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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Badge of Humanity

Review – The Badge of Humanity

The Badge of Humanity is the upshot conclusion story in the Obolonks trilogy. It moves the action into more of the Peri-Dave romance. But it also follows to showing how she, Dave, and Tommy finally solve the murders.
The Badge of Humanity
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles. They both play off the police props of badges and walking a beat.

Background for The Badge of Humanity

When I first started to write The Obolonk Murders, I had no plan and no idea it would turn into three books. At this point, I knew I really needed to finish up already. One thing Untrustworthy has proven, over and over again, is the value of an outline.

I knew the end had to happen, so the two biggest parts were solving the murders and, in some way, dealing with the Peri-Dave romance.

Plot

Peri has to solve the last of the puzzle as more Obolonks are threatened. She senses they are the key to humanity’s future as the human population has swollen so much that it will soon overrun every inhabitable orb in the solar system. As Tommy continues to seek what is essentially humanness – the badge of humanity – Peri and Dave’s relationship heats up. There are too many distractions and the president of the solar system also seems to have something to hide.

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Secondary characters of note are Tommy 2000 (with a Tommy McFarland alias so as to cover up his robot identity), Dave Shepherd, Greg Shapiro, Akanksha Kondapalli, and the president of the solar system, Ms. Fankald Williams. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis on Earth, to Venus, Callisto, and Eris.

Memorable Quotes

“What’s that?” Peri asked a woman sitting nearby, who was an octogenarian like her parents were. The woman had on a knit suit in mint green. Mrs. Franklin? Fredericks? Francis?

“I asked you where you live.”

“Oh, I’m in the Boston Meg, right downtown in a high rise.”

“Back on Earth? That seems so old-fashioned. Don’t you want to grow eggplants with your parents?”

“Uh, no, that’s okay,” Peri tried to be polite about things, but she could scarcely conceive of anything more boring than supervising a far less sophisticated robot than Tommy – the kind known as a Jack or Lumberjackbot – as it tended to the care and feeding of umpteen eggplants for sale to markets as far away as Venus or the Neptunian System. “Someone’s got to haul in the undesirables, Mrs. – er, Ma’am.” Nice save, she congratulated herself wryly.

“Oh, yes, Earth has so much more crime than we have out here,” the woman observed.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Martin,” Tommy remained polite but was getting a little bit insistent, adding just a touch of emphasis to his surprisingly lifelike tenor voice.

“Well, there’s crime everywhere, Mrs., er, Ma’am,” Peri countered, adding, “Ma, he’s not interested in the food, okay? Don’t push.”

“Perdy, honestly! Now, Thomas,” Peri’s mother addressed Tommy, “I can’t understand why you’d be fasting on a day like today. Is it for a religious reason? Do you need to keep kosher, or halal, or vegan? Because I don’t think you need to lose any weight.”

“I need to,” the sophisticated robot’s bluish-greenish-grayish eyes moved rapidly, horizontally, a few times. Peri knew that he was checking his long-term memory for a suitable response, “watch.”

Rating

The book has a T rating. It’s not quite enough for MA, but there are sex scenes and they can be a touch explicit at times.

The Badge of Humanity: Upshot

The quoted portion comes from the first scene in the first chapter. I think the series ends pretty well. But it really needs beta readers! Because the last thing that I want is for the story to end on a less than perfect note. Any volunteers for the beta reader badge?

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Polymer Beat

Review – The Polymer Beat

The Polymer Beat moves the Obolonk action toward not just the robots which have an overall story line – it also explores main character Peri Martin’s romance with spy Dave Shepherd.
The Polymer Beat
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is all about the aliens. And this, the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. The reference to polymer is because of robots. These books all have themes; this one is robots although I will admit it’s subtle.

Background

After I picked The Obolonk Murders back up again in 2014, I realized I had the makings of a trilogy on my hands. Hence The Polymer Beat became my 2014 NaNoWriMo project.

Plot

As Peri and Tommy work on the Obolonk cases, Peri and Dave Shepherd get closer. Peri knows this is a bad idea, but she goes along with it anyway. And, as she and Tommy continue to try to find the killers, she notices Tommy’s simplistic robotic feelings are taking a turn. Could Tommy become jealous?

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis to various places in the Solar System, including Ganymede. Other characters include Tommy, Dave, They Say This is the One, Sally Bowles AKA They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately, and lawyer Akanksha Kondapalli.

Memorable Quotes

“Were you programmed to be an optimist?”

He considered the question briefly. “I cannot tell.”

“That’s okay. You know I’m gonna have dinner with Shepherd tonight, right?”

“Yes,” he mumbled as she hoisted her bag onto the room’s sole bed.

Peri stopped what she was doing and came close to the robot. “What is it?”

“It is nothing.”

She looked at him closely. “If I didn’t know any better, Tom, I’d swear you were upset.” He stood there stoically, although she did see him scan once, briefly.

Peri returned to her bag and began unpacking it, stuffing most of her clothing into the top drawer of the room’s sole bureau. “I’m not even so sure why I’m going out with him, truth be told.”

“I do not understand.”

“Heh, I would explain it if I could. It’s not like my mini-phone’s been chiming all day with offers since Charlie died.”

“Is this,” the robot paused, maybe to select the proper words, “your first such offer since that event?”

“Event,” she echoed, taking a shimmering silver dress out of her bag, “that makes it sound as if there were engraved invitations, or something.”

“I did not intend that definition.”

“I know you didn’t. But you gotta understand, Tom, or at least just, just try to. I saw Charlie mortally wounded by a scrubbed hot gun. It happened right in front of me.”

“That is what your psychiatric evaluation said.”

Trembling, she looked daggers at him. “What else do you know about me that’s private?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no really violent scenes but there is an explicit sex scene. Occasional bad language, but not much.

The Polymer Beat: Upshot

Middle books in trilogies tend to drag, and this one is no exception. I need to improve it! In addition, beta readers would be helpful – hello!

It would be great to get some developmental editing help with the dragging parts in the middle to last third.

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Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Obolonk Murders

Review – The Obolonk Murders

The Obolonk Murders was started several years ago (2002, to be exact) and I pulled it. But I loved the concept behind it. So I dusted it off and it became a trilogy.

Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So this, the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. But the first title is just really straightforward.

Background

The Obolonk Murders started off life as a completely seat of my pants story which put online as postings. I had no plot, no plans, nothing. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters. I then got stuck. I didn’t pick it up again until 12 years had gone by. No lie!

Plot

Society breaks into three parts: humans, robots, and Obolonks. An Obolonk is a hermaphrodite alien (a little similar to the Untrustworthy aliens, the Cabossians), orange in color. They are of about equal intelligence to us, but with interstellar space travel. The robots are of varying levels of sophistication. However, the most sophisticated are the creations of Dr. J. Carter Tinerrian. One of these robots is now the new partner to Detective Sergeant Peri Martin, who needs to start solving the mystery of who is killing Obolonks.

Characters

The main character is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Her main motivations are to find the perpetrators and to work with her new partner, Tommy McFarland. The scenes shift from the New York Megalopolis to the Boston Megalopolis to Callisto and back. Other characters include Tommy (as a robot, he goes by the identity Tommy 2000), Dr. Tinerrian, and the head of the Obolonks, who only name is They Say This is the One.

Memorable Quotes

“Through that door,” motioned the robot.

“Thanks,” Peri smiled the half-smile she usually used when addressing robots.

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. I am merely performing my function,” replied the robot before turning and gliding away.

The door slid open after Peri underwent the same security protocols as at the front door. “Ah, come in, come in! I’m J. Carter Tinerrian. This lovely woman is Selkhet and this is your new partner.” Dr. Tinerrian was a nerdy sort of a fellow. He indicated a man in a suit sitting at a desk. The seated man was maybe 40, 45, seemingly younger than 50-year-old Peri, with a bit of salt to his brown peppery hair, and hazel eyes that varied in shade. He was well-built, too, although his nose looked like it might have been broken some time in his youth.

“Hi, there,” said Peri, shaking hands with the doctor and Selkhet and making her way to the man at the desk. He failed to respond. “Is he deaf? The department’s relaxed almost all physical rules but I don’t think total deafness is one of them.”

“Oh, he’s not deaf. He just needs to be activated,” explained Selkhet. Then, addressing the robot, she commanded sharply, “Tommy 2000, it is time.”

“A robot?” Peri asked. The doctor nodded but said nothing. “What the –?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no sex scenes and maybe one or two stray swear words. The real issue is one act of terrorism.

The Obolonk Murders: Upshot

The plot is … okay. I like the idea of cops and robbers in space, and in November 2019 for NaNoWriMo, I’m writing a successor trilogy. There are parts where this book could be better. But I have to admit it. I have come a long, long way since I first started writing it. It could use more beta readers!

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Self-Review – The Boy in the Band

Review – The Boy in the Band

The Boy in the Band came about because I wanted to write something special for an LGBTQ+ anthology.

So the first person I thought of, immediately, was Richard Holmstrom.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Boy in the Band width=

Background

So at the time I wrote the story, I had no idea what had happened to Rich. As it turned out, a mutual friend did some sleuthing. And so, I learned the truth. It was what I had been afraid of; he was dead.

Rich was the first gay man who ever came out to me. And I consider that to be one hell of an honor.

The Plot for The Boy in the Band

So the story is more or less accurate. Hence it wrote itself. And I was merely there to take mental dictation. And the title, of course, comes from the film.

In 1981 or 1982, my friend Rich asked me to the movies. And I had a crush on him and thought – this is great! He chose the films: Cabaret and The Boys in the Band. So I had no idea what I was in for. My innocent nineteen or twenty year old soul thought we were going to see a pair of musicals.

I swear to God this is true.

Characters

The characters are the narrator, Rich, and Paul. He was Rich’s boyfriend at the time. But unfortunately, I have no idea if they stayed together. Since I do not know Paul’s last name, I can’t even look him up.

Memorable Quotes

I gamely watched with Richard. Maybe he meant for it to be artsy? I had no idea, but then the Cowboy character showed up – a male prostitute. And so Richard asked, “What do you think of him?”

I replied, “He reminds me a bit of Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“Which do you think is cuter?”

“Rocky.”

“So we will agree to disagree.”

And then I knew.

Rating

The story has a K rating.

Upshot for The Boy in the Band

So this one was highly emotional for me. And then when I learned, later, that I had been right, it all hit me rather hard. See, because of when we knew each other, it was the dawn of the age of AIDS. And I knew he was, let’s just say, a bit loose. Since no one really had any idea what was in store, and AIDS was a 100% painful death sentence at the time, being ‘loose’ was being foolish.

Yet it apparently did not kill him. At least, I can tell myself this. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. But there is only so much the internet can tell me.

He did not even live long enough to see 9/11, President Obama, or even the Red Sox win the World Series (:)). So he is frozen in time, at age 39. And before I knew this much, he was frozen at age 21. Forever young.

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Book Reviews

The Numerati by Stephen Baker, a Book Review

The Numerati by Stephen Baker

Numerati?

The Numerati by Stephen Baker remains a fascinating work about sensors, technology, data mining and where it’s all going when it comes to our privacy.

Cover of "The Numerati"
Cover of The Numerati

 

And it ends up all about data, about collecting, refining and interpreting it. People are, well, a bunch of fish in a bowl. Or, if you prefer, hamsters on a wheel. We are lab rats, we are subjects, we are collections of bit streams. We are … information.

And the kicker is that, put together enough things about us, and conclusions can suddenly be drawn.

Conclusions

Let’s say I go to the same grocery store every week (not a stretch – I really do). And I buy fish every single week. What if I buy, say, tuna steaks 70% of the time, and swordfish the other 30%? Am I automatically a tuna lover? Or am I simply scared to try something new? Or am I getting to the fishmonger when everything else is sold out?

And what happens if a coupon is introduced into the mix? Does my tuna consumption go up to 80% if you give me $1 off per pound? However, that’s not too much of a victory, seeing as I normally buy it anyway. Will a $1 off coupon entice me to buy more pricey salmon instead?

Ideas But Not Gospel

The data gives its interpreters (Baker refers to them as the Numerati, which sounds a tad like Illuminati and perhaps he means that) ideas. However, it’s not really a slam-dunk. Or, at least, not yet. Hence essentially the Numerati bucket you. So I am a tuna buyer. And I am a sometime swordfish buyer. And I am also a Caucasian woman, in her (ahem) fifties, married, no children, living in Boston.

So far, so good. And when the data are all herded together, when the bits and bytes of our lives are aggregated, this may very well have a lot to say about us. Because it might be a predictor of how I’ll vote in the next election. Or perhaps it will show how I’d use a dating site if I should ever need one in the future. Or it may even tell whether I’m likely to become a terrorist.

Border Collies and Data Goats

The data matters, but, to my mind (and to Baker’s as well, it seems), there are not only herds of data but there are also nagging outliers. And these constitute the Border Collies amidst all the data goats. Perhaps I am buying tuna to feed to a cat. Or maybe I buy it with the intention of eating it to improve my health but, alas, never get to it and it goes to waste every single week.

So consider this case: a sensor is placed into a senior citizen’s bed, to determine whether that person is getting up in the morning. And, let’s say we also collect weight data. Because a sudden dramatic rise in weight would indicate the possible onset of congestive heart failure. And let’s say the senior in question is a woman who weighs 150 pounds. Your own mother, maybe. Day one: 150 pounds. Day two: 158 pounds. And then day three: 346 pounds. Day four: 410 pounds. Golly, is Mom really that sick?

Maybe Mom’s dog is 8 pounds. Okay, that explains day two. But what about days three and four? Maybe Mom’s got a boyfriend.

Or maybe she’s got two.

Messy Feelings

When I had the occasion to meet Stephen Baker, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about these squishy, messy feelings. Sure, our hearts are in the right place. And we want Mom to be safe and healthy, and we can’t be there. She might live in a warmer climate, and we cannot (or won’t) leave our cooler climes. Or the job opportunities may be no good there for us. For whatever reason, we are here and she is there. So we want to be aware, and caring and all, but in our desire to gather information and protect her, what else are we learning?

If Mom is competent, and single, and protecting herself from STDs, we truly have no business knowing who she spends her evening hours with. Yet this technology makes this possible.

And if we have any sense of the future at all, we have to think to ourselves: what happens when I become Mom’s age? Will my bedroom and toileting habits potentially become a part of this huge bit/byte hamster wheel lab rat canary in a coal mine data stream? You betcha.

Worrisome?

It is often said that only people who have something to worry about in their private lives are the ones who are worried. Everyone else should be fine, blithely giving up their warts and preferences, their virtues and secrets, to all who ask.

I say bull. I like my secrets. And I like my hidden life. And I’ll be damned if I give it up, even in the name of health, diet, voting, national security or even love.

A terrific read. I highly recommend this book.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Categories
Book Reviews Content Strategy Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, An Updated Book Review

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

This is something of an updated review of Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff as, by the time I got to the ICM 522 Social Media Platforms class at Quinnipiac University, I had already read this seminal work.

Cover of "Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Cover via Amazon

But no matter. Because this is still a terrific work by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, and it remains more than a little relevant.

And in fact, I think I understand it better than I ever have.

Changing the Way You Think about Online Marketing for Good

For Li and Bernoff, the online world is a rich and diversified community. And in that large umbrella community, there are several smaller communities. But unlike in the case of the classic Matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls), there is an enormous amount of overlap.

Above all, they put forward the idea of a system called POST. And if you read nothing else, read this part of not just my review but of their book itself.

  • Personae – who are your potential buyers? Who are your readers? And who makes up your audience?
  • Objectives – what do you expect to get out of going online, and continuing online, or going in a different direction online?
  • Strategies – how will you implement your ideas? What comes first? In addition, what must wait?
  • Technologies – which platforms will you use? How will you use these differently as your strategy begins to click into place?

So the last time I read Groundswell, I suspect that I did not really understand POST.

And now I know never to start a social media campaign without it. So thanks to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff! This work is a classic for a damned fine reason. It really is that good. Because you need this book in your social media library.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

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Career changing LinkedIn Opinion Social Media Work

The Top 10 Pet Peeves About Job Seeking

The Top 10 Pet Peeves About Job Seeking

Pet Peeves? I got ’em.

Pet Peeves
Frustration

Adventures in Career Changing means, well, a lot of job applications. Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And they come as a bit of their own special Dantean circle.

#10 – Keeping the Company’s Identity a Secret

I get that there are legitimate reasons for keeping quiet about company identities. They might not want to tip off competitors that there’s an opening. Or maybe they don’t want the person currently in the job to know that they are being replaced. I recognize this. I get it. But it’s also a bit of serious unevenness. You know who I am. And you get to look up all sorts of stuff on me. Yet I don’t get to do anything even remotely like that where you’re concerned. Where’s the fairness in that?

#9 – Multiple Job Postings, While at the Same Time Penalizing Job Seekers for Multiple Submissions

This goes along with the previous one. When you don’t tell me who you are, and you post the same job on, say, Monster and Dice, how, exactly, am I supposed to prevent a possible double submission? What happens when you also distribute this opening to a half a dozen recruiters? Yep – I end up with multiple submissions. And guess who gets blamed for that? Hint – it’s not the prospective employer.

#8 – You Make Me Fill Out a Form Even As I Give You My Resume

I know that you have laid off your entire clerical staff, and you likely did so in 2003 or earlier. I am also well aware that you are looking to get my resume into a pigeonhole pattern so that it can be readily compared to others that are in the same pigeonhole pattern. Because taking 25 seconds to scan my resume with your eyes is just too much time.

Okay, perhaps that wasn’t very nice, but every career counselor I have ever known has said to spend hours and hours and make it a mondo-perfect document. But the reality is that resumes are barely glanced at. Hence, rather than creating exciting visual presentations (unless you’re in the arts), the focus is on keywords. And I’m fine with larding my resume up with keywords (unfortunately, BTW, this also means adding misspelled keywords).

I also get how badly you want uniformity. But – surprise! There’s software that will do this! So, instead of making me jump through this particular hoop, could you invest in a system such as that? The beauty of your software doing that, rather than me doing it manually, is that you can also do some filtering. Buy yourself a good system, and you’ll get a lot more done.

#7 – S…l…o…w Sites

I know, I know. The server is down. No one’s been able to fix it since Employee X left three months ago. Whatevs. But in the meantime, I am supposed to be putting my best foot forward (and all the time, I might add. I’ve had employment counselors who’ve essentially told me to look sharp every time I leave the house, as I never know if I’ll be seeing a potential employer. Evidently this includes grocery shopping and running 5K races. Silliness). But you aren’t. You want me to apply and not get frustrated while doing so? Then fix your site.

#6 – Ignoring the Fact that I Will Not Relocate

If it’s available, I always (always!) check the box that says that I will not relocate. And I will not. There is no coaxing me. There are no perks to sending me to Minneapolis (or wherever). I ain’t goin’. And it is all over all of my applications, profiles, etc. This is one of my really annoying pet peeves.

Yet I am still called by recruiters who tell me about some awesome, kick-bun opportunity and everything sounds wonderful and then, oh by the way, where is it? And it’s in Plano, Texas. I live in Boston. That’s a helluva commute, don’t you think? This is so basic, it should be like a standard production of Romeo & Juliet. Shouldn’t the only people who audition for the role of Juliet (in a traditional production) be, I dunno, female?

I recognize that your job is to get a person into an opening at some company. And I further understand some people who will change their minds with enough incentives. I also know that there are folks who rent apartments briefly. But really – at the very least – be up front, immediately – with the location, and stop wasting both of our times.

#5 – Vagueness

Oh, man. You can’t be bothered to say anything about the position? Then how the hell can you honestly expect to get the right people in? I know that, a lot of the time, HR is the one writing the job description. But, truly (and this goes quadruple for large organizations), the job description should be a part of the company’s overall records. And so when HR (or whoever) writes up the job description, they should pull the basic framework of it from their records. And said records should be updated, perhaps every year, with things like new software versions and anything else that’s fairly major that might have changed.

Case in point. I used to work in data analysis. And this should have a basic description, which should include the system(s) being used, the version(s) of software and the general day-to-day activities. So is the opening more report creating, or report running? Will I train people in how to read it? Will I perform analysis in order to help senior management interpret it? Or am I supposed to just churn out whatever the system spits out? Of course, the upside to all of this is, I get to have ready-made questions in the event of an interview.

#4 – Requiring Salary Expectations Way Too Early in the Process

I have seen, on several occasions, vague job descriptions requiring some form of salary expectation mentioned up front. So I get that you want to weed people out early, and waste less time. I get that, and I do appreciate it. However, this is so early, it’s not funny. Plus, if I don’t know who you are, I have few ways of figuring out whether my # is anywhere near jibing with yours. And I change my expectations, depending upon what, exactly, you want me to do. The application stage is a lousy time to ask about money – on both ends.

#3 – Requiring Me to Waste Time Updating Preexisting Information Manually

A rather large employer in my area (Boston) uses a resume management system with both a resume piece and a manual piece. I filled out the manual piece in – no lie – 2008. It remains that way, even as I provide an updated resume. What to do? Do I erase the entire shebang, and just send in the resume? Or do I update? Something else? It provides a distorted picture of where I’ve been. Make up your mind – resume or manual entry. Or, better yet, just take my resume. I suppose this is the corollary to #8.

#2 – No LinkedIn Functionality

While I suppose this is not strictly necessary, it’s awfully nice to have. And, in particular, if you’re advertising the job itself on LinkedIn, why can’t I just apply by connecting you to my profile there?

#1 – Security to Beat Fort Knox

Of course, I want to maintain my own security. I certainly don’t want anyone else to be able to mess with my profile. But why, oh why, do you need me to change my password every other month, to some wacky combo of letters, numbers, special characters and, I dunno, cuneiform?

I swear, the security on some of these apps ends up more complicated and Byzantine than I have for my bank account!

Huh, maybe I should just change banks. Harvey’s Money-o-Rama might no longer cut it.

Two Dishonorable Mentions

A – Seemingly Endless Questions

And the pet peeves continue! Because apparently, you do not trust me enough to self-select out of the running because I don’t know Software version infinity plus one or whatever. But, really, folks! Save something for the interview! Because I guarantee you, you will not get every single thing answered beforehand.

B – Interviewing Too Many People

Screen on the phone. Then screen with your resume software. Screen with your keyword searches. And then screen with your well-written job description. Screen with your HR people calling. Screen with your published salary range. Finally, screen with a little social media investigating. And then your interview process can be for 1 – 5 people who can do the job. And decide amongst them based upon the intangibles.

Yet I have been in interview situations where there were a good twenty people up for one position! Sheesh! You are wasting everybody’s time. And, frankly, behavior like this makes me wonder about you as a company, and about you as a manager. Do you always hem and haw like this? Do you know naught of efficiency?

Don’t worry, I’ve got good things to say about the job search process. And I’ll post them. But for right now, these are the real stinkers. Got any pet peeves you’d like to share?

Categories
Career changing Personal Work

They used to call me Robot Girl

They used to call me Robot Girl

I haven’t blogged for a while. Yeah, I know.

I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.

Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.

In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.

But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.

  1. The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
  2. Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
  3. However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey ...
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from the trailer for the film Love Finds Andy Hardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    (now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.

  4. Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
  5. Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
  6. The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
  7. No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
  8. Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
  9. Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
  10. We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.

And a lot of today’s startups can, too.

See you ’round the scene.

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Analytics Quinnipiac SEO Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Once again, I reviewed NESN. But this time, it was in order to understand a few basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) choices that their management had made.

Programmatic Decisions

I strongly suspect that NESN has some form of fancy programming behind their online page creation. NESN SEO just seems to be way too good.

If I were to guess, I would say that their program (possibly developed in house) scrapes the title of a submitted article, wraps it in H1 tags and copies it to the meta descriptions. That same article title is the basis for that particular page’s custom URL. Hence the article, A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox is connected to the following custom URL: http://nesn.com/2014/07/a-j-pierzynski-designated-for-assignment-christian-vazquez-to-start-wednesday/ The page title is: A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com. The meta description for that same page is: The Boston Red Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday. Manager John Farrell confirmed to WEEI‘s “Dale and Holley” that the team has designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and promoted 23-year-old Christian Vazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket. Finally, the keywords were: a.j. pierzynski, christian vazquez, christian vasquez, boston red sox, red sox catcher, a.j. pierzynski released, a.j. pierzynski dfa, red sox prospects, christian vazquez promotion, christian vazquez red sox.

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Double quotation marks truncate meta descriptions. This meta description was no exception – in Google search, it simply reads: “A.J. Pierzynski Designated For AssignmentChristian VazquezJoins … Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday.” (Note: the bolding comes from Google itself).

The Power of Programming

NESN SEO programmatic work (if that’s what  it is) was just great. Pages are named properly. The URL structure is organic and easy to follow. The meta descriptions are generally excellent (the double quotation marks in my sample were probably the doing of the article writer. Perhaps the program should be refined to replace all instances of double quotation marks with single marks?) and are enticing to human searchers because they are written by professional writers.

With a programmatic solution, NESN can get this work done quickly and turn around better online product for more abbreviated deadlines. Having the computer system do this does not require writers to master SEO beyond the basics of naming their articles properly and making sure that the keywords in the titles show up with those articles.

Even better, any time the theory of SEO changes, there only has to be one change made at NESN. Simply (probably not so simple!) tweak the program to accommodate any changes, test it, and roll it out. All without missing  a deadline.

Conclusion

NESN continues to impress. NESN SEO is great. NESN.com is a well-crafted website. No wonder it’s an advertising cash cow.

Categories
Twitter

Twitter helps Canadiens’ Price Find Lost Dogs

Twitter helps Canadiens’ Price Find Lost Dogs

File this one under awwww.

The Boston Herald reports that Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price‘s two Labrador retrievers took an unauthorized vacation but were later found after his wife suggested that he tweet about their disappearance.

Carey Price, goaltender for the Montreal Canad...
Carey Price, goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Price tweeted, “If anyone finds two labs running around Candiac they’re mine.”

Fortunately, a happy ending was soon to come.

The wayward canines were found by Habs fan John Mastromonaco at 6:15 AM on Monday, May 5th, 2014, when he heard a radio report about the peripatetic pooches. “Almost at the same time, I see this jogger with two Labradors following him, but the dogs didn’t look like they were with him,” Mastromonaco told The Canadian Press.

To me, what is most interesting about this story is not just that a potential tragedy was averted, but that social media and traditional media worked together, and it was completely and utterly unintentionally. John Mastromonaco was not even on Twitter; he was listening to the radio. But that radio report would not have been made, had it not been for Carey Price tweeting. And Carey Price’s tweet would never have been made, had it not been for the quick and resourceful thinking of his wife.

Think about this in terms of attribution qualitative analysis, and seeking context for online behaviors.  It seems to me that, when a lot of athletes think about using Twitter or any other form of social media, it is often for self-promotional activities. They may be personally mentioning that they are excited to be playing in a particular venue (or anything else, for that matter), but this tweet was different. It was more like a neighbor reaching out to fellow neighbors.

By knowing the entire story, we know which networks to attribute the outcome to: Twitter and radio. Twitter for the initial message, and radio for its amplification.

Twitter to the rescue!

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