Friday, December 25, 2009

Reaching out to others will help those depressed about missing family members cope with the holidays

     It's been 32 years since I first spent a Christmas away from home.  I was a young airman stationed in Guam, and I never forgot that my holiday weekend was filled with playing on the beach as well as spending some time with friends from the Catholic chapel community.
      Today, as I write this, I am in Miami with my wife and my son to visit my 84-year-old father-in-law, who is in a nursing home after a recent trip to the hospital for internal bleeding.  My oldest step daughter is in Utah and my youngest is in Wyoming.
      For many of us, the separation from our family is a difficult thing.   So, for those of you who are feeling a little depressed about missing family members this Christmas, I have a simple suggestion or two.
     First, if you are hosting a dinner or party today, reach out to those without family.  It could be the single mother next door with the two children or the office worker who has a family in Nebraska.   Having some extra people around to share in a holiday dinner will make you forget that your daughter is a time zone away.
     Second, volunteer to help those in need.   If you have a beautiful voice like my wife, you can visit a local nursing home to sing Christmas carols.  If your voice is not well suited for music, just taking the time to visit people is something that's appreciated.    Shelters and food kitchens can also use the help of volunteers, especially during the holidays.
      To me, Christmas is like that classic Crosby, Nash and Young song "Love the One You're With."  As the famed Woodstock crooners wrote:  "And if you can't be with the one you love...Love the one you're with...Love the one you're with..."   
      Here's hoping that everyone finds a little love and some family this holidays.

Spotted: random acts of holiday spirit at the Baytown Waffle House

Do you remember that scene in the movie "Elf," when Santa Claus can't get his sled off the ground because of the lack of holiday spirit? It wasn't until Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel started singing carols that Santa escaped the Central Park Park Police.

I was thinking about that holiday spirit when my family stopped in Baytown at a Waffle House to have breakfast yesterday. Two elderly woman, named Mary and Kathy gave home made angels to some of the staff and I overheard one of the waitresses say that their gift made their day.

It's these random acts of holiday spirit that make the holidays special. Yet, I am wondering why we have to stop afterwards. I would think that we south Texans would want to continue in the spirit of generosity through out the year.

Here's hoping that more of us can spend the holidays and the year in the joy of giving. I want to thank my new friends, Kathy and Mary for showing me that Christmas holiday spirit comes even at a Waffle House.

Yes, Virginia, you can learn a little geography while waiting in line at Walt Disney World....

Walt Disney makes a vacation seem like a dream trip, but what those ads with the princesses and Tinker Bell doesn't show you are those long lines for rides.

However, I have developed a new game to help keep children and others from getting bored while winding their way through long lines to spend 90 seconds on Space Mountain.

Several years ago, my wife and I invented a road game featuring unique car models and license plates. For example, if my daughter saw a Hummer and a Iowa license plate on a drive north to grandma's house, she would be given points for it.

So, in the midst of all those lines, I came up with a new game that combines geography and sports. It's a simple game. All you have to do is to observe those Red Sox and Yankee fans and write it down in a little notebook. And, of course there are rules that give extra points to those rare sightings of New Jersey Nets and LA Clipper hats.

While professional sports provide an obvious starting spot to the game, I think that a good game could also embrace colleges as well. For some reason, I saw a lot of Florida apparel and some Texas.

With some friends who develop I-phone apps, I am going to ask them to help me develop it. I believe like the license plate game, it will help parents teach their children about geography and economy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Is a $75 security fee from my merchant processing service really needed?

Imagine my surprise when I got my latest statement from my merchant processing service with a $75 fee for security services. I am used to paying for monthly administrative fees and the two to three-percent for each transaction. But, the security fee was an unexpected cost.
After a phone call to my provider, I was told that the major credit card companies were updating their security features. They then required the merchant processing services to pay for it. Thus, the annual $75 fee in my last statement
Having done some recent marketing and public relations work for one merchant processing service company and reading the standard contract from them, I wondered how they could require me to pay for their upgrades. After reading the SEC 10-K filings for both VISA and MasterCard and noting their high amount of profitability, I am wondering how my credit card providers need my $75 to upgrade their security systems.
After this latest incident, I believe that it's time for the federal government to regulate the credit card processing industry. Yet, I also know that this would never happen either. With millions if not billions in profitability at stake, the credit card companies will do everything they can to not create change within their operations.
I know that some folks who read this will tell me that it's the cost of doing busine
ss. As I already pay monthly administrative fees and processing fees, I think I am doing more than enough to offset the major credit card companies' need to upgrade their security system. So, I am using this blog to open a dialog with other small business types who want to see some changes within their credit card processing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Newspaper reports on Virginia Tech tragedy show a need for administrators to develop a better emergency response plan

If a crazed gunman was holding students hostage in a lecture hall, doesn't it make sense that university employees would try to reach their children who were students? And, certainly, I would make sure that garbage collectors would want to know now to come on campus to collect our trash.
Today's Express-News article on the Virginia Tech tragedy shows how most of us who are parents would react. Yet, it also shows that college administrators don't really think through their emergency communications programs here.
If I was a president of an educational institution who read the published report of this article, I would want to gather my security forces, my communications professionals and my public affairs team to have them create a way to communicate to students on an assortment of emergncies such as crazed gunmen or if there's a blizzard that could shut down the roads near college.
For those educational administrators who want some unsolicited advice, I would first ask my public affairs professionals to create a Twitter site that addresses emergency responses. For inspiration, I would look at the Center for Disease Control Emergnecy Twitter site as a source of inspiration.
I would also invest in a phone texting service that can also alert all students of pending emergencies. And, after both are in place, I would instruct professors and staff to make sure to spend a couple of minutes every semester to remind their students of all emergency communication methods.
After all of those tools are in place, I would gather my security chief, my head computer person in charge of computers and phones along with my public affairs team to hold emergency simulation exercises at least three to four times a year. As an Air Force professional who planned these training exercises, I can tell you that practice of these emergency principles helps an executive team improve their response if needed.

Technical haiku can help with password protection

       The other day, I was working with my client, Brian Guinn, the chief executive officer of Prism Technology, to respond to a query from a freelance writer concerning Internet security. From this writer's perspective, it seems a lot of women use something like "password" as their security log on. Others leave their children's full name as a password.
Bryan who helps a lot of his clients develop security practices, came up with some really good ideas for the article. For example, a password should not be a personal name or a state name.
Many years ago, when I was working for the folks at SecureInfo, Steve Spriester came to our company to do a story. With the cameras rolling, we challenged him that we could pick his one word password in under 60 seconds. Sure enough, we found that the KSAT reporter, now anchor, has selected "Nebraska" in honor of his alma mater.
Passwords today, work best with a combination of capital letters, numbers and symbols. Bryan had suggested in our response to the author that customers can take a common phrase like "Mary had a little lamb. Her fleece was white as snow" and convert it to "Mhall.hfwwas" To add a different character, Bryan suggested you would substitute the first L in the phrase to the number one to represent little.
This got me to thinking that computer users could have a little fun with their passwords, especially as they should change them at about the rate of 30 to 45 days or so. And somehow, it got me thinking to sixth grade English with Sister Mary Antonio and haiku. So, for those out there still using password or computer as security phrases, here's a few inspirational if not hilarious thoughts to make some needed changes in those passwords.
SCW%ndnarticoid.bphdylcf?: Sorry Charlie Weiss Notre Dame needs a real tuna in charge of its destiny. Bill Parcells how do you like college football? (Note: the "%" is a good way to put an emphasis in these password haikus.)
Wtmmwh?rtottsyiuud2: Want to make my wife happy. Remember to put the toilet seat up or is it down? (Note: instead of the question mark, I substituted a number for the question mark.)
Tymjc!ytfmwaetisa2: Thank you Mayor Julian Castro! You're the first mayor who actually embraces technology in San Antonio.
Iybiteb,ttfasc,tyrftcctwtwsty!: If you believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, then you root for the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series this year!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dear Mr President, here's some advice on job stimulation

For President Barack Obama, job creation has became the major focus of his administration.
For now.
After reading the Express-News article on "Obama seeks advice on creation of jobs," I have some advice.
First, Mr. President, it's time to focus on programs that fast track those underemployed find new careers. The Rizer School of Technology
, one of my clients, has started a new program for biomedical equipment repair professionals. Bill Bassuk, who also is a chief technology officer for a hospital in east Texas, has built a program that reminds me of the Air Force training programs at Lowry AFB, Colo.
For six years, I worked as the base's media and community affairs manager. In those years, I became impressed with how the Air Force created competent technical professionals from munition loaders to precision measurement equipment lab technicians. Bassuk's program is built on the same principles. Unlike a two-year community college program, there aren't requirements for history, English or physical education. With a focus on the needed career skills to get a job in the industry, Rizer will soon place professionals within medical facilities.
Just as important, Mr. President is the need to help these graduates find a network of influencers who can help people with new skills find jobs., my client in Austin, has done a great job of helping unemployed people there build a base of industry professionals who can find those "hidden" opportunities within a specific industry.
Here, Mr. President, we need to encourage those who are successful in their specific industry reach out to those "newbs" who need advice and guidance on how to find a career that inspires them and helps them advance to higher paying positions. I am sure, Mr. President that you have a lot of talented people working with you on job creation, but please feel free to call me anytime on this issue.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving thanks for the network of ESDs

When I gathered my family for Thanksgiving, I gave a quiet prayer for that network of evil step fathers.
This year, I am celebrating nearly 13 years as an "ESD." When I remarried, I knew my step daughter would be a challenge. And, I was right.
In retrospect, I learned that when a child becomes a teen, they don't care for their natural parents. Somehow, having a new parent in the mix only intensifies the experience.
I am not going to embarrass my daughter with some of her escapades. Just know that there were times that I questioned my decision to marry her mother. And, the network of evil step fathers stepped in to help.
Through the years, my friends at church and in the Catholic ACTS community shared their stories as ESDs. Their simple message was to wait and pray. Step children will grow out of their rebellious teen years and become adults.
My oldest graduates from law school in six months. The guys in the San Antonio chapter of ESDs were right. After she turned 21, she became a normal human being again.
So, to all evil step dads out there, I would say it's hard to parent a step daughter or son. Only time, love, patience and prayer will help.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jobcannon offering holiday gift alternative for those who are underemployed....

 For those with family or friends who are facing difficulties in their career endeavors, an Austin company is offering an alternative holiday gift idea., an Austin-based firm, is offering a "Black Friday" special for those who retweet their special holiday offer before Monday. By retransmitting their holiday special via Twitter, the firm is offering a 50-percent discount to everyone who helps promote their services.
Here's what I like about's product. To me, it's the first online job search tool to help their clients understand that internal change is needed as part of their career retransformation. For most of the unemployed or underemployed, they take the role of a job seeker, taking anything that puts money into their pockets. However, helps people realize they should focus their employment efforts as a "skill holder."
A retiring military noncommissioned officer, who spent his career as an Air Force munitions loader, knows there isn't a lot of opportunities to continue loading munitions. However, a program like can help that sergeant realize he has considerable skills as a inventory management professional. Once he or she realizes that she has those skills, it's easier to focus a career search on companies that value those talents. also helps those facing career changes to find their job champions. For someone like the munitions loader, a job champion can advise them on how to tailor their resume or who to contact within the organization. Job champions help those seeking a job get the inside track within those companies by helping them uncover those unlisted positions before they are formally posted.
A year's subscription to is a perfect gift as well for those who have a job. In these turbulent times, a skill holder can begin the process to transition from a current position into something that has more openings.
For example, a copy repairman knows that more job cuts are possible in his industry. He or she knows they have the skills to move into biomedical equipment repair, an industry that has considerable job prospects. With the help of, he or she could find someone to mentor them and start the transition to one within that new industry sector.
So, this Black Friday, avoid the long lines at Best Buy or the San Marcos Outlet Mall. Instead, take a visit to the jobcannon web site to purchase a gift that will truly help those in need of career change.
(Important disclosure: While I work as a publicist for, I believe its Black Friday offer is something every person who knows of someone in need of career transition should consider as a gift.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wanting to give thanks for the growth of technology within San Antonio

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I wanted to take this time to reflect on the changes within the San Antonio tech community. Thanks to the unheralded work of a lot of people, our city is quickly attracting more and more technology firms and talent.
I think it's best to thank Mayor Julian Castro for his support of technology. Just over a month ago, he was featured in an article on information security in the New York Times. Thanks to that article, the rest of the United States and the world now knows how our city is one of the leaders in this area.
Yet, I am also thankful to those in the emerging medical technology as well. With Brooke Army Medical Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center, we have two groups who discover and develop wonderful life-saving processes. At the upcoming San Antonio Innotech trade show, some of the leaders within both the military and civilian sector will gather for a special half-day conference prior to the main event March 4.
Lastly, I want to thank the growing social media community within our city. Thanks to organizations like #bmpr and others, we now bring some of the best and brightest together to share best practices. I have learned more about social media tactics in San Antonio than I have in a more advanced community like Austin. And, as I spend enough time in Austin, I know that there are some more advanced technical firms up there.
So, San Antonio technical types, as you sit down to a dinner with friends, please know that folks like me appreciate what you are doing to improve the growth of the tech sector within our community.

(Important disclosure: I am the contract publicist for the San Antonio Innotech trade show. I also serve on the board of advisors for the Innotech and the Emerging Medical Technology programs.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

With a correct employee handbook, teachers should be able to text studetns and parents

Hidden in today's Express-News "Texting incident leads to teacher resignation" was the fact that several major school districts have not addressed this form of communication in their employee handbook.
If you are a school board member or a district administrator, I would like to give some insight into texting.
First, it's hard to text with my big fingers, but it's an effective way to reach people. There are several clients who I can only communicate by text or a Twitter direct message. Somehow, a text message via cell phone or Twitter reaches a growing number of my clients and friends.
Second, as the article does note, it leaves a message trail. That way, when school teachers need to reach out to a parent on a matter it documents the call. And, if you are trying to reach someone and leave a message, they either don't get the voice mail right away or their receptionist often doesn't bother to give the message to them.
Thirdly, students could also text their teachers before school to confirm an appointment for a makeup exam or tutoring.
So, I believe the best policy is to clearly document that if a district can prove that a teacher sent risque photos of themselves to students or allegedly said "You suck" in a text missive that those are grounds for immediate firing.
For many who don't use texting as a communication tool, the early assumption is to eliminate it entirely. Yet, for many, it's the best way to reach people. The 99.99999999999 of teachers who use texting responsibly will help open communication channels to parents and students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Here's hoping that my military public affairs colleagues learn how to use social media tools to help them respond quicker

One of the things which military public affairs people do very well is adapt and learn from disasters. After reading a Defense Systems article online, I had to chuckle that the Army media relations folks were using Facebook to tell the media that they were inundated with calls from them.
In 1994, I worked as a media relations supervisor in Allied Forces Southern Europe during the Bosnian crisis. After Air Force jets shot down three Serbian planes, our telephones were swamped so badly that one of the telephone operators had a runner come to our office to tell us that the New York Times reporter was frustrated that they couldn't reach us.
With my boss' help, I was able to get extra lines installed within four hours.
Now, Twitter and other social media tools allow crisis public affairs professionals to quickly open up new communication channels. I don't want to become a "Monday Morning Quarterback" with my public affairs colleagues, but I am hoping that when they hold their next conferences that they look at the lessons learned from the Fort Hood tragedy to better the process.
I believe that public affairs professionals can easily master social media channels and learn how to quickly respond to crisis issues like the one at Fort Hood. Here's hoping that the military public affairs senior leadership understand that social media tools allow them to manage the communication process when the next crisis arises.

Why cyber attacks could become the ultimate disaster

If you love disaster films, John Cusack's latest offering, 2012, is a film that should create a lot of nightmares. However, Hollywood still hasn't addressed a bigger disaster -- the loss of cyber communications.
A Washington Post article, published on the front page of the Express News, documented the potential by Chinese hackers to attack our system.
"I believe that the security industry overall needs to evolve. For years we've had a system based on they knock our wall down, we build a bigger (or more complicated) wall to replace it. Advances in preemptive technologies, and real-time analytics are prerequisites for solving some of the issues we face in cyber-security," said William Hurley, a security and tech analyst .
The move of the Air Force's 24th Air Force demonstrates our government's commitment to protect our information resources and consolidate most of the executive resources to protect our computer systems. And, if you hear a Rotary Club or chamber of commerce speech from the senior leadership at 24th Air Force, I would bet they would mention the threat of cyber attacks from China as a strong possibility.
Yet, cyber attacks will continue to evolve and improve, according to Hurley, a technology leader, who has hacked into a lot of businesses to test their security capabilities.
To test a leading casino in Las Vegas, Hurley, who is known as "whurley" in Austin and online, bought a polo shirt and pants that matched the uniform of the information security department. Noting that the computer protection staff had badges, whurley told one of his client's employees that he lost his badge to get access to the computer hub. With the borrowed ID, whurley was able to gain full access to all the data and the systems.
Bryan Guinn, the president of Prism Technology as well as a client of mine, said he has been able to get into areas storing computer data just by giving the appearance that he was fixing a computer. Guinn said it's rare when someone challenges him when he or one of his repair professionals report to a customer's location to fix a technical issue.
To offset a cyber attack, Guinn said he recommends backing up data every day. He also suggests that businesses adopt policies. For example, a business should tell employees to order products online from a trusted site that uses a Secure Sockets Layer. In many cases,hackers will create a web site that looks like a legitimate site and steal computer card data. As well, hackers will host viruses that will infect their computers as well as spreading them to other systems.
Successful businesses will follow good security practices to mitigate the potential of disaster from a cyber attack. Having excellent training and processes in place can help a firm lower their losses in the event of an attack on their computers.

Selecting the right room can help a person sleep better

For those of us who are considering a new home or apartment, it's time to consider the location of their next bedroom.
I am working as the public relations manager for the first Brain Wave Expo. My client, Bruce Meleski, the owner of IntellliBED Texas, brought in several experts on how to improve a person's sleep performance.
In the course of meeting some of the Austin sleep experts, we discussed the prospect of moving to a new home. Several days before the event, Meleski recalled how one of his customers had moved from a large home to a condo in downtown Austin. The couple's children had all left the nest, and there was no need to have a large domicile. So, they picked a smaller condo in Austin's downtown area.
With their bedroom facing east, they were awaken with the sun, and it took a considerable amount of adjustment to their new location.
So, here are some things to consider when looking at a prospective home.
First, if you an early riser, having a room that faces towards sunrise is an ideal place to put a bedroom. However, for those who are night owls, it's best to have a room that faces north. If that's not possible, there are other ways to address the issue. The first is to have the rooms tinted with a dark screen. Secondly, dark curtains might help.
Secondly, I would suggest the best thing is to contact someone like Meleski to do a sleep audit of a new domicile, especially before signing a contract to move into a new home. Meleski or one of his associates can make recommendations on interior design and location of bedrooms. In some cases, the buyer could stipulate some specific changes as the condition of a home. In short, a realtor can make specific requests as part of the contract or even the loan. In some cases, the seller can provide specific changes to a bedroom environment as part of the sale. In other cases, a realtor can work with a loan officer to have the sleep improvements amortized within the course of a 30-year loan.
Having a sleep audit will cost a few dollars, but elderly people should especially consider this as a restful night's sleep can help them stay healthy. Until now, most of us overlooked the sleep quality of a new home. Professional sleep transition can help ease the transition for people purchasing a new home.

Why managing your Twitter hash feed helps you listen to your customers

       When I picked up the Twitter hash feed for the San Antonio Rock and Roll marathon Sunday morning from the front page of the online Express-News, I was amazed at how many runners were tweeting their expectations before the race.
For those still new to social media, a "#" on Twitter is what is referred as a hash tag. More and more, main stream communicators are starting to embrace the use of them in event management. The organizers at the San Antonio event used #RnRsa as their official hash tag. Prior to go to church, I was able to read the comments of all the racers by searching for that term on Twitter. I found the one by a runner from a small town that there were more people in the race than his home funny especially when he said the race should have its own zip code.
I recently used hashtags for two events myself. At the Oklahoma City and Austin Innotech, the #innotech hash tag allowed me to monitor the conversations of hundreds of attendees. For the Oklahoma City event, I was able to monitor the conversations from San Antonio. When one attendee questioned the scope of programs, I quickly sent him a response with the @OKC_Innotech twitter account to ask him what he would do to improve the show for next year.
For those new to social media, a hash tag is easy to set up. However, most people overlook the integration of it with other traditional communication tools. For example, an event organizer can put the hash tag on advertisements in trade show brochures. They can also put it on their ads in magazines, newspaper and other publications. Most importantly, they should prominently display them on signs such as the starting point of a race or at a trade show.
What I like about hash tags is that they allow companies and organizers to listen to their customers. Hash tags give people an unfiltered view on what they think about an event. A savvy business manager can use them to learn what his customers are saying in real time about their event or product. Yet, the best ones will quickly respond to both negative and positve comments as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

San Antonio vets want to help others deal with PTSD with "Walter's House"

Ask Tres Maddox, a San Antonio businessman, what veterans need today and he'll tell you it's a group of fellow peers who have experienced the horrors of war.
After World War II, Maddox said former soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors came home and build neighborhoods with their VA housing benefits. "These guys came home and lived next to each other," he said. "If someone had post traumatic stress disorder issues, they had someone in their neighborhood they could talk to about it."
Several years ago, Maddox rode his motorcycle to Washington, D.C., to pay tribute to his friend, Walter, a fellow Vietnam veteran.
It was during this ride that Maddox said he had a vision to create a house in San Antonio where veterans could meet with peers and get professional help. Today, "Walter's House" is a prototype that needs financial assistance and professional advise.
John Hartman, one of Maddox' friends, served in the military and has a successful business, thanks to his disabled veterans status. He's one of the volunteers willing to help Maddox build his first house.
For Hartman, it's important that former military professionals have a peer group who can help them overcome the issues associated with PTSD. A recovering alcoholic, Hartman said a fellow vet helped him deal with the issues related to his combat service in the Gulf Region.
As a fellow veteran, I agree with Hartman and Maddox that former military professionals need to build a network of friends who have served in uniform. I am hoping that San Antonio's growing base of active duty military, former military and supporters will help Maddox and Hartman reach their goal of building their first home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What do veterans want on Wednesday and every other day.....

Veterans like me will be able to choose six entrees at Applebees Nov. 11 as a tribute to our service. While I want to commend the restaurant along with the hundreds of others who provide discounts to active duty and retired military folks, the care and respect that our veterans deserve is not a one-day publicity event or even a discount on food or services.
In an interview published Friday in the Wall Street Journal, actor and peace activist Woody Harrelson said while he is against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he totally supports the military who serve there. "It was a good experience for me because it's one thing to consider yourself pro-peace, like I consider myself, and quite another to understand what the soldiers are going through," Harrelson said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Michelle Kung.
I was glad to see someone like Harrelson that he supports our troops. In the Vietnam War, many of us remember those hippies who spat on troops as they arrived in San Francisco. Even years later, I ran into some of them while serving at Lowry AFB, Colo., as the chief of community affairs. During one educational summit, one teacher, who told me proudly that she protested against the war, asked me if I was a baby killer like the others.
"No, I am not," I replied. "I am just one of the many who protects your right to free speech."
On Wednesday, veterans are asking for the respect of those who didn't serve. One of the things that we would ask is to have a disability claims process that is fair and easy to understand. Another thing we would ask is that like other federal retirees that if we qualify for disability payments that we get them paid as additional income instead of having the portion of our disability provided to us as a tax free option.
Lastly, we ask that if you learn of our service that you continue to say thank you for our service in the military. And, we would ask that you take a moment of silent on Wednesday out of respect for those who were killed and disabled in the service of our country.

Training is an ongoing process

San Antonio Express-News columnist David Hendricks' column in today's paper details the life of Javier Palomarez's duties from south Texas to his new duties as the president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
If there was a message that resonated with me in this column, it was Palomarez' focus on education. As Hendricks chronicles in his column, Palomarez was the youngest of 10 children. When his mother emigrated from Mexico as an accountant, she was unable to find work in her field. In time, she became a bookkeeper, but she made sure that her son completed his education.
Yet, a formal degree acts as just the first step in any successful business executive's education. The best constantly look at opportunities to make them better. If you are a small business executive, you should consider participating in programs sponsored by the Southwest Minority Suppliers Development Council. This organization work with small business executives to help them get their certification and to find opportunities. While having a degree will help you in business, successful business leaders know that their training is an ongoing process.
This Tuesday, Bill Leake, the chief executive officer of Apogee Search, and I will present a four-hour program in Austin Tuesday on social media on behalf of SMSDC. If you have heard that email is dead and want to know how to embrace social media tools like Twitter, blogging and LinkedIn, this program will help you understand the basics.

Technology works best when it factor in the change it brings

Have you ever called a business or a school, bypass their electronic receptionist by dialing "zero," and get someone who wants to put you back into the voice mail system?
And, have your irritated that person by asking them to take a message?
About a week ago, while in the car, I called Madison, my wife's school, got the famed voice prompts and finally got a student. I asked her to see if she could get someone to take a message to my wife to call me. Her response was "I can only put you into voicemail."
When I first married my wife 12 years ago, her school had a receptionist named Edna. I knew that if I reached Edna by phone that she would get a student to take a message so my wife would get it.
However, someone in NEISD took a look at human resources and eliminated Edna's position by embracing voice mail technology. Yet, Madison High School is not the only organization or business I know that has eliminated the business receptionist or operator.
Thanks to our economy, a lot of businesses have cut back on having an administrative assistant answer the phones for them.
Scott Kaeppel, the president of Kaeppel Consulting, said companies are often faced with making strategic cuts in their organization to make them leaner. To some managers, cutting the salary for the receptionist makes economic sense, but it may impact the business more with lost business or bad impressions.
Businesses spend millions on advertising and marketing, but when they drop their receptionists, they create a negative impression with their customers. Instead of dropping the position, Kaeppel would argue that a manager could look at alternatives such as dropping something like ads in the Yellow Page as an alternative to cutting a receptionist.
In time, receptionists like Edna will become as extinct as the dinosaur. As someone who usually embraces the Internet and texting, I understand the change in thinking. However, technology has to work and align itself with those who use it.
In my wife's case, her access to voice mail moved about three school wings over at Madison when the school added its new science facilities. Before the addition, the science faculty lounge was a short walk away. Now, she has to go to either the main faculty lounge or to the science building to check a phone message.
The problem with technology is that people think it's a solution and a way to save money. Yet, a complete technology integration needs to factor in the changes involved. Technology changes work when the executives in charge of it completely think through the processes involved.
(Note: I work as the publicist for Kaeppel Consulting.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cell phone fund raising a new way to help nonprofits

If you have an unwanted cellphone or two and are going to Austin Innotech Thursday, bring them to help Austin Goodwill.
As the publicist for the event, I found the cellphone campaign for a nonprofit program innovative.
While the focus on this campaign is on helping Goodwill, J.C. Otero, the community outreach manager, said his company, Austin-based Sellyourcellular, will work with any non-profit firm to help them recycle phones.
Over 100 million cell phones are replaced, Otero said. On an average day, 350,000 phones are replaced.
If you want to get more information on this program, please contact them at their web site.

The SWAG hall of fame....

While I don't go to many trade shows, I am always amazed at the swag given by vendors to potential customers. As the publicist for the Austin Innotech, I did an early morning tour of the booths at today's trade show. As usual, there are a lot of folks with chocolate, pens and the other goods.
However, there are three or four that should be included in my "SWAG Hall of Fame." The folks at Eaton would get my vote as the best toy to amuse Bentley my daughter's Visla. If you tap the blue ball on the pen, it will light up with a blue disco ball like effect. That kind of simple technology will keep him amused when he comes to visit his grand parents at Thanksgiving.
Another innovative and cost effective promotional item was the distribution of Lucky Charms bowls by New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Austin to their customers. As a lot of people forget breakfast before they go or work at a trade show, this is a pretty effective marketing tool.
Finally, I have a "use stick" from qlikview,com that is part Lego toy and USB data port. Now when I want to back up something like a simple file, I can use it. It's hard to forget an item like this too.
If you are a marketing person with a trade show coming up, I think the best thing to do is to make sure you label your products with your items. For example, if you were as smart at New Horizon to give cereal as a give away, make sure to place a label or business card with each item.

How can you tell you are a dog owner... just woof

When Tina Cannon, the chief executive officer of petsMD, made her presentation at the Austin Innotech Beta Summit today, she asked a crowded room to show her if they were dog owners by barking loudly.
Sure enough, the room filled with barks. And, then without any solicitation, there was a large round of meows.
Cannon's company is similar in scope to webMD in that it allows pet owners to ask questions about their pet's health. Her company was one of six firms.
Other Beta finalists included:
When Tina Cannon, the chief executive officer of petsMD, made her presentation at the Austin Innotech Beta Summit today, she asked a crowded room to show her if they were dog owners by barking loudly.
Sure enough, the room filled with barks. And, then without any solicitation, there was a large round of meows.
Cannon's company is similar in scope to webMD in that it allows pet owners to ask questions about their pet's health. Her company was one of six firms.
Other Beta finalists included:

BuzzStream, a social media company that helps companies build relationships with online influencers;
GameSalad, a game development firm that provides a game development tool for nonprogrammers;
Gelato, an online dating site that had one of my friends who is happily married to comment that if he wasn't married he would use the site;
Infochimps, a web site designed to find any data set in the world;
and Spredfast, a social media campaign platform. If you are a small tech business in San Antonio, please reach out to me if you want to participate in the 2010 San Antonio Beta Summit. Last year, thanks to the help of the San Antonio Greater Chamber of Commerce, we held our first event. It's my hope that the chamber will step up and participate in this event again.

Does SA need an "open tech" program?

His given name is William Hurley, but everyone in Austin knows him as Whurley. And, this tech maverick is a hero of mine.
For the past six months, Whurley and other tech leaders have questioned Austin city government on its web site procurement page. When the city decided to award a web site project to a California company, Whurley and company led the protect movement that got the city to drop the contract.
"I got phone calls from a major contract firm that I was costing them money," he said. However, his disruptive processes have caused the city to rethink its web site strategy and to engage Austin tech leaders to help with a better contract request for proposal.
Yesterday, the Austin Association of Information Technology Professionals presented Whurley their Austin Community Leadership Award at Austin Innotech. Like a true team builder, Whurley accepted the award but called up two to three other team members to share in the recognition.
The city of Austin hasn't awarded its web site, but when it does, it will have a better RFP process.
Here in San Antonio, we could learn from disruptive types like Whurley. For example, I would like to see SATAI, a city and state funded organization, give our tech community an annual report of what they're doing with our tax dollars. And, I would like to see the same kind of input from other civic funded organizations that support tech growth.
I am hoping that this blog will get the executive directors to give me their annual executive report so that I can share it with others. If your organization has nothing to hide, then this is your opportunity to share it with those of us who want to embrace the growth of technology.
In closing, I want to commend SATAI for the work they did in setting up their workshop this week. It's an improvement over the chicken dinner with a senior communications executive from ATT pitching the values of Uverse. But even so, I want to know what is being done with my local and state tax dollars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I really don't know clouds (computing) at all....

To someone who doesn't work in computers and technology, the term "cloud security" conjures up visions of St. Peter at the pearly gates checking a person's record. Yet, in the tech space, the term "cloud" means the storage of data. According to the folks at, "Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flow charts and diagrams."

I recently did an interview for another blog on the topic with Josh Zachry systems security lead, Rackspace, and Jeff Reich, director of cloud security research, the University of Texas at San Antonio, as part of the publicity efforts to get people to attend the upcoming Austin Innotech, Oct. 29 at the Austin Convention Center. Zachry and Reich will speak at 3:30 p.m. on this topic at Innotech Austin on Oct. 29. As I thought people in San Antonio might learn something from this interview, I thought I would share in this blog.

Question: What are the biggest challenges with cloud security?

Zachry: It really depends on the type of cloud offering (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and the way in which a cloud consumer or potential consumer plans to use the offering. Awareness seems to be a big challenge right now for both cloud providers and cloud consumers. Ultimately, cloud computing is a technology platform that does some things well and others not so well. It's important for cloud consumers to make sure they are using
a cloud computing solution appropriately. It's also important for cloud providers to provide the needed information to consumers so they can make the right decisions.

Question: Is there a need for a single standard for cloud security?

Reich: This is a difficult question right now. I don't believe there is a need for a single cloud security standard at this point in time. The reason for this is due to the differences in cloud computing platforms and the ways in which competing providers deliver and service those platforms. I believe that more discussion should focus on data and information that may be exposed within the different platforms (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and guidelines for protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data in question.

Question: What kind of issues do security professionals need to address to protect a cloud database?

Zachry: It depends on a number of factors. For example, the types of information or data stored in the database (this will drive a number of protection requirements). Also, the authentication solution used (SSL, API, VPN, etc). Again, it really depends on the types of data and information being stored.

Question: Is there anything else we should know about the future of cloud security?

Reich: Cloud computing security will continue to be an important and dynamic topic. Cloud computing promises great capabilities and efficiencies at a reduced price. This naturally compels individual consumers and businesses to leverage cloud computing solutions for needed computing capabilities. What must not be ignored, however, is that cloud computing is prescriptive at this point. It's important that everyone become engaged and learn more about cloud computing capabilities.

OMG..... Has Twitter shortened our words?

With the addition of texting to our life, are we changing our English language? If you believe a research done by college psychology students at the University of Alberta, we're in the process of changing our language.
With only 140 characters available on Twitter and almost the same amount on your cell phone, shortening words to "BTW" for by the way or "OMG" for oh my gosh is almost essential.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the Canadian students surveyed the text messages of 40 students for their research. The group was working on the premise that parents were concerned that students who use what they termed "chatspeak" would become bad spellers or never learn how to write well are unfounded.
According to Connie Varnhagen, the lead psychologist on the study: "Young people can compartmentalize their language. They have language that they use on the playground and then school language. They know how to speak in classrooms without sounding like goofballs."
I agree with Varnhagen that our young people are probably coming up with a dialect of their own. It's still English but it reminds me of a time I ran into two British soldiers in northern Germany in 1985. In their Welsch-Cockney accent, they spoke to me rather rudely while I was in one of their British "tea" rooms in at their military exchange in Minden.
I looked at them, noted the lack of stripes on their sleeves and pointed to the four I had on my shoulder board and told them I was an American sergeant and I didn't believe they would spoke to their noncoms like they just did with me.
They immediately reverted into a more formal form of English and apologized by offering to buy my tea.
Most of our teens can speak in several dialects of their language, especially if their educators re-enforce the use of formal grammar in school. My wife, the high school science teacher, is the type that will rip a student for using "prolly" instead of probably in a paper. Yet, she admits a lot of language teachers are allowing their students to use the new dialect in their writing efforts.
Still, in time, I believe we will see a shift in language. More and more, as we speak in the 140 characters allowed on Twitter or our cell phones, we'll embrace the use of chatspeak.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finding the right mix between security and social media operations.....

If you own a business that has a lot of young people working for you, it's a good bet that you have:
• Banned the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools because of security concerns;
• Grudgingly allowed its use because you fear a mutiny at work among the younger rank and file employers;
• Or, buried your head in the sand and done nothing.
With an upcoming presentation "Social Networks and Security: What Your Teenager Likely Won't Tell You," John Dickson, the principal at Denim Group, will help business owners find the middle ground for policies concerning social media.
Dickson will give his presentation at 11 a.m., Oct. 29 as part of Austin Innotech trade show.
As a longtime security professional, Dickson understands the concerns of security manager. "We have a lot of businesses with widely different interpretations, Dickson said.
"However, you can't turn it off either," he added. "With a tailored business goals and policies in place, a company can adopt a social media policy that allows young knowledge workers to use Twitter and Facebook."
Dickson is part of a contingent of security and technology speakers from San Antonio that will present several seminars on information security next week.
Josh Zachry, systems security lead, Rackspace, and Jeff Reich, director of cloud security research, the University of Texas at San Antonio, will speak at 3:30 p.m. on cloud security.
As the publicist for Austin Innotech as well as serving as a member on the Digital Convergence Initiative, I am glad to see San Antonio technology professionals like Dickson, Reich and Zachry demonstrate San Antonio's capacity as a leader in info security.
Yet, we also have other impressive technologies as well. Austin is only an hour to 90-minute drive away. We need more San Antonio leaders to embrace the opportunity to work with Austin's tech and business leadership so that we can become a super tech cluster like Silicon Valley or the North Carolina Research Trianagle.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Will Navin R. Johnson still be excited about this year's white pages?

I had to chuckle when I read David Saleh Rauf's article on ATT decision not to ship the white pages to my home. I had visions of Navin R. Johnson, the Steve Martin character in the classic 1979 film "The Jerk" when he ran out of the gas station with the new phone book screaming "The new telephone books are out. The new telephone books are out."
Now, folks like Navin would be using Facebook to post their mug and personal info. And, that gets me to a second story noting the end of email. From a Wall Street Journal article, it notes that a lot of people are passing over this online mail program for tools like Twitter and LinkedIn. The Wall Street Journal is not the first to report this trend. I saw an interesting YouTube video noting that Boston College was no longer giving their students an email address.
However, I am wondering why ATT is still sending me those yellow pages. Just like looking up Navin online, I am now using search tools to find services. As noted in the article, I'll put the delivered yellow pages into the recycle bin as soon as I get them.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Matt Holliday is not a goat for the St. Louis Cardinals

With two outs and what seemed like a routine line drive to left field, my beloved St. Louis Cardinals were about ready to wrap up their first victory in the National League Divisional Series in Los Angeles.
Then, Murphy's law stepped in. By now, every sports fan has seen left fielder, Matt Holliday, drop the ball. Bolstered by the error, the Dodgers won the game, 3-2. Headlines in the news termed Holliday as a "goat."
What's amazing is how most media and a typical sports fan overlook the contributions of Holliday. Without his play, the Cardinals would have never made the playoffs. National League pitchers would pitch around Albert Pujols until Holliday's arrival. In short, my beloved Cardinals would not have made the post season without him.
The Lords of Statistics note that only four teams have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a divisional series. Yet, I believe that if any team can overcome a two-game deficit it's the Cardinals.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apogee Search marketing executive discusses the crossover between search and social media

As the publicist for Austin Innotech, I get to work with some of the sharpest people in the business. One of my jobs is to reach out to the blogosphere to share some of the upcoming programs for our Oct. 29 event. Here's a recent interview with Ian Strain-Seymour, the director of marketing for Apogee Search.

Q: How can social media and search work together?

A: These two can work together in a lot of different ways. You can use
search (both paid and organic) to help people find your presence in social
media channels or to places where your praises are being sung. On the other
hand deep, rich conversations are one of the types of content that search
engines like, so these can play into your brand's shelf space or if links
are included in the content, even drive your organic search performance
through high value links.

Q: Do social media and search ever work against each other?

A: Absolutely. Social Media drives a lot of content, which can cause one of
two issues. Walled gardens, or websites that can't be fully crawled by
search engines, can close off a lot of the great things being said about
your product or company so that they are never found.

The other issue is the noise that all the volume creates. With the volume of
chatter going on, the search engines sometimes have a hard time deciphering
it all, which can cause relatively poor conversation to float to the top.
Things have improved, but it is not uncommon to see search results that
don't help a searcher find the information they were looking for.

Q: What should businesses do now to address their web visibility

A: This is kind of a chicken and egg question, but at the end of the day, I
think that it makes sense to focus on search first. Get your website well
optimized for search engines, then switch focus to developing a community or
your presence in an existing community bas for your product or business.
This requires continuing, ongoing commitment, not just lip service.

Q: Resources are tight these days. Can the same people (either inside a
company or from an agency) work on both?

A: It depends. What does it depend on? It depends on the people doing the
work and the company and products being focused on. In many cases yes,
because search people that only know search are missing a lot of the
picture, and vice versa. In some cases, where either the community is point
of the business or the product and company brands are very large, it make
sense to split thing out. This however requires the team members to work
together closely.


Texas needs to toughen it cycle protection laws

Reading today's front page story about the death of the two cyclists makes me think of my 77-year-old father who is still riding the back roads of Illinois.
About 25 years ago, I was home on leave. My dad and I went to one of his favorite pubs when a young lady came up to him saying that she wanted to meet him and wanted to give him a ride home once when it was cold and rainy.
For my dad, weather only makes the ride a little more interesting.
Yet, incidents like the one Sunday make me believe that our state laws need strength. More importantly, they need enforcement for both cyclists and automobiles.
Just like our police departments ticket drivers for speed and safety violations, they also should ticket both drivers and cyclists for unsafe driving. I agree with the law that a car should give three feet or more when passing a cyclist who is on the right side of the road. Yet, our police should also ticket those cyclists who run yield signs and stop lights.
More importantly, our city should look at adding more bike lanes. There are some new additions in downtown and south San Antonio, but we could use more of them.
The extension of the River Walk on the south side of downtown will also add more bike friendly passages.
Still, even with bike lanes, tougher laws and police enforcement will keep the "Bubbas" and their F-150s from endangering bike riders like my dad from serious injury or death.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hoping that Twitter figures out a creative way for blocking spammers

If you are friendless and want to find them in all the wrong places, consider setting up a Twitter site. As someone who consults on this social media tool, I am amazed as the number of pornbots and multi-level, networking opportunities that pop up every morning on Twitter sites.

I wish there was a way for the folks at Twitter to set up an Internet protocol blocking protocol for those who break these basic rules:

1) Do not offer to show me pictures of yourself even with the line that you're working your way through medical school.

2) If I friend you, please don't send me a direct message to sell me your latest toilet water saving product. (Note: I was interested in water conservation as my wife teaches environmental science.)

So, how can novices or as Twitter people term "newbs" screen out these people? I check out a person's last 20 tweets, Those would be doctors working their way by showing off body parts typically only have one or two word tweets such as "martini." As for those aggressive sales professionals, if every tweet has the phrase "check this out" or "you won't believe this," then it's a good sign that you should block them right away.

Still, I wish there was a way for Twitter to note the IP address of those spammers and block them from their site for a week for a first-time offense. I'm curious too what you might think of ways to block spammers on Twitter so please feel free to share them.

Tags: pornbots, spam, twitter

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fighting unemployment requires the conviction to get help from others

As the publicist for the company that has created one of the better job customer resource management software programs, a quote in an article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal got me thinking on why a lot of people my age are fighting unemployment.

"It's not part of people's nature to take advantage unless there is someone pushing them," the Wall Street Journal quoted John Kruecher of Human Resources Development, a Michigan job placement firm about why so many people are quitting their job search in a state with 15.2 unemployment. "There is just so much inertia built in. It's easier to sit home rather than go out and pull things together for themselves. They need mentoring, and [the mentors] can't be bureaucrats."

To this, I say "amen."

The world has changed.

It's hard for some people to remain unemployed after losing high paying jobs, but the reality is that people have to retool themselves. Today, things are much better after completing that degree in marketing almost five years ago at UTSA. While in college, I had mentors. Today, I have even more people who help me. And when others need me to mentor them, I am more than glad to help them.

As my friend, Brian Massey wrote in the tome "The Market For Me -- Surviving Job Loss and Building Your Lifetime Career Network," most workers are "job seekers." They'll take anything to put food on the table.

Now, Americans need to rethink this strategy, he argues. They need to position themselves as skill holders. Massey argues these are people with skill sets that have value in the market place. They understand their value statement in even toughest of times.

Still, to be effective, skill holders need a job champion. In my view, that's the person who helps a person get the inside track to those unpublished jobs. And, if a job is published on a search site, they can help the skill holder get the attention of those hiring for a position.

For those of you facing unemployment, here's hoping that you can change your attitude towards your skill set. When needed, there are job retraining opportunity available as well as the mentors to help you understand the best path to success in a new career.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If I was at today's #bmpr meeting, here's what I would have asked Priest Holmes today

With Priest Holmes scheduled to speak at today's #BMPR meeting at the Holiday Inn Airport today, I was looking forward to hear him speak on how he uses social media tools. Sadly, business commitments in Austin will make me miss his talk today.
Still, I would love to know what Priest thinks about the following topics:
1) Which sports stars are you following on Twitter?
2) Who among the more popular Twitter sports users is actually composing tweets of substance?

The beauty of social media is that I can follow the talk today with the #bmpr hash tag while I am in Austin. I can count on the 100 or so loyal participants in today's luncheon to tweet their impressions by following it on Twitter. Still, I am sorry that I will have to miss today's program.

Monday, September 21, 2009

City of San Antonio should change its Alamo Bowl infomercial

If you heard screams of joy from north San Antonio yesterday morning, it was me.
I was watching an interview with Julian Castro and KENS 5 when I heard our mayor say he was pursuing ways to make San Antonio more nationally visible.
I should have been writing down his comments, but let me paraphrase what I heard yesterday. "I want to make San Antonio more nationally visible and make it a place where people want to relocate their businesses," is what I heard him say to the interviewer.
For years, San Antonio has built its reputation as a tourism destination. When the Alamo Bowl is played, our city gets a two-minute informercial during the halftime. For year, the city shows its tourist attractions from the golf courses to the River Walk. Meanwhile, when the Citrus Bowl is aired, the city of Orlando also shows some of its leading businesses during its halftime commercial.
So, Mayor Castro, if you are serious about showcasing our city's business opportunities, take a simple look at adding some shots of our city's businesses during those infomercials typically shown during the Alamo Bowl and next year's Texas Open. While we should continue to take pride in our tourist attractions, it's important as well for our city to look at new views to showcase that we have a lot to offer to new businesses.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My birthday wish for the world......

Today is Constitution Day. It's also my 50-something birthday.
As a kid, I would look forward to this day because it brought presents and gifts.
Today, it's not about the gifts, but it's about the wishes.
I am sure that most of you remember a parent or a grandmother telling you to make a wish when you blew out the candles on your cake.
So, as I woke up I began to think about this year's wish.
I could ask for a repeat of a previous wish -- the continued emphasis by San Antonio professionals to foster the growth of technology. Despite the lack of leadership in some city sanctioned areas, I got my wish. Thanks to a lot of people, we have organizations like "Business, Media, Public Relations" who truly foster the growth of technology in our city.
So, I am not going to waste my precious, birthday wish on this again.
Instead, I am going to ask today when I blow out my candle that we Americans continue the trend towards erasing prejudice. As someone who grew up in the 60s, I remember how some of my classmates would make snide remarks about people who were different than them. My mother, an educator, made me realize at an early age how my Great, Great Grandfather Hagen enlisted in the Union Army while living in New Orleans because he was opposed to slavery.
A 20-year tour in the Air Force continued my beliefs that it was not the color of a person's skin, his or her heritage and religious practices that made them unique. It was their character that truly mattered.
So, when I blow out my candle, I hope that today's generation continue to judge people not by their race, creed, ethnicity, religion or gender but instead on what they do with their lives.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Congrats to Madison Coach Jim Streety on his 300 victory

When I was reading my Sunday sports page, I am glad that my local newspaper featured Madison coach Jim Streety on its cover after he won his 300th game.
Streety's legacy is not as a coach but as an educator. Ironically, some high school football fans overlook the educational aspect of the game which we Texans (and adopted Texicans) refer to as "Friday Night Lights."
Yet, only one in 40 high school players will play in college. So, the question arises: "What will the other 39 do after they play their last down?"
And that's where Streety's impact will truly be measured. His former football players have been coaches, business professionals and successful in their lives.
My wife is on the Madison faculty with Coach Streety. She's been there long enough that she is now teaching the grandchildren of some of her former students. Her legacy is similar to Streety in that she helped mentor students who have become doctors, scientists and also teachers.
So, it's great that the newspaper recognized Coach Streety for his 300th victory. Yet, while the focus is on the number of victories on the field, high school fans should also revel in the fact that someone like Streety is helping build leaders and winners in other aspects of their lives after they graduate from high school.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Austin Innotech looking for tech startups to participate in Beta Summit

Tech startups who want to showcase their ideas and prototypes can apply to become part of the Austin Innotech Beta Summit, Oct. 29 at
the Austin Convention Center.
"This is a great opportunity for small businesses in the tech sector to get the input of the Austin investor community as well as the help
of other entrepreneurs who have built a company from a great idea," said Bryan Menell, a managing director of the Capital Factory.
Sean Lowery, the president of Prospera Events and the executive director of the Austin Innotech, said a group of leading tech
advocates will review the application for each entry. Six firms will be named finalists and will be given a six to eight-minute time slot
to present their idea or concept to about 100 or more entrepreneurs, venture capital funding specialists and technology firm executives.
Menell added this is the third consecutive year that the Austin tech community has conducted and held this competition with the annual
technical trade show.
Interested companies should contact Menell via email at or Sean Lowery, the event director at 503-570-6295. Info:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

When it comes to 'these kids," it's time for every adult to help

I've gained a lot of valuable insight from these visits, but one I'll always remember is my trip to Dodge Elementary School in my hometown of Chicago. I was talking to one of the young teachers there about the challenges they faced, and she mentioned what she called the "These Kids Syndrome" - the willingness of society to find a million excuses for why "these kids" can't learn. It's the idea that "these kids come from tough backgrounds" or that "these kids are too far behind." And after awhile, "these kids" become somebody else's problem.
Then she said to me, "When I hear that term, it drives me nuts. They're not 'these kids.' They're our kids."

Barack Obama

As Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Tuesday to public school students everywhere, I am amazed at how conservative politicians have made this a hot topic.
Please note I am not a big Obama supporter, especially with his bank bailout program. However, his efforts to speak to our public school students this week is not one that should infuriate those politically opposed to his fiscal agenda.
We Americans should collectively look at the state of our education, not in the context of the quality of education our students are getting today, but what are we doing to help our future leaders understand the demands of the job market.
I am amazed at the many adults who don't speak to their children, their relatives and others who are in school about what is needed for them to get a job that pays well.
As a volunteer, I mentor one 19-year-old who will soon get his release from a Texas Youth Commission halfway house. This young man wants to work on cars, but he doesn't know that to get certified as an auto mechanic that he needs more education after completing his high school degree.
Just this week, I met a waitress who needed two classes to complete her accounting degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She realized that she wanted to work as a graphic designer in her father's business, and she didn't see how having an accounting degree could help. Having a business degree could only help her father manage the business, I told her.
Americans, especially those who have many years of business, government or educational experience, need to help mentor "these kids." It's up to us to guide not only our immediate family - our children, relatives and friends about career aspirations but to reach out to others who need a sounding board and some good advice. In short, we need to become "job champions" for them and to help guide them on the types of college or technical courses that help them achieve their goals.
Instead of criticizing Obama for taking the initiative to encourage our future generation to buckle done, study hard and make something of themselves, America's conservative faction should instead agree with him and spend their time not criticizing him in public for this insightful speech but instead help "these kids" find the career path that will make them productive, happy and successful.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

MIA at a PTSD conference -- effective public affairs counsel

An Austin client of mine was at a Rackspace sales symposium yesterday at the new Hyatt Grand Hotel, so I spent some time with him and then working remotely before going to a funeral for a friend's mother. As I was working on some business after our meeting, I noticed an influx of Air Force people in uniforms. I quickly found out that they were mental health professionals from various U.S. bases to discuss the ongoing treatment of posttraumatic stress disorders.

From talking on one Air Force master sergeant, PSTD is a growing concern in the Air Force with our continued involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. I asked him if there was a public affairs aspect to this conference, and he admitted that there wasn't one.

The inquisitive side of me found an Air Force lieutenant colonel who knew who the public affairs officer was for her command, but she also admitted that he wasn't there. A flag officer or two was on the program, she said, but there was nobody from the public affairs team to help discuss ways to take advantage of their many communications tools.

From what I read in the paper (when I have time to really read them,) there has been a lot written on the topic and the need for intervention for those who are suffering from PTSD. Yet, it's amazing how the Air Force mental health community overlooks the need to use some basic public affairs tools. From writing an article for the base newspaper to working with local media on outreach programs, the uniformed and civilian mental health professionals could reach the centers of influence in their base communities. A military public affairs professional could have helped the mental health community here in San Antonio develop a strategy on communicating the availability of the military, civilian and VA resources available to Afghan and Iraqi veterans suffering from PSTD and traumatic brain injury.

Having worked in public affairs at Wilford Hall before retiring in 1997, I know that some medical types don't understand how public affairs helps them communicate to their client base. Some tried to over manage the communications process by writing things for an article in the hospital newsletter that would impress a thesis committee but would confuse the spouse of a first term airman. Despite our communications styles, every mental health team should now be looking at the many tools available to them from their military public affairs programs so they can communicate the full capabilities of their program to the military, their spouses, their families and their loved ones.

The Air Force spent thousands of dollars on travel, per diem and missed appointments to discuss the issue for this conference. Yet, in the midst of all this strategy formulation, it seems somewhat ironic that their commanders and planning types could forget the need to have professional public affair representation work on helping them reach out to those suffering from PTSD. Here's hoping that if there is another conference on this topic that the mental health community doesn't overlook the need to involve their public affairs professionals as part of their outreach strategy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dear Sprint, please add an extra tower in my neighborhood to deal with all the extra texting in my 'hood

So I am sitting at home, working in my home office and using my Sprint PCS phone to make some calls. In the last three hours, I have been kicked off by my wireless provider at about the same time as when the 800 or so students at Lopez Middle School bombard the network with their texting to each other.

I could write another letter to the folks at Sprint, but I have already gone down that route and had to deal with a snarky customer service person last year when I had similar issues.

So, here's why I am reblogging about this topic. Maybe, the folks at Sprint customer service will read this one, or maybe after four or five of us who have similar issues retweet it and perpetuate the issue through social media channels, someone from this wireless carrier will fix the problem.

When I talked to the reps at Sprint last year at their 1604 and Blanco store, they were very nice and somewhat helpful. Then, I got this engineer who didn't want to believe that I was having phone problems. I realized then that Sprint wasn't going to address the issue then, and so I am going to blog about it again in the hopes that someone from customer service reads this and fixes the issue. As a professional public relations person, I want to hear from someone who can give me an estimate on when Sprint is going to put a new tower in the Stone Oak area.

So, for the purpose of documenting the issue for them, here goes:

1) 9:01: Talking to a possible vendor on how she could help me with a project in Detroit and we were wrapping up the call when I got dropped. It's obviously the end of first or second period at Lopez Middle School.

2) 10:01: I'm dealing with another client as he posts his first blog on MySA (yeah!!) when third period at the local school hits. The call is dropped. My client laughs when I call him back as I tell him that the electronic jammers at the local school are in full force.

3) 10:45: My remote admin diva calls me. We're talking about accounting stuff when fourth period hits. You guess it. The phone call was dropped.

I don't have this problem when I go down to my favorite coffee shop, La Taza. It's only when I am at home that I have the issue of dropped calls.

So, here's what I am asking people who read this blog:

1) Is there a way that I can call my customers with the number engraved on my business cards and use an alternative phone?
2) Are you a fellow Sprint customer who lives and works out of their Stone Oak home with similar issues?
3) Is there any way that I can get out of my contract with Sprint for non-performance? I mean three dropped calls in one morning is a little excessive, doncha think?

Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts on how we Stone Oak small business types who work remotely can address the issue.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Failure is truly an option for those who don't make the grade in public schools

State Sen. Jane Nelson gets what's wrong with our state education system.
After reading Lindsay Kastner's article this morning in the Express-News, I had to applaud Nelson's effort to reform education.
Her bill makes it easier for educators to not pass students who didn't do the work.
If you can draw an anology, think of going to McDonalds, ordering a burger, fries and a soda and not getting the pomme frites. Would you pay for it? For years, educators have been told to give a student a 50 for work not turned in or if they took a test and got a score like 21. Administrators did this to encourage their students to buckle done and do better work so they wouldn't fail.
For my friends in the education space, if they failed too many students because they didn't turn in the work, their administrators will have a chat about making it easier for their students to pass the course.
That's why a lot of my friends and colleagues have turned to Catholic school or charter schools to help their students get an education. They know that if their kids didn't turn in homework or did poorly on a test that their little darlings will have to work hard to make up a zero or a 21 on their math test.
Standards like this make the transformation from high school to college easier for their children. They understand the value of turning in their homework and doing well on their tests.
I am hoping Nelson's bill gives educators the power to confront those administrators who demand that they raise a grade so they can pass a student to the next level. When this happens, these students are doomed to a life of working in low paying jobs or having to pay their local junior college money so they can reach the basic standards to get an associate or four-year degree.
While Nelson's legislative work makes it against Texas state law to pass students who didn't complete the work, I am hoping that the state will pursue serious legal action against districts, administrators and teachers who pass kids who didn't meet the minimum requirements for passing each course.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Please send my 500,000 pounds to another winner.....

Today's latest scam comes in an email to me.

"Your e-mail has emerged as a winner of £500,000.00 GBP in our on-going Google Promotion. Your Winning details are as follows: Computer Generated
Profile Numbers (CGPN):7-22-71-00-66-12, Ticket number: 00869575733664,
Serial numbers:/BTD/8070447706/06, Lucky numbers: 12-12-23-35-40-41(12).
Contact Mr Graham Benfield, for more details through the contact below:
Mr Graham Benfield,

To Graham, I am not a moron.... Yes, I reported you to the spam patrol at Google, but here's hoping that this blog will help others with elderly parents, new to the web, not believe this bovine scat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two things your credit card processing firms don't want you to know....

If you are a business that accepts credit cards for payments, you probably never have gotten a good explanation about how the interchange rate impacts the cost of accepting them.

After losing some money to customers who didn't pay my fees, I turned to credit card payments as a more effective way to get paid for my work. As one of my friends from church had a credit card processing fee firm, I asked him to set me up with an account.

My friend promised me a good rate despite the lack of monthly volume. For each transaction, I would pay slightly more than 2.2 percent for each transaction. Yet, after I got my first month's statement I noticed that the cost was more like 3-percent after deducting my monthly fee.

It wasn't until I met David Jemeyson, the chief information officer for MerchantZdirect that I truly understood how credit cards rate could charge more for their services. Take that credit card with the Vikings that advertises on every televised major sporting events. When a business takes the "What's In Your Wallet" card, Jemeyson said the rate is higher than a regular card without rewards.

I would surmise that most businesses are never told about the interchange rate when a new business adds a credit card or decide to change it to another provider. Yet, that's the first point of truly understanding the costs of accepting them.

Another important point for any business to understand is the basis points paid to a merchant processing service. When a business understands how interchange rates and the basis points impact the cost of doing business, they can probably negotiate a better rate.

For example, let's suppose that Jane Smith runs an automotive repair business. She accepts a credit card payment of $400 for four tires. If the interchange rate for the card presented to her is 2-percent, a major credit card company like Master Card or VISA will get $8 for their transaction fee.

If Smith's merchant service charges 100 basis points, she would pay $4 more for this transaction. However, if the rate is at a lower rate like 20-basis points, she would only pay eighty cents.

When I first started accepting credit cards, I wish I had truly understood the interchange rate and the basis points I paid for each transaction. Had I known this when I signed my initial contract, I would have probably negotiated a better deal than the one I currently have with my friend from my church.

It's my hope that businesses who want to cut their costs take the time to talk to their merchant processing service rep about the basis points and the interchange rate. If you find a credit card rep that can explain this to you and gives you something at 20-basis points, I would take that over someone who doesn't help you understand these key terms.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SA research firm shows the best time to send out a tweet

My friend and colleague, Ryan Johnson released an interesting study today about the use of Twitter. Johnson, the chief executive officer of Pear Analytics, released a white paper on "what people are really using Twitter for."

Johnson and his team built six categories for their study: News, Spam, Self Promotion, Total Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value.

Of the six, Johnson found from a data pool of 2000 daily tweets that Total Pointless Babble had over 40-percent usage.


It seems that most of us think that Twitter is the ultimate place to tell our followers that we are watching Happy Gilmore on Sunday. Yes, I am guilty of that. But, I also got a response from one of my followers that they too thought that it was the ultimate Adam Sandler flick.

However, I have learned through the last 18 months of using this social medium tool that it's also a good place to start conversations with people. I also believe people who use Twitter are smart enough to stop following people who always talk about what they're having for lunch or what they are planning for the weekend.

More importantly, Pear Analytics study has done several things. First, the reaction to his white paper has put San Antonio on the technology landscape. Second, it helps show the best times to send out a tweet, especially if you want someone else to retweet it.

So, if you are someone who wants other to "RT" one of your 140-character missives, make sure it's right before lunch on Monday. According to Johnson and his crew, that's the best time to send out a tweet.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why there's no such thing as a free trip to Las Vegas

If you get an offer to attend a seminar on travel opportunities in the mail from a new company in San Antonio take a pass on it. It’s the typical high pressure sales firm which preys on your hope to travel a lot and save money.
In their advertisement, the company promises a free trip with hotel and airfare to Las Vegas just for attending their seminar. If my wife and I showed up on time for our 8 p.m. seminar located at 1102 E. Sonterra, we would have gotten a $50 Visa gift card.
As a marketing and communications professional, I knew that we would get a high pressure sales pitch, and I was not disappointed. This company, which uses two to three names in each presentation, kept asking for nearly $9000 for us to sign up.
First, a junior sales rep named “Dave” captured some information about and where we would to travel in the future. Then, a senior sales rep named “Jere” took over and gave a sales overview of how their travel program would repay the nearly $9000 we would invest in their 10-year travel program.
After their 90-minute presentation, my wife and I passed on their offer despite several offers to lower their membership costs. We were then taken to another sales rep who gave us our voucher for our “free trip.” However, she first offered us a five-year deal for $1995.
When I got home from our seminar, I noticed that there were some extra costs with our free trip in the voucher given to us. First, the Good Times Travel Company would charge us $50 each to process our trip request. We also would have to fly to either Chicago or Orlando to fly to Las Vegas. A quick review of one of those mainstream travel sites showed that travel to Chicago would cost us more than $500 to then fly to Las Vegas.
During Jere’s presentation, the featured hotel in his presentation for Las Vegas was Circus Circus, a hotel I once visited during a business trip. The hotel maid staff never changed the towels or cleaned the room during a 3-day trip.
This travel firm gives a visitor an initial impression of a professional organization. Their office is located in a new building along the Sonterra Boulevard corridor. However, I wondered why the sales reps never gave me their full name, a business card and took my flyer with their offer of a free trip.
I could complain to the Federal Trade Commission or the Texas Attorney General about this firm, but that would take time. Instead, I hope that those who read this blog will pass on their “free” offer to travel to one of their dream trips.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Air Force should burn negatives of Statue of Liberty flyover

After outraging New York city residents with a scheduled flyover of mockup of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty for a photograph, someone in the military should have burned all of the negatives.

As a retired Air Force public affairs professional who worked with some of the best military photojournalists in the world, I know the thrill of annually getting six or eight boxes of the poster sized lithographs of everything from the F-15 to a B-52.

For me, getting those lithos was like going to the dime store as a 10-year-old to get six pack of bubble gum cards. Like those baseball cards with stars like Willie Mays and Bob Gibson, our public affairs staff would open up just one pack and ooh and ah at the pictures.

And, like any military noncom, I had the job of keeping the lithos in a special place for distribution to friends of the public affairs office. When our office needed a special favor or needed to reward the guys at the motor pool or supply, we would secretly slip them an F-15 litho for their office or classroom.

I believe that the F-16 escorting the Air Force One litho will become a rare collector's item and highly valued among military bases. Still, the best thing for the Air Force photo and public affairs community would have been to burn the negatives and find an alternate location to shoot the photo again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

iPhone dev camps are needed in south Texas

One of the hottest trends in technology involves iPhone technology development.

Last year, Barack Obama used an iPhone app where his voters could email, text and reach out to undecided voters with their phone. And, that's just one of many uses of the Apple product. During a recent trip to Austin, a client of mine used another iPhone app to find a list of restaurants located on South Congress street for a lunch meeting.

Developers are embracing the open source capabilities of I-phones. Add the full gaming capability of iPhones, and it's easy to see why developers want to focus on deploying something better than Pong.

This weekend, my friends at the Austin TechRanch are sponsoring a sold out IphoneDevCamp this weekend. I am hoping that they will consider a second one at a bigger venue in San Antonio in the early fall as more and more iPhone developers are calling the southern part of Austantonio as their home base.

For most of us, iPhone development is under the radar, but I am seeing a growth of wireless phone apps coming out of our city. By putting our best iPhone development types with the ones in Austin, we can help quickly close the 65-mile gap between our cities.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SBIR coach featured in two different Business Journal editions......

Fred Patterson, the SBIR coach, was featured in a page-one article in the Austin Business Journal. Patterson also wrote an op-ed piece in the San Antonio Business Journal that appeared in Friday's edition.

Throw in another editorial by LeAnne Carlson at Cook CPAs, and I had a rare trifecta in local public relations. For a one-man PR shop, that's a good days work. Here's the full version of Christopher Calnan's article in Friday's Austin edition:

SBIR idea riles some startups
Many say proposal to award funds to VC-backed cos. not fair

Austin Business Journal - by Christopher Calnan ABJ Staff

Local officials are worried that proposed changes to the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, funding program — such as increasing fund access to venture capital firms — would put nascent Texas companies at a disadvantage.

Two versions of the bill in Congress are being worked on by a conference committee, but industry observers said fewer small businesses will win grants if the proposals are adopted. And since the changes would add companies that are VC-controlled to the mix, the small number of VC firms and VC-backed businesses in Central Texas could make it more difficult for local companies to compete for the funding.

“It’s no longer a small business program rather than an innovation economy program,” said Fred Patterson, president of the North Richland Hills-based SBIR Coach.

The SBIR program, which was created in 1982, administers a $2 billion federal fund that enables 11 federal agencies to target businesses with new technology. With the program scheduled to expire July 31, federal officials are tweaking the policies before reinstating it. Pundits said it’s not a question of whether such changes will be enacted by July 31, but rather to what extent.

Venture capital firms have been lobbying for their portfolio companies to share in the SBIR program since an administrative court ruling limited their participation in 2003.

Businesses that are owned 50 percent or more by a VC firm are barred from applying for SBIR grants. And that’s the way it should stay, said Gary Mardsen, CEO of Austin-based Trout Green Technologies Inc.

Trout Green, which was founded in 2002 and develops optics and sensors for the military, has received about 90 percent of its funding from the SBIR program — mostly through the U.S. Department of Defense, he said.

In addition to increasing the competition for grants, allowing VC-controlled companies to apply for SBIR grants would relegate small businesses to acting as shills for larger businesses and chill the creative climate for independent companies, Mardsen said.

The SBIR program “really is the engine of technology growth in this country,” he said. “To me, the stakes are high.”

The effort to restore eligibility to VC-backed companies comes after VC investments hit a 12-year low during the first quarter, with $3 billion invested nationally in 549 deals. Venture capital fundraising in the second quarter dropped to levels not seen since 2003, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

“A small business is a small business. It shouldn’t matter how you’re financed,” National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen said.

Texas companies have received about $650 million in SBIR grants during the last 10 years, making the Lone Star state the country’s seventh-largest recipient, said Erika Sumner, vice president of public policy for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber supports loosening the limitations on VC-backed companies because it would improve the quality of the applications, Sumner said.

SBIR awards Phase 1 grants of up to $100,000 and Phase 2 grants of up to $750,000.

The House legislation calls for Phase 1 grants of $250,000 and Phase 2 grants of up to $2 million. The Senate version would increase Phase 1 grants to $150,000 and Phase 2 grants to $1 million. The Senate version also extends the program to 2023.

Patterson said the House version of the bill would be “very damaging” to the funding of small companies.

“The VC community is always trying to reduce risk and let the government take on the validation,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something we should promote. It just goes counter to what I believe is in the best interest of this country.”