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Awaiting Moderation 07/02/2010

Posted by TBoehm30 in Success.
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Seriously?  My comment is Awaiting Moderation? 

 Here I am, on an interesting blog commenting about the drudgery of life with a little comedy thrown in and my comment is Awaiting Moderation?  You can’t put it out there immediately, but must review at it first?  What are you looking for?  Are you worried that someone will bad mouth you – more than your own self deprecation?  [You know you can always remove it or edit the comments at any time?]

 I have noticed lately that many blogs set their comments up to post only after being moderated.  Why?  If you are an individual with a reasonably small audience, then any comment would simply be a refreshing notification that you are not writing for the void, but people are actually reading what you wrote.  Not only that, but someone cared enough to write back.  On my blog that is the biggest compliment I could get and I want to share that with the world right away. 

 I dutifully check my blog every few hours to see if anyone cares.  My comments go to my email, so I know pretty quickly if there is new text on the blog; I don’t need to actually check the blog for comments.  If I did, what if I went on vacation?  What if I didn’t check the blog for a couple of days?  That comment would be old by the time it was published.  This is the internet, a tool of immediacy, of no delay.

 If you are a website with a large audience, then what’s the risk?  People are already going to the website.  You are presumably making a few bucks with the advertising.  Do you think one comment, or a few comments, will slip by your editing staff and drive away viewers?  Worried about inappropriate words or ideas?  That’s the beauty of the internet and its ability to gather in the wisdom of the crowd.  You will probably be notified rather quickly when something inappropriate is on your site.

 Are you worried about spam?  Thanks to WordPress and their partnership with Akismet, we don’t have to worry about spam.  Almost every day, I have to delete the crud that is in the spam folder of my comments.  Thankfully, those don’t get forwarded to my email, so I can look at them at a time of my choosing.  I have only allowed 3 comments to be promoted from spam to published in my year and a half of blogging.  I have confidence that spam is not a problem.

 I try to leave a thoughtful comment on interesting websites that I visit; especially those that probably have a small audience.  I try to add to the conversation on the bigger sites.  It lets the world know I am there, and maybe someone else will think my words are interesting.  I’d like to think that my writing is published as-is.  I hope that people don’t take a comment and edit it to sound better, or remove the negative thoughts.

 At least once, I have thought that my comments were edited.  I am pretty sure that when I reviewed a comment, that it was shorter than when I originally submitted it.  (WordPress has a cool feature to review your comments and see what other people have commented on the same blog.)  I think that editing someone’s words is one of the lowest blog crimes you can commit.  I certainly won’t be making more comments on that website; and probably won’t be reading anything there either.

 I have also seen the good site that allows all of their comments, even the negative ones, to be published.  The funny thing is that many of the negative comments are blasted by their fellow commenters.  If the comment is petty, or too critical, people will respond against that negativity.  That is some of the best response of all.  What could be better than John Q. Public defending your product on the internet?

 If you are a marketer (and all you bloggers are marketers whether you know it or not) and you are using the web to reach out to customers, then make a choice.  If you allow comments, then use a hands-off approach.  Allow the comments to be unfiltered.  Try to react quickly to inappropriate language, but let the nay-sayers have their say.  You might be surprised at how well that works.

How IT Can Communicate with the Business 09/25/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in Success.
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1 comment so far

I always find it fascinating when people don’t understand tech-speak. Like any specialization, they have their own Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs), terms, and new names for their products. It is impossible to keep up with all of them, even if you are in IT yourself.

The key to communication is explaining those TLAs to business people, or asking for clarification from IT. If either side is deficient in these tasks, then poor understanding will result. This happens all the time and there are many reasons for this problem. Understanding the causes may help both sides to become better communicators.

On the IT side, people probably have had little training or experience in good communication. Their education and beginning job responsibilities have been to solve problems. If you are good at solving the problems, then you have met or exceeded your expectations, and nothing further is needed. At my first job, supporting the West Coast with their software, we had a person who’s full time job was to be the communicator between my solutions and their problems. [Thanks Betsy] She always knew what was going on at the company, talked to the higher ups, and let the rest of us in on the secrets.

On the Business side, communication is probably the number 1 priority for their first jobs. Consultants prove their value with status reports and deliverables; project managers have meetings to keep up with what is going on, and team-leads or first-time managers report to their managers on the status of their people. They have learned the art of communication from the bottom up. However, they still may not be able to effectively communicate with many in IT.

The problem could simply be one of attention. IT people tend to be detail oriented. When they get task focused, they see the details and need to handle them. When asked for status, they will talk about what they are working on, which could be the details. Looking at the details of any project can be confusing if you don’t have the intimate details. It’s probably not what a project manager really wants anyway. They most likely want a quick summary of all the tasks, not just the current trouble.

Another problem could be one of personality. Many IT people are introverted. That could mean that talking to others, especially new people, is draining on them emotionally and physically. Even if an introverted person is good at getting his/her point across, it may be tiring to do so. That person probably won’t seek out the opportunity to talk to people who will need excessive explanations. An extroverted person, however, may just expect people to come to him when needed. If that doesn’t happen then tasks can be lost, and a crisis could occur.

Some IT people focus on the infrastructure. They like to talk about the servers, the network, the bandwidth, etc. Some IT people focus on the software. They like to talk about the programs, the operating system, the customizations, etc. If the person on the receiving end of this conversation is not fluent in the IT-speak of the moment, then this will not be a fun discussion. It is so important to be speaking the same language.

A problem that can occur between beginner IT staff and executives is one of priorities. Many IT staffers are reactive. They will fix things as they break, and then move on to the next problem. Executives, especially higher up executives such as the ones at the C-level, want longer term solutions. They want to talk about pro-active solutions. They want to know what the new system will cost, once they see that the old system has problems. It’s difficult for people with such differing priorities to settle down on one topic.

Finally, there’s the idea of independence. Many IT people are such good problem solvers that they want to work alone. They feel that if they are qualified to reach their goals by themselves, then why do they need interference? Some highly experienced IT people may have gotten where they are by being the hero and getting past any dilemma. They may not want to work with other people. It may even be worse if the other people don’t understand what he/she is doing.

We’ve all seen, or been involved in, bad communication issues between people of differing backgrounds. At work, it can be even worse. People working in different functional departments don’t always understand the other people at the company. We all need to work on our communication skills, take a look at the world from someone else’s viewpoint, and be patient.

I’m not trying to imply that this is the whole of reality, and that all IT people, and business types, fit into these categories. I am simply making observations of my world and trying to write something that might help. Knowing how someone else is thinking just may help you get your point across.

So go out there and communicate!

10,000 hours 03/06/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in Success.
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I will normally limit this blog to technical issues directly within my experience. I will avoid any long rants about traffic, poorly organized restaurants, spoiled food at the grocery store, and people who talk to much. However, I have just found out the secret of success. Let me say that louder:

The Secret of Success
The secret to becoming an expert in something turns out to be 10,000 hours. That works out to 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 10 years.

I am listening to the new book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Let me digress for a second with a quick talk about listening to books. I am a member of Audible.Com, so that I can cheaply download books to my iPod or iPhone. I listen to them on the way home while fighting traffic (insert your own traffic rant here). It is a fantastic service in that they keep my library as a backup, so I can re-load books on newer computers, or ones that I’ve fixed. I listen to books for self improvement, not the Science Fiction books I normally read.

He describes many people, with different job descriptions, who became successful because of their preparation. He claims that success has less to do with talent than simple repitition. Bill Gates had tremendous opportunities for programming when he was young; he got in his 10,000 hours in time to take advantage of a new technology. The Beatles put in their 10,000 hours on stage. Look at professional piano players, violinists, hockey players, the list goes on.

For anyone out there who still has the ability to focus 10,000 hours of their life on a single activity, I say “Do It”. This has got me incredibly excited. Want to know why I am such a good programmer? I got my first computer at 13. I learned Cobol, Pascal, and RPG in high school. I majored in Computer Science in college, and then got my first real job doing programming support. I easily put in 10,000 hours.

I am encouraging my kids to think about what they want to do. My daughter might be an author, I told her to write. It doesn’t matter what she writes, it will get better over time – 10,000 hours worth of time.

If you are older, have a family, a mortgage, and adult responsibilities, you may not think you have time for that 10,000 hours. It does seem a daunting task. However, in this economy why not try? Even a little preparation has got to be better than none. Who knows where it will take you.