Friday, January 30, 2015

Still On the Prowl for Thought Leadership, Falling off of the Curve Part 2

Social Media Thought Leadership

Way back in August of 2011 I authored the popular post: On the Prowl for thought Leadership, Falling off the Curve.

Denis Pombrant (LinkedIn profile) quoted Marc Benioff (LinkedIn profile) right after a 500+ point Dow drop – at a time when the universe was collapsing and paradigms were shifting more than paradigms are supposed to shift. So we took a few minutes to consider their thoughts. 

Three curves served as examples for the discussion:  the Gartner Hype Curve dated August 2010, Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Adoption Curve, and the Rogers’ Bell Curve from DesignDamage’s article: When to Adopt Social Media for Your Business

Start at the Beginning

Here is the Gartner Hype Curve from 2010 and the updated version as of July 2014 (click on either of the images for a larger view).

2010 Gartner Hype Curve

2014 Gartner Hype Curve

Significant additions to the 2014 version include mobile innovations: mobile advertising, mobile ticketing, and mobile marketing analytics. In the Marketing space a full gamut of new items: real-time marketing, marketing talent communities, marketing technology integrators, data-driven marketing, and social marketing. Who knew that social marketing would become an innovation? A couple of interesting additions: privacy management tools and crowdsourcing. A surprise miss: mobile payments.

Where the 2010 Hype Curve was about infrastructure, tools, and technology, the new curve is about connecting with your customer via marketing and advertising, with the heaviest emphasis on mobile.

The DesignDamage Curve has not been updated.

But a new question might be: Do you really (really?) need more tools?

Where do Instagram, Pinterest, and SnapChat get placed on the curve? What about Yelp!? Has Facebook moved from Early Majority, to Laggards – with grey hairs becoming their key user demographic? Should you be concerned about WeChat and QZone? IS that a MySpace logo on the chart?  Is MySpace still alive?

Forbes reports about traffic declines at Facebook (Article: January 2015): “A new comprehensive survey shows that out of the eight biggest social networks, Facebook was the only one to see a decline in the rate of people actively using the site per month over 2014 — a pattern that was consistent in regions across the world …” Is Facebook dead, dying, or merely catching it's breath? Is Blackberry still alive? Are Blogs dead? Is YouTube the platform for my business? Does YouTube favor Flash or HTML5? 

Each is a serious question. Mobile, short form content, and video content are touted as the preferred media for reaching the consumer. If you make a heavy investment into a platform that goes stale, how do you recover? 

Click for larger image.
Text and Tweets - Character Limits
Blogs and Stories on a rough scale (plenty of examples smaller and lager). 

Are Tweets and text messages (140 to 160 characters) enough to build relationships? Can your business support the continuous need for fresh blog posts (500-1500 words)? How many words and creative savvy does it take to put together a five minute podcast or YouTube video? Is any of this relevant to the product or service you are actually trying to sell? 

Fish, or Cut Bait?

Xolotech asked five questions in 2011 which still merit the small business owners’ consideration. They are still relevant because they are the roadblocks that must be smoothed:

  1. Are you and your company prepared for "collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity and interdependence"?
  2. Have you worked through the details of "innovation, communication channels, time, and social system" (or market)?
  3. Are you moving your customers through key phases of "knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation"?
  4. Have you adopted the proper technology to achieve your goals?
  5. Bonus question: Is any of this even necessary/achievable for small business?

Small business must overcome the hurdles of regulatory barriers, financial barriers and political barriers. Consider the trials and tribulations of Uber: Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example... heck there are a Google of examples).  

Success brings competition and alerts entrenched competitors and regulators (sigh).

Search results for recent articles “When to Adopt Social Media” are surprisingly thin and many were old and the content stale. Search results for Social Media Tools provide a smorgasbord of options, and experts are at hand to explain precisely why one method, technique, tool, is the best for your business. Why not read a book? Amazon has 57,000+ on the topic.

The Bottom Line:

Tools have matured. Many have moved from Early Adoption into the Mainstream. Some tools have reached the laggards and may have moved into stages of decline. New tools are available – dozens of them, but longevity and effectiveness are not assured (can Google+ serve as the example?).

We were overly optimistic in our previous post. Three years later thought leadership is still missing – possibly because the wrong questions are being answered by the experts.

What your business NEEDS to do is create customers. The experts are willing to show you dozens of ways to do that. You just need to be able to afford (read: pay for) their evolving expertise.

Until the field starts shedding the poor players, and raising up real winners, we will stay on the prowl. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Light Bulbs and Hard Disk Drives

Florescent Light Bulbs and Hard Disk Drives

Filling a Data Center

From 2011 to 2014 my job was to fill data centers with hardware. Tons of hardware, thousands of servers, hard drives by the truckload. There is a lot of concrete and steel in the cloud.

Ars Technica posted an article Hard disk reliability examined once more... that really hit home.

"Across a range of models from 2 to 4 terabytes, the HGST models showed low failure rates; at worse, 2.3 percent failing a year. This includes some of the oldest disks among Backblaze's collection; 2TB Desktop 7K2000 models are on average 3.9 years old, but still have a failure rate of just 1.1 percent.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Seagate disks. Last year, the two 1.5TB Seagate models used by Backblaze had failure rates of 25.4 percent (for the Barracuda 7200.11) and 9.9 percent (for the Barracuda LP). Those units fared a little better this time around, with failure rates of 23.8 and 9.6 percent, even though they were the oldest disks in the test (average ages of 4.7 and 4.9 years, respectively).

However, their poor performance was eclipsed by the 3TB Barracuda 7200.14 units, which had a whopping 43.1 percent failure rate, in spite of an average age of just 2.2 years."

Florescent Light Bulbs

The death of the 100 watt light bulb in 2011 hit my wife really hard. 100 watt bulbs are no longer available due to government regulations. 

She has never been a fan of florescent - in any color spectrum or wattage. 60 watt bulbs don't throw enough light. For the master bathroom we have fixtures with four bulbs each, and it's still not enough light.  My experience with florescent is that the longevity tests don't match my experience. 

"They [florescent bulbs] sport a much longer average lifespan, (from: eHow article) anywhere from 8 to 15 times the normal life of an incandescent bulb, which is usually estimated to last about 1,000 hours."

I'm calling BS on 8000-15000 hours. 

24x7x365 is 8760 hours, so I should be able to burn one of these all day, every day for something approaching two years. Never seen that happen. I can't count the number that died within days of installation. The manufacturers posit that "if you just leave them on...". Well, I'm the customer, and I'm going to turn my lights on and off, all I want. Why is that considered mistreatment?

Florescent spotlights are worse. They have unusual designs that do not fit all fixtures, some have slow-flickering starts, and most cannot be used with a dimmer switch. 

Of course, you can pay more (much more) to get better color, better fit and the ability to dim.

Florescent Light Bulbs and Hard Drives - The Connection

Three common problems:

Having the right bulb / drive at the right time. How many times have you needed to replace a three-way bulb, or a Reveal bulb, or an indoor (versus outdoor) floodlight? Heavens forbid that you try to use a floodlight in the living room when you really need a spotlight. Complex lighting requirements require various bulbs.

Ditto for hard drives. Engineers and TPMs still believe that their services require very specific hardware. They dictate design for every major component in the stack. Hard drive speed, capacity, power requirements are all scientifically calculated to perform better than that other online product (everyone is just trying to survive).

The Thailand floods (October 2011) knocked major hard drive manufactures offline (Forbes article). Ever triage (ration) incoming supply during a disaster? Competing business lines, with competing VPs and P/L targets are hard to work with in a perfect situation. Even a small bad batch of drives (we had some where the internal paint was flaking off into the spindles) triggered apocalyptic escalation. When you are consuming drives as fast as they can be manufactured any hick-up can be devastating.

What is the lifespan of a family of hard drives? 
CPU lifespan is measured in months.

Maintenance costs are high, and inventory can be a hidden load on the budget. 

Imagine a datacenter the size of a Safeway or HEB store filled with rows and racks with thousands of servers. Now, picture a 3-5% hard drive failure rate -- please disregard whether the devices are being mistreated - they are all being mistreated equally.  

Sure, servers are designed for resiliency and redundancy and hard drives are totally cheap. But, how many, and what type do you have to keep on hand to service the failures? I have a box in the garage with various bulbs-- and never  have the correct one. Also, I can't reallocate spare light bulb money for any other purpose.

What is the accounting term for parts sitting on a shelf? TPMs call it waste -- until their stuff fails, then it's called the best insurance money can buy.

The only way to "turn" the parts inventory is to have something fail. Server sends alert, service ticket generated, employee wearing comfortable shoes walks out to swap out the drive. The "cheap" hard drive is really pretty expensive.

Disposal used to be easy. 

Unscrew the bulb, toss in the trash. Wipe the drive and destroy. But now, florescent bulbs must be recycled due to their mercury content. We improved a product by making it more toxic, more expensive and more difficult to dispose of. Heck, it's practically against the law to toss one out. 

Purging the data from a 3TB drive is also pretty tough. Not for any single drive... for hundreds at a time. Let's say you open a data center in 2010... and everything in it is now end of life. How long does it take to churn through the decommission of thousands of devices?

Drive wipe software was behind the curve in 2012 and 2013. Vendors could not support the 3TB drives - drives that seemed so cool to the business when they were introduced. Rising standards for data destruction, and corporate standards for recycling, will continue to push the need for industrial strength data removal.  

The Bottom Line

Obvious problems, none with a perfect solution: 

Radically standardize the hardware platform. Stick with older technology that works (incandescent works!). Be prepared for support and disposal costs...

...and, every now and then, write an article that compares performance, so that other people can see how very small problems can become so very large.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Feedly - I've Reached the End of the Internet

I've Reached the End of the Internet

So what do I do now?

All done... I've reached the end of the Internet

Every now and then you will finish reading all of your Feedly articles. Once you have a grasp on the basics (see my previous blog: How to Use Feedly), you can start leveraging some cool and free features.

47 Subscriptions is usually PLENTY of reading. 

Look Closer

Once all of your Feedly articles are marked "Read", Feedly will display a very interesting table. You might say to yourself - "well, I've already skimmed all of these articles and I've read many of them". Feedly even provides a "Recently Read" menu option on the left side navigation if you need to re-read a post. So, what's so cool about this view?

Click for larger image.
If you click, you will be able to spy on my reading list. 

Feedly (Meta Data) to the Rescue

Once all of your articles are marked Read, click on the All Items link. Feedly will generate a list of your articles. The columns are very simple to understand.
  • If you Flagged (Saved for Later) an article, the indicator will be highlighted
  • The name of the Blog
  • How many times the Blog has been "Liked" (which is not the same as being "Shared"), and if the article is more popular than usual, it will also be highlighted (mouse-over the field to see the popularity score)
  • The title of the post
  • The time / date when the blog was posted

What to Look For

Did you mark any items for review? Why not? If you are reading, or even skimming, dozens of articles and none are catching your fancy for later, maybe you should review the blogs you are tracking for content alignment.

Are other people "Liking" the post? What is the topic? What makes the article popular? Are you blogging about similar content?

Does the post have zero (0) likes... over a long period of time? Why are you reading this content?

I follow the Mercatus Site Feed which has a focus on Economics, Politics and Think Tanks. This site is not as popular as ARS Technica or Crunchgear - which focus on Technology. Mercatus has a very specific niche that I like to read. So, they stay on my list. If all I read was the popular sites, I would end up reading about Kim's daily exploits and the Hollywood tart of the day.

Culling the List

Are some of your blogs posting too much? I was following a couple of sites that were posting 50, 60, even 70 articles per day! Content was scattered across a bunch of categories, and much was of it was just not interesting to me. So, yes, I broke up with them.

Are some of your sites posting too little? Over the Holidays I culled my Twitter list by removing Inactive users. I started at 60 days, then cut down to 30 days. Face it, if you are not posting on Twitter more than once or twice a month... get a blog.  

To Check Feedly for Blog Post Frequency

Click on the Blog title in the left column. Feedly will display important information about the blog - number of readers, etc. And, it will sow the last several posts. "The Austrian School of Investment" posts about every two weeks. But, with a reader audience of four (4, me and three others), they need to keep the content coming at very regular intervals.

You Have Special Interests, Follow Them!

Your favorite content can die from neglect. Just like your favorite restaurant. Follow blogs that give you good content, cut down on the blogs that do not. You know, reward good behavior by reading their content, posting it on Twitter, and citing it in your blog.

Bottom Line

Xolotech is a blog about Technology Hacks to Make like Simple ("so low tech", get it?). Tools like Feedly fit right into the sweet spot for this blog. Feedly also provides content for my personal interest blog at -- politics, economics, and STEM. 

Feedly captures blog content, present the content is a simple layout, and allows me to consume a torrent of data at my leisure. Why not leverage all of the feature set? 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time Warner Cable From Slow to Fast

Time Warner Cable - Slow

Slow. So... very... slow. Not where my kids are directly connected to the TWC modem. Heck they sometimes pass 100 Mb/s. For Minecraft this was Nirvana (not the band, the mythical place where all Minecrafting is fast and easy). 

But down here, downstairs, on the wireless connection where the office is... Where I spend huge chunks of my day, and sometimes hours in the evening, and sometimes in the middle of the night on Lync and VOIP teleconferences with far-away lands... 

OMG... painfully slow, back woods slow, modem slow. 

For several weeks my upload speed surpassed my download speed - by 100%! TWC Technical support -- lame -- although they are really good at following their scripts - so bravo to their call center managers. And the TWC Arris Wireless Modem hated (HATED!) my Netgear 600 router. 

Something had to change. 

Speed Tests - January 2015
***Notice The Change on 1/8/2015***

Time Warner Cable -- Fast!

Solution (links go to Amazon for each product):

So, I took things into my own hands. I replaced the TWC modem with a Motorola Surfboard 6141 (which is on their approved list), switched to the TP-Link WR841N router and TP-Link WA850RE (wireless extender). After configuring the router and extender, I added the Netgear switch by plugging it directly into the single port on the Extender. My laptop and desktop are cabled to the switch. 

Bottom Line: 

  • Speed in the office UP from less then 3 Mb/s to an average of ~30 Mb/s
  • Saving $5.99 per month on my cable bill - 
    • Financial break-even is about two years (~24*$6)
    • Speed break-even is NOW. 
  • Two devices are OFF of my wireless network
  • I can stream movies on my Amazon Fire stick
Yes, It took some time and some money, but now my office is (relatively) fast!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mailbox Management - Rules to help with Clutter

…and stop processing more rules.

You Keep Using That Action, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

How many Out of Office messages are in your In Box? Did you spend the last two weeks of the year learning that you are the only responsible person still working? Do you really need to see these out of office / vacation messages in your In Box? Are you on the cc list of every single message sent by every person in the company? Are you in a Distribution List that gets too many messages of low value (with one key message buried in the pile)?

Using Rules to Manage your Outlook email In Box will improve your productivity. Creation and management of rules, even the smallest set of rules, will improve your workflow. This blog with introduce some sample rules and provide a quick overview to demonstrate improvement to your email organization and productivity.  A few quick pointers assist with long term management of your rules. 

In general, these steps apply to Outlook 2013 to Outlook 2015 with cosmetic changes in some of the user interface and menu elements. The online version of Outlook, at, also uses Rules. The screens and menu options look very different, but the basic structure is the same.

While Outlook Live has a limit on the number of rules, The normal Outlook clients do not. However, you will find that keeping your list of rules short and well organized will help with long term management. Having a rule for every person in your address book is not the best way to organize your email. Think about your work, about your commitments, what do you need focus on to be successful? Use rules to separate based on your work priority.


For the rule above, I want Outlook to move all communications from our HR Team to a Miscellaneous Communications folder so that I can read them at a later time (I see these as lower priority during my work day).

Rules are based on a Condition
  • Apply this rule when a message arrives
    • From HR Communications
Click for larger image.

Which trigger an Action
  • Move it to the "Misc Comms" folder (the blue underlined word "specified" lets you choose the destination)
  • Stop Processing more rules
Click for larger image.

Simple Rules to get started:

  1. Basic Organization Communication - MOVE items from: HR, Training, Internal Updates, the basic communications that deserve a bit of time… later on. Create a separate folder.
  2. Messages from Leadership  - MOVE items from Leadership - they may send them under their own name or from a specific email account, you may want different rules for each.
  3. Project related messages - MOVE items from your project team, or those that contain keywords specific to a project. Multiple  projects -- Create multiple folders.
  4. Invitation Responses and Out of Office responses - Accepted, Tentative, Out of Office, look for the common words, create a rule and move all of these auto-replies to a folder.
  5. Personal Messages -
    1. MOVE non-work related items from friends or personal messages that you need to manage into a folder. - Put Praise and Feedback messages here!
    2. Consider an Action to FORWARD messages to your non-work account if needed.

Keep your Folder List Small:

Messages from HR Communications, IT Communications, Marketing Communications, Training, (etc.) can be moved to the same folder. You can still prioritize (highlight) those messages by:
  • Marking it with a Category
  • Leaving it Un-read (or marking it read)
  • Popping up a Desktop Alert (you can even add a specific message for the alert).
How to display a New Item Alert Window
Click for larger image.

The Fine Print

Generally, when an email arrives, it is evaluated against all Conditions, and all Actions. If your CIO send you a message about "Project Widget" and you have rules send CIO message to a folder and Project Widget messages to another folder, Outlook will process both Actions.

The Stop Processing instruction will stop running rules on a specific rule. If your CIO is first, Outlook will send the CIO message to the CIO folder and Stop. If the Project Widget rule is first, it will send the message to the Project Widget folder and Stop. The Stop Processing instruction avoids duplication of messages into multiple folders.

You can Run, Stop, and Change Rules when Needed

In fact, once you have a basic set of rules in place, you can turn off (deselect = stop) certain rules from processing. The Rules menu allows you to pick and choose which rules to run (manually).

This allows you to save your rules, turn them off, and run them as needed. I use this technique to clean up my In Box in a controlled - orderly fashion.

Bottom Line Tips:

Click for larger image
  • Start Small, get the noise out of your In Box
  • Make adjustments as you go
  • Fancy rules don’t make this process much better


"RTFM" - Using Outlook Help

Yes, I am recommending that you click the "?" Help button and search for "email rules". Outlook provides a good foundation, and the Help will be specific to your version of Outlook.

Here are two links for those using the - Windows Live versions: - The Clutter Free In Box
How to Geek ( / Live) Use Rules to Manage Email