mm352: Blast from the Past! No. 11

April 19, 2008

The MUDGE family is on vacation this week. We don’t know that we’ll be able to restrain ourselves from blogging during the entire span, after all the grandMUDGElets go to bed pretty early, but without access to our files, and WindowsLiveWriter, for this week only, when we feel that irresistible urge to blog, we’ll treat blogging like we do (sigh) exercise: we’ll just lie down until the feeling goes away.

But, the Prime Directive of Blogging reads: Thou Shalt Blog Daily! So shalt we.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted July 22, 2007, one in our series called, over-ambitiously, Web Conferencing Week. The entire group can be found on its own page elsewhere on this site.

wcw1_thumb1

WcW002: Web Conferencing Week – On Location

In our first venture in this direction, WcW001, I described the week just past as filled with unusualities (coined in this space tyvm; if I use it 500 more times, think that it gets added to anyone’s dictionary?), and described one. Here’s another.

Only a few times in the five years I have been plying my trade at the HCA, have I been asked to conduct business outside the friendly confines of the navel of the known universe, our dual expansive campuses and its outlying but nearby satellite sites.

But, Wednesday afternoon I received voicemail from one of my most frequent clients, the sales training functionary for one of our most important product families, asking that I assist Friday at an all-day session emanating from a hotel near the airport.

Read the rest of this entry »

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mm351: Blast from the past No. 10

April 18, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The MUDGE family is on vacation this week. We don’t know that we’ll be able to restrain ourselves from blogging during the entire span, after all the grandMUDGElets go to bed pretty early, but without access to our files, and WindowsLiveWriter, for this week only, when we feel that irresistible urge to blog, we’ll treat blogging like we do (sigh) exercise: we’ll just lie down until the feeling goes away.

But, the Prime Directive of Blogging reads: Thou Shalt Blog Daily! So shalt we.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb21155_thumb1

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted July 20, 2007, our first in our series called, over-ambitiously, Web Conferencing Week. The entire group can be found on its own page elsewhere on this site.

WcW001: Web Conferencing Week

WcW logo

Web Conferencing Week

Trying something different here at Left-Handed Complement — back to my roots, or at least my original intentions for this space, to regularly explore my professional existence. I have previously written about what I do, and my very recent, quite futile aspirations toward management, but it’s been sporadic at best. Not my intention when I started.

This is an attempt to apply some discipline — maybe most work weeks haven’t recently seemed very interesting to me (although the one just completed was altogether not routine), but I believe that what I do is quite unusual in any corporation, small or large, so I’ll explore those unusualities (have I just coined a MUDGE-ism?) in this space, I hope every week or more often.

And, for you completists out there, clicking the “Web Conferencing” tag cloud on the sidebar will catch you up.

The tent-poles for many weeks are the large scale conferences (or even small, but critical ones) for which I provide consultative, or substantive services. This week was busier in that respect than many lately.

For one thing, I assisted a high level HR manager as he ran a focus group with a group of administrative assistants for one of HCA’s (remember, Heart of Corporate America, not it’s real name) most hidebound and traditional divisions, its corporate attorneys. In the year 2007, I must admit it was jarring to hear more than one of these women (and they were all women) refer to themselves as secretaries. Is it any wonder they had a lot to complain about?

Read the rest of this entry »


mm313: Blast from the past No. 1

March 12, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our very earliest days, originally posted May 8, 2007.

mm002: Oddly, a good day

So, a good day, professionally. And I knew it by 10:00am.

Web Conferencing

That’s my thing, collaboration via the web. In this day of the public Web 2.0 this sounds routine, and pretty much a given, but not necessarily in a corporate environment. Here we’re protected by firewalls with fierce bulldogs of security types to maintain and defend them. And most of all, we corporate types are often hemmed in by our “we do it this way because we always do it this way” leg irons. I support web conferencing for my employer, and have done so pretty much full time for nearly five years, filling a need, and a niche no one really knew existed.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm093: Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways – New York Times

August 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Now it can be revealed! MUDGE‘s deepest secret — I “read” audio books all of the time!

This story made the NY Times most emailed list today…

nytimes

August 2, 2007

Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways

By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN

JANICE RASPEN, a librarian at an elementary school in Fredericksburg, Va., came clean with her book club a couple years ago. They were discussing “A Fine Balance,” a novel set in India in the 1970s by Rohinton Mistry and an Oprah’s Book Club pick, when she told the group — all fellow teachers — that rather than read the book, she had listened to an audio version.

“My statement was met with stunned silence,” said Ms. Raspen, 38.

Finally Catherine Altman, an art teacher, spoke up.

“I said that I felt like listening to a book was a copout,” Ms. Altman said. “I’m not like a hardcore book group person — a lot of times I don’t even finish the book. But my point was that she is a librarian and I thought it was pretty ridiculous. I’m a painter and it would be like me painting by numbers.”

The perennial disagreement in book groups has been over authors, with the single-malt drinkers arguing for F. Scott Fitzgerald and the chardonnay drinkers for Anita Shreve. But the latest schism in the living room lit-fests is not over whom they read, but if they read.

Is it acceptable, they debate within and among themselves, to listen to that month’s book rather than read it? Or is that cheating, like watching the movie instead of reading the book?

Because audio enthusiasts generally listen aloud in a private space like their cars or with headphones, they are spared having to publicly defend the format. When they join reading groups, however, they enter what can be enemy territory, where dyed-in-the-wool bibliophiles want to hear nothing of a book but the crack of its spine.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Your Cheatin’ Listenin’ Ways – New York Times

I publicly admit that I indeed listen to books on tape (or, more recently, CD) almost every day.

I have a commute that can take more than an hour, especially the afternoon home-bound one, and I have been using books on tape to fill that mental vacuum caused by bumper-to-bumper traffic on a numbing 250 times per year route for more than a decade and a half, since an otherwise despised boss tipped me to their value in this application.

I formerly listened to FM broadcast radio, mainly our last classical station, but often some afternoon FM talk, in a Howard Stern vein (but not HS!). The classics are always soothing, but not always useful at distracting one from driving chores. Talk radio, at least in MUDGE’s neck of the woods, seems to consist of 10 minutes of snarky talk followed by 20 minutes of jangly commercials. Ugh.

Books on tape rescued me from the tyranny of the airwaves (this was before the availability of satellite radio, which might have changed my thinking had I not been locked down into b-o-t mode by the time Sirius and XM made the scene).

My criteria is rock solid: never, ever an abridgement. Ever.

Unabridged recorded books in the book stores are quite spendy, and I simply won’t spend double that of its hardbound equivalent for even the best of the best.

So, it’s our local public library for me. Not an unalloyed joy this, since our city fathers built a wonderful structure a few years ago (the third on the site in my lifetime in my town, which more than most reminders of my age hits quite hard), and the municipal edifice complex has left the library with a reduced budget for, what else, books. Sigh.

It’s finally, gradually, filling up, thank goodness, but the supply of books on cassette and more recently CD remain sparse, and odd. Nineteenth century classics are MIA. Barbara Taylor Bradford flourishes, two shelves worth. Sigh.

But, I persevere, hampered only a little by the limitation imposed on me by the lack of a cassette player built into my “winter” vehicle, which contains a CD player only. Sigh.

I remain resolutely happy with my choice of substance (even Janet Evanovich has more substance than brain-melting FM talk radio), and am not ashamed of my audio addiction.

Literature is literature, as far as I’m concerned, and most of the commercial product is performed, not just read, by professional actors. Try reading out loud sometime, and listen to yourself. Trust me, it takes a pro.

Do you really get as much out of a book if you listen instead of read?

“If the goal is to appreciate the aesthetic of the writing and understand the story,” said Daniel T. Willingham, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, then there won’t be much difference between listening and reading. “The basic architecture of how we understand language is much more similar between reading and listening than it is different.”

I rest my case. Reading is reading. Or, I suppose, listening is reading.

What’s MUDGE listening to at this time? “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, read by the wonderful George Guidall, a stalwart, ubiquitous and consummate professional in the business, whom I could be persuaded to listen to reading the Yellow Pages. Gaiman’s novel, which I am approximately 1/3 through as I write this, is unusual, and fascinating, and I’m really happy to be listening to/reading it.

By the way, I read cardboard and paper books also. Just started the terrific new “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith (borrowed from my son), and I’m serious about this: two bookmarks if you please, one for the narrative, the other for the 100+ pages of endnotes. Books on tape for MUDGE is purely an automotive addiction, like pumping gas. Out of the Camry or the Element, it’s the old fashioned black type on white paper for me.

What are you guys reading, or admit it, listening to?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW002: Web Conferencing Week – On location

July 22, 2007

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

In our first venture in this direction, WcW001, I described the week just past as filled with unusualities (coined in this space tyvm; if I use it 500 more times, think that it gets added to anyone’s dictionary?), and described one. Here’s another.

Only a few times in the five years I have been plying my trade at the HCA, have I been asked to conduct business outside the friendly confines of the navel of the known universe, our dual expansive campuses and its outlying but nearby satellite sites.

But, Wednesday afternoon I received voicemail from one of my most frequent clients, the sales training functionary for one of our most important product families, asking that I assist Friday at an all-day session emanating from a hotel near the airport.

Sent off a memo to the contact that had been specified, detailing the logistical arrangements that I would require (broadband access, a phone connection for the web conference’s accompanying telephone conference call, a second phone line and phone for monitoring purposes, sufficient power connections, table/chair near the audio technician, etc), received a quick response including the name and contact information for the event handler at the hotel. A quick call to this person confirmed that all would be as required, and her smooth and professional demeanor actually filled me with confidence that it indeed it would.

So, Friday, instead of trundling out to the navel, etc., trundled instead to the vicinity of the airport, to a very nice and upscale hotel, the likes of which grunts such as yours truly work at, but surely can’t afford to stay at.

After the usual flurry of activity around finding the venue, and locating the key contacts among people with whom one has spoken but never before seen (and no one wears red carnations to identify themselves any more — why is that?), located the hotel employee audio technician who was handling the event and, after at my request he arranged the switching out of his equipment table for something large enough for the both of us, began setting up.

The main problem in the morning during the run-up to the start of the broadcast sessions was the speed of the internet connection I was furnished. It seemed that everyone in the hotel was competing for the same not-so-broadband connection, and I found this to be somewhat crippling as I dealt with last minute changes to the presentation.

And, by the way, wireless was not an option. Not only did my laptop not detect wireless access in the room (although others PCs did, so that was a limitation of my equipment), but it is my hard experience that, for a very network-centric application such as a web conference, the flaky nature of most wireless connections is toxic.

As with most web conferencing applications, Lotus Sametime uses two major modes to display information to those connecting to it: screen sharing and its whiteboard. Screen sharing is the simplest mode: whatever the person sharing is doing on her desktop shows up within the screen sharing window in the instance of all participants’ internet browser connected to the meeting.

The meeting room whiteboard is not as simple to use; it requires prior setup to load (or, in Sametime nomenclature, attach) whatever presentation files to be shown. The value add for this setup requirement is that most presentations transmit throughout the network much more efficiently, since the information to be transmitted is cached on the server (i.e., while the current slide is shown, the next one is being loaded into memory, and the previous one remains available).

However, on the dead slow connection I experienced mid-morning at the hotel, the revised version of the presentation file I received could not load into the meeting — the process timed out. This was frustrating.

I persisted, and eventually, late in the morning, and perilously close to the noon start time of the first of the two events taking place in that room, the revision finally got loaded (I’m thinking that the contention for bandwidth on the hotel’s connection eased closer to lunchtime), and I was finally good to go. We connected the audio tech’s phone (running the interface from the room’s sound system so that all those using microphones would be heard on the phone) to the telephone conference operator, and at the proper time the event began.

Meanwhile, in this large conference room, an earlier event not requiring my participation had begun, and I had a chance to observe the participants from the tech table at the front side of the room. Well more than 100 young (everybody in corporate life is younger than yours truly these days!), attractive field sales people were in the midst of a several days long training conference. This day’s meetings were devoted to product knowledge.

Our field sales people have to know well a great deal of technical data, as well as all of the nuts and bolts of technical selling (a topic I’m certain was handled, or reinforced at least, on other days of this conference).

For most applications of web conferencing, usage is quite straightforward. The leader of the meeting connects to the Sametime server, connects his laptop PC to a projector, and uses the screen sharing mode to simultaneously project his presentation in the meeting room while making it available to remote attendees. In smaller meetings, whatever overhead is added for the web conference is minor, and whatever distraction that the electronic meeting may cause usually is minor.

However, for large meetings, that overhead and potential distraction is not acceptable. Early in my web conference facilitation experience I learned that for these types of large-scale events the best approach is to split the function of running the web conference away from the in-room presentation function.

And this is what we did for the meetings in the hotel conference center. This way, there was no spillover from the electronic conference into the meeting room itself; so had there been technical problems, or even communication from the remote participants relevant to the web conference, it would have been invisible to those in the room, and especially to the speakers, whose demonstrated technical expertise might not have extended to the web conferencing arena and whom in any event would not have welcomed such interruptions.

So, the idea is that two copies of the presentation are required: one, for the laptop PC connected to the projector in the conference room. The other, for the PC connected to and leading (“moderating” in Sametime nomenclature) the web conference.

After the energetic activities of preparation described above (and there’s always something in large meetings) things in the first, 50-minute session went quite smoothly, as did most of the second one until the last 90 minutes or so of that four-hour(!) presentation.

The last 90 minutes? Well, the second speaker neglected to mention the existence of, much less share his umpteenth and latest presentation revision with me. Turned out he had about 85 slides; I had only 67. Ouch. So I vamped as best I could (at one point I used my text annotation tool to announce that there were some new slides showing that were unavailable to the web conference).

Well, afterwards, my contact in field sales training consoled me by saying, “how many people do you think were actually paying attention in that last hour?”

And separately, the speaker apologized to me (after all, even those present in the room did not have those slides in their printed handouts) by saying, “they usually only allot me two hours.” Sigh.

But, in the larger context of the day this was minor (the organizers certainly reported so) although that could have been 5 o’clock Friday of a hugely busy week manifesting itself. But, if my customers are happy, so am I (especially if the issue in question was totally outside my ability to rectify).

Could I have anticipated a new version of the presentation? Of course, there almost always is. Could, under the constraints of time (just about 10 minutes from the end of the first meeting to the start of the second) and a suspect broadband connection (remember it took about 90 minutes elapsed time to upload the smaller revision to the first presentation) I have actually accomplished the successful update in time? Perhaps not. Sigh.

While it doesn’t really apply totally to this context, since the speaker was guilty with an excuse (had to fill a lot more time than usual — and by the way, his extended topics were interesting, to this amateur scientist, and relevant). Often, though, the last-minute tweaks that cause this practitioner of meetings so much gut-churning distress are mostly gilding the lily. So, it gives me the opportunity to roll out:

lifelesson

But, overall, a good and an interesting day. Can I apply the science I was exposed to during five-plus hours of presentations to my job, or my everyday life? Absolutely not. Was it interesting, in the context of learning for learning’s sake? Absolutely. Forty-eight hours later as I write this, can I remember any of it? Please don’t ask me that!

All told, an interesting end to a more unusual than usual week in the world of web conferencing.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW001: Web Conferencing Week

July 20, 2007

WcW logo

Web Conferencing Week

Trying something different here at Left-Handed Complement — back to my roots, or at least my original intentions for this space, to regularly explore my professional existence. I have previously written about what I do, and my very recent, quite futile aspirations toward management, but it’s been sporadic at best. Not my intention when I started.

This is an attempt to apply some discipline — maybe most work weeks haven’t recently seemed very interesting to me (although the one just completed was altogether not routine), but I believe that what I do is quite unusual in any corporation, small or large, so I’ll explore those unusualities (have I just coined a MUDGE-ism?) in this space, I hope every week or more often.

And, for you completists out there, clicking the “Web Conferencing” tag cloud on the sidebar will catch you up.

The tent-poles for many weeks are the large scale conferences (or even small, but critical ones) for which I provide consultative, or substantive services. This week was busier in that respect than many lately.

For one thing, I assisted a high level HR manager as he ran a focus group with a group of administrative assistants for one of HCA’s (remember, Heart of Corporate America, not it’s real name) most hidebound and traditional divisions, its corporate attorneys. In the year 2007, I must admit it was jarring to hear more than one of these women (and they were all women) refer to themselves as secretaries. Is it any wonder they had a lot to complain about?

My role: to make the HR manager’s slides available to the several administrative assistants connecting from outside the navel of the known universe (the heart of the Heart, as it were), including one humorous (or perhaps I simply mean good humored) person in Europe for whom the meeting started after 5pmCET (Central European Time, did you know?), and for her didn’t finish until about 7pm.

This meeting was both easier, and more complex for me than usual. Easier because there were few enough remote participants, and the slide content was simple enough, that the PowerPoint slide deck could simply be “Screen Shared,” so that those in the meeting room and those connecting remotely watched exactly the same presentation at the same time.

Complex, because I had arrived at the conference center first (always my goal) and found the room dark, furnished correctly but otherwise unprepared electrically and electronically. The electronic podium had been pushed out of the way to accommodate a meeting that I had worked a day and a half earlier, never replaced in position and thus was totally inert.

I dug up an A/V tech, who found a bunch of thick cables in the floor, and (I hoped) matching ones curled up in the podium that needed to be connected, a job that took this stranger (and I thought by this time I knew most of the guys) about 20 minutes. There had to be 30 colored wires with metal connectors for each end among the cabled groups; glad he wasn’t color blind!

I offered the manager the opportunity to sit at a table closer to his group, so as a result I stood by the podium to advance the presentation slides at his command, which I must admit got a little old after 90 minutes (actually, between arriving early, and the meeting starting about 25 minutes late due to the above mentioned technical snafu I was standing for well over two hours, not my favorite way to spend a late morning, especially a late morning under-snacked and under-hydrated). Such is show business.

But the wonderful news, as I related the high points to my manager later that day, was that the technical issues were A/V ones, not web conferencing ones. Whew! Our system has been behaving itself of late, and I don’t take that for granted, working as I do out there among my customers.

My colleagues on the team are, by training and by inclination, telephone support types. Let’s face it, most IT professionals take up the career because they are introverts who are more comfortable relating to hardware and software than the people who consume their work product.

The thought of encountering a real live client having trouble with our technology makes them sick to their stomach, and I’m not really exaggerating — they’ve told me so countless times. So the fact that I go out there so frequently putting my own ego, as well as my team’s reputation on the line, in person, confounds them.

It’s what I do.

But as always, it was fascinating to pay attention to the content of the meeting. This little job of mine provides a very unusual opportunity to be a fly on the wall for some most interesting sessions, and as touched on above this was one of those.

I guess HCA’s corporate law department is stuck in some 1950’s time warp, as distinct from “public” law firms which I have to feel are somewhat more up to date (one person recently arrived from one reported that for the work she and most her colleagues do at HCA, a public firm would describe and compensate them as paralegals, not secretaries).

The attorneys like it this way, I’m sure (more than one of the women described their bosses (male and female) as “needy,” for example working in longhand [on legal pads, I’m sure] and claiming not to know even the basics of their computers), but I don’t understand how the assistants can stand it.

By the way, the IT building I work in must have close to 600 employees; maybe eight of them are administrative assistants, and I’m sure that the bean counters think that this number is twice as large as necessary. We are hardly needy — we do for ourselves.

What I wanted to say to this group of put-upon legal division employees (and of course I didn’t since flies on the wall don’t say a word, ever) was, be thankful you work for whom you do; any other department and there would be half or fewer of you!

And that’s just one of the several meetings and or events this week, and I find that reflecting on it has spent my Friday evening energy, but we’ll renew this effort later this weekend, I promise.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm070: Machinist: Web radio stations win a last-minute stay of execution – Salon

July 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

From the Machinist blog blogroll2 at Salon.com comes, coming to you slightly late as I work off my backlog, this excellent news:

2007.07.13 • 14:16 PDT

Article removed at the polite request of the copyright holder

Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles – Salon

This is wonderful news for those of us who have become addicted to internet radio. Longtime reader may recall that I waxed poetic over Pandora.com early on in this blog’s history (way, way back in May of aught-seven). My love and respect for this service has only increased since then.

You’ll recall that Pandora, part of an organization titled the Music Genome Project, builds “stations” for you based on music that you tell it you like, in an effort to open you up to new or long-lost sounds. It has worked for me, for whom “popular” music has never ranked anywhere near more serious, classical music.

I haven’t had too much luck finding classical music stations on the internet that are decent quality, either artistic (too much “light classics” and short works all too commonly heard), or technical (streams get broken, even with a broadband connection all too frequently). And most suffer from way too many commercials — just what I’m trying to avoid by getting away from over-the-air.

So, Pandora is commercial free (of course there is advertising on the web page itself, but no spoken ads, thank goodness!), the sound quality is exquisite (when I listen via headphones at work, the channel separation and fidelity seem first-rate, at least to these elderly ears), and I’m exposed to popular music I may have only rarely heard, if at all.

When one “station” gets too repetitive, I switch; I must have a lot. Okay, I’ll count them, since I ask… 56! Whew! But plenty of variety, limited by your imagination. Because when you listen to a song you like, you tell the system, and it will play it again sooner. If you indicate you don’t like, they lose it. And you can take a song from one station and build an entire new station around it.

My taste in popular music is strange, and old: Beatles absolutely, and lately Beach Boys, which is where I started. Now I’ve got a Dr. John station, a Herb Alpert station (sorry!), a Walk Like an Egyptian station (now I know you’re doubled up laughing). But there is something very sexy sounding about those girl bands of that era, that’s fun, especially at work.

Anyway, free internet radio was threatened, per the above story, and I for one am thrilled that it lives on. Oh, yes, what am I listening to right now? Pat Benatar’s We Belong, on the Orinoco Flow station. Try Pandora.com before you laugh at me any more!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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