To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the publishing of Information Age Management :: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace, the price of both books have been slashed!
At Amazon.com and BN.com, you can get the Kindle versions or the NOOK versions of Information Age Management for $2.99, and Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix is available for only $0.99.
Many thanks to the folks who have purchased, read, and given feedback about the books over the past year. Know that you were on the vanguard and hopefully, you benefited from the information and skills you gained. Now everyone else can experience Information Age Management, even if they were sitting on the fence before. But don’t worry: those of you who bought the book this past year will still have a headstart on them!
An article from InfoWorld has a great take on adopting the cloud, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, much of Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix deals with Software as a Service and other aspects of the cloud.
Those of you who have read my book know that I am a believer in the “strong sysAdmin” approach to IT. I believe that an IT infrastructure without an agile, competent, creative, and empowered sysadmin is like a captain without a ship. Further, many companies put so many decisions in the hands of ineffective managers (ie – managers who have not adopted Information Age Management) that they hamstring their technical staff and cause no end to problems. (Note: Get my book to learn how to avoid this pitfall.)
In today’s article, Paul Venezia makes the point wonderfully:
You might be eager to relinquish responsibility of a cranky infrastructure component and push the headaches to a cloud vendor, but in reality you aren’t doing that at all. Instead, you’re adding another avenue for the blame to follow. The end result of a catastrophic failure or data loss event is exactly the same whether you own the service or contract it out. The difference is you can’t do anything about it directly. You jump out of the plane and hope that whoever packed your parachute knew what he or she was doing.
The cloud can be wonderful but hosting your infrastructure off-site is not a solution in-and-of itself. It may give you indemnification in case of failure but worrying about indemnification is a wimp’s game. You want your infrastructure to work and the only way to make that happen is to have excellent technical people with the power to control your infrastructure.
In my book, Information Age Managment, I explain how to properly choose a cloud vendor and how you, as a manager, should handle them. I also explain how to find and keep excellent systems administrators and helpdesk staff, so you will have the skills on-site to deal with problems as they arrive.
You can get the book at Amazon.com or BN.com.
According to this article at NetworkWorld.com, American companies are still unable to adapt to the modern workforce well enough to fill vacancies.
This is the premise behind my book, Information Age Management. To wit: that in order for companies to stay competitive with a full staff of excellent workers, modern IS managers must shift away from Indstrual Age management styles and to what I describe as Information Age Management.
Anyone who has worked for a successful tech startup has likely experienced this. In fact, we can learn a lot from the following aspects of the typical tech startup:
- they use technology for work like most people use technology for play
- each worker has a distinct role (or several distinct roles), rather than a title
- there is usually a glorious lack of an established, Industrial Age, on-site, 9-5 corporate culture
This blend may be why startups can be so successful at challenging behemoths in the tech industry when doing so would be much harder in other industries. But the good news is that any business in any industry can incorporate Information Age Management and that doing so is beneficial to both employers and employees, so it creates a happier and more productive work environment. In fact, that was part of the original promise of the internet, twenty years ago: that workers and companies would have more flexibility to get their work done and to hire whom they like. But that hasn’t happened. Here is how I put it in my book:
…if your management style does not become as flexible as the legitimate services that make up today’s world, you risk becoming less legitimate. If that happens, your workers will stop taking you seriously and they’d be right to stop taking you seriously because this lack of flexibility does not stem from a failure of desire nor from a failure of technology. It’s a failure of management.
That means that a manager today has a rare opportunity to embrace non-traditional work styles and by doing so, he can get the best and brightest workers, produce the most innovative results, and reap the resulting economic rewards.
Today’s article in NetworkWorld.com is not unique; in my book, I cite other articles that reach the same conclusion: companies cannot fill their IT vacancies, even at a time of low employment. And I also describe rampant inefficiencies that many companies take for granted as a necessary evil but which serve no one and are not necessary at all. Flexibility is not difficult when you learn how to be flexible safely. And it is no longer an option if you want to stay competitive. Things are tough out there; those who can’t bend might just break.
There is a fantastic article in ITWorld.com and a complimentary blog post by JPL Consulting that discusses NDAs and why you shouldn’t ask a developer to sign one.
I found the article insightful and the blog post spot-on in that it mirrors my own thinking and some of the thoughts I shared in my book, Information Age Management.
The JPL Consulting post mentions that your idea is probably not so unique that it requires an NDA – and that by signing this NDA, a developer is agreeing not to work on a wide range of types-of-projects that are his bread and butter. It also points out that starting a conversation this way gets your relationship with your developer off on the wrong foot.
I couldn’t agree more. In Information Age Management, I explain how to find a good developer and outsource a project to him or her. I also say that you should not ask the developer to sign an NDA. If your idea is so unique, get a patent. That’s what patents are for. Otherwise, you risk losing the best developers and looking more than a little amateurish.
There’s also an excellent section of the JPL Consulting post that says “NDAs Have Their Place.” Indeed they do! As the post points out, NDAs are great for very specific projects. They are also important – critical, even – when your developer will be dealing with private customer data. But oddly, entrepreneurs seem to ask for NDAs when they have what they consider to be unique and fascinating ideas but forget to ask for one when their customer data is on the line.
You can read the article in ITWorld.com here: http://www.itworld.com/software/268152/will-write-code-wont-sign-nda
and the blog post by JPL Consulting is here: http://blog.jpl-consulting.com/2012/04/why-i-wont-sign-your-nda/.
They’re each worth a read.
This is great news for open-source advocates and in a small but meaningful way, for the U.S. government and citizens. Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a United States government federal agency, announced that it uses open-source software and will contribute its source code back to the community. You really don’t get much better than that when it comes to government accountability and contribution in this digital age.
From the CFPB website:
Until recently, the federal government was hesitant to adopt open-source software due to a perceived ambiguity around its legal status as a commercial good. In 2009, however, the Department of Defense made it clear that open-source software products are on equal footing with their proprietary counterparts.
We agree, and the first section of our source code policy is unequivocal: We use open-source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfill our mission. [Emphasis Original]
The post also gives a good basic explanation of what source code is, what open-source means, and why it matters. This is definitely a good read. You can find the full post here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/the-cfpbs-source-code-policy-open-and-shared/
In my book, Information Age Management, I point out webcams are not a good idea in an office environment. I bring this up in the appendix, where I discuss VOIP and Skype amongst many other technologies that help maintain excellent workflow between colleagues who do not share an office.
Now, I love Skype – even though it’s not Open-Source software. I love it not only because it it offers IM (which is what productive teams tend to use as their go-to communications medium, at least at present) and Voice (which means you get to play Charlie of Charlie’s Angels), as well as the critical-but-underused screen-sharing, but because it encrypts these services. I discuss this encryption and how much you can trust it in my book and in The Technology Appendix. The upshot is that I would prefer a FOSS alternative. But until some of the FOSS alternatives are robust enough, I’ll stick with Skype. Oh: I also love that you can get a phone number with Skype. That means that I can use the same setup with Skype and non-Skype users alike.
But Skype can also be used for video conferencing. In fact, when I recently suggested a Skype call with someone I’d just met, my friends had a friendly laugh at my expense and I was told that “to Skype” is a euphamism for being naughty on a webcam, as Urban Dictionary describes best.
So if webcams in the office create an unnecessary burden on workers, offer nothing in return (as I assert), and have such a naughty reputation, why are they still here? Personally, I blame the Hollywood directors who inspired a generation of well-meaning but technologically-challenged managers to believe that ‘video phone is the wave of the future’ or some such nonsense and left it at that. These managers might do well to read my book.
Fortunately, someone agrees with me – at least as far as webcams and Skype are concerned:
Ultimately Skype will be an unstoppable force in screen sharing. … It is interesting to see how screen sharing is hugely important for a productive long-distance meeting, and video (of a talking head) is actually not.
That is a re-quote attributed to Jan Schultink (@JanSchultink) from this blog post (emphasis added).
Wendy Ryan at Salary.com published an article entitled “Can they ask that? Illegal interview topics.” The article breaks down some common interview questions that are of questionable legality, which can come up in a job hunt. You can read the article here: http://www.salary.com/can-they-ask-that-illegal-interview-topics/
In my book, Information Age Management: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace, I devote an entire section (Section III) to How to Find and Keep Good Workers. The chapters within that section break down as follows:
- Writing a Good Help Wanted Ad
- Online Job Application and Screening Applications
- First Contact Protocol
- In Conclusion – Hiring Workers
I begin by explaining what sort of workers the modern company needs and then I detail how to make the correct impact using effective help wanted posts, online job boards, et. al. I also explain how to interview a new worker, particularly for a technical position.
The philosophy of Information Age Management is to focus on results above all else. As such, the sorts of questions that Salon.com (correctly) points out as being common are not only legally iffy but they are also superfluous and a sign of a poorly managed company – or at least a poor interviewer.
Once you’ve read Information Age Management and digested the philosophy and techniques that lead to a more productive workplace, you’ll be in a position to ask better questions, get better personnel, keep them, and find success together.
Information Age Management: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace
is available from Amazon.com and BN.com.
A timely article has just appeared in ITWorld.com asking what it is that Google gets out of offering the extensive storage and bandwidth needed to provide the free Google Voice. From the article:
The article in ITWorld.com also points out another possibility:
The reasonable line is that Google wants to get much, much better at speech-to-text, and at understanding what people really want when they say things out loud. By having all your friends leave their voicemails on your Google Voice account, then clicking to mark them as useful or not, and then further sending the message to Google if was a really bad miss, Google will get better at understanding all the ways that humans say things.
Although the “reasonable line” is almost certainly accurate, it may not be the complete picture. And regardless of the reasons Google is tracking voice patterns, the tracking would appear to be taking place. I make the following point about Google in the appendix to Information Age Management:
Google is open about the fact that it keeps search history, voiceprints, and much more information in order to profile its users, thereby increasing its business offerings to its partners. And Google is also collecting the data of the people you communicate with over these channels – whether they’ve agreed to Google’s terms of service or not.
Although there is every reason to think that Google keeps this data as secure as it can, it is a large amount of personal data for any organization to have. And there is no guarantee that it will be kept secure from future Google ownership, authoritarian governments, hackers, and other adversaries who want to benefit from this enormous resource.
To support this last point, I point the reader to the following article that appeared in Wired.com on January 14, 2010:
My book continues this train of thought by proposing ways to find a good SaaS (Software as a Service) provider. To wit:
The best course of action when choosing an SaaS provider is to find one with a strong reputation for maintaining the integrity and security of its data and for maintaining robust privacy and data retention policies. Then talk to them about encryption and about adopting the AGPL.
You can read more about SaaS by purchasing Information Age Management or by downloading Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix with Pay-With-a-Tweet.
The article from ITWorld.com is available here: http://www.itworld.com/mobile-wireless/261490/what-does-google-want-out-your-voice
There’s a wonderful study that’s just been done on how big US firms use open source software.
From the study:
In a summary, our results show that the adoption of OSS in large US companies is significant and is increasing over time ….
The researchers searched web server logs, among other things, and broke the results down by industry (Retail, Manufacturing, etc.) You can find the full article here:
If you’re as old as I am, this article will give you a chuckle. It’s about the 20 iconic tech sounds the next generation won’t know about .
I find it funny because just last week, I was discussing three of them: the sound of a typewriter, that of a modem trying to make its connection, and a busy signal.
Here’s the Article
Posted in Jason's Blog