Houston negotiated a wifi deal that was too good to be true and….

Houston went through an elaborate process of bidding and approvals for a city-wide wifi deal that is now dead. Earthlink found it cheaper to pay The 5M contract penalty than to build the network. First the facts, and then I’ll move on to why this is the city’s fault and we got what we deserved. (thanks for the heads up Katie)

Houston’s Wi-Fi deal with EarthLink fades

With little fanfare, the City of Houston’s wireless network deal with EarthLink
has gone dead.

The Atlanta Internet service provider last week said it was not making any
future investments in its $40-million municipal wireless business.

In August, when EarthLink (NASDAQ: ELNK) announced it would cut 900 jobs,
Houston city officials said the citywide
Wi-Fi network
was still in the works despite already being behind schedule
by about three months due to infrastructure planning.

Houston city officials were unavailable for comment.

So what went wrong? Well, Earthlink, a COMPANY, couldn’t make money on the deal. The balance sheet said "the negotiators were using bad numbers and the city hood winked us." So they backed out. Which if you were an Earthlink shareholder is exactly what you would want them to do. So that part is a no brainer.

How did we get here? The bidding process was intense and lengthy.

Continue reading “Houston negotiated a wifi deal that was too good to be true and….”

Mustaches for Kids – Why am I doing this again Jason?

  Mustaches for Kids 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

Yup – I got talked into doing the Houston Mustaches for Kids. So give me some money for charity now dammit. OK, wait, I have to work on my approach. First a little of the hairy nitty gritty about M4k Houston.

Mustaches for Kids is a volunteer-run organization started in Los
Angeles in 1999 to do good and have fun by growing Mustaches for
children’s charities. Since its humble beginnings, Mustaches for Kids
satellite chapters have spread across the continent, a steady expansion
that is not unlike the measured, deliberate growth of a Mustache.
Through the years, Mustaches for Kids has enlisted the efforts of
hundreds of brave of Growers who, collectively, have raised over
$150,000 for charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, and San Francisco’s Legal Services for Children.

What can I do to help?

Well – I am glad you asked! You can pledge! So far I have one of my kids pledging 0.25 cents, but I think he might back out. So throw me a hairy bone here with a pledge! Because the beginnings are in place.

More details on pledging:

The minimum Pledge Goal for each Grower should be
$50.00 for the designated charity, but in no way should anyone be
discouraged from participating in the contest because he doesn’t think
he can make the Pledge Goal – $5 or $500, it goes to a good cause.
Please be aware of and obey all local laws when soliciting donations.

So my question is, would they have warned me about following local laws if this wasn’t a manly mustache competition? Are they AFRAID of the power of the stache? Inquiring minds want to know. So for now, post a comment if you wnat to pledge? I promise to REPRESENT well! And I leave you with a symbol.


Calculate Revenue and Profit Per Employee Over Time

This is not a detailed how-to post. Rather it is short, you will have to do most of the work yourself, but here is some help to calculate revenue and profit per employee over time. Specifically this is for a small business running Quickbooks.

My main goal was to be able to see head counts integrated with financial results by quarter. So if revenue was X and profit was Y in the third quarter, how many employees did we have at that time? Seems a reasonable question to me that was left unanswered by Quickbooks and Microsoft. So here goes:

Using Quickbooks

  1. run the "Employee Contact List" – this is on the reports menu
  2. click "modify report"
  3. Select the following fields:
    1. Employee
    2. Hire Date
    3. Release Date
    4. (uncheck everything else)
  4. go to the "filters" tab
    1. click "Active Status" and then "All" so you get a report of ALL employees
  5. At this point check that all employees that are "inactive" have a "release date" – if not I recommend you fix it here. Refresh your report.
  6. Export to Excel
  7. I’d also recommend you "memorize" this report to get back to it easier next year.

The next steps take place in Excel. More after the jump:

Continue reading “Calculate Revenue and Profit Per Employee Over Time”

Radical Transparency and the Back Channel

One of the meme du jour’s of the blogosphere is the promulgation of corporate radical transparency. It is here! It is here!

I am a big fan of transparency. And we walk the talk with shared financials internally and close trusted communications with clients, resellers and employees. Yet there IS value in not being completely transparent. Value that you can lose by adhering to complete "radical transparency" in the extreme.

Let’s jump back into history on the importance of "getting around bureaucracy". Processes are put in place for a reason; you can’t scale a business without them. They are the "what to do" that gives the team self confidence. They know how to run a play to use a cheesy sports analogy. But sometimes you fumble. And when that happens you need to quickly pick the ball up. And hopefully you can accomplish this without the other team even seeing it.

In other words, sometimes you go around procedures to accomplish the greater good. You need a "back channel."

"Often we find that if the principal ideal aims of an organization are to be achieved, then it will be necessary at times to by-pass momentarily other ideals of the organization, while maintaining the impression that these other ideals are still in force. In such cases, a sacrifice is made not for the most visible ideal but rather for the most legitimately important one." – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman, pg 45

And he continues with a quote from Page

"For the informal structure serves the very significant role of providing a channel of circumvention of the formally prescribed rules and methods of procedure. No organization feels that it can afford to publicize these methods (by which certain problems are solved, it is important to note) which are antithetical to the officially sanctioned and, in this case, strongly sanctioned methods dear to the traditions of the group." – "Bureaucracy’s Other Face" – Social Forces, Charles Hunt Page (quoted from Goffman pg 46).

Alright – so one more time in English. There has to be a way to get around processes to solve problems. But those ways around the system must remain hidden or EVERYONE would use them, and well there you have a new process. You need both. And Radical Transparency does not afford this common sense approach. We seek a balance.

Deb Fortune – May God Bless You and Go In Peace

I have the privilege of working for some amazing clients. To serve them. One amazing person, someone I   learned as much from as she hopefully did from us, is Deb Fortune. Deb passed away on November 9th. I just found out. And it is tremendously sad news.

Deb Fortune could only look at how to move forward, never how to step back. If you did step back she was reaching out, grabbing your hand, and once again showing you the way forward. Racing you to pick up the lunch tab. Smiling. Crossing cultural and generational boundaries as few can actually do. Yet she could. All the while her quick wit, and sometimes a dab of sarcasm, would make you smile knowing she was right.

From Deb’s site:

“There is nothing more exciting than to be involved with an organization that builds a high performance culture through development and implementation of their values, vision, and guiding behaviors. Helping to build on an organization’s strengths to shape an environment where individual and organizational health can be achieved is truly rewarding.“   – Deb Fortune

To borrow from her quote – working with Deb was “truly rewarding.” Deb was a driven person. Not by money as she had achieved that. Yet she did not have an off button when it came to topics she was passionate about. One of those topics was corporate culture.

“Culture is like the water fish swim in. It is an integral part of their environment; they are surrounded by it every day. Its effects can be felt, yet it remains unseen.” – Deb Fortune

I knew Deb initially from a professional relationship. But she became a friend. Not sure if she really could do business long term with someone she didn’t like, and to me that is a huge compliment. I made the cut. Yea! Thanks Deb!

From her obituary on the chronicle site:

DEBORAH JANE GIBBONS FORTUNE was born on June 13, and died at her home
in The Woodlands on November 9, 2007. She is survived by her children,
Jennie, Josh, Katie, stepchildren Beth and Tara, and seven
grandchildren: Pete, Jhett, Jonas, Alexander, Cynthia, Jennifer and
Christopher. Deb was 59, and gave life and love to all those around
her. She trusted that the Lord would put her where she was meant to be,
and this wisdom lifted her into His arms, out of pain, and with her
family in Heaven.

I’ll paste Deb Fortune’s full CV after the jump, mainly because it is simply too important to risk the record not being retained. In closing this post I’d like to say

“Deb – you will be missed greatly. You made the world a better place and your family is blessed to have had you in their lives. May God bless you and go in peace Deb. Go in peace.”

Continue reading “Deb Fortune – May God Bless You and Go In Peace”

Best Advertising Slogan Ever Written

There is little if anything I could add to Nick Padmore’s obsessive linguistic analysis of the best copy shots and advertising slogans ever written. While I desperately want to tell you the results, to blog post the best ad slogan ever written, that would be wrong. So go read it:

Greatest Copy Shot Ever Written

…So what makes good copy good? Perhaps we can find out by considering what’s made the best of the best”¦the best.

In the year 2000, some of the stars of creative advertising during the 20th century nominated 115 best slogans, straplines, taglines, and headlines, all of which could broadly be … (READ)

A Message Few Want to Hear on Veterans’ Day

  Texas State Capital Building 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

On Veterans Day we thank our veterans for their service. I would like to personally thank our veterans. Especially all of the veterans in my own extended family.

One thing we don’t talk about on Veterans’ Day is the need for the rest of us to sacrifice. The recent Houston Bond elections are a great example of this. We don’t want to raise taxes so instead we borrow money for future generations to pay off at a higher price.

As a community we had two other options. 1) live without and 2) raise taxes to pay for our expenses. I hate higher taxes so option 1 would probably be my choice. But people don’t want to hear "no".

There are times when you need bonds, but mostly not so much. Yet the Harris County voter propensity is to pass all bonds with few exceptions. Which is great for me. But not for your kids.

Loren Steffy says it very well in his column (the column was not about bonds, I just like the quote) in the Houston Chronicle today. His words from It’s hard to save $1 trillion:

As a nation, we are spending ourselves into a corner. We now face fiscal dilemmas that can only be addressed by huge numbers.

We embrace the comfort of unrealistic solutions so we don’t have to confront the difficult answers.

The real answer is the one few in Congress want to give because few in America want to hear it.


Our current course of spending beyond our means is unsustainable, and the longer we wait to address the problem, the greater the sacrifice will be.

That’s the answer that should give us all pause.

Happy Veterans Day! And on that note, we all need to sacrifice a bit as our veterans have. Now go buy a used smaller car please. Oh wait….

The Opera Singer is Never Famous in their Own Hometown

I wish I could remember where I read that. Or if it was just a saying someone told me. But I do know that this:

The Opera Singer is Never Famous in their Own Hometown

is true. The familiarity factor makes people assume you are of lesser value. For the opera singer the solution is simple – go spend a year studying in Rome. Then you are the "Italian trained opera singer" and not from wherever you are really from. Unless of course your Italian in which case you have to go someplace else, but I digress.

And it isn’t just my opinion. For example best selling author Tess Gerritsen, someone far more prominent that little old business me, comments on the hometown not famous phenomenon in Maine on her blog.


A few months ago, I was delighted to be invited to be one of the two commencement speakers for the University of Maine graduation ceremony in Orono this May.

only to have a student write a letter to the editor including the following comment.

When the University of Maine announced the commencement speakers, the names Tess Gerritsen … fell on somewhat disappointed ears. Students may not be aware that Tess Gerritsen is a local mystery author

Surely we all realize calling a person of such accomplishments a "local mystery writer" is an injustice. But yet we all think this way.

While I have personal Houston based anecdotes, it wouldn’t exactly help me to blog them. Humans are so funny sometimes. Apparently even Faulkner wasn’t famous in his hometown. Go figure. Does anyone have a name for this phenomenon from psychology? I am very curious.

HBJ Article on Accessibility Posted

The Houston Business Journal was very kind to me and ran a byline on Accessibility in this week’s paper. The timing is perfect because today is Knowbility’s Accessibility Internet Rally Houston Rally. AIR is about teams of designers building accessible web sites for non profits for free all in one day.

It is also very cool that the chairman of the AIR rally this year is Houston’s own Richard Yoo of Rackspace. Congrats Richard!

From the article:

Don’t be a target: Web site compliance with ADA accessibility

Houston Business Journal – by Ed Schipul

Is the Internet a "public place?" And if so, are virtual
environments subject to the regulations spelled out in the Americans
with Disabilities Act?

Those may seem like rhetorical questions, but they could have enormous implications for any business with a Web site.

Just ask Target Corp. The National Federation for the Blind is
suing the retailer alleging that its Web site isn’t accessible to the
visually impaired. The lawsuit cites violations of the ADA’s
accessibility requirements and other state laws. It alleges that Target.com
"excludes the blind from full and equal participation in the growing
Internet economy that is increasingly a fundamental part of the common
market place and daily life."

(read the rest on the HBJ site here)

A big thank you from me as well to the Schipul team and the Tendenci team both participating in the rally today. Our jobs are hard enough and y’all are putting in extra time to help out non-profits. THANK YOU!

OpenSocial APIs Published on Google Code

After all of the OpenSocial hype, I was pretty excited this morning when OpenSocial’s API and video training went live on the net. (youTube OpenSocial video is a bit bigger)

As a recap – OpenSocial is a way for developers to develop applications that can be used on multiple social web sites. So you can write once, and have it work on linkedin or orkut or a host of other providers.

This is a good thing. Even if you aren’t a developer – you want happy developers because they can do more to serve you at a lower cost. And everyone likes low cost / high value propositions, right?

My personal interest is to be able to leverage OpenSocial to extend the functionality of Tendenci for associations. Our company of course wrote Tendenci starting over six years ago, but luckily it is very object based and can already authenticate against several different APIs. So our programming team is quite busy right now. And this too is a good thing.

Thanks Google!

Courts: a journalist is anyone who does journalism

I saw this on blogrunner and thought it relates to the Public Relations community debate on social software. Excerpt regarding the courts’ view of bloggers versus reporters. (note: emphasis added by me)

No US court has yet weighed in with authority on the debate about
whether bloggers count as journalists, but the recent federal decision
from South Carolina does indicate that at least some
bloggers are journalists. It’s not about the title, it’s about the
said Judge Henry Hurlong, Jr.; a journalist turns out to be
anyone who does journalism
, and bloggers who do so have the same rights
and privileges under federal law as the "real" journalists.

Unlike pornography which is much harder to define, "a journalist is some who does journalism". Interesting. And, well, there it is.

Club Rights Extended to Visitors; the Open Social Dilemma

  American Kennel Club Hounds 
  Originally uploaded by eschipul

I woke up around 3:30 AM today thinking about three concepts.

  1. Club Rights and their extension to visitors. More on this below.
  2. Familiar Stranger concept (Milgram) and;
  3. Open Social and it’s implications on concepts 1 and 2 in social software.

By the extension of club rights to visitors I am referring to our
tendency to "take into the fold" a stranger based on certain criteria.
So a police officer from Detroit will be given a pat on the back and
treated as "one of our own" when visiting a police officer’s pub in New
York. "Club rights" have been extended to the visitor because of her
status as a police officer.

Goffman on club rights

It is interesting to note that when teammates come into
contact with a stranger who is their colleague, a sort of ceremonial or
honorific team membership may be temporarily accorded the newcomer.
This is a visiting-fireman complex whereby teammates treat their
visitors as if he had suddently come into very intimate and
long-standing relationships with them. Whatever their associational
prerogatives, he tends to be given club rights. – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman, pg 162

So we "take care of our own" even if they are strangers.

The second concept has been talked about more frequently and it is the Familiar Stranger.
We all have experienced this. The person you see in building year after
year but never talk to. Yet when you stumble into them on the metro in
Paris you are like "wow! How are you! What a coincidence! My name is
Bob. Do you want to travel together?" – so suddenly this stranger is
your best friend given the foreign location. We, as humans, are quite
odd actually. OK, back to the subject.


With both club rights and the familiar stranger time is the
un-talked-about variable. We extend club rights to the visiting fireman
if he is VISITING. If he moves to our town and takes a job as a gym
manager, well, he is out of the club. Extension of club rights is
temporary. If he wants to live here he must join the club.

More after the jump.

Continue reading “Club Rights Extended to Visitors; the Open Social Dilemma”