Monday, December 21, 2009

No such thing as free

I'm not supposed to be blogging right now, I'm supposed to be sitting in a preview of Sherlock Holmes. I got 2 free passes to get in. But when I arrived at the theatre, I (along with a group of others) were not allowed to go in because the theatre was full. Kudos to the manager at United Artists Galaxy Theatre in Indianapolis for offering me admittance to any other movie, but the schedules and other options weren't what I was there for. So I don't blame the theatre at all.

I won't bore you with details, but suffice it instead to say that the monetary opportunity costs were north of zero for me to get an evening out. Plus, I got the tickets from someone else who would have liked to have them used I'm sure; I feel bad that I didn't use them. So I don't blame her at all.

Am I to blame? I thought about what I could have done to make sure I got in - but it really doesn't matter. The fact is that they gave out too many passes, and if it wasn't me being turned away it would have been someone else.

I blame instead the site that provided the tickets: If they respond to my issue I predict they'll point to the fine print that mentions they overbook events. But I'm not looking to find some legal loophole to inflict a civil suit on them anyway; if I wanted to make a frivolous suit I'm sure I could find a better reason. I just want to be a satisfied customer seeing a movie and escape from holiday-induced stress for 90 minutes.  A business model can't succeed long-term by counting on shafting people, even if it has some hand-waving justification in 8 point font. There's a cost to using even a free ticket, and I paid it, and now I feel ripped off that I didn't get in.

Shame on you gofobo for issuing tickets that you never intend will be honored.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My friends will make fun of sappiness

I first heard about the lovelist project from Kristin at and was quite bemused. The concept is a simple one, intuitive and obvious enough to be easy to grasp and implement and yet I was somewhat off-put. My interpretation: the idea is that you list the things you love - publicly - and then you make changes and commitments to include those loves in your life - and report back on that.

Can I really admit in public that I like to sleep really, decadently late on weekends? Will my boss appreciate seeing my plans to include more epicurian lapses into morning slumber? Will me husband react to my Saturday morning coma with his usual stoicism if he knows that I'm planning to shirk Saturday breakfast duty? I'm not sure yet that I can be so public as that. Yet, there is one somewhat private activity I can share - something I find I really love, and really want to have more time for, so I'm committing to that now.

I'm fortunate to be endowed with a wonderfully gracious and intelligent group of friends who, despite my failings, count me as a friend amongst them. They're a group with whom I laugh, I share my aspirations, I plot. We gripe together, we offer sympathy for life's petty wrongs, we have flashes of insight that make troubles easily resolve. And sometimes, we grieve.

I met them online back in the dark ages of the world wide web, back when meeting someone in person who you'd only ever emailed or gotten to know online was considered risqué, and very unlikely as we were located in every corner of the country, in the lower 48 and Canada and occasionally in Hawaii or Belgrade too, depending on deployments. Nowadays, with all the pairings through and, you'd think that the internet was actually a better place to meet people than is one's own local community. But back then, it wasn't. We took the risk anyway and started meeting up. We even included the one we thought was the token guy pretending to be a girl, and were surprised to find she wasn't pretending.

It has been 10 years since we first met, give or take a few for some of us. I recently travelled to the other side of the continent for business and was fortunate enough to end up in a place where there were 3 others from my group of friends; I made time in my schedule to see them. I loved seeing them, and I love the way it seems like we haven't been apart long at all when we're together. Leaving my family for business travel is a grind, and business travel is never glamorous; but I went because it is part of the job, and part of my career that I like. But seeing my friends - making time for them - I did that for me.

And I've seen this before with others in the group - we extend ourselves, make time when there isn't any, and reach out and stay out to be there for each other. We head out to airports to help visiting friends navigate the foreign lands that are our homes, we send care packages, we head out in the rain in Boston and to piercing parlors in NYC, through the subways of Chicago, the mountains of Colorado, under the Arch in St. Louis, at the Lincoln Memorial in DC or at a church in New Jersey. Through bone scans and driver's permits and weight loss and remarriage and childbirth and tattoos and military service, we're going through it together - daily online, and semi-annually in person.

Each year, we meet up in person - actually make a point to do that, once we realized that without such an effort we might only meet at funerals. And I've been unable to go the past two years, through a variety of factors, but I would have loved to be there. This year - thanks to the lovelist project - I'm doubly committed to being there. Because it is the people I love, the people who love me. Being with them renews me in some way to face all those who aren't such dear friends, and still leaves open the possibility that anyone could be - even someone you only first knew as a funny-sounding user name on the internet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreamforce aka #df09

Mr Dreamforce
It has been a while since I traveled for business, and I've somewhat lost the knack of it. There's no glamor in business travel, although I did get to improve my Foursquare points ranking. Being in a time zone a half day different from your native place, where they serve breakfast at lunchtime and dinner is at bedtime left my system completely frazzled. I'd intended to end my days with a blog update but was so tuckered out  I couldn't; so here's my updates now for Wednesday's sessions:

The keynote came off like a pep rally for the AV club. Benioff talked at length about cloud computing as a revolution in IS, the disconnect between knowing more about your friends through social media than you might know about your co-workers and direct reports, and then moved on to chatter. There's plenty of better summaries of Benioff's remarks, so read those if you're so inclined. I'll share instead my reaction: chatter, in summary, operates somewhat like a Google Wave for the organization members who participate in Salesforce's app; and thereby they can chat to each other as well as see posted updates regarding documents, apps, and from outside systems. "My apps are talking to me" said Benioff and that is wonderful, truly. I wonder though how we'll separate the garrulous ugly bums of the apps from the sexy pretty ones that you want to hear from. Similarly, if you're pulling in updates from the public internet - for example, based on searching for tweets which use your company's name - how do you keep known spammers and pornographers from shoving their data into your CRM? As an individual, if I get something distasteful I delete it and go on with my life. But as an enterprise, I figure I'm liable if I inflict such trash upon my coworkers and offend their sensibilities. And if not liable, still it is inefficient and not in the spirit of teamwork to let such nastiness pass through to my coworkers. Salesforce will have to get a grasp on this spam/porn issue with their chatter before adoption can be widespread.

I next went to Hands-On: Building Reports to Analyze ROI  - which was a waste of time for me, and the others I spoke to in the session. In 10 minutes I'd gotten the point that reports were obnoxiously simple to build in Salesforce compared to the sometimes esoteric permutations one goes through to put together a crystal report. Similarly, the session Hands-On: Giving the Right People the Right Information was also dry - more of a basic how-to whereas I was expecting more advanced tips and techniques. I left for the expo, and wish I'd spent more time there! I also spent some time reconfiguing my schedule to avoid the hands on sessions during the rest of the conference - I wish they'd been billed as novice sessions from the beginning.

Another session I attended was The Self-Healing Database: Advanced Data Quality for Busy Administrators. This session was of much better quality, with great tips for running automatic batch processes to keep the data sanitary.

At the expo, I checked with 3 Salesforce staff and none knew how to deal with the filtering issue I mentioned. Finally I found a cheerful gent with a Salesforce tag who was able to answer my question; unlike the developers I'd been pestering for an answer, he'd formerly worked as a salesforce admin so he was familiar with the practical issue I was addressing. His recommendation was to import all the trash as cases, then run some processes to automatically close inappropriate cases and suppress them from user views. Still that would require someone to make a list of nasty terms for us to use as the basis of a filter; but I suppose that's what interns are for.

I had lunch at the Birds-of-A-Feather luncheon, and despite the goofy name it was a great event for me. I had lunch Wednesday with Colby from Exact Target, and he kept a full table engaged in swapping implementation stories and tips. I felt like that open exchange of ideas toward a directed topic was such a benefit - there's no teacher like experience, and hearing other's experiences offered lessons a plenty.

Wednesday night's gala event featuring the Black Crowes got off to a rocky start. In keeping with conference precedence, they started late. But rocking with the Crowes was a highlight for me, I loved being able to see the guitarist's technique from up close - it definitely had a small-club feel in spite of the thousands of people in attendance. I ended up closing out the venue with a group of half-drunken chess players; I'd never been kicked out of a place for playing raucous chess before, but now I have, so I can cross that off my life list.
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