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!”

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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.

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mm405: Boston, Day 1

June 9, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Whew!

Just finished a very long day, the first day attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

I don’t go to so many conferences. In fact, in the nearly four years of employment at the Heart of Corporate America (not its real name), as well as the three years of contractor status that it, this is only the second conference that I have attended under the HCA aegis. How ironic that it is also located in Boston, the site of the event that I attended last summer. Of all the towns in the world…

But, I do like Boston, even though, as alluded to last post, I feel stranded in the middle of a desert, located as we are in a concrete jungle of a redeveloped industrial district. Boston is a wonderful town in which to be a pedestrian — but not in this corner, not that I could pedestre very well anyway. [Looks like I may have coined another word — the ‘r’ is silent; but it does sort of look like pederast, doesn’t it. Oh, well, back to the drawing board.]

Although I title this Day 1, the event’s organizers, as is often done apparently, treated today as Day 0, Monday being the more popular business travel day than Sunday. The sessions today were lengthy tutorials. A choice of two each, morning and afternoon. 9am to 12:30pm; then 1:30pm to 4:45pm. Then a further two hour panel discussion that finally ended at 7:30pm. The real action starts tomorrow. I’m already worn out.

I do take copious notes. Now, many of my fellow attendees today, perhaps most of them, brought their laptops to the sessions. There were even power strips scattered along the floor, for the first half-dozen lucky people each who got to them.

Now, yr (justifiably) humble svt would have been happy enough to note take via laptop, but as there were no tables, just rows of chairs, and as I, uh, don’t have a lap for said laptop, just a short slippery slope as it were, that might result in a potentially lethal slide for same, I took my notes the old fashioned way, pen on notebook page, six tightly printed pages to be exact. I have a lot to show for 8-3/4 hours of conference. But it all has to be transcribed.

I wanted to keep up with this daily; perhaps even transfer some of this post into the event’s blog that I’ve heard exists although I haven’t found it. But, as I type this it’s already 10pm; had too much to eat at the hotel’s surprisingly good restaurant (surprising mainly because they have no competition for at least the half-mile radius until another hotel appears in this wasteland called the Seaport neighborhood); and I was up early. Never sleep well in anyone else’s bed except my own, and the hotel is justifiably proud of its comfortable bed. I’m just a crotchety old curmudgeon.

Anyway, there are six pages. Let’s see if I can summarize, while it’s all still fresh.

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mm401: Here’s one cure for blistering gas prices

June 5, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We have written appreciatively on the topic of working from home (most colorfully, courtesy Stanley Bing, here; more philosophically, here).

Telecommuting is a fancier term. Telework is the jargon chosen by Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, reporting on a bill working its way through Congress to permit federal employees to do so.

washingtonpost

Telework Bill Cleared by the House

Federal Diary | By Stephen Barr |Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page D03

A bill that would permit many federal employees to telecommute at least two days every two weeks was approved by the House yesterday on a voice vote.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be required to create and implement policies to enable eligible employees to work from home or away from their regular office as long as telecommuting did not hamper their performance or interfere with agency operations.

Telework advocates and union officials have been pushing for expanded telecommuting programs in the government for two years, and the House action enhances the chances of Congress sending a bill to the president this year.

Similar legislation has been approved by a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but a committee report has not been released, a step needed before the bill can come to the Senate floor. There are some differences between the House and Senate bills that will have to be resolved, but a compromise is likely because the concept of expanded telecommuting in the government has drawn substantial bipartisan support.

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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


mm188: Blogging – NSFW!?! | 2 of 2

November 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Last post, we began to tackle the topic of work-related blogging. As constant reader will recall, the hook was the news that John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, was taken to task by his board of directors for the blogging he did anonymously this summer while the FTC was reviewing Whole Foods’ takeover of Wild Oats, a competitor. Computerworld reported that top officers of Whole Foods are no longer permitted to post to discussion boards, blog, etc.

MUDGE‘s take on this issue: as constant reader can tell, MUDGE is not my real name; nor is HCA [short for Heart of Corporate America] the true name of my employer. Pseudonymity of these two elements [another version of the previous creative coinage] seems preferable to not, from a career longevity point of view. Or perhaps MUDGE is simply paranoid.

So, what’s more to say? Well, Whole Foods stubbed its organic tofu over this issue, very publicly. Is this a unanimous trend among the stalwart global enterprises based (presently) in the U.S.?

There are few global enterprises more ginormous than International Business Machines, IBM.

And IBM employees blog. In fact, they are encouraged to blog. In fact they are so proud of the fact that employees are encouraged to blog that in one presentation on collaboration tools for which your intrepid reporter was present, the statistics: 375,000 employees world-wide; 53,000 blogs, internal and external; 27,000 of which were currently active (as of 90 days ago) were flourished with pride.

Personal aside: Always wanted to work for those guys. Never felt I had the horsepower or the credentials or (at the time) nearly enough white shirts. Sigh.

Envy aside, IBM’s collaboration software entity, Lotus, is now promoting a series of products bundled under the banner, Lotus Connections, containing a myriad of tools promising to enable employee empowerment, and this year’s “i”-word, innovation, through collaboration. And one of those enabling tools: Blogs.

Understand that this foray into “social software” is no small casual fancy. During the three-day seminar for Lotus premium customers in Boston this past August, I attended more than a few presentations promoting Connections.

And, even in non-related programs, many of the Lotus and parent IBM speakers referenced their own public blogs.

From the promotional website:

lotusconnections

Blogs help you connect with people – within and outside your enterprise.

They help you build communities of shared interest.

They give each person in the enterprise a voice.

Because blogging is as natural as writing an email to a group, one can share his thoughts and solicit feedback without worrying about filling up everyone’s inbox.

Blogs help you communicate with your peers or colleagues and nourish innovation.

Very empowering. For MUDGE‘s very buttoned down employer, very unlikely.

I’m absolutely certain that many of my fellow employees (there are tens of thousands world-wide) have blogs, perhaps under their own names or more likely, pseudonymously. No way to tell, really. MUDGE knows for certain of only one of his colleagues who knows of his own specific activities here. A matter of paranoia, and trust.

I have the strong feeling that, when offered sweetheart deals for adopting, or even piloting Lotus Connections, my masters at HCA will have (or, already have had) no trouble politely refusing.

As with many of their global peers, they’re all for innovation. Indeed, without innovation, my employer would eventually cease to exist.

But the John Mackey Whole Foods example speaks thunderously to the dangers of the untrammeled communication offered by social software. That kind of innovation my employer, among many others, might well eschew.

Would be refreshing though, wouldn’t it?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW009: A Marathon for the Tsar

October 18, 2007

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Web Conferencing Week

Despite MUDGE‘s status as Tsar of All the Electronic Meetings, sometimes he has to work his royal butt off.

Today was such a day. Let’s take a look at the after-action report provided to his team:

The executive VP of HR (reports directly to the CEO of HCA [Heart of Corporate America, MUDGE‘s employer and thus not its real name]) conducted the third of his global all HR staff videoconferences (the first two were Ireland,  October 2006, and Argentina last March) from Singapore.

These ambitious meetings included videoconference feeds to major sites, and Sametime web conferences for sites where video was unavailable, and even for those sites where video was available outside the largest venues, Sametime furnished the presentations, which were never placed on camera.

The first of two sessions, the live one, was conducted from conference space in Singapore by the VP HR and some regional colleagues, and began at 4:00pm local time. Tech call was 3:00pm, which translated to 2:00am this morning for your Sametime moderator.

Since the video feed didn’t have slides to cue from, and we were in our home office, we arranged with the event producer to have her on the phone cuing us with a signal for the next slide. We had been furnished a now obsolete script, which apparently had been much modified since last Friday when she emailed it to us just before stepping onto a plane to wing her and the crew 22 hours to Singapore.

We were simultaneously monitoring the audio conference, to be sure that the Sametime audience could hear the speakers and this extra step proved important, as the telephone conference people needed to be told to use the feed from the video conferencing bridge (somewhere in the U.S., I believe); getting this straight delayed the beginning of the conference by a few minutes.

So we spent the meeting with one headset (connected to my home land line) listening to the speakers from half a world away in the audio conference, and my Blackberry’s Bluetooth headset in the other ear getting next slide cues from the producer, and later, relaying some questions received from the remote audience via Sametime’s Public Chat to the representative of HR Public Affairs who was coordinating in Singapore and who read out the questions to the speakers.

The only disappointment to an otherwise successful meeting (and it was completely successful as far as the client is concerned) was due to the heavily graphic-intensive nature of the latter part of the presentation, which consisted of about 34 high resolution picture postcards of Singapore, as a backdrop to an interview between an HR executive and a local client. Because of those graphics, and the fact that the connections were in Europe and especially many sites in Asia, response to Next Page signals was delayed by up to two minutes, instead of the 23 seconds allocated. Because these were generic photographs, not much was missed when so many slides needed to be skipped due to the delays.

Among the 38 Sametime connections were participants in the UK, Taiwan, the Philippines, a couple of sites in Japan, Egypt, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Seoul, our home county, Norway, Ireland, Madrid, Hungary, Bangkok, India, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, among others. Some of these were large videoconference and ordinary non-video conference rooms with many participants, watching the video and/or the slides via our web conferencing feed.

There was serious talk earlier this year (I even had an itinerary sent me by Corporate Travel) of sending me with the crew to Singapore, as it was believed that the technical challenges required a Sametime expert on site. I admit that I was intrigued by the possibility of seeing an exotic locale on HR’s dime, but also was affronted: Sametime is a tool meant to reduce travel expenses — what kind of example would be set if they sent the Tsar himself across 13 time zones and put him up for five, five-star hotel nights for two 1-1/4 hour meetings?

The fact that cooler heads prevailed, and kept me in the U.S. turned out for the best, as the first communication from the event producer at about 2amCDT (yes, 2am — a very groggy Tsar indeed took her call) was to let me know that she could not get a consistent Internet connection from the meeting room, and was never able to connect to Sametime from there. Imagine the frustration if the person tasked with moderating the Sametime meeting couldn’t get a connection!

The 10amCDT meeting, for which your correspondent was in place for a technical check by 7:30am, was a rebroadcast of the earlier meeting for the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It was also a complex meeting, as it consisted of the recorded videoconference that had ended less than 6 hours earlier packaged and sent electronically to the video conference bridge, for forwarding, plus a live video feed from the meeting center in Singapore for questions from that second meeting.

The recorded and live video was received in AP6D Cafeteria, and several other sites in the U.S. (California and Ohio) and again Sametime provided the slides for the video (outside the main venue) and for people connecting from their desks or conference rooms without video. the video conference bridge also fed the Sametime audio conference.

Although this meeting was technically complex, again with the event producer (now the shoe was on the other foot, with this second meeting beginning at 11pm in Singapore) cuing the slides for the main venue to a graphics technician, and yours truly controlling Sametime to follow those visual cues, it all went quite smoothly, and the heavily graphic slides had no difficulty advancing on time, apparently due to the more robust network connections in the Western Hemisphere.

Great credit goes to the very able technical people on site here: Larry the enterprise videoconference expert; Steve , working the presentations; and especially the highly competent and extraordinarily calm (in the face of today’s countless last minute bombshells) audio technician, Eric. Thanks guys!

There were 79 connections to this second meeting, from Colombia, Mexico City, Venezuela, several sites in California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Peru, Ecuador, Massachusetts, Quebec and Ontario in Canada, and New Jersey, among others.

Fascinating what’s happening to the heart of corporate America. It’s globalizing with a speed that might cause whiplash. Look at the above lists of meeting participation for both sessions.

Indeed, saw a quote in Business Week at lunch today (sorry, too tired to root it out guys) where the CEO of Intel wondered whether his company could really be called an American one any more. Wow!

The really good news: this meeting wouldn’t have worked at all without Sametime providing the presentation slides, which it did for every video conference room except the originator in Singapore (for the first meeting) and the local meeting venue (for the second). And the presentation, with its heavy graphics, wouldn’t have been successful without using the Sametime Whiteboard, although for the earlier Asia/Europe meeting I believe that network connectivity in Asian sites limited performance.

A wise developer from IBM Lotus, Sametime’s vendor, once characterized his product as the world’s best network sniffer. In other words, if there’s even one narrow bandwidth connection in one’s meeting, Sametime will react in an attention-getting fashion, as it waits (and waits and waits) for handshake signals from each node in the call, as it sends out its graphic content.

But, all in all, the day’s two high profile meetings (sort of career limiting to disappoint the top executive in HR!) went well; the web conferencing infrastructure, so ably maintained by MUDGE‘s overtaxed coworkers, behaved itself. Sigh of relief!

Later the same day (this day! It will be shortly before 9pm when this gets posted, on this day that began for MUDGE with a cell phone alarm beeping at 1:40am) we spent considerable time writing the above report to the team, and then met a commitment to teach a 90-minute class on web conferencing.

The class had been scheduled several months in advance, in the expectation that the Singapore adventure would occur next week; a corporate bigwig changed his mind — what a shock! — but I didn’t feel I could reschedule a class that people had been registered for for many weeks.

The class, one of three taught this week (average is 8-10 per month) was conducted for five students (via a web conference, of course) two of whom were connecting from home offices in Washington state and Florida. Ah, the power of collaborative tools!

A marathon for the Tsar, indeed. But even a curmudgeon can earn himself a smile, if not other royal trappings, for jobs well done.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW005: Four-Hundred-Thirty-One!

August 13, 2007

wcw1_thumb1

Web Conferencing Week

Once again, real life events overtake sketchy plans. Isn’t life like that, though? (Now I’ll need to find the quotation about life being the thing that happens while you’re planning your life.)

Got lots of interesting clipjoints to share; got a professional conference in Boston to write up (for my boss, as well as for faithful reader).

But this is too good to pass by.

I do web conferencing. You’ve more than figured that out. As a grunt in a corporate IT department that supports various collaboration technologies for a global enterprise, technologies whose common bond is its vendor, IBM, I am the informal “manager” of the customer experience for our web conferencing and instant messaging tools, IBM Lotus Sametime.

As I’ve explained, in this role I teach the use of our tools eight to 10 times per month, having developed the courseware, and delivering the classes using the web conferencing tool. One learns while using it.

Another hat worn is that of electronic meeting facilitator. As in those only semi-irritating BASF advertisements, I don’t run the meetings, I provide the technological expertise so the meetings run better. And that’s the role I was playing today, when the routine suddenly became extraordinary.

Our diversified enterprise has a tentpole product, and much of the work I’ve done over the past three years has been in support of that product’s US field sales training organization.

Today’s meeting was not another in the regular series, but rather was put together rapidly over the past few days as a new strategic initiative needed to be launched right now!

Ordinarily two meetings are presented with identical content and presenters: one at 9am or so for the central and eastern time zones; the other at 4pm or so for the western half of the country. Demographics have caused the morning meetings to routinely be quite large for our technology, often in excess of 150 connections and sometimes 200 or more. The afternoon sessions are about one-third the size of the morning ones.

Now, put this in the perspective of the technology and our experience. First, the technology: Last week at our vendor sponsored conference, several of the technical experts supporting Sametime (including the wizard who helped write the original code before Lotus bought it) confirmed that one server is designed to handle 1,000 concurrent users, with no more than 200 in any one meeting.

Now, our experience: In a typical month with several thousand scheduled meetings, more than 20 separately connected participants (and of course, some connections may represent entire conference rooms of people, but we’re talking physical connections) in a meeting is good sized, and meetings of more than 100 connections occur only two or three times per month if that, one of them no doubt being that month’s tentpole field sales morning events.

The largest meeting I’ve ever seen, and without false modesty I can say with some degree of certainty that if I haven’t seen it directly, or consulted with clients about it, it probably didn’t happen, was a division’s “all hands” meeting a couple of years ago in which I noted 296 (global!) connections at the peak, a meeting which I ran and which as a result went smoothly.

Why the emphasis on the number of connections? Web conferencing is a particularly network sensitive application, and in our current version of the software, the responsiveness of the conference rests in great measure on the number of connections, and the quality of the network through which the connections are made.

So, today’s meeting, where in order to cover all the bases (much behind the scenes work with management required to launch this complex new initiative) someone decided that the meeting should not be duplicated, but rather the entire organization should gather at noon, to get everything started without time zone delay.

Frankly, I hadn’t paid much attention to the ramifications, but as the troops gathered in the small conference room from where we originated the “broadcast,” and the field started logging in, I began to be a bit excited, concerned but excited. 100 was passed; 200 went by; 300 and the concern started to overwhelm the excitement.

By the time the sales vice president kicked off the meeting a few minutes past noon, nearly 400 people were connected. Remember network sensitivity? These were field sales people connecting via broadband from home offices, or managers in small local offices connected to the enterprise network through a secured enterprise VPN (jargon alert: Virtual Private Network).

Then, as I was quietly marveling over the still growing size of the meeting, the dire message suddenly flashed on my screen (and of course on the big screen in the conference room to which my laptop was connected): Disconnected. With the vice president seated and emoting right next to me.

[I’ve indicated before that my technologist colleagues wouldn’t have my job for any compensation, due to this up front and personal exposure when things (inevitably) go wrong.]

As I routinely do in small less equipped conference rooms, I had set up a powered mini-Ethernet hub for the benefit of others in the room; I keep this mainly for my own use, when I have one connection and two computers. Today I had one computer, but going in I wasn’t certain if one of the sales organization functionaries in the room was also going to need a connection to our meeting, and two or three others had connected to the hub.

Anyway, this less than year old piece of plastic clothed electronics chose that precise moment to crap out. Remember Murphy’s law?

lifelesson01

Of course my first thought was that the meeting itself had been clobbered, that the server, which had experienced its first serious failure in over four months just the previous work day (during a class I was teaching that was truncated as one unhappy result), had died under the load.

No, it was the mini-hub; the meeting on the server itself, still growing, was fine, although without yours truly connected it wasn’t going anywhere, since one of the little details that can tip a meeting into the success column is that such a large meeting is locked for all but its Moderator. In other words, in a Moderated meeting, no one but the authenticated moderator can push any of the buttons to move the presentation slides. (For completists out there, the other choice is Collaboration, in which all connectors can push all of the buttons — a total no-no for a meeting larger than five.)

But at least the meeting was running. While the Veep vamped for a few moments, I pulled the network cable out of the back of the now worthless hub, plugged it directly into my laptop, performed the three-finger salute on Internet Explorer to kill it so I could restart a new instance (fortunately I didn’t have to reboot, a much lengthier process on my elderly laptop), and in a couple of tense minutes (it’s tough not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain when I’m sitting right at the conference table NEXT TO THE VP and everything going on on my PC is projected for all to see!) we were back in business. Whew.

From there it was nearly anticlimactic. In the end, I spotted 431 simultaneous connections at the peak, an absolutely stunning performance, 135 more than the previous record. Once my connection was restored, the meeting went smooth as glass, again because of network issues not always a given regardless of the number of connections. Amazing, and wonderful.

Now there are wonderful commercial alternatives out there, even for our internal people whose requirements don’t always fit the hammer I wield. But for this meeting alone, the capability of using our in house tool allowed my clients to save at least $2,500; in a billion dollar enterprise a drop in the bucket of course, but I’m a shareholder too.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE