What Mainstream Media Chose to Miss

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The mainstream media has chosen not to report to its public the details of the strike by members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers against Verizon. The strike began in New Jersey on Wednesday April 13, 2016 at 6:00 am and continues today.

As we see it, early claims by Verizon representatives that the company would be “fully prepared to serve its customers” in the event of a strike have turned out to be totally false. A lot of hooey and hot air.

Technical support at Verizon is now in a state of chaos.

At Pequod Systems, the connectivity between our local area network and the internet ceased on Sunday April 17 at 5:00 p.m. Since then, we have been using the personal mobile hotspots on our cell phones with laptops to access this and other Internet sites. Clumsy at best, this arrangement either allows us to access the internet from one machine or, when we turn off the hotspot and reboot, we are then able to access other devices on our local area network.  One or the other.

Working with our internet services provider, Verizon has now sent five different employees to our site, none of whom have been prepared to repair the April 17 breakage that I have begun to wonder if perhaps some foul play had been involved. It is obvious that, as one Verizon employee told me, technical support is “a crap shoot.”

The first Verizon employee reported that a device at the Verizon central office three minutes from us had failed and that a card would have to be replaced. Easy-cheesy? Not a chance. Nothing happened.

The second and third so-called technicians who showed up were wearing Verizon vests and arrived in Verizon vehicles. Despite a trouble ticket history showing that the loss of connectivity did not originate at our junction box, each insisted on testing our junction box. Neither followed up with us. When I asked Verizon Guy #3 if he had seen the trouble ticket notes from Verizon Guy #1, he said he had not seen any trouble ticket notes.

Verizon Guy #4  was a woman from Human Resources. Pleasant enough—and technically a total disaster. Did not know a Local Area Network from a Wide Area Network. Never heard of ethernet, which is what our network runs on. She got a bit of a surprise when she opened our external junction box and was unable to attach a “non-invasive filter” she had been given as a possible “remedy” for our total lack of connectivity. Good Golly, Miss Molly, we weren’t receiving any signals from outside our network…We sent her on her way.

We contacted our Internet Services provider which then sent one of their own technicians to our site. Having read the entire history of our open trouble ticket, he then confirmed that the breakage was not at our site. He visited the Verizon central office and later reported that the card which had presumably been repaired or replaced.

Verizon Guy #5 from Oklahoma introduced himself as a *telephone cable* guy. WHAT? We have an Internet connectivity issue, not a phone issue. When I mentioned that Verizon Gal from Human Resources had visited us, he owned up that he normally works in the Verizon Finance Department. He left his tool kit on our porch and never called back to get it.

Verizon, you were not prepared. Your support operation is in chaos. After one month of using our cell phones as our personal Wireless Access Points, we are ticked off. We are not alone.

officechaos

Susan Ellsworth

 

 

 

 

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Consumer Electronic Show 2015: Missing a Bet

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show is definitely missing a bet. The CES press is talking breathlessly about drones, futuristic self-driving cars, and glamorous wristbands telling me what I don’t really need to know every minute of every day. I must admit that the report about a refrigerator with eight USB ports from General Electric’s First Build had me going—until I saw the $3000 ticket that First Build wants for this toy. Sorry, GE. No sale.

Connectivity as the big watch-word? (Yawn.) That’s not only not even yesterday’s catch word, it’s older than last year’s catch word.

So the Girl Scouts are in your show. A thrill for the girls, but not for homeowners like me. Obviously, the participants in the show have not spent five minutes a day at home. What this country really needs is genuine connectivity from the grocery store to the parking lot, to my shelves at home, and into my fridge. And make it affordable! Sorry, but the big chain-store delivery truck drivers don’t bring the goods to my kitchen, figure out where everything should be placed and place it there. Where is development of an affordable household inventory system for such items as toilet tissue, shoe strings, tooth paste, light bulbs and laundry detergents? Where is the app that reads and translates the weird codes that still show up on products? And I don’t just mean the bar codes either.

I don’t want or need a car that drives itself. I’m not quite certain I want to see my friendly postal carrier replaced by a drone. I don’t want or need a 3-D printer that produces the Teddy Bear of the Month.  I would rather have self-cleaning drains, a driveway and walkway that melt the ice that coats them in a storm, and self-storing groceries, thank you very much. I’ll be watching from here next year in case the media starts talking about robots for teaching two-year-olds how to build drones.

Groceries_in_Trunk

 

Susan Ellsworth

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“Thought Leaders” versus Action in Canada

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Recently, I looked at a lengthy LinkedIn list of “Thought Leaders.” Presumably, these are people whom unspecified others recognize as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. The extensive LinkedIn list included such notables as Richard Branson (2,272,487 followers), Tony Robbins (588,125 followers), Guy Kawasaki (262,572 followers) and so many others that the bottom of the LinkedIn page of 90 notables said “show more” at the bottom.

I was definitely underwhelmed.

For the past four days, I have been trying to figure out what have these thought leaders actually done for me or my family and friends lately? Nothing came to my mind.  

Then DOVE CANADA came to my attention.

According to the August 5 Canadian issue of Huffpost Style,

Dove Canada says it has created a Photoshop Action that reverts edited images back to their original, un-airbrushed state.

The local division of the skincare company went black ops recently for its latest “Campaign for Real Beauty” stunt, going so far as to create and post the downloadable Action file to social media sites like Reddit (the post has since been removed by its user).

While the file promises to beautify images with a single click, in reality it reverts the edits that had been made to the photo, while adding a banner that says, “Don’t manipulate our perceptions of Real Beauty.” 

As a woman in a profession which only relatively recently has included more women, I deeply appreciate the Dove Canada Real Beauty (inner beauty) campaign. Frankly, for a long time, women in my profession who appeared to be physically attractive were often not taken seriously by men in technical training classes and in professional meetings. We often got the message that our questions were less than worth paying attention to, and answers were often short, and not necessarily sufficient. The man next to us was likely to be called on very quickly.

The Dove campaign for girls and women to appreciate ourselves and nourish our self-esteem has resonated with me for many years. I have used Dove products since I was in college. Detractors aside, I find it refreshing to see a large, well-known company take bold and creative action which backs up a campaign of words.

It’s one thing to be a “thought leader” with a list of tens or hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn followers. It’s another thing altogether to lead not only with thought, but also with action to match. Now that’s leadership!

Susan Ellsworth

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Patted any Birds on the head Lately?

Patted any birds on the head lately? I’m not talking about the parrot or parakeet you live with. I’m talking about the wild variety that just land within view.

Today the Charles M. Schulz Museum posted on FaceBook one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons from May 30, 1967 showing Linus patting birds on the head. And suddenly I realized that sometimes providing technical support can be like patting birds on the head.

Consider the end user who, at the age of 50 and with no training whatsoever, is suddenly placed in front of a modern computer for the first time. (Yes, there still are people like that…) Employees around them ignore them, grudgingly put up with them or offer help only when push really comes to shove.

Pat_Birds

Then the computer novice discovers you. You are their friend, pal and buddy. Just when they think something they did is going to bring the entire Internet down on their shoulders (and they will be blamed for it all), you are the friendly, helpful tech who gets them back into business and assures them that the sky is not going to fall. They are grateful to you.

Enter Lucy and her friends. They are other users who, never having asked for help, may have felt neglected because they did not get their heads patted/egos stroked for the day. (But would never admit to it.) Behind the scenes, they pity, criticize or belittle the novices in the group who asked for help. There may be other users who are expected by their peers to know how to solve all manner of technical issues. They are actually a bit less sophisticated than the word about them suggests. So they put off asking for help until sometime very late in the day when everyone else in the place has left the workplace….and you, the bird-patting expert, are exhausted from all the bird-patting you did during the day.

This is when you, expected to be the tireless tech support, muster all your ego-stroking and bird-patting skills. And you quietly pat yet another bird on the head.

bird_footprint

Footnote: There are those of us in tech services who like to receive an occasional word of appreciation, too.

Susan Ellsworth

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Beating the Social Media Bafflegab

Susan EllsworthI receive newsletters from a wide variety of organizations touting themselves as experts in social media. The ones I generally delete without reading include a title phrase like must read.  Recently, I received one that included in its preview text a suggestion that the organization producing the article completely understood a social media concept that I had never seen before (and have not seen anywhere since.) Furthermore, the teaser text suggested that what they were publishing was part of “best practices.”

Intrigued, I clicked to download the article. There was nothing new I had not seen before. Furthermore, it had been published back in 2009.  Really? Yes, really.

It’s time to look at criteria for credibility in social media.

Does the source cite actual statistical studies of its claims conducted by a completely independent source? Where is the online “Consumer Reports” aggregator of statistical studies reports in social media? A recent Google search for such a service came up pretty dry in that regard. If there actually are statistical studies included, who is the audience for whom the study was written? To put it differently, can you understand what is being said? Or are you looking at a lot of bafflegab intersperced with code words recently invented by (and defined by) the source?

While checking research is a daunting task, you can beat at least some of the bafflegab. There actually are some dictionaries and glossaries of social media terms. Here are some.

A-Z of social media. http://socialmedia.wikispaces.com/A-Z+of+social+media

Hubspot. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6126/The-Ultimate-Glossary-120-Social-Media-Marketing-Terms-Explained.aspx

Pam Dyer. “Social Media from A to Z: A Glossary”

Socialbrite. Social media glossary 

…and there are others that Google will serve up for you every day of the week. You can beat at least some of the bafflegab. Go for it!

Susan Ellsworth

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Spokeo gets an “Unlike”

Susan EllsworthA while back, a very good friend said
“Just because some website could be built doesn’t mean it should. TAKE NOTE: There is a site called spokeo.com that is a new online USA phone book w/ personal information: everything from pics you’ve posted on Facebook or web (depending on privacy settings), your approx credit score, home value, income, age.

Today most websites declare that they do not release your personal data without asking. Spokeo does just the opposite: It collects data about you from wherever it can find it, compiles it and offers it for sale at $4.95 a month if you sign up for three months or $3.95 a month if you sign up for six months. All without a word to you.

Thumbs Down

Here is how to get your personal data removed from SPOKEO.

Go to http://www.spokeo.com. (DO NOT LOG IN.) That’s for the people who want to sell your data.

Enter your first and last name in the dialog box below the word “spokeo” and above the “Not your grandma’s phone book” tagline. Click the green Search button.

A map of the United States will appear. To the left of the map, you will see a list of States in which people with your name appears.

Click on the appropriate State. (There may be several people with your name in your State.)

A list of cities and/or towns will appear. Click on the appropriate jurisdiction.

A listing showing your sex, approximate age, abbreviated home phone number, abbreviated eMail address, abbreviated current street address, city and State, a clickable list of family members, and a list of Marital Status, Occupation and Education with the clickable notation of “See Available Results” comes up.

Below that is a map showing the history of places you have lived. Further down is a map showing homes in your neighborhood and presumably their estimated worth.

Once you are confident that you are the person Spokeo has listed, look slightly above the website itself. You will see the website URL where your information is referred to. For example:
http://www.spokeo.com/search?q=Smith%20Sample#Sample:12345678”

Capture the whole URL of your profile.
Go to http://www.spokeo.com/privacy

The PRIVACY page will come up. Scroll down.

Copy and paste the URL of your profile in the first dialog box.
Enter your eMail address in the second dialog box.
Enter the  captcha letters you see into the third dialog box.

Click REMOVE THIS LISTING.
You should receive an eMail from Spokeo to confirm that you want to have your listing removed.
To complete the removal process, click on the new URL (included in the eMail to you) or paste it into your browser.

Press [return] and you are done….but only if Spokeo had only one listing for you. If  Spokeo had more than one listing for you, you will have to repeat this process for each listing Spokeo has for you. Happy de-listing!

Get out of Spokeo

Susan Ellsworth

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Of Teeth and Technology

Susan EllsworthSeveral years ago, I was visiting family members in Pittsburgh. One evening, my upper left jaw began to bother me–seriously. I took an over-the-counter pain killer and thought no more about it. But by the next morning, I was in horrible pain.

The trip home was a nightmare. At the time, I did not have a regular dentist, and had not seen one for many years. I arrived home late in the afternoon. As luck would have it, an ad for a dentist was in the stack of mail that had accumulated while I was out of town. I called the number on the ad. It was a wrong number. In desperation, I called the emergency number for a different dentist listed in the phone book and got an appointment for the next morning. Long story short, I lost a molar because I had not paid attention to my teeth. Not long thereafter, I went through more expensive dental surgery. Lesson learned: Take care of my teeth!

Recently, two different customers we had not heard from in over a year called us in a panic. Each had a serious problem with a server. One of them had not backed up user data in over a year and a half. Both of them had tuned out our repeated generous offers of remote monitoring of their systems. In each case, monitoring of systems had been sporadic and questionable at best.  In one case, the business owner had been raised on the philosophy that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He had applied that philosophy to the systems he had invested in and was ultimately responsible for. So now he had a downed server, which translated to downtime for himself and his staff.  Ultimately, he ended up purchasing a new server and new workstations. All of which could have been a lot less painful for everyone had he had regular checkups through regular remote monitoring of his systems.

Watching 24 x 7 x 365

All of which, good friends, is why your teeth are like your technology: ignore them and they will go away.

Cheers, all!

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Who Really Needs Training? Part 3 of 3

Susan EllsworthSeveral years ago, I was on a Federal technical services contract which was managed on the Federal side by someone whose professional expertise appeared to be in an arena  outside of high technology.  Many of us on the contractor side had great difficulty in communicating why certain technical solutions were necessary to implement. The problem? We were using “Geek Speak” and had become so accustomed to using it among ourselves that we did not even realize that not everyone knows Geek Speak.

Fortunately, one of the techs on the contract realized quickly what the problem was and privately explained it to us. By general agreement, he became the translator—and often the spokesperson—for the group when we met with our customer. He often used ordinary, non-computer language and stories to illustrate quite nicely the issues we were working on.

One takeaway from that experience became my  favorite explanation of eMail as it moves from your desktop to my desktop. I have often had to explain to others how eMail moves from my computer to someone else’s computer and how eMail actually goes through several computers before arriving at its destination. The analogy I use is  how a letter or package moves from my hands to a post office or other vendor, where it is sorted and shipped to yet another facility which optionally put on an airplane. It is off-loaded from the plane, transferred to a truck and moved to another facility. Finally, a delivery person brings the letter or package to you. Or you pick it up at a local delivery point. These are events that many of us have seen, and the analogy works quite nicely, with no Geek Speak on my part.

So who really needs training? We do. Even today, with many different ways we communicate with each other and using many different devices, we will be far more effective when communicating with top management when we listen to ourselves and recognize the price that speaking only Geek Speak exacts.

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Who Really Needs Training? Part 2 of 3

Susan EllsworthThe last blog talked about how Technical Services providers (yes, that’s me) need to speak three different languages: Geek Speak, End-User Speak and CEO Speak. The new End-User Speak is a wonderful blend of newly-learned Geek Speak words and phrases—and its own grammars.

It’s not just that words like gravatar,  favicon,  widget, tagging, geotagging, traffic (as it describes numbers of site visitors) , badge (as an electronic image), widget,  plugins, and tagging (clicking on a picture) have crept into the language.  Use the chat feature in FaceBook, and soon you too will be saying “BFN” rather than “goodbye for now.” Direct a comment to someone in LinkedIn, and chances are good that you will use the famous Twitter “@” symbol.Or even the famous #hashtag.

Confusion

I can just see my arms-waving Toastmasters friends jumping up and down and yelling “That’s JARGON! They need Toastmasters!” Maybe…maybe not. I think it’s simply an opportunity to learn another language. The good news is that you can learn it simply by hanging with people who use it. Read, listen and soon you too will be using End-User Speak. You might even do what some social networking sites have done: invent your own words. Pingback, for example, was invented by WordPress, and explained to its users in context. Of course, it helps if you understand what a ping is. 

We’ll wrap up this three-part blog with more about CEO Speak.

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Who Really Needs Training? Part I of 3

Susan Ellsworth One of my friends in Toastmasters is a great listener, and consequently a Senior Account Executive of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Washington, D.C. Recently, we were talking about one of our shared favorite topics, training in the computer field. And the cost of not training people to use the tools they are expected to use on the job. Here are some of Vann-Di Galloway’s thoughts.

Training your staff helps to keep them motivated and up-to-date with organizational skills and new technologies.  As fewer employees take on greater responsibilities within the workplace, training helps to increase their productivity.  Staff members benefit from learning new skills and becoming a valued asset within the organization. Training brings direct and immediate benefits and can be calculated as a high return on investment.

Regardless of the size or type of an industry or business, training can have a measurable impact on performance and the bottom line.  Research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) shows that productivity increases after relevant training takes place. Employees that receive formal training can be 230 per cent more productive than untrained colleagues who are working in the same role. (1)

Businesses must continually change their work practices and infrastructure to stay competitive in a global market. Training staff to manage the implementation of new technologies, work practices and business strategies can also act as a lure for future recruitment.  Since training increases the retention of staff members, significant cost saving are accrued as the loss of one competent person can be the equivalent of one year’s pay and benefits.
===
I could not agree with Vann-Di more. At the same time, I thought about  the training that technical services providers need and the training that CEOs might need.

Technical Services providers (yes, that’s me) need to speak three different languages: Geek Speak, End-User Speak and CEO Speak.

I learned “geek-speak” in technical training classes, both formal and informal. The words seemed straightforward and easy to learn. It was the language my buddies used, so it was comfortable. But Geek Speak is a disaster around most  end users.  I’m somewhat conversant in “end-user” speak. It often starts with “HELP! I can’t…” and when we’re lucky, it ends with “Whew! Thank you!” CEO-speak is the one that still eludes me most of the time, and I’m looking for courseware in how to communicate with the CEO who juggles too many issues, and works too many hours dealing with everything except the technology he or she authorizes payment for . CEO Speak comes in different accents and is generally spoken by people wearing a suit. It seems to echo the language of the Wall Street Journal, and in meetings with Geeks, it struggles to include pieces and parts of Geek Speak.

I can just see my arms-waving Toastmasters friends jumping up and down and yelling “THEY ALL NEED TOASTMASTERS!” Maybe…maybe not. The next blog will look more closely at End-User Speak. We’ll wrap up this three-part blog with more about CEO Speak.

(1) Smith A., 2001, Return on Investment in Training: Research Readings NCVER

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