More eBay Auctions

Unfortunately, the mandolin didn’t meet the reserve on eBay, and didn’t sell. Much to my surprise, there were no bids in the last 12 hours of the auction. Maybe I’ve got a disordered view of the way eBay works.

Despite this setback, I’ve got two more auctions going on right now to see if eBay can redeem itself.

The first is a Yamaha SW1000XG sound card. It originally retailed for about $800 and as of this writing there is one $0.99 bid in, with no reserve. This sound card is supposed to be the bees pajamas, but I’ve never actually used it.

The other is a Belkin parallel data switch (yeah, really) that happens to still be in the original box. Again, the opening bid is $0.99 and there’s no reserve.

Clear Like Tar

Contrary to my normal behavior, I’ve been a stranger lately. Not just because I haven’t been communicating much. When I have communicated, it hasn’t been deep. So I’m going to treat everyone to a few posts that are deep.

  • Family Life – what’s new with the family?
  • Career – it’s funny how I don’t complain when I’m enjoying it.
  • Uncle Widget – what’s the real story, what’s the process?
  • Bingbit – why I’ve been quietly calculating my next move.
  • …much much more! Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks.

I started this blog over a year ago. My modus operandi is sharing. I just haven’t been fully utilizing this venue lately.

I’ll be back soon!

Transparency of The Web

After this post, I got an email from a friend asking my opinion on how much information is “safe to reveal” on the Internet.

In the above referenced post, I write about how a website is becoming a must-have. But how far is too far? You’ll find that I’m a pretty transparent web-body. Maybe that’s a bad thing. I’ve had my identity stolen once, in early 2002. That’s pretty early when you think about it. That was before the blogosphere was much more than a flame-war over comments by Senator Trent Lott. I’m pretty sure some of my info was lifted out of a compromised e-commerce database. Very little is safe.

You probably want to stay away from loosely mentioning home addresses phone numbers, though the information is easy enough to find if you’re looking. I try to draw the line at extremely personal information about my children. If you look at the world through “they’re all out to get me” filters life won’t be too much fun. If you play fast and loose with all aspects of your life, they’ll all be out to get you.

Anonymity is possible on the web, but I think it makes you less real. Sometimes it’s hard to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes they deserve it, though. Be careful, but please have fun.

“My Webwhat?”

Since I spend about 90 minutes a week with a large group of high-school students, I get to spend time picking their brains about the ins and outs of culture and the vast teenage wasteland. Even with myspace being “so wicked awesome” and pervasive, I’d guess that 50% of the high-schoolers I know don’t even use the Internet. At all.

This is astounding to me. We’re not talking about nonagenarian Luddites. I’ve been out of high school for nine years now. I am and early adopter (read: freaky nerd boy), but I used the internet all four years. This is the mid-nineties we’re talking about. I’m dumbfounded.

I imagine that this is a pretty good representation of the general population (the number of teenagers on the ‘net certainly isn’t any lower than the rest of people). I like numbered observations lately, so here we go.

  1. If you don’t have an email address right now, there’s an issue. I know you aren’t reading this if you don’t have an email address though (about 30% of my high-schoolers have email addresses).
  2. If you don’t have a website right now, you’re slowly being left behind (100% of my teenagers who use the web have a website – as long as you count their MySpace profile).
  3. The transparent nature of the web is dangerously beautiful. Parents need to be concerned. Parents need to visit the websites of their kids. Parents need to build their own websites that are appropriate, responsible, and that their friends and colleagues know about. So do you.
  4. Go do it now. You can do it for free. I don’t care if it’s MySpace, Squidoo, Blogger, or WordPress.

No, really. Go do it now. There’s a strong chance that every last soul reading this article has a site (of some sort). Print it and give it to your siteless friends.

Who does Yahoo! think they are? (or How To Turn Away Your Biggest Fans)

Flickr: Really cool.

Yahoo!: Really big.

I decided to use a Flickr account for the youth group that I work with at church. In order to do so, I needed to create a Yahoo! account (yes, I got in after the acquisition). I created one, uploaded some pictures and then went a few weeks without signing in.

Of course, I forgot my sign-in information. I’m not a one-password-fits-all guy because that’s just too easy.

Here’s where the ridiculousness of big Yahoo! comes into play. A password retrieval from Yahoo! now requires your month, day and year of birth and your zip code.

Normally, I’m pretty honest on web forms and stuff in case someone decides to do something like this. But I don’t go back and check the form two or three times to make sure I didn’t fat-finger my birthday. It’s never mattered before.

OK, fine. They’re looking out for my security. I guess I’ll send a request to customer service and maybe they can help. No such luck. This was included in the automated response: “Please remember that Customer Care may not reset your password…”

This means I’ll have to start over again, I suppose.

  1. Go create yet another Yahoo! account (which I can’t use my existing email address for – so I’ll need another email address).
  2. Create another Flickr account.
  3. Upload all of my pictures again.

Or, I could go find another service that hasn’t been swallowed by Yahoo! and post my pictures there.

And encourage all of my friends to do the same.

What Happened?

Last Friday I celebrated my last day of work in a job I wasn’t suited for. On Monday evening, I flew to New Jersey to teach a 3-day class on a technical certification. Right before I boarded my plane home, my worst short-term fear was realized. The project: cancelled. I return home from my first gig essentially unemployed. Maybe I didn’t do an effective job managing my own expectations. Maybe I left a hole in my plan. Where’s plan B?

Unfortunately, there is a complex plan B gotcha. Before disaster, plan B seems like a silly — almost pessimistic — exercise. After disaster, plan B (or C or D or E) is an order of magnitude more difficult. After disaster, plan B becomes plan A. Now plan B doesn’t seem so silly, does it?

Right now, at 34,000 feet, the cities, roadways, and earth all look a lot smaller than they do when I’m lost in Newark or at home worrying about next month’s mortgage. February 9th, 2006 will look less and less significant as I take off from this runway. I know it will work out. I have enough faith in God and in myself to know that in 6 months, I’ll have something much more trivial to worry about.

There are a few odds-and-ends facts about me that seem relevant tonight.

  • I’m impulsive: I make decisions quickly.
  • I’m resiliant: Even though I take first hits poorly, I quickly decide (see the last fact) that it’s not worth worrying over (will I care about this in six months?).
  • I’m brilliant: Impulsive decision-making and poor-planning notwithstanding, I learn quickly, retain everything and am passionate about sharing knowledge.

Side note: I’m flying over DC right now and (in the dark) the Washington Monument is lit and clearly identifiable from 34,000 feet. Good design.

I’ll get back to bragging about myself (I don’t do this often, so let me have my moment).

This week reminded me how much I love teaching people things that I’m interested in. I’m good at it too. I guess that makes sense; My dad was a good teacher. Now I’ve got a fresh infusion of teaching mojo and no students to teach.

I think a lot about finding a purple cow. I am a purple cow.

  • I’m ideological (that’s dangerous).
  • I’m enterprising: I appreciate the freedom to make a difference.
  • I’m creative.
  • I’m personable. I like people and I’m easy to get along with.
  • I’m purple. There aren’t many people like me, you see. I have quirky behaviors, quirky memories, and off-the-wall ideas.

This is little more than a bragstream. Maybe it’ll give me enough motivation to completely turn this situation around in a few weeks time. Let’s hope so, I can’t afford any more plane tickets right now.

Use Your Experts Wisely

Congratulations on your new company. I hope you’ve found some experts that you expect to make your job as CEO easier. Hire a graphic artist to do your graphics, give him direction, but don’t hold his hand. That’s his thing. Hire an accountant to take care of payroll and taxes. Don’t ask him to cook the books for you. Hire a marketing guy to help design your product*.

Many CEOs (I’ve seen it too many times to count) have the best way around every problem. Or so they think. Maybe they do. Maybe they should be a one-man show. If you’ve made the decision to hire someone as an expert, let them be your expert. You’ll help out the company by getting the job done by someone who knows what’s up. You’ll become an employer people are dying to work for because they’re allowed to be creative, allowed to do their jobs, allowed to recycle the positive energy you’re helping them create.

Expect personal news from Bryan soon.

*This fact is outside the realm of this post, but make sure you go read Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

Meetings: Good Idea, Bad Idea

It seems that the one carryover from brick-and-mortar, manual, old school business to the new knowledge-based economy is that upper management likes to have meetings. Meetings are necessary. Meetings suck. Here’s my meeting school:

Meetings are good:

  • Task assignments are best identified by the team, rather than just direct orders by a superior.
  • Resource allocations are easier with the minds of many.
  • Well executed meetings facilitate brainstorms.

Meetings are bad:

  • Tyrants use meetings for short-sighted task assignments.
  • Long or frequent meetings waste the time of the team.
  • Reactionary meetings facilitate blamestorming.

Make your next meeting productive. Set a timer, bring a list of things to talk about, don’t shoot down ideas, and come up with next action lists.

Motivation

Happy New Year! I think. Hopefully your endeavors for the year are off to a good start.

If you’re a leader working to motivate people, I have some ideas for you.

  • Compensation alone can only motivate temporarily. Substantially higher pay for mundane work may get Samuel motivated to work on a project for a very short period of time, but if your project will last for a long time, he’ll get bored and stop producing.
  • Substandard compensation is only sufficient if people love what they’re doing. In the depths of human subconscious, love is a much stronger motivator than money.
  • People who cannot envision the possibility of a completed project, they can’t be driven to it. “This task is impossible” will break even the most contrarian initiators if they actually believe it’s impossible.
  • Tell the truth, at all costs. Even if you think you’re pulling the wool over their eyes, they’ve got you figured out. Even if you think the truth will cause mutiny, the silent mutiny caused by a lie will break your team.

Are you motivated to do what you’re supposed to be doing right now?

iBook Returns With No Change

I received a call from Visual Graphics and went to pick up my iBook with a replacement drive the day before my warranty expires. Of course, like the car that won’t clunk for the mechanic, she wouldn’t give in to their poking and prodding and they determined that the drive was fine. The night before I brought it in, it wouldn’t stay powered for more than 10 minutes.

I guess if we weren’t SITCOMs then I’d be a lot more comfy with the situation. I’d work with it until it broke and then just run out and get a new PowerBook. They’re coming out today, right? Hah (that’s the rumor anyway).

Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury, so I’ll just be very gentle with Miss iBook and pray that she remains healthy.

I’ve also become pretty excited about performing some solo stuff on stage, but until I can get together the resources to perform effectively (read: money for synth) I’ll restrict myself to writing the stuff I’ll perform.