mm499: Blast from the Past! No. 53 – Fuel without oil, or corn

September 19, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

So it’s been pretty tough this week, as Faithful Reader might imagine, and we’re dipping our toes gingerly back into the blogging sea tonight.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 13, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn.”

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl


mm496: Blast from the Past! No. 52 – Women at work

September 12, 2008
© Richard Hoffkins | Dreamstime.com

© Richard Hoffkins | Dreamstime.com

I am beginning to be concerned about the lack of blogging motivation I’m feeling this week; you’ve seen my excuse — does it buy me some slack?

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 12, 2007, and with a woman vice presidential candidate, more germane than ever, titled “mm192: Women at work: A level playing field at last?”

MUDGE’S Musings

We’re still playing catch up with a bulging ideas folder here at L-HC. A recent NYTimes column updates us on the ever-intriguing topic: women in corporate America.

One might ask: why are we still confounded by this? After all, U.S. women began to flood the workplace after the economic shocks of the 1970’s put single income families on the endangered species list. Why would a fact of work life for more than 30 years be cause for comment?

nytimes

By LISA BELKIN  | November 1, 2007 | Life’s Work

DON’T get angry. But do take charge. Be nice. But not too nice. Speak up. But don’t seem like you talk too much. Never, ever dress sexy. Make sure to inspire your colleagues — unless you work in Norway, in which case, focus on delegating instead.

Writing about life and work means receiving a steady stream of research on how women in the workplace are viewed differently from men. These are academic and professional studies, not whimsical online polls, and each time I read one I feel deflated. What are women supposed to do with this information? Transform overnight? And if so, into what? How are we supposed to be assertive, but not, at the same time?

“It’s enough to make you dizzy,” said Ilene H. Lang, the president of Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. “Women are dizzy, men are dizzy, and we still don’t have a simple straightforward answer as to why there just aren’t enough women in positions of leadership.”

Catalyst’s research is often an exploration of why, 30 years after women entered the work force in large numbers, the default mental image of a leader is still male. Most recent is the report titled “Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t,” which surveyed 1,231 senior executives from the United States and Europe. It found that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes — defined as focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives” — are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.”

Women can’t win.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm494: Blast from the Past! No. 50 — Health care excuses

September 9, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

A very long day today (the alarm went off at 3:10am!), but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[2]

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted November 11, 2007, and truer now than ever, titled “mm190: U. S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm492: Blast from the Past! No. 49 – Blogging – NSFW?

September 7, 2008
© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

© Carbouval | Dreamstime.com

In a serious creative slump here folks, battered by events as we are, but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, originally posted in two sections, November 7-8, 2007, and titled “mm187-8: Blogging — NSFW?”

MUDGE’S Musings

From the first, hesitant attempts at this newfangled hobby-thing called blogging, MUDGE has been very concerned about how any employee’s blog would be received by his specific employer.

We’ve tried to err on the side of… circumspection. Thus, the pseudonym, both for this writer, and for the occasional references to that employer in basically general, not to speak of generic terms: HCA, the Heart of Corporate America.

There’s bad and good to pseudonomity [did we just coin a new term? or just misspell an old one?].

The bad: as MUDGE, I lack a certain amount of credibility, especially when I write on the topic of web conferencing, one that I would like to be perceived as owning some expertise.

The good: as of this writing, I still have a job at HCA.

Which brings us to the cautionary tale of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods. You might remember the story: during a turbulent acquisition of Whole Foods competitor Wild Oats, Mackey was exposed as having blogged anonymously, denigrating Wild Oats management and talking up his own company’s stock.

So one guesses that Mackey violated protocol: one supposes that it’s okay to do the above as a third party, unaffiliated with either entity, but it’s entirely too self-serving to do so when one is the CEO of one of the principals in the transaction.

And of course, Mackey violated the first rule of miscreancy [did we just coin a new term? or just misspell an old one?]: don’t get caught.

Read the rest of this entry »


WcW014: It’s not all bright lights and glamour

July 23, 2008

dreamstime_2037198

© Ron Chapple Studios | Dreamstime.com

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

So, if this were really a weekly feature, we’d be on number 052 or something, and this is only number 14. Thus, why not two in a row?

The poor sap fallen asleep over his laptop in front of his desktop PC in the illustration doesn’t resemble yr (justifiably) humble svt in the slightest, but it’s what I’ll look like in a few hours.

No, I won’t suddenly get 35 years younger, grow back a lot of very dark hair and become vaguely Asian.

But, I’m working very late tonight, and very early in the morning. Sigh.

As I’ve often noted in this space, I support the enterprise web conferencing application from an end-user perspective. A vendor once described me most flatteringly as the manager of the end user experience for my technology.

So, in addition to working with the other, more technical, members of the team (server administrators and system architects); developing curriculum and reference materials; teaching nearly 4,000 fellow employees in the past six years to use web conferences  by attending my training web conferences; besides all that, I’m the guy who gets the call when users have critical conferences that require my professional expertise.

Got the call a few weeks ago: we’re doing an important meeting three times, because the sun never sets on our global enterprise: once for the Asia-Pacific region, once for Europe and once for the Western Hemisphere. 8amCEST, 1pmCEST, 6pmCEST. We’ve had trouble with the web conferencing tool in the past, please help.

I endeavor to honor requests like this. But, of course, I’m sitting in the U.S. Central time zone.

8amCEST (Central European Summer Time) in, yes, central Europe, the origin of the meetings, translates to 1amCDT (U.S. Central Daylight Time).

Read the rest of this entry »


mm403: Blast from the Past! No. 26

June 7, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We embark this weekend on a business trip to a conference in Boston. As conferences usually take up a great deal of uptime, without the downtime associated with a normal schedule, we will probably cover many of our daily blogging deadlines with Blasts from the Past!

The conference itself, designed to illuminate the social networking phenomena in the context of business and corporate conduct, may provide the opportunity to blog, as blogging in the corporate environment is one of its key topics. So we may be able to mix business interests and responsibilities with our avocation in this space. Should be interesting!

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 last summer, originally posted September 10, 2007 and originally titled “China – Two interesting aspects”.

MUDGE’S Musings

China is always in the news. Two stories from the past few days illuminate why in some interesting ways.

First, from the LA Times, a look at how we have become victim’s of our unlimited appetite for everyday low prices.

latimes_thumb2

Analysts expect prices in the U.S. to creep up as safety standards are reevaluated. Buyers and retailers may share the impact.

By Don Lee and Abigail Goldman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 9, 2007

SHANGHAI — Get ready for a new Chinese export: higher prices.

For years, American consumers have enjoyed falling prices for goods made in China thanks to relentless cost cutting by retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

But the spate of product recalls in recent months — Mattel announced another last week — has exposed deep fault lines in Chinese manufacturing. Manufacturers and analysts say some of the quality breakdowns are a result of financially strapped factories substituting materials or taking other shortcuts to cover higher operating costs.

Now, retailers that had largely dismissed Chinese suppliers’ complaints about the soaring cost of wages, energy and raw materials are preparing to pay manufacturers more to ensure better quality. By doing so, they hope to prevent recalls that hurt their bottom lines and reputations. But those added costs — on a host of items that include toys and frozen fish — mean either lower profits for retailers or higher prices for consumers.

“For American consumers, this big China sale over the last 20 years is over,” said Andy Xie, former Asia economist for Morgan Stanley, who works independently in Shanghai. “China’s cost is going up. They need to get used to it.”

Read the rest of this entry »


mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?

April 1, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I’d always heard it was a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Wikipedia.org is not so sure.

Notwithstanding the source, I think we’re there.

We’ve written increasingly on the recession that has arrived, and the depression that might be lurking. Perhaps it’s time for a nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© link table.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price … power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

Jon Taplin, who always has interesting, big picture points of view, has a big word to teach us.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm214: Dell faces the music — it’s a trend!

December 6, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Dell Computer is the PC company one loves to hate. They make competent products. MUDGE uses three (count ’em, three!) of them regularly at work, actually, and has no complaints, other than those related to a corporate bean counters’ hardware refresh policy that keeps pushing back to indefinity (new coinage, if it is, covered under this site’s Creative Commons license). A five year old laptop is dark ages stuff, but I don’t blame Dell.

Years ago, Dell was an extraordinary success story. Everyone knows it: the college sophomore who figured out before anyone else how to commoditize an entire industry, and made it work by ruthlessly weeding fat out of the supply chain (i.e., source in Asia) and cutting out an entire swath of the retail distribution channel through direct to consumer telephone and then on-line sales.

Well the world has caught up, and finally, very late in this observer’s opinion, Dell has begun to make moves toward a more conventional retail selling strategy.

Dell Moves Further From Direct Sales

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | Published: December 6, 2007

DALLAS (AP) — Dell is venturing further from its direct-to-consumer sales model and will start selling computers at Best Buy stores in January.

The companies said Thursday that Best Buy Co. will sell Dell’s XPS and Inspiron notebook and desktop computers at more than 900 stores.

Dell built its business around selling personal computers directly to customers, but it has been cutting deals with retailers as growth of PC sales slowed. The Round Rock, Texas-based company lost its spot as the world’s No. 1 computer maker to Hewlett-Packard Co. late last year, and HP has stretched its lead since then.

Of course, this change of course smacks of hurry-up desperation, since as the story will note, they’ve missed the huge holiday selling season at Best Buy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Dell Moves Further From Direct Sales – New York Times

So, MUDGE. One might ask, where does the hate come in?

Nearly seven months ago, in its very fledgling days, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© presented a cautionary tale that, I believe, sheds some light.

Allow us, if you will, to take you back in time to a place called Left-Handed Complement post no. mm006

Storyteller

I tell stories. This is not news to those who know me. They’ve heard all of them, many times, many too many times, before. That won’t stop me from telling them here. In fact, you are a whole new audience for my stories. I can already feel my spouse poking me, as she does about seven minutes into the latest retelling of most any episode.

Ouch. But, let’s tell the one I alluded to last post. We were coy, and called my former PC a “heck.” I don’t know why I’m being so squeamish in a venue no one at all is looking at, but we can make this tale more generic this way, because I’m sure many of you can share similar ones.

I am a software tinkerer. I am always tweaking, downloading, never leaving well enough alone. There’s never enough RAM, enough HD, a big enough monitor to handle all the stuff I try to do at one time. So far, that places me only in the 56th percentile of PC users, I’m sure. But, this was not a problem related to all of that tinkering. This was a fundamental incompatibility between my printer, a most useful multifunction model from my (and pretty much everyone’s) favorite printer company, and the BIOS in my PC. When I purchased the printer, a mainstream model, and found this incompatibility with my PC, also well in the mainstream (dude!), I was forced to download and install an earlier version of the BIOS, a scary process involving creating copy of the download on a floppy disk to install/boot from. Pretty ugly for mainstream, but not that odd for a few years ago.

One day something changed. Don’t remember anymore exactly what, but I was getting ugly results trying to print. So, into support hell for literally hours, beginning with the printer company. Thirty minutes of hold time, and a lengthy explanation later, and I was directed to the PC company. What seemed like hours later, but probably 45 minutes or so actual time, I reached a support person in what seemed like an ex-US location. Explaining took a great deal of time, and the advice received wasn’t making a lot of sense, but I stayed patient (this was a few years ago while I still had some, apparently) throughout the ordeal. And I do mean ordeal, between disconnections, being bounced back and forth between printer company and PC company, speaking near midnight with people thinking about lunch.

A most frustrating eight (eight!) hours, and the problem really wasn’t resolved. I was resolved however to change PC brands. Oddly, the printer support people, obviously located in that same part of the world, may have been better trained, or more responsive, because I remain today a committed customer of their products.

But I went out virtually the next day and bought a new PC (it was time, four years since the last purchase), from a different manufacturer altogether: a Sony Vaio desktop. Well regarded in the various reviews I found on-line, with a built-in audio/visual media reputation, known for respected laptops, and NOT a “heck.” Brought it home, and let it sit unopened in the box for a few days, waiting, I guess, for the weekend and a suitable block of time – migrating from one PC to the next is not lightly undertaken (unlike placing a support call, it turns out, even though the time commitment turned out to be roughly similar!).

So, Sunday afternoon, took my shiny new box out of its box, plugged it all together, turned it on, and …

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sigh. Don’t know what happened to it between factory and my desk, but it was, and I can hear Andy Sipowicz saying it, D.O.A.

Okay, what to do? First, I’ll call tech support. Sigh.

So I called, and very much to my surprise, navigated through a simple menu, waited virtually no time at all, and found myself talking to a well informed support person.

In Florida!

He said that he could get someone out to my house the next day, but suggested that the best bet would be to return it to the retailer for an immediate replacement, which I did.

Glass-half-empty man, my standard persona, would usually think: what a terrible choice. D.O.A. out of the box! Find another brand!

Glass-half-full man, carrying the scars from eight hours of recent tech support frustration, actually thought: D.O.A., but resolved pleasantly, immediately (although it required an extra round-trip schlep to the retailer), by a cheerful person working in Florida on a Sunday afternoon.

The replacement system has worked perfectly ever since, although it is starting to show its age (not enough real horsepower for Vista, though I’m not seriously contemplating that can of worms!). Until and unless something horrible happens with my Vaio RS620G or my dealings with Sony, I’m sticking with that brand. They deserve it.

The lesson seems obvious to me, and I’ve read in the 2½ years since this incident that my former brand has begun to rethink its outsourcing ways.

There’s more to the bottom line than the bottom line. It’s the quality of the beans to be counted, Mr. Green Eyeshade. Or else, there just might be fewer beans to count next quarter.

The kid does tell a story, doesn’t he?

Okay, you’ve figured out what brand “heck” represented in the story.

So it’s this observer’s opinion that Dell’s problems of late have not been due to their direct to consumer model suddenly becoming obsolete.

I dare say that on-line retail sales of all kinds, especially technical gear like computers, is at an all-time high. Gear-heads like yours truly love to itemize components of PCs down to the cubic feet per minute air movement specification of their cooling fans, although as PC penetration moves into the last hold-out households prepackaged units sold by slick marketers like Best Buy will definitely move the needle.

But the issue is, if they’re so good, how come they were passed up? Let’s face it, everybody buys their components in Asia; many now assemble complete boxes there. It’s this curmudgeon’s perception that as opposed to outsourced supply, outsourced support, an easily discernable difference, has gradually chased customers away.

It’s no secret that Dell has moved support for their business customer base back on-shore, in response to strongly stated dissatisfaction.

Consumers, though, making an individual purchase every 2-4 years don’t have the business marketplace’s traction with a manufacturer, but they will, as MUDGE has, eventually exercise the only control that individuals have in a capitalist economy: vote with their feet. Here’s a trade publication story from a couple of years ago that supports my analysis.

I so voted, and lots of folks must have joined me, leading to HP’s recent attainment of sales leadership in the market.

I believe that Dell’s reputation for indifferent consumer support practices is what caught up to them. Maybe Best Buy and their Geek Squad can help repair the reputation.

In a time when the venerable and mighty IBM brand on a PC is owned by a Chinese manufacturer called Lenovo, U.S. companies can’t afford to stumble.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm213: Facebook — facing the music

December 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I’m probably the very final person in the ‘Sphere to write about the Web 2.0 phenomenon, Facebook.

It’s simple: I don’t go there. I’m not a college student (wasn’t ever one for long, and that was two score plus years ago), and I don’t need another on-line locale to waste away the hours.

But, one can’t avoid encountering it in the (old and new) media, and I will admit to an occasional bout of Facebook-envy, as I read about the increasing average age (“we’re not just for students anymore”) — what am I missing?

So far, I’m confining my Web 2.0 activities to my LinkedIn participation, sparse as that is (and I joined that circle about five years ago, before anyone knew there was such a thing as social computing — just networking for job seekers and seekers-to-be), and of course, this daily habit I fondly call nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

So constant reader is probably way ahead of me encountering the story of Beacon, Facebook’s program that is tracking ‘Booker’s habits, especially buying habits, both within and (wait for it) outside of Facebook.

A (new and old) media firestorm. You’re always hurt most by the one you love, and a lot of people love Facebook. So, Facebook backtracked on Beacon, as this NYTimes Bits blog reports:

Zuckerberg Apologizes, Allows Facebook Users to Evade Beacon | By Saul Hansell

Mark Zuckerberg has produced a symphony of contrition in a blog post today about Facebook’s Beacon feature, which initially sent information on users’ Web purchases to their friends unless they specifically blocked the disclosure of each purchase.

facebookoptout

Hansell asks, “what took them so long to fix this?”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Zuckerberg Apologizes, Allows Facebook Users to Evade Beacon – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog

Here at WordPress.com’s site today, they were highlighting a post on the Techland blog from Fortune regarding this Beacon fracas. It stopped me cold.

Techland

RIP Facebook? | By Josh Quittner

A lot of people say that Facebook has jumped the shark. That’s flat out wrong. In fact, Facebook is now being devoured by the shark. There’s so much blood in the water, it’s attracting other sharks. And if Facebook’s not careful, one of them is bound to come along and finish it off. I’ve never seen anything like it in the annals of fast-rising tech companies that fail.

The really weird part of this story is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Facebook. It works as well as it ever has, and many of the people who use it (my kids for instance) are unaware of the worsening situation about its privacy-invading Beacon social ads scheme that tracks people’s web-surfing habits even when they’re not on the site. That’s bound to change. The market is fickle, something better is in the wings, and as soon as it arrives, the alienated and angry mob will race to it. Delphi’s errors begat Prodigy and its errors begat AOL, which was crushed by the Web.

Quittner paints quite a dire portrait.

What’s surprising here is the speed with which this thing is coming undone — and the ease with which it could have been avoided. What’s harming Facebook – perhaps to a terminal degree – is enormously bad PR. For a social media company, these folks don’t understand the first thing about communication…

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

FORTUNE: Techland RIP Facebook? «

Facebook, as so many of today’s tech meteors, was begun by kids in college, and its leadership is still quite young. Quittner points out that many such companies earn their maturity by hiring on a senior level guy or gal with some seasoning, in order to avoid fiascoes of the kind currently whipsawing Facebook.

MUDGE can be quite objective about this, in a way I suspect neither of today’s bloggers are able to. One suspects that certainly Quittner, and possibly Hansell (let’s face it — right now I feel like the only guy on the planet who is/was not a member), enjoyed their Facebook membership, and the sense of betrayal is palpable.

The true lesson of Beacon, in my opinion, is that there is great danger lurking in all of the social media/Web 2.0 space: Unpleasant consequences are possible when the urge to monetize becomes irresistible.

Facebook, with its zillions of prime age consumers was a rich prize, too ripe to leave alone.

Greed in moderation: it’s the capitalist way, after all.

Greed with technological amplification (i.e., Beacon): excessive, even in our world of institutional excess.

Okay, so here’s the L-HC warranty: no ads will ever appear here at Left-Handed Complement. No pay-for-post (as if!). Whatever links you find in the sidebar will never result in an outcome that includes dollars, euros, shekels or kopecks.

This is a hobby, folks. I spend only my time here; no more is expected of you, and thank you most sincerely for that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm199: Blogging — NSFW? The plot thickens…

November 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Recently we tackled the topic of blogging in the corporate environment in a two part post. In the first, the singular tale of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (which, MUDGE is not too proud to repeat, stubbed its organic tofu), and his wayward blogging ways that ran afoul of the Federal Trade Commission, and later, his board of directors.

The next post explored the subject from the point of view of IBM, an organization of 375,000 global employees that enthusiastically embraces blogging among an entire portfolio of Web 2.0 tools. Indeed, their Lotus division has released the set of applications called Lotus Connections to spread the collaboration gospel to a bemused corporate world.

Now, Computerworld (source of the Whole Foods story) has reopened the issue with a pair of related articles.

computerworld

Mark Boxer wanted to talk to his employees about the top issues at work.

So the president and CEO of operations, technology and government services at WellPoint Inc. sent out weekly e-mails under the header “Thoughts for a Friday” and encouraged his workers to e-mail back.

But while Boxer sought open communication with his employees, there was a problem with his system: He was reaching thousands of workers at the Indianapolis-based health benefits company. The e-mail approach to keeping up the conversation was cumbersome.
Boxer figured there had to be a better way for communicating on such a large scale, so in June 2007 he tried blogging.

The results have been positive. “It’s been a very effective way for building a community,” Boxer says. “It’s a unifying force.”

Of course, as corporations, the concept of blogging needs adjustment…

But companies aren’t replicating the free-flowing exchange that has been a hallmark of the broader blogosphere. Rather, companies are trying to harness that freedom and conform it to business needs, with forward-thinking companies using strategic planning and formal policies to shape the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 tools to drive more communication and collaboration among workers.

Corporate blogging is a minefield that needs to be negotiated with care. So it’s no wonder that the research quoted in the CW story shows that nearly half of the executives surveyed (companies with more than 500 employees) have not embraced this technology, and most of those see no reason to do so.

Those promoting the technology see them as up to date tools of collaboration. The balky executives see blogs as sloppy, undisciplined amateur communication.

The story provides some anecdotal evidence that blogs might provide a substitute for the water-cooler conversation that a typical ginormous corporation’s global footprint makes impossible.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Corporate blogging: Does it really work?

As Computerworld is a trade publication, a related story tackles the topic from the viewpoint of IT executives.

There’s no question that blogs are multiplying in cyberspace. Now they’re infiltrating businesses, too, even if the IT departments haven’t sanctioned their implementations.

“I’ve definitely seen the problem with unsanctioned blogs finding their way into enterprises. It’s happening more than IT would like to believe,” says Oliver Young, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. “Executives realize it’s a losing battle to lock it down, so they’re bringing in official solutions. It’s not everybody, but there are plenty of IT shops that realize this is coming whether they like it or not.”

The movement of blogs from a primarily social technology to a business tool is happening fast. As a result, IT workers are developing best practices for implementing, managing and maintaining this technology. At the same time, corporate IT departments, executive sponsors and the business units that want blogs are trying to build business cases, craft user policies and estimate costs — and even returns on investments — even though there’s not yet a lot of data to define success.

One needs to be suspicious of this element of the story, since it relates blogging infrastructure to that of email, in a way that minimizes the time and attention that email systems cost IT departments.

Blogging technology, like e-mail systems, doesn’t require heavy maintenance. “IT will obviously operate the machinery behind blogs just [as it does] the machinery behind e-mail, but it’s a relatively minimal effort,” Valdes says.

I can think of several managers, and more than 40 grunts in the trenches working near me who might take exception to the characterization of email as requiring minimal maintenance!

And even the company whose anecdote seemed so positive in the first story, has some reservations about whether and how to roll out blogs to everyone.

And that shouldn’t surprise one. Research scientists are highly educated and understand more than most the value of “thinking out loud.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

IT wrestles with workplace blogging

Anyone remember the Keebler cookie commercials? That’s where people believe in elves, not cookie-baking factories.

Corporate email doesn’t get done by elves, people, nor will corporate blogging.

So that may be a clue: like email, blogs seem simple. But, ask John Mackey — the potential for blogs to make life complicated is what is surprisingly simple.

But the vendors are out there, not least of them IBM, with Lotus Connections, as referenced in the second of our previous stories.

The cost of entry for blogging seems incredibly low. Indeed, I have been blogging (not for business, but to share this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© as an avocation) for several months now, and have paid not a sou to WordPress (who certainly deserves our constant appreciation! I bought a wonderfully red tee shirt!), or Microsoft for Windows Live Writer, or Picnik for their free on-line image processing, etc.

Of course, there is quite a significant, if always undervalued cost: my personal time.

Create a blog for business use, keep it relevant and timely — where exactly would the time for that effort come from?

MUDGE is all for corporate collaboration. Too many of us work in our silos, with little idea of what the guy three rows over is up to, much less the woman an ocean away. But maybe they’re doing things that I can find interesting, and perhaps useful. But how will I ever know?

But whatever the answer is, it probably isn’t a corporate blog in my employer’s part of the world. There, a corporate blog seems as likely as Western culture taking the plunge: trading a groom’s tuxedo for cut-offs and a Hawaiian shirt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE