Will Provide Technology Leadership for Food

The irony of the timing of my last post followed by this one is not lost on me.  When I wrote that ebook and posted it I had a great team of technology professionals, a job that I liked a whole lot, and a pretty good idea of what the future was going to look like.  Now, not so much. 

I won’t go into the gory details, they are easy enough to find on the Interwebs (just search for Sommet Group and try not to cry).  I do, however want to say a few words about the folks I have been fortunate enough to associate with for the last four and a half years.  The team that we assembled is hands down the best group of developers I have ever been around.  The infrastructure team was solid and dependable.  I could throw anything at them and they would just take care of it.  I am a better person for having worked with them.

It wasn’t just the teams that I was personally involved with, either.  My colleague and good friend Steve Lacey’s team of analysts and quality control people were constantly surprising and impressing me with their dedication and hard work.  Steve himself helped me to grow in ways I’m sure even he can’t comprehend.  I will miss our daily association.

So I find myself in the job market unexpectedly.  I know that this very thing has happened to thousands over the past two years, and I have certainly been sympathetic in an abstract way for those affected.  But nothing really can prepare you for the feeling of free-fall that comes with suddenly having that part of your identity taken away. 

I have been very fortunate over the years.  More often than not, interesting job opportunities have found me.  I can barely remember the last time I was out actively job hunting.  I am optimistic, though.  I have a wonderful, caring network of friends and colleagues who have poured out their support and well-wishes for both me and the teams that I led.  I thank you all.

Now, onward and upward.

Tech Job Seekers of the World, UNITE!

I am excited to announce the launch of my first ebook!  I have been working on this for some time now and I am really pleased with how it turned out.  My thanks to all of the people who helped me out with proofreading, research, and general encouragement.  I couldn’t have done it without you! 

To all the folks out there looking for jobs in the technology industry, I would love to hear your feedback and stories.  Please, let me know how (if) this helps you out.  If you know someone who is looking, please pass it along!

Download it here!

Free Software Friday 12

Recently I came across Intuit’s Billing Manager.  It is a VERY simple way to invoice your clients and keep track of payments.  Did I mention it was free?  It lets you send unlimited invoices to unlimited clients.  Seriously, you can sign up and have an invoice sent out in less time than it will take to you to read this post. 

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Billing Manager lets you (for a fee) make use of Inuit’s Merchant service to accept credit cards, and you can even seamlessly upgrade to Quickbooks online.  Pretty slick of them.

Seriously, if you need basic invoicing and payment tracking ability, you should check this out.

What Bothers You about Technology?

I am UTTERLY immersed in technology.  I love it.  I use technology for my job, my finances, and now even reading.  It’s amazingly useful to me.  I am, however, painfully aware that technology is FAR from perfect.  I experience the pains and frustrations of getting some device or program to behave just like anyone else does.

I spent several maddening hours the other day trying to get a firewall to do what I wanted.  Unsuccessfully, even!  I have been working on firewalls for longer than I want to admit, and I couldn’t make this stupid thing act right. 

This exercise got me to thinking about all the folks out there that are dependent on technology for their businesses and even their lives who have to struggle with this sort of thing on a daily basis.  What is your biggest pain point around technology?  If I could give you magic computer pixie dust and solve your greatest problem, what would it be?

I am very interested in hearing what you have to say.  Post in the comments or email me at dave.purdon [at] gmail dot com. 

When two Posts Collide

Serendipity is an amazing thing.  I just happened to read these two blog posts back to back. I read both of these blogs regularly and I find myself nodding as I read them many times.  Today though, by some chance I read them sequentially and it really set off a firestorm of ideas.

spaceexplosion

The first was by Seth Godin, speaking on getting referrals.  He postulates, “The only thing that will make you remarkable is being worth remarking about”.  So that’s on the front side.  Getting people to refer business to you is all about being worthy of their efforts on your behalf.

The second post was by Steve Curtin, speaking about customer retention.  He says (quoting from Exceptional Service Exceptional Profit) “Individual customers are irreplaceable”.  Once you lose a customer, he’s gone for good.  You have to know how much a customer is worth to you over a lifetime and then treat them accordingly.

This all came together in a very concrete way because DirecTV has been trying to get me to come back to them for months.  I switched to cable because I got lousy service.  Plain and simple.  Even before I ditched them, they continually tried to get me to sacrifice my friends and family to their vengeful god by offering me money and discounts.  Honestly, if they had just treated me fairly, I would still be with them.  (I’m lazy.  I don’t change unless I have to.)  If, heaven forbid, they had treated me well, I would have told other about them.  FOR FREE EVEN!

Don’t be DirecTV.  Be fair and you won’t lose irreplaceable customers.  Be excellent and your work will spread beyond your reach.

Free Software Friday 11

This installment comes to us courtesy of a colleague and a gentleman, Steve Lacey.  He sent me over the link and I really thought this was cool.  Allow me to set it up a bit.

I have been called an idea hamster. I admit it.  I get jazzed up on some concept, think about it and plot a bit, and then move on to the next one.  Execution has been a struggle for me in some ways.  I just can’t ever seem to foc…hey, look!  Ooooh, something shiny!

Anyway, this software is called PersonalBrain.  I’m not sure that it will help out with my execution problems, but it WILL let me think of ideas much FASTER.  WOOT!  Take a look:

 

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It may not look like much to you, but this is one powerful tool for visualizing what’s important to you.  A few things I think are just killer:

  1. You can copy OR link to files on your computer (and network!).
  2. You can link to web sites and even configure how many links deep you want it to go.
  3. The search/indexing is amazing. 
  4. “Show Forgotten Thoughts” is like a recycle bin for your thoughts, which I think is pretty nifty.

The pay versions of this package are a little pricey, $150 for Core and $250 for Professional, but it seems to have a lot of functionality in the free product.  If you feel like you don’t have enough ideas in your life, I guarantee that this will spark some new ones!

Kindle Findings

A while back, I broke down and bought a Kindle.  It’s shiny.  It’s well-made.  I take it with me everywhere.  It does not, however, accelerate or even keep a pace with my reading speed of paper.  A while back I said that I would be testing this thing out with my first three books.  Here are my results:

  Pages in the Print Version Total Time to Read Pages/Minute
Drive (Business) 256 3 h 51 m 1.11
First Lord’s Fury (Fiction) 480 4 h 15 m 1.88
Beginning Ruby (Technical) 656 8 h 21 m 1.30

Just for a reference point, I read paperback fiction at around 2.3 – 2.5 pages/minute.  It goes down from there for technical and business type books.

So, I read slower on the Kindle.  Quite a bit slower, actually.  I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time, but then it dawned on me.  I have to turn the page MUCH more often.  There is the slightest delay as the screen redraws itself and it happens every time you hit the Next Page button.  I’m pretty sure that’s the culprit. 

Anyway, apart from the speed issue, I love the device.  I can get books in the airport, sitting in the car waiting for during my kids’ piano practice, or in my bed at one in the morning.  Some titles I’ve looked for and they don’t have for Kindle yet, but the vast majority of what I have wanted was right there.  It’s too easy, actually.  When you search on the device for books, the Buy button is highlighted by default and if you click on it, it’ll charge your card and start sending the book in less than 20 seconds.  Impressive, but dangerous for someone like me…

Free Software Friday 10

Ok, so that title is a lie this week.  Not even a little true.  The cool software that you NEED to check out right now is not free.  It is a whopping $5/month per computer.  Let me tell you why I have violated my own free software principles to recommend this package. 

But first, indulge me while I relate a cautionary tale.  This week a gentleman that I know came to me with his wife’s iMac and told me that the hard drive was dead.  I took a look at it and quickly verified that it was not just dead, but what I like to call dead dead.  As in the drive doesn’t spin up at all, no movement no vibration, nothing.  I can do nothing for someone in this situation other than recommend some high priced recovery services which will charge you whether they get your data back or not.

He said not to worry, they had an external drive for a backup.  I thought little of it until the next time I saw him when he told me that his wife was a basket case because the external drive had failed also. All of their picture, financial data, email, etc was now apparently gone.  What a horrible feeling!  As a technology guy, that’s one of the worst things to have to tell someone.  (Don’t worry, I got their data back from the external drive.)

The moral of this story is that hard drives are evil.  There are only two kinds of hard drives in the world.  Dying and dead.  (If I were a morbid person, I would say the same thing about people.)  Don’t trust them.  They will hose you.  If your pictures don’t exist in more than one place, you will regret it sooner or later. 

This brings me back to the software topic that we started with.  There’s a great service called BackBlaze and your $5 per computer per month will get you UNLIMITED storage.  That’s right UNLIMITED storage. 

It works for both Mac and Windows clients (no servers though).  It compresses your files, de-duplicates, it slices and dices all for a low low price.  Seriously, you NEED to back up your data.  Go now.  This is your first official directive from me.  If you are not backing up, or if you are only backing up to a drive or dvds or something at your house (what happens if there’s a fire?), go get this service.

Get Real

A few days ago, I was talking to a person for whom I have the utmost respect.  I particularly respect his ability to sit with a client and make a solid connection in a very short amount of time.  If you have an angry client situation, this guy is the ultimate troubleshooter. 

 

File:Latex real numbers.svg

 

He told me about a situation where he was sitting with a client and talking about raising the rates that they were being charged.  Anyone who has ever had to do that knows that it’s not fun for either side.  He described how he showed them usage figures and told them about the increased costs based on the client’s growth.  He made a rational, intelligent case for the increase. 

The client didn’t get it.

In spite of my friend’s explanation and facts and figures and considerable powers of persuasion, they didn’t really understand.  All they heard was, you’re going to have to pay more.  They got to the end of the meeting and, being the perceptive person that he is, he knew they didn’t get it. 

He told me that he stopped just before they were about to get up to leave, and he said “Guys, I just want to say something before we leave.”  He proceeded to tell them in BASIC, REAL terms why he had to raise their rates and why he couldn’t continue to serve and maintain his high standards at the old rate.  He was sincere, he was direct, and they got it.

For me, knowing how superb a communicator my friend is, this was a wake-up call.  If this guy struggled in making his audience understand, how much harder do I need to work to get my point across?  How much effort do I need to expend in connecting with the people I need to communicate with?  How much more thought needs to go into reducing the noise and increasing the signal in my conversation?

</food for thought>

 

 

(In case you wonder, that’s the symbol for Real Numbers.  And no, I’m not a math geek…)

Free Software Friday

This week’s entry comes courtesy of my esteemed colleague, Alex Robson.  It’s a sweet little app that runs totally in your browser and seems to do just about everything that Microsoft Visio does.

Diagrams, flow-charts, floor plans, you name it and gliffy.com can handle it.  It takes about 30 seconds to get started with this tool and it is surprisingly simple.  The interface is clean and straightforward:

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I was really surprised to see you can do things like copy/paste and grouping shapes.  Obviously Visio can do far more, but if you just use the basics like I do, this is a great lightweight replacement.  (Fear not, you can save your stuff as an SVG file which Visio can open.) 

If you opt for the pay version, it’s just five bucks a month and it gives you some really cool collaboration features and increases your storage.  Check it out!