Darfur – Tracy McGrady Visit with John Prendergast

Tracy McGrady, a Houston basketball player, visited Darfur. Details from the Chronicle (go THERE and COMMENT!)

Sept. 30, 2007,  8:15AM

McGrady on Africa: ‘I knew I had to go’

After a journey to refugee camps in Chad, NBA All-Star vows to spread the word about atrocities in Darfur

There was so much Tracy McGrady did not know. Not then, not in the beginning.

The Houston Rockets star had seen the news reports about the
atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan, where a genocide has
left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions more homeless
and living in bleak desert camps.

He had begun to educate himself with conversations with experts. But
he did not really understand what genocide means, how horrific the
tragedy was in Africa’s largest nation. (more)

Read the full article on Tracy McGrady’s visit to the Darfur Refugee camps in Chad.


tipdish is born – startup weekend Houston

We just finished the Tendenci User Conference so I am *not* at Startup Weekend Houston. But I have been following along this afternoon through twitter and ustream. Saw this link sent out by Erica:

tipDish is Born! – Tippers & Dishers

Think, the tipping point and “dishing“ the news. So, “bloggers,
podcasters, newspapers, radio people”¦anybody who gets information out
is a Disher. And the Tipper is anybody who has information they want to
get out, like a press release, news item, whatever.

Erica by the way has restarted her reinventing erica 90 day project and I hear something about live streaming plastic surgery!? We love her, but find her a bit odd at times. Really? ustream live plastic surgery?

Fostered Appearances and Worn Out Shoes

  worn out shoes 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

"When we think of those who present a false front or "only"
a front, of those who dissemble, deceive, and defraud, we think of a
discrepancy between fostered appearances and reality." – Erving
Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Pg 59

A long time ago in a land far away I was an Operations Manager at
Circuit City stores. This was before they got their ass kicked by Best
Buy. They were still relevant (I would like to think) back then. No
used car business, just hard core retail. Appearances and reality both.

Anyway, I was 26 and had moved up to being an Operations Manager. For
those of you who didn’t have the pleasure, this is typically considered
the number 2 person at a Super Store. I have to admit I loved the job.
Really. There is a rhythm to running a super store during the holidays.
A cadence. A high velocity rush of helping people and making money, and
well it was actually quite fun. My goal at the time was to be a Store
Manager, but that got busted when I quit (a WHOLE different blog post).

Back then the operations group reported up through district to an
district operations manager. A separate tree from the method they used
towards the end where everyone reported to the store manager and they
in turn reported to the DM, etc. So there were two hierarchies, but
damn if the ship didn’t run TIGHT.

So the shoes. I was in a meeting with my Ops DM. A young Ops myself
looking at this cat’s job as a career path. And I ran a good store so
we were talking about how to improve. What could be better. Who were
the future leaders. This was probably 8 PM because the DOM traveled. A
LOT. I wasn’t a high priority visit store (manage variances, eh? and
this was before Demming was cool) because we did well.

So there I am. Meeting my DOM. And I look down. Not far down as he had
one foot up crossing the other knee. Asking me about shrink. And I look
down and there is a hole in his shoe. Through the sole. A hole. At the
ball of the foot. Clean through. Step-in-a-puddle-soak-your-sock type
of hole in your shoe.

Being the person I am, and was back then as well, I stopped answering
his questions and stated bluntly "you have a hole through the bottom of
your shoe." and then something pithy like "you need new shoes" or "what
gives?" or maybe even "are you OK"?  

Continue reading “Fostered Appearances and Worn Out Shoes”

Very Direct Crisis Communications from Northern Rock

Northern Rock, the troubled bank in the UK is approaching Crisis Communications very very directly. The Northern Rock home page, as I type this starts out:

Your Funds are Safe with Northern Rock

Northern Rock would like to make it clear to all customers that we are open for business as usual. We remain
a sound company and continue to be a safe place for your savings.

The Chancellor has made it very clear that all existing savings accounts with Northern Rock are safe and secure
during the current instability in the financial markets.

Her Majesty’s Treasury has guaranteed:

  • All accounts existing at midnight on Wednesday, 19 September.
  • New deposits made into those existing accounts.
  • Future interest payments and movement of funds between existing accounts.
  • All accounts re-opened by customers who have previously asked us to close their account between
    Thursday, 13 September and Wednesday, 19 September.

So far so good. Direct assurances to customers that their funds are safe. But then it changes into the implausible. He asks for new business? Wahuh? I think this is being a bit too optimistic.

If, like many of our customers, you wish to reinvest funds with us, simply download and complete the Savings Reinvestment Form, enclose a cheque and post it back to the Savings Department address given in the form.

I do applaud them for being direct. Perhaps step back before asking for more business. Either way, this is candor and that is always a good start. This will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Schipul 10 Year Anniversary Party in Houston

  Cy Falls Ad 
  Originally uploaded by deneyterrio

Well, this is a nerve racking week. We are hosting our first ever Tendenci User Conference. With a bit over 330 clients as I type this, it was time. Doing it in style of course. Registration is currently a bit over 70 people, which ain’t bad but could be better. Lots to be done between now and Friday!

Perhaps the best part will be the goal line. The 10 year Schipul company anniversary party! Hosting it at Yao’s restaurant on Westheimer this Friday (yes they have a flash intro and a talking head – SORRY!). If you are a friend of the company, or perhaps even a friend of a friend please do register! We’d love to see you! H-town represent!

That photo? Some crazy project by @deneyterrio a few months back. We have a few more employees now-a-days, but it still cracks me up. Also be sure to check out his podcast site.

SXSW Voting Ends Tomorrow – Can I Get a VOTE!

Received an email from SXSW as a reminder that the SXSW 2008 Panel Picker voting ends TOMORROW! So quick, throw me a vote if you don’t mind! A full post on my proposed panels with SXSW is here. The four sessions I am listed on (oh, this is so self serving, sorry!) are:

  1. Pimp My Non Profit
  2. We Heart You!! — Growing Your Business From Within (vote)

  3. iPhone in the Enterprise

  4. The Art of Visual Thinking

While I am excited about all of the panels, I have to admit that with my involvement with the rocking people at Netsquared I really REALLY hope the Pimp My Non Profit panel makes. OK, now quit reading an GO VOTE!

Stretching Out of my Comfort Zone on Social Media Programs

  Originally uploaded by eschipul

An ongoing debate I have with our PR team revolves around the topic of "social media programs"
(I hate the use of the word "program" in this context BTW). And of
course we see a lot of companies announcing "social media consulting
services" and even entire new agencies focused on the topic of just
social media.

To me this is much like Nike and advertising. We all want to be Nike, but we are not ready to grow like Nike, which started in 1962 but did not begin advertising until 1980! From wikipedia:

By 1980, Nike had reached a 50% market share in the United States
athletic shoe market. Its growth was due largely to word of mouth
advertisement, rather than television or print adverts, which Knight
and others in the industry found distasteful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge comparing advertising and social media
is that a company CAN throw money at advertising. "Here is some money –
go buy me some ads." Perhaps they can even throw money at Public
Relations as an outside PR agency can and should come up with creative
ways to get people talking. Perhaps something as simple as a PR stunt. (or perhaps using cutesy chipmunk pictures on your blog. cough) It works.

Social Media on the other hand is different. In a draft article (activated a bit early due to the typepad.com feature I admit) we compare social media as a four step process:

  1. Consulting – defining objectives, LISTENING, measuring baseline, willingness assessments, etc.
  2. Training – knowledge transfer starts with student selection and teacher (you!) capabilities
  3. Recruiting – recruiting students with baseline knowledge is crucial to success in a complicated field
  4. Promotion – it IS ok to promote within reason and with disclosure

This article on social media
is still a draft in process. What are your thoughts? (hint – post a
comment people! I’ll love you for it. Or if this were a line in a movie
it would be called "you had me at submit")

Continue reading “Stretching Out of my Comfort Zone on Social Media Programs”

Speed and Quality – Quality Will Suffer First

  Jellyfish 4 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

Perhaps the book I have enjoyed reading the most over the last year is The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman.

We had a client situation come up today where they are really pressing for a free modification, and a good one, for the Tendenci software. But no budget. And a short time line. I so desperately wanted to say "yes!" But that would be bad.

Erving Goffman describes it as:

If the activity of an individual is to embody several ideal standards, and if a good showing is to be made, it is likely then that some of these standards will be sustained in public by the private sacrifice of some of the others. Often, of course, the performer will sacrifice those standards whose loss can be concealed… (pg 44)

In our particular situation we could easily do a quick-fix that might even placate the client. But it would bump back quadrant 2 activities. And fast isn’t always best. Back to Goffman:

So, too, if a service is judged on the basis of speed and quality, quality is likely to fall before speed because poor quality can be concealed but not slow service. (pg 45)

Or to put it another way, slow down, focus on quality, and fade the heat on time lines. It is always better long term to build a rock solid and secure product than it is to placate an impatient modification request. Even if you get beat up a bit in the process.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my job? And that jellyfish picture? Just a random photo from the Houston Aquarium that seemed to hint at hidden qualities. Like hiding quality to achieve speed.

This Blog is Dead. Long Live This Blog.

Houston Transtar 2
Originally uploaded by eschipul

In September of 2005 I started blogging. It was a reaction, a response, to the events of Katrina hitting New Orleans. And the Houston response. We now know a city of 400k was reduced to 200k with many of those who left living in Houston. But I digress.

My first blog post on Emergency RSS is pasted below in its entirety. Two years later I must say that we haven’t made much progress towards this particular goal. More after the jump.

September 13, 2005

Emergency RSS Proposal

This blog, written by an amateur, will hopefully evolve to be interesting to
others as well as affect change on a global basis.   And the best way to
affect change globally is to start locally.   To pick up the cigarette
butt on the corner.   Cliche?   Sure, but damnit it works.

The biggest screamingly loud demand, need, I see in the world of
social software is a distributed method of responding to a crisis.   We
just had Katrina hit and she was a bitch by any measure.   Lives were
lost.   Pause on that sentence, lives were lost.   The most sacred thing
we are capable of creating or destroying, lives, were lost as a result
of poor human organizational skills.   I don’t want to know who accepts responsibility, I want to know that disaster is prevented before it occurs.

To that end I want to state that we need a simplified RSS type
system to track data in an emergency.   No one site can handle all
emergency response.   Even if it could it would create a single point of
failure.   We need something as simple as RSS, call it emergency RSS or
ERSS, to handle the needs that arise in an emergency.

Let me step back and repeat the basis for the need.   With Katrina,
which hit in 2005, what I observed were numerous sites heroically put
up, only to go down once they were picked up by the blogosphere and the
media.   Go here for help “¦ everyone does globally including the curious
from other countries “¦. Server dies.   Nobody gets help.   Next site is
suggested.   Repeat the process.

Yet when it comes to blogs and news we can easily replicate with RSS
our posts.   Even if one server went down, the outline of the content
would still be cached at feedburner or similar.   So if in time of
crisis 10 sites had relevant content of who is looking for what, who
needs what, who needs to be dispatched where, then if one goes down you
still have 9 sites up and replication of 100% of the content on each
node.   This is just like DNS.   I am not inventing anything here.   I am
just screaming that we should have this in place for times of crisis

Continue reading “This Blog is Dead. Long Live This Blog.”

Nine Ways to Remember 9-11

A great re-post on Media Orchard’s blog – 9 ways to commemorate 9-11

  1. Fly an American flag.
  2. Take time to reflect on the loved ones you have lost during your lifetime.
  3. Treat people the way you did in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
  4. Listen at least twice as much as you talk.
  5. Don’t watch the major cable news channels.
  6. Don’t listen to talk radio. Same reason.
  7. Don’t read political blogs. Ditto.

…ya, I left you hanging. The last two, 8 and 9, are great … click through to Media Orchard for them.

66% Error Rates – um NO! “job emplyment oportunity”

I received an email from a job applicant last year with the following subject line (sic):

job emplyment oportunity

Now here is the problem. Two out of three words are spelled incorrectly. This is a 66.66% error rate. There are only three (3) words in the entire subject line!

In this case the student feels the email subject line doesn’t matter as that is just casual communication. But if entrusted with interacting with our clients surely he would spell every word correctly. He believed there is a difference between small actions and large actions. He believed that his behavior was different based on the "stakes".

Oh sure, yes the first client contact email would be
spell checked and double checked. But once familiarity sets in, we go
back to completely unprofessional communication (especially in the days
of automatic spell check!).

I like this quote, although it is more focused on leadership, the point remains; it is not the big actions, but rather the small actions that define us.

is a practice that requires self-discipline to hone and adapt the
thousands of small actions that result in others’ following you
" (3 of 4) – Dr. O’Brien

Small actions. Small details. As a student of leadership I have read over and over, and experienced
over and over, that there is a 100% correlation between small actions
and large actions. To judge a person fairly; first judge them by their small actions and then increase their responsibility.

Thanks to some amazing people – 10 years of business!

“A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” – unknown

As the reader has probably gathered, I run a small web design business in Houston Texas. 23 employees now that our summer interns have gone back to school. 300+ clients ish.

Well that small business is 10 years old today. I put in my notice at Lyondell Petrochemicals on 8/15/1997, worked my two weeks, and my first day solo was 9/1/1997. 10 years old today, which is September 1, 2007.

Sheeeeesh! 10 Years! Holy crap!

The main emotion I am feeling is thanks. THANKS to all of the people who have made this happen. I like that quote at the top because it highlights the very challenge. In fact *you* can’t do this, but *you* can build a team and that team can do close to anything. So in so many ways, I do not have a 10 year old business, I have just been lucky enough to assemble a team of brilliant people and have HUGE support from family and friends that allowed us this success.

Humble. At an emotional level that has to be the biggest emotion I am feeling.

The biggest thanks has to go to my wife Rachel of 17 years. Rachel has been the rock that held everything together. It is not easy being married to an entrepreneur, a word that also took me years to accept. But there it is. So THANKS RACHEL!

While many more thanks are in order, we have a few “birthday celebrations” coming up over the last two quarters of this year and I hopefully get a chance to thank most of those people in person. However I do have a few lessons learned that I wanted to share after the jump.

Continue reading “Thanks to some amazing people – 10 years of business!”