Archive for IT Professionalism

My search for a Paperless Business Card

// October 9th, 2009 // 2 Comments » // Collaboration, Featured, IT Professionalism, Web 2.0

I remember, somewhat fondly, my first PDA (the original Palm). It had an Infrared port that allowed you to “beam” your business card to another similarly equipped Palm devices. I remember thinking, this is great, this will spell the end of paper business cards. Well, too many years later, we are still a drift in a sea of paper business cards.

OK, my Palm example was fraught with problems. First you had to find someone with a an IR enabled Palm, then they had to have the IR enabled, they had to have pre-setup their business card in their contacts, and then you had to get them physically pretty close to make it work. I quickly abandoned my use of beaming business card and went back to the old school paper cards.

Well, the other day I said to myself, surely there has got to be some better options available today, and so I went on the hunt for a simple, yet easily distributable, virtual (paperless) business card.

My criteria was simple, what I wanted was:

  1. Need to be able to store my particulars (for free)… duh
  2. Need to easily be able to share it with people
  3. Would be nice if the recipient didn;t have to manually re-enter my data
  4. Was cool enough that those I gave it to might be interested in trying themselves
  5. Elegant

Of all the options out there, here are the ones I tested (in no particular order):

  • is trying to be the of the virtual business card world. Here is a link to my business card. Although the interface is slick and I am happy with the appearance of the final product, it took me quite a bit of time fiddling with the settings to make it all fit within the displayed card (initially, it ran over and looked like crap). They also don’t have a field for your Title, although they do have the ability to add your own fields. In the end, to make it look nice, I ended up having to put my title and company name within the address box, which of course makes the download able Vcard useless for someone trying to load my info into their contacts automagically.
    Rating: Doesn’t fit the bill (or the Bill for that matter).
  • DUB
    This was one of the easiest to setup and worked as advertised. However, there is no way to share this card in a URL. You need to send an Email, or use a downloadable Blackberry app to it to your recipient. When your new contact gets the link, it asks them to sign up to DUB in order to store your info in their contact list. It’s too bad, because if they had my card URLable, I probably would have liked this the best.
    Rating: Fail…. don’t force the people I send it to, to sign up for the service!
  • Hoocard
    This was by far the coolest bizcard setup I tried, but they fall short in a couple of areas. Most notably, it doesn’t appear to be supported by anyone. Following their Contact link, took me to a page that gave me another link to go to, which when I went there, told me they had merged with someone else. In the end it was just too difficult to find an email address where I could send a simple question.
    Having said that, one of the cool things about Hoocard is that you can set up multiple business cards (ie: one business and one personal) and send which ever one is situationally appropriate. They have an interesting delivery mechansim as well. They give you a unique email address for each card you setup. To send someone your info, you address an Email to that unique hoocard email address, and enter the recipients email address in the subject line, and hit send. The recipient receives an email which contains the graphical representation of my business card, and an attached Vcard so they can load it into their contacts.
    No where on the site does it show you a direct URL to your card, but I managed to figure it out. Here is a link to my business Hoocard and my personal Hoocard.
    Rating: Does the job, I like the multiple card options, but I don’t like having to hunt for the URL
  • BusinessCard2
  • BusinessCard2 is by far the most professional of the group and is very simple and easy to use. Although they lack the fancy “send” options of some other players, it sets up an easily rememberable URL and does have the option to email the link to your intended recipient. Unfortunately, it only allows you one email address per profile/card, and I originally used my personal email, but entered my company info. So now I have 2 cards, one for work and one personal.. Here is personal BusinessCard2 card and here is my work one.
    After all my testing, this is the one I’ve landed on as my default online business card. It was easy to setup and is easily distributable. Just send your intended recipient the URL and they can go to the site and view your card as well as download a Vcard. The one thing I’d like to see them change though would be to send the actual Vcard with the email that contains the link, so save the recipient the extra step.
    Rating: Best of the lot
  • Do it yourself option
    Just for fun, I tried a little do it yourself project. I found a cool looking WordPress theme that did one thing and one thing only…. present your info in a cool way. Here is a link to my DIY Card.
    Although somewhat cool, it has the drawback of not having a downloadable Vcard. I suppose I could build one and insert a link, but…. meh…. I’lll stick with BusinessCard2 for now.
    Rating: Cool now that I have done it, but too much work if you are looking to do it yourself.

So, from this point forward, I will be sending people my paperless card rather than giving them a real one.

Rant: Focus on the problem, not the solution

// October 7th, 2009 // No Comments » // IT Professionalism, The business of IT

Anyone who has been in IT for a while, has been hit with users bringing you their solutions, and asking for help to implement, rather than explaining their problems and asking for help developing potential solutions. If you are not careful, you can easily get caught up in the trap of providing good customer service (ie: trying to help them) rather than servicing the customer well.

This was brought home to me again this week when asked for my opinion on a “solution” that had been in the works for several weeks. My first question was, what is the problem you are trying to solve? What I got back was, what their solution would do. Rather than go in the specifics of this situation (it happens to be something confidential within my company), here are a few well know examples that illustrate the problem.

Example 1

The problem: When both the US and the Russians started sending people into space, they discovered that ball point pens didn’t work in zero gravity.

Focus on the Solution: Nasa developed a pen that worked in zero gravity, worked upside down, worked underwater, would write on just about any surface, and would function in -300C temperatures.  The cost… $12 million

Focus on the Problem: The Russians used a pencil. Cost… well you get the picture.

Example 2

The Problem: Two Japanese manufacturers of soap, had received complaint from a customers that had purchased boxes of hand soap with no bar of soap in the box. In both case, they problem turned out to be on the packaging line.

Focus on the Solution: Company A, the larger of the two, had their engineers design an elaborate addition to the packaging line, in the form of an x-ray machine that would scan each box as it went thru the line, and required someone to constantly monitor and removed the empty boxes from the packaging line.

Focus on the Problem: Company B had a creative employee who setup a fan beside the line where the boxes of soap were passing. The boxes with soap in them were heavy and stayed on the line, the empty ones got blown off. Simple, elegant and cheap.

The morale of this story is…. make sure you understand the problem before you jump to solutions.

Geeks of the world unite and get Chic

// October 2nd, 2007 // No Comments » // IT Professionalism, The Future of IT

Can “Geek Chic” help reverse the IT staffing shortage? This is an interesting article I read at about the shortage of IT staff and how we aren’t doing enough to attract High School and College kids to follow a technical track. Athough it touches on the real issue of shortage of qualified staff, it’s more an article no how the Geek image of IT is partly to blame for not attracting young folks. It also goes on to say how people are trying to change that image, and that the TV Networks are now making Nerds and Geeks primetime stars with shows like “Chuck“.

From my perspective, turning IT types into caricatures will only help to reinforce the negative stereotype. It may bring it to more households, but me thinks very few young adults are saying to themselves, I want to be a Geek when I grow up. I don’t think the answer is to make Geek more Chic, but to attack the Stereotype (I haven’t used a pocket protector in years!!) head-on. If you look at almost any profession, and you will find a subset of profession specific “Geeks”, but they don’t define the profession. IT professionals cross the entire political, ethnic, sexual orentation and religious (and non-religious) spectrum.

That’s why I applaud the efforts of the British  e-Skills UK for their Revitalize IT initiative to promote IT professionalism and understand what impression kids really have of IT. Is there a similar initiative in the US or Canada? If anyone knows, please comment and let us know. I know there are groups like CIPS in Canada that do a lot to promote professionalism, and I know many companies have campaigns to market the IT profession to University grads, but who is educating the kids in high school, before they make their past secondary decisions?

So, let’s make this a call to all IT professionals out there to help kill the Geek stereotype and promote it to our young  folk. If you don’t believe there is a crisis ahead, check out this article that shows enrollment in Computer Science programs is 39% lower than in 2000. Couple that with the number of Baby Boomer who will be retiring in the next 5-10 years, and you’ve got a big void coming. The risk is economic and has significant implications to whether North America will maintain it’s forefront status in Technological innovation. I’m sure there are many who thing it;’s already too late, but I say better late than never.