Gadget mania:)

With the number of electronic devices in the hands of our clients now it is truly a miracle they have not rioted against all of IT.  I have a sincere respect for them just based on the massive amount of patience they have for learning, caring for and using the large number of crazy devices we support for them.

If you have a full arsenal of gadgets for work and home and feel as if you are reaching your breaking point, then take a deep breath and keep the following tips noted below in mind for a happy life.

  • If you are unable to turn off all devices for quality time with other humans or for strolls in nature for a set amount of time each day, then you are probably going to self-destruct in some weird and ugly way in front of witnesses in a public place.  No one wants that.  Just turn the gadgets off and do your thing.
  • Understand how to update the gadget to keep it running well.  Check for updates weekly.
  • Understand how to turn off, turn on and hard reboot the gadget.  Avoid leaving computer-like gadgets in an on state for weeks at a time, rebooting is very important as is normally shutting down every few days to avoid all sorts of performance issues.
  • Understand how to backup data from the gadget to another gadget (like to an external hard drive) that you then store in a separate place (any detached structure from your home or office that is secure).  Backup your data on a regular schedule and never deviate from this schedule.
  • Know that if you enjoy a huge bowl of Captain Crunch while reaching over your gadget to snag a book that is sliding off of a shelf, then the Captain Crunch is going to spill all over the gadget rendering it completely unusable…probably forever.

Noting the creepy factor when implementing video conferencing or video chatting tools like Skype in the workplace

Video conferencing and video chat are seriously valuable tools for businesses and families alike. This article focuses on the use of these tools in a business setting and how to identify and deal with misuse.

Two types of employees make the use of these tools a problem in the workplace: the gossiper and the pervert. These types of employees already make normal employees uncomfortable in everyday office situations. When employers add in forced face-to-face video communication where normal employees are on display (with zoom capability) with undesirables, the meetings become unsettling.

The gossiper is very easy to identify. He or she, after the meeting, quickly relays to anyone who will listen inappropriate information regarding meeting attendees.

Though easy to identify, the gossiper may be hard to silence. Over time the gossiper may also create a truly toxic environment and even jeopardize the welfare of the company or safety of other employees if they spill company secrets or safety protocols to other people. If you have trouble with gossipers in the workplace now, incorporating video communication may intensify the toxicity. Proceed with caution.

Perverts can be extremely difficult to identify because they often make inappropriate comments or gestures towards others in one-on-one encounters. This behavior is difficult to identify in a group setting. Employees may also misidentify someone as being a pervert and immediately shut down all communication with them. This strategy of course will never solve the problem if there in fact is a problem.

If you are running video meetings or managing people that are participating in them, carefully examine how people are interacting during the meetings. If something seems off, like communication is not natural, there is too much silence, or a normal employee is suddenly agitated then there could be a problem.

Here are a few suggestions that may make meetings like this bearable if you notice issues in current video-enabled meetings:

  • Make it part of the meeting policy to include meeting rules (rules are short and easy to understand) inside the meeting invitation (at the very top) of every video-enabled meeting invitation sent out so all participants understand how to behave during and after all video-enabled meetings. In the rules, be sure to clearly identify the types of inappropriate employees that make meetings difficult in the workplace.
  • Recommend that employees sit several feet away from the camera and behind a desk, so they are viewed as they are in normal in-person meetings where personal space is acknowledged (no one is looking up anyone else’s nose).
  • Give employees the option to turn the video portion off so participants cannot see them.

Good luck:)

Being internet stupid must stop, how can people believe this junk?

Holy schnikes.  I ran into another case of a person being duped by misinformation on Facebook this weekend.  I’ve lost my patience with the spread of misinformation and from now on the nicest thing I can call it is being internet stupid.

This is the conversation I had that brought this issue to light for the 8 billionth time:

An educated adult who has been in the workforce for many years was telling me about the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show and various facts about Mr. Rogers himself.  Facts about Mr. Rogers are well known and are easy to verify so I was really surprised that this person was so drastically misinformed about Mr. Rogers.  When I inquired as to where they had uncovered such nonsense, the reply was something I had already suspected:  Facebook.  The person was stunned that what they had read about Mr. Rogers on a Facebook post was so far from the truth.  The person kept repeating things like “the post seemed so believable”, “I can’t believe I was fooled”, blah blah blah blah.  I will not link to the actual Facebook post here because I do not want to contribute to the spread of misinformation but the post went into detail about a military career that is purely fiction.

I avoided launching into a tirade about misinformation because we all must deal with it so I kept it light and just reminded the person that a social network is just a social network, expect no more than what you would obtain from conversations in a public place with strangers and if you are going to pass along information you have learned from these encounters then you need to fact check first.

Everyone complains about our news organizations (ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN, newspapers, etc) but these news organizations have shown for many, many, many, many years an attempt to deliver news to us with an attempt to fact check and they are held accountable for their mistakes – not always immediately – but they are in many cases.  Random morons floating around Facebook (and other areas of the Internet) that are posting information that has in no way been checked for accuracy are rarely held accountable for the misinformation they spread.  If their account is blocked, they just open another one.  It is up to you to do proper research before spreading information to the entire world with one click of a button.

Good luck.

Feedback form landfill

Why would a perfectly good company with a sweet web site have a feedback form on the web site yet never reply in any way to anything submitted via the feedback form?  I bet the Magic 8 Ball cannot even answer this one.

As an introvert, I love the feedback form.  The feedback form allows me to submit my question or request without interacting with humans.  If I have not heard back from anyone at the company within three weeks then I assume copious amounts of infighting are taking place within the organization causing normal day-to-day operations to cease.

I guess I could blame the webmaster but since I am a webmaster as well, I just cannot do that.  I realize some of these form submissions go straight to the email box of specific individuals within an organization and depending on those persons goals in life, my data coming into their email box may be the number one priority or not even fall on their radar.

If you are a webmaster, and you or your clients are ignoring feedback form requests coming in, I recommend removing the feedback form from the web site immediately.  Ignoring requests coming in is not only wasting the time of the visitor filling the form out but it is also generating content that you or your clients have to read and deal with and if no one is caring for this data then the process needs to stop.  This stop action will now free up the time of the visitors so they may begin their lifelong wish of learning how to cross-country ski and you and your clients now have the opportunity to play Pac-Man without interruption.

To give you an idea of how frustrating it is to be ignored, I have included a feedback form below, please fill it out and I promise I will never acknowledge the existence of your form submission.  After about one month of waiting for a reply from me, you will find yourself slightly agitated and morose.  These feelings will soon pass but then a giant wave of regret will follow and you will wish you had never filled this form out.  Once you have reached this stage there is nothing you can do but wait it out, preferably in a hot tub on cool nights and just hope for the best.

Scrum and Agile Project Management: meeting and scope creep wasteland (maybe)

I really like seeing happy people; it makes me feel better about the world when I see happy people.  Kindness, great attitudes, respect for others and hope for tomorrow are a huge part of what make communities and workplaces thrive.  My appreciation for happiness is why it has taken me so long to write this article because I feel like I am complaining about happy people.  For this, I sincerely apologize.

I have worked in a few IT shops that have attempted the Scrum and Agile process.  From my limited exposure to this process, I have noted a few disturbing similarities:

  • The crazy amount of face time chatter that occurs in multiple planning meetings with coworkers. I can look past this because, as a long time introvert, I am highly skilled in tuning out humans that are speaking yet saying nothing. I bring work to these meetings that I can delve into when the clock passes the time limit of 10 minutes and extends into 90 minutes of giggles, jokes, complaining, etc.
  • The unusual and frequent “sprints” of activity that seem to exist for the sole benefit of providing eye candy to clients. From what I have witnessed, this activity does not keep clients in the loop; it only provides a platform for clients to add more requirements to an already agreed upon set of requirements.  I am all for scope creep because we are human, it keeps me coding and I am giving clients what they want.  However, enabling extreme scope creep means you are promoting an environment where no one has to sit, think and plan before meetings.   I rarely see extreme scope creep, but when I do it is when participants have to attend many meetings and they arrive at each meeting unprepared where they then rattle off unrelated and messy concepts about processes.
  • The Agile and Scrum process seems to attract feverish support from the more social application developers. They talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about anything and everything and at the end of the day, there is no code.  I appreciate this type of developer for their great attitude but when they are in charge of Scrum and Agile processes, they end up keeping many people in meetings with them each week that far exceed what is needed.

The to do list, client and IT communication, and weekly accountability of the Scrum and Agile process are WONDERFUL but these are things I already do so I don’t really have a solid argument for Scrum and Agile due to what I have experienced to date.

If you are in the midst of implementing the Scrum and Agile process, my advice to you (based on my meager experience with it) is:

  • keep the 4 billion meetings to a strict time limit
  • ensure the welcoming of scope creep does not promote lazy preparation for documenting processes and determining requirements
  • avoid thoughts of destroying happy people, they are critical for the survival of the human spirit

Good luck.

Easy ways to spot fake social media accounts

When a few of my family members started using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I was quickly reminded of how humans seem to be naturally inclined to believe everything they see in print.   I had to cover a few basics with them once they started interacting on social media platforms because they initially went through a phase where they believed, in some instances, that they were interacting with real people when it fact they were actually just interacting with bots.

Keep the following tips in mind if you are new to social media, they may help you identify fictitious online accounts (and the rule is to just ignore them or if they are posting threats then report them):

  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does each follower have a “perfectly beautiful face and model clothing?” – if so then the person is probably not real and neither are any of their followers
  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does the person have a very small number of followers (like 10) but they are following thousands of people? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only forward existing posts from other people and never actually say anything themselves? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only post the same “type” of material all day long? (like they only post quotes from famous people, never posting anything “genuine”) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person send private messages to you that are generic phrases that would apply to a million scenarios? (like this: “Hey, so nice to meet you, it is a big world out there, I like to connect) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person post messages at the same interval each day (like at the top of every hour or every day at exactly 2:30pm) then the person is probably not real

Avoid using social media for anything other than socializing.  Obtaining news about current events for your community and nation should be obtained from traditional news organizations who have a track record of many years of attempting to relay facts to the public.

Video gaming descent into nothingness, what is going on?

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My circle of peeps since as far back as me being a kid in Lima, Ohio, and playing heated games of softball in the boulevard after school, have always been a mixture of active and/or intelligent humans with an over-the-top zest for life.

My first FANTASTIC introduction to video games during my childhood, Atari, never pulled my focus away from living in the real world for long each day and why would it? How could it? With the sun shining, the birds singing, bugs biting and bikes to ride, it never dawned on me (even as an introvert) to hide on the couch and jump into digital make-believe for hours at a time.

I reflect on my childhood now when I read the news and when I listen to some of our friends complain of their children’s descent into long periods of digital nothingness.  I worry humans are becoming more and more detached from society.   I understand the attraction of the digital world because reality is difficult, scary, painful and messy with the rare and perfect sprinkle of fabulous that makes it all worthwhile.  But I also understand, as does the scientific community, what happens to humans and animals long-term when live social interaction is significantly diminished:  physical and mental health deteriorate.

If you or your children are descending into a nothing abyss via the Internet or video gaming highway, make a resolution to makes some changes.  Nothing drastic, it can start with taking a walk each day or pick up the phone and call your Great Grandmother Mildred who is probably cursing you right now because she hasn’t heard from you in 5 years, or get a hamster – http://www.myhamsterzoo.com.  What are you waiting for?

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