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“cloud computing” December 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Definition, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Technology Trouble.
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cloud computing
KLOWD kom-PYU-ting

If you want to get technical, cloud computing is a very cool way to keep all your stuff in internet-land, where you can access it from anywhere because you don’t own the media or servers upon which it’s stored. But if you want to get corporate, all you need to know is that corporations are likely to be very, very leery about implementing it despite how into it their tech folks are.

The problem with cloud computing, from a corporate perspective, is all about control. Most people have Google accounts, and already live somewhat in the cloud — if you have webmail, you’re doing cloud computing. Google is by far the king of the cloud, though Microsoft’s Office 10 is going to attempt to make some inroads into that market share. But whether it’s via Google, Microsoft, or even Yahoo (anyone remember Yahoo Briefcase?), the company doesn’t own the data. The data is held by the third party, who has their own set of terms and conditions as to the warranty of the data (T-Mobile Sidekick Fail, for example), the accessibility of the data (you can’t call Google and complain that Docs is down), and their right to read the data or be subpoenaed and hand the data over. And what happens if the third party suffers a hacking attack that ends with the data being taken by hostile parties? What’s the company’s recourse?

That’s why so many companies use VPNs instead of cloud computing — they let employees log into their work PCs using secure connections that they control. It’s way slower than the cloud, but it lets the corporations exercise their own security measures. And, I have to admit, as much as I love cloud computing (I do most of my first drafts on Docs), there’s a big difference between running a blog and running a multi-million-dollar corporation.

Of course, all companies have to do their due diligence and pretend to be interested in cloud computing, as illustrated by the above Dilbert strip. The tech guys always get excited about it, hoping they can link their tricked-out Google accounts to their work life. Just remember — if the company does go with the cloud, you’re going to have to make all your Google stuff available to them upon request. You know it’ll show up in the IT policy. I’d certainly put it there.

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let me google that for you September 21, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Technology Trouble.
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This message is not sponsored by Google, or by “Let Me Google That For You”.

CC-licensed photo by SAN_DRINO

CC-licensed photo by SAN_DRINO

Early this morning one of my friends tweeted that she couldn’t figure out how to make the LED on her Blackberry stop blinking. I replied that the solution was in her settings (I used to own a Blackberry), and she said “I know; I just can’t figure out where.”

So I googled blackberry led off. I clicked the first item. It gave me the answer.

Now, instead of telling my friend, I decided I wanted her to learn so she wouldn’t need to bother anyone else. Enter our good friends at Let Me Google That For You. Basically what they do is create a Google search portal — which is perfectly all right under Google’s TOS — and, when you type in your search term, they build an animation. Then you send the URL to someone (like I did to my friend). That someone clicks the URL. That someone is shown how to find answers via Google.

Click here to see the link I sent my friend.

They even have an option for the internet-savvy: they’ll give you a TinyURL that runs the animation, if you ask for it. My friend happens to be internet-savvy; she runs a relatively-popular sex blog*. I’m actually rather surprised she didn’t just Google an answer.

Ah well. She, like so many others — and, I’m sure, like the others at your office — sometimes doesn’t have time to Google an answer. But for those people who have no excuse, feel free to use LMGTFY (as the site is abbreviated). You’ll probably get a laugh, and hopefully people will start checking Google before they bother you. Because really all you’re going to do is go to Google to find the answer anyway.

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* I was friends with her before the sex blog. Not that that really matters, but I figured I should say that so I’d look a little bit less of a perv.

the culture of time-wasting August 11, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Management, Unsociable Networking, Wasting Time.
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I iz jus chexin mah facebuk. (CC-licensed photo by tehusagent)

I iz jus chexin mah facebuk. (CC-licensed photo by tehusagent)

A friend of mine once said that “social networking” is just a synonym for “work avoidance”. She’s absolutely right: if you don’t want to work, why not check Facebook or Twitter? Why not post to your personal blog about how bored you are? Why not peruse your favorite blogs on Google Reader or del.icio.us or catch up on the news on Fark or Digg?

Why not make your company spend money to support your goofing-off habits?

There’s plenty of research about how letting workers use Facebook or Twitter on occasion (maybe a couple of minutes an hour) to give themselves breaks in their days is beneficial for everyone and actually increases productivity. We’ve all seen stories about companies in other countries doing office-mandated naps or exercise (as with Hiro and Ando’s company in the first season of “Heroes”). Some companies have patios or exercise rooms or ping-pong tables so that employees can unwind a bit during breaks.

The problem is this: people are taking advantage. It’s easier than ever to lose the train of thought while working; it could be something as simple as checking personal e-mail or texting your spouse to say you’ll be a few minutes late tonight. Ubiquitous high-speed internet, smartphones, music players, social networking… the more options you have, the less likely you are to avoid them all.

But flatly forbidding these things is dangerous. It creates a culture of covert surfing. It pits IT guys against people who just want to see their friends’ friends’ bikini pictures on Facebook. It lowers morale and wastes more time because people are going to (a) talk about the draconian computer policy and (b) find ways around it, forcing the IT guys to work harder to block social networking sites. Or people will just sit on their smartphones, which wastes even more time because the internet connections are generally (but not always) slower.

The trick is to get employees to realize they don’t have the right to spend all day goofing around on the internet. One poster on MyLifeIsAverage.com recounted her boss’s method:

Today my boss sent all employees a facebook message to meet in the boardroom at 3 p.m. The meeting topic? It was about not using facebook at work. I felt tricked but still had to give him credit for being clever. MLIA.

I wish the poster had written a follow-up, but I get the feeling that she and her coworkers were both impressed by the ingenuity of the boss and, during the meeting, probably came to some sort of compromise.

That’s the best possible endgame in the culture of time-wasting: compromise. Compromise with management to keep them from outright forbidding social networking and other time-wasting sites. Compromise with employees to keep them from wasting too much of the company’s time and money. Compromise with the culture itself in recognizing that Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and other social sites are a vital part of most people’s lives and cutting out that part will just lower employee morale.

Which is just what we need in this economic environment, right?

This blog entry was written while I was technically supposed to be working.

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without access, I can’t help you August 10, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Very Corporate Something, Technology Trouble.
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On Friday, I got a call from one of our ad-server clients asking me why ads weren’t serving to a specific page on their site. I went into the ad server and made sure the ads were scheduled properly — they were — but the client wouldn’t give me access to their web server so I had no way of testing things on their side. I had to go through their outsourced tech support department, rather than deal with someone at their office. I e-mailed my ticket to them and waited.

It turns out someone at the tech support department — who has access to the ad server — had changed the ads after I checked them. Naturally.

Go ahead. Try to get through. If you really need to, I guarantee you can't. (CC-licensed photo by helena.40proof)

Go ahead. Try to get through. If you really need to, I guarantee you can't. (CC-licensed photo by helena.40proof)

The problem here, though, is that we are so enamored of our walled gardens and our intellectual properties and our copyrights that we won’t give even temporary access to people who can help us. I read an article recently — which I will expound upon on a later date — about how clamping down on all of our company’s intellectual property when we have a new idea is a terrible way to do business.

Secrecy, though, is the watchword. We’re scared to death that someone’s going to steal our idea and make money on it. Well, guess what: if you don’t talk to other people about your idea, someone who can actually help you won’t be able to make your idea better, and which would you rather do: pay someone a few grand now, or lose millions when Google buys their version because it was better and you didn’t listen?

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