Thursday, June 30, 2005

NECC - Travel Day

Feeling brave, we ate breakfast at the Reading Terminal Market this morning. We found a little café that had been recommended by Food TV’s program, $40 a day. Actually, the buttermilk pancakes with Pennsylvania maple syrup that I had for $4.00 were simply wonderful, you can’t complain about that at all.

We attended two sessions this morning, and they were both so not to my liking that I will spare the presenters the humiliation of giving a bad review. Needless to say, I felt that both of them were not only un-prepared, but not in touch with the subject area that they were supposedly lecturing on. These weren’t sales lectures, but I would refer said presenters to my blog entry a few weeks ago about sales presentations. Many of the root principles are exactly the same. NECC was a fantastic experience, I learned a lot, and feel like I really got my money’s worth. I didn’t fall in love with Philadelphia as a city, but it certainly has an important part in US history. The Hotel and conference center were very nice, and the hospitality services were excellent. All in all, a great stay.

We are now at the airport. Our plane doesn’t leave for quite a while, so I decided to part with the $9.95 so that I could connect to the internet while I sit here waiting. As far as I am concerned, it was worth every penny – HOWEVER, I feel that internet should be one of those things that is provided free to every customer in an airport. One shouldn’t have to shell out extra money just so that they can get connected.

I had forgotten about the iTunes music library sharing feature. It is really nice right now, because when I opened up iTunes to listen to some podcasts, all of the sudden four shared music libraries popped up. How great for me! So, as I sit here writing this blog entry I am Ceilo E Mar! from The Opera Album, on someone’s music collection called “Portland”. I have no idea who this Portland person is, but he/she has a great music collection and I am in their debt for sharing today. I have looked around the terminal, and I don’t see any other laptops open, but there must be someone near.

Once we get in the air, it is going to be a long haul. From Philly to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Salt Lake City. My itinerary claims that I will be landing in Salt Lake City at 10:45 PM tonight. Being in my own bed will be nice. I will finish up my travel tales tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

NECC Day 4 - Movie

Yet Again...


NECC Day 4

After a night’s rest, I felt rejuvenated and ready to enjoy day four of NECC. The day began in the concierge lounge with continental breakfast, and then we were off to the sessions. Today we attended six different sessions.

  1. Choose your own keynote - we choose Joel Baker’s speech on Five Regions of the Future. I have never had the opportunity to hear a futurist speak. It was really a fascinating experience. Joel has recently published a book that goes by the title of the speech mentioned above. It was both informative, and entertaining to hear what he had to say. He left me with a lot to think about, and at an educational conference, that is as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing. I intend on buying the book and adding it to my list of things to read, if I ever finish Algorithmics.
  2. A presentation from Macromedia on Breeze. I had never heard of Breeze before this conference and I was very pleased with what I saw in the product demo. Basically, this is macromedia’s version of Microsoft Producer, but rather than distilling the PowerPoint presentation down into a fancy DHML page, the slides are distilled into a Macromedia Flash file. Certainly flash would have a lot less problems with browser compatibility, flash is basically ubiquitous in both the PC and Mac worlds. I was especially impressed by how easy the plug-in to PowerPoint looked, and by the ability Macromedia gives the user to add quizzes were all the user has to do is fill out forms, and the flash code is all generated in the background. I have a 30 day trial, so when I get home, after I have finished my PHP RSS writer, I will have to give it a try.
  3. A presentation on Microsoft on MS Student 2006. What a great piece of software, and this accolade is coming from a user who is still very critical of Encarta. The demo was really well put together, and I could see a lot of use for this product in the classroom and at home. I was most impressed by the templates that fit into Office applications that were designed to help students learn how to write papers, bibliographies, and accomplish other tasks. Basically, they have made the information easy to find, and once found, removed the stress of designing a layout for a presentation, graph, or paper, allowing the student to focus on writing.
  4. A presentation by Apple on OS X Tiger. Beautiful! I am a PC user; I grew up on a Mac. As soon as I can spare the $600, you have to know that I will be buying myself a Mac mini. No, it isn’t a G5, and it isn’t a laptop, but it will give me OS X, and iLife. I fully intend on living my computer life with feet firmly planted in both operating systems. But, back to the topic, other than the technical problems that the Apple booth was having with their wireless LAN, it was really a great presentation that highlighted a few of the great features of OS X Tiger. I only wish that Apple had been more liberal with their swag. I would have proudly worn a t-shirt for them; however, I refuse to play a game for them so that I can be their walking billboard.
  5. A lecture by Annette Lamb on the Seven Essentials of Technology-Rich Learning. What a fantastic speaker Annette is. She had some really awesome ideas about how teachers could easily implement technology into their classroom teaching environments. One point that I really loved was that she stressed that teachers should start out small, and do what they can. When venturing into a technology solution, they don’t have to be an expert at any software suite to get started, nor do they have to dream up any grand scale projects. Start simple and small, be willing to learn form your students, and have fun. It really was refreshing and inspiring.
  6. A lecture by Kathy Schrock on Abracadabra the magic of technology gadgets for educators. Kathy is a laugh and a half. What a light-hearted, wonderfully entertaining and educational lecture she gave. Basically it was a whirlwind tour of what is new in technology gadgets. It was a blast to watch her PowerPoint slides change to see the next neat toy that she was going to talk about for a few seconds. Some of it was serious, a lot of it was play, but after a day of pretty serious topics, it was nice to just enjoy what felt a lot like a special guided tour of every great tech store you could shop. I would love to buy toys as often as she does. She claimed that she would buy them, use them for a bit, and then sell them on e-bay. Probably not a bad idea, and other than the fact that she loves Palm handhelds, I agreed with just about every product she endorsed.

I can honestly say that each of the sessions we attended was just spectacular. I really enjoyed them all.

For dinner tonight we ate at the Old City Tavern, a restored replica of the Old Tavern where the founding fathers went to enjoy a drink after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was a really fantastic dinner, in the company of some very great people. I can not speak highly enough of the people that I have had the opportunity to meet while here at NECC, the folks at the Jordan School District treated me as a part of the crew, and was a privilege to be associated with them. They really are a great team. For the food snobs that read this blog, dinner was a three course meal, and the highlights included crab cakes, romaine salad, prime rib roast, and a very decadent chocolate cake. It was a fantastic meal, in a wonderfully historic place.

Well that wraps it up for the day. Tomorrow will be my last day in Philly. Classes in the morning, and then off to the airport in the afternoon. I will write my blog entry on the plane, but it probably won’t get posted until Friday morning.

NECC has been a fantastic experience, and I am just so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be here, to learn form these great educators. I now have yet another perspective from which I can view software and technology, and I believe that as a future software developer these perspectives I am gaining are critical to helping me fully understand the role of software development in our rapidly changing world.

* Sorry that I don’t have any links in here right now. I will come back and add them as soon as I get some more time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

NECC Day 3 - Movie

Better late than never.

Brenda did this one almost entirely on her own! I contributed some photos and a tiny bit of technical help. She has a lot more patience for editing than I do.

NECC Day 3

Vendors! I saw a whole bunch of them today. The exhibit hall was large and impressive. Apple had the most classy and large booth by far. It was very interesting to see and hear what various companies had to offer with respect to education. Hardware, Software, Support, Curriculum, you name it, it was there. Obviously much effort, time and money from each vendor went into planning the exhibits. For the most part the representatives were congenial and informative. This is the first trade show that I have been to in my adult life, and I had forgotten about all of the gimmicks that various vendors will use to try and get consumers to visit their booth. Needless to say, I have a stack of software trials to evaluate, new t-shirts to wear, an assortment of mouse pads, and a stack of literature to read. The day was very mentally engaging, and physically draining. I don’t think that my legs want to move much more, and I am sure that when my head hits the pillow tonight I will be out like a light.

For lunch we tried to visit the Reading Terminal Market. I think that my OCD tendencies really kicked up the moment I put my hand on the handle to open the door. I felt so dirty. The combination of the smells of what looked to be at least 100 greasy spoon fast food ma’ and pop eateries, with butchers and their cases of raw meet, and at least fifteen hundred people crammed into the tiny aisles, my skin was crawling. That promptly ended our lunch attempt at the Reading Market, and we enjoyed a quiet moment in the hotel’s concierge lounge.

Dinner was quite the amazing experience. Morimoto’s Restaurant was fantastic! I had real sushi for the first time, well it was actually a sushi roll, but the fish wasn’t cooked. I enjoyed spicy tuna rolls, and it really wasn’t as frightening as I thought that it would be. The wait staff was very kind, and helpful to a sushi novice like me. The next time I eat at a place that serves sushi I am going to have to go all the way and get it not in a roll, but however it is that they serve it when it isn’t in a nice roll. It was fun to be eating in the establishment of a real food TV star.

Finally, we thought that we would go to the Premier Podcasting Event. However, when we got down to the floor at 8:30 or so, the line was just HUGE. The hotel staff was saying that there is no way that everyone in the line would be able to fit into the salons that had been scheduled. I am sure that the Apple folks will have some fun stuff to say, and that the people that get in, will have a great time. I will just have to live vicariously later through those people who post podcasts about the experience.

A couple more items:
- David Warlick used one of my photos in a blog entry, how cool!
- iTunes 4.9 with support for podcasting was released today.

Another great day at NECC. I can't believe how much there is to do and see!

Monday, June 27, 2005

NECC Day 2

What a totally fantastic day was had today.



I attended an all day workshop titled “Video Compression for the Web: Secrets of the Pros” taught by Steve Pandolfo. I had no idea they types of things that one could do to make video look good on the web. We worked on G5 iMacs, and were using QuickTime Pro, FinalCut Pro, Sorenson Squeeze and Cleaner 6. For a topic that can get deep really quickly, I think that Steve gave an excellent lab that anyone with a basic understanding of computers and digital video could understand and appreciate. I came away from the class with some simple tricks and tips that make a big difference in how your video will appear when you finally view it coming down off the web-server. Additionally, I won a copy of Sorenson Squeeze for the PC, and I am totally stoked about it!

This evening NECC had its opening keynote address. David Weinberger, Harvard Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society gave the keynote address titled The New Shape of Knowledge. Weinberger gave us a lot to think about, it was full of challenges to the way we think, and encouragement to press forward into the modern age. Three points that I found resonated well with me:

  • Knowledge is the engagement in unending conversations

  • Conversation is a paradox

  • Conversation is a miracle


Much of what we learn has been acquired by “differences iterating on commonalities”.

I really enjoyed the things that I learned today. Tomorrow the exhibit hall opens, and it will be tremendously entertaining to see what the various vendors have to show and tell.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

NECC Day 1

First a movie, made using iMovie HD. You will need Quicktime to make it work.



This morning we got up, went over to register with the conference, and then had some time this morning before our first class this afternoon. Having the time, we thought that it would be fun to take a double-deck bus tour of Philadelphia. It was really quite a blast. Bus tours are a great way to get to see a lot of city in a little bit of time. The bus went past most of the historical sites, and the guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. We took some pictures and shot some movie while on the bus. The video camera is new, so we are still learning how to use it. I have never used iMovie, before, but as with most apple iLife products, I can’t complain with how intuitive and simple it is to put stuff together.

After the bus tour we stopped in for some lunch at the Philadelphia Hard Rock Café, the food was great, but the dessert was even better. Chocolate, peanut butter, banana bread gooey pudding with whipped cream and home made vanilla ice cream! WOW! It was pretty amazing if you ask me.

Our first NECC workshop was a workshop by Microsoft about how to make multimedia presentations with PowerPoint 2003. At first I was skeptical, wondering how on earth someone could talk about PowerPoint for three hours, but as it turns out it was more of a discussion on Microsoft Producer than it was PowerPoint. I had never used producer before, but am now excited to try it out the next time I need to make a presentation. It allows seamless integration of movies, PowerPoint presentations, sound, pictures, and HTML into one presentation that is distilled into a really fancy webpage. It works on Opera, Netscape, and IE. I was pretty impressed with Microsoft’s work at getting it all down to a super fancy web page. Sure, it has some gaps, but for a support program that is free to people who already have PowerPoint, you really can’t complain.

At the end of the workshop, Microsoft gave each participant a free copy of OneNote, their note taking program, and Learning Essentials for Microsoft Office, a new suite of tools that they are launching here at NECC. I don’t know too much about it right now, but I will have to check it out and update you later.

Tomorrow I will go to an all day class on making video for the web. It should be entertaining and informative. Hopefully the next video I post will be better because of the training. Also, tomorrow evening we will go hear the keynote address here at NECC and participate in the opening reception. Good stuff!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

NECC - Travel Day



Today really was a great day! It started early in the morning, as the plane took off at 6:20 AM. That meant that we were at the Salt Lake International Airport at 5:20! I don’t even want to think about what time it was when I got up this morning.

Travel was good; there were no problems at all. We arrived in Philadelphia safely and on time. The hotel is awesome, and we had a great dinner at a place called Habachi, it was on pier 19 at Penn’s landing. What an awesome restaurant. I loved watching our chef as he worked with our food on the griddle. You could tell that those dudes really had to practice to do all of their fancy knife and fire tricks.

I am taking a lot of pictures, and have been shooting video as well. The only problem with the video is that I don’t have a DV cable with me. Maybe I will be able to find one in the next couple of days. There is a CompUSA here in Philly, but 30 miles for a round trip in a cab seems to be a bit farther than I am willing to travel for a cable. Hopefully, there is something to be found close here downtown.

Tomorrow we will register for NECC, take a tour of the city, and attend our first class on making multimedia presentations in PowerPoint 2003. It should be a good day, but for now I am going to upload this and call it a night.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Project Updates

It took me a second to figure out what inspired this comment from yesterday’s blog entry. I went back to look at the photos that I uploaded yesterday, and decided that it must have been this one. So Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, for your information, yes I LOVE Chinese food especially when it comes from Panda Express. (The link may or may not work, as at this time I can't get it to load, but google tells me that is where they live on the 'interweb'.) Was that enough links for the day?

There are a whole bunch of projects that I am in various states of working on at the moment. The two big ones are first, my RSS authoring tool which I am writing in PHP, and second, a 10-12 minute pod-cast about user-interfaces, computers, and how we interact with them. I did five interviews for the piece last week, and found the audio snippets that I want to use. I just need to sit down and figure out how to put them all together, record the transitions, and package it up all nice and pretty for your listening pleasure. I don’t expect that it will be anything ground breaking, but it has been an interesting project for me to work on.

The RSS authoring tool is going to be pretty cool. So far it has given me the opportunity to get better acquainted with PHP and MYSQL, as I have probably said three or four times now. It is still interesting to me to see how various web technologies come together to create an application. At this point in the project I have only worried about the actual logic, http sessions, and getting the right data at the right time from the user. As I have gotten deeper into the thing, I am coming up with all sorts of interesting design questions. I know that I am going down a path that has already been trodden by many sage programmers and that yes, I could probably download or subscribe to a similar tool, but for me this is all about the learning experience. I didn’t feel too much like programming last night, so I didn’t. Tonight is feeling the same way. Once I get the basic logic and db stuff going it will then be a challenge to make it look pretty. I wish that I had the talent to design web pages! Maybe I will find some creative budding designer who will want to look at my simple forms and figure out how to give this application a look. Time will tell.

Half way through the week two more work days to go, and then off to NECC.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Day in the Life Of ... June 21, 2005

Today was the summer solstice, and of course, it wouldn't be a proper solstice if flickr! didn't have a DILO project.

I didn't take too many pictures today, but the ones I did take can be seen here.

I am fascinated by this project. Everyone taking pictures of their day. Some quite professional, others very very amature. The interesting thing is that when you look at each participants day, you quickly realize how similar the whole human race really is. In the long run, we aren't as different as we thought we were.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Money Time Brains

A quote from Algorithmics p.191:

"Indeed, the reasons that people often fail in getting their computers to do what they want seem to fall roughly into three categories: insufficient money, insufficient time, and insufficient brains.  With more money one could buy a larger and more sophisticated computer, supported by better software, and perhaps then get the job done.  With more time one could wait longer for time-consuming algorithms to terminate, and with more brains one could perhaps invent algorithms for problems that defy solution."

Certainly something interesting to think about.  I just finished a chapter all about NP problems, it was getting depressing.  When read the first sentence of the statement above I laughed to myself thinking that the author was making light commentary on the intelligence of those who program computers, only to be put in my place when he was really talking about having more smarts to solve the NP type problems.  I win the naive award for the day.  Nothing about this book has been comical, I should have remembered that when I started.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

RSS Progress

I am still working on my RSS writer. As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to write it using PHP/MYSQL. It is certainly a learning experience. I thought that it would be a simple project that could be wrapped up in a couple of hours. This is giving me a lot of respect for those people who write their own content management systems. There is a lot more to it than what the user sees on the screen. Today was my first experience with HTTP sessions. I have a lot to learn. I do wonder, if I was working on this project in a different language such as JSP or .NET would it be easier? PHP/MYSQL just seemed easiest to get up and running, oh, and it is what my hosting company has. Anyway, this weekend I got the installer, login, registration, and logout done. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but really there is a lot more to that than what meets the eye.

Friday, June 17, 2005

15 Mistaken Work Values

Today I had the opportunity to attend a meeting and hear my CFO speak. The hour long presentation that he gave was a presentation that he gave to his direct reports at the beginning of the year. Someone thought that it would be valuable for the business branch that my team supports to hear what he had to say. I was glad that I got to attend the meeting, as there were some interesting lessons to be learned. It was interesting to see the big picture as the CFO sees it. I wonder if at times, employees in the trenches simply haven’t been sufficiently motivated to understand what the big goals really are. The CFO’s presentation was clearly geared toward a management crowd, but many of the principles that he shared would apply equally as well to a manager as to a clerk. A point that he made over and over again was that people are much more likely to go along with change, if they understand why change is being made. It is important that people understand the corporate vision, so that everyone can work together as a team to make it happen.

Really the presentation made me think. I haven’t had the greatest of attitudes toward my employment in the last couple of weeks. It has been rough, and things haven’t exactly been going the way that I would wish them to. That doesn’t mean that I am in trouble, or even that I haven’t been doing my job, just that I would like for it to be different. In the presentation today, there was a laundry list of mistakes that people make which causes them to be less effective employees. I found it useful, so I thought that I would share it here.

  • Expecting that someone else will reduce your stress

  • Expending energy in resistance to change

  • Acting like a victim

  • Playing a new game by the old rules

  • Shooting for a low stress work setting

  • Trying to control that which is uncontrollable

  • Choosing your own pace of change

  • Failure to abandon the expendable

  • Slowing down the work

  • Being afraid of the future

  • Picking the wrong battles

  • Psychologically unplugging from your job

  • Avoiding new assignments

  • Trying to eliminate uncertainty and instability

  • Assuming that “caring management” should keep people comfortable


You may or may not agree with each of the above points but they are worth some consideration. It seems to me that a lot of the points are just the simple values that good employees should have; noting that it is important to remember that just about anything taken to the extreme can be a bad thing. It was informative for me to sit down and thing about where I rated myself with respect to the above list. I came out of the lecture feeling more empowered than I had been before, and feeling that much of my work happiness had to do with the way that I would choose to play the game. There are a lot of things that are beyond my control, but I can control how I choose to respond, and how I do the work that I am assigned.

Perspective adds a lot of value.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Back to Business?

If anything I have proved to myself that I really can read. Not as fast as some of my siblings, but a lot faster than I used to. The added speed probably comes as a result of the technical manuals that I have subjected myself to over the past year. I still can’t read those very fast, but the fiction sure goes fast. Just less than two thousand pages in a couple of weeks. Sure, maybe you read a lot more than that, but for me it represents something of a change in my reading habits. I remember as a kid in fifth grade, the assignment was to read that many pages in a trimester, I found it impossibly hard, and fought every page of it. This time around, it has actually been very enjoyable. Books are great. Science Fiction is a lot of fun, even if it isn’t serious literature, as my sister who is an English major would say. My feeling on the matter is that reading something is better than reading nothing!

The reality now is that I need to put down the Sci-Fi novels and get back to my list of academic stuff. Algorithmics is still sitting on my night stand where it has been untouched since I went on my Sci-Fi kick. I just need to sit down and dedicate myself to it. My goal is to have it finished before I get on the Airplane on the 25th to go to NECC. That is pretty aggressive, considering that it reads like a text book, with examples and practice problems. I won’t do the practice problems this time around, I am just reading for the information of it all. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

In the meantime, you may really enjoy Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Shadow series. I sure did!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

People

Today was a good day. I patched out some minor bug fixes in the morning, and was on call in the afternoon. Though at times I am surprised by how little our users know about a system they use every day of their work lives, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something to help them out, and perhaps make a part of their day a bit better.

Lunch was at Panda Express in the mall. I really enjoy the food court in the mall. It is so fascinating to observe people. Couples, both old and young, Parents, Children, everyone acting out their lives as if on a stage, yet they have no idea they are being observed. Humanity is so vibrant, yet surprisingly fragile. I learned that a dear friend tragically died this evening. You never can tell when or how things will change.

Carpe Diem, maybe cliché but so very true.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Just Questions

What can you do to show your superiors that you want to make them proud?  Does it even matter?  It is an interesting topic, and one that I have been paying particular attention to in light of the reading that I have been doing lately.  I have spent the last week and a half re-acquainting myself with some of Orson Scott Card's fiction.  I read Ender's Game, and then started off on the "shadow" series which tells the story of Ender's battle school friends after they all return home from the "formic war".  The work is completely fictional; the essence of the human conditions described is real.  The struggle to make a place for yourself in the world, the gain use and loss of power, the want to please those whom control your life because of their position over you, the need to find love and acceptance.  All of the above conditions are addressed in these novels.  Being set in and around a war, there is a lot of opportunity for the author to explore these conditions in within the context of a "military" setting.  That brings us back to the beginning.  There are very few in this world who can say that they do not have a superior.  Depending on your views, it could also be said that no one is truly free from having a superior.  How much time do people spend second guessing those above them, trying to spin a story so as to make it more palatable?  Is it accomplished by being a good steward over those things that one has been trusted to do?  They are interesting questions, which do not come with pre-fabricated answers.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Small Update

It is probably about time for another pod cast. I am just not sure what I feel passionately about enough to speak on. I think it is amazing that people are able to sit and talk for 20-40 minutes without a script and keep it interesting! The past two days were primarily consumed with massive amounts of yard work. Doing some good old hard labor is good for the soul every now and again. I battled with our hedge, it was no trivial matter.

I spent some learning about RSS 2.0. On the surface it really isn’t as difficult as I thought that it would be. Now generating an RSS feed that automatically updates like so many of the CMS systems do now days, that is a bit trickier. I have started working on one using mySQL/PHP. The database schema has been worked out, I have defined what I want the functionality to be, and the installer has been written. Every time I play with PHP I am reminded of how much I really dislike its syntax. I still don’t like it very much, but it will be the medium in which I should be able to crank this little RSS project out… I hope. .NET, and Java feel like they should be so much easier to work with, but they don’t let you do JSP’s on hosted sites, at least not the ones you pay seven dollars a month for. If I wanted to move where this site was hosted I could be on a Windows server, and there I could use the .NET platform, but do MSSQL. It feels like a catch 22, so for now I am stuck with mySQL/PHP.

It is raining here tonight. I am usually not one for rain. I don’t like being wet. The sound tonight is however very relaxing. It is interesting the way that the sound of water falling on the world can so easily mesmerize humanity. I wonder why.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sales Ideas

The company that I work for is looking for a newer approach to some of our business practices. Mostly they are interested in process flow and better ways to accomplish accounting tasks with more efficiency. As with most large companies whenever they venture off into a large project there is always a period of due diligence, in which the company tries to determine what it is they want, and whether it would be more effective to build the solution in house or buy it.

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit in a conference room with a team of employees and executives to listen to a demo and sales pitch from a third party vendor. I came out of the two hour meeting less than sold on their product, and I will try to explain why in the coming few minutes.

Aside: I’m not a salesman. I’m not a even a developer yet either. So it is possible that my opinion with regard to a salesman’s pitch may not be valid. If that is how you feel, you are welcome to click stop and call it good. If not, then you are welcome to keep reading.

It seems to me that any salesman would do well to do his homework about the company that he is trying to sell to. There are a lot of ways that this could take place.

If the company you are selling to has a website, it would probably be worthwhile to visit and learn what they do and how they do it. Before you set up the time to come and deliver a demo and sales pitch, you probably would have had some contact with someone inside the company. It would be wise to talk to that person, develop at least a minimal friendship and learn what the company’s specific needs are. If possible, you should find out the volume of business that the company does, and try to figure out specifically what their current processes are— at least so that you have some idea of who you are selling to.

Understanding what the customer knows about your product would also be of value to you. Finding out where they learned about your company, if they have already attended some of your web-seminars, or even if they have visited your website are all questions that you could easily ask, would certainly give you an edge when you first met face to face.

Having done your homework, it would make your sales pitch much more confidant and secure. How can you know how your solution will help a company if you don’t know about the way that they currently do things? It seems to me that going into a sales pitch cold and without background information is a poor plan.

When showing up for your presentation, it is key that you be on time, dressed appropriately for the audience, that you have all of the equipment that you need, and that you have arranged for anything that you could not bring yourself. For example: if your presentation counts on having access to the internet, it would be wise to make sure that your contact with the company knows that you will be needing an internet connection when you come to present. That will give your host the ability to arrange those things for you.

Make sure that you understand what you are selling to the best of your knowledge, and know what types of people you are presenting to. Obviously, your sales pitch should be different depending on who is sitting in the room. You need to understand the differences between the way an IT professional will see something and the way an accountant might. Regardless of who is in your audience, you should be able to find the happy medium to explain the product to the liking of your audience.

When preparing your demo, it is important that you have a set of examples covering a wide range of questions worked up ahead of time. When looking to purchase a new software package, people not only will want to hear how great your product is, they will want to see it in action. You need to be able to give a high level overview, but also be ready to delve into the details if need be. It is important that you know your product well enough to be able to answer the questions that may be asked of you.

Most importantly, be sure that anything you demo works. The last thing a potential client wants to see is the salesman stumbling around over equipment, futzing with configurations, and sweating because for some reason the demo that he had planned to give isn’t working.

Sales/Demo meetings are expensive. Not just form the point of view of the company doing the selling. There is an incurred cost to send your salesman out to go make a pitch, but there is also a cost of bringing executives and employees into a meeting. You as the salesman should recognize that this meeting is costing people’s valuable time. You should respect the timetable that you created when you set up the meeting. It would be terribly inconsiderate to waste 15 minutes of your sales meeting trying to figure out how to get your demo to run.

I know that the opinions expressed above may seem harsh, but to some extent isn’t a sales pitch a lot like a job interview? It is imperative that you put your best foot forward, and show to your potential client why your solution is the best solution for the job. The above commentary doesn’t even touch on the actual product demo, it just discusses the actions of the salesman, and yet, because the salesman was so disorganized, the software that he was presenting didn’t look as sweet.

A volume could be said about the actual software as well, but it may be better to save that for another day.

Here’s the bottom line. Understand who you are selling to. Be able to sell yourself, your company, and your product.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Post from Email

This is a new experimant to see how this whole post from email thing works with blogger. I am supposed to be able to write an email and send it to my unique address with blogger and they will automatically publish it to my blog. A useful feature especially in light that http://www.blogger.com is behind the red wall of death at work now(the list of banned websites). I can see why they did what they did. Internet is always a tricky thing when you are an employer (not that I have any experience as an employer).

So if this email thing works out, I may not have access to my blogger account, but if I felt the deep desire I could still post to my blog. We'll see how it works.

Edit/Update:
Yes, I am using the real blogger tool to do the editing. It seems that the emails that I send to blogger are interpreted either as plain text or formatted text. So the link above for example, was a link on the first publish, but it is that way because gmail's formatted text will write in the HTML in the background for a link any time I use "http://". I tried to send a plain text that had HTML in it, and that all displayed just as plain text. This means that I can send links, but they won't be pretty. One thing that is nice is how quickly it posts. Not a bad service.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Lots -O- Stuff

Nothing will kill visits to a weblog faster than not posting. I guess that I have just been lazy in the past little while, or maybe it is that there isn’t much to tell. I have read quite a few blogs, and web pages that I would like to link, but it seems dumb to dedicate a whole post just to a link when I don’t have a lot to say about it. JeffCroft has that part right in that he keeps an “hrefs” feed and a regular feed. The hrefs are just things that he found on the net that he wanted to make a brief comment about while the blog has the content. Rather than rambling on about Jeff’s blog, I’ll leave it at that.

Apple goes x-86
That is pretty darn cool eh? Apple says that they will make sure that you can’t just install their OS on any machine with an x-96 processor though. I am cool with that, but I think that it certainly is a step in the right direction. While Apple designs are awesome to look at, and as my cousin tells me, the BMW’s of the modern computer, they are still too pricey for me. Yes, I know that I can get a Mac mini for $500, but that still seems like a high price to pay. Maybe someday Apple will decide that their loyal hardware buyers will always be loyal, and that poor people like me should be able to install their OS on our non-Apple computers. I would even be willing to pay a higher license fee, as it would still be cheaper than buying one of their computers. Of course, device drivers would be an issue.

I love iLife
iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, Garageband. The more I play with this software on the computers of my friends and family who have Macintosh computers the more I become re-converted to the idea that there really is a better way for user-friendly software that empowers the user to do great creative things. I love the iLife software more than I like the Apple hardware, and I like it a whole lot more than the OS. Again, I would pay good money to have iLife ported into the Windows environment. They did it with iTunes, why not the rest of the suite? If you have had the opportunity to play with iPhoto, and have also played with Picasa, you would quickly learn that Picasa, while possibly the greatest free photo organizer and simple editor for Windows machines can’t hold a candle to iPhoto. Seriously, it is a great suite of software, and one of the major reasons I would like to own a Mac. You Mac people are lucky with all of your media creating power. I sometimes wonder if you realize what you have.

A Great Recording Session
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go and help a friend record some of the pieces that she has been practicing for the last year or so as she has been pursuing her Master’s degree in vocal accompaniment and coaching at the U. Yesterday was the third time that I had engineered a recording for her, and I think that I am finally getting the hang of making a good recording. Getting a good recording of the piano is hard because of its dynamic range. We used two AKG condenser mics that we rented from Performance Audio, and the rest was pretty simpl -- through a pre-amp mixer and into the iBook to be recorded in Garageband. I am pleased with the recording, and think that she will be too. The only complaint, or question I have is, how do you get a piano recording that is at the right level all the time? The way I did this recording was to set the levels at the beginning for the loudest part in the whole song, so that when playing at double forte, there was no distortion. The only problem with that approach is that the soft parts of the recording get really soft, and you have to have the volume up louder than normal to hear.
Someday, I guess I should learn the ins and outs of recording so that I can actually do it right. Maybe I will put up a sample recording here one of these days.

Spinning
I determined that I spend far too much time in my various chairs. Work, car, desk at work, the list could go on, but I’ll spare you. At the beginning of this year, I said that I would take a fitness class at the U. Well, because of my shyness, I never got around to it. However, wanting to complete the goal, and feeling a particularly strong need to check something off the list I decided that I could take a fitness class with my father. Spinning it would be. “How hard could riding a stationary bike be?” I asked myself. Let me tell you, it can be quite difficult -- Especially for someone as sedentary as I am. I got up early this morning, and we were at the hyper center by 6:30 for our morning class. Let me just say it was utter and complete Hell. Ten minutes into the thing, I knew that I wouldn’t make it through the whole 50-minute workout. Admittedly I am out of shape, but I thought that I could ride a bike. I certainly learned otherwise today. I stumbled out of the class 15 minutes early this morning, ready to fall on the floor and die. Seriously I couldn’t tell if I was going to faint or vomit, neither of which actually happened, but that is how I felt. The next class meets again on Thursday, and I haven’t decided if I am up for that kind of torture again. Perhaps if I just slow down and swallow some of my pride, realizing that there is no way that I am going to be able to do it all on my first, second, third, or even fourth go with this. It’s a goal, so if I want to check it off, I have to finish it though. The question is, who will win? My mind that wants to check off the goal, or my body that feels like warmed over death.

Conclusion
Well folks, I think that does it for today. There is more to tell, but I don’t have time to tell it right now.

  • There are some good articles to discuss about UI design.

  • There is some really great stuff going on over at webgraphics right now.

  • I am still reading Algorithmics, but it takes so much thought to read it thoroughly. Finishing it is still high on the list though.

  • I just finished reading Ender’s Game again – great book, and one could have some interesting philosophical discussions about it. If I get into an essay mood, I may attempt.
    In the meantime, I would like to read the rest of the “Bean” series. Aside: You know, fiction of any flavor is a lot faster to read than this technical stuff I have been focusing on the past few months!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Code Room

Those folks at Microsoft sure are smart, not only in the way that they make their software, and development tools, but by the way that they market them as well. It is no mistake that they have so much market dominance, and that their products are so widely used. I ran across The Code Room today, and watched the two episodes that have been produced to date. The show follows after the ever popular ‘reality television’ format, this time with a geek twist. Find three or four developers and put them in a room and give them a programming task to complete on a tight schedule. The developers receive a brief overview of the .NET technology that they are supposed to use to develop their solution, and off they go.

For those of us who are inclined to program, I think we all can recognize with the frustrations that the groups go through as they attempt their tasks. It reminded me a lot of the experience I had earlier this spring when some classmates and me pulled an all-nighter as we tried to finish up a project. The best part is, that it wasn’t me in the hot seat. Though so far it seems rigged, as in both episodes the teams accomplished the tasks that they were given. However, because of the success the teams had, it really gives me some desire to delve into .NET development. VisualStudio.NET2005 is going to be jam packed full of tools to help people with a huge variety of programming tasks from the web, to the desktop, to mobile devices with bluetooth. It is really quite exciting.

If you have some time, you might want to download the two episodes from MSDNTV, and enjoy an hour of good coding competition.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Begin June

Today marks one month into my summer vacation. Things are going well. I managed to read two tech books, read a lot of web pages, loved my trip to New York, worked, gardened, saw episode III, and created my first pod-cast. I feel a lot of pressure to upgrade my programming skill set, but at the same time, I am also feeling overwhelmed by the depth of the options that surround me. What technology should I spend my time studying? There is a lot of time to do it, but I really need to sit down and focus my efforts on one for a while. .NET technology, Java, C, C++, C#, playing with Unix? I really don’t have a good answer for that one at this time. All I know is that I need to do something, as it becomes paralyzing the more I don’t do anything.

June should be another great month. I hope that I am able to finish Algorithmics, and finish reading Godel, Escher, and Bach (which I started a year ago). After that I would like to read Code Complete, and The Mythical Man Month. We’ll see how much I get done. GEB isn’t easy, and as I stated in my pod-cast, the study of Algorithms isn’t exactly a walk on the beach for me. In addition to reading, June has presented me with another opportunity for travel. At the end of the month I will be off to NECC, which will be held in Philadelphia. It will be a lot of fun to see what the educational computing people are pushing. I will try to take a lot of pictures and give a nightly update while I am there.

Today at lunch, I stopped by Boarders to pick up the June edition of Wired Magazine. Steven Spielberg is featured on the cover for his re-invention of War of the Worlds. As always, I enjoyed eating my lunch in the mall while trying to catch up on what Wired thinks is well… wired. If I wasn’t already going to be in Philly over June 24-26, I think that it would have planned to attend NEXTFEST.2005 – The Wired World’s Fair in Chicago. GE is a major sponsor, and from the 40-page section about it in the magazine this month, it looks to be very interesting.