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

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.


 Subscribe in a reader

Advertisements

Volunteer to Apprentice to “Real Work?”

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

What is a good definition of “real work?” Evidently it’s not quite as easy to define as some would think—especially in a large international organization whose very existence depends upon the coordinated efforts of the hundreds of thousands of members who pay to belong to it and deliver leadership and communications skills training. Some members even contribute time and skills learned elsewhere to expand upon and deliver improved technical services provided by the organization’s paid employees. That organization is Toastmasters International, and the issue was brought up by a Past International Director’s FaceBook post which said, “Fellow Toastmasters: PLEASE do not list your volunteer work at Toastmasters under “employment”. You’re not an employee, you’re a volunteer. And there’s no need to helpfully suggest that I should also list myself as an employee — even as a (past) International Director, one is still not an employee. That’s for just the people who get paid at WHQ.” That post was quickly followed by “And yet, what are we to make of the new district leader titles that are coming out next year? District Director, Division Director, Area Director, Finance Manager, etc. I believe they are intended to make Toastmasters experience, when it appears on a resume, more directly translatable into equivalent business or nonprofit titles. I might quibble with whether an Area Director is in any way equivalent to a corporate Director position. But, it seems clear that Toastmasters wants to be on our resumes in the professional experience section.” Then there was this insight: ” Many of us forget that directing a district, overseeing a budget, and supervising volunteer staff is like running a Department for an organization. We need to think of our service as a learning opportunity. When I was District Governor, I said it prepared me for my current position as Executive Director for a small Chamber of Commerce.” Several years ago, I myself ported technical skills I learned in a Toastmasters setting to paid professional work. Along the way, however, I also took formal technical skills training, passed exams and obtained a widely-recognized professional certification. I am not the only member to have  ported skills learned in “real jobs” into our volunteer organization. And I am not the only member to have ported skills learned in a volunteer organization into a paid position. Potential employer or potential employee…learning experiences are learning experiences. Skills are skills. They are completely independent of how much one earned—or did not earn—for applying them in a setting where those skills are valued. It’s all about how the knowledge, skills and abilities are talked about when they are ported from one environment to the other.     Susan Ellsworth         https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.

 Subscribe in a reader

The Swipe Generation

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Today’s blog came to me in a flash of insight. My other half, struggling with his tablet, presented me with today’s topic: the Swipe Generation. (and you thought I am some other generation? read on…) He was trying and trying and trying to set the correct date and time on his tablet. The more he tried, the more frustrated he got. Finally, I realized what his problem was: He’s still in the Point and Shoot/Click-Here generation. I, with my smart phone, had discovered Swipe a long time ago.

Many years ago, Microsoft and friends taught us to Point and Shoot. Or at least to Click Here. Many of us still belong to that Point-and-Shoot/Click-Here Generation. The Point-and-Shoot Generation’s challenge? To learn that a down arrow means to swipe down rather than click on something and expect a result we want.

The Swipe Generation’s challenges?

There are two. A little compassion for our friends who have not yet mastered “The Swipe” will go a long way to maintaining friendships.  Also, tablets and smart phones may still have some features that are quite similar to Point-and- Shoot. Upgrading your tablet or your smart phone? What will you swipe next?

tablet

Happy swiping!

Susan Ellsworth

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.


 Subscribe in a reader

Your Profession: Does your Volunteer Experience Really Matter?

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Recently Dan Rex, the CEO of Toastmasters International, announced that the TI Board of Directors had decided to institute new District officer titles that, among other reasons, would “Create a parallel between district leadership and leadership in the corporate and volunteer sectors.” Basically, the idea is to help volunteers easily explain to current and potential employers what knowledge, skills and abilities they were likely to have acquired by participating in these roles.

All very nice and mostly window-dressing, insofar as many members have thought.

The real question is, does your volunteer experience actually prepare you for paid work? Does your volunteer experience really matter?

Recently, I sat down with George Marshall, whose online Toastmaster Tools are used by members around the globe. I asked him that very question, and here is what he said.

During my year as Toastmasters Area Governor, I became very interested in the big differences in club quality, and as I gathered data about each of my clubs to try to help them, I realized that the information I wanted was sometimes hard to gather in useful form. I learned a lot that year about downloading the reports and doing my own analysis in spreadsheets.

After a while, I decided to automate the more time-consuming tasks. I started working on what eventually became the Tools for Toastmasters website, summarizing some of the reports in real-time. After a year or so, I realized that the data would be more useful if it were in a database, which I knew nothing about. But I sat out to learn how, and with the help of mentors, within a year or so, the core of today’s site was in place, with built-in summaries and analysis of several types of Toastmaster data.

I have learned a lot about databases with this project, some of which I have been able to apply to our business. [Freemont Web Solutions].

Susan Ellsworth

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.


 Subscribe in a reader

Talking about Technology

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

As the 2013 year winds down, I find myself musing about the language we use to talk about technology. As a friend of mine observed a while back, every time the online technology comes up with a new feature/experience, the technologists and their marketers struggle to find the right words to describe that experience and its unique selling proposition.

Many of a certain age will remember when “hanging out” was a bad thing tinged with the suggestion of juvenile delinquency. Not since Google brought out Google + Hangouts.  I participate with a group that recently struggled with whether to call itself online  or virtual. Gone are the days when a cloud was simply a fluffy vision in the sky. Now it’s a fluffy way to tell end users that the computer they are using to communicate with others is not in the same facility they are.  Just as there are hybrid cars, there are hybrid clouds, which the Webopedia says is a ” combined form of private clouds and public clouds in which some critical data resides in the enterprise’s private cloud while other data is stored in and accessible from a public cloud. Hybrid clouds seek to deliver the advantages of scalability, reliability, rapid deployment and potential cost savings of public clouds with the security and increased control and management of private clouds.Really old-timers still think of a tweet as a sound made by a bird. Avatar spawned the word Gravitar for WordPress users. Bitcoin has been around for a while, and now has been entered into the Webopedia.  My picture in this blog is a selfie—a picture I took of myself. Then there is BYOD —Bring Your Own Device, a concept that used to scare corporate systems managers into hiding. The phrase Software As A Service is a yawner from yesterday. Now we have Anything As a Service and Everything as a Service, both of which are abbreviated as XaaS. Now that’s just plain weird. I think I’ll go have an eggnog and wish all of you a happy holiday and a great new MMXIV.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Susan Ellsworth

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.


 Subscribe in a reader

A Tempting Technology from a Wine Taster and Connoisseur

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

You never know where the next great idea might come from. I sometimes get ideas for this blog from comments by friends in various social media. But who would have ever thought that the idea for today’s blog about a new idea for technology would come from my alltime favorite wine connoisseur and longtime friend Heidi McLain? Heidi is the CEO and founder of the To Your Taste!®Wine Party Kit, an educational kit of tools to help those who may not feel confident about buying wine, ordering it in a restaurant, or just talking about it.

So I was surprised to see a video post from Heidi about Phonebloks.com, a company pointing out an obvious aspect of cell phones. Not built to last, thousands of cell phones are being thrown away daily simply because one component of the phone does not work. Or that it is out of date. The idea behind Phonebloks is that phones should be modular, and enable users to easily upgrade or modify a phone built on an open platform. Basically, the idea is for companies working together to build the best phone in the world. Personally, I had never once thought about what happened to the components of my previous cell phones. That’s a little strange for me, because I have thought of myself as a great believer in a greener earth and as someone who likes to put things together to make them work.

Recognizing that getting phone manufacturers to work together will not be an easy task, Phonebloks takes full advantage of social media. The plan is that on October 29 at 10:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time, all who like that idea send out eMail blasts through Thunderclap.  Messages will go to our FaceBook friends and Twitter followers saying that this modular type phone is a phone worth keeping. (and developing, since the phone has not yet been developed!) Presumably these messages will reach manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung. As of the date of this blog, Thunderclap lists some 856,800 supporters of a goal of 900,000 supporters and a social reach of 331,641,218.

For a team of perhaps three people, this is a ginormous goal. On his help-out FAQ page Developer Dave Hakkens says

>How can you help out and make Phonebloks become something more than just a concept? Do not send money! At least not yet. Dave writes on his facebook page

>“Just to be sure #Phonebloks doesn’t ask for any donation or money. Every site that does is a scam. Please forward this! “ I’m inclined to sign up to participate in his adventure. https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/2931-phonebloks

So if this whole thing actually comes to pass, I think I’ll wander over to Heidi’s place for a nice glass of wine.

To your health!

Susan Ellsworth

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod

                    I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS. PLEASE REGISTER HERE.


 Subscribe in a reader

Figuring Technical Stuff Out..Part 2

Before I joined Pequod Systems, I worked as a contractor for on several different contracts. Inevitably, some situation would arise in which I had to use a customer’s fax machine. (Remember those?) More often than not,  access to those fax machines was ruled by a Queen Bee who had programmed specific codes into the machine so that only faxes from her boss could be sent to specific recipients, whose fax numbers were also hard-wired into the fax machines. Only by talking to a more experienced fellow contractor (who might or might not be present when one needed to send a fax) could one discover the one remaining set of magical codes with which one could send a weekly status report to one’s offsite project manager. I began to hate faxing and loathe the Queen Bees. Today I am grateful for the pending total demise of fax as the Queen Bees managed it. 

Fast forward to a recent blog by my friend Ann Bevans. She says that “in programming (and I would argue, in any job), you can’t know everything you may one day have to know.  You have to be able to figure it out on the fly.” She goes on to say that My first year in business, some of my former colleagues had spun off from that company and asked me if I could build a system like that for them.
I said “YES!”
Then I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a book called Data-Driven Websites or something like that.
When you have the ability to figure shit out, you can do that and get away with it.
You’re not a fraud.

I have many friends who are entrepreneurs of all stripes, and they ALL say the same thing.
When somebody asks if you can do a thing, you say “Yes!” And then you go figure it out.
These days, the interwebs being what they are, it’s a lot easier to figure stuff out on the fly. Use that.”  

We have a wide range of customers. Some of them are like the end user who, at the age of 50 and with no training whatsoever, was suddenly placed in front of a modern computer for the first time. Others are application programmers with a lot of courage and confidence—and thankfully, enough sense to know when not to go voyaging so far into computer systems that they get into trouble they can’t get out of. In each case, we look for ways to help folks figure things out. We act on the value that one size does not fit all. We educate you and learn from you. There are no Queen Bees at Pequod Systems. And no old-fashioned fax machines.
No_ Fax_MachineContact us for respectful and personalized technical support. And to tell us if we are really educating you—and learning from you at the same time.

Susan Ellsworth

WANT TO COMMENT? FILL IN OUR FORM, SO WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. COMMENT AWAY!


        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

Say Pequod


 Subscribe in a reader

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!

WANT TO COMMENT? CLICK ON THE TITLE!

 Subscribe in a reader

“Bring Your Own Computer to Work” Day

Recently Karen Goulart, Features writer for SearchCIO-Midmarket, wrote an interesting article called “Forget flex spending, Millennials want a flexible mobile device policy.” Based in large part on an annual study by Cisco Systems , her article raised some interesting and alarming (to traditional IT managers at least) viewpoints.

Basically, Goulart talked about the Millennial Generation of computer users who bring their own computing devices to work and who are not at all afraid to sidestep a mobile device policy in their quest to use them. First as a helpdesk operator and later as a systems manager, I realized that some years back, such a scenario would have been met with comments like “We did not authorize the use of that device and we do not support it” and “Sorry, it’s not standard within the company…if you have a problem with it, go elsewhere to get technical support.”

That was then. This is now.

Nevertheless, other than IT managers fearing loss of control of hardware they could be expected to support,  there are some potential downsides to bringing your own computer to work.  Some legacy applications may still be  hardware-sensitive and not friendly to your own computing platform.  Also, not every application used by companies today are “in The Cloud, ” where many, if not most Millennials have no clue as to exactly where their apps and/or data exist.  Apps and data in “the Cloud” may in fact not be on a server in the USA. Does it make a difference? Perhaps and perhaps not.  In any case, IT managers who may not be in the Millennial generation do have a lot to think about and communicate with those who bring their own technology to work.

Word for the Day: Fail Whale

While we all know the Fail Whale from Twitter, it appears that there is an interesting history behind the word. Read and enjoy!

Bookmark and Share

  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

The Second Most-feared Experience (after Giving a Speech in Public)

  As many of our readers know, I belong to a world-wide organization which appeals to those who would prefer having a root canal to giving a speech in public. Recent dialog with a fellow Toastmaster in technical support from New Zealand—and personal experience— leads me to believe that even today there are those who would rather have a root canal than try out a new computer application.

Why is that true?

Many people who entered the workforce in the 1960’s and 1970’s and were forced to use computers they did not understand. Not only did they not receive one on one training but they self-taught themselves the bare minimum keystrokes needed to perform only the functions required to do the job they were hired to do. Supervisors punished employees for exploring alternative ways to learn how to use computers. Technical support staff who were far more interested in shiny new toys than they were in answering the same technical question several times over contributed to growing computer-fearing and computer-hating employees.

There is a fix for this problem—and it has to come from an enlightened technical support community that receives as much praise for learning end-user mentoring as a tool as it does for passing technical exams. Stop reinforcing the geek stereotype that regards users as “stupid people.” They are simply people who don’t push the buttons in just the right order, even though they haven’t been told what that order is. They are afraid of having to admit they don’t instantly know the answer.

Interestingly enough, the Toastmasters International organization is full of people who enjoy mentoring others. I myself benefitted greatly by being mentored in technical services by a Toastmaster who happened to be in technical services. And as my friend from New Zealand said recently, “Simply show they can do it, that they can enjoy doing it – and that if they break it they can get help without judgement. The last is crucial and often needs the personal touch (which way too many in IT are AFRAID to give) – but it is the key to building their confidence. Often you are dealing with adults who are “technical children” – and mentoring is NEVER doing your children’s homework for them, right? But you DO celebrate their successes.”

Watching 24 x 7 x 365

 Subscribe in a reader