Category Archives: Business

Linux Has Come of Age .. Now, It Is Time To Take The World


An interesting article on not only Linux but OpenSource

TechCrunch Article: RedHat CEO at Linuxcon – I have no idea what’s next

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Google’s software stack obsolete


Interesting article. I am not sure about Google’s but this is true for most companies, especially when they are large companies with large investments in their propietary systems. It does take a concerted effort in keeping things evolving. In general it is about constant refactoring, but in general the business needs overwrite some of the engineering imperatives. It is a hard balance to achieve.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/cloud/2011/06/google-infrastructure-obsolete.php

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Why Do I Post?


Does having a blog and posting in it hurts you? Well, does it? Does it matter?

I think about these question on a regular basis. There is not that much privacy in the world anymore. I can find out most things about almost anybody. And if I am willing to pay, it is even easier and the information even more complete. As prospective business partners, employers, customers, band mates, etc, research who I may be, they will happen upon this blog. So, is it wise for me to have a blog like the one I have been keeping?

I post all sort of things in this blog. From music (poor music 😉 ) I have recorded on my own or with my band, to business thoughts and ideas, experiences to cheap philosophical discussions. The blog has become an outlet for expressing myself at many levels. I write because it is therapeutic. It allows me to express myself to “my audience.”

And that in itself is an interesting question, who is my audience?

First and foremost I am my own audience. I write for myself. As I mentioned earlier, I find writing therapeutic just like I find coding therapeutic. But since I do not do much coding anymore, writing is it.

Writing is very powerful. It forces us to take the time to put our thoughts in order so we can write them down. As we put them down, we find how not in order our thoughts really were and then the writing process assists us in organizing our ideas. I am not very eloquent and often enough struggle with communicating my ideas – yeah .. some will call BS on this but that is because through writing I have overcome my lack of eloquence – thus writing helps me in such communication.

In write about everything I can think of. I have many posts started and in progress with titles such as:

•   Innovation as a version number

•   Does democracy really exist

•   Evolution, freedom and revolution

•   Building Datacenters

•   Social networks and cloud computing

•   The right to die

•   And other topics

First of all, these topics are of interest to me. Nothing is barred or taboo. They cover a wide range. From the definite business topic, to the intersection of business and technology, politics, philosophy, religion and much more. In many cases my writings were sparked by discussion I had with friends over dinner, drinks or hanging out. In other cases, they are answers to other posts found on the web.

Writing allows me to investigate my thinking in a paused and methodical manner. It affords me the time to think and research the topics I target.

Second, my family and friends. The blog is a vehicle for them to check on my “sanity” 🙂 that many times is heavily questioned and contested. It is a way for me to share with them a part of me, in particular because I have friends all over the world. Facebook is the vehicle I use for communication, but the blog is the content of such communication.

It is said that in order to became a “full man” you need to plant a tree, write a book and have a kid. I have planted many trees, have had two lovely kids that I am very proud of – with the help of a great wife – but no book. This is the “book in progress.” The “full man” concept is really about what legacy we leave behind. This is just a part of it. And that is also why I include my music and other artistic outlets.

Third, business partners, clients, etc. They might find some of my writings interesting or even useful. In the case of business related topics, I use the blog as a means to keep as current as I can with technology concepts and ideas and business trends. I take a very strategic approach to what I write about. Am I right in my conclusions? Well … I think I am, but in the end, it does not matter. It is one possible conclusion amongst many other.

But here is where it gets a little dangerous. I am mixing personal posts with business writings. Basically, it appears that I am being careless in how I address my audience. The truth is that early on I decided I was not going to segregate my writings based on my audience. While I do keep many of my thoughts and other elements of my personal life private, I also strive for transparency; especially when it comes to business and business relationships.

Fourth, whomever finds it in their Internet travels. There is a big world out there that is getting smaller and smaller everyday. This is just my grain of sand 😉

Now, this post may sound like a justification. And it is a justification to me in terms of the decisions I continue to take. I few years back I realized that I was still holding on to ideas, concepts, decision, certain values that I had set on between the ages of 15 to 20 and 25. While I am the same person at the core, I am not the same person overall. I have lived many experiences since then that need to be factored in. So, I re-evaluate many of my earlier thoughts and decisions continuously. Writing this post is just another re-evaluation.

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2010 in review


The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 18 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 95 posts. There were 29 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 85mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 20th with 170 views. The most popular post that day was About.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were techcrunch.com, linkedin.com, vbulletin.com, stumbleupon.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for ducks in a row, fabian schonholz, ducks, ethics and morality, and cigar box guitar.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About August 2007

2

CV/Resume August 2007

3

Ducks, Rows, Lines And Business Processes February 2008

4

Bio August 2007

5

Ethics And Morality April 2008
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The Economy and The Middle Class


Not much of a post, but more a comment. The current economic policies and trends are totally destroying the middle class. While the upper/rich class may be the “brain”  and the lower/poor class the “body” and “muscles” of society, the middle class is the “lungs” and “heart”. Mobility will never stop. Peoples will move up and down  the social strata. But what is going to happen is that less people will move up and more people will move down – all the way down. The middle class is like a midway house that allows recovery.

BTW, if you were wondering, I am a staunch capitalist, thus I fully support the middle class.

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From my iPhone


Wow…can you believe it. An iPhone app to write on my blog. This is fantastic and believe it or not, this post is being written on my iPhone. The aspect I will need to figure out is workflow. Normally after I write a post my wife edits it and then it gets published. Such a workflow does not lend itself to writing on the iPhone.

I do see, however, this app as a quick way to jot down some notes and quick ideas that I can later develop into full blog posts. For now … What I need to do is do finish with a few of the blog posts I already started.

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Customer Service In The Era Of The Internet


I despise talking to customer service. Most of the companies I have had to call either for information, to report a problem, ask for a refund, get an RMA, or anything related to service, have resulted in horrible experiences. The customer service reps have been rude, they have lacked product knowledge, they have been less than attentive and willing to listen and have made no efforts in trying to find a solution that worked; to make matters worse US based reps can barely speak intelligent English. To the above equation you need to add reps not based on the US. It is not the accent that bothers me – mine is so thick you can cut it with a knife – but the lack of a customer centric culture. The accent just gets further in the way and aggravates the situation.

There are two companies where the experience is 180 degrees in the other direction: USAA and LaCie.

To call USAA’s customer service exceptional is to not do them justice. They are superb. I am not sure how the reps are trained, but I am yet to talk to a rep on the phone and not gotten the help I needed. What impresses me is that when a rep does not know the information, they freely admit it and they are not exactly apologetic. However, they know where to go get the information and who to hand you over to. The hand over from one rep to another is also fantastic. The first rep introduces you to the second. The second greets you and the first one asks the second if he/she has you. If the answer is positive, the first bids you good bye and now you are talking to the second rep, who had been fully briefed before you started talking, thus, not having to repeat yourself. Of the few times I had to call USAA – they have a great track record – and in those few times the experience has been consistent: Great customer service every time I call.

The experience with LaCie was completely different. I called to complain about an order I had placed where one of the items was back-ordered. My complaint was that I had been charged for the back-ordered item even though it had not been delivered, or so it seemed. The customer service rep, although I was very short, was nice, cordial, composed and quickly turned the situation around by being understanding of how I viewed the situation. He very quickly changed the mood and tone of the call and resulted on a happy customer. I am not sure if that is the experience I will get next time. Regardless, it was a pleasant one. The most important part of this experience was that even though I was in “the wrong”, I was never made to feel that I was wrong.

Few other experiences rival LaCie’s. So few that I can count them with one hand and have change. By at large, my experiences are really crappy and frustrating. The worst experiences are the in-store experiences. Two companies are notorious in my book: CompUSA and Fry’s Electronics. I will not go into details of these experiences because there is nothing to learn from them and in all honesty, I would waste your time describing them. But let’s just say that the reps where less than intelligent; their knowledge of what the products they carry is near nil; their interest in taking care of you is non-existent; their personal hygiene and presentation also lacking. And their vocabulary … well … let’s just say that my children have a better vocabulary than the people I encountered have.

I completely understand that the opportunities for education these people have had are not, to any degree, comparable to mine or my children’s. And I do not blame them for their lacks. I will, on the other hand, make them responsible for it. Who I really blame is the store managers (who probably also do not know any better) or regional managers. I blame people all the way to the top. They are the ones that lack customer focused service and since they lack it, they can not expect their chain of subordinates to react any different than they currently do.

A while back I was recommended I read a book called “Raving Fans” by Blanchard and Bowles. This book is a good example of why USAA and the CS Rep at LaCie are so effective in providing exemplary customer service. I recommend you read it. To think of it, the person that recommended it should read it again. His organization’s customer service is beyond lacking to the point that Fry’s and CompUSA’s in comparison are not too bad.

The customer service landscape today is, based on my experiences, a minefield with a few safe havens. But it needs not to be such a disaster. Traditionally customer service had information issues. In other words, a customer service rep lacked complete and accurate information. And when the data was available, it was hardly ever integrated and presented in such a way that helped the rep. Once upon a time I used to work for Prudential Group Insurance, West Coast Operations. My main responsibilities were to provide technical assistance to customer service reps (CSRs) and help them navigate a series of disconnected mainframe based systems. This was in 1994, ages ago in internet times.

Fast forward to today. CSRs’ operations are no longer, for the most part, mainframe based, and most system have been integrated in such a way that the information is presented in a series of screens that make life much easier to find. To make matters better for CSRs, many of the system offer key-word search to assist finding information more efficiently. A clear example of some of these advances is banking. When you call your bank, in many cases (BofA Credit Card Services for example), you are connected to CSR in India, The Philippines, and other. The rep has access to a great deal more of information regarding your account and transaction history.

Putting the cultural and language elements aside, the first issue starts with security. Some person in some country half across the world has access to some of your most important financial information. But that would not change if the CSR was located here in the US, or for Europe in Europe or however local. What would change is the ability to do background checks. Secondly, what level of encryption in maintained for the connection between the outfit in India, for example, and the data repository in Colorado, again for example? If it was local, then there are regulations that need to be observed and regulatory bodies that conduct audits. Although these regulatory bodies extend their scrutiny to vendors and providers, I am not sure of the level of efficiency and transparency rendered in the above mentioned audits.

However, security, technolgy and data/information even though paramount, the problem remains with my chief complaint: Lack of customer focus on the part of the CSRs. And with the information they have at their disposal and the installed systems providing the information, I am utterly surprised service is still lacking.

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