Sunday, March 26, 2006

Nasty Email: Anger or Panic?

A recent news story has got me thinking about poor email communication.

A transcript of an exchange between Jerry A . Taylor (City Manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma) and Johnny Hughes (CentOS 4 Lead Developer) has been posted on the news section.

The transcript is of the chain of emails between the two individuals started by Mr Taylor when he discovered the website loaded a CentOS-3 test page. The transcript starts with Mr Taylor accusing CentOS of hacking the City website, subsequently threatening to bring in the FBI. He is ultimately proved wrong in his assumption but has trouble backing down at any stage.

In the spirit of "the truth is stranger than fiction", it would be hard to believe that this was made up, especially considering the slander that would be on show.

This introduces a new element that I have never delved into when I have reflected on poor use of email messages before: panic. If all the elements surrounding this story are true then that is the only explanation for Mr Taylor's actions.

An article on the TuttleTimes, reviews Mr Taylor's appointment as City Manager and lists a resume that would suggest he is more than capable of identifying and sorting the problem he encountered.

If you read through the comments on the bottom of the transcript (which are worth going through in my opinion), you'll see that a rather negative opinion is forming around Mr Taylor. After opening himself up for ridicule with his comment:

I am computer literate! I have 22
years in computer systems engineering and operation. Now, can you tell me
how to remove "your software" that you acknowledge you provided free of
charge? I consider this "hacking". I have no fear of the media, in fact I
welcome this publicity.

Now this is a long, long way down the chain of emails where this appears beauty appears. Hours have passed since the original message was sent. With that in mind it becomes harder to believe that it is a state of panic driving his typing fingers and more so the problem of adopting a stance and being embarrassed of changing it.

Consequently, Mr Taylor's end position looks rather indefensible with the evidence currently presented. He was rude throughout and after the man he was berating went further than necessary to solve something that wasn't his problem, he still refuses to apologise or thank Mr Hughes for the efforts.

So what should Mr Taylor have done?
He had a situation that needed resolving and he suspected it was an illegal activity. I can only imagine he is a very emotional man, an asset in some respects and a liability in others. Rationality had left the building, entirely.

What failsafe can you administer once you have lost objectivity?

I wish I could provide a helpful answer, but a side effect of the digital world is that any message you send to anyone could end up on public display. You have absolutely no choice but to keep a reign on your emotions, to keep some sort of control, to minimize the danger you present to yourself.

Hat tip: Patrick of Suburbia

Disclaimer: This was written based on the evidence I could find of the transaction, of which Mr Taylor's personal views of the event were not apparent.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Situation Update

Good evening all. I have my first OU assessment to hand in on Wednesday and I've been cramming all weekend (hence the lull in activity).

Now, it's an early bed for an early rise. It's going to freak the cats right out when I start mooching about the place at 4:30 in the morning.

Normal service should resume on Wednesday/Thursday night.

Talk amongst yourselves...

Update: Better make that Sunday...

Friday, March 17, 2006

My Blogger Code

A bit of Friday fun.

My blogger code:

B4 D- T- K S+ F I- O+ X E L- C-- Y4 R+ W+ P++++ N- H

I warned you when I said "bit".

Hat tip: David Seah

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why I Haven't Evangelised Instant Messaging, Yet...

In essence, "Elroy Jetson's" latest post IM an efficient means of communication sums up my currently held view on Instant Messaging. It's not currently widespread in my workplace but there are pockets of users lurking here and there.

I don't see IM as particularly useful when used on a large scale. Its benefits come from use from by people that hold a relationship.

Think about the phrase
I haven't got time to write a short letter so I'll write you a long one.
Absolute truth. There's no chance to write anything lengthy in IM, which certainly leaves not enough time to write anything short (read concise).
So you end up with a pin the tail on the donkey act. However, the closer your relationship with the person you're messaging, the thinner the blindfold, as the likelihood increases that they will get the gist of what you are saying.

Factor out abuse and inefficiency by stopping people that don't know you using IM to jump queues and then we may have something.

Like email, to be used optimally (Clear subject lines, requirements of the recipient, agreement on use of Urgent/High Importance et al), it requires convention.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Government and the Opposition

Perhaps my stance here is too simplistic. Members of Parliament represent their constituency first, party second. My local MP Sir George Young, stands for me first, the Conservative Party second.

If he isn't doing that, then he isn't doing his job as far as I am concerned.

I don't care if there are Tory back-benchers that want to give Tony Blair a metaphorical bloody nose. When Sir George went and voted on today's education bill I hope he went in with that view in mind.

If he felt that the bill represented what his constituency wanted and it was a good move for the country then he should have voted for it.

That's all that matters.

Sometimes I wonder where the benefits are in this cash guzzling party system of Government. And there is certainly something wrong using the term 'Opposition' for the second largest party. Since it brings on media and subsequently public expectancy that this party has to argue and vote against whatever the Government proposes then it is blatantly misguiding.

If David Cameron used his leadership to vote for the bill and not the politics then good on him. Else, well, he's another one of those 20th Century politicians.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Conversational Phenomenon that is the Weather

Before podcasting, I'd didn't know how this went for the rest of the world, but in the UK the safest topic in the world is the weather.

Nowadays the British public are notorious for not wanting to indulge in conversation with strangers but when they do there's a good chance that it'll be the weather that comes up first.

At the open bus shelter:

"Brrr, bit chilly en it?"

Taking the mutt for a walk:

"Glorious morning, isn't it?"

My point being, thanks to the wonderful informality of podcasting we Brits can now be assured it is not just us. Whenever the podcast is not a monologue and plays listener comments I commonly hear references to the weather: frozen over in Canada, blazing heat in Oz...

So there you have it folks. The global common interest, the weather. Seth was saying something about it being hot out, was he not...?

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How to Kill Sales

From Business 2.0 Vol 7 on 101 Dumbest Moments in Business:

3 On the bright side, seeing-eye dogs are total chick magnets.

In May the FDA says it's received 40 reports of sudden blindness in men taking the impotence drugs Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra. Within six months, combined sales of the drugs plunge more than 10 percent from the previous year's levels.

Seriously gents, you were warned about this in the playground...

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Love, Business and the Bottom Line

Euan Semple talks of love in business, to which I had to respond...

Maximising share holder value: the sole aim of business.

Strange, is it not, that this is mainly made possible by going to one extreme or the other:
pure selfishness (wanting to make money for yourself and in doing so raise the value of the company)


pure selflessness (doing your best to insure everyone who invests in the company, be it time or money, is happy).

Love is in there somewhere, else the whole operation would come apart at the seams. It’s just a little bit taboo to say it out loud or worse, write it down.

Hat tip: Ross Mayfield

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Excel Will Be Bigger, Much Bigger

David Gainer of the Microsoft Excel 12 development blog has revealed the final numbers for the Excel 2007 grid.

1,048,576 rows
16,384 columns

That's right, comparatively huge to Excel 2003's:

65536 rows
256 columns

I've been caught out enough times for that to be a top reason to upgrade alone...

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

I Can See My House From Here

The internet is getting closer to the individual all the time. After watching Seth Godin speaking at Google (which is damned good if you've got an hour aside) I minced about looking at the popular Google Videos on offer to fill my Sunday morning.

I came across one that was made by Andover High School Television. So I thought I'd give a try searching Andover and see if anything came up for my home town. Not only did I manage to get one result, my dwelling is clearly visible in one shot!

The video is of BMX bikers, not normally a point of interest for me, but these guys have skills. Rather impressive.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Do People Still Fear Truth Serum?

Seth Godin poses the rather sensible question "Why wouldn't they?" referring particularly to marketers not setting up a Squidoo lens for every book they are pushing.

He goes on to describe some fear factors and brings in (not sure how consciously) evil truth serum.

Evil, really?

If the truth is dangerous to you, surely you're doing something wrong... Or am I missing something?

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Ultimate Self Improvement Tip

Here's a tip. Bugger everything else, if you're having one of those days where things just aren't going your way there's two ways to get it all back:

1. Make someone laugh

failing that...

2. Make someone smile

How many times have you quite possibly spent 3 or 4 hours doing some piece of work or another for one person which you'll barely get recognition for, let alone thanks?
Whereas, you can spend that 5 seconds conjuring that perfect line at the right time that puts the office in tears and really turn someone's (or many people's) day around.

This is why I never have an unproductive day.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

No Tax Please, We're Rich

BBC2's the Money Programme lifted the lid on British citizens that are avoiding tax by any loophole left open in the legal system.

The accountants think it is fine, their clients obviously have no problem with it but HM Revenue & Customs, naturally, have other ideas.

As I've grown up (well, got older), the percentage I have paid in tax has pretty much stayed the same, but the actual amount has been going up. Same can be said for the majority of workers in Britain I should imagine.

I have thought about getting rich (a lot), again as most British people I've ever come across do. The thought of dodging the taxman has just never really crossed my mind.

Why? Well, I think £285m of my £1bn+ dividend could be spent a lot better funding my local schools, hospital, police and fire service improving thousands of lives than by funding my 12th home somewhere in the Mediterranean and accompanying yacht. £750m would be enough to fund my lifetime six or eight hundred times over.

If these rich folk think that the normal tax system is wrong or unfair, where is the voice of change?

In the case of sportsmen, whom the patriotic public can support passionately, where is the repayment? The contribution to the society that supports them, which when without, they would have no riches at all?

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Break Distance Fines

The current speed limit at 70mph in Britain is too slow. I can literally feel the lethargy when travelling with someone at that pace. Much better to step it up to a pace where you can feel alert, without overpumping adrenaline and remaining rational.

There's no excuse to be driving over 100mph on a public highway. Anyone caught doing that is a speed junkie with no regard for their own or others safety. Caught doing that, lose you license for life. Now that's what getting caught speeding should mean. None of this fine BS or retaking your test.

If you want to fine based on being a safety danger (which is the pretence of speeding fines) then it should be breaking distance that is the basis. This can be measured just as much as speed by the authorities monitoring traffic.

Going 71 mph on a public highway is no where near as dangerous as driving a yard short of the breaking distance you need to stop clattering the car in front and the cascading effect behind.

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