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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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12/31/2008

SharePoint/Notes interaction question: Can SharePoint be made to accept Notes:// URL formats?

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
In our installation of SharePoint, we have a need to link to some Notes client applications using the Notes:// URL format.  When we attempt to use that type of a URL in a SharePoint dialog box (like for a Quick Link), it says that's an invalid URL format (wants http:, https:, ftp:, etc.)

Is there any way to change SharePoint's behavior in that area?

If not, I'll probably write a Notes app for our web-enabled Domino server that has a dockey and URL field (that *does* accept Notes://).  Then when you hit that page from a browser, it automagically redirects to the Notes:// location.  A little clunky, but it would work...

Any thoughts?

12/29/2008

Book Review - Vengeance by A.J. Scudiere

Category Book Review A.J. Scudiere Vengeance
A picture named M2

Vengeance by A.J. Scudiere was one of two books I got from Scudiere's publisher for review.  I read Resonance first, and really enjoyed it.  I had saved Vengeance for last because it was written after Resonance and I didn't know if it was a follow-up with the same characters.  I quickly found out...  it's not.  It's *completely* different, and *really* good.  I had a harder time putting this one down than the first.  I'd have been perfectly happy had it gone even longer than its 400 pages.

Lee Maxwell was an accountant with a nice happy family.  That is, until he discovered that he was working for a business run by the mafia.  His attempt to contact the authorities and leave his job only led to the gruesome death of his wife and daughter.  He went off the grid, buried his identity, and started working on getting revenge for the killings.  During one of his operations, he runs into another killer, "Sin", who is young, female, dressed in leather, and an expert in knives and slow, painful deaths.  It quickly becomes obvious that they have the same purpose in life...  revenge on the mafia and other assorted lowlifes who need to be stopped one way or another.  Owen Dunham, the FBI agent on the case, has to figure out who the "Grudge Ninja" is, and why "he" is killing all these people.  But should the truth be known, he'd rather allow the killings to continue, as it's a swift and deadly form of frontier justice.  Lee and Sin have to come to some sort of arrangement in order to stay out of each other's way and maximize their efforts.  Why should they both spend time researching the same target, only to find out the other one got there first for the kill?  But Sin has her own dark history that drives her revenge, and opening up to another person is not something she's able to do.  The revenge killings reach a crescendo as the FBI starts to get their first real evidence left behind at the scene.  The question becomes whether Lee and Sin will finish their list before the FBI (or the mafia) gets to them first...

The story starts out from three very different perspectives, that of Sin, Lee, and Owen.  And it's not clear at first why Lee is gunning down scum, and why Sin is leaving dead bodies with multiple cuts and slices, complete with crime documentation, all wrapped up (literally) in a big red bow.  Dunham has his own issues, as he really wants to get out of the business and take time to enjoy his wife and daughter before she tires of his demanding job and leaves him.  But once Sin and Lee start to confront each other, the story and characters really start to jell.  Neither of them want to trust each other, but neither of them wants to eliminate the other, either.  This tentative truce gives way to the beginning of trust, all to seek vengeance against those who have destroyed their lives.  I was also quite satisfied with the ending, as I wasn't looking forward to how I *though* it was going to conclude.  

Very dark, plenty of action, and character interaction that was stellar...  An excellent read.

12/28/2008

Book Review - Dead Men Walking: True Stories of the Most Evil Men and Women on Death Row by Christopher Berry-Dee and Tony Brown

Category Book Review Christopher Berry-Dee Tony Brown Dead Men Walking: True Stories of the Most Evil Men and Women on Death Row
A picture named M2

Dead Men Walking: True Stories of the Most Evil Men and Women on Death Row by Christopher Berry-Dee and Tony Brown showed up as a new acquisition by our local library, and I put myself on the hold list for it.  As I was reading it yesterday, about halfway through I started asking myself "why?"  Not as in "why am I reading this?" (although one could probably make a case for that question also), but "why" as in "why did they write this?"  

On the flyleaf, it's stated that this is an examination of the difference between "monster and man", as well as tracing "the often blurry line between justice and murder."  If this book was focused on one or two cases, I might have felt like it met that criteria.  If you dig deep enough into the life and background of a killer, you can often find the thread that led them to their eventual outcome.  But in Dead Men Walking, you get a handful of pages on a number of different killers.  In that amount of space, there's plenty of room to go into graphical detail about their crimes and brutality.  And Berry-Dee and Brown get those details down quite well.  But in many cases, the analysis and insight into the killer's motives tends to be glossed over, in my opinion.  A few of the cases go deeper than the others, and in those there's more analysis as to what might have warped the killer along the way.  But that felt like it was more the exception than the rule.

"Voyeur" is about the only way I can describe this work.  People can be incredibly cruel and sick, doing things that a rational person can't even begin to imagine.  To collect a number of stories like these in one place almost borders on being "adult pr0n" for crime.  In terms of writing and research, the authors did their job well.  But in terms of value and analysis, I still come back to the question of "why"...

12/27/2008

Looking forward to our vacation cruise in March...

Category Everything Else
After our two weeks of snow, my mind has turned to our cruise in March.  I was looking at the invoice, and decided it might be nice to know where I'm going.  :)  In our house, my wife plans the cruise a year in advance, and I start paying attention about three weeks out.

In this case, I knew it was a southern Caribbean route, but I would have been hard-pressed to tell you exactly what that entailed.  So here it is:
 
Day          Port          Arrive          Depart
Fri         Miami         -         4:00 PM
Sat         At Sea         -         -
Sun         Samana         10:00 AM         6:00 PM
Mon         Tortola         10:00 AM         6:30 PM
Tue         Antigua         8:00 AM         5:00 PM
Wed         Barbados         9:00 AM         6:00 PM
Thu         St. Lucia         8:00 AM         5:00 PM
Fri         At Sea         -         -
Sat         At Sea         -         -
Sun         Miami         8:00 AM

I think I can handle that...  :)  

A picture named M2

12/26/2008

Book Review - The Best of Instructables Volume I: Do-It-Yourself Projects from the World's Biggest Show And Tell

Category Book Review The Best of Instructables Volume I: Do-It-Yourself Projects from the World's Biggest Show And Tell
A picture named M2

I love this renaissance in "do it yourself" projects and building things out of available parts.  Doesn't mean I'm necessarily any *good* at it, but it opens my eyes to how common things can be used in uncommon ways.  Make magazine from O'Reilly has put together some of the best and most popular projects from the instructables.com site to create the book The Best of Instructables Volume I: Do-It-Yourself Projects from the World's Biggest Show & Tell.  There's enough stuff here to keep you occupied for weeks, and you don't have to be a engineering genius to do many of them.

The book is divided up into sections that touch on general themes: Home & Garden; Food; Photography; Science; Computers; Electronics; Robotics; Ride; Craft; Entertainment; Fun & Games; and Tools.  For instance, the book gets off to a quick start with a two-page layout on Ikea hacks.  I was immediately intrigued with the Tool Box Hack, using a Fira minichest and a pair of Kosing handles.  I can do that!  The ice straws were a nice touch, also.  Moving on, I learned how to make "carbonated fruit" with a plastic water bottle and dry ice.  One of my spare USB thumb drives might be destined for a LEGO casing.  And who knew Altoid tins could be used in so many ways?  Everything from a survival kit to a miniature barbecue unit (for those very small hamburgers).  For those who are used to welding, the Ride chapter has plenty of cool bike mods that could be fun.  Heck, even learning how to make an earbud headphone cord wrapper from an old credit card is worth the price of admission (not to mention the time savings of having to unravel the cord every time  you use it).

As with all books of this type, some of the projects will strike you as "I must build that now!", while others will have you thinking "why would I ever want to do that?"  I will not be making stuffed animal headphones now or at any time in the future, thank you very much!  But the overall package of projects selected here will appeal to a wide range of interests and skill levels.  And since all these projects have been part of the Instructables website, you can always head over there to get additional information or tweaks that others have come up with.

The Best of Instructables is a fun book, and I plan on having a few "toys" with me at the next geek conference I attend...

12/26/2008

Book Review - Resonance by A.J. Scudiere

Category Book Review A.J. Scudiere Resonance
A picture named M2

So the earth has shifted its magnetic poles every 60 million years (give or take a century or two).  It's been 65 million years since the last one.  What will be the signs that another shift is imminent?  That's the ground that A.J. Scudiere covers in the sci-fi novel Resonance.  It's a novel that grabbed my interest early and had me doing the "just one more chapter" routine for a few days.  

David Carter is a geologist who runs by his own rules.  He is handed some rock samples that are from a dinosaur dig, but they appear to be mismarked based on what he knows about the area.  When he finds that they really are correctly marked, it means that he's in a localized spot where the north/south polarity has been reversed.  And he thinks he knows where some other hotspots have occurred, but ignored as they didn't fit the expected patterns.

Becky Sorenson is a scientist at a biodiversity lab, and she's found a location by her home where many of the frogs have six legs.  After further study, they also have a strange tendency to remain aligned on a magnetic path, much like a compass.  She's trying to figure out if this is due to some industrial contamination or perhaps something even more disturbing.

Finally, we have two doctors who have just gone to work for the CDC...  Jordan Abellard and Jillian Brookwood.  As a team, they've been sent out to investigate a series of deaths that are localized to one specific adult care home.  Nothing seems to tie the cases together from a medical standpoint, other than they all wind up dead in a very short period of time after the onset of symptoms.  When the same type of outbreak starts occurring in other areas, Abellard and Brookwood know they are on the edge of something that could be even more deadly than AIDS or avian flu.  But they aren't getting any closer to finding the answers they need.

Scudiere takes these three plotlines and brings the characters together in a way that allows each of their fields of expertise to contribute to solving the puzzle.  When it becomes obvious that each of these locations involves a complete reversal in magnetic polarity, the action picks up in intensity, as the magnetic hotspots are growing at an ever-increasing rate.  The last 200 pages or so of the story take a completely unexpected twist that took awhile to understand.  But in terms of science fiction, I thought it worked pretty well.  Scudiere also does a very nice job with the characters, in terms of making them appear to be real people with real emotions.  Considering the book is nearly 500 pages, the pacing maintains itself well, and I never felt the urge to shift into "scan mode" to get past any slow spots.  

Scudiere definitely goes on my "would read this author again" list.  Which is good, because I'm currently reading Vengeance by the same author right now.  :)

12/26/2008

Book Review - Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture by Taylor Clark

Category Book Review Taylor Clark Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine Commerce and Culture
A picture named M2

While in a training class, a coworker recommended that I read this book...  Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture by Taylor Clark.  Now, I'm not a coffee drinker, so it's not like I have some overwhelming love-hate relationship with Starbucks.  But I *have* wondered about the reality of how they operate, and how a company can place stores across from one another and *still* hit max sales in both locations.  Clark does an excellent job in telling the Starbucks story, both the good and the bad sides...

Contents:
Introduction: The Experiment
Part 1 - The Rise of the Mermaid: Life Before Lattes; A Caffeinated Craze; The Siren's Song; Leviathan
Part 2 - Getting Steamed: Storm Brewing; A Fair Trade?; What's In Your Cup; Green-Apron Army; The Seattle Colonies
Epilogue - The Last Drop
Acknowledgments; Notes; Index

Clark was a reporter and writer for the Willamette Week paper here in Portland.  If you're familiar with WW, then you know that they have no qualms about going after anyone and anything that appears to be playing a less-than-honest game with the public.  Therefore, I somewhat expected this to be a slanted, Starbucks-is-evil rant of the first degree.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise.  Clark goes back to the early days of Starbucks, when Zev Siegl, Gordon Bowker, and Jerry Baldwin decided that they didn't want to endure any more bad coffee in Seattle, so they traveled down to Alfred Peet's coffeeshop in Berkeley to get a crash course on how to roast coffee beans properly.  Given that percolated and instant coffee was the overwhelming choice of the American coffee drinker, the attention to detail and quality they learned at Peet's delivered a coffee experience that most had never experienced.  It took awhile for Seattlites to get accustomed to the darker blend, but once it caught on the lines were never-ending.  What moved Starbucks into the fast lane of growth was the hiring of Howard Schultz.  He pestered the owners to get a job as director of marketing, and eventually ended up becoming the CEO and face of the company.  Along the way, Schultz and Starbucks broke just about every rule of how food/drink chains work and operate, and they have become the overwhelming leader in the world of coffee marketing.  It's a financial success story by any measure, but underneath that success lies a less-talked-about reality.

Starbucks presents an image of humanitarian concern and specialized service.  And at the beginning, those corporate values were solidly ingrained in just about every employee.  But when you grow as quickly as they have, it's impossible to keep those same values without having them diluted along the way.  Clark documents how Starbucks doesn't do much more than pay lip services to the Fair Trade coffee movement.  The image of specialized baristas learning to mix your drinks has given way to automated espresso machines that only require a couple of button presses to operate.  And while everyone working over 20 hours a week (on average) can get health insurance, the normal wage is barely above minimum.  Couple that with shift scheduling that is often without rhyme or reason, and the person behind the counter isn't necessarily getting a great deal.  The image and reality of working at Starbucks are divided by a significant chasm, and after Clark is done, you understand why.

Starbucked is not the only book out there about the coffee giant.  But it is one of the few that I feel doesn't have a vested interest in hyping or vilifying the company.  If you've read any of the Starbucks books written by their senior management over the last few years, you owe it to yourself to follow up with this title.  You'll still come away with an appreciation for what they've been able to accomplish, as well as the necessary insights to be able to view the company as it really is (rather than what management would like you to think they are).

12/22/2008

Book Review - Home Business Tax Deductions: Keep What You Earn by Stephen Fishman

Category Book Review Stephen Fishman Home Business Tax Deductions: Keep What You Earn
A picture named M2

As I have a small side business related to my writing activities, I have to pay attention to all those tax-related matters.  I found this book of interest at the library...  Home Business Tax Deductions: Keep What You Earn by Stephen Fishman.  It's probably one of the best tax guides I've seen, in that it's readable, understandable, and practical.

Contents:
Home Business Tax Deduction Basics
Are You Really In Business?
Avoiding the Start-Up Tax Trap
Home Business Operating Expenses
Deducting Long-Term Assets
The Home Office Deduction
Meal and Entertainment Expenses
Car and Local Travel Expenses
Business Travel
Inventory
Hiring Workers
Medical Expenses
Retirement Deductions
Additional Home Business Deductions
Record Keeping and Accounting
Claiming Tax Deductions for Prior Years
Staying Out of Trouble With the IRS
Help Beyond This Book
Index

I've waded through tax books that are extremely comprehensive, as well as *huge*.  The problem there is that you're never quite sure if you've found everything you should be looking for.  Fishman condenses those "phone book" guides into something around 450 pages that covers the most important aspects of the tax code that affect the home/small business owner.  Instead of listing endless regulations and nuances, he gives you the information in a conversation style that doesn't sacrifice detail for readability.  That's good, as you don't want to end up in front of a tax auditor ill-prepared for the questions they may ask.  In addition to the coverage of the laws and guidelines, he also includes a number of realistic examples so you can see how that aspect of tax law would apply to someone who might be in your same situation.  The combination of information and application make this a valuable guide that can easily save you the purchase cost of the book come April 15th.

I personally found the information reassuring, as I was able to confirm that the taxes I've done in the past have been accurate.  If I had never had to do a Schedule C before, I'd consider this a must-read.  Definitely worth buying...

12/20/2008

Book Review - Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. Learn the 12 Essential Rules for Navigating the Road of Life by Andrew J. Sherman

Category Book Review Andrew J. Sherman Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. Learn the 12 Essential Rules for Navigating the Road of Life
A picture named M2

I'll be the first to admit it was the title that drew me into reading this book...  Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. Learn the 12 Essential Rules for Navigating the Road of Life by Andrew J. Sherman.  Just something comical (to me at least), comparing life skills to trucks and squirrels (and by extension, road kill).  I wasn't sure he could keep the analogy of life being like driving throughout the whole book.  But to my surprise, he actually pulled it off, and the result is a solid and unique way to look at personal life skills.

Contents:
Introduction
Road Rule #1: Be the Truck.  Not the Squirrel.
Road Rule #2: Share the Road
Road Rule #3: Happiness is a Clear Windshield
Road Rule #4: Embrace Your Dashboard
Road Rule #5: Pay Careful Attention to the Road Signs of Life
Road Rule #6: Be Guided by Your Navigational System
Road Rule #7: Don't Fear the Back Roads
Road Rule #8: Be an All-Weather Driver
Road Rule #9: Accidents Can Happen Even to the Best Drivers
Road Rule #10: Objects in the Rearview Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
Road Rule #11: Life Is A Four-Way Intersection
Road Rule #12: Don't Judge A Driver by His Vehicle
Random Thoughts and Bumper Stickers

Looking at the 12 rules, you can probably figure out relatively quickly where he's going with each analogy.  For instance, a truck is a strong, durable vehicle that gathers momentum and is driven with a purpose.  Squirrels, on the other hand, are running from place to place, eating acorns and minding their own business until they happen to wander into the path of a truck.  Road kill!  Sherman starts from this point to guide you through actions and mindsets that place you in the position of becoming a truck on the road of life rather than the smushed squirrel at the side of the road.  I was personally impacted by rule #7.  Not fearing the back roads shows how you often need to change paths and take alternative routes to get where you're going.  It may be that the established path is taking too long, or perhaps there's an accident that has brought your progress to a halt.  Unless you are willing to look for a different road to your destination, you're going to be stuck (or severely delayed) and prevented from reaching your destination.  Something I have to keep reminding myself of...

Sherman does an excellent job in drawing applications from various and diverse sources.  He may go from classic spiritual passages to modern pop music lyrics all in the space of a paragraph.  But instead of looking like random thoughts, he does successfully tie them into a cohesive message.  If you've read other personal improvement books, Road Rules will not offer up any deep mystical truths that you've never encountered before.  But what it *will* do is remind you of important truths that will change your mindset next time you turn the key and pull out of your driveway.

12/20/2008

Book Review - Tomorrow You Go Home: One Man's Harrowing Imprisonment in a Modern-Day Russian Gulag by Tig Hague

Category Book Review Tig Hague Tomorrow You Go Home: One Man's Harrowing Imprisonment in a Modern-Day Russian Gulag
A picture named M2

So what happens when you enter a foreign country like Russia and find yourself in possession of trace amounts of drugs?  Tig Hague found out the hard way and chronicled his experience in the book Tomorrow You Go Home: One Man's Harrowing Imprisonment in a Modern-Day Russian Gulag.  No matter how bad you think a western justice system might be, you haven't seen "bad" until you're thrown into Russia's gulags, with no way out but to play the game by ever-changing rules.

Tig Hague was a businessman working at the finance firm Garban Icap in London.  His job involved international travel, and on this particular trip he was landing in Moscow for a three day trip to meet with clients.  He came from a stag party on the weekend, where some hash was available and used by the partygoers.  Hague had no qualms against using the drug, and in fact had left a very small amount in his jeans wrapped in paper, barely enough for a single joint.  But he forgot about it as he packed his suitcase, only to remember it at the worst possible time, as Russian custom agents were conducting a random check of passengers exiting the airport.  Looking like a well-off British traveler, the Russian agent was actually looking for a bribe from Hague to just keep things moving.  Tired and irritable from his trip, Hague decided he didn't want to play that game, which led to a retaliatory search of every item in his suitcase.  The hash showed up, and now Hague was labeled a drug smuggler and placed into the Russian "legal" system.  Little did he expect that it would take two years before he saw his freedom again.

While the embassy made all the right sounds about helping him out, they were really just working within the system to let things move to trial, hoping for an acquittal or minor fine.  Hague kept trying to explain that he wasn't smuggling, and that this was really being blown out of proportion.  By the time the case went to trial a couple of months later (with bail being denied during that time), the stated amount he was carrying was highly inflated, his confession of recreational hash use back home painted him as a major drug user, and he was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.  What follows is a two year nightmare of corrupt prison officials, horrid living conditions, illnesses that threatened his life, and emotional despair.  The only thing that keeps him going is the undying love and efforts of his girlfriend (and future wife) Lucy, as she worked to keep pressure on the Russian legal system to release Hague.

Reading Tomorrow, you can feel the emotional turmoil that Hague went through as he realized that there was no one there to help him out.  He was fortunate to be befriended by a number of prisoners along the way who taught him the rules of survival and helped him manage his own fate from inside the prisons.  The most harrowing part of the story is when he's transferred to Zone 22, a prison camp in Mordovia that is as primitive and desolate as any gulag you've read about.  But even in those brutal conditions, there was a code amongst the inmates that showed humanity when and where you'd least expect it.  

It's somewhat hard not to think he brought some of this on himself by his initial actions.  But even then, the punishment was very much out of proportion to the crime.  Tomorrow You Go Home will leave an emotional mark on the reader.  It'll also make you double-check everything you put in your luggage before you travel...

12/20/2008

Book Review - Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways by Michael Sampson

Category Book Review Michael Sampson Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate Innovate and Drive Business in New Ways
A picture named M2

It was interesting how this book has shifted on my radar...  Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways by Michael Sampson.  Michael is a virtual colleague of mine in the collaboration space, and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing his book on SharePoint.  I told him yes, although at the time I was not doing much of anything with Microsoft's collaboration offering.  But by the time the book was published, my technical world had shifted towards a heavy emphasis on SharePoint.  Therefore, the "courtesy review" became a "necessary read."  And in terms of framing the use of a software package within the context of a real world scenario, few have done it this well.  

Contents:
The New Project; Managing the Project and Finding a Team; Setting Up SharePoint; Team, Meet SharePoint; Creating a Shared Vision; Understanding the Options; Analyzing the Options; Making a Decision; Concluding the Project; Winning in the Market; Index

Rather than write the normal "here's feature x, and here's how you use it" book, Michael presents the material within the context of a story about a project.  Roger Lengel has been asked to take on "Project Delta" for the Fourth Coffee company.  It's a project to expand the business internationally, and Roger will have a team of geographically dispersed individuals.  Furthermore, he's been asked to use SharePoint to manage the project, a software package he's not familiar with.  He knows this project is important and will have an impact on his future with the company, so he needs to take advantage of all the tools at his disposal to make the project a success.  As he sets up each part of the team, he learns about a new feature of SharePoint that can help him manage the work.  This starts at welcome pages for the project, to wikis for storing project information, to announcement lists, shared calendars, blogs, and numerous other things.  By the time the story finishes, he (and you) has explored most all of the significant SharePoint functionality that is offered by default, and done so within the context of a real world application of that knowledge.

The first thing to know and understand about the book is that it's not targeted primarily at IT professionals.  If you're looking for information on how to set up and administer a SharePoint environment, you won't find it here.  The target is for business professionals who will be using SharePoint to get something done.  All too often, that real-life application of technology is lacking, and business users will not plow through a 500 page book of detailed setup information.  They need to be able to see a business scenario that they can identify with, and then see how the tool would help them.  Michael does an excellent job of that.  In addition, he also includes a lot of valuable information on how best to run projects with teams that can't meet face-to-face.  He is well-known in the collaboration community for his expertise in virtual teams, and Seamless Teamwork covers that topic very well.  In fact,  you could almost recommend the book on that angle aside from SharePoint.

If you're ramping up a SharePoint environment in your organization and need material to help the business get a handle on why they need yet another piece of technology, Seamless Teamwork should be required reading.  The business users will thank you because they'll "get it" when it comes to using SharePoint, and the IT area will thank you because they won't have to spend as much time "selling" the business benefits.  

12/17/2008

Guest Post - Taking Control In An Age Of Uncertainty

Category Guest Post Andrew J. Sherman
I'm going to be posting a review of the book Road Rules: Be The Truck. Not The Squirrel by Andrew J. Sherman in a day or so.  But I also got the opportunity to have him guest-post on Duffbert's Random Musings.  So with that...  Thanks, Andrew, and take it away...

----------------------




Taking Control In An Age Of Uncertainty


        These are stressful times – the ratio of things out of our control now far exceeds the number of variables – economic, social or otherwise – that are in control and it has created previously unseen levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty that disrupts our lives and our careers.

        I wrote Road Rules:  Be The Truck.  Not The Squirrel. (http://www.bethetruck.com) to help us all better navigate our journeys down the road of life in all weather conditions.  Whether on a bright, sunny and clear day or a dark, stormy and foggy day, we are all drivers on the road of life and are all trying to safely and properly arrive at our destinations.  We must share the road – the road does not belong to you alone and you are not alone on the journey.  We are obligated to drive in a manner which allows others to reach their destination and commit ourselves to playing tour guide or central dispatcher (via coaching, mentoring, consulting or friendship) for those who are trying to travel the roads that you have already successfully navigated.  

        This also a time when our metaphysical connections and bonds to our work and our careers often takes a nose dive.  We feel underappreciated, overworked, underpaid, understimulated and over-taxed.  Our expectations about pay, bonuses, benefits and job security are not directly aligned with the level of effort and commitment that is expected of us – and that’s just to keep our jobs, let alone advance up the corporate ladder.  We crave enlightenment and spiritual insight in a post-9/11 and post-Enron world, yet we are quick to discard these cravings when we are worried about making mortgage payments on a timely basis.  I would submit to you that troubled times are when we must embrace our core values and quest for authenticity and wisdom, not abandon it.

        When you are facing less (or no) vacation time, this is not the circumstance to start hating your work even more, it is a time to embrace the teachings of the Zen Master who loves his vocation so much that he is no longer able to distinguish between his work and his play.  Don’t get me wrong, if you are not getting this level of fulfillment from your current job, then it is a good time to consider change, but taking yourself completely off the highway of life is not on option.  Recalibrate any lofty financial goals in exchange for meaningful work that you can embrace each day with passion and I promise you that the financial rewards will soon follow.

        Here are four (4) ways to cope with this stress and chart a new course during these volatile times:

·        Redefine your destination – A healthy impatience for reaching your goals in life is a good thing, but not in the middle of a bad traffic jam.  Our economy right now is much like a Friday afternoon rush hour before a holiday weekend – everyone is anxious to get to the same place, but most of us are getting nowhere fast and others are moving backwards.  We live in an age of speed in our communications and interconnectivity, but must embrace patience in our quest for financial independence when there is so much rough road ahead.  Things will rebound and you will reach your destination, but it may not happen as quickly as you would have preferred!  Relax – enjoy the ride.  Even the best built highway has its speed bumps and toll booths and construction/repair delays.

·        Redefine your dashboard.  We manage what we measure, both in our lives and our businesses.  If we let ourselves be defined these days by our home values or our 401(k) accounts, we will be severely disappointed.  This is a time to install some new meters and gauges on your dashboard for navigating the road of life.  Have a gauge which measures the quality of your contribution to society and your community.  Craft a new warning light which alerts you to a drop in integrity or spiritual energy.

·        Redefine your expectations – One of the road rules in the book is entitled “Accidents Can Happen To The Best Drivers.”  For many of us, this economic slowdown is the first and most significant that we have seen in our lifetimes.  There will be accidents, detours, U-turns and a lack of forward progress during these periods and it can and will be frustrating.  But these are a natural part of the cycle in the “tide of affairs of men” as Shakespeare would say.  You can either engage the flow or try to fight it, but those who embrace it will win the battle as well as the war.

·        Redefine yourself.  In the Woody Allen film, Zelig, the main character redefines himself based on his current surroundings to the point of literally magically changing his physical character and personality – that’s a bit extreme.  There is a difference between abandoning your core values that define you as a person (which I recommend that you never do) vs. redefining how you apply those values and skill sets to current circumstances.  You are the author of your own life story and you have the power to reposition your personal brand as may be necessary to adapt to economic or life cycles.  You must give yourself permission and empower yourself to unlock the skill sets that you possess and use your gifts and talents to put food on the table.  A talented transactional lawyer may be focused on M&A in booming times and troubled company restructuring in difficult times.  A talented forensic accountant may be focused on IPO’s in good times and shareholder litigation in bad times.  Use your gifts and don’t build false walls around your options.

        The irony of this economy is the inconsistency in which we are all affected by it.  Many of us are actually thriving as we readjust and redefine ourselves and our companies and seize opportunities that have been revealed by economic weakness.  Some entrepreneurs have adjusted their business models to successfully compete and others have created new business formats to help people cope.  For $25 dollars, Sarah’s Smash Shack in Seattle, www.smashshack.com will give you a private room to smash plates to vent your frustration.  In what ways can you mimic Sarah’s creativity and approach?

        Some of us are experiencing roughness and potholes, yet we are travelling on the same crowded highway – it may just depend on which lane you are in and how fast we are trying to reach our destination.  Others have been willing to get off the crowded highway and explore the backroads is one of my favorite rules in the book.  Many great books including Walden Pond by Thoreau http://www.waldenpondbooks.com  and On the Road by Kerouac  http://www.amazon.com/Road-Original-Scroll-Jack-Kerouac/dp/B001KOTU7Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229366361&sr=1-1 have taught us that it is on the back roads in the life that we find our greatest sources of inspiration, innovation and creativity, yet many of us are not willing to take that detour and wind up just sitting in traffic, beeping our horns and uttering expletives at each other, not a very productive use of our time.  

        For more insights on being an enlightened driver on the road of life, take a look at http://bethetruck.com.  I would also strongly encourage you to share with me your own driving war stories, parables and metaphors, advice particularly those that have influenced your driving style or your intended destination.

*          *          *           *          *          *           *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew J. Sherman is a Partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Dickstein Shapiro LLP, with over 400 attorneys nationwide.  Mr. Sherman is a recognized international authority on the legal and strategic issues affecting small and growing companies.  Mr. Sherman is an Adjunct Professor in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University where he has taught courses on business growth, capital formation and entrepreneurship for over twenty (20) years.  Mr. Sherman is the author of seventeen (17) books on the legal and strategic aspects of business growth and capital formation.  His most recently published books include the recent three-part Kaplan business growth series, Grow Fast Grow Right (November 2006), as well as Build Fast Build Right and Start Fast Start Right, published by Kaplan in the Spring of 2007.  His eighteenth (18th) book, Road Rules Be the Truck.  Not the Squirrel. (http://www.bethetruck.com) is an inspirational book which was published in the Fall of 2008.  Mr. Sherman can be reached at 202-420-5000 or e-mail ShermanA@dicksteinshapiro.com.

12/13/2008

Book Review - The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World

Category Book Review The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World
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Orthodox Christianity is something I've never much dug into, but having the The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World by Thomas Nelson Publishers gives me a chance to see familiar passages interpreted in line with Orthodox theology.  This is a beautiful Bible that I expect will challenge some of my existing views and expand others.

In addition to providing the New Testament in the New Kings James Version, it also provides a new translation of the Old Testament from the Greek language using the Septuagint.  The commentary provided in the study portions centers on thoughts and writings from the early Christian leaders, so as to provide a bridge between today's culture and the general thoughts of the early Orthodox church.  This is admittedly a different angle than most study Bibles I've used that come from a more contemporary viewpoint and commentary.  Couple that with explanations and schedules of the liturgy used in the different Orthodox churches, and I have a resource to add more color and history to my Christian experience.  It seems to restore some of the awe and reverence that is so easily discarded in today's world.

While I don't plan on switching to the NKJV or this new Greek Old Testament translation as my primary translation of choice, I'm pleased to have The Orthodox Study Bible available as another source to dig out meaning and context from certain passages.

12/13/2008

Book Review - The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw

Category Book Review Dave Crenshaw The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done
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This is the book that I've needed to read for a long time now...  The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw.  It's taken me a few years to realize it, but the more I try to do at one time, the less effective I seem to be at any one thing.  Crenshaw uses a story setting to illustrate the problem in a way that anyone should be able to relate to...

Contents:
The Company; The Owner; The Lie; The Cost; The Origin; The Exercise; The Example; The Question; The Meeting; The Expectation; The Truth; The Deal; The Change; The Steps; The Systems; The Follow-up; Worksheets: Switchtasking Exercise, Reports Worksheet, Recurring Meetings Worksheet, Truth of Time Worksheet; Sources; The Author

The story used in The Myth of Multitasking follows Helen, the head of a clothing company.  She's the stereotypical executive, doing ten things at once, and convinced that without her "outstanding" ability to multitask, nothing would get done.  But she wonders why she feels she is getting less and less done, even though she's busier than ever.  Phil, an executive coach, has been hired by Helen to help her get a handle on her schedule before she goes off the deep end.  When he walks her through a typical hour comprised of tasks, emails, phone calls, and staff questions, she thinks she has a full 60 minutes to focus on a particular task.  But in reality, she really only has about 32 minutes, and of that only 10 minutes of uninterrupted time at any given stretch.  This is due to the cost of switching tasks, the time it takes to pick up the thread of a new demand and shut down the old one before you can concentrate.  So instead of multitasking (doing multiple things at once), she's really "switchtasking" (doing multiple things sequentially with the associated overhead of switching between them).  And that's where the myth of multitasking lies...  we can't do more than one primary thing at once.  We can only switch back and forth between two or more items, and that's an expensive operation in terms of time.

Crenshaw uses this story to explain how multitasking can damage relationships, because you're never really "there" for anyone.  As such, they feel as if they must get your time whenever it's possible because they may not see you again for hours.  If you set aside regular scheduled times that they can count on, the pressing tasks seem to calm down and wait to be handled during the times they know they'll have your full attention.  Once this more realistic schedule is in place, fewer demands come all at once, and switchtasking diminishes, leaving you with more time to be productive.

I've fallen into the same trap of trying to juggle multiple things at once, thinking I was being hyper-productive.  In reality, I now see that I've been doing a lot of things adequately, but very little exceptionally.  At worst, this book has reminded me that I need to focus more on a micro and macro level on the current task I'm doing, rather than trying to keep other things on my radar at the same time.  At best, it's given me the momentum that I need to get back to a more structured schedule, instead of letting the urgent overwhelm the important.  Highly recommended...

12/13/2008

Book Review - Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up? by Steve Kerr

Category Book Review Steve Kerr Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up?
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Reward and compensation systems are one of the most touchy subjects in a company.  People don't like you messing with their rice bowl.  But if not done correctly, management may well be measuring and rewarding the exact opposite behavior that they are trying to target.  Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up? by Steve Kerr does a good job of drilling down to the core components of an effective reward system, and can help you get on track if you're floundering.

Contents:
The Power of Reward Systems
Step 1: Define Performance in Actionable Terms
Step 2: Devise Comprehensive Metrics
Step 3: Create Reward Systems That Work
What To Do Monday Morning
About the Author

At 136 pages, Kerr doesn't have a lot of time and space for fluff and philosophical ramblings.  As such, the material is concise, direct, and ready for application.  First, you need to get rid of the fluffy and lofty visions and goals that can't be nailed down in terms of "did we achieve it or not?"  If a vision of "become the best company" doesn't have actions and behaviors associated with it, then it just won't happen.  Next, set up the measurements that can be monitored and applied to the actions.  Here's where many run into problems.  It's a popular exercise today to "rank" all employees in order to weed out the low performers.  Conceptually, it sounds effective, but it's loaded with landmines.  For instance, all salesmen may be ranked against each other.  Bob outsells Bill by a 2-to-1 factor.  But that ranking doesn't take into account that Bob's territory is populated with high-income individuals, while Bill is selling to blue-collar workers.  In terms of effectiveness, Bill might be a much better salesman that Bob, but his territory will never allow him to generate Bob-like sales.  If these types of metrics drive the compensation system, you're rewarding things that people have little control over.  Finally, the reward system has to meet the following criteria: eligibility, visibility, performance contingency, timeliness, and reversibility.  If a reward system does not meet these criteria, it starts to have diminishing returns.  For instance, say that there's a company-paid trip to a resort as a reward for "top performers".  Many times this becomes an event that the same people attend year after year because of their past history.  If that perk is not "reversible", as in the person not qualifying year after year, it ceases to become a motivator both to those who are locked in and those who might like to make it into the club.  

If you've read any management books dealing with rewards and compensation, you've likely run across most of this information before.  But generally it's not as concise and applicable as what Kerr has done here.  Those running large companies would do well to read this and reexamine their reward systems.  And those running smaller businesses should *really* read this and look to structure their compensation systems such that employees aren't "demotivated" to perform.  What sounds logical may not be effective in actual practice...

12/13/2008

Book Review - Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer by Jack Falla

Category Book Review Jack Falla Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer
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Being the hockey fan I am, I was drawn to Open Ice: Reflections and Confessions of a Hockey Lifer by Jack Falla mainly by the title.  Born and raised on the west coast, I knew nothing of Falla's history as a sportswriter, but I can understand the mindset of someone for whom hockey is a definition of their life.  This turned out to be an excellent, thoughtful read, made even more poignant when I learned that Falla passed away in September, a month after the book was written...

Contents:
A Death in Montreal; Short Shifting in Fantasy Land; Skating the Rideau Canal; New Skates; Passing the Torch; "Excuse me, Mr. Delvecchio..."; Back to the Barns; Requiem for the Cucumber; Much of What I Know about Life I Learned Tending Goal; The Rink Rat; Unknockable; Searching for Hobey Baker; Goodbye to the Backyard Rink?; Acknowledgments; About the Author

Falla wrote and covered hockey for Sports Illustrated in the 1980's, but his attachment to hockey goes far deeper.  Like many of that time, he grew up following and idolizing the Orrs, Richards, and Beliveaus, the names that made hockey what it is today.  But even deeper than that, the game became part of his being, from visiting the ice rinks of the "original six" to building his own backyard outdoor rink every winter.  Open Ice is a series of his stories and thoughts about his attachment to the game, and what he's done to uncover the stories of the legends.  In some cases, it's attending the funeral of Maurice Richard in Montreal, even though he had to travel halfway across the country to do so, just because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Other stories revolve around his quests to discover the deeper personal stories behind old-timers like Hobey Baker and Georges Vezina.  In the process, I as the reader get to know and understand the real person behind the historical image that we have left after so many years.

The stories that affected me most were his personal anecdotes.  For instance, he talks about how he snuck out of college one day to watch the Red Wings practice at the old Boston Gardens.  Detroit skated out, and seemed to be missing a goalie.  Falla played goalie growing up, and thought it would be an incredible experience to be on the ice, if even for just a practice session.  He mustered up all the courage he had and asked Alex Delvecchio if they needed a practice goalie.  Even thought they didn't need him, the lessons he learned about pushing past fear to take a chance resonated deeply.  Same with the last story about his backyard rink and his struggles to continue the tradition as he got older.  Even though he always felt as if it was "the last year" he'd do it, the tradition and continuity it provided him, his family, and his friends would always provide the last-minute motivation to redig the post holes and set the boards up one more time.

If all you want are stories about hockey players, Open Ice will be a disappointment.  But if you are in a reflective mood and enjoy reading about things that drive people on in life, Open Ice is an excellent read, guaranteed to make you feel warm and connected.

12/09/2008

OK... today was a high point in my "writing career"...

Category IBM/Lotus
I enjoy writing...  From Libby giving me my first shot at being published, to blogging, to writing reviews on Amazon...  It's something I love to do.  Yes, it's had a number of financial benefits, to be sure.  But if it had gone no further than the pages of this blog, I'd still write.

Then there's the five minutes of fame in my small pond.  I've followed Esther Schlindler's writing for a long time, and I finally got a chance to meet her at Microsoft PDC 2008 a couple months ago.  I brought her a gift of chocolate "just in case" I ever ended up writing for her.  Good editors are worth their weight in gold...  or chocolate in Esther's case.

Yes, I'm not proud...  Bribing and sucking up works for me.

A couple of weeks ago she asked if I wanted to write an article for CIO.com on Lotus Notes.  I accepted, and today it was published:  7 Things IT Managers Should Know About Lotus Notes.  I had fun writing it, and it was cool to see something I wrote published in a non-IBM/Notes publication.  

Ah, but I was *really* surprised when I received an email from Patrick Kenney of IDG International Publishing Services letting me know that some CIO.com content ends up getting syndicated on the New York Times online site, and that my article made it over there.

OK...  I can retire now.  I'll have a hard time topping that five minutes...  :)

Thanks, Esther...  

12/08/2008

Book Review - Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns

Category Book Review Gregory Burns Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently
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It's easy to look at the movers and shakers of society and wonder how they do it...  How does a Steve Jobs guide Apple to deliver products like the iPod and iPhone? How was Walt Disney able to create an entire entertainment empire centered around cartoons?  Gregory Burns goes beyond the press releases and "official history" on how these people tick in his book Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently.  I was surprised at how much of what they do can be explained via the science of neurology, and how you can change your own thought patterns and reactions to move in that direction.

Contents:
Doing What Can't Be Done: Howard Armstrong
Through the Eye of an Iconoclast: Dale Chihuly, Paul Lauterbur, Nolan Bushnell
From Perception to Imagination: Walt Disney, Florence Nightingale, Branch Rickey, Kary Mullis
Fear - The Inhibitor of Action: Jackie Robinson, Dixie Chicks, Computer Associates, Rite-Solutions
How Fear Distorts Perception: NASA, Richard Feynman, Solomon Asch, Martin Luther King Jr.
Why the Fear of Failure Makes People Risk Averse: David Dreman, Bill Miller, Henry Ford
Brain Circuits for Social Networking: Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Stanley Milgram, Ray Kroc, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linus Torvalds, Warren Buffett
Private Spaceflight - A Case Study of Iconoclasts Working Together: Burt Rutan, Richard Branson, Peter Diamandis, Rich Homans
When Iconoclast Becomes Icon: Arthur Jones, Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs
The Iconoclast's Pharmacopeia
Notes; Index; About the Author

Burns comes at his iconoclast premise by stating there are three brainblocks to prevent a person from standing out in a group.  Flawed perception is when you see things so often and in the same way that your brain starts to make baseline assumptions that may not be accurate any more.  Fear of failure is just that...  Too many people would rather not try than risk the potential negative outcome.  And finally, if you can't convince others to see things the way you do, then you won't be able to turn the tide of conventional thinking to new possibilities.  Where this book shines is that Burns backs up his research and findings with concrete examples of people who have indeed become iconoclasts in their fields, people who do things that others think are impossible.  While I found all the material very applicable to my own situation, I especially identified with the first premise on perception.  I find myself doing the same things in the same ways far too often, and as such I cut myself off from seeing the reality of the situation.  I need to throw out my assumptions, look at all the areas of my life from a different angle, and see what jumps out as "no longer the case"...

This is definitely a book that was more practical than I expected, and it will free me up to take a few more chances.  In fact, it already has in some areas...

12/06/2008

Book Review - The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss

Category Book Review David Liss The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel
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I had a chance to get a review copy of The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss via Amazon Vine, but I decided against it as there were some other choices that I liked better.  But after hearing good things about the book, I picked it up at the library.  What I found was a rich story set in 1792, during the early days of America's independence from England.

Ethan Saunders is living a disgraced life in Philadelphia.  He and his partner, Richard Fleet, were spies for the American side, but a raid on their premises turned up documents that were being routed to the British.  Neither man was hanged for treason, but both had their life destroyed.  Saunders lost his job, his self-respect, and the woman to whom he was going to get married, Cynthia Fleet.  Petty crime allows him to survive, but there's a number of people who would like to see him dead.  When a mysterious person shows up in an alley to prevent Saunder's death at the hands of a man whose wife he seduced, Saunders is drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the financial system of the young nation.  It also forces him to question everything that's happened since his spying accusation, as he might have another chance to draw Cynthia back into his life if he understands what is really going on.

The story also has a second plot, one that involves a woman by the name of Joan Maycott.  Her story starts ten years earlier, as a precocious young woman who isn't afraid to pursue something that she wants.  She catches the eye of a young man who was injured in the war, and together they start a new life as husband and wife, running a small carpentry shop while she works on what she thinks will be the first American novel.  They are approached by a landowner who offers to trade them land on the western border of Pennsylvania for their war debt that the state may never pay on.  This new "fruitful" land turns out to be untamed wilderness not far from Pittsburgh.  Even worse, the rights to the land still belong to a powerful person in Pittsburgh, and he can have them tossed from their plot for nearly any reason unless Maycott allows herself to be "entertained" by him.  She refuses to give in, and in time they are able to clear the land and develop strong friendships with the neighboring settlers, all of whom are in the same predicament.  Her husband figures out that whiskey is the real form of money in this area, as nothing can be exported for cash.  The troubles escalate when the new government decides to tax whiskey, even though the whiskey makers there have no cash from their efforts.  Rather than give up their livelihood, they decide to fight back.  Hence, the whiskey rebellion...

These two plotlines start out completely separate, separated by 10 years.  While Saunders is going through day to day life with his investigation, Maycott's story is racing forward in months and years, bringing her closer to the current day, where her purposes and Saunders' business merge to become a common struggle to figure out who really controls the financial purse strings of America, and whether the greed of a small group of people can destroy all that the American Revolution fought for.  I found myself drawn to most all the characters, and enjoyed their gritty attitude that fought on when surrender would have been so much easier.  It also gave me a better appreciation for the fact that regardless of how much time passes, the intent and greed of man remains a constant.  The examples of today's society aren't anything new.  Men have been lusting over power and money forever...

I enjoyed The Whiskey Rebels, and it was nice that the size of the book meant I wouldn't finish it in a day or two.  Given the quality of this book, I'll probably go back and pick up some of Liss's other historical novels.

12/06/2008

Book Review - Entrepreneur Journeys Volume 1 by Sramana Mitra

Category Book Review Sramana Mitra Entrepreneur Journeys Volume 1
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It takes guts, determination, and more than a little luck to start your own business and grow it to a multimillion dollar company.  In Sramana Mitra's book Entrepreneur Journeys Volume 1, she sits down and interviews a number of those gutsy entrepreneurs as to what makes them tick, where they came from, and what happened to bring them to this particular point in their journeys.

Contents:

Prologue

BootStrapping: Bootstrapping To Billions - Jerry Rawls - Finisar; Happily Bootstrapping - Sridhar Vembu - AdventNet

Taking On Giants: Connecting With Your Intimate Bot; The Gap In Google's Defenses - Steve Hafner - Kayak; Google's Achilles' Heel - Gautam Godhwani - SimplyHired; Virtal Ad Networks - An Emerging Trend - Russ Fradin - Adify

Disruptive Business Models: The Next VMWare - Phillippe Courtot - Qualys; A Recession-Proof Corner Of The Tech Sector - Steve Singh - Concur

Addressing Unmet Market Needs: Latin America's E-Commerce Leader - Marcos Galperin - MercadoLibre; A Technological Fix for Education - Edward Fields - HotChalk

Tackling Plant Scale Problems: Hydro-Alchem - Hans Peter Michelet - Energy Recovery Incorporated (ERI); Mobile Microfinance - Carol Realini - Obopay; Lighting The Way In India - Harish Hande - SELCO

Epilogue

Instead of focusing on the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world, Ms. Mitra goes after the "smaller" companies, the ones that have built up a sizable business in a market or niche that may not (yet) be familiar to you.  In addition, she focuses on certain aspects of a small business, like raising funding vs. doing it with your own money.  The style of writing is pure interview, where you see her question, followed by the answer given by the person across the table.  All in all, a very effective approach to get to know the people she selected.  

For me, I think I most enjoyed the section titled Taking On Giants.  It's tempting to think that you can't win against companies like Microsoft or Google.  But you need to remember that those companies also started out small, fighting against the incumbents of their time.  But they had a good idea that was executed well, and the net result is that they went from the role of underdog to giant themselves.  For instance, Steve Hafner went from Orbitz to a new startup he formed called Kayak.  He felt that Google wasn't able to deliver specific travel results in a one-stop search, and other travel sites still had you hunting all over the web for different types of reservations.  Kayak bucked the trend by crawling all those travel sites and consolidating the results in a single step.  Add to that an acquisition of a major competitor who had a sales system to complement their existing engineering skills, and Hafner now has a business started in October 2004 that generates solid revenue with bright prospects for the future.

If you are thinking about starting your own business, you WILL make mistakes.  Learning from the mistakes of others can save you a lot of pain, time, and money.  Reading Entrepreneur Journeys is one of those sources where you can do just that.

12/06/2008

Book Review - The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life by Richard Bayer, Ph. D

Category Book Review Richard Bayer Ph D The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life
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Let's face it...  For all the talk of ethics and responsibility these days, there's never a day goes by without some new story of executive X or celebrity Y doing something that reeks of greed, selfishness, or a "me first" attitude.  That doesn't even begin to cover all the lapses of non-headliners, the Joe Six-Packs, who find themselves in less-than-desirable situations due to choices they've compromised on along the way.  The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life By Dr. Richard Bayer is a series of relatively short essays on how to be an ethical person in today's workplace, but the lessons apply to both the marketplace and the personal home front.

Contents:
Part 1 - A Perspective on Ethics: Ethics in the Information Age - The Puritan Work Ethic and Beyond; Our Social Nature; Law vs. Ethics - The Limits of Law; How to Overcome Suffering - Especially in Your Career; Humility and Success; Compassion; Hope! What Is It? What Good Is It? Who Needs It?; Generosity in Deed - The Virtue of Thrift; The Search for Truth - or Not: The Problem with Secularism; Cheated by Writing a Blank Check! - To Science; What Is America All About? A Perspective from "America the Beautiful"; How to Make Ethical Decisions in Business; Good Ethics Is Serious Business - Objections and Answers

Part 2 - What Type of Person Should I Be?: Why Be Moral?; Virtue in Your Personal Life - The Meaning of Love; Raising Children Well (Not as Complex as It Seems); Raising Children with Prudence; On Gratitude; Violence; Virtue in Your Work Life - What Makes a Meaningful Work Life?; One Economy "Under God"?; Avoiding Shipwreck: Ethics and Entrepreneurship; Human Capital - The Key to Our Future; Five O'Clock Clubbers Talk about Their Good Habits; Maintaining Focus

Part 3 - Guidelines - What Must We Do (Ethical Principles for Action): Freedom, License, and a Way Out; Getting Where You Are Going - The Only Way to Go!; Targeting - The Truth Is Out There; Be on Track - and the Right Track - A Reminder from Islam; An Approach to New Year's Resolutions; Is My Potential Employer Ethical?; When to Blow the Whistle; How to Terminate Employees While Respecting Human Dignity

Appendixes: The Seven Stories Exercise; Analyzing Your Seven Stories; Your Fifteen-Year Vision and Your Forty-Year Vision; Your Fifteen and Forty-Year Vision Worksheet

Index; About the Author; Five O'Clock Club Books; About the Five O'Clock Club; Fruytagie Wall Canvas

Dr. Bayer runs a company called The Five O'Clock Club, the goal of which is to develop good, moral, and ethical people who can then apply those principles to their lives in the corporate world and with the larger community as a whole.  His book starts out with defining what is meant by "ethics", and what it means to be a "good" person.  Don't assume that's an easy answer.  If it was so easy, would we be in the trouble we're in as a society right now?  The second part of the book then works to apply those principles to your core person, into the main areas of your life.  Finally, part 3 gets into application.  Now that we know all this (and have hopefully internalized and incorporated it into our being), what do we do with it?  What happens when the company you work for is making decisions that breach your ethical standards?  Do you look the other way and claim everyone else was doing it or you had no choice?  Or do you take a stand, refuse to compromise on your principles, knowing the potential short term loss and pain will be far outweighed by the gains and peace of mind that comes from knowing you did the right thing?  

These are deep questions with no pat answers, but Dr. Bayer does a good job in bringing them down to earth in a more concrete sense.  You obviously can't read these 300 pages in one sitting, and then go out into the world, an enlightened ethical person ready to do all this is right.  It takes work...  I'd recommend you take a chapter or two each morning or night, read it slowly, and contemplate the ramifications of what is being said.  The first part won't necessarily have you going out with a list of "do A, B, and C today", as you need to build the foundation before you can add the walls and furnishings.  But if you're dissatisfied as to what and where you're going with yourself, starting here would be a good path to follow...

12/03/2008

I'm encouraged about the encouragement on my SharePoint posts...

Category SharePoint
Having been a fervent YellowBleeder over the years, I wasn't too sure how this new aspect of my professional existence might be received on the blog.  Trust me, had you said I'd be in this position a year or so ago, I would have laughed hysterically.  Never say never, however...

One of the reasons I want to share this with the Lotus Community is that as much as we hate to admit it, SharePoint's a reality out there.  For some of us, it's even more of a reality than that.  There are a small number of bloggers who gladly expound on the virtues of Notes/SharePoint coexistence, and that's one resource for information.  But in the two cases I'm thinking of, both of them have some sort of vested interest, a little "skin in the game", so to speak.  That's not to say that I distrust either source, as they have the technical information that I don't (yet) have.  But still, money and sales can be on the line, and you can never quite totally rid yourself of the "who benefits from this viewpoint" question.

On the other hand, I'm not selling for IBM or Microsoft.  Yes, I've been a long-time Notes supporter, and I'll always love the platform.  But I'm not attempting to meet a sales quota or sell you a tool I built.  As I mentioned yesterday, I simply want to make it easier for those traveling the same path, either now or down the road.  Relating new knowledge to what you already know is a great way to understand things.  And the sooner you can place things in context, the sooner you can start getting down into the weeds and delivering on your new responsibilities.

So, I don't plan on this becoming an "all SharePoint, all the time" blog.  And I *do* hope to not become more biased than I already am.  If I stray, call me on it.  With any luck, we'll all learn a few things along the way, remaining merrily employable over the long run.  :)

12/02/2008

First formal SharePoint end user training today...

Category SharePoint
So today I had my first exposure to SharePoint end user training.  This was a day-long class to familiarize end users with basic "out of the box" functionality that's provided with SharePoint.  As I travel down the SharePoint/.Net path, I plan on sharing observations and commentary based on what I know from the Notes world.  I'll try (time will tell how successfully) to provide an honest perspective of what works well and what doesn't for those in the Notes community that may be facing this same scenario.  I'm not "the expert", but just someone who may have traveled the path before you did, and can point out the muddy parts of the trail before you slip and fall...

In terms of a consistent user interface on a single platform, SharePoint is nice.  In that sense, it's more accurate to compare SharePoint to WebSphere Portal.  The ability to provide a common look and feel for portlets ("web parts" in SharePoint terminology), as well as giving the user a fair level of control over their environment, definitely beats having to recreate something like that on the Notes platform.  In fact, in terms of "pure" Notes/Domino (if that's the apples to oranges comparison you're making), SharePoint is more user-friendly in my opinion.  The more accurate comparison on that criteria would be with Quickr or Portal.

Where I'm having more of a concern is with the technical capabilities behind the interface.  I'm still reading and studying, so it's too early to make any definitive statements comparing SharePoint with Notes/Domino (or Quickr or Portal).  And let's be honest...  Quickr has had its share of "new version breaks old version" or "new version of Quickr not supported on newest version of Domino" issues.  But when I see tweets and blogs with statements like "folders are evil" and "lists are limited to 2000 documents", I get a little edgy.  I don't have the technical context to know if that means what I think it does, but I see potential limitations.  

I also now understand that white paper written about a month or so ago that stated that a significant number of companies have security issues with SharePoint.  At first I thought this was due to buggy software, but their point is that sensitive information is not properly restricted to the targeted audience.  The same issue exists for uncontrolled Notes environments, too.  Seeing how people can create a MySite page and add a document web part so easily is impressive.  Knowing that most won't understand the security ramifications is scary.  Think of it...  spreadsheet with payroll information put to a team site without tight security.  The search indexer grabs it.  Everyone can find it.  

Repeat after me...  GOVERNANCE IS CRITICAL!

Again, as a Notes person, I can't get cocky here.  You can create the same issues in Notes just as easily.  Someone creates a teamroom, sets default access to reader, and proceeds to post sensitive information without understanding the security model.  When you look at creating a whole new SharePoint environment from scratch, you realize that you can quickly reach the same level of information mismanagement that it took you 10+ years of Notes experience to create in your current environment...  :)

As I get more into the technical end, I expect to find cool features and nasty limitations.  For instance, I'm reading a book called Essential SharePoint 2007 right now.  Great book to give you the 50000 to 5000 foot view of the product.  I finished a chapter where they talk about server configuration, and how you can do anything from a single server running everything (STRONGLY discouraged for anything but basic development or very small workgroups) to multiple servers in a farm handling different aspects.  When the author says "there is no migration path from a single server to multi-server configuration, so choose carefully", I start to appreciate even more how much Domino does for you in a single package.  I suspect that the "number of moving parts" observations will be the most enlightening as I move forward.

I promise that future posts will be more concise and less rambling.  But I woke up at 1 am this morning, and I'm really brain-fried right now.  :)

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