Cutting The Cord Act 3 – Cordless Is A Myth

if_angry_emoticon_emoticons_emoji_emote_4_2993653

Scene 1 – The Cord Was Already Cut
Newsflash – there is no such thing as going truly cordless not if you’re ditching the cable box for streaming services that require a data connection to stream.  My first act to cut the cord was to establish a healthy data connection and that meant dealing with a cable company since in my area the conduits are completely controlled by cable cos.

It’s at this point I feel a disclaimer is warranted – this is the one post where I will definitely be going into full-on rant mode so for those of you hoping to read an eloquent post full of practical advice (though there will be some) and void of angst then move on.  Nothing to see here.

Still with me? Good then read on as I scorch the cable industry as a whole as the reasons why so many customers like me are ditching cable become crystal clear!
My approach to cutting the cord and one I recommend for anyone else was to overlap my streaming services with my cable subscription for at least a month.  This takes the edge off the shock of cutting cable and allows some extra time to work out at least the biggest and most unexpected kinks.  Little did I know then but I would end up maintaining an overlap for almost 2 months as what transpires over the next few paragraphs is a colossal failure to execute a basic reconnect by a previous cable provider!  My current data connection was capped at a paltry 18 Mbps with my current provider which shall remain nameless (eh hum nickname Ma Bell).  Their tap (code name for the actual distribution box where their lines are distributed to several residences) was the limiting factor and it was barely adequate for our needs to begin with so I decided to return to a previous provider where the tap could feed us up to 300 Mbps.  We would settle on their 100 Mpbs plan which included phone and internet since we still maintain a landline.
This does bring up a good question, what’s the best data speed for cutting the cord?  Generally speaking, I recommend a minimum 25 Mbps if you plan on streaming from multiple devices including mobile devices.  Ideally go for 100 Mbps and above to future proof you for data-hungry 4K content.  Side note of caution…read the fine print when you ditch your cable programming package for internet only.  Since customers are fleeing profitable cable bundles cable companies are fighting back by capping their internet data packages, usually at 1TB per month.  For those of you who sleep with your tv on this may be troublesome for all others a 1 TB limit is more than adequate however as the amount of 4K content increases over streaming services it may become a factor in the future.
So now back to the task of reconnecting the cord (internet sic) so I could cut the proverbial (cable) cord and stream away.  Leaving my current cable service intact I contacted my previous cable provider (who shall remain nameless but whose name just might rhyme with fox) with faster internet to schedule a reconnect.  Bear in mind my last connection with them was only 3 or 4 years ago and since we were keeping a landline we also needed to get our phone number transferred to them as well.  The initial phone call was easy and pleasant.  I was told the cable would be on in a few minutes as it was just a flip of a remote switch for them though I learned that my old modem that I’ve kept won’t keep up with the data speed I’ve chosen so I had to purchase a new one.  I tell them I’ll get my own rather than pay their silly rental fee.  When I’m done reestablishing the internet connection I’m transferred to an automated system to request the phone transfer a process called “porting”.  I followed the instructions and was advised that the porting process would take up to 5 business days.  No problem since I was wisely overlapping my two services anyways right?  So VERY wrong!!
It’s at this point things took a diabolic turn.  I purchased the new modem that day and went online to register the IP/MAC addresses with the cable co. as instructed before connecting it.  It doesn’t register a signal.  After exhausting all avenues of troubleshooting including reconnecting my old modem and busting out a multimeter I’m convinced there’s no cable signal coming into my house.  I finally call customer service and thus enter a pit of misery that I won’t see daylight from for several weeks.  I’ll skip the blow by blow because honestly it could fill a novel and might just come off as so outrageous that it must be embellished and just do my best to summarize:
  • 2 visits by techs just to find out previous cable co. sabotaged box on my house by cutting all cords.  Apparently this is a thing and “I’m lucky they didn’t cut cables in my attic”.
  • Over the next several weeks after finally reestablishing a signal it will lock up on average once a day and sometimes once per hour.  The only way to resolve it is to reset my modem.  Call customer service.  More fruitless troubleshooting which leads to many more visits usually by clueless contractors and not actual cable co. techs not to mention at least two instances of being stood up at appointment times.
  • There’s constant squabbling over service fees and my insistence that nothing has been resolved meanwhile I continue to extend my other cable service until resolution.
  • Coinciding with all this a whole separate saga with transferring my phone unfolds.  It includes work orders never created to work orders mysteriously closed.  There’s confusion between cable co. and techs whether the phone box on house must be upgraded.  I’m also given a ginormous phone modem I now have to find a place for and a temporary phone number until old one is ported.  This would eventually be the last issue sorted out nearly 2 months later!
  • Related to the phone issue is nobody at any point ever asks me if I have a monitored alarm system. Once phone finally gets ported my connection with alarm co. is thus severed. Alarm co. begins making weekly robo calls 8 AM EVERY SINGLE Saturday morning to inform me that the line is not connected.  More visits by clueless contractors until I pitch an epic fit and finally get a cable co. expert tech out to resolve the issue.
Advertisements

Cutting The Cord Act 2: Why Cut The Cord?

if_question_mark_118617

Scene 1: Why not?

I won’t beat around the bush. My reasons for cutting the cord are almost entirely to do with money. When I ranked my monthly bills my cable bill was consistently my third greatest monthly expense behind mortgage and car payment. After decades of dealing with cable companies (note I’m lumping satellite and cable services together into the term “cable” for this discussion) I’d like to think I’ve become somewhat of a pro at working their systems. It usually goes something like this – sign up for new customer bundle deal, bundle deal runs out a year or two later and price soars, call and get a discretionary deal that reduces price but adds content and features for 6 months, call 6 months later and cancel the new content and features and receive another special offer that lasts for another 3-6 months until finally the price inflates again and fed up I cancel service altogether and repeat process with a different provider. Similar plights to mine are well chronicled on many cable hating blogs in much more angst-filled terms so I’ll stop there and move the discussion on to the second reason of why I cut the cord.

Scene 2: Choice

Over the last few years the market has been flooded with new streaming services all vying to top each other with brand new binge ready content. Their original content is getting really good as budgets continue to increase and as this year’s awards season begins they are sure to follow the trend over the last couple of years and snag up more than their fair share of awards. I decided I wanted in on all the fuss, however, we’ve already established my skyrocketing cable bill and the 475 out of 500 channels I never watched made it unfeasible to splurge on these new services.

I decided enough was enough and I was ready to watch what I wanted to watch when I wanted to watch it!

Additionally, cable is inherently wired and by nature made it difficult to watch my content on the go. It’s only recently that many cable providers are making inroads on their mobile apps to allow for even paltry mobile experiences, for me though it was just too little too late. In hindsight, I wished it was a greater factor in deciding to cut the cord than it was at the time else I would’ve ditched it likely long before I eventually did.

Even 6 months later and 475 channels less my newfound freedom and variety are no less appreciated.

Scene 3: The Gear

Let’s face it I’m a gadget guy. I’m unashamed about this fact and I was simply fed up with my 4 year old cable box and its clunky interface, noisy hard drive, a litany of indicator lights that lit up my bedroom like a Christmas tree, and wretched rental fee to boot!! This was not lost on me every time I passed a tiny Roku stick at Best Buy with its tiny remote and Netflix shortcut button. It sorta gets back to wanting choice and not just about the content I consume but also the hardware by which I watch the content and by extension control over my experience. In fact, I’ll never forget the time when I returned to a cable provider after running the gambit with another provider and literally being handed the exact same hated hardware I had turned in 3 or so years earlier! Not one thing had changed in that time.

I suspect most like me will consider cutting the cable due to the promise of big savings, and make no mistake you will save, however, in hindsight should in some alternate reality the price savings be voided I will NEVER give up being able to choose my own tailor-made experience that I now have to return to the bondage of cable.  If you can ever get past the shock and bumps that I’m about to unleash in my next few posts I suspect you will neither.

Cutting The Cord Act 1 – Kickoff

if_BT_cut_905651

 

Scene 1: Introduction
People are cutting cords in droves this past year and I was one of them.  I considered blogging each step of my experience and perhaps in hindsight it really was a missed opportunity because in so many ways so much went so so wrong; it would’ve been great fodder.  Nevertheless in the next few posts I’ll hit the highlights of just what it takes to cut the cord and along the way offer some perspective after 6 months cord-free (which turns out is not entirely possible) and I will at least cover some of what went so very wrong because it’s so relevant to the conversation of just why so many people are cutting the cord in the first place.
You’ll also notice I’ve decided to label this series by Acts and Scenes as if it was some long drawn out saga because really well it is!  The whole process has been full of drama with highs and lows ranging from extreme rage to ‘Well I’ll be darned’ moments of surprise when things actually work really well so sit tight and enjoy.  I hope my ongoing chronicles help tailor expectations for those just starting your own cord cutting journey or for some validate your choice to stick with cable and for others maybe just feel good to know somebody else feels your pain.

New Year’s Resolution | Quit Technology

1451778196_DangerThis is not some post ranting and raving about the societal impact of social media or some wake up call after realizing every person in my family can’t even eat a dinner together without the added appendage that is their smartphone and thereby pledging a righteous fast from all forms of technology for the New Year.  Nay this is simply the rant of a fed up tech nerd.  I started ILikeTek.com as an outlet for somebody who really does nerd out and appreciate most all forms of tech (almost all…selfie sticks are kidding me?!).  I really do like tech and love even more opining about this passion.  Most days I relish my tech savy panache and just last week had someone confide in me how they wished they knew even half what I knew because “the world would be such an easier place”.  That was my mom after I hooked up a flat screen TV that sat idle for a few weeks until the next time I visited to hook it up.  It took me all of five minutes to bring it to life and I even reduced her entertainment center down to one remote (that she already had but didn’t know how to program).  Her wish implied that I just didn’t get tripped up like most other non-techies on gadgets and software.  It implies I breeze through life like a Kardashian.  This actually couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact you can say today, gasp, I Don’t Like Tech!  You see at any given moment I have a laundry list like most people of gadgets or software that simply aren’t cooperating and like most people it can be downright frustrating and almost debilitating at times.  For full effect here’s a glimpse at my present laundry list:
  • The volume pot on my PC speakers is malfunctioning resulting in a constant tussle to get both speakers to actually play.
  • I wasted over an hour just yesterday trying to reformat a micro SD card for my new Kid’s Kindle Fire that inexplicably was corrupted with no success.  Crashed my computer twice in the process.  Right now my kid is playing with our original Kindle that has a faulty power connector where getting it to charge requires a time sapping jiggle dance with the power cable.
  • My iPhone also inexplicably decides to revert to default text tones robbing me of my glorious “Alright Alright Alright” Matthew McConaughey one liner that serves as my text tone for my B Team phone contacts.  This began with the release of iOS 9 and I still haven’t cracked the puzzle to resolve it and every time that friendly default text tone dings it infuriates me to no end.
  • I’ve spent more time than I care to admit this past week trying to transfer my XBOX gamertag to a more desirable Microsoft account to no avail.
  • Yesterday I had to return my wife’s Fitbit I bought her for her birthday just 4 months ago because its bluetooth radio failed.  It was her fourth activity tracker that failed in the past year alone.  They’re all universally junk.
  • My keyboard occasionally decides to wig out and substitute different characters and commands for key presses.  Not kidding…requires a reboot to clear it up.  Same issue on my old pc so I know it’s driver related to an accessory I recycled from old pc.  Have tried other keyboards with no success.  Forum queries have been fruitless.  Have honestly fought this one for about four years.  It’s quite shameful actually.  Had to take a break writing this to reboot for this very issue.  Fail.
  • My wifi gets crazy slow sometimes.  Every single diagnostic I’ve ever done shows a healthy signal and speed yet my devices drudge on and then magically it’s healed.  It’s secure, doesn’t appear to be hacked.  Also no clue, perpetually unresolved.
  • Have a printer that can’t connect to said wifi.  Also it recently spazzed out and issued several errors codes.  Did a factory reset then it ran out of black ink.  Replaced ink with a new cartridge.  It still said is was out and wouldn’t let me print with color unless I replaced the black ink cartridge…again.  Finally caved and replaced the black ink cartridge with another new cartridge.  It worked but still spurns wifi.  Whatever.
  • Bought my kid a lava lamp for Christmas.  The lava doesn’t float.  It just sticks to the bottom in one congealed blob.  Shook it real good…then read instructions which explicitly states to never shake it.  The blob remains but has now moved to the top.  I’ll have to return it.
  • I have a portable speaker I’m particularly fond of that periodically turns itself off then back on after a couple of minutes.  The next day it’ll work just fine.  As an electro-mechanical engineer by day I am also shamefully clueless as to why.
  • I have a piece of Dell crapware that I can’t get to stop pestering me with daily notifications.  For certain reasons I don’t want to uninstall it.  It’s not found on any of my startup programs or background processes where I could disable it so for now I’m forced to answer it’s rude and overriding interruptions.
  • Recently my engine light to my car started coming on intermittently.  I theorized it was a loose battery terminal, the dealer disagreed and the light never stayed on long enough for them to catch it with their diagnostic machine.  Later there would be a battery terminal recall for this very reason.  It was with no small measure of satisfaction I had them service it under the recall.  The intermittent light has recently returned.  Face palm.
  • Finally the clock on my coffee maker runs fast.  It gains a whopping 4 minutes a day.  If left unchecked for even a week it starts brewing coffee 30 minutes early.
The truth is I’ll only resolve half of my technological issues at any given time and the rest I’ll lose patience and simply replace whatever is malfunctioning.  Today (after I finish this post if my keyboard allows sic) I’ll quit technology.  Tomorrow I’m certain I’ll renig on this resolution.  There is really only one difference between me and most non-techies.  Most of the time technology does not cooperate for me either; I just can’t feign ignorance when it does.

5 Things I Wish Apple Would Design

Vending MachineApple’s design accomplishments are legendary.  Their design prowess in most ways sets the benchmark.  Their feats and are often credited with inventing new categories of products we never knew we needed when I think they actually are simply the best at perfecting ideas.  With that said what if that prowess extended far beyond the technology stratosphere and reached many of the simpleton things we encounter on a daily basis.  Here’s my list of 5 things I wish they did just that.

  1. Vending Machines.  Vending Machines universally suck.  They constantly rip you off.  They’re giant, orca giant, and noisy.  Can you say, “Siri, can I have a Milky Way please?”
  2. ATMs.  Also universally suck.  “Siri, give me a Benjamin please.”  “Certainly, how would you like that?”  “Three 20s, two tens, two fives, and the rest in ones will do.”  Notice I never had to select my language preference in this exchange and yes I’m aware of Apple Pay but the vending machine I frequent isn’t and is perfectly content stealing my cash.
  3. Microwaves.  Now these don’t normally suck but how cool would it be to pop in your tv dinner, shut the door and it started automatically because it read some NFC tag or bar code that in turn translated to the proper wattage and heating time.  It will even pause to tell you in Siri’s wonderful voice it’s time to remove the wrapper over the refried beans and stir them.  Oh and the door makes virtually no noise to open or close.  Why are microwave doors always so loud anyway?  Loud buzzers, forget about it, just Siri’s delish voice.  Step out of the room when the timer ends no problem, a gentle notification to your iPhone or Apple Watch will let you know your dinner is ready.  It would also alert you when it detected metal and not operate until it is removed.
  4. Automatic faucets.  You know the kind in public bathrooms.  Seriously why do these never work when I put my hands under them and why do they stop when I haven’t removed my hands?!  The urinals usually work as do paper towel dispensers and air dryers why not faucets?
  5. A Kid’s Tablet.  Because my 5 year old has access to a LeapPad, a Kindle Fire, a Nintendo DS, and a Xbox Kinect but almost always prefers my iPhone 6 I believe because it offers the most hassle free experience for him.  This may not qualify to be on this list because it’s still a tech product nevertheless I just want to see what Apple would do with a product designed from the ground up exclusively for kids.

The Third Party Keyboard Fail

Apple Third Party KeyboardsI lauded the arrival of iOS 7 more than another other iteration of Apple’s mobile software mostly because I was so ready for its new flat look but it doesn’t remotely compare to my anticipation for iOS 8 and with it the arrival of third-party keyboard support.  Apple’s stock keyboard has been much maligned for every successive iteration of their software and for me has been the single greatest point of frustration with iOS.  Reasons for my frustration are quite simple and don’t really have much to do with snazzy gestures or pretty color templates so much as it has to do with accuracy.  I simply just can’t master typing on the stock keyboard.  It’s really quite maddening how poor I can be at times.  It’s not rocket science but for reasons both known and unknown I can nary type a single sentence without an error and at this point I’m honestly resigned to the fact that I just suck at it.  I had great hope that some third-party keyboard would come along and rescue me from my unmanageable thumbs.  By the title surely you’ve guessed by now I was disappointed with the results.  So here’s what lead me to the ultimate conclusion that I am ditching all third party keyboards for the stock Apple keyboard.

Somewhere in all the buzz leading up to the launch of iOS 8 and with it third-party keyboard support I came across news that a third-party app available on other platforms had set the Guinness World Record for fastest typing.  Its name was Fleksy and after reading up on it I was immediately sold on its gesture based predictive algorithm.  It seemed so fluid and quite slick.  You see my crutch is simply typing accurately.  I can spell just fine.  I know how to structure a sentence.  Still it’s a mystery to me why I err so much because I don’t have fat fingers, I consider myself very dexterous, and my thumbs keep in shape playing Xbox nevertheless I’ve always sucked at typing on the iPhone.  The UI presented to me by Fleksy just seemed to hit the sweet spot because unlike most other keyboards including Apple’s it doesn’t try to predict as you type instead it just tries to predict what you just typed.  Translation, it basically auto corrects your spelling.  After downloading iOS 8 Fleksy was the first new app I installed.  Frustration set in immediately as the keyboard crashed the very first time I took it out for a spin.  After about a day of constant crashes I would learn that all iOS 8 users were experiencing the same thing and that the issue was baked into iOS 8 and affected all third-party keyboards.  I would stumble on a couple more days until I just turned off the keyboard entirely to wait for Apple to offer up an update to fix what was a widely reported major bug.  The first update supposed to fix the bugs we would quickly learn could brick phones and a successive update for the update would promptly come out soon after.  I gave things a couple more days to smooth out before downloading that update.  What’s important to note here is in that brief period while Apple was ironing out the kinks to the kinks so to speak I got some time with the updated stock Apple keyboard and discovered as advertised it had improved by leaps and bounds over the last one.  It’s prediction engine was quite good and I would have to say did cut down my errors to some extent. That didn’t stop me from reactivating Fleksy once I finally downloaded the iOS update with fixes for third-party keyboards.  I had after all already made my mind up to ditch yet another stock Apple feature for a better alternative something I have successfully done with practically every other stock Apple app or feature to date where alternatives existed.

Sadly Fleksy would turn into a maddening disaster.  The predictive gestures were fun but what sunk it for me from almost the first day was its over corrective tendencies.  How can you over correct the spelling of a word you ask?  Simple really.  Take the word “gun” for example.  Typing it correctly would often yield a different word like “fun”.  It begs the question how does this happen really?  Wouldn’t in the hierarchy of rules a correctly spelled word take precedence over really any other rule?  With Fleksy replacing a correctly spelled word with another word entirely happened astonishingly frequently.  This left me altogether pissed off frankly.  If I couldn’t correctly type in a word and have it accepted (especially since we’ve already established how much trouble I have typing accurately to begin with) then what is the point really?  I researched the 3 major keyboards getting buzz at launch (Fleksy, Swype, and SwiftKey) and I’m not sure if I made it past two full days with my first choice, Fleksy, before moving on to my next choice.  SwiftKey.

The lure for me about SwiftKey was really 3 things.  First it was free which helps considering I had to purchase Fleksy, next it incorporated swipe to type gestures and learned your typing patterns getting better the more you used it (allegedly), and last you could always tap away if you didn’t want to swipe.  I was at first really impressed with it but quickly discovered that learning your typing patterns was too much of a good thing.  If I incorrectly misspelled a word in the same way a couple of times well…the incorrect spelling became its default first prediction thereafter.  After 2 or 3 weeks I found myself full circle with the keyboard over correcting too often albeit now with a slew of misspellings.  I could easily reset the keyboard to rid myself of all my polluted predictions but as I stated with Fleksy what’s the point of using their keyboard then?  Truly frustrated I took a brief hiatus from third-party keyboards and went back to the stock Apple keyboard.  At this point though I found that I had grown quite fond of the swipe to type gesture.  It just felt more natural for one-handed use especially with the bigger iPhones that have virtually eliminated the ability to type one-handed so I finally convinced myself to drop a buck and download my third option.  Swype.  As luck would have it Apple would make it the FREE app of the week the very next day.  Go figure.  Nevertheless I found myself as with SwiftKey quite smitten with it I think mostly because it worked better (at first) than the previous keyboard I had tried, but not perfect.  In fact Swype‘s fatal flaw is no different from all the others for me.  Over correction.  I don’t understand it really.  I found it had trouble acknowledging swipes for words with two identical successive letters but not in the way you might think.  For example I can’t tell you how many times it replaced “to” with “too”.  Such a common word…too pun intended!  Ultimately I concluded I was spending just as much time correcting Swype‘s predictions as I was correcting my own typos in the stock Apple keyboard so like I’ve stated the other two times what then is the point?!

I’ve been mulling this question over for some time as my frustration level has continued to build.  Not mentioned with these three different experiences is the one factor that is the same across the board that muddles all of these third-party keyboard experiences.  Crashes.  Yep they are still a constant despite Apple updates meant to address these crashes.  I know it’s not just my phone because in the middle of this experience I actually switched iPhones (for other reasons) starting from a clean slate rather than restoring from a backup.  Users still complain of the constant crashes.  They’re certainly better than at launch but nevertheless they are a daily miff.  Honestly it’s astonishing really how prevalent they are and how little attention it’s getting.  There’s another factor that has influenced my choice to spurn third-party keyboards.  Emoticons or lack thereof.  Support for them varies between the apps I tested with Fleksy doing the better job nevertheless emoticon support seems more or less an afterthought.  I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps it’s a combination of both iOS restrictions and/or lack of creativity on the part of third-party app makers to incorporate them better.  It seems petty to include this as a deciding factor but I must admit to embracing emoticons as a significant portion of my day to day mobile communication and to have it buried sometimes 3 taps back is off-putting to say the least.

It’s taken me two and a half months to finally throw in the towel but I finally did.  It really boiled down to simple math for me.  In the negative column you’ve got a common theme of over correction, constant crashes, and a case of emoticon denial.  In the positive you’ve got an improved stock Apple keyboard that at least is stable and better at offering you up predictions while not jamming them down your throat.  Ultimately though the deciding factor for me was my general level of frustration.  When I use a third-party keyboard I have this expectation that it will work better than the stock one and that some launch bugs are expected but not to this degree.  I expect it will not just be pretty but actually make the task of typing easier or more efficient for me.  None of these have remotely been up to the task.  I got more frustrated using third-party keyboards than with the stock keyboard which I guess in part is because I have come to accept some level of frustration already over the years with the stock keyboard.  I’m left now with only one choice to return to the Apple stock keyboard.

Now that I’m reluctantly all in on the Apple keyboard train I offer a couple of thoughts for the masses who might agree with me.  Why can’t we have different colors schemes for the stock keyboard baked in?  It’s surely not because it’s not possible; I find a different color themed keyboard when I’m utilizing spotlight search versus Messages already.  How about long presses to a secondary keyboard much like Swype already employs?  Yes I know there’s already the trick to long press the 123 button already to get to that secondary keyboard but it’s nowhere near as intuitive as the Swype keyboard in this regard.  What about adjusting the size of the buttons like Fleksy offers?  This one really seems like a no brainer especially with the bigger screens for the new iPhones.  How about the option to add a top row of numbers or characters so I can easily tap out #comeonalready?  Am I asking too much…really?  Final parting thought, I wonder how long it’s going to take me to untrain all the different gestures and shortcuts I’ve learned the past 11 weeks and just get back to my normal pace of error laden typing?  Er I feel worse off than when I started.

Startup Morale

OfficeSpace

Every day I enter the doors to my current place of employment I pass by 3 plaques housing the names of every employee honored for 20 years or more of employment there.  The plaques have accumulated 180 names total.  Sadly this is a rarity in today’s marketplace.  I would wager that 20 years from now, those plaques are removed because few new names are being added.  This is no disrespect to my employer it’s just the reality of the marketplace where jobs are constantly abandoned for greener pastures. Loyalty exists paycheck to paycheck simply because money is usually the only morale driver at least in my region of the country.

I live in the Midwest where the famed startup stories and legends of company perks at places like Google are only part of some mythical place known as Silicon Valley.  Typically the only benefits that differentiate one company from another in these parts is the amount of out of pocket expense incurred for yearly medical benefits.  Boring.  Except for the local Big Oil company or two most benefits and company policies are fairly interchangeable from one place to the next.  Now I currently have a couple entrepreneurial things on the back burner and who knows maybe one day something will take off.  When it does I’ve got a wish list of perks or intangibles I hope to institute from the start that I hope will coax a few people to work for me and stay put.  Here they are and reasons why in no particular order:

  1. Offer A Flex Work Schedule.  Can you say Half Day Fridays?  This is something common in places like Colorado where you live in a real life playground but it makes sense for many other practical reasons besides morale that I won’t list here.  I once watched a 60 Minutes special on Patagonia the outdoor gear outfitter based in California.  One key to their employee success and productivity they highlighted was a very liberal and trusting flexible work schedule policy.  It was simple; get your time in when you wanted to…period.  For example employees still had to put in a 40 hour workweek but if someone popped in the door and boisterously exclaimed, “Surf’s up!”, they bolted for the beach and returned to work that afternoon, evening, or weekend when their cups were full and the waves had died down.  It didn’t matter when so long as you got your hours in.  You can only imagine the loyal employee base they have as a result!  For some this simple flexible policy will cause an employee to think real hard before bolting for a  job that paid a couple dollars an hour more.  That’s a novel concept that certainly goes against the grain of our punch card culture for standard factory workers but perhaps a slightly more restrictive policy will still produce similar results.  I know for me a similar policy would’ve allowed me to catch my son make his first snow angel this year rather than sulk that the moment was enjoyed via a texted photo.  I would have happily came in the following Saturday after the snow had melted if I could’ve left early that day.
  2. Work To Play Is The Company Motto!  I’ll never understand our country’s aversion to vacation allotment but it’s not remotely close in comparison to the rest of the industrial world.  Some will argue it’s a factor that affords us the world’s largest economy but I say bunk.  I say we’re successful in spite of our lack of vacation days.  Two weeks a year seems to be the universally accepted starting vacation policy.  That typically goes up as a reward for different milestones of company service.  I’ll offer 3 weeks starting vacation minimum not counting personal time.
  3. Provide Only The Best Stuff For Employees.  If the smartphone and tablet trend has taught us anything it’s that employees are tired of drab corporate centric products.  Buy them that iPhone, iPad, or touch mouse they envy.  Buy them the best gear available to do their job or at least help them get it.  My company pays up to $100/year for steel toe shoes.  I took the $100 and added $30 out of pocket to buy a premium brand that are ridiculously comfortable.  I haven’t dipped into that $100 allowance the last 2 years because I’m quite happy with the pair I bought then.  I’d say this was a win win policy for my company and me.
  4. Offer Internet Freedom.  Want to foster employee loyalty?  Show some trust.  Naturally all things should be doled out in proper portions but for most company internet policies that means an all or nothing approach.  Bandwidth restrictions I get because we are after all at work to be productive and a few Pandora boneheads can really sap internet productivity for the responsible majority.  Restricting adult sites is a no brainer too, but that’s where I think a line should be drawn after.  For starters open up social sites already!  Get with the times employers and let your employees have a free second to make evening plans with their buddies or even a coworker.  Internet filters in my opinion are a lazy exec’s way of micromanaging.  It’s silly.  If your employees are judged on their productivity and performance and they’re spending all their time on Facebook then their performance will suffer.  These things work themselves out if your people are being fairly judged on performance.
  5. Never Waste Employees’ Time.  Don’t make your accountant take a 45 minute online safety training course covering the proper shop safety gear when he/she will never ever set foot on the factory floor.  Limit the allowable number of meetings/length of meetings for each business day.  I know this sounds restrictive but most employees will actually appreciate such a policy for it’s time-respecting merits.
  6. Premium Toilet Paper.  This one is self explanatory.
  7. Free Great Coffee.  Can I get an Amen!  Don’t be cheap, pick one great perk like free premium brand coffer or an expresso machine to splurge on your employees. It really is the small things that count folks.

The Single Greatest Reason Google Glass Will Fail Miserably

glass_photos4

Credit: Google

Yesterday closed out a one day fire sale of Google Glass.  It was opened up for anyone to purchase directly through Google’s site for a whopping $1,500 for one day only and it was supposedly a massive success with a complete sell out.  For the past year+ since Google announced the developer version of Google Glass there’s been a ton of buzz.  Much criticism has been cast as well.  It usually goes something like It’s got the cool factor with a ton of potential for sure, but it’s also a little creepy too.  The creepy factor comes with the built in camera that can potentially be activated with a simple wink.  This is the foundation for both the cool and creepy factor.  It’s also the greatest reason Google Glass will be a dismal failure.  This is a first for me.  I typically won’t rant on a product before it really has had a chance to get off the ground and prove the pundits right or wrong but I must make an exception here because it seems so obvious that it will fail.  Here’s the scenario that will precipitate the dramatic fall or prevent a meteoric rise for Glass.  Remember the helmet cam footage recently from the bikers’/Range Rover road rage incident from last year in NYC?  Well there’s gonna be something as dramatic caught on Glass.  This footage will air all over the world, a perpetrator will be tried and convicted based off the footage, and Glass will have all the free press it could dream of.  A few days later somebody is going to be walking down the street minding his own Ps and Qs and take a wrong turn down some villainous city block.  Some madman is going to take issue with said Glass wearing pee on and beat him to a bloody pulp for wearing it and invading his turf and privacy.  It’s going to happen.  Unfortunately it’s a solid bet and when it does nobody is going to want to wear their Glass in public for fear of a repeat performance.  There are other factors that will lead to it’s demise like the first vehicular accident involving an offender wearing Glass but the camera will be Glass’s ultimate demise.  How about instances where security is involved?  Dare I mention this, but a synchronized camera feed would be a nice tool for terrorists to utilize when attempting to pull off coordinated attacks.  FYI Google, there’s very good reason camcorder manufacturers started putting a little red light on their products when recording.  Crap, did I officially just become a pundit with this last statement?

I applaud Google Glass for its possibilities and technical prowess but unfortunately we simply can’t handle the human factor as a society yet.  Will I get one?  Sure when the price drops 100% and will likely use it as a TV companion so I can blink my way through channel surfing in an effort to stave off carpal tunnel syndrome from excess remote usage.  If I’m really lucky a series of coordinated blinks might even someday tell some Google Bot to appear with a cold beer in extended robo grip.  Now that would exhibit some cool factor!

 

Size Matters | The Screen Size Debate

Credit:  Apple

Credit: Apple

September 20th was the official launch of the new iPhones 5C and 5S and just prior to it’s release every tech site and news site all rushed to get out their verdicts on the new models.  For the most part all the reviews were positive.  It’s really hard to argue with Apple’s solid hardware designs and reliable and vast App Store but every single review I read dinged Apple on one common thing – screen size.  The rumors were all abuzz with a larger screen for the iPhone but all proved to be untrue.  Android has toppled iOS in worldwide market share in large part due to affordable designs and big and bigger screen sizes.  It’s the same game that has played out year after year whether it’s TVs, laptops, or smartphones.  What’s lost here is the value of true functionality, portability, and ultimately purpose.  The purpose being that of a smartphone.  By definition a smartphone is limited by size because of it’s inherent requirement to be portable but size can also limit functionality.  How do you define and strike the right balance of portability, functionality, and features?  That’s ultimately the debate in play in the smartphone market with ever increasing screen sizes.  Personally I define it one way with one question.  Can you fully operate the device in one hand?  This is precisely the marketing ploy Apple baits us with.  Most people can touch their thumb anywhere on the iPhones’ screen without having to readjust the phone in any way with another hand.  This simple subtle fact I believe is at the core of the very purpose of a smartphone.  In my opinion if it takes two hand to operate it then just save you money for a full blown tablet.  Don’t be swayed by giant phone screens unless you just don’t care about portability.  Make the overall experience your priority.  I do believe there’s a market for larger screens sans the Galaxy Note 3‘s 5.7″ display but I treat that market as really the outer fringe of the tablet market.  Even Samsung knows the Note’s screen is a stretch that’s why they’re solely paring it with the Samsung Gear smartwatch for now.  Gee I wonder if the smartwatch market will play out the same way?  Will we soon be toiling over whether 1.3″, 1.6″, or 2″ is the proper screen size for the smartwatch?

Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 2: Get a Clue

1378435745_mailToday is the official start of the NFL football season and to celebrate it I’ve received two emails and counting from ESPN.  One was a reminder that “NFL is back and ESPN has you covered” and the other was a reminder to download the fantasy football app.  Last week I got the same reminder emails about college football and their corresponding ESPN College Football App.  Seems like harmless notifications right?  When I already own both apps and have likewise signed into both with the same credentials that included the very email address these emails were blasted to I find these emails decidedly repetitive and annoying.  This post could be considered a bit of an overreaction but my frustrations go way beyond these emails; they just serve to illustrate a point.  The point is, those emails were dumb.  Ok so now I sound juvenile right?  Couldn’t I have used a more eloquent word than dumb.  Nope.  There are at least two factors that qualify something as simply dumb.  The first is could it have been avoided?  The second…see factor #1.  In the case of the ESPN example a simple algorithm in ESPN’s databases could very easily have filtered out anybody who has downloaded those apps by corresponding registered emails.  The emails were simply pointless to me an already engaged app user.  Is there anything wrong with a reminder email, no but folks these were not reminders emails, they were blatant pitches to download their apps.  A separate reminder email encouraging me to engage with the app would have been just fine and frankly expected if I had opted in to subscribe to their alerts and correspondence.  Junk mail.  Purely avoidable.  Dumb.  ESPN has the means to know that I already own their apps and use them. Read More