One person complains and we change what has not been a problem for over 60 years. Why do we have governments that move so quickly on the politically correct issues yet when it comes to the hard stuff in usually goes to a consultant for more studies? Note to self: find out who voted for this because at the next election they won’t be getting my vote.

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Masses of stuff

WestJet is pretty good. The flight home was delayed but the airline people kept you in the loop and they were very friendly. Just their easy way of saying things was different. Mind you the drink and the pretzel package was pretty skimpy. I wonder if any airline will ask if you want to super-size the handout?

Winnipeg was beautiful Saturday morning. It was cold, clear and sunny. The blue sky with the white snow was a stark contrast to the Vancouver rain. The real beauty is that you know you are leaving the next day to daffodil country so it can get as cold as it wants. But this is the prairies and they do have some raw beauty.

Want to check to see if your website is censored in China? Here is the URL to check it out. The site mentions how the Chinese are becoming more sophisticated in this process of blocking. Not much as to specific details as to how and what they are doing though.

Spending too much time reading blogs? Here is the great Wiki piece to sort you through this dilemma. There are always some neat blogs that loose relevance after awhile but the number does grow. I have 3 separate groups that I read each day. One group is about technology, the second is about GTD and the last the general blogs of interest. Between the three there is ample information and some very interesting ideas. You do need to focus on what is useful and what is entertainment.

I saw an ad for a toothbrush that had some additional feature (like toothbrushes can now be bought with options) to brush your tongue. Seemed like a good idea but last weeks Georgia Straight had an article on toothbrushes. Near the end of the article was this “Don’t brush your tongue…By brushing or scraping your tongue, you will create all kinds of changes to the ecology of your tongue. You scrape off bodies of protection called keratin. That’s the body’s protective mechanism against germs.” Don’t brush your tongue is a better idea.