Thursday, January 31, 2013

When "lowest price technically acceptable" is acceptable

There are a number of ways in which a Federal government agency - or a state government agency, or a private firm - can evaluate a competitive procurement. One of these methods is referred to as "lowest price, technically acceptacle."

Last year, Bob Lohfeld was asked for his advice on how to steer a procurement officer away from using LPTA as the evaluation criteria.

The capture manager and the government program manager wanted to avoid an price shootout, but the contracting shop wouldn’t agree.

Lohfeld offered five suggestions. You can find all five of them here; I'm going to share the fifth of the five suggestions.

5. Is there a record of failed contract performance?

Can you find evidence of similar service contracts awarded using LPTA evaluation criteria where the contract was either terminated for poor performance or substantially modified to grant price relief to the lowest priced offer? There is much speculation that the inappropriate use of LPTA criteria will ultimately result in contracts with unacceptable performance. If you can document some of these instances, it will strengthen your argument to avoid the LPTA approach.

Lohfeld speaks of "speculation." Can one find documented evidence that LPTA leads to failed contract performance?

No. Perhaps it does at times, but doesn't at other times. It all depends upon what is being procured, as this article from Ray Bjorklund at Deltek notes.

For routine and non-complex services, products and product integration and maintenance, LPTA is frequently one of the best methods for choosing a contractor, largely because LPTA adds useful decision-making dimensions beyond price. However, for complex services or new services that cannot be well defined, LPTA is rarely a suitable source selection method.

Bjorklund gives an example:

LPTA applied to a contract for a brain trauma study may not be the best choice. On the other hand, selection of a landscape maintenance contractor can be expedited with an LPTA source selection method.

Of course, now all of the low-cost brain trauma study outfits will refuse to buy Deltek's services...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Medical tourism - coming to your town?

I was searching for the misspelling "penhandle" and ran across a page that (at least currently) includes this misspelling. This page, created by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, not only includes the word "penhandle," but also includes the words "eventhough," "internatiional," and airlines such as "America Airlines" and "Contiental Airlines."

However, the people reading that particular page may not have noticed.

This page was intended for foreigners coming to the United States (preferably to the University of Alabama at Birmingham) for medical procedures - otherwise known as "medical tourists."

I had certainly heard of medical tourism before. If you fly America Airlines or Contiental Airlines - whoops, I mean American Airlines and Continental Airlines - you'll see ads in their magazines that speak of U.S. medical facilities that cater to foreigners. It works the other way around also - many Americans go to other countries for medical procedures. Some of these Americans are very rich and seek the best (or most private) treatments; others are very poor and seek services that they can't afford in this country.

I didn't realize that the University of Alabama at Birmingham catered to foreign clientele. A family member was associated with the University in the 1970s, but I don't know if he performed operations for rich Brazilians. However, UAB is listed at an online medical tourism website.

Over 100 U.S. facilities are listed at that website. To my surprise, I found a listing for San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland, California. As you can guess from the name, this hospital caters to the local community; I couldn't see rich Brazilians flying to Ontario Airport and seeking services at that hospital. But the hospital apparently caters to this clientele:

If you do not speak English, or if you have a hearing or speech impairment, you may have interpretation services provided for you at no extra charge. Tell the person helping you that you need an interpreter. A list of languages for which assistance may be obtained is available in all departments of the Hospital.

San Antonio Community Hospital doesn't provide all of the procedures available in Birmingham, but they do offer a number of procedures such as heart surgery, chemotherapy, and treatment for brain tumors.

Perhaps YOUR local hospital is trying to secure business from patients in other countries. It's certainly an area for possible growth.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Advantages and Disadvantages of Physical, Virtual, or Mixed Meetings

I've been thinking about physical, virtual, and mixed physical/virtual meetings, based upon my experience in three areas:

  • As an employee of a multi-national company.
  • As a member of a professional organization serving (in my case) all of California.
  • As a volunteer with a service organization serving (in my case) all of southern California.

Each of these three organizations needs to gather people together for meetings of various types.

  • The service organization has three gatherings per year with the population that is being serviced. These are physical meetings in which people come from all over southern California and gather in a single location.
  • The service organization also has to train its volunteers - not only in southern California, but all across the country. These training events are webinars.
  • The professional organization has an annual training event. This is a physical meeting, generally held at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim. (People who have to travel a long distance to attend the meeting stay at the hotel.)
  • The professional organization has at least three other events per year. These are hybrid physical/virtual meetings; while the meeting itself is a webinar, some people choose to gather in a few locations throughout California to attend the meeting together.
  • As you may expect, the company has a lot of meetings spanning all types (physical, virtual, mixed). There are a number of mixed meetings, in which people gather at a few central locations to participate. Sometimes it's beneficial for people to travel to one of the meeting locations, rather than participating virtually.

So how do you decide whether a particular meeting should be physical, virtual, or mixed? Let me provide a couple of examples.


The volunteer organization that I referenced is Youth for Understanding (YFU), which (among other things) arranges for non-U.S. teenagers to spend a semester or a year with a host family in the United States. The experience of an exchange student in a foreign country follows certain patterns, and YFU arranges for the three meetings per year to address the concerns of the students when they first arrive in the United States, when they've spent several months in the United States, and when they are about to return home.

Now obviously it's quite possible for such a meeting to be virtual. Teenagers tend to be more used to online chat, Skype, Hangouts, and so forth. And since the kids are in homes from San Diego to Bakersfield, a virtual meeting would be easier to organize than one in which people have to drive 100 or more miles to get together.

But would a virtual meeting be any fun?

Let's face it - a group of teenagers is not necessarily looking forward to hearing about U.S. State Department regulations and parental regulations for an entire day. Part of the reason that these teenagers get together is to hang out with each other. They have two things in common: first, they are all foreigners in a strange country, and second, they are eager to meet new people. (This is why they go on an exchange in the first place.)

So in this particular case, it makes sense to get everyone together.


Over the years, I've worked in several organizational structures, including companies with single office locations, companies with multiple office locations (including one case in which a subsidiary's office was down the street from the corporate office), a multi-national based in the United States, and a multi-national based in France.

The U.S.-based multinational was Motorola (before it split into two companies), based in Schaumburg, Illinois. At one time, the head of our division within Motorola arranged for a one-day demonstration of all of the division's products. The demonstration was to be held in an auditorium in Schaumburg, but was to be accessible via videoconference to locations across the country. I was one of the presenters. Now I guess that I could have given my portion of the presentation from Anaheim, but I didn't - I flew to Schaumburg.


There were several reasons, but probably the most important reason was this - Schaumburg was where the action was. I can't recall the specifics, but I believe that the majority of the presenters were from Schaumburg. The head of the division was based in Schaumburg. Schaumburg had a nice auditorium from which the presentation could be given; our facility in California didn't have an auditorium. And even if it did, all sorts of arrangements would need to be made to support broadcasting from multiple locations; it would be easier to broadcast from one location and send the video everywhere else.

At the end of the day, it made perfect sense to spend the money to fly me across the country, put me in a hotel room for the night, and have me give my presentation in Schaumburg.

So I gave the presentation and went home. I'm not going to share my speculation on the results of my presentation in this blog post, but if you ever meet me in person, take a moment to ask me what happened after I gave my presentation in Schaumburg.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Am I crazy, or is Twitter a poor substitute for blogging?

(Yes, I realize that "and" may be more appropriate than "or" in the post title.)

I have been blogging since 2003 - not a long time by Dave Winer standards, but still significant - and I continue to blog today. Others do not. Spencer Rascoff has offered one explanation:

But now that Twitter is part of my daily routine, I blog less.

Rascoff lists four advantages of Twitter over blogs. Item 2 (shorter posts) is primarily a matter of style - for me, 140 characters is TOO short for anything that I want to say. Item 3 (less friction) is definitely true - it's obviously easier to write and distribute a tweet than it is to write and distribute a blog post. Item 4 (more interaction) is again a matter of style - while I tend to interact in longer-form comments (such as Google+ threads and the forthcoming nested Facebook threads), it is obviously possible to engage in a conversation on Twitter (even if, in my personal opinion, Twitter is a poor tool for engagement - others have better success at it).

You'll note that I skipped over Rascoff's item 1.

Bigger audience. I now have 40,000 followers on Twitter. I have never looked at the readership on my blogs, but I'm sure it's much less than that.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a mistake in logic. Let me explain.

Now I have far fewer followers on Twitter - the number of people following the @empoprises Twitter account is a little over 1,500 - but I do not make the mistake of saying that I have an "audience" of 1,500. I don't even have a potential audience of 1,500.

First, there's a chance that some of my followers are bots. Bots don't care what I write, and are never going to engage me in two-way conversation. They'll just spout off their bot stuff in a single direction.

Second, even the accounts with real people may not really be following me - some are following me and never looking at my feed again, hoping that I will follow them and look at their own feeds. These people are just like bots - they're using Twitter as a one-way communication method and don't care what comes back.

Third, let's move down to the group that are following me and, for whatever bizarre reason, are interested in what I say. These people are following their own 1,500 people, or 10,000 people, or 1,000,000 people. So let's say that @phildel (yeah, her) goes to her Twitter feed and reads everything that everyone said in the last 15 minutes. If I last tweeted 20 minutes ago - or 2 days ago - she will never see my tweet.

(Yes, you could theoretically read everything in your stream, but I learned way back in the FriendFeed days that this is impossible.)

So when I share a link to this post on Twitter, or when I share it to my Empoprises Public Community on Google+ and then re-share it to my personal feed, I am under no illusion that every one of my Twitter/Google+ followers/friends will see it.

This applies to other distribution methods as well. Don't bother to direct message me via Twitter - I check my DMs every few months. Sure, I may have x people still reading my blogs in an RSS feed, but who checks their RSS feeds nowadays? I have email subscribers also, but who reads email? I guess I could theoretically send my blog posts to people via snail mail, but people get so much junk mail that those would probably be tossed also.

So at the end of the day, just because x people potentially have access to your content via a particular medium, that doesn't necessarily mean that your audience consists of x people. Your audience is lower - possibly much lower.

Specifically concerning Twitter - while there may be valid reasons for certain people (with a certain conversational style) to use Twitter as their primary social media platform, the number of Twitter followers is NOT one of those reasons.

Now I just have to boil this down to 140 characters or less...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More on the OpenDyslexic font (yes, I do the Jim Bakker "I was wrong" routine again)

Remember my Monday post about the OpenDyslexic font? You know, the one entitled "Reading heavy-weighted bottoms"? (This was a reference to the characteristics of the font.)

Remember what I said in the post?

In addition to font downloads, the OpenDyslexic people even offer a custom web browser. Unfortunately, it's only available for devices that begin with the letter "i."

While that particular web browser may only be available for iDevices, my sentence is imprecise enough to give a different impression about OpenDyslexic's availability. A person named Abelardo - yeah, THAT Abelardo - offered a clarification:

Nope. Not true. It's a typeface. It's available anywhere you can shove it. I've only had time to create iOS apps that include it, but there are others, like InstaFetch that include it for Android.

And in this world of questionable sources, Abelardo offered this additional comment:

source: I made it. o_O

Yes, third-party applications are incorporating OpenDyslexic. The Examiner lists some of them:

Free downloads for Safari and Chrome browser extensions and several Apps (WordSmith, Instapaper, Instafetch, Steel's Run, Dox on Box, openWeb, Clicker 6) are available on Open-Dyslexic’s download page.

And if you want to install the font on your own Windows computer, (yeah, serif - heh) tells you know.

As Jim Bakker said, I was wrong.


What would James say? Atari US files for bankruptcy

In a recent post in my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog, I talked about an Upland, California business called James Games, which has apparently bucked the negative trend exhibited by an entire industry. Although I didn't mention it, the fortunes of video game arcades mirrored the up and down trajectory of a company called Atari. Atari took off in the early 1970s, and video game arcades mushroomed. But things changed within a few short years, as this Guardian post chronicles:

The company was sold to Warner Bros in 1976, but the failure of later consoles, as well as the Atari ST home computer, saw the legend passed between a succession of different owners. In 2000 it was bought by French publisher Infogrames, which changed its name to Atari....

Well, now the US subsidiary Atari wants to break from the French parent Atari.

In one way or another, the brand will probably survive. Some brands are killed after mergers - when was the last time you heard anyone at Wells Fargo mention Charles Crocker? - but the Atari brand is strong enough to live on.

Take note, Hostess fans.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reading heavy-weighted bottoms - the OpenDyslexic font

At the AppsLab, Mark Vilrokx has written about a font that has been designed for readability by people with dyslexia.

The font, OpenDyslexic, is described here. And this is what it looks like.

In addition to font downloads, the OpenDyslexic people even offer a custom web browser. Unfortunately, it's only available for devices that begin with the letter "i."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My product packaging rant

Most products cannot be sold as-is. If I want some Hamburger Helper, I can't go to the store with a scoop and just scoop some up. (At least until Winco and other grocers sell Hamburger Helper in the same way that they sell cereal and flour.) So in most cases, the product has to be placed in some type of packaging. The packaging serves two purposes - to protect the product, and to market the product. I'm not going to touch upon the marketing aspects of product packaging here, but the protection aspect is often a little askew.

When was the last time you bought an inkjet printer cartridge? Depending upon your manufacturer, you probably received some type of envelope that allowed you to recycle the old cartridge that you were replacing. Why? Because Company X is environmentally friendly, and Company X cares.

Sure they do. In order to get to the cartridge and the envelope, you usually have to go through a ton of plastic. After you get out your scissors, knife, or blowtorch and penetrate all of the layers of protective packaging, your "environmentally friendly" printer cartridge is revealed to have been surrounded by several metric tons of waste. Try taking THAT to Staples for a credit.

But this is just part of the story about protective packaging.


I bought some nasal spray one morning this week, after suffering with a cold for several days and having a mad desire to be able to breathe. The plan was to drive to the store, buy the nasal spray, walk to my car, use the nasal spray while in the car, and drive to work.

There was only one minor problem. When I got to the car and opened the nasal spray package, the bottle was wrapped with a chastity belt tighter than the ones that the Westboro Baptist Church teenage girls wear when they're within 10 miles of a U.S. military facility.

So I had to drive to work, hack at the bottle with my scissors for several minutes (without cutting my fingers), and then finally open the package and use the nasal spray.

What's really disturbing is that I, a reasonably healthy individual, had problems opening the nasal spray bottle. What if an 80 year old person caught the flu this winter and bought some nasal spray at the corner drug store? How long would it take that person to open the bottle?

In fact, if you have elderly relatives, you may want to give them a call today and ask them if they have any packages that they haven't been able to open. They would appreciate it.

Going to the other end of the age spectrum, this is what the Arbolog said:

Leapfrog Learn N Groove Maracas: 5 minutes. Slice through five separate pieces of transparent tape. Open box. Slide out cardboard insert. Undo four separate twist ties. Remove plastic wrapped advertising booklet. Remove plastic grommet / brackets from twist ties. Unthread twist ties from maracas. Remove small plastic tab from battery cover of toy. Turn on. Hand toy to child.

This prompted the following reaction from the author:

Jesus H Christ on a cracker.

More here.

It's enough to make you want to chew some Orbit gum to relieve your frustrations. Or perhaps not:, to recount, there's plastic, then paper, then more paper housing 14 little pieces of chewing gum. It is, by all accounts, a beautiful package. The question is, is it necessary?

Obviously I should have stuck to crackers, since that's what Jesus H Christ sits on. Well, you know where this is going:

The plastic envelope around each set of crackers is all but impossible to open cleanly, and you can forget about it being “resealable”. Once open, you have to resort to a plastic bag to prevent the crackers from going stale in a hurry.

Perhaps Tad Donaghe's beloved robots could be designed to open our packages for us. Jesus H Christ knows that we're not doing a good job at it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is Facebook Graph Search useful, or a toy?

While I was working on The Letter That Will Hopefully Ship Soon, Mark Zuckerberg and a few friends talked about something called Facebook Graph Search.

So, of course I went to Facebook to find out about it.

That didn't work.

Eventually, I found what I wanted. (Thank you Google News.) And eventually I found what I was looking for on Facebook also - not via Facebook itself, but from people such as Susan Beebe, Mark Krynsky, and Robert Scoble who were sharing stuff on their own. Scoble especially was sharing numerous examples of searches.

I was even able to launch a graph search of my own, even though I'm not part of the beta program yet. (Although I do have an Ingress invite, nyah nyah nyah.) If you go to, you can click on the words "Try a Search." Via this amazing facility, I discovered that my wife lives in Ontario, California - the same city in which I live! (Who knew?)

As I mentioned above, Robert Scoble (who does not live in the same city as Alex Scoble) was posting screen shots of various searches. Which of Scoble's friends like particular bands? And there was this one:

Look at all the TV shows liked by various groups.


Presumably he didn't dig down deep enough to see my TV tastes, which are few (sports and the "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" show).

The one search that seemed to be useful was a search of restaurants (or other businesses) liked by your friends. Investors agree - Yelp's stock price tanked 8% after the announcement. The theory is that if you can easily see what your Facebook friends like, why bother to go to Yelp?

But I'm not quite ready to condemn Yelp to the Enron heap, or to sell my Google stock. Yes, search facilities that take Facebook's massive amount of data into account are nice, but there are several cautions.

  • First, Facebook Graph Search is currently in closed beta. I've submitted a request to join the beta via the link I shared above, but it will presumably be some time - weeks, months - before I can even try the beta version. And it will be longer than that before all Facebook users have a non-beta version of Graph Search.
  • Second, you need to remember that Facebook Graph Search won't provide the thoughts of all of your friends. Remember that billions of people, including some of your close friends, are not on Facebook. (If you believe the more rabid Google+ users, Facebook is to them a ghost town. Catch the irony.) Even for those friends on Facebook, some of them may tighten their privacy controls, meaning that you'll never know that your father listens to the Berlin song "Sex."
  • Third, ask yourself this question - how many times are you dying to know which frozen yogurt places are preferred by your friends? Yes, word-of-mouth is much more powerful than paid advertising - shh, don't tell Facebook's advertisers this - but other facilities, such as Yelp, provide much more detailed information on an establishment that can be yielded via a single "Like" (or "+1") button.

For me, the second point is pretty powerful. There are many people who will not join Facebook for whatever reason, and the existence of Graph Search is not necessarily going to drive those people to join (or rejoin) Facebook. Anti-Facebook zealots can be divided into several camps, including the "I value my privacy" camp or the "I don't want to waste my time on the computer" camp. Those people aren't going to show up on anyone's graph - Facebook's, Google's, or the Social Security Administration's.

(Yes, various governmental entities will get into the big data game also. Then things will really get fun.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Are some things best left outside the stack? (Oracle's off-site response to Java vulnerabilities)

In the past, I've talked about Oracle's long-standing strategy (and this is truly a strategy, not a tactic) to provide the entire "stack" of services for its enterprise users, ranging from hardware to vertical applications to everything in between. With such a strategy, one would think that Oracle would do the same internally. It's interesting to note that in at least one recent instance, Oracle chose non-Oracle avenues to release critical Oracle information.

Much digital ink has been spilled over security vulnerabilities in Java, which received renewed focus when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began discussing them.


Disable Java in web browsers

This and previous Java vulnerabilities have been widely targeted by attackers, and new Java vulnerabilities are likely to be discovered. To defend against this and future Java vulnerabilities, consider disabling Java in web browsers until adequate updates are available.

Obviously, when a national government agency tells people to quit using your product, it's not a good thing.

Oracle acquired the rights to Java as part of the Sun acquisition, so many in the industry were wondering when or how Oracle would respond. Would the response come on Oracle's Java page? If it's there, it's deeply buried; I couldn't find it.

I did, however, find a response from Oracle on Twitter.

Oracle aware of flaw in #Java SW integrated w/ web browsers. Flaw limited to JDK7. Fix available shortly. Read more:

As you can probably guess by the "fb" initials in the URL, the "read more" link does not to back to Instead, it goes to an item on the Oracle page on Facebook.

Oracle is aware of a flaw in Java software integrated with web browsers. The flaw is limited to JDK7. It does not exist in other releases of Java, and does not affect Java applications directly installed and running on servers, desktops, laptops, and other devices. A fix will be available shortly

It's odd to think that an important Oracle announcement was not made at, but at and There are two possible explanations for this.

One explanation is that you don't want to put negative news on your own website. Perhaps this is anecdotal, but in many cases when a company has negative news to report, the news is not placed on the "press" section of its own website, but is instead directly released to various publications. Thus, the negative mention of a flaw in Java is shuttled off of, and is instead placed in other locations.

The second explanation - the one that doesn't make Oracle look as bad - is that people often don't pay attention to company websites any more. Perhaps it's my Reed education, but if I want to find out about CAIR, I go to CAIR's website, and if I want to find out about Oracle, I go to Oracle's website. But many people, including some companies, have a dramatically different view. Some companies almost beg you to go to other websites - "See our Facebook page for more details!" Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are supposedly where the action is, so people flock there rather than going to the boring web address.

Either way, the message that is being sent is that if you want to find out important information about Oracle, don't go to Go to a third party...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In defense of ugly suburbia

Larry Rosenthal shared a Mike Elgan share of a Ken Layne post. Layne's post is entitled "Is San Francisco The Brooklyn To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Manhattan?"

Layne begins by looking at today's Silicon Valley. And he doesn't like it.

As disappointed visitors and new employees discover, Silicon Valley is a dull and ugly landscape of low-rise stucco office parks and immense traffic-clogged boulevards. The fancy restaurants are in strip malls, like you'd find in Arizona or something. There is nothing to do, nowhere to go.

And that just won't do. We need to start a relief effort for the poor coder, creating the latest add-on to Twitter, and who is condemned to live in...A TRACT HOUSE. Sure, people in (shudder) Arizona or in Ontario, California or in Iowa or Ohio or whatever can live in tract houses...but not in Silicon Valley.

[T]he areas around and in between the tech giants of Silicon Valley are mostly ready to be razed and rebuilt. There are miles and miles of half-empty retail space, hideous 1970s' two-story apartment complexes, most of it lacking the basic human infrastructure of public transportation, playgrounds, bicycle and running and walking paths, outdoor cafes and blocks loaded with bars and late-night restaurants. This is where the new metropolis must be built, in this unloved but sunny valley.

Of course, it is also necessary to link this new metropolis to San Francisco.

California Route 82, the one-time king's highway...could be a new corridor of high-rise apartments and HQs and restaurants and museums filling in the long gaps between downtown San Jose and Apple/Google/HP/Yahoo/Intel and Stanford University and San Francisco. With local light rail at street level and express trains overhead or underground, the whole route could be lined with native-landscaped sidewalks dotted with pocket parks and filled on both sides with ground-floor retail, farmers markets and nightlife districts around every station.

Mike Elgan is all for it.

We should bulldoze the strip-malls, office parks and track houses of Silicon Valley, and built in its place giant skyscrapers -- a futuristic Manhattan.

Manhattan appears to be the model. The assertion is that San Francisco is NOT Manhattan, but that Silicon Valley could become a futuristic Manhattan. It's a wonder that no one referred to Manhattan 2.0.

However, there are several critical differences between Manhattan 1.0 and Manhattan 2.0.

First, Manhattan 1.0 is small - and it's even smaller when you realize that people talking about "Manhattan" exclude much of Manhattan Island from the mix. (More on this later.) The entirety of Manhattan (including the uncool parts) is only 22.7 square miles. The city of San Jose alone covers 174 square miles. I think - the source that provided this number also stated that San Jose has a population of 1,000,684,600. But even if San Jose doesn't have as many people as the nation of India, it's clear that Silicon Valley is much larger than the cool parts of Manhattan, so it's hard to envision a metropolis at Layne's scale.

Second, there's another difference between Manhattan and Manhattan 2.0 - something that Larry Rosenthal notes.

psst.. what made NYC great... WAS all the small shitty places full of immigrants who built its chaotic merged culture... anyhow... enjoy the dome Logan.

(If you don't know who Logan is, see this.)

Let me name a few Manhattan neighborhoods, and you can tell me how many of them remind you of a futuristic city with high-rise apartments and restaurants and museums. Harlem. Times Square. Hell's Kitchen. The Bowery. The Lower East Side.

I haven't spent an extensive amount of time in New York, but I've spent enough time there to know that the city isn't a series of gleaming spires. My one recollection of the Washington Square area of Greenwich Village was the guys wandering around asking, "Smoke? Smoke?" And when my dad and I took the New York subway during another visit, my dad was disgusted with the graffiti, and I was elated that we didn't run into any trouble. (Hey, Manhattan 2.0 people - are you going to pull Caltrain out and put the New York City subway in?)

Oh, and there's a third difference. Manhattan 1.0 took centuries to become the area that it is. You're not going to build a Manhattan 2.0 in the space of a few years - especially when you consider that the state of California is pretty much bankrupt. Exactly who is going to fund all of this massive development?

But if you really want to look Manhattan to see how it is a hotbed of tech, look at a technology company that's even older than Silicon Valley pioneer Hewlett Packard. Yes, I'm talking about IBM.

Except that IBM isn't based in Manhattan.

It's based in Armonk.

Out in the suburbs, off of Interstate 684.

No wonder we had a mortgage crisis - the lenders are clueless

I received a notice in the mail today. It's one of these "official notification" thingies with "Postmaster: Deliver to Addressee Only" but with the caveat "This is not a Government document."

Once I opened the thing, I found out that the Residential Finance Corporation of Columbus, Ohio had pre-qualified me for a loan of up to $238,000 under Fannie Mae's Home Affordable Refinance Program. I just have to call Residential Finance Corporation at their 877 number before January 27, 2013 to see if I qualify.

Many of you are yawning right now and wondering why I'm bothering to blog about something that you've been receiving for years.

Here's why I'm blogging about it: the notice was sent to my business address.

Yes, Residential Finance Corporation has offered a Fannie Mae HOME loan to a two-story BUSINESS building holding hundreds of people, smack dab in the middle of a business/industrial area.

Obviously if I called the 877 number, the loan offer would be retracted in about two seconds. I wouldn't get past the question "How long have you owned your home?" If I answered "Well, I've been in this cubicle since the fall of 2009," that would end the Fannie Mae process right there.

But I wonder why the Residential Finance Corporation didn't even bother to check that they were offering a home loan to a residential address.

How did they get my name and address? Probably from a corporate credit card (thanks, Corporate Credit Card Companies). Perhaps from some business-related mailing list. But regardless, they grabbed the data, said that the property was eligible for a home loan - AND NEVER CHECKED THE PROPERTY.

No wonder we had a home loan crisis a few years ago. Perhaps in 2007 this loan would have been approved.

In a larger sense, it makes you wonder how many business solicitations are sent out to ridiculous addresses - and phone numbers.

"I'm going to try the new telemarketing pitch on this prospective client. Her name is Jenny. Her phone number is 867-5309."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Today's bad spam story

One of the posts in my tymshft blog received a comment that was awaiting my moderation. The comment, which linked to some Holly Valance website, began as follows:

Thank you for every other excellent article.

So is the spammer saying that all of my other tymshft posts are great, but this one is terrible?

But before I rejected it and reported it as spam, I captured the remainder of the text for posterity's sake.

The place else may anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the look for such info.

Dear spammer, hope your presentation went well. Tell Holly I said hi, and that I realize that the mention of Holly Valance in a post will have the same result as my mentions of plumbing. Hang on...

P.S. I do not mean to anger legitimate Holly Valance fans, just the spammers. So if you are legimitately searching for information on Ms. Valance, I will provide you with one fact - her father's nickname is Rake.

Reminder to staffing services companies - you provide staff

Happy new year! I never did finish my retrospective for 2012, but right now I have to launch right into 2013.

Sean P.O. MacCath-Moran just received an email from a recruiter. The email includes includes at least four different fonts, two colors, and odd size changes (even in the middle of a sentence).

The content itself isn't much better. Here's an excerpt (using a single font style):

Our records show that you have past or current experience with skills fitting a current opening with our Direct End Client. Please be aware that our database has searched out your resume, so please accept my apologies if this requirement does not match your current or preferred job profile or location preference.

Surprisingly, MacCath-Moran did not respond positively to the highly personalized and detailed request from the recruiter. Read his Google+ post to see his comments, including his theories about why he was approached so unprofessionally.

But I got curious and wondered what the recruiting company - Sun Technologies - said about the quality staff that it could provide to companies. I figured that would be good for a laugh. Maybe the website would say that they carefully screen all candidates; of course, we know that careful screening consists of finding every living organism within a 5,000 mile radius with a resume that matches at least one key word.

So I went to Sun Technologies' About page. And this is what I found:

Sun Technologies® has been a trusted provider of Information Technology services and resources since 1996. We built a worldwide organization that specializes in IT and engineering services. Sun Technologies® offloads the burden and costs associated with finding and cultivating the right knowledge capital for implementing IT solutions.

Yes. They said "right knowledge capital."

And Sun Technologies went on, talking about "a CMMI Level 3 conforming process" and "many flexible engagement models" (for the companies) and more stuff.

Now CMMI Level 3 processes and flexible engagement models are not problems in and of themselves.

The problem is that the entire write-up - save for the aforementioned reference to "right knowledge capital" and a subsequent reference to "talent resources" - never actually talked about the PEOPLE that were going to be loosed in your Fortune 500 company. How does Sun Technologies find its candidates? Are they qualified? Why are Sun Technologies' candidates better than candidates offered by other firms?

This got me thinking. Years and years ago, I was placed in a company by another firm - then known as Kimtech, now known as Kimco Technology Group. I contracted via Kimtech for over a year and was finally hired by the company itself - as was another person.

So what does Kimco Technology Group think about its "knowledge capital" and "talent resources"? This is what Kimco says:

Kimco recruiting specialists draw on an extensive database of experienced, tested and carefully screened candidates with specific technical qualifications. It's because of our industry-specific focus, expertise, and connections that we can offer our candidates highly desirable positions that might not otherwise be readily available. We don't just place our candidates in a position and walk away. We take the time to get to know their specific personality and goals, find positions that best match, and help them be better prepared to find the best possible position available.

Now I should note that I have not worked for Kimco in over fifteen years, and there is a chance that the company no longer meets these high standards.

But at least Kimco's focus is in the right place. Yes, they have processes - but they also pay attention to the actual people that they find and place via these processes.

Kimco is not alone. I am aware of other staffing firms that take the time to work with their candidates to make sure that they are placed in contracts that benefit both the candidate and the company.

Unfortunately, Sun Technologies also is not alone. I have heard other stories of people who were contacted by recruiters based upon the flimsiest details - one person was contacted because of a technical skill the person had last used almost a decade ago, in a different state than the state in which the job opportunity was located.