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    Automobile Recalls: Of Mountains and Molehills

    Toyota has been taking it on the chin as of late with their vehicle recalls. Three highly publicized recalls in as many months.

    Take a deep breath folks.

    Did you know that there have been 65 recalls for the Pontiac Grand Prix? The Chevy Equinox had twenty eight recalls. Thirty eight recalls on the Dodge Grand Caravan. The Ford Escape suffered through thirty nine recalls.

    Have a little perspective.

    Go ahead, see how many problems *your* car has had :-)



    Bragging Or Complaining: Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium Worries About Social Media

    In 2009 I was at the Canadian Telecom Summit, and was able to hear of Canada’s broadcast plans for the 2010 Olympics. I’m not a fan of the Olympics, but the broadcast plans were creative, inclusive and multi-pronged. It sounded VERY neat. The Media Consortium was excited to leverage social media and user generated content to augment their coverage. It was planned to be a very interactive project with spectator sharing, commenting, photos and videos.

    This morning, I’m unfortunately not terribly surprised to read that “Social Media Set to Spoil Olympic Opening Ceremonies”

    You can’t commit to leveraging social media for corporate gain in one breath, and then slam it in the next breath…. Certainly that was the plan of the Consortium —- hitching its wagon to the millions of spectators who will bet facebooking, twittering and YouTubeing during the Olympics……All that content, all that conversation, all that buzz, all for free.

    The Media Consortium had planned to juice up it’s coverage of the Olympics on the backs of content provided by spectators. Now it’s complaining that user coverage is going to spoil the surprise of the Opening Ceremony.

    Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too.





    Social Media and the New Transparency

    I love it.

    Transparency, that is. You are who you are, and you do what you say you will do, and you act accordingly. Knowing that there is the potential for the whole world to see what you are up to is a potentially daunting realization when delving into social media.

    That being said, you can’t avoid it. And to ignore it is to do so at your own peril.

    I’m a self-proclaimed social media freak. And proud of it. You name it, I’ve got an account on it. Even Plaxo. :-)

    I’m on Facebook roughly 6-7 hours a day. Some of those hours are during work hours. (Hi boss!) Transparency is important here. The world knows what you are doing, and when you’re doing it. Why am I on Facebook during work hours? Here you go:

    • I am friends with my customers, vendors, partners and competitors. My customers, vendors, partners and competitors are on Facebook.
    • I am a fan of MANY fan pages, especially those of key industry players, customers and even competitors. I am using social media tools to stay current with what is going on all over the place.
    • I am friends with some very neat people. People who say and post very important and timely things. People who are key in their various industries. People I can turn to when I have a challenge, problem or need a push in the right direction. These smarties are now part of my social network. These are people who know people!

    I use twitter sporadically, but only because I’ve yet to find the perfect twitter tool. I’m sure I’ll get to it. I mostly appreciate my FB friends tweeting in their FB status to try and stay abreast of issues.

    I’m on LinkedIn, but that’s table steaks if you’re in business. It’s how you keep track of the people who haven’t yet thrown over to Facebook.

    But what happens when you aren’t ready for transparency? If you aren’t embracing the transparency?

    You get in trouble. Full stop. Anything you say can and will be used against you. In a court of law. At work. With the various and sundry boys/girls you may be dating who suddenly discover that it *is* a small world after all.

    Embrace the transparency. Govern Yourself Accordingly. Be Free.



    Skilled Workers --- Hard to Find

    As low-skilled, unfulfilling jobs move off shore, the Canadian population is going to realize that it's worth it to spend a few years in college or university to learn the required skills to get a satisfying job. Off-shoring is going to continue, and you are going to see more and more low-skilled jobs going to areas of the world where these jobs are still considered challenging and desirable.

    In the Globe and Mail, skilled jobs are going to be in very high demand. Very High Demand.
    Is your job going off shore?
    Are you sure?

    If you're working in a role that can easily be done by someone with little to no training, chances are someone else, somewhere else can do the job for much less than you. If you want to ensure a continued demand for your labour, you need to make sure your labour is worth the asking price... It's that simple. Even workers need to stay competitive, valuable and desirable. If there's a glut of labour on the market, then it's an employers dream. Supply and demand. Just make sure you are in high demand, because the days of skating by with little education are over.
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    Measuring the Value of the Olympics

    The countdown to the 2010 Olympics is moving into full steam fury.

    Today’s Toronto Star has an article dubbed “Are the Olympics Worth It?

    It’s roughly 10 days until the Olympics begins. Don’t you think that this question should have been asked almost 4 years ago, prior to Canada’s bid? I would imagine that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to review the Olympic history from the past 10 years to realize that no, the Olympics aren’t generally worth it. The host country and the host city invariably ends up with the short and dirty end of the stick. The general population of the host area is pushed to the sidelines for a month, and the Olympic committee wields its power like a spoiled tyrant.

    Business Week suggests that only Athens and Los Angeles have ever turned a profit. The WSJ reports that the Athens Olympics ended up with a $14B price tag, and Greece is left holding the bag with a ghost town Olympic village.

    The Vancouver Sun has 10 Signs of Trouble, and it’s primarily related to the financing of the Olympics.

    Even this week, Macleans is reporting that overall, British Columbians are less supportive of the Olympics than the rest of the Canadian population. It’s very telling that event tickets are sold, but no one is buying *bus passes* to get to the venues. That tells me that it’s not Vancouverites/Canadians who have bought up the tickets, but some ticket scalper conglomeration.

    In 2006, it was reported that the Vancouver Olympics was going to cost $2.5B. Now, that number has ballooned to over $6B, and chances are it’s going to exceed even that vast amount.

    Imagine what $6B could do. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just donated $10B to vaccine research. Now that’s a world changing initiative. Globally, over $4B has been donated to Haiti.

    According to Wikipedia, there will be 5500 athletes and officials. That’s over $1,000,000 spent per athlete and official. I realize that these are [generally] amateur athletes, and they survive on sponsorships, but that’s a very small ratio of sponsorship to individuals who benefit from the sponsorships.

    Imagine that value being spent where it can do the most good. Eighty countries participate in the Olympics, of those, I would hazzard a guess that 1/3 to 1/2 of those countries have a substantial proportion of their population living below the poverty line. These people will never see the Olympics, simply because their standard of living is so low as to prohibit the infrastructure required to view an event half way around the world from them. They’re worried about more pressing issues, like food, clean water, death.

    It’s all about perspective.


    Canada Gets the Cold Shoulder by Voice Apps

    A few years ago I was mesmerized by the idea of Grandcentral coming to Canada, but then all went quiet… Shortly thereafter, Grandcentral was purchased by Google, and boy! For sure they will expand to Canada now!

    Grandcentral became Google Voice, and in the past few months Google Voice has come back into the limelight, but still no love for Canada.

    Skype could have been a contender, with its SkypeOut capabilities. Still, no maple leafs for Skype.

    Why are global providers deciding to leave Canada on the backburner? We can blame the recession for a certain amount of hesitation on the lack of movement, but the biggest trick is that it’s expensive to open up a *free* voice service in Canada. Even if there’s a monthy service fee, our carriers aren’t yet really ready to push IP to the PSTN. Carriers aren’t all that keen to give away market share at rock bottom prices, and for Google or Skype to try and build their own networks, the geography and addressable market for the service isn’t all that lucrative.

    Canadians interested in next gen voice apps are going to have to sit tight, consider a foreign phone number, or even a change of address. ;-)

    It’s not going to be until the CRTC changes foreign ownership and competitive influences that there will be changes driven into the way technologies are delivered to the consumer. It’s an eventuality, perhaps even in my lifetime.


    3 Month Hiatus

    For the past 3 months, I haven’t had the itch to write much of anything. It’s been a surreal three months; dealing with the illness of a family member that resulted in a funeral.

    My mum was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and almost to the date prognosticated by her oncologist, she passed away. At some point, I may delve into the back story, but for now, I’m just pleased that I feel like writing again.

    I’m also pleasantly surprised that I’m starting to toy with technical ideas, and am hoping that these ideas will flesh themselves out here. Now the trick is to woo the masses again ;-)


    When Facebook Friends Fail

    Facebook friends are fickle.
    Wait, check that.
    Facebook is a great medium for fickle friends.
    Everyone once in a while i will check for new friends on FB, and will be curiously surprised to find folks who have fallen off my wagon. I know, it's bizarro. FB actually contributes to a thicker skin, but seeing people --- and people you KNOW, not just internet random people fall of the wagon is unsettling. Hence this article.
    Of course, the chick in me wonders, "is it me?" Did I do something? Is it just FB? Do I post too much? Not enough?
    Of COURSE it's personal. ;-)
    I'm sorry my fickle facebook friends.


    A Better Lottery

    The current pot for Lotto 749 in Canada is $40M.  Earlier this week, The Wiz and I were discussing how to make lotteries better - and the overwhelming agreement was that the jackpot was too big. If the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) split the pot once it reached a certain size, it would allow for multiple winners… and really - no one needs $40M - EVER.

    The folks who win huge lotteries are ill-prepared to handle that sort of bounty - 70% of US lottery winners wind up broke. 

    I know it’d cause me some heartburn.

    If the pot split when it hit $20M, then there would be 2 x $10M jackpots. And then those pots would split again when they reached $20M each….. If people had more than 1 chance to win - imagine how many MORE people would participate? Pots would double and split all over the place. :-) People would win manageable amounts of money, and would be just as happy, if not happier. They might not end up penniless.

    Winning the lottery isn’t all its cracked up to be - check out Catherine Annau’s film, Winning, which manages to follow up on past lottery winners, and the dismal ways their lives have ended up. People apparently need to be protected from themselves…

    If you were the winner of a $10M jackpot, and ONLY invested it at a modest interest rate of 4%, you would have an annual income of $400,000. Say you bought the house of your dreams ($1M) and 2 new fancy cars ($150K), and gave away some of your booty to friends and family ($2M), you’d have very little in the way of living expenses or debt, and could still invest the remaining $6,850,000 at 4% and have an income of $274,000 — and you’d have very little expenses. I could MORE than kive happily on $274,000 a year. Wouldn’t need a job - but would probably have some sort of fun part-time gig, and you’d have al the time in the world to explore, travel and relax….

    I’m curious to know what happens to the lives of the lottery winners. Someone should have written a book. $40M could totally screw up a person :-)


    Tamil Protests in Toronto

    One can only imagine the fear, frustration and utter helplessness felt by the Canadian Tamil community as warfare rages inside Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government is prohibiting most journalistic efforts to report on the violence. The folks in Canada wait on pins and needsles to see if their families are safe back home.
    For the past few months, Canadian Tamils have been peacefully protesting, trying to draw attention to the violence and atrocities happening in their *old* country. Protesting and raising awareness for friends and family who don't have a global voice. Peaceful protests have accomplished little, no one has really been paying attention --- and at some point, the fear and frustration has led them to stepping up their actions. Despite the wickedness happening inside the Sri Lankan borders, the Tamils caught within that country at least have a voice outside the country, calling for help and assistance. Somalia didn't have that. Darfur didn't have that.  Bosnia didn't have that. Global awareness is something we take for granted, and need to continue to foster.

    Yes, closing a highway is a bit of an inconvenience
    - I'd much rather deal with finding an alternate route to Home Depot than have to deal with the utter helplessness of having my family attacked or killed and have no one listen.

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    Awesome Cogeco Advertisement...

    You got me - I love this ad. I stumbled across it on an IT Canada page while reading about Dragonwave (which, by the way, is going to become a huge success in Canada, I just know it)...
    Cogeco has another add that plays: "when you're paying for 100 mbps, getting anything less is fraud..... and really bad karma". Snappy marketing, and funny to boot.

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    Unfriendly Fetishes

    On my trek to eco-friendliness, I've realized there are more than a few things that I'm still doing that I should STOP doing.
    The hard part is in finding good replacements to bad habits.

    • Ziplock baggie waster. I hate them, I love them, I can't live without them. Well, maybe I can - with organic sandwich bags.
    • Drugstore shampoo and conditioners - I'm one of *those types*. The kind of girl who wants to try every shampoo and conditioner to find that *perfect one*. I'm not paying attention to the possible bad chemicals in these products. And I should. So now I'm more particular. Bert's Bees is ok - but my hair isn't convinced. LUSH has good products - some even without the plastic bottles, but they're pricey. has a great line of organic products (plus they're an awesome Canadian on-line enterprise) Inspired Living also has what looks to be a good line-up - and it extends beyond just hair care.
    • Chemical laden laundry detergent and fabric softeners: Yup - if it smells amazing, I usually buy it, ignoring the fact that it's likely a bucketful of chemicals that make my towels smell good days after a washing. Sigh. This one is trickier to get over. I need an organic smell replacement. Something that won't leave the Wiz with a strage rash.
    • Plastic cling rap: the only thing I use pastic rap for is to keep things from heating up and spattering the inside of my microwave. I KNOW. Not only am i wasting plastic, who the heck knows what terrible things are leaching into my foods. Still - what's the replacement option? Maybe just paper towel :-(
    What's your un-friendly fetish? I could go on and on right now, but I'm feeling a but guilty - it's time to share the guilt. Don't even get me started on my dishwasher detergent.


    Hey!!! You got your internet in my TV!

    The other night, the Wiz and i were watching some such nonsense on the telly, and I popped up to grab my macbook to query the IMDB database to see the particulars on a specific actor. Walking back to the living room, (laptop in hand) I wondered out loud how long it would be until TVs had built in wi-fi and a wee web browser so people could do internet things without having to run and grab a laptop. Geeze, if my Wii can have wi-fi and a browser, why doesn't my TV already have it?

    Lo and behold - a recent survey suggests I'm not alone in my musings. Lots of consumers want their internet in their TV.

    76 percent of US consumers who are in the market for a new HDTV would value having access to Internet widgets on their television.

    Hmmm.... the survey analysis also suggests that folks want to customize their weather, have specific tickers and be able to query show information.

    The first thing the Wiz said when I asked about wanting internet in my tv was... as long as i don't have to type with a stupid pointer interface. :-) What a geek. I'll get him a wireless silicone keyboard he can roll up and put next to the remote ;-)

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    Low Hanging Fruit: Hosted App in the Canadian Banking Industry

    For a few months now, I've been mulling over the concept of hosted banking applications, provided by Canadian banks, in support of Canadian small business. Recently TD added an option to pay your income taxes through their on-line banking application, but that's not a terribly interesting idea. They've also added the ability for small biz to pay GST and payroll deductions - but there's no integration between payroll deductions and the actual payroll......

    Small businesses are usually ignored by the banking industry, heck - they're ignored by the telecom, automotive and retail industries as well.
    Imagine an application that would allow you to input employee wages, and the application would take care of all the deductions, and then complete the process by direct depositing the employee wages into their bank account. It's not rocket science - large corporations have software that does this all the time. Small businesses generally don't have the access to the kind of payroll software solutions that large corporations do - and don't have the in-house technical expertise to be able to take the initiative to roll out an application like this.

    But what if a Canadian bank did this? And did it in a hosted application model --- all web based. It would be a PERFECT niche market, especially for those small biz owners who had 25 and fewer employees. They'd log into the bank portal, add the wages, click a button that automatically calculates the taxes and deductions (transfers those deductions to the government), and transfers the remainder wages to the employee. It's linked to the small biz bank account - voila.  At the end of the year, there's an option to create T4 slips that automatically get sent to the employee.... shazam!

    The monthly fees for a service like this could be palatable for the small biz owner, and they're able to save time, be more productive and improve efficiencies. Wanna take it one step further? Banks should also integrate the best income tax rebate software.... imagine software that would coach you through how to get the best rebate that would be efficient :-)

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    Smells Like Spring

    It’s one of those gorgeous spring mornings. The over-night rains have left leaves dripping gently. Somewhere near me, poplar trees are drying in the morning haze and leaving behind the most amazing smell.

    I’ve already made a patrol of the back yard to check on the *crops*. Everything that was transplanted last weekend (shasta daisys and black eyed sysans) are all happy in their new homes. Tonight I’ll move the purple coneflower. It will just be a matter of time before the Jack and the Beanstalks peek through the soil.

    I love spring.

    In the front yard, the brave lillies are starting to green up, and this year, I think I’ve found a solution to the red, Asiatic beetles that eat them. Method all purpose cleaner seems to do the trick. It’s organic, not evil chemical - and it seems to knock those bugs on their butts. Maybe this year my lillies will survive!

    Ahh. It’s a good day! :-)

    To top it off - I get to meet an AT&T fellow I’ve worked with for the past 2 years. He’s in the UK, and I’m here. And now he’s here! :-)


    The Growing Importance of Technology - Avoiding Pandemics

    View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

    The past two days has seen a flurry of media reports on the growing concerns of a global pandemic of *swine flu* (I know, terrible name, but North American Influenza just doesn't have the same ring to it).

    Travel warnings abound.
    Folks either are ignoring them, and planning el cheapo trips to Mexico (if they can still get flights, which are being cancelled every day), or they are looking at what impacts a virus such as this could have on their daily lives, and planning appropriately.

    You can now map the incidence of the outbreak with google maps.
    You can get a checklist of the supplies you may want to have on hand if the virus impacts your ability to get *out and about* to restock.
    Now that Swine Flu has hit Ontario - it's beginning to become more important to pay attention to what's going on.

    But my favourite, knowing that I can continue, undisturbed, working remotely - and avoiding the brunt of human contact. :-)
    Teleworking, remote working, telecommuting - what ever you want to call it is one of the single best ways to avoid either sharing or being exposed to anything nasty.

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    Death By Meetings - Leveraging IT to Save Time

    I stumbled across an interesting Seth Godin post on the problem with meetings. He offers up 9 suggestions on making meetings better.

    The larger problem with corporate culture is the insidious issue of people not doing their job. So meetings are required to direct people in real time on what they need to do, what they need to be thinking about and what the end game should be. Gone are the days of self-initiative. Goodbye to the self starter.
    Meetings are now to make sure people do what they are supposed to do. Then you meet again to make sure they've done what they said they would do.

    Sure, it's good to talk about projects in real time, it's nice to be in sync. There are a plethora of IT tools that manage both of these activities much better than what can be accomplished in an hour meeting. Unfortunately there's still an underlying fear of collaboration tools, and some folks are just plain too lazy to learn and experiment with them. Hey - I'm in the lazy boat too on some activities.

    My Outlook Personal folder is 2.8 GB. It's how I store stuff and stay organized. It's an admitted critical flaw of mine. I'd love to port my work and projects over to an interface that is shareable and collaborative. My company provides some fairly reasonable tools to achieve this --- but I'm spending too many hours in meetings to find any free time to embrace some of these IT initiatives ;-) We've got wikis, we've got a sharepoint server. Heck - we've even reached out and embraced blogging! Still. In the grand scheme of things, it's just easier to have a meeting ;-)

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    itWorldCanada - Community Greening Through IT

    I found this fascinating quote today:

    The past few years has seen an explosion in grassroots community movements using IT to organize, grow and thrive in a world that’s now more global than grassroots. The recent economic crisis has only stressed the importance of re-localization, and community movements have never been more important. The problem: people have become too globally focused and have lost the social tools to connect locally. IT initiatives and tools are needed more than ever to rediscover local connections and community.Community Greening Through IT | Blogging Idol, Apr 2009

    You should read the whole article.


    The Greening of Data Centres

    Much is being written lately about the havoc that regular data centres play with the environment, using excessive amounts of electricity… and the growing pressures of the internet loads are only going to increase the carbon requrements of data centres.

    It’s all well and good to feel green, and think green, unless it impacts your ability to twitter and google away your day.

    Companies such as ISPs or online retailers that use the data centers could have the added benefit of being able to claim that their web services are powered by clean power, which is a small but growing interest for IT firms.


    Plans are afoot to drastically reduce the dirtiness of data centres…

    Don’t feel alone in your efforts to make your company greener. Leaders in other markets—from companies like Boeing and Toyota to government agencies such as the State of California—are making serious investments in making their operations and products more energy efficient.


    California utility PG&E said it has given Internet services company NetApp a $1.43 million rebate — the largest new construction incentive the utility has awarded — for its efforts at an engineering data center in Sunnyvale, Calif.

    All steps in the right direction.



    Hey... That's Not in My Job Description...

    Toronto high scholl teachers are threatening to strike because the schoolboard is asking them to do things that aren’t part of their union agreement…

    Members of the OSSTF have been casting ballots all day to show their anger with the Board over attempts to get them to spend extra timepatrolling the hallways and doing other chores, a change in their contract that they insist is a matter of principle.



    In real life, with regular jobs, you do MANY things that aren’t part of your job description. It sort of goes hand in hand with wanting to keep your job ;-)

    A few things above and beyond any job description I’ve ever had:

    1. Dropping a router at a customer office.
    2. Picking UP a router at a customer office.
    3. Going to a customer’s home to set up their Mac for internet service.
    4. Creating a 40 page custom care procedure.

    What have YOU done for your job that wasn’t part of the job?