Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
I do. Many would think that as a technology advocate that I would embrace the use of automated phones or grocery checkout lanes.
Nope. I hate 'em.
When I call USAA for service, I typically punch "zero" to speak to a human being. It doesn't always work properly, and it takes me two or three times before I find someone that can understand me.
I recently had someone break into my car, smashing my window and stealing a laptop. Because of the angry tones in my voice, the computer couldn't understand me. It was 85 degrees out and there wasn't a place for me to get to the right person to start my claims process. After two efforts to get to the telephone switch operator to connect me to a claims adjustor failed, I finally got the right person to help me with my two claims.
And, if you listen to USAA phone operators, they always remind you that you could save time by using their web site for assistance. My response is that when they make their web site uncomplicated and easy to use then I will use it more often.
I am not picking on USAA in this blog. Call Time-Warner Cable and you get the same drill of waiting five minutes when you can't watch the latest episode of HBO "the Wire" on that cable channel's "On demand service."
Then, there's HEB. I despise their automated checkout service. I know it saves my grocer money, but it isn't a time saver because you have to wait for each prompt as you pay for your items.
And when you get someone on the phone, especially if they are in the 16 to 24 age demographic, most really demonstrate terrible listening skills. Most will push you right back in some form of electronic queue to punch through other numbers.
Smart businesses owners who want to improve their personal, customer service should look to successful restaurants as the way to listen to people. The best servers are the ones who listen and ask questions to make sure their customers get what they want.
If a business has a young person who is a terrible listener, I would suggest they take them to lunch or high tea at Indigo Joes Restaurant. There, they can observe Daniella or Brandy, two of their 20-something
contemporaries listening and taking orders. More importantly, they can observe how the art of human contact works for a business.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Yet, with Twitter, Facebook and blogging, it's also easy to share Memorial Day thoughts and experiences. This Monday, I want to honor my great-great grandfather Hagen, a union corporal, with this blog.
Grandfather Hagan emigrated to New Orleans in 1858. As a young man, he met my great-great grandmother in the city, and he was also exposed to slavery. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the Union Army. By then, he had married my great-great grandmother.
About 18 months later, Corporal Hagen died of dysentery. He's buried in Louisiana at a federal grave site similar to Fort Sam. His military record is not something of note. Yet, his decision to join the Union Army in a pro-slavery state has always impressed me. When my son was born 20 years ago, his mother and I added Hagen as his middle name.
With my son having the same middle name, Grandfather Hagen lives on, However, I am thinking that on this Memorial Day that others who had relatives who served in the military could take a few minutes to reflect with a blog or a Twitter feed about a relative like my grandmother's relative. On Twitter, you could add the hash mark #MemorialDay as a way to recognize those friends, relatives and other loved ones who serve.
Most of us Americans look to this holiday as an extra day off. Yet, we need to take a few minutes to publicly thank those in uniform or those who have served with a prayer or a thought. The many social media outlets, available to us, are a great way to take a few minutes to thank them and reflect on their contributions. If you believe in the power of thanking veterans, take the time to post your thoughts on Twitter with the #MemorialDay hash mark.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Ryan has been waiting tables at several restaurants, while waiting for his big chance to appear at Caroline's Comedy Club. If you are in New York Wednesday, be sure to check out his show and tell the folks at the door: "Ryan sent you."
Hopefully, he'll be as big of name as Eddie Griffin or Jay Thomas, one of the stars of Mr. Holland's Opus.
So what does your avatar look like?
As someone who has watched the evolution of social media, I believe that the avatar is like a business card. And, like my business, my avatar is like it in that the quality of it says a lot about my business.
Several weeks ago, I was at the Door64.com tech fair in Austin. There was a lot of out-of-work silicon chip manufacturers who had those homemade business cards with the ink stains.
For those who has a cropped family picture at their avatar, it's time to update it with a professional photo. And, like a business card it has to evolve over time.
A year ago, Ruben Barron, my graphic guru, sat me down for a formal shooting session. I have used that photo for over a year, until I met Steve Noreyko, an Austin photographer at Austin Interactive. Steve took my latest mug shoot. I loved his generous use of pancake makeup on what he termed "extended forehead."
Just after getting my photo, I noted Louis Cardenas' ditzy blonde avatar on Twitter. So, I sent Louis my latest mug shot to ask him to see what kind of personality he could create for me. In a day, Louis created an "Andy Warhol" feel to my mug shot.
I am now using Louis' new mugs on my personal blog and my personal Twitter page. I believe it will help me broaden my marketing efforts.
If you are individual or a business, a professional graphic artist can update an avatar. For those using a homemade photo or a simple graphic file, it's time to engage somelike Ruben, Steven or Louis to help them get a professional look and feel.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
After my first dog bit me as a toddler, I was never much of a dog person. It's hard to love any canine when you have memories of this from your early youth.
However, my second marriage to my wife, Jackie, has changed all that. Through the near 12 years that we have been married, she has slowly introduced to me that like the movie, "Must Love Dogs" that not all dogs will bite you.
Maxx, my black lab, is like the big black canine that stars in the movie. He's in the middle of anything. After getting home from a day-long event yesterday, he wants me to drop everything to pet him and scratch his ears.
My oldest step daughter owns a brown Vizsla named Bentley. Bentley spent half of last summer with us while my wife was taking care of her father in Miami. For me, the experience was harrowing at first, but when my daughter came home, we were the best of friends.
So, Bentley is home with us again for the summer. His mother is going to a legal internship in Washington, D.C., and her apartment is not pet friendly. So, I have learned to love dogs,
especially if I want to show love to the important women in my life.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
It takes a while to build a network of any kind, but once you have something in place, what's the point of having one if you aren't sharing it. My friend and colleague, Brian Massey, the author of the new book "The Market For Me -- Surviving Job Loss and Building a Lifetime Career Network" argues that most people with a job should help those looking as much as possible. By being an active networker and helping others, others will help you find a new position or get information about someone when the need arises.
Long before I met Brian, I was a believer in the process of helping others. Now, with the rise of social media channels, it's much easier to help others. You're welcome to attend my talk today or you can follow it by watching for the "#payitfor" hashtags on Twitter. You can also download a copy of my slides by visiting http://budurl.com/payitfor
Note: I am the communications manager for cardboardresume.com, the company that commissioned Brian to write his book. Even though it's my job to help publicize the book and the software, I have always been a big believer of helping others.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Why getting the Cyber Command should not be surprising to those of us who work with the city's large base of retired cyber security professionals
As someone with ties to some of the early leaders of the information security arena, I'm not.
Sadly, it's not a well publicized fact that San Antonio has a large influx of retired information security professionals. Many have worked at what is called by insiders as the "Hill." After serving their nation in protecting our country, they have left the military with their special clearances and skill sets to either go back into contracting positions or form new companies. Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, wrote a master thesis on the need to protect military computers from hackers in 1985. His paper became the starting point for the establishment of the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team at Kelly AFB in the early 90s. After retiring from the military, Frederick formed SecureInfo.
Now, add the National Security Agency and other operations like it, and it's obvious why the Air Force picked our town for its new operation. For IT businesses with contractors who have the right clearances, this is great news.
Yet, San Antonio shouldn't rest on its laurels after winning the establishment of a new command. I argued nearly a decade ago that UTSA should consider setting up a special short course for information security with the Air Force. Similar to the University of Oklahoma's short course for public affairs, this is a program where the best officers and NCOs attend a 9-week course to study computer security. Perhaps, there is a program in place with CIAS and the military, but I doubt it. With the addition of 400 new positions, it would make sense that UTSA would discuss a program that would provide education for info security professionals throughout the military.
As an industry group, information security types don't publicly share facts or data about their successes, so I can understand why Judge Wolff doesn't know all of the success stories that San Antonio has developed with information security through the years. Still, the city should do more to encourage the development of training and education programs not only with UTSA but with other programs. One of the challenges that the Air Force will someday face is the loss of talented intelligent analysts to retirement.
With the community's help, the Air Force can grow and expand its depth of intelligence professionals.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
What do you do when you can't check in at a Marriott property? Why you gripe about in your personal blog....
I have been selected for a prestigious honor by the United Nations.
This morning as I was opening my email, Laurie Vongunten wrote: "You have been choosen By the Board of trustees of the UNITED NATIONS as a winner of $500,000.00. being awarded to you on Monday 06, April, 2009. Contact Dr. Henry Mccartney on email address below to claim your grant."
Sadly, Ms. Vongunten is a hoax.
As someone who has worked with security organizations through the years, I recognized the classic qualities of your basic email scam. First, I don't know her. Second, if it really was a half a million dollars in a grant given to me, I would have had to apply for it. And, I am guessing that the U.N. Board of Trustees, if there was such an organization, would have personally called me with the news that I won 500,000 simoleans.
There were other clues of course. Ms. Vongunten used the "akronlibrary.org" as part of her email address. And, the kicker was that I had to respond to a Microsoft Hotmail account to get my money. Sadly, the deadline to respond was April 6.
It's amazing to me how Ms. Vongunten got my email address as I avoid using my real one to sign up for things. Even on press releases, I use the term (at) to symbolize the "@" that connects my name. As Keith Frederick, the founder of SecureInfo, told me years ago, there are people who are mining everyone's email address to try to involve them in scams like this. If you want to keep your email box free of these distractions, you should also avoid putting them on entry forms for the free car giveaways or the $1000 HEB gift card you see at fairs and other public venues.
More importantly, it's a good idea to help your elderly parents recognize a scam and to not respond. I am guessing that Ms. Vongunten would want to send those who respond a nasty computer virus. I can only imagine the troubles that would cause my mother, who is a longtime computer surfer.
So, Ms. Vongunten, I am on to you. I am hoping that others will send this blog to their friends so that you won't victimize people like my mother or my wife's elderly brother. By using the collective power of social media channels, we can truly impact the progress of your devious intents.
Small businesses are starting to embrace social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn as a way to capture customers. However, most are overlooking the use of short messaging service as a way to lure in customers.
Brad Beasley, the chief executive officer of CrossLink Media, will speak Thursday at 7:30 a.m.at Leticia's Mexican Restaurant as the featured speaker for StoneOakInfo.com.
In an article published in the Wall Street Journal in November, Forrester Research noted that most Americans use their cell phones as a source of information 8.9 hours per week. At a recent Austin Interactive event, another industry expert noted that there are 250,000,000 cell phone users. Cell phones also reach lower income demographics as well.
Small businesses who want to learn more about the short-term and also long-term advantages of short messaging system should plan on hearing Beasley's presentation this Thursday. For more information on the breakfast meeting, you can callKent Kirkman at 210-325-1333.
(Note: Brad Beasley and CrossLink Media are my clients. However, regardless of which short messaging service you decide to use someday, it's important for every "bidness" to start thinking about the use of cell texting systems as part of their marketing mix.)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Jennifer is one of those unsung heroes in San Antonio's growing tech community. She's the den mother and a leader of a lot of informal groups who bring visionaries together. Yet, here's what I love about her. She's patient enough to work with people who don't understand how to use Twitter or LinkedIn as part of their marketing efforts.
This Saturday, Jennifer is organizing the second PodCamp at the El Tropicano Hotel on the new northern part of the San Antonio Riverwalk. If you are new to technology or you are really experienced in social media channels, you should register today at this link: http://budurl.com/wcrv.
Jennifer is modest enough to tell you that there are others who are helping her. Yet, in my view, she is San Antonio's top technology den mother. Like the lady who keeps track of a lot of eight-year-old boys, she has the capability to put it all together without a lot of fuss.
And, when she reads this, she'll respond with a quiet response of "Aw Shucks" or something of that ilk. Yet, I have to be the first to publicly thank her for the great work she has done to build a technology community.
So, if you care about technology and community, you need to plan part of your Saturday to spend it with people like Jennifer and others like her.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The business of newspapers has changed for my friends at the San Antonio Express-News. The editorial hole (the actual amount of inches for the newspaper) has shrunk considerably in the past few months. Reporters are losing their jobs due to cutbacks, and the ones still on the job have to do more with less. Add in the requirements to blog, and it's hard for any newspaper reporter to truly get the time to focus on the dirt at City Hall or the local police station.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Having gone back to college five years ago at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I was amazed by the number of 20-something college students who believed there was a "job fairy" waiting to point her magic wand and give some of them a high paying job, a company car and a professional clothing allowance.
As a parent of three, ranging from 23 to 17, I have been stressing the need for them to find what my colleague Brian Massey, the author of the recently published "Author at The Market for Me: Surviving Job Loss and Building Your Lifetime Career Network" would term as job champions. Harvey Mackey, the author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" and "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt," tells the story of his father suggesting he talk to one of his uncles about finding a job after spending four years as a college student in the University of Minnesota.
As I remember this anecdote from one of the book, Harvey and his uncle became good friends. Like any good relative (such as my favorite, Scrooge McDuck) who cared about his sibling, his uncle would refer him to opportunities and people who could help him move from job opportunity to job opportunity. Massey, who also is the chief evangelist for the recently launched cardboardresume.com, will tell you that relatives and family friends are a good starting point for building an online network of folks who can open doors for those persistent and patient enough to ask.
Today, many young people are afraid to look for their uncles, aunts or other "centers of influence" who can advise them on the job market. Just today, I ram into the father of one of my favorite CYO basketball players at my parish men's club casino night. For six years, I coached CYO girls and boys' basketball and softball at St. Francis of Assisi. I have kept up with a lot of my former players. One of them is someone I still teasingly call "Downtown" for his willingness to never pass up a 18-foot shot while playing for the parish team. This former player of mine had great confidence in his game, and he really listened to me and my assistant coaches. In short, I like the kid as a player, and he was one of my favorites.
When his father told me that his son was kind of not sure what he wanted to do, I told him that his son should call me. Like Mackey's uncle and Massey's champion, I am the kind of guy who has an hour or so to help a former player like mine.
Yet, I know that this kid may never call me. Perhaps, he will be too embarrassed to admit that he doesn't know what he wants to do after college. Yet, having an honest conversation with several people like me could help him find the kind of job that will appeal to him once he completes college.
Here's hoping that he calls, and more importantly that someone with a college kid who is a nephew, niece, former youth team athlete or student will get to read this. It's hard for some young people to admit they need help, but it's best for them to have some honest conversations about the job market and the kind of work that is available for those who complete their education or professional certification programs.
So, "Downtown" call me. I will be glad to buy you lunch or coffee at La Taza and discuss your options. I can already tell you that the NBA market for a short shooting guards with brown curly hair is not good. However, there's always a job for someone who believes in himself or herself.
Friday, May 1, 2009
If you want to know more about the state of VC funding or to understand the process to get started in this financial arena, here's an interesting "Qs and As" with Hall Martin, the director of the Austin Entrepreneur Network. My friend/colleague Bryan Menell allowed me to post it on AustinStartup.com.
If you want to know more about funding resources, please repost this blog to others who want to attend the day-long event. If you use "bd400" on the web site, you can save a few bucks off the registration fee.
You can find a copy of this article in Stephen's blog, which my team helps manage for him. We are also submitting it to the editor at the Express-News and we're researching some other outlets for him.