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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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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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Book Review - The Promise Doctrine (A guidebook and system for consistently delivering on your promises!) by Craig P. Womack and Jason W. Womack

Category Book Review Craig P. Womack Jason W. Womack The Promise Doctrine (A guidebook and system for consistently delivering on your promises!)
A picture named M2

With all the things we have coming into us each day, it's easy to say "I promise to do x" and then just sort of forget about it.  But doing that repeatedly causes your reputation and authenticity to take a serious hit.  Craig P. Womack and Jason W. Womack cover this situation in their new book The Promise Doctrine (A guidebook and system for consistently delivering on your promises!).  Given my recent track record on delivering on promises, this was a timely (and excellent) read and review for me.

Chapter 1 - What's On Your Promise "Plate"?
Chapter 2 - Why This, Why Now?
Chapter 3 - So, Let's Get Started
Chapter 4 - Promise Making
Chapter 5 - The Promise Journey
Chapter 6 - The Promise Doctrine
  -  Element One - PROMISE
  -  Element Two - PERFORM
  -  Element Three - HURDLES
  -  Element Four - RENEGOTIATE
  -  Element Five - TRUST
  -  Element Six - CELEBRATE
The Promise Guide

First off, the Womacks set up the reason why making *and keeping* promises is important.  Promises are similar to goals, in that once you make a promise, you need to be able to take the necessary steps to follow through and complete the action.  When you make promises without the intention (or the plans) to keep them, people start to doubt your reliability and truthfulness.  And once you've lost that, it's very hard to regain.  It's best to treat those promises as "to do's" that are not open for failure.  If a promise isn't unfolding like you anticipated, then you renegotiate to reset expectations.  But you do *not* just "not do it".

There were a couple of elements here that I had never associated with promise making and keeping.  One is to view a promise as a goal.  A goal is really just a promise to yourself (or someone else) that you will accomplish something.  When I think of promise keeping as goal setting, it puts me on somewhat more familiar ground on how to make sure I bring the promise to fulfillment.  The other element I had not thought of was treating promises as "to do" items a la the "Getting Things Done" methodology.  Mind sweeps to get all your promises down on paper empty your mind so that you're not leaking mental energy trying to remember everything.  Once they're down on paper, it's much easier to track each one and figure out what needs to be done next to keep things on track.

The Promise Doctrine isn't some complex system or "way out of left field" new-age philosophy.  It's just solid information on how to stay real to yourself and others by delivering on things that you promise to do and perform.  Simply recognizing promises in the way that Craig and Jason outline helps you see the problem for what it is, and puts you on a solid path for getting things back where they should be.  An excellent read...

Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free


The difference between an expert and a craftsman

Category Software Development
"The critical distinction between a craftsman and an expert is what happens after a sufficient level of expertise has been obtained.  The expert will do everything she can to remain wedded to a single context, narrowing the scope of her learning, her practice, and her projects.  The craftsman has the courage and humility to set aside her expertise and pick up an unfamiliar technology or learn a new domain."

Dave Hoover, in an article on stickyminds.com


The SharePoint and Lotus communities are much more alike than different...

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
This morning, I was reading SharePoint Joel's Year End Review - SharePoint in 2009 blog entry.  Joel Oleson is probably what Ed Brill would be if he were highly technical (neck deep in code), left IBM, and started his own company doing Notes stuff.

In this entry, Joel talks about the highlights and lowlights of SharePoint, touching on many items that should sound familiar to most of us:


1. SharePoint Conference Explosion
2. Media and Analyst Spotlight
3. Growth of Expertise in the Community
4. Community Stickyness
5. SharePoint User Group Expansion

1. Community Attacks & Blowups
2. ISV Challenges Revenue & Awareness
3. Leaks
4. Plagiarism
5. Blogging Challenges

Look at how many have to do with community (the SPVerse? MicroVerse?), and funny how they seem to mirror many of our own triumphs and challenges.  

In other words, when you have a number of highly passionate people come together over a technology, perhaps the behaviors we see are to be expected.  That'd be an interesting blog post or deeper analysis on its own.

Regardless...  Yes, our Lotus community is quite vibrant and is special to all of us.  But it's not as unique as we think it is, and that same amount of passion and skill is there on "the dark side" too.  

Perhaps the "dark side" is just the bathroom mirror before we turn on the light in the morning...


Some people *deserve* to have their identity stolen...

Category Everything Else
I tweeted this yesterday, but I'm *still* in utter amazement at the stupidity of the person sitting next to me on the bus yesterday...

So I get on the bus to head home yesterday, and at one of the downtown stops this guy gets on... probably mid-20s, looks a little nerdy, probably not overly high on the social ability scale.  He apparently knows the bus driver, and there's a short "haven't seen you in a long time" exchange.  He plops down right next to me and makes himself comfortable by pulling out his cell phone and making a call.

Now, I'm still "old school" in that I really don't want to hear your one-sided conversation, even if it's semi-quiet.  But in this case, he bordered on "look at me I have a cell phone!" volume, so I found that pretty irritating.  But what happened next went from irritating to jaw-dropping wonder...

He starts by telling the person on the phone that he had signed up for some account, the information had come back, there was supposed to be some sort of holding period, but someone had changed the routing number without his permission.  OK, we're apparently on the phone to some financial institution and he's having account issues.

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, he pulls out paperwork and proceeds to read off account numbers, routing numbers, his birthdate, who and when he talked to people at the bank, etc.  I'm sure he could be heard by 3/4 of the bus, and the bus was crowded.  I literally was shaking my head as I heard this... I (or anyone else) on the bus could have hacked his account with no problem.  And when he told the person on the phone that it was as if someone had hacked his account, it was ALL I could do to not take the phone out of his hand and hang it up.

I struggled with whether I should "educate" the kid or not after he finally hung up, but I couldn't help it.  I tapped him on the shoulder, and in a voice only slightly less loud than his, said "Let me give you some advice... don't EVER have that conversation on your cell phone on a bus again.  You gave out account numbers, routing numbers, your birthdate, and various other pieces of information that would allow me to steal your identity before you even get home.  That was incredibly stupid."  The guy across from me looked at him and said "I've had my identity stolen, it's not fun."  Some other 20-something a couple rows back just said "yeah!".  The guy got up, looked at me, and got off the bus without saying a word.  Nearly everyone around us who had been in on the "conversation" just started chuckling and shaking their heads...

This was SO blatantly obvious that I wouldn't be surprised if someone was filming it secretly as a test to see if anyone would do or say something to him.  Or, his account will be hacked again, he'll complain to Tri-met, Tri-met will review bus vids, and I'll be a "person of interest" in an identity theft scam. :)

I know I should feel sorry for the guy (or I should feel *something* on the sympathy scale), but I honestly couldn't help feeling he had some major lessons in life that still need to be learned...


Book Review - The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo

Category Book Review Carmine Gallo The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience
A picture named M2

Steve Jobs is, by most accounts, one of the best public speakers of our time.  His keynote addresses at conferences and in front of his own company are smooth, informative, and very well done.  But what is it that makes a Jobs talk stand out from all the rest?  Carmine Gallo sets out to dissect what makes Steve Jobs "insanely great" in the book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.  Gallo does an excellent job in getting beyond the myth and legend, and analyzes what goes into Jobs' presentations that we can use to become much better ourselves.

Act 1 - Create The Story: Scene 1 - Plan in Analog; Scene 2 - Answer the One Question That Matters Most; Scene 3 - Developer a Messianic Sense of Purpose; Scene 4 - Create Twitter-Like Headlines; Scene 5 - Draw a Road Map; Scene 6 - Introduce the Antagonist; Scene 7 - Reveal the Conquering Hero; Intermission 1 - Obey the Ten-Minute Rule
Act 2 - Deliver The Experience: Scene 8 - Channel Their Inner Zen; Scene 9 - Dress Up Your Numbers; Scene 10 - Use "Amazingly Zippy" Words; Scene 11 - Share the Stage; Scene 12 - Stage Your Presentation with Props; Scene 13 - Reveal a "Holy Shit" Moment; Intermission 2 - Schillier Learns from the Best
Act 3 - Refine and Rehearse: Scene 14 - Master Stage Presence; Scene 15 - Make it Look Effortless; Scene 16 - Wear the Appropriate Costume; Scene 17 - Toss the Script; Scene 18 - Have Fun
Encore: One More Thing; Notes; Index

Those who look very adept at a skill, who make it look really easy, have likely spent an inordinate amount of hours making it look that way.  Steve Jobs is a prime example.  His talks are all shaped to inspire the listener and to get them to remember one or two simple things.  In Gallo's book, you the reader get an inside look as to how that works and how you too can use the same type of structure to improve your talks.  For instance, Jobs doesn't sit down in Keynote and start creating slides.  Time is spent developing a story and planning out the talk using those "old" tools of paper and pencil.  This avoids the tendency to get locked into your slides before you even know what you're going to say.  From there, you have to figure out the *one* point you want the listener to remember, and then become incredibly focused on making that point impossible to forget.  To get people to remember and talk about that point, you need to have those short, catchy phrases that could fit on Twitter... 140 characters of information and image that doesn't fade over time.  And to complete the story and make it flow, you need to have the "bad guy" (the situation that's currently less than ideal), and the "good guy" (what you're proposing to make the world a better place).

All the parts of Act 1 are simply planning for what is going to go into the talk.  I find that most people (including myself) don't spend nearly as much time on that part as they should.  Acts 2 and 3 are the parts where most books and speakers focus on... looking good and smooth on stage.  But again, if you don't have a good message structured well, then it doesn't matter how well you perform... it's all fluff.  But assuming you have a solid story, acts 2 and 3 are filled with excellent information.  For instance, dressing up your numbers is a simple thing but often overlooked.  Telling someone an iPod has 8gb of memory is meaningless.  But telling them that they can carry 15000 songs in their shirt pocket gives a mental image that won't be forgotten.  You can tell people how something's going to look, but if you have a prop that visually and tactilely reinforces the message, you're making a much bigger impact.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is a book that steps behind the curtain and shows how much work goes into making things seem simple and elegant.  While no one may mistake you for Steve Jobs while you're on stage, you *can* use the same techniques to improve your message and presentation to get a whole lot closer.  Definitely a recommended read for all speakers.

Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free


Book Review - Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Category Book Review Robert Jackson Bennett Mr. Shivers
A picture named M2

On the last round of Amazon Vine review items I could choose from, I picked up a number of recreational reads with the holidays coming up.  One of the book was Mr. Shivers, a debut novel by Robert Jackson Bennett.  The general premise sounded promising.  During the Depression, a man leaves his wife to go search for the killer of his young daughter.  He has to track down the man by following hints and rumors, riding trains and staying in hobo camps as he gets closer and closer to the killer.  But the closer he gets, the more bizarre things seem to become.  And it's there that the story went from pretty good to "huh?"

Connelly is the rail rider who is searching for the man with the scarred face, the one they call Mr. Shivers.  Along the way, he finds others who are on the same quest, and he throws his lot in with them to have more numbers by which to deal out his revenge.  They pin down Mr. Shivers in a ghost town where people have left to avoid an advancing dust storm.  But before he walks off into the storm, Shivers takes another victim with him from the group.  The search starts again after the storm, but now there seem to be more people fighting back, people who are somehow controlled by Shivers.  But for some reason, Connelly and Shivers are linked and their lives are destined to meet in a final confrontation.

While Bennett was telling the story of Connelly hunting down Shivers, things stayed on track pretty well.  But the dust storm episode seemed to be a turning point in style, and then a lot of time was spent in strange mystical ramblings and mental exploration.  The story (for me, at least) started to get extremely muddled, and the ending didn't do much to resolve much of what went on before.  I was definitely going to finish it at that point, but had it started out in that same fashion, I'm not sure I would have made it to page 50.

Mr. Shivers would have done well to stay on the action track and not devolve into the metaphysical realm.  After getting into the book on the action premise, the switch felt like a major letdown.

Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free


Update on talking to Comcast about getting some rate reductions...

Category Comcast
So in my earlier Comcast post today, I talked about how I decided to see whether Comcast could be more competitive with their rates given all the competition in the current market.  I tried Comcast Live Chat as suggested by a different blog post I had read, and that was a dead end.  But within an hour of posting my experience on this blog, Comcast had left a comment apologizing for the lack of results and asking for some contact info to follow up.

OK... impressive both on the speed of response and for the follow-up effort.

I sent an email, and soon got a reply from another Comcast person saying someone would call me and discuss my rates.

Again... kudos on timeliness and follow-through.

Much to my amazement... I GOT CALLED!  The service rep had my information already at hand, saw that I had been a long-term customer with no promotional deals in a long time, and then listed a number of reductions they'd apply...  $10 off on the cable charge for the next year (I'm doing these from memory, so they might be slightly off), $40 off on internet for the next six months, waiving of the digital box charges for the next six months, and waiving of an additional package fee for the next month.  Overall, I'll probably save around $400 to $500 over the next year.

All for simply asking...

I'm probably a bit in the minority in that I've been pretty satisfied with Comcast in terms of cable and internet service.  Not to say I wouldn't consider other options, but I wasn't in the "drop them at any cost" camp that I often see expressed online.  I've also been impressed with how Comcast adapted their customer outreach on Twitter and became one of the first major companies to utilize that tool effectively.  Today's experience in customer service with Comcast has been very impressive, and it'll go a long ways towards making sure I have a positive view of them as a company, and that I'll likely remain a customer for the foreseeable future...

Nice job, Comcast...


OK... so Comcast Live Chat isn't very helpful in getting your rates reduced...

Category Comcast
Based on a blog posting I read this morning, it appeared I could potentially get my Comcast rates lowered just by asking about other offers they had.  The thought is that it's easier to retain a customer than to acquire one, so they are more than willing to lower rates, often with nothing more than an inquiry.

The blog showed how this particular person was able to do so with nothing more than a Live Chat through the Comcast site.  I decided to try that this morning, but my results were less than satisfactory...

I am looking at ways to lower my cable/internet bill, including possibly switching to another service like Qwest. Are there ways that Comcast can reduce my bill while still keeping the level of service I still have?

user Thomas_ has entered room

Thomas(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:38:10 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I am looking at ways to lower my Comcast bill, including possibly switching to Qwest service. Are there ways to lower my bill while keeping my same service levels here?

analyst Vincenio has entered room

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:49:28 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Hello Thomas_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Vincenio. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:49:31 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

A Comcastic day to you.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:49:34 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

We apologize for  the inconvenience it has caused you. Rest assured, I will do everything at my end to resolve the issue.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:49:36 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I appreciate your time chatting in today regarding your concern. Before we go any further, how's your day so far?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:49:52 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Doing well, thank you.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:50:03 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

That is  nice to ehar.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:50:04 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

How can I gladly assist you today?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:50:55 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I am looking at ways to lower my cable/internet bill, including possibly switching to another service like Qwest. Are there ways that Comcast can reduce my bill while still keeping the level of service I still have?

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:51:20 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

We apologize for the inconvenience, Thomas.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:51:35 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

So, you want to downgrade the services, correct?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:51:40 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:51:58 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I can get the same level of service through competitors like Qwest for lest cost.

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:52:02 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:52:24 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

If I were a new Comcast subscriber, my rates would be lower.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:52:23 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Thank you for the information.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:52:47 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

So, you want an affordable prices for the services, correct?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:54:00 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Yes... Comcast runs specials on a regular basis for new subscribers.  I would like to get my current service at a cost closer to that. The other alternative is to get new service through Qwest equivalent to what I have now for a much-reduced cost.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:55:20 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Sure, I can do that.

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:56:39 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Thomas, I may have to transfer you to my partner is sales for this they have the complete affordable information on the affordable bundles on the area. Would that be okay with you?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:56:49 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:57:12 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Thank you. Please stay on chat while I transfer you.

analyst William has entered room

Vincenio(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:57:55 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

analyst Vincenio has left room

William(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:58:27 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Hello, . Thank you for choosing Comcast!. I will be processing your order. This will take a few minutes so feel free to ask questions while I process your order.How are you today ?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:58:39 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I'm doing fine...

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 04:58:52 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>


William(Wed Dec 16 2009 07:59:08 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Very fine,thank you.

William(Wed Dec 16 2009 08:00:06 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

How can I help you today Mr Thomas?

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 05:00:28 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I am looking at ways to lower my cable/internet bill, including possibly switching to another service like Qwest. Are there ways that Comcast can reduce my bill while still keeping the level of service I still have?

William(Wed Dec 16 2009 08:02:16 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Yes ,correct Mr Thomas you can lower your bill with Comcast but at this time,I am only able to process new service upgrades through our web site.To request a disconnection or other changes in your service,please call 1-888-COMCAST and a Customer account executive will ensure your order is processed correctly.

William(Wed Dec 16 2009 08:03:41 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

I would be happy to assisted you with issue but i am unable to do changes of any service Mr Thomas.

Thomas_(Wed Dec 16 2009 05:03:53 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

OK... then I think we're done here.

William(Wed Dec 16 2009 08:04:09 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time))>

Thank you for contacting Comcast. If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through Live Chat or E-mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Simply visit www.comcast.net and select Help.

Guess I'll have to make an actual <shudder> phone call next...


Book Review - The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry by Lynn Price

Category Book Review Lynn Price The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry
A picture named M2

I'm starting to move into the book writing realm, and I'm doing as much reading as I can to find out exactly how the business of publishing works.  I found Lynn Price's blog, Behler Blog, during my research, and found she also had a book titled The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry.  Loving her snarky style there meant that I was looking forward to a whole book's worth.  And she didn't disappoint.  Price has a great format that combines knowledge from a variety of sources, and shares her own wisdom in her unique style.

Section 1 - Interviews - Casting the flyrod: Agents; The Book Review; Marketing and Sales; Book Shepherd; Bookstore events; Cover design; Distributor; Independent Editor; Warehouse Distribution; Internet Resources; Publicists; Websites; Conclusion
Section 2 - "Forget the bait, pass me the Maalox" - The Submission Process: Before You Bait Your Hook; Myth busting; The Log Line; The Pitch; Author Bio - creating something from nothing; Word count; The Snooze-less Query letter; The s-s-sy-sy-synopsis; Submissions Advice; Apres le query/submission; Rejection; "So why did you reject me?"; The Promotion Plan
Section 3 - "Chumming the Waters": Publishers Are Not Created Equally; The Players; Print-on-Demand - POD; Questions every writer should ask a publisher before querying; Vanity/Subsidy Publication - pay to play
Section 4 - "The Writer's Survival Style Guide": When a manuscript feels sick; Punctuation Beerfest; Submission Autopsy - Part 1 - Show vs. Tell; Submission Autopsy - Part 2 - Backstory, Fluff and Good Intentions; Submission Autopsy - Part 3 - Dialog tags; Submission Autopsy - Part 4 - POV; Physical Descriptions in Blocks of Text - Watch Out For Those Bosoms; Survival Style Guide; Watchful Writing - Mind Your Characters; Do Miracles Happen?
Conclusion; Index

Unlike books that tend to focus on fiction, non-fiction, or specific genres, Price offers up information that spans all writing types.  Section 1 consists of interviews with a number of professionals in the publishing business.  These interviews give the reader an understanding of everything that happens once you have a book or manuscript that is ready to be sprung on an unsuspecting public.  From getting an agent to getting your book on shelves to letting people know your book exists, you'll get a solid understanding and perspective of what you can realistically expect.  And the key word here is "realistic".  Price and her interviewees don't sugarcoat the information or blow smoke.  This is all hard work, and the more you know, the better.

Sections 2 through 4 moves the subject material back onto the side where Price controls the action... the publishing firm.  Here she deals with what an editor will look for in terms of story, pitch, and writing.  She answers the most important questions, such as what makes a successful query letter, how best to approach an editor, and the etiquette of following up on your submission.  This manuscript might be the most important thing in your life, but it's just one of hundreds of submissions that the editor sees on an annual basis.  Don't expect them to have the same love for your work as you do... unless you can successfully get them excited about it with your query.  Section 3 is also very important, as she deals with the topic of "self-publishing" your work.  As a traditional publisher, she has some definite views on that topic.  You may disagree or feel like the old publishing model is dead, but her basic information is solid, and you'll be able to approach that path with eyes wide open if you choose to travel it.

I personally loved Section 4... Price is at her snarky best here.  She pulls no punches on exposing bad writing and sloppy habits, but she also offers ways to clean it up.  I hate to admit that I recognized myself more than once in there, so I have plenty of work to do.  I also know of at least two editors who would send chocolate to Ms. Price if she could cure me of the "wasies"...

The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry is an excellent reference tool for anyone who has fantasies of one day being a published author.  Yes, you might get lucky and have everything just fall into your lap without working at it, but it's far more likely you'll have to travel the ground that Price has mapped out for you.  And her map will make your voyage much more productive.

Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free


Book Review - Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

Category Book Review Scott Berkun Confessions of a Public Speaker
A picture named M2

There are plenty of "proper" books that try and teach you how to stand up in public and give a talk in front of numerous people.  And usually, these books are filled with numerous stories of successful talks and perfect scenarios.  But let's be real... Life isn't like that, and *especially* when your talk tends to cover technical topics.  Scott Berkun draws on his own *very* real experiences as a speaker in Confessions of a Public Speaker to help you through the trials and travails of being on stage.  It's a great read, and I recommend it for any speaker (or speaker wannabe).

I can't see you naked; The attack of the butterflies; $30000 an hour; How to work a tough room; Do not eat the microphone; Photos you don't expect to see; The science of not boring people; Lessons from my 15 minutes of fame; The things people say; The clutch is your friend; Confessions; Backstage notes; The little things pros do; How to make a point; What to do if your talk sucks; What to do when things go wrong; You can't do worse than this; Research and recommendations; How to help this book - a request; Acknowledgments; Photo credits; Index; About the author

You know you're going to get a "different" book with a disclaimer up front that compares his view of speaking to sausage. "Some people like seeing how sausage is made, but many do not."  So true... Scott has had talks where thousands have hung on his every word, and others where five people showed up in a room that would house the same thousand.  As such, he's qualified to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of public speaking.  He's realistic about what you can expect from pursuing the goal of becoming a public speaker.  The odds are stacked against you making $10000 a talk like big name CEOs, actors, and politicians.  But if you practice and take your preparation seriously, you *can* have some fun doing it.  Berkun's tips and techniques are just what you need to step up another level.

There were a number of topics that I thought were critically important.  "Eating the microphone" is one of the worst things to suffer through as a member of the audience. It's when the speaker has not prepared, is fumbling through their notes, and shows a complete and total lack of respect for the audience's time and attention.  If it's important enough for them to be there, it's even more important for you to be prepared with your material and to make the audience the #1 priority.  Another point is made in the chapter on not boring people.  It's far too easy to "shrink" when you get up on stage, thinking that you don't want to be egotistical or a know-it-all.  But you *do* need to project power and authority.  In other words, you have to be larger than you normally are, to play a role that may not be natural but is necessary to be successful.  Both of these points (and a number of others) have me thinking about my next speaking opportunity and what I might do differently to make it more successful.

Confessions of a Public Speaker is one of those books I'd like to see handed out to every speaker at conferences I attend.  Not only would it make the speakers better than they often are, but it would improve the experience for the attendees who pay significant amounts of money to show up.  The time spent reading Confessions is time VERY well spent for everyone involved.  Oh, and by the way... you *have* to read the book to the VERY end... yes, even the colophon and the following page.  It's like sticking around past the movie credits for the short surprise clip... :)
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free


Book Review - Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney

Category Book Review Lue Berney Gutshot Straight
A picture named M2

With the latest newsletters from Amazon Vine, I decided I needed some diversionary reading entertainment.  One of the books I chose was Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney.  I was sucked into it by a description that mentioned a similarity to Hiaasen and Dorsey.  Now while I don't think it was quite like those two writers from a stylistic standpoint, it *was* entertaining.  I'd definitely pick up a Lou Berney novel in the future based on this one.

Charles "Shake" Bouchon has just made it out of jail after serving some time for Grand Theft Auto.  He really wants to avoid getting back into that lifestyle, but within a couple hours of getting out, he's confronted with his old life again.  A former "employer" wants him to do a simple job... drive a car to a particular location, deliver the contents in the trunk, do NOT look in the trunk, and bring back a briefcase.  But curiosity gets the best of him, and he looks... only to discover he's delivering a rather attractive woman, Gina, to someone who will probably not let her stay that way very long.  He attempts to make a deal with the recipient to let Gina go and just forget the whole thing.  But of course THAT doesn't go over very well.  He decides to make a run for it anyway, only to be double-crossed by Gina who he believes to be a housewife, but who is instead a stripper and street rat herself.  Thus starts a crazy chase across continents.  Shake and Gina have a briefcase with "interesting" contents worth millions to the right person, and two different crimelords who are after them for some stolen money, the contents of the briefcase, AND Gina (who still has a price on her head).  And to complicate things even more, Shake isn't too sure he can trust her in the clutch (or any other time).

Gutshot Straight was a lot of fun.  Shake is a very likable small-time criminal who has problems being the "bad person" he needs to be to survive.  Gina is hard to nail down with her ever-shifting stories and alliances.  Together there's a tension that made me keep reading to find out what strange twist would happen next.  In terms of a fun read that let me get away from reality for a bit, this worked very well.

Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free


Book Review - The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception by H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace

Category Book Review H. Keith Melton Robert Wallace The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception
A picture named M2

So what does magic and spycraft have in common?  Actually, more than I thought.  The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception by H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace take the reader back to the 1950's when the CIA was doing everything possible to counter the Soviet threat to the "American way of life."  A program codenamed "Mkultra" included some non-conventional ways to match the Soviets when it came to mind control and covert activities.  One of those side projects included the study of how magic techniques could help agents disguise their moves and communications.  The CIA called John Mulholland, a very well-known magician of the day, and had him teach agents his ability to create distractions and misdirections.  The result of this project was a manual thought to be destroyed in the 1970's.  But a couple of preserved copies were later found, and we now have a look into a unique period in espionage history.

The book starts off with the two authors giving some historical background and context to the project and to Mulholland.  While the CIA had a vast array of devices and drugs for use in the field, they weren't exact easy to administer and use in a covert fashion. Mulholland then started changing the mindset of agents around things like stage management, misdirection, sleight of hand, disguises, escaping, concealments, and other topics.  After the introduction material, the book consists of the actual text of the Mulholland manual, complete with clarified illustrations that were present in the original report.

I found the subject interesting, in that I normally don't connect magic with the type of works a covert agent would employ.  But they really are similar in many senses.  Misdirection when you're trying to plant a bug or drug someone... Hiding tools on one's person to help with escape... Working with partners to establish a cover that will distract the watcher.  It is certainly a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in how to be more "sneaky" if that's something they need to be able to do on a regular basis.  It's not the best read in terms of flow (remember, this *was* a classified CIA report initially), but the content stands out.

Obtained From: Library

Payment: Borrowed


Well worth reading (for more than just the Microsoft angles): Analyst: 'It is game over for Microsoft in consumer'

Category Microsoft
From Mary-Jo Foley: Analyst: 'It is game over for Microsoft in consumer'

Ms. Foley reports on what one highly respected analyst sees coming in 2010 in terms of overall computing technology:

But what if Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie and other leaders at Microsoft are wrong and integrating the consumer and business worlds doesn’t really matter? One very influential market watcher, Mark Anderson, author of the Strategic News Service newsletter, is betting that instead of a melding, there will be an increasing chasm between the consumer and business market.

He lists 10 predictions for 2010, some of which don't bode well for Microsoft.  But since this isn't a Microsoft-centric list, I found a few of the items *very* interesting in terms of business impact, especially #6...

6. There will be a Cloud Catastrophe in 2010 that limits Cloud growth by raising security issues and restricting enterprise trust.  CIOs will see the cloud as the doorstep for industrial espionage.

I think this is the biggest fear that many have with the whole move towards "the Cloud".  You lose control of the physical possession of your data, and one industrious hacker can get into areas that were only fantasies when they sat behind corporate firewalls. That's not to say that premise data was always 100% safe either.  But if you work in the US and your data is located in data centers in China, India, and a storage container in back of Joe's Bar and Grill, there's obviously more points of access.

I recommend reading the article and considering the different predictions he makes.  2010 could shape up to be an interesting year...


Upgrading your Lotusphere slides to the latest LS2010 template that was shipped...

Category LS10
I've been part of a chat of late where the subject of Lotusphere presentation templates has been "discussed"... Actually, it's been 98% ranting (and for good reason), but that's another topic.  Basically, the templates sent to the Lotusphere speakers for the session slides don't seem to be set up very well to apply to existing slide files.  Getting your slides *into* ODP format in the first place is yet another blog posting entirely.  Anyway...

On the two sessions I'm involved with, we had finally gotten the slides converted to the first version of the LS10 template, only to have another version show up this last week.  And true to form, the template didn't update the existing slides following menu options that  you'd think would work (or that the help file would lead you to).

But we have a secret weapon... Julian Robichaux!

In the chat, he offered a couple of solutions that showed some possibilities for getting the new template applied.  The first method worked perfectly for me, and he mentioned that it should be posted for others to use if needed.  And since he's at an office party and who knows WHAT you'd get if he blogged it, I'm filling the gap and listing the steps here...

[10:20:45 AM] Julian Robichaux: here's what I did

[10:22:18 AM] Julian Robichaux: anyway, in Symphony, open your presentation

[10:22:46 AM] Julian Robichaux: then do File - Template Organizer - Launch

[10:23:03 AM] Julian Robichaux: Actions - Import Template

[10:23:27 AM] Julian Robichaux: choose the "template" file that they sent us, and name it something reasonable
 own fonts/ styles etc

[10:24:06 AM] Julian Robichaux: then go to the title slide in your presentation, right-click it, and choose Page Design

[10:24:14 AM] Julian Robichaux: click the "More" button

[10:24:29 AM] Julian Robichaux: choose the template you just imported, and apply the title slide style

[10:25:31 AM] Julian Robichaux: then do the same thing with the second slide in the deck, use the Text Master or whatever it's called, and apply to all the slides other than the title slide

Given that I was looking at manually copying and pasting slides, I was VERY happy to see this work as advertised...

Oh, I did mention he offered a couple of solutions...  If the first option either doesn't work or appeal to you, try the second option he offered...

[10:26:09 AM] Julian Robichaux: or, you can just do whatever the hell you want. That works too


Seriously... thanks for sharing this, Julian!


So... with Windows 7, Lotus Notes is apparently a discardable application according to Microsoft

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
From Mary-Jo Foley's All About Microsoft: Windows 7 compatibility problems? Microsoft might have an app (or service) for that

 Microsoft is obviously pushing companies hard to convert to Windows 7, which is to be expected...

Microsoft is continuing to emphasize its “businesses should upgrade sooner rather than later” message with Windows 7 — and is using both carrots and sticks to push them to do so.

The latest attempt to convince customers comes in the form of take-aways Microsoft officials have uncovered and are sharing publicly from some of the early Windows 7 enterprise deployments. Norm Judah, the Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft Services (the group that encompasses Microsoft Consulting Services, consumer support and commercial support) discussed some of these learnings and offered advice during an interview I had with him on December 7.

Part of these learnings involve examining applications that may not be compatible with the new environment, and discarding them whenever possible... like this:

“There’s also the question as to whether customers really need an (incompatible) application,” Judah said. When performing an evaluation, customers have a chance to figure out which apps are worth taking the trouble to try to fix vs. which can be “discarded,” he said. Judah cited as an example of an app that might be discardable as Lotus Notes… And no, I’m not kidding.

Wow... and I thought Mr. Ballmer was the king of stupid statements at Microsoft. Mr. Judah might well be in line to be the next CEO with stuff like that!

And to Mary-Jo's credit, she knows BS when she hears it...

(Maybe if Microsoft is throwing in a free copy of Exchange plus offering to do all the migration work from Notes to Exchange. Otherwise, I’d tend to think Notes might fall more into the “mission critical” than the “who cares” department.)

Unbelievable... and for those who want to push the "Microsoft just wants to play nicely with Notes" fantasy, you can go back to smoking whatever now...


Book Review - Gator-A-Go-Go by Tim Dorsey

Category Book Review Tim Dorsey Gator-A-Go-Go
A picture named M2

So Tim Dorsey is back with another Serge A. Storms novel, Gator-A-Go-Go, and we have a breakneck trip around Florida learning about all the Florida history they never teach you in school.  In this installment, Serge is working on his own documentary on the phenomenon that is Spring Break in Florida.  And as with every other Dorsey novel, it's nearly impossible to try and explain the plot to someone as there is so much going on.  But that's half the fun of a Dorsey novel... things happen that you just can't explain.  :)

Serge and Coleman end up on the Florida coast during Spring Break, and of course there are plenty of babes and beer for all.  In fact, Coleman is basically a god given his all-out expertise in partying without a net.  While out filming, Serge ends up stumbling onto something that doesn't quite sit well with him.  A group of young kids he's befriended seem to be the target of a group of paid assassins.  While Serge isn't quite sure *why* they want to kill one of the kids, he also knows he won't let it happen on his watch.  Thus starts a wild string of events where plots and stories intersect, diverge, and find each other again.  And all the while, Serge is planning his own brand of justice and revenge on those who are after him.  And if you know how Serge kills people, that's half the fun of the story...

Gator seemed to be somewhat different than previous Serge novels, in that there's an undertone of seriousness in the way Serge goes about his actions as things heat up.  Normally he's all over the map emotionally and mentally, but that trait was tightened down when lives were on the line.  I suppose some could find that a little disappointing, but I found it more interesting than anything else.  It seemed to turn Serge into a more real person than he was in earlier novels.  Coleman had a bit of that going on also.  Yes, he's still completely stoned or drunk all of the time, but now he has a following of spring breakers who are learning how to party with the best.  Coleman is actually passing along knowledge instead of simply bumbling along from one high to another.  Granted, you wouldn't want your kids to *have* that particular knowledge he's giving them, but it's still a change from the character in the past.

Overall, Gator was exactly what I wanted when I got the book... wild, crazy, and no way to prepare yourself for what will happen next.  Dorsey's hard to beat when it comes to this type of writing.

Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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