And now for something completely different... I just notice two articles on Slashdot
that I thought were quite interesting. First, remnants of a "gigantic monster
were found near Norway. The 150-year old fish-like reptile find is supposed to be the most important in the past few decades. I can't speak for that, but I can say that the story is interesting. I only wish I had some pictures. If that wasn't enough, it seems as tho scientists have discovered a way to turn air into water
. Now this is very interesting. I can only start to imagine some of the ways this can be used. Better yet, where this research might lead to is even more interesting.
I remember seeing a bunch of sidewalk paintings a while back that were realistic. This one is even better, given the context. I wish I had a floor mat like this to lay out in any elevator. That would be the perfect prank. Imagine, you're walking to work, not paying attention to the floor of the elevator, you start to step in, look down, and grab for dear life... well, that's probably what you'd be thinking, anyway. Honestly, I don't think most people would see it until after they're in, but even those reactions would be good. I can only imagine...
Elevator with no floor?
One thing you pick up when you start with any company is to not use competing companies’ products -- after all, you're giving the "enemy" money. With Microsoft, this is seemingly amplified because the company covers so many areas. And, if you find a field that Microsoft isn’t in now, you can put money on the fact that it’s only a matter of time... assuming it’s a worthwhile field. The best example has to be the Zune media player, which is most notably an iPod competitor. It seems like the hardest for most people to get over is the Google switch; although iPod is also another one that's been coming up. From what I've seen, there aren't too many Mac users, but I'm sure they're out there. Interally, people refer to this as "drinking the kool-aid," which is probably a trademark infringement, but oh well. I guess that's exactly what my post is about: genericizing, or globalizing, brands.
Before I really get to the point, tho, let me say a few things. First and foremost, I am by no means saying that Microsoft is forcing or wishes to force its employees (or anyone, for that matter) to use their products/services. Honestly, it all comes down to economics and "living the brand." When people see you, a company representative -- whether you like it or not -- using a competitor's product/service, you're telling them that your company just doesn't cut it and isn't good enough. In other words, you don't buy Company X, so why should they? Next thing you know, your friends and family start to drift away from Company X, and then their friends and family, and then their friends and family... You get the idea. It's the pyramid scheme. I'm not saying you need to profess the wonderful goodness of Company X's products/services, but don't drive existing and potential customers away. You may think that one person's pittance isn't going to affect the market, but the ripple effect will change things over time; especially when you and others around you continually share your negative thoughts/feelings. If you feel something is so bad, take it back to the people in charge and try to get it fixed. Help better Company X. If you're an employee, you have stock in the company.
Recently, a friend asked me how long it took me to stop using Google and switch to Live search . I told him, "The first time I saw the numbers." Google makes money on ever search, whether you click a link or not. Given the number of searches I do in a day, I would basically contribute an upwards of $1000 to the Google fund a day -- yes, I do a LOT of searching. Granted, it's not always that much and the weekends are typically a little lower, but you get the idea. Taking weekends out of the picture completely and considering that I've been using Google for about 7 years, I've basically given the company around $1,820,000. How much have you given them? Google was a great search engine, I'll give you that; but now that Live is here, I see no difference and experience no problems. Plus, I'd rather give that $1.8M to a company that I'll see direct benefits from -- in pay, stock, and other benefits.
I'll be the first to say that Microsoft, along with every company, has its faults. The products aren't all the best of the best; however, across the board, Microsoft is always in the upper eschelon. There may be slow starts, but new products/services typically get there in style. One of the best examples is SharePoint . SharePoint started out rocky with a very hard-to-use initial version that was pretty much a waste of time to try to use -- ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea. The second release was 10-fold better, making it truly viable for enterprise consumption. This upcoming release takes that last upgrade and blows it out of the water. SharePoint is now positioned to be a driving force in the web arena. I expect to see the number of public SharePoint sites growing relatively exponentially over the next few years.
Ok, enough running my mouth (err, fingers); time to get to the point... globalizing brands. One thing that we've started to do is use brand names instead of product names. This happens more often than you might think, tho. Heck, I just did it when I said, "drinking the kool-aid." Perhaps we should change that? Think about it, when's the last time you said, "tissue paper"? You don't. You say Kleenex, don't you? I bet some (propbably younger generations) don't even realize that it's a brand. It doesn't stop there, either: Yo-Yo and Xerox, for instance. Nowadays, people are starting to say, "Google it!" Well, Google doesn't even like that idea that this is happening -- the company is worried about losing its trademark. That's not the problem I have, tho. The problem I have is when you work for a Google competitor, yet you publicly reference Google as if it were the best choice. Case and point, a recent YouTube submission from a Microsoft employee . Within the video, there's a reference to "googling" something. This shouldn't be happening... seriously.
Onto my next big gripe... As I mentioned, Google Search and Apple iPod are probably the 2 biggest internal competition problems at Microsoft. The problem I have with iPod is almost the same as with Google: genercizing the brand name. This is probably more prevalent in the tech community, but within the few years, the concept of podcasts has permiated the web. Basically, this is just a sound recording you can consume with any media device, with an emphasis on mobile devicecs, of course. Now, I don't have a problem with the idea; but, again, live the brand! If you work for a competitor, don't call it a podcast. We need a new name. I'm not saying it should be zunecast, but lets not popularize iPods any more than they already are. When you break it down, it's just steaming media, which is nothing new, so why the new name?
Now I feel better that I've gotten that off my chest. There's so much more to living the brand, but there's no way I can teach you its importance in one post. Hmm... maybe you could Live it or I could create a zunecast But, seriously, this really has nothing to do with Microsoft. This is something you should do with any company you work for. This is how companies succeed. If you don't believe in the company you're working for, why are you there? The concept is common sense to me, but some people just don't get it. For instance -- and just to pull a quick punch on one company that I absolutely despise -- why would any self-respecting IT guy (or gal) work for AOL? I have no idea. Within the tech community, AOL is "internet for dummies" and probably one of the world's largest junk mail senders. Working for the company just seems like tech suicide.
So, the moral of the story is: don't do drugs and "drink the artificially flavored soft drink concentrate beverage."
By Michael Flanakin
@ 10:50 PM
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I wanted to save/share some travel tips Eric Johnson
posted. I thought they were pretty good. While I don't travel that much with the customers I typically work for in DC, the chance is always there. Check it out and share your own, if you have any.
I typically like to keep my posts technical, but Chris Breisch pointed out a description of Fair Tax on Wikipedia and I just had to share it. If for nothing else than to keep track of it for sharing in the future. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that big on politics. I'm always up for a debate and can argue my side to a certain extent, but I just don't try to keep up with politics that much. The idea of Fair Tax is one of those topics. For those new to the idea, basically, it says that we should abolish all taxes (and ultimately the IRS) and instead have a universal 23% inclusive sales tax -- by inclusive, I mean what is now $100 + tax would then be $100 after tax. What this means is that you wouldn't have all of that money taken out of your paychecks. Instead, your taxes would be paid for by what you spend. This means that, if you don't spend money, you don't get taxed... well, almost. Granted, this is just my personal view of it after skimming the description, so I may be way off. I would love to hear from people who've actually studied the concept before. I honestly think it would work out rather well. Yes, we'd pay more for our stuff because of taxes, but we'd be getting paid more for the work we do, which would more than even out. I know that I, personally, would be gaining a LOT of money that's going to the government, now.
Here's another point to think about: tourists. Typically, tourists will come to the US and purchase goods and services, which will be taxed, depending on the location. Now, let's just think about how many tourists we have coming into the country every day and how much money they spend. I have no idea what those numbers are (and don't really feel like digging for them), so let's just say 100,000 people come to the US and spend $50 a day for 5 days. Now, let's assume sales tax is 9% in the region they're visiting, which is probably a good average. Currently, this would be $25m in business earnings and $2.25m in taxes. With Fair Tax, that would be $19.25m in business earnings and $5.75m in taxes. This more than doubles the earned taxes, which goes to making our lives safer and better. Of course, we all know that every business would raise their prices to cover the money they'd lose, so the current $50/day would probably have to be about $65/day, which would result in the $25.025m and $7.475m in taxes. It just keeps getting better. I'm sorry, but I'd live with the 2-3x sales tax hike for more money in my pocket. To know how it'd affect you, you really need to know and understand your spending habits, tho.
I'm not going to get into it any more. If anyone knows of any good research into this topic, I'd be interested to see it. I really think the concept is pretty good.
I'm sure we've all seen the stand-alone radar detectors that show the speed limit and what how fast you're actually going. Well, it seems as tho someone got the bright idea to show drivers' license plate numbers, too, in an effort to further personalize and shame drivers. I can only imagine what'll come next... Show a picture of the driver? Show the driver's name? Heck, if you really wanna get 'em, show the driver's driver's license picture. It's all just a matter of time...
By Michael Flanakin
@ 12:32 PM
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Ok, I keep getting more and more agravated with this person that is heading the "training" I'm at this week. I won't say what training it is because I don't really want to call the person out, but she is so fake!!! I can't stand it!!! I feel like she's a cheesy car salesman (or, sales person) or a bad actress. I can't believe I'm going to have to put up with a week of this. Phew... At least I got that out. I feel better, now. Well, not really, but what can you do?
As you can probably tell, if you're familiar with the module, I use Ventrian Systems' News Articles module for my weblog. I really like what the module has to offer and, with the latest release, I can now work on something I've been putting off for a long, long time: replacing the default table-based layout with a div-based layout. I finished the initial run-thru and simply need to test it against the many scenarios to make sure I covered all the bases. I am much more happy with this div-based layout because it's a lot easier to modify from the CSS, which means I can simply add some special code in each portal's CSS file to customize it for that particular instance. It's such a beautiful thing! If anyone's interested, I'm willing to share this code. If enough interest is sparked, I'll donate it to Ventrian, assuming the interest is there.
Now, I need to finish working on my skins and containers for the site. I've been putting that off for a while, too. And, with my recent MSDN subscription, I don't know if I'll be getting to it anytime in the very near future!
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you probably know that I’m a big fan of Spencer Katt. His comics continue to amuse me and this one is no different....
I just wanted to give kudos to Eric Lundquist for his article, Wanted: More Bill Gateses. Eric discusses what it takes for a leader. I love how it starts, too…
“If Bill Gates showed up at the Microsoft employment office today, would he get a job? I don’t think so. After all, he dropped out of college after three years, doesn’t hold a technical degree, and would probably flunk those tests where you try to find out if the prospective employee works well with others.”
I found this to be amusing. In fact, I don’t know that Bill would have a problem getting a job, but that’s assuming he’d make it past the first level of the screening process. Having been thru Microsoft’s rigorous hiring process, I can say that there are a lot of factors that come into play and they do a good job of finding out who you are and what you’re about. I’m assuming the different divisions use vastly different hiring practices, but the consulting arm is quite thorough – a full days worth of interviews with half a dozen or more people help ensure that.
Besides all that, I just had to comment on Eric’s points of interest: (1) hire the qualified over the credentialed; (2) hire those who are willing to get their hands dirty; and, (3) don’t hire team players when you really want team leaders. First, I have to say that I hate the concept of degrees and certifications. Those things are for good test takers, which I am not. Don’t get me wrong, I get by and do a pretty good job -- I did graduate Summa Cum Laude -- but that’s not the point. The point is that no matter what grade you get, whether you complete a degree program, or even consider obtaining certifications has nothing to do with your technical merit. I always have and always will hate that about this career field. Don’t get me wrong, tho, I completely understand why it’s there, which is why I have and will focus on obtaining higher degrees and certifications. But, I’ll be the first to say that no matter how many pieces of paper you may have collected over the years, none of that matters when you step up to the whiteboard and piece a real life system together. In a lot of cases, not even experience will give you what you need. You need agility, innovation, and initiative, which touches on Eric’s second point. His last point regarding team players vs leaders is an interesting one. I can’t think of how many times I’ve heard the “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” comment. This is especially true when it comes to the tech arena. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. For instance, it’s simply not feasible to run a project with two top-level architects. A senior architect mixed with one or more junior architects might work, but there are no promises. It’s inevitable that head-butting will ensue at sometime. The smart ones are always the more difficult ones to work with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve butted heads with people I’ve worked with in the past -- and these are people who I truly value, technically and personally. Despite the aggravations we may have, I’d welcome them into any team/project I work on based on their technical prowess… as long as they know who’s boss, that is *smirk*