You are not a Ninja or a Rockstar

I read an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today that says the hot new job title in technology is “Ninja.”

Really? Seriously? People like being called the “Ninja?”

Before that, we had “Rockstar” and “Guru” and … [insert other fantasy title here]. All mis-appropriated from a fantasy of a high-school nerd who wished he was a rockstar or ninja back in the day. Now that you are an adult with some power, money and skills you can be these things. But it still makes you look nerdy.

Ninjas are ninjas; rockstars are rockstars. You are just the guy with a really big brain who has skills and the ability to see patterns most of us envy. Is that not enough or is that just too much of the wrong thing? I suppose you reason that if being the really smart nerd in the room was every kid’s fantasy, then we’d all grow up wanting to be a big brainy nerd instead of a rockstar.

Be who you are and quit trying to live out a child’s fantasy in your adult life. Being a nerd back then may have been uncomfortable, but claiming to be a rockstar or ninja in an adult life makes you look ridiculous.

And it makes the rest of us uncomfortable because we’re not sure how grown up you really are.

As long as we are talking creative titles, I would be remiss if I didn’t throw out a few of my own: Lead Dog, Poop Maker, Bone Digger, Whiner, Barker, Butt Sniffer, Leg Humper. Thanks @1sassy_chick and @saintpetepaul for the contributions.

Steve Jobs is just making silver-painted Styrofoam police badges

The iPad has been out for a day now, so that should have been enough time for all the pundits and Apple-know-it-alls to gripe about what is missing from the iPad, what should have been done differently, etc, etc, etc. And they are all very wrong because Steve Jobs really doesn’t care what you think or want. I know that has also been said before but before you dismiss me as another me-too thinker, let me share a short story with you.

When I was a puppy, we used to play a lot of games like cops and robbers. My parents were good Catholics, so that meant there was a rather large litter of us, all pretty close in age. My dad didn’t make much money and my mom was a stay-at-home, always in the kitchen, don’t bother me kind of mom, so there wasn’t a lot of money for toys. We made a lot of necessary accessories like pistols and billy clubs out of tree branches and whatnots. (It was a long time ago; guns were ok toys back then, even pretend ones made out of twigs.)

When I was about nine or ten years old, we got a catalog in the mail that had a whole section of cop badges you could order. Suddenly, without question, our cops needed badges. I started making badges using the Styrofoam trays meat was packed in. Turns out, if you traced the outline of the badge from the catalog, cut it out and then traced the inside detail lightly with a dull pencil, it would make an embossed badge. Paint that with silver paint used for model cars, tape a safety pin on the back and you had yourself a slick looking police badge.

Then I got to thinking that if I thought this was a good idea, other people would to. I made a few more and sold them to other kids who played the cops in our games for I think $.25 or something like that. Nobody really needed the badges to play a cop in cops and robbers, but it sure made the game more fun. After a bit, nobody wanted to play a cop unless they had a badge.

But here’s the thing: I made the badges because I wanted to create a game where the police characters sported really cool badges. I didn’t much care if they had all the features that others wanted (like a multi-color seal or gold eagle and silver base) or even if they were necessary for the game. In my mind, a world that had cops without badges was just not going to be a world I wanted to be in, pretend cops or not. If other kids thought it was a cool idea and wanted to buy a badge, that was ok, but it wasn’t necessary for me to have a market for silver-painted styrofoam badges for me to make the badges.*

And that ultimately is how I think Steve Jobs sees his world. He created the Apple computer because he wanted a world where small, personal computer existed. He created the iPod because he wanted a small, portable music device that worked in a non-technical way. Same kind of thing for the iPhone and iPad. The fact that lots of other people want these kinds of things too is incidental.

Steve Jobs is just making silver-painted Styrofoam police badges.

*The product line branched out to cop hats (made out of blue construction paper, kinda cool really) and belts before I grew up, discovered girls and that was that.

Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

I just spent the last hour of my life fighting with some CSS that works perfectly in Safari and MESI 7.0, but not in MSIE 6.0 or the “standards compliant” Firefox whatever version it is now. Since I am working pre-coffee, pre-office hours from a laptop on my kitchen table, I don’t have the luxury of checking out the site on a MSIE 6.0 browser. All I have is a really badly worded description of the problem, sent in an email by a very late Boomer who is using a language all her own to describe the issue.

Let me start by explaining I am very, very good at CSS, HTML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a whole host of stuff that has long been discontinued. I have been in the Internet and Web game since 1995 so I think it is fair to say I know what I am doing and have employed a pretty sizable library of fixes, kludges, hacks and plain ol’ cheats to make stuff work on a Web site. I can read, write and design. Don’t even start assuming I’m an idiot or unknowledgeable. You would be very, very wrong.

In some circles, I would be considered a geek. But in mine, I am a User Interface Designer. My job — some would say my obsession — is to make the interaction between the human and the machine seamless and intuitive. If training is needed, the system is too complicated. At least that is the ideal.

I have lost more time, brain cells and sleep to the hubris of geeks than any other tech-related issue. I am convinced the only reason that we have browser discrepancies with CSS, HTML, etc is because the geeks were in charge and they did not have the skills to play nice with each other or anybody else. They looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it. And, they looked down at each other because each one was more right than his peer.

What if each company making street lights decided on a different order of the red-yellow-green? Of, decided that the colors were way too boring and decided purple-pink-magenta would be better. Or, what if they decided that light were just not good and they used coo-coo clock birdies instead? And imagine if a different signal was installed on each street corner. But, the wrinkle is that each user was able to choose which signal he/she liked best for that day, for that corner? What a mess!

So, now we have this mess of browser technologies that don’t play well with each other. For every hour I have to spend on the phone or email, explaining why MSIE 6.0 is a piece of crap, I would like to invoice Microsoft. And, in all fairness, Microsoft should take that invoice payment out of the paychecks of any geek who decided that their way was better. Let them live with the consequences of the mess their hubris created. Apple and Mozilla, you’re not off the hook either.

I expect the geeks to either ignore this post or defend their position. I really don’t give a crap which they do because today, I woke up as a fully frustrated user who doesn’t care to hear another excuse about why your way is better. I am no longer a developer; I will be a user first. If I have to fight with it, I ain’t gonna use your technology.

Standards are good. Community-agreed conventions keep use from wasting time. Pay attention to the user, geeks and peek out from your self-induced world every once in a while.

And quit going to geek conventions where everyone validates your opinion about the user. They’re wrong; we’re not stupid. We just have lives where technology is a tool, not an ends.

Some things I know

I just got done speaking with an American Express rep to pay my bill. I had to call them because I missed the bill pay window between 3:00-7:00am where their web site will actually work to pay my bill.

It got to think about stuff I “know” to be true, even though other dogs swear they aren’t having the same problems.

I KNOW the Amex web site will not work during business hours.

I KNOW the Chase drive-through will make me wait for hours after 2:00pm on Fridays.

I KNOW the shake machine at the Burger King in Englewood will be broken.

I KNOW Time Warner will not really send someone out between the hours of 8:00-12:00am and I should just set aside an entire day.

I KNOW the only flights that ever leave on time from the Dayton International Airport are the first one and the last one of the day.

I KNOW any rental car company will not have a sub compact car available when I arrive.

I KNOW I will not be able to get out of Meijers without waiting in line at the register, even though I will have found everything I needed.

I KNOW my cell phone bill will never be what I was told when I signed up for the plan.

I KNOW the latest gadget I bought will not be compatible with anything else I own.

I KNOW that “no assembly required” really does require assembly.

I KNOW the directions someone just gave me that includes the phrase “you can’t miss it” will not actually get me where I’m going.

I KNOW portable electronic devices will have a 50lb power brick attached to the cord.

What else do YOU know that customer service reps tell you never happens to other people?

Contributed:
@Eva_Abreu via Twitter: I know that I’ll press 3, then 6, then 2, then hold for 13 min. only to get disconnected!

What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

Stuff lost in translation

I read this story and was horrified. Not at the fact that 200 shoppers would break down a WalMart door and stampede a man to his death, but by two statements made by Walmart.

Wal-Mart representative Dan Fogleman called the incident a “tragic situation” and said the victim came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.

Translation: He ain’t our employee and therefore, not our responsibility.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., closed the store in Valley Stream for several hours after the stampede. It reopened shortly after 1 p.m.

Translation: Well, it was only one guy and why waste the whole day calling this a crime scene when there is money to be made?

ARRGGHHH.. Beyond words.

 

 

Posted by email from rufus’s posterous

Happy Eating Day

Happy Eating Day, everyone! Oh, I know, our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving but let’s call the holiday what it really is.

A few years ago, a friend of mine spent August through January in Europe and called me on Thanksgiving, very much depressed they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Despite his best efforts, he could not convince these Europeans to take a day off from work (and the Friday after) cook turkey and stuffing, watch some sports and fall into a food-induced coma.

But even worse than not having an Eating Day, how does everyone in Europe know when to begin celebrating the Christmas Holiday? Having Eating Day lets everyone know it is ok to slough off work, kick back and not really feel guilty about not getting anything done between Eating Day and New Year’s. 

So why not call it Thanksgiving and work on making that a holiday around the world? Because Thanksgiving is the American holiday. Eating Day would be the WORLD’S holiday. After all, we tried exporting democracy and look how that turned out.

So, Happy Eating Day everyone!

Posted by email from rufus’s posterous

How to profit from stupid and sloth

I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. So do hundreds of my neighbors and I know exactly who they are.

The WSJ gets delivered to my front door every morning by a carrier with the Dayton Daily News. About a year ago, I noticed that the mailing label in the upper right hand corner of my copy of the WSJ was not me. It was a neighbor who lived in another part of the subdivision or worked at another business. 

So, I started saving these labels. Sometimes I would get my own label, but most days, I would get someone else’s. Eventually, I reasoned, I would probably get everyone who subscribed to the WSJ on my carrier’s route. I think I am right.

Now, I have a mailing list of neighbors with whom I have something in common. When I want to refer to an article in the WSJ that I think might affect them, I can send out a cheap postcard, with a URL to my blog to the list and I know they will most likely have read the same article as me.  And, they will most likely go to my blog, read, comment and maybe pass it along.

They may wonder how I got their name, how I knew they also read the WSJ. Or, maybe not.

Or maybe, they have been getting my newspaper and tracking me the same way.

Posted by email from rufus’s posterous

We didn’t start the fire either

A couple weeks ago, Ryan Healy wrote a blog post about how Baby Boomers screwed up the world and how GenY is going to “fix” it. After turning it over in my 40+ brain a bit (Boomers like to think things through before yapping off; part of our charm) here are some observations about the article and the point of view GenY has of us.

The world we inherited was screwed up too
The country was scared of the Godless communists who were going to ravage the countryside, stealing our resources, forcing Americans to bend to the will of Stalin and Khrushchev. If you grew up Catholic, the world was even worse because you had the US Government scaring you as well as the Vatican. We had fall-out shelter drills, we were shown films of nuclear holocaust and crazy Khrushchev beating his shoe on the desk at the UN. It was scary.

And, it was REAL because a greater percentage of our parents fought in WWII and Korea. They saw evil up close and were determined not to let us see that much evil that close up. But, many of the Boomers did see evil in Vietnam that was more savage than WWI and revolted in the only way they knew how; protest and civil disobedience.

Most GenYers don’t have parents who did active duty in any war. Most GenYers did not know rationing or very high unemployment or home mortgages that were 20% or higher. While you may know high debt, the debt as a ratio of income and assets is about the same as the Boomers cause we didn’t have as much “stuff” (iPods, laptops, DVD collections…..)

Technology did not exist
I find it ironic that GenYers are complaining about the mess that Boomers left for them to clean up using WiFi networks, laptop computers and open source software that was carved out of nothing by a Boomer generation. Interesting.

To find out how Boomers used to learn, rent The Paper Chase. It’s ok. You can Google it and then rent it on NetFlix.com. We Boomers won’t care that much that you don’t have it on VHS.

I don’t want this post to spiral into a “we used to walk three miles uphill in the snow” article, but for GenY to say they are inheriting a mess they need to clean up to to admit to not having a sense of history and perspective. Most things that GenY complains about are consequences of the human condition, not a product of what Boomers did to them.

Boomers were crapped on just as badly back in the day. Just different crap.

Grow your own roots

Grow your own roots
Grow your own roots
I was walking along the back road at the MetroPark and noticed this row of posts that looked like telephone poles, cut off about five feet high. On top of many of them were these little trees that started to grow in the rotting out center of the posts.

These young trees that are growing rapidly and happily atop these poles had no idea that their lofty outlook and elevated position were the result of a seed landing somewhat serendipitously on top of a pole that someone else stuck laboriously into the ground. The small trees were completely oblivious to the fact that their progress — while grand and far above all their other peers who landed on the ground — would eventually be cut unceremoniously short when the caretaker snaps them off the top of the poles during regular maintenance.

Yet, the seedlings that got their start of the ground have developed roots and grown slowly will continue to thrive, some even growing to tall, sturdy trees, far surpassing the poles that once surrogated the brash, over-eager seedlings.

It occurs to me that this odd relationship among the poles, the seedlings atop them and the seedlings that grew from their own root structure is an odd metaphor for the generational clash we hear going on in the corners of the Internet. While there are some GenY who are developing their own roots, many are sitting atop tree stumps that are not their own. After a while, their lofty perch will be exposed for what it really is; a rotting tree stump center for which there is limited room for a root structure.

But at that very moment this metaphor was at its clearest, I felt the urge to lift my leg and pee on something. I chose the closest pole.

The kids are alright!

I was walking along on Friday and I hear these voices from around the corner. “Mow that lawn straight!” “Don’t talk to me, keep working,” “Turn that mower around,” “Watch the edge,” “Mow AROUND the bush, not in it.” etc…

As I turned the corner, we saw two kids, 12-13 years old. One was mowing his lawn and the other was walking next to him, shouting these orders. The kid mowing was clearly competent, but the one walking next to him was still telling him what to do at every step.

It looked like the one kid mowing lived there and his “boss” had come over to visit. Maybe they thought this was a funny way to pass the time and have a little fun with a menial task that had to get done before they ran off and did what they really wanted to do on a Friday afternoon.

But, in play, they were learning some valuable life skills and lessons. Your boss will almost never think you are capable of doing a job without him/her telling you what to do at each turn and everyone has a boss, even in play.

So, GenY… this is your legacy. The NextGen is learning that work is not showing up when you want, mowing the way you want to or never having a boss. The NextGen is learning that work is work and you need to get that done so you can play. And while you are working, you will endure horrible indignities and you will learn how to deal with them with grace.

The kids are alright.

Northmont hires a leader?

I was reading the Englewood Independent yesterday and a sidebar article caught my eye. Northmont has hired a new superintendent, Douglas Lantz, formerly the superintendent from Franklin City Schools. Great! New blood, fresh leadership, a focus on building the human infrastructure of tomorrow…

But, then I get to Linda Blum’s quote. For the people who have since lined their recyle bins with the paper, here it is:

“[Lantz’s] experience as an athlete and a coach have taught him much about teamwork and the important components of an organized structure.”

What?? Where is the educational excellence? Where is the leadership skills that will infuse a new level of academic excellence into our kids that will better prepare them for leadership in the changing world? Where is the challenge of producing thought leadership in our students to better equip them to adapt to the dynamic world around them? Where? Where?

Perhaps it is best if we look at Mr. Lantz’s performance as measured by the State of Ohio Report Card System (yeah, I know.. but that is an entirely different blog.)

Northmont’s Report Card | Franklin City Schools Report Card

Well, I can do the analysis, but you all can probably do it better. Bottom line, we are bringing in a superintendent whose highest score was 92.8, Effective to manage a school district that has already achieved a score of 102, Excellent. Hmmm..

I think what Mr. Lantz has really learned from his being an athlete and a coach is that if you hang around long enough on the bench and show up every day for practice, the coach will eventually play you, whether you are good enough for the job or not.

I’m a dog who can read, write and think. Perhaps I should have applied for the job. As an athletic dog, I can probably out-run Lantz as well 😉