Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

At this time of year, it's natural that our sense of charity is heightened. The weather is turning colder, we spend time thinking about how fortunate we are. Many often respond to this by volunteering. It's a great way to give back, pay our good fortunes forward and generally feel good about contributing to society.

The problem is that with volunteering, your options can be limited. While volunteering at a soup kitchen or sorting food at the food bank is valuable and rewarding work it can be problematic. The hours required may not fit with your work or family schedule, leaving you with only five hours to volunteer a month versus 15-20hrs on a "non-traditional schedule". Physical labour or administrative work can get tedious, while the end result is good, the monotony can get to you. Well of Change aims to bridge this gap.

 By looking at your own unique skills you can surely find something that you can share with others to raise money for a good cause. Even if you can't think of anything (just think a little harder) one way you can give back is to acquire a service being offered by one of the Many service providers. If you've been thinking of buying a book or need to get a gift for a baby shower, why not double your pleasure by contracting a service  that will help a charity? In this season of thanksgiving, and heading into the season of giving, we can all use more ways to give back to our communities and those less fortunate.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fundraising Efficiency

No matter what a charity a does, who leads, where it serves, nine times out of ten when it seeks assistance the question posed is:

"What's your efficiency?"

People often expect charities and nonprofits to to have 0 administrative costs which is impossible. This isn't a sustainable practice for any charity looking to make a large impact. There needs to be people dedicated full-time to a worthy endeavour. Few people have the means to make this happen. There have been some disappointing headlines recently about charities with massive golden parachutes and less than stellar visibility.  The efficiency of some large charitable organizations running lotteries and big galas is suspect. While the non-profit sector is not where you should look to get rich, you shouldn't have to live at the poverty-line either.

Enter MoneySense, they looked at the the top charities in Canada in terms of the cost of raising $100. The goal is to provide increased transparency for potential donors. They categorize charities to ensure you're comparing apples-to-apples. With increased confidence that you're money is being put to good use, the hope is that you'll find greater satisfaction in donating your time and talents to charities.

Related Posts:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Perception of Value

In business, you get what the market believes you are worth. This is why so many website logos have reflections, and use a similar font. This is why there are so many "me-toos". They know what those solutions are worth, and they become a checklist for how to get things done. All the little things they do, we'll do. Whether it's valuable or not.

This month's big question at the Learning Circuits blog is around the effectivness of audio in eLearning. When should a professional voice be used? Should it be dropped altogether? Is text-to-speech sufficient?

Looking at this from the business-side, less from an academic effectiveness, I think about:
What will the client think if we drop the audio narration?

 When you go to a restaurant and see that the portions have been reduced, do you think it's because cost of goods have gone up? Is the restaurant trying to help me lose weight? Or - they're cutting back to save a few bucks.

That's exactly what many customers may think when they see content without audio. For many years we've been espousing the benefits of having multimedia, and different types of learners etc. For us to now turn around and take it away or switch to cheaper alternatives - the perception must be acknowledged. I really liked Cathy Moore's post about how audio can be restricting. I do feel that for myself. The problem I have is that without having the customer come to that conclusion themselves, they will think we are cutting corners. As always - research doesn't matter, the perception prevails that more is better. What the customer believes, the customer will pay for.

Related Posts
Do we really need narration?
Voice-over in eLearning

Enterprise Consolidation

Some interesting insight on consolidation by lrnr. This was sparked by the acquisition of by Taleo. It seems like a a natural progression given the rest of the market.

An interesting point Ani makes is that enterprise consolidation seems diametrically opposed to the web's social software which takes a more plug and play stance (read: open social). I think this all comes down to the almighty dollar. Enterprise consolidation is all about fully branding customers with a complete "solution". Not leaving an inch in related verticals where a competitor could unseat them. With

Many of the social apps are small startups, looking to join a bustling ecosystem. The best way to do that is to play well with others.

In an enterprise license what should small niche players do? Integrate with a big guy and hope they acquire you? or stay open and adaptable to the entire system? which leaves you vulnerable if the established players decided to build or buy. Working with partners can be tricky. It can be a fine line between leech and symbiote.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your moment has passed

Sadly on Friday Bloglines announced that they will be shutting down the site on Friday. Why? What does this mean?

Officially they cite focus, but really it's a shrinking non-profitable product. Other sites like Netvibes and Pageflakes have worked to integrate and try and monetize their users better, they've branded and added features like podcasting.  The RSS aggregator itself has been completely commoditized by browsers, email and even some OS'. Worse than that is Twitter. When RSS came out, it was a huge productivity hack. "Push" enabled content authors to get content to all audiences without them having to continually check for themselves. Getting an RSS update was knowing when new content was there as quick as you could check your page. It was like real time. But it wasn't, now twitter - that is real-time.

While RSS has grown immensely in popularity (hence the commoditization) anyone I know who doesn't bear a self-appointed geek badge doesn't know or use RSS. In that same category of users, they aren't using twitter either, but it is gaining popularity. Most sites and content authors do publish content to twitter. RSS to twitter is a popular go-between but not mandatory.

RSS has been sacrificed by real-time communications like Twitter. RSS had its time and is certainly not dead but it is clearly on the decline. What was a simple, promising and popular technology has been eclipsed by the next big thing. Sooner or later it happens to the best of us.

Related Posts:
RSS v. Twitter

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Simplicity, Tier 1 and making pigs fly

Tier 1 solutions are typically large robust solutions that are implementation heavy. In other words - not simple. Each Tier1 has a great deal of inertia in the form of business rules. Some make more sense than others, but all must be implemented! These pigs must fly! These are the requirements - make it happen.

Apple is the icon of simple elegant design. Doing specific things very well. But will scope creep infect Apple? The major reasons this doesn't happen is that Steve Jobs runs things with well-documented incredibly iron-fisted discipline. Conventional thinking said that serious business users wouldn't submit to Steve's way or the highway. The fallacy was two fold:
  1. in an increasingly complex and information overloaded society people like simple and elegant solutions
  2. people want to be cool Apple is the new cool, and lots of execs want to be hip. That's why they now pay lip-service to things like usability and read stuff on their ipads.
Mid-market out of the box software is the Apple of enterprise software, little configurability but works well with the pareto principle. The tier 1 solution, is a platform, you name it it can do it. But it'll cost you. You can get a consultant to make pigs fly. However if your archaic requirement for wings be made in wax don't get pissed when they melt in the sun.

Apple has added terrible multi-tasking to relent to requests. What's next? I'm interested to see that as apple continues to grow their customer-base will they submit to feature-creep to gain people who want more options (such as droid?). Will they be able to balance simplicity and feature-creep? Most tier 1's have tried with some of the brightest minds with little success thus far.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Online stores versus on Brick & Mortar

It's really difficult to find a non-mainstream CD at local stores. Music has been reduced to big box electronic and bookstores. The former "music" stores are now focusing on DVDs and blu-rays. You can still find your favourite artist online order a CD or download their album. More likely you'll download just the single but that's another rant.

Shopping for sunglasses online i went to a large discount sunglass store I was struck by one clause on one page.
"we encourage you to go to a local store and try on the glasses first before you order"
WTF. Please, go see the inventory, ask the staff questions, get service from them since we can't offer that service, but we've got cut-throat prices so we'll take your money off their backs. I've never purchased clothing or accessories online so i've never really thought about it but this is pretty commonplace with many online outlets. Looking at a leader at online shopping Zappos, they offer free shipping even on returns which would seem to be a necessary requirement. I wonder if you'd be dropped as a customer if you were to "try before you buy" ordering and returning multiple models.

Like most I'm not sure what the internet is going to do to many industries - retail included. If the internet retail continues to evolve and it seems logical with low logistical costs enabling razor thin margins many brick and mortar stores will go the way of the record store. One thing is certain there is a clear ethical issue with profitting off the physical presence and labour of a competitor.

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had - Eric Schmidt


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Volunteering that offers purpose and more

I recently finished reading Drive by Dan Pink. This book challenges  the current management carrot & stick ethos. His basic contention is that some incentives can suck the enjoyment and results for creative, and intrinsically rewarding tasks.

He cites some very interesting research and anecdotes that back up his hypothesis. One in particular speaks of a study at the efficiency of donating blood. Turns out that when people were paid to give blood, donations decreased. When people were compensated it eliminated the good feeling from doing an altruistic act. The pillars of intrinsic motivation call for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Volunteerism has intrinsic motivation, looking at Pink's criteria it clearly provides purpose. We all feel good about performing a self-less act for others. However when we look at many typical volunteer opportunities, they lack autonomy or mastery. Stuffing envelopes, serving food, donating blood etc. Enter Well of Change

Well of Change is a new non-profit organization fuelled by a small but passionate group. It's an online marketplace to increase volunteerism. They're like the Craigslist for volunteering. You can provide services to people in exchange for a donation to a charity.  People can feel altruistic in donating their time and talents while performing a task which offers them autonomy and mastery. A hairdresser can style hair in aid of Mount Sinai. A mechanic could rotate your tires in aid of the Scott Mission. On the other side, people are purchasing services while supporting charities which is a noble task as well.

If you're looking for a way (purpose) to give back to a charity you like while doing something you love (mastery) on your own terms (autonomy). Check out Well of Change, you could offer you skills to support a cause near to you. You might even find people offering services you need.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose? Check, check and check. Well of Change should make Dan Pink proud.