What’s the Best Automatic Signature?

I was not able to find a ‘best practices’ site or space on the ‘net listing the best “personalised” automatic signatures (which one can add on to the end of emails). Recently, I have noticed a couple of novel signatures tacked on to messages sent from smart phones — if not smart friends! I thought I would share them with you, as well as suggest a few others to start a possible best practices meme on the topic of automatic signatures… (if only Facebook would allow the same, don’t you think?)

1/ “Sent from small keyboard – pls excuse the brevity” (from Brad C)
2/ “Sent via Blackberry Handheld – Please excuse typos” (from Charlie H)

My own suggestions, trying to look at a more positive spin:

3/ “Think before you print (even if it’s a stretch to think to print from your iPhone”
4/ “Sent from my iPhone. In virtual heaven.”
5/ “Sent from my blackberry, while in a boring meeting.”
6/ “Typed in the toilet.”

Lastly, in total disclosure, here is the one I am currently using on my iPhone:

7/ “Sent from my iPhone… so, please excuse the virtual typos, merely a figment of the imagination.”

Automatic Signature Message

Would be very glad to hear of other suggestions out there!

Of Standards, Convergence & Collaboration – Winning back consumer confidence

Modern life is, at best, complex Electronic Chargers and Rechargersand, at worst, horribly wasteful and confusing. I am galled by the number of chargers that I must pack with me when I travel with my various electronics. On any given holidays, I will leave with the iPod, the blackberry, the Bluetooth earpiece, the laptop, electric razor, and the camera… And my wife will bring her palm pilot and phone to add two more to the mix. Each requires a specific and, typically, different recharger (such as different voltage requirements and different attachment), taking up a sizeable portion of my suitcase. It’s a wonder my carry-on isn’t always opened at the x-ray machine.

Laptop Battery

On another level, I have observed the wildly confusing marketing claims for the duration of laptop batteries. And, going even further, of course, we have the outrageously confusing and mostly misleading eco “green” claims, all too frequently a version of greenwashing.

With a shake of the magic wand, would it not be more sensible for us to have a single charger with variable voltage, a battery life upon which one could rely and a confidence to say that the eco-savings into which one bought are true? In any event, a standardization and convergence on these elements of life in 2010 might go some way to improving my quality of life.

If we take the case of the longevity of laptop batteries, as an IHT article, “Warning: Stated battery life may have no relation to reality” (June 25, 2009), states, you can find wildly varying performances that systematically disappoint. Standardisation as to how long the battery lasts has been created for cameras and (increasingly) for cell phones. However, for laptops, the game remains confused and the consumer remains a frustrated, if not deceived, individual. The current MobileMark® 2007 tests are inadequate and unrealistic. Furthermore, the way to “optimize” the battery’s longevity seems to be fraught with grandma’s tales and urban myths (charge fully, then use the first time until it drains is all I know).

In terms of green claims, it strikes me that the various industry associations have been slow to react. Certain NGOs have attempted to identify green dilution and misleading communications. However, industry would be better off defining the rules of the game rather than letting the well-intentioned NGOs doing so; at the very least, industry and NGO should be collaborating together.

Convergence Image

The more I look at the panoply of brands, the breadth of products and the multiplicity of claims, I continue to see the need for a greater collaboration and “higher level” convergence between industrialists. Such collaboration should not hurt the consumer. Indeed, it should go beyond, even protecting the paying consumer (and such an objective would be honourable enough). If industrialists were able to find common grounds of collaboration – and I am not meaning collusion — this collaboration would be in the best interests of that industry, presumably, enabling it to help enlarge its pie – the sector’s market share.

So, while my inner liberal self might wish to rebel against rules and standards, might feel oppressed by communistic convergence, and certainly would be wary of secretive collusion, I am inclined to believe that the consumer and industry would benefit by figuring out some standard conventions. Of course, not everyone benefits and some would win more than others. The company around whose convention the rest rally will certainly have a first movers’ advantage. But, by clearing up the immense confusion and latent frustration, companies may again go some way to regaining the confidence and trust that consumers seem to have lost, at least in part, in corporate claims and, more broadly, in brands. And by having just one multi-unit charger and a reliable battery life for my laptop, I will certainly travel lighter and better. Of course, I still have to fret about the different electrical plugs. But, that’s another battle altogether.

Typing Skills & Games – Credit to Lester Thurow

Typing not Stereotyping – A True Way to Advance…

Monkey Typing on KeyboardI have often wondered how my life might have been different had I not learned to type quickly and accurately. I will never forget a lecture I attended by Lester Thurow, former professor of Economics and Dean at MIT, back while I was at Yale (around 1986). He said that typing was far from an insignificant skill to possess as an executive. For many “older” executives–especially those who were not born into the need to type their school papers–typing is not a noble skill. There are still many executives who consider it below themselves to know how to type (much less how to use the computer, Outlook and internet…); those who think that typing themselves is a loss of time.

Typing HandsAu contraire, I find that typing fast and accurately is a tremendous skill and competitive advantage. Just to answer once more the question “how do I find the time to blog so much?” I say, first, that I make the time (part of my philosophy on time). But, right after that, I say that it is thanks to the fact that I can type up to 70 words per minute without (too many) mistakes. When combined with having the word retrieval (from the brain) stoked by some good coffee beans, the posts come fast and furiously for me.

Typing Hands - Finger chart for the KeyboardOn the professional front, this means that typing up memos, meeting recaps or e-mails is substantially less of a chore. That said, there are no shortcuts for rereading and proofing your written word. Of course, reading emails is another kettle of fish and knowing who to put in copy, etc., in your replies (managing the politics…) is a little more cumbersome. Nonetheless, typing faster is a competitive advantage anyway you cut it. It even helps me finger out my messages on my Blackberry. But my typing skills did not come “out of thin air.” I had to apply myself to learn how to type — and I did so consciously early on, without access to any of the fun ways to learn that now exist.

Facebook LogoAmong the fun typing games out there (and there are many), I enjoyed this one from Jon Miles, called Fingerjig. Of course, you can also play Fingerjig on Facebook and find out if you’re a better typist than your friends. It doesn’t test you for upper case, etc., but it is a reasonably fun and engaging way to see where you stand — and see if you need to improve!

So, if you are a student at school, the need to learn to type is pretty much obvious. A done deal. One of the areas I have been working on is finding ways to encourage our children to type quickly — and online games are clearly a great answer. Below are a few solutions that I found (even if some reside on a platform that has other painfully silly games) for kids and adults.

A good reference point is at “Only Typing Games” which has a nice little selection of online games that encourage typing skills.

-For the beginners…and of a younger age: Typing Monster from PrimaryGames and Dance Mat Typing from the BBC.
Qwerty Warrior Game-For the “older” kids, where one can challenge oneself to whichever level one has in typing, Crazy Keys or QWERTY Warriors & QWERTY Warriors 2 (the latter of which play on the aggressive killer instinct) from Crazy Monkey Games
-And, still for kids, there’s Alpha-Attack (from Miniclips)
-Then, for the less game inclined typer, a few “serious” sites courtesy of Touch Typing post from a prolific, if currently dormant, JEETBLOG. You can test your speed, or do some online tutoring here: TypeFaster or Keybr.

If you want to try your hand at your own typing speed, try this. It takes just one MINUTE!

70 wordsTypingtest

In any event, I promote typing skills, am proud of my own ability to type fast and believe that typing faster can materially contribute to the business world’s increased productivity. Typing should not be stereotypically left for assistants and secretaries!
What do you think?

Finishing Touch and Completing To Do Lists

To do List
To Do or Not to Do? I get, what seems to be, undue pleasure at times by crossing out an item on my list of things to do. The mere act of crossing out the item (or ticking the box on the blackberry or PDA “tasks”) is itself a pleasure. That said, I have observed that I get a similar type of pleasure from throwing out a used shirt or holey socks. In trying to sort out where this curious sentiment of satisfaction comes from, I believe the source is rooted in a latent sense of consumerism. Since I have accumulated far too many shirts, ties, t-shirts and socks, the fact that I have entirely “used up” or, better yet, amortized that particular purchase brings a sense of justification for having made the purchase in the first place — thus allaying the guilt of hyper consumerism. Looking for the positive spin, I am satisfying my eco-conscience? As it turns out, most of my old shirts are recycled as clothes in the kitchen and my old silk ties are craftily reappearing in remodeled skirts (for my wife) or lengthened dresses (for my daughter). In any event, between throwing out or “letting go” of worn items and putting things on the “done list”, I feel there is a psychological link.

43 thingsCrawling the net for lists of “things to do,” I came across the inevitable “social network” around sharing, of all things, lists of things to do. This one is called “43 things to do*”… and what struck me was that one of the more popularly shared items…was “getting better posture,” I kid you not, with over 6,000 (girls it would seem for the most part). To render this “desire” relative, there were 19,266 (as of today) people who had “fall in love” as top of their “to do” list…which is beginning to sound like a wish list, no? Unfortunately, there are almost as many people (15k) who want a tattoo.

And, for fun, I list the Top 50 things to do before you die, as cited by NBC viewers. I invite you to scroll down and count off the ones you have done, the ones you’d like to do and then the other ones where you scrumple up your forehead in concern for the person who thought of THAT. My own choices of the latter category are in blue. Italics for peanut gallery comments.

  • Watch whales migrate
  • Go white water rafting
  • See wild game on an African safari
  • Find a long-lost friend — Explains part of the success of Facebook!
  • Learn to dance
  • Fly a plane
  • Drive a NASCAR race car
  • Appear on Broadway
  • Dive the Great Barrier Reef
  • Skydive
  • Golf on a world famous course
  • Travel the Nile in Egypt
  • Be serenaded by a Venetian gondolier
  • Swim with the dolphins
  • Play with an orchestra
  • Paint the Big Apple red
  • Float in a hot air balloon
  • Sip a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby
  • Visit the Oval Office
  • Trace your roots
  • Helicopter over a Hawaiian volcano
  • Ride a mule down the Grand Canyon
  • Stroll along the Great Wall of China
  • Cruise in a Ferrari
  • See the Taj Mahal at sunrise
  • Walk the Inca trail at Macchu Picchu
  • Ride a Harley down an open road
  • Feed sharks
  • Scale a famous peak
  • Explore a Rain Forest
  • Learn to be a cowboy
  • Play ball in a Major League park
  • Prepare the world’s finest meal
  • Be an extra in a movie as opposed to being on Broadway!
  • Gaze upon a magnificent waterfall
  • Horseback ride along a beach
  • Conquer a fear
  • Ride a steamboat down the Mississippi
  • Dive in a submarine
  • Taste the finest wine
  • Run a marathon
  • Write a song or poem for someone you love
  • Volunteer overseas
  • Visit a nudist colony
  • Explore the Alaskan wilderness
  • Hover in a blimp
  • Eat a cheeseburger in paradise
  • Run with the bulls in Pamplona
  • Say a special thank you Why not do it every day!
  • Experience weightlessness

While I’m on the To Do kick, check out the To Do List Blog (parenting to do’s for 2008 and more) and the newly released To Do List book!!

And one of the more popular web-based To Do List softwares, called TaDa List

Something of an obsession: wanting to get things done, no?

* What is 43 things? 43 Things is a “social media” site around things to do… where you can write down your goals, get inspired by others, and share your own progress. What you have to love about this site? The fact that they came up with 43 things. Just my kind of off-the-wall number. And it happens to be my age. Anyway, take a peak!

Facebook and new media communication…the deluge continues

Facebook New MediaFacebook, Blackberry, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Hotmail, Twitter, Plaxo, Jaiku, Bloglight.ning, del.icio.us and so on … the options for getting in touch are spreading rampantly. There is, on the one hand, a convergence and agglomeration of sites and, on the other, a massive divergence in terms of electronic communications. This latter consideration has now hit me frontally and seems to be winning out. Okay, it has been a few weeks already, but the daily Facebook slap in faceonslaught of new friends and notifications on Facebook (FB) has basically slapped me in the Face.

Whereas I thought that a service like Netvibes was going to centralize and rationalize my (first, not second) life, the matinal “you’ve got mail” [for those poor people still paying AOL] has become “you”ve been nailed”. If it were not enough to have the quixotic vampires and zombies on FB, the hotmail emails are now stacking up alerts to open up other incoming messages on other platforms, from walls to superwalls to highballs and phone calls and text messaging. I believe that services like Netvibes are going to have redouble their efforts to become the singular interface. Spaces like MSN may need to be more liberal in allowing new applications and widgets (opening to other services) if they want to retain their primacy.

Here’s what I like in these new forms of communication: the enlargening of the net of friends with whom I am in touch and the rapidity and diversity (if meaninglessness) of the functionalities, such as poke back.

Here’s what is getting messy: where is the centralized database, warehousing of the messages and addresses? It’s getting more complex to keep up with all the threads.

Here is what is ugly: the paroxysm of messaging. Basic overload. It is getting too much even for me.

With this proliferation of “e-mail” (broadly speaking electronic communication) platforms it makes me wonder if standalone email will evolve to only be for spam and “non friendly” communication while the other services hone the idea of opted-in messaging with pre-selected contacts (“friends” in FB, linkedin contacts, Groups, etc.).

Meanwhile, the news announced last night on CNN Money (or Fortune) whereby Microsoft won out over Google and invested in $240 million for 1.6% of Facebook implies that FB is being valued at $15 billion. You have to admire Zuckerberg’s resolve at the age of 23 to delay the IPO for yet another year or two. Is he holding out for the 100 billion award? Borrowing from the tipping point concept, I see three tips: the first was the programmer/hacker rush to create their own applications on FB. The second, is the current tsunami type wave which is based on the socialBlackberry networking/gaming and is spreading like wildfire among groups. Then the last one will be as FB becomes a more accepted messaging service replacing emails (on hotmail, gmail, etc) and becomes accepted unilaterally at work sites. The Blackberry facedeal between Blackberry and Facebook speaks to the early stages of this notion (they’ve already termed it “Faceberry”). Let’s see how Blackberry shares face today. By getting a foot in the door with FB, is Microsoft going to be able to bring what amounts to an open platform feeling (that exists in FB) to its sites? Meanwhile, ‘poor’ old Google will have to make do with spreading its Orkut social networking site which, for now, is only known in Brazil.

What do you think?

For other blogs and articles on the topic (for those of you who didn’t get enough!)
Seattle pi
Guardian Unlimited
Ben Metcalf

Media panel at Yale University

At the Yale Reunion this weekend, I attended–thanks to a happy acquaintance with an ’82 Yalie–a media panel entitled “Meet the Press”. The panel consisted of four ’82 grads from Yale, featuring Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota Senator -D), Richard Greenberg (NBC), Maggie Jackson (Associated Press, writer freelance for NYT and Boston Globe) and Nancy Gibbs (Time Editor at Large).

A few excerpts that stirred me:

– Journalists have, in the age of internet, gone from exposer to exposed as feedback has become instantaneous online and, according to the topic, more or less virulent.

– Ms Gibbs stated that the level of “engagement” surrounding the US presidential elections is very high and early (the ‘campaign’ will now be over 650 days). There has never been so much fervor so early. Furthermore, there are many candidates with neither party’s front runner easy to identify. The prospects of the US elections seem to echo with the events in France’s elections, in which more than 85% of the electorate participated: 12 candidates at the first round, plenty of infighting, high involvement…. My question is whether the US media will help galvanize voter turnout, to turn engagement into the ultimate democratic transaction. For the “bastion” of democracy, US voter apathy is something of a black mark.

– Ms Jackson spoke about the lack of attention span (and its nefarious consequences) as being a result of heightened connectivity (blackberry hell). Because of the pervasiveness of new technologies, we have forgotten how to listen to one another. Her focus on attention span is certainly valid. What this topic leads to very quickly is the focus on superficial “sound bytes” and a general reduction in the level of content. Whether online or in news, Ms Jackson contends that there is a lack of depth in [news] analysis, compounded by a lowering of resources at news companies. The comment I make to that assertion is that some bloggers are very engaged and are prepared to write strong, in-depth articles, more so perhaps than some magazines’ or newspapers’ audience are apparently prepared to pay for. Still, the number of people ready and willing to read “in depth” blogger articles is probably few and far (literally) between. But as Mr Greenberg stated, if you look carefully enough, at least you will find it [in-depth news reporting] covered somewhere.

Computer Geek TBC LOL

I am wondering whether I will achieve Geek status… Somehow I missed out on thinking it was an attractive moniker in the old days. Today, I am not so sure. At the very least, I might not get lost when the kids rotate from one game to another or gravitate to more sophisticated gadgets. Then, on the work front, it seems like technology has seeped into every crevice of the day: telephone voice mail, email, blackberry, conference calls, etc… Then, yesterday, I had an epiphany. I found out that three of my emails had arrived “empty.” Immediately, the virus alert. But, more importantly, I experienced a ghastly sense of feebleness when faced with the formidable fear that maybe I would be without technology. The question is whether this is geekiness or mere dependence?