Monday, September 26, 2005

Windows Media Center Edition and Domains

This is a great example of how to purposefully engineer your products towards maximum customer dissatisfaction. Rather than fixing anything going from 2004 to 2005, they've gone into their own code and removed the ability to join a domain, cause, well Cause.

Dear Microsoft,

This is why people hate you.


a loyal customer (yeah right! c'mon Linux, just 5 more years and you'll be ready for prime time! :) )

And of course, the community has found its way around the problem. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Customer ID Number?

Dear Symantec,

A wise man once told me that the phone rings at any business for 3 reasons -

- Someone wants to give you money.
- Someone wants to take money away.
- Wrong number.

- and while it's a broad generalization, when I call you for support, what I'm really calling for is to give you money, because if you can't/don't help me, the likliehood of me giving you money in the future will be decreased.

"Sir, what is your customer ID number?" is not helping me.

If your contact management system can't handle lookup by company or last name, you need a new CM. Period. Guess what? Building customized CRM packages is what I do. I may be occupied with a full time day job these days, but I have some good contacts in the industry. We can help you.

By the way, if you're going to assign me a customer ID number, you'd better let me pick it. I don't have room in my head OR my Outlook for nine arbitrary digits from the 200+ companies I work with. I could make room, but...

I am a customer. I have a name. It's Jon. If you don't want to call me Jon, you can't have my money.


Your Customer

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mmm, new Corante blog...

Corante is one of my in-office guilty pleasures. A paper cup of self-brewed green tea and a flip through the latest posts is my Californian, naughties proxy for the old porcelain cup-o-joe and newspaper brought by the shirt-skirted secretary.

It looks like yet another potentially interesting blog has popped up amongst the rolls - Total Experience, mission statement being : "
to identify, critique, and recommend exceptional experience design that’s happening today." Sounds like my kinda meme! If creativity is the ultimate expression of the human soul, then Lawrence (no, not Lawrence - who then? I can literally see the words on a page, some page) was right - the writer should toss lit and instead read mathematics, physics, and design blogs, instruction manuals, whitepapers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I’m amused by the persistence of spheroid issues in these so-futuristic naughties. We’ve shortened the distances between each other but we’re still dealing with the old problem of her being three hours ahead, him being seven hours behind. I’ve gotten the cold bucket of water to my face these last two Wednesdays due to just a few hours; 10:30 is a perfectly reasonable time to have a project meeting, however if that’s 10:30 Iowa time then it’s 8:30 Pac Time which isn’t too horrible until you consider that the two of us who are leading the logistics and systems ends of the project both have our usual Stacks O Stuff waiting for us in the morning which must be attended to right away, man. This morning I woke up at 7:50 and went Oh No, I’ve gotta be at the office by 8:30! – see we’re still small enough of a company to not do regular conference calls and therefore are expected to gather like family in the same room, even when the host of the meeting is in Cornland.

By the time the meeting wraps up, the jackals are lined up outside my door, thirsty for blood. By the time I get the good-morning needs fulfilled it’s eleven and definitely time for breakfast; One delicious Whole Foods salad later though it’s noon and I haven’t even opened my daily task list.

I’ve got a huige braindump coming about organizational strategy and the cold science of How To Get Things Done, one of these days soon -

Today is day one of Chris’ rule as Czar of Event Logistics, as he refers to it – he’s a good kid full of a lust for good natured idiosyncrasies and we hopefully give him a good environment to play in. I’m worried that he’s going to get bogged down in the details – there’s a difference between managing a project and firefighting a project – a great, experienced leader can do both, but sometimes it’s very hard for one person to stay focused on the former when there are fires erupting everywhere. Heather and I are good enough to know when to let him battle the blaze and when to step in with the tanker drops on the inferno – I hope. Chris says he’ll have a project timeline built by tomorrow at 10AM – I think that’s a bit lofty but what the hell, I’d love to see him do it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Logistics are never any fun. Too often I see a talented project leader getting bogged down in logistical nightmares. This seems to occur more often when the leader is especially talented, and again if he/she has handled logistics in the past, when the project was at a lesser scale.

Today's example involves an upcoming event that we're planning. Marc's leading the thing because it's his baby and events have always been his baby which was fine when we had 80 people coming to see the show, but these days we put 200 people in a room, and Marc needs to concentrate on the top-end sales tasks that bring in the cash. I'm running the technological aspects, coding the various response and reporting mechanisms, while my Web Devver Lara handles the marketing side. With three weeks left and Marc going crazy trying to tie everything together, I made the call - Chris, our real-world marketer, is going to have to take a big bite of elephant stew and own the logistical aspects.

This is going to be a huge challenge for Chris but also for me. It's a huge event for us - how much leeway do I give him to fail? If I see him struggling do I swoop in at the last minute and save the day, or let it be a lesson for him? I'm totally confident in the kid but he's very raw. It's going to be an interesting three weeks.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I'm doing here, when my heart tells me that I should be putting all of this stuff over here, at, my research blog. If we're moving towards a paradigm of work-life as intertwiniable one, why am I feeling enthusiastic about dividing them, particularly since I haven't figured out how to integrate the two yet, and especially-particularly since what I do in my workaday doings is integrate diverse datasets into a single, intelligent interface.

As Whitman kinda said - I contain multitudes, some of which may contradict each other.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

For the last year or so, I've been trumpeting to anyone who will listen the notion that marketing in 2k5 needs to start with a face and every face - the world needs to see that this amorphous 'company' that they're dealing with is made up of real life human beings. It's another great lesson from history - people don't see other people as Persons until they've seen that those people really are Persons.

Anyway, tonight on, Bill and Steve have their ugly mugs up there, selling their plans for continued world domination on the big screen of Microsoft. And if Bill believes in it... I feel vindicated.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Today I’m using Acrobat’s PDF/FDF library for .NET to create a program that will iterate a table NewData and create a populated PDF for each row of data. At a high level, I’m setting up a programmatic mail merge. The tricky part lies in the path to the merge – the data isn’t ready to be merged just yet. It lives in a table called OldData, which must be intelligently translated into NewData.

I suppose the textbook way to approach this problem would be to plan the translation over the course of a series of meetings and email discussions. I don’t have that kind of time though, and being my own resources as well as the team leader, I often prefer to work backwards. In this case, that means diving right into the PDF mail merge code.

Sounds idiotic, right? It does, unless you think about how we work. We like Cartesian logic because it espouses breaking things down into their simplest components. Tackling a huge translation job without looking directly at the end result makes my brain hurt. Any decision which isn’t dead-simple requires agonizing over, usually in the form of tedious, not-that-shit-again team meetings. Whereas if I dive right into the code, I get to see the whys of each decision before I even get to the questions.

This is an occasion where all that History – “a waste of time for me, I want to be a programmer!” – that we studied in school comes in handy. Military history is a series of plans gone awry – no plan survives first contact with the enemy is I believe the proper cliché. The successful general is not he who makes the best plans, but he who, with a well prepared army, wades in with the element of surprise, and trusts his superior decision-making skills.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to conquer Luxembourg, one PDF at a time.

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