What makes me paranoid…

When the 2 cleaning girls go into my bathroom and start laughing… uncontrollably… for 10 minutes… What the hell did they find in there?!

More on privacy in the Web 2.0 world

The other day, in response to my original posting on privacy on the web, Tk said that he hoped “future employers will look past my personal life and focus on what is really important – the value my skills bring to their organization.“  I want to agree with him, however, it looks like not everyone is of the same opinion, at least not in Arlington, Oregon. On Monday, voters in this small town decided to remove their mayor, Carmen Kontur-Gronquist, from the office because of some photos of her that were posted on Myspace.com. Apparently, in the pictures taken for a fitness contest before Ms. Kontur-Gronquist even became the mayor, she posed in her underwear on a fire truck. And while she too thought that her personal life had nothing to do with her mayor’s position, majority of the residents disagreed, finding this very fit woman to be unfit to represent the public image of their town.

What a pity! I think the city of Arlington could’ve used this opportunity to generate a great PR campaign representing their town as a healthy place to live, an active and fitness tourism destination attraction. But I suppose it wouldn’t have worked anyway, considering that the 3 largest employers in this town all deal with solid and chemical waste.

Tell them what you did

In project management, like in everything else, it is sometimes beneficial to be reminded of the simple truths… In a meeting the other day, the president of the company we were meeting with complained about poor status reporting delivered by his service staff. The company differentiates itself from its competition based on the additional value provided to customers through its service offerings. However, the service staff often neglect to give customers status reports and updates, leaving the customer unaware of the additional services provided.

This message hit home for me. As consultants, we often set off to do great things for our clients and we do a great job. But what happens when we are done? If we don’t tell the client what a great job we did, does the client know? More importantly, does the client appreciate all of our efforts? The answer is probably not.

If we leave our clients with nothing but the final product and a bill, no matter how great the final product may be, they are not likely to appreciate all the extra effort and work that we’ve put into it. They are not likely to appreciate that what we delivered not only meets their original requirements but also solves an additional problem or two that we discovered in the course of the project. They are not likely to appreciate the extra features that we added to make this thing is more usable and easier to configure. All they will see is the final result and the bill. And today there are many other people who can deliver the final result for a cheaper.

Think of it as a car… If all your customer asked for was a car, you can deliver either a Tata Nano for $2500 or a BMW 535 for $55, 000. If you estimated, built and delivered a BMW, you better have enough documentation and status reports to point out and explain the heated seats, the 0-60 acceleration, the premium sound system and the myriad of other bells-and-whistles that you had included in the final result. Because if all your client sees is 4 wheels, a car body and a steering wheel, next time he’ll want a car, he’ll probably go to the folks who can build him a Tata for $2500 – the end result is the same, right?

So if you want your customers and clients to appreciate all the extra work and effort that you put into their projects, all the extra little stuff that you deliver, tell them what you did! Don’t be ashamed of it. Toot your own horn! And chances are, they will love you for it.

Privacy in the Web 2.0 world

It seems to me that nearly every day I’m faced with an issue of privacy on the web. Between Facebook, this Blog, LinkedIn and general email, I’m always dealing with a dilemma of what to say and what not to say, what should I do and what steps to avoid.

In general, I’m a fairly private person. I don’t readily divulge details of my life to people. Ask me about my hometown, my childhood and I will probably clam up all together. It’s taken me years to get to the point where I can freely discuss very general points of my family life even with light acquaintances. So how do I write about it on the web, where pretty much the whole world can read it, if they choose too?

Nowadays, you always read stories about people Googling their dates, employers checking out Facebook and MySpace profiles of job applicants. Is my date really what s/he portrays themselves to be? Does the person I’m about to interview for a job likes to pose for the camera in their underwear?

Actions speak louder than words. Never mind the blog entries, Facebook broadcasts to all your friends what you just did. LinkedIn announces to all the people in your network when you update your profile or add new contacts. On both websites I am connected with friends, coworkers, business partners, customers. So how would it look if I were to join the Vote For Andrea to Win the Zoo Heavenly Bodies Competition!!!!! group on Facebook? Or if I played poker in the middle of the day? Or posted a new blog entry? Am I slacking of? Do I have a potential for having sexual harassment complaints filed against me? And then there are the various messages your friends post on the wall(s) in your profile… I’ve actually had to ask friends to refrain from posting certain types of comments on my profile. So am I now being callous towards my friends in order to protect my outward image?

On LinkedIn, if I added a headhunter or a contact from a competitor’s firm to my network, does it mean I’m interviewing? Should the red flags go off and my bosses get ready for me to hand in my resignation?

What do my activities in cyber space say about me as a person? And do they reflect the reality of who I am? These are some of the questions I constantly struggle with. At this point, on Facebook, I’m being extra careful in filtering what information people see. And I endlessly agonize over editing my blog entries prior to publishing them.

The worst part about it, what probably scares me the most is that this stuff is likely to stay out there for years to come. When I’m 50-years-old, I know that I myself will be embarrassed to read my own blog entries of today. What will it look like to my coworkers and business partners then?

Lotus Symphony does have a compelling message

Once again, I walk out of a meeting with mixed feelings. The meeting was focused on upgrading to Lotus Notes/Domino 8. On one hand, I’m once again impressed by the compelling story that IBM tells with Notes 8, Symphony and the rest of the Lotus brand. All I have to do is to describe some of the features and benefits of Notes 8 and talk about Symphony eliminating the need for MS Office licenses and being supported by IBM. It is one hell of a story. The Symphony part really gets folks going – everyone likes to get something for nothing.The Symphony message is awesome – you don’t have to pay through the nose for Office licenses for folks who write a couple of memos a week and maybe need to open a spreadsheet or 2. Implement Symphony instead of Office and the upgrade project may pay for itself. Who ever heard of an infrastructure project actually delivering an ROI?!

On the other hand, I’m taken aback by how little awareness exists in the SMB market when it comes to Lotus products. In every one of these meetings I have to go through a lengthy explanation of what exactly is Symphony. Very often people don’t even know about OpenOffice. I think that so far in every meeting there was at least one person who wrote down openoffice.org with intentions of going home to download and install it on so-and-so’s computer.

I have to admit that I utterly enjoy these meetings. I get to educate people, get them excited anew about the Lotus brand, help them recognize it as a strong competitor in the markets where they didn’t expect it to compete, like in desktop productivity tools. In short, I get to evangelize. Gospel according to Alex – how about that?! Just hope I won’t be martyred for that.

On the flip side, I wish IBM was making a bigger effort to spread the word. The number of people I can reach is small. IBM can reach a much larger audience and more efficiently through mass media advertising. I keep looking for those TV spots that Marjorie had promised during the BD Day at Lotusphere.

Stuff you find on Google…

Why I did this, I don’t know.  I Googled “my tochus” and, never mind the 881 hits, the first result was this blog.  It is a wire haired terrier’s blog written, although hopefully by his owners, as the terrier himself in the first person.  This blog has been regularly updated since June of 2005 and has even received some awards.  Dogs with blogs?! Learn something new everyday.

Incidentally, by using “my tochus” in a sentence inside of 2 — count them.. TWO! — blog postings, I’m hoping to beat Axel, the wire haired terrier, in Google results for the said word combination.

IBM Lotus Documents ate my homework!

Honest! It did!

Well, not homework, to be exact, but my blog entries. How about that? I thought I’d be proactive and write a couple of new entries while they are fresh in my mind. In the past I had used OpenOffice for that, so my files are saved as *.odt. I recently reinstalled Notes 8, and Lotus Documents decided to register themselves as the default application for *.odt files. Dangle a carrot in front of a donkey! I decided to use Lotus Documents to edit the file. Double-click, open the document, start typing, switch between it and Firefox… And I can’t switch back! The open document is frozen together with my email and a couple of other open Notes databases. A few tricks of the keyboard-and-mouse kind and then Task Manager – End application. Crap! IBM Lotus Documents – my tochus! I’m gonna blame it all on Beta 8.0.1. But in the mean time, it’s back to OpenOffice.

Congratulations, Jimmy Minata!

“Congratulations! Jimmy Minata has been selected as a remote resident for the upcoming ITSO Best Practices for Building Web Applications for Domino 8 residency. This remote residency is scheduled to run from March 3 to March 28.”

I’m very excited that Jimmy, one of the consultants on our Notes/Domino team at PSC, was accepted to participate the development of one of the first wikis, which are to become replacements for the IBM Lotus Redbooks. In light of some of the discussions that took place on various blogs, I’m looking forward to observing the process that will go into creating a wiki. I can’t wait to see what the final product is going to look like.

Deciding to migrate (part 2)

Well, it looks like my efforts did pay off.  The client invited me to come back in early March to talk to the decision makers about Notes 8 and Productivity Tools (Symphony).

This is just another example of the very powerful message the Lotus brand has today.  The features and benefits offered by the current product line are compelling enough to plant the seed of doubt even into the minds of companies who have pretty much decided to move to the competition.

Can’t wait to see what happens when our [PSC] Microsoft team finds out about this.

Deciding to migrate

Even if you use Notes for nothing but email, you may not be fully aware of the rich set of features that Lotus Notes/Domino offers its users.  If there is nobody to guide you, you may never discover the full potential of what you already have in your environment and fall under the spell of needing to find another product that will address your “issues”.  And if you haven’t kept up with the upgrades and are comparing 8-year-old software with other products available on the market today, the newer features do not even exist on your desktop.

The other day, I had a chance to meet with yet another client who is considering migrating off Lotus Notes to Exchange.  To be completely honest, they are more than considering, they’ve pretty much decided.  This is not a large client, several dozen users, but when I heard about their decision, I thought that as a consultant, at the very least I should make sure that they are making an informed decision.

Their reasons for making the switch were all too familiar: we use Notes for nothing but email, our users want Outlook, new employees we hire out of college already know Outlook and so we won’t have to train them on Notes.  In addition, their other initiative is to finally get everyone up to the same level of Office.  All of that is toped by the desire to minimize desktop support and overall administration costs.

In the course of our meeting, it became obvious that someone had rolled out Notes here and left it alone.  They mentioned “issues” and not being able to do things.  I realized that even though they somewhat kept up with the upgrades, they never took advantage of any of the features: they didn’t know about webmail, never took advantage of roaming, didn’t know how or why to use follow-up flags – all of the features that we normally take for granted.  I ended up opening my laptop to show the Notes 8 client, webmail, productivity tools, SameTime; and even grabbed one of their computers to show that something like webmail was already there, right on their server.

All in all, I think I was successful in being able to demonstrate the options and features available in the current lineup of Lotus software, giving them enough food for thought and to encourage them to take a closer look at Notes.  In a week or so, we’ll upgrade the server and a few clients to Notes 8, letting them experience it first hand and decide for themselves if going to Outlook is all that necessary.