Because it's our world too

Stop MicroManaging

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 in Business | 10 comments

Hitler is the new greeter at your local store

customer centered

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun shown brightly, its rays gently massaging you just long enough for you to close your eyes and embrace the feeling before the bitingly cold wind tapped you on your shoulder, reminding you that it was now Winter. Maria was in a good mood. It was her first day working after the Thanksgiving holiday and she felt reinvigorated. She had worked overtime the week before and she smiled to herself as she remembered how happy her children were to receive the gifts she brought home for them. Nothing fancy, but it made Maria feel good to be able to provide for her family. She was looking forward to work……

It’s that time of year again

Grandma needed new winter clothes and so I sucked it up and took her to Wal-Mart yesterday. Not that I particularly enjoy the place but I can usually find what I need when I’m too lazy to go to the Galleria or don’t feel like waiting 3 days for Amazon.com to ship.

Not knowing where anything is, and especially lacking knowledge of where the Women’s clothing was, we asked the only employee in the area to help us. She was very patient as Grandma took her from place to place, telling her “no, that’s not what I’m looking for.” A less gentle soul would have taken the opportunity to answer that imaginary phone call telling her that they she was needed immediately in isle 4. But not Maria. She was a nice lady.

As I sat there waiting for grandma to make up her mind, I noticed a man, who we will call Frank, walk up and ask Maria to step aside for a moment. “What are you doing?” he asked, in the same tone of voice that you would use to try and stop someone before they started running naked through an elementary school. “This is not your area.”

Not wanting to let Maria’s kindness go to waste, I immediately interjected and told the manager that we had specifically asked her to help us find something. It was of no use. Frank (not real name) didn’t let his opportunity to rule over a subordinate go to waste.

Stop Micromanaging

You see Frank, if it weren’t for customers like granny and me, you would be out of a job. That’s why they hired you and Maria; because you know where the stuff is that we are looking for. When I ask someone where something is, I am happy when they go out of their way to help me find it, even if they don’t immediately know where that something is, because it shows that THEY CARE. Want me to go home with that warm and fuzzy feeling of having been satisfied as a customer? Then let Maria do her job.

Isn’t that what a manager is for?

Now I don’t doubt that in some handbook sitting in the trash somewhere it is written that all employees are to stay in their area, yada yada on and on, but that is probably so that they are not all hanging in the back of the store throwing a party. I don’t think it applies in this case, Frank.

What does this mean for the employee and the customer?

Good job ruining Maria’s day. She will probably think twice before going out of her way to help another customer because she knows that you are probably lurking around the corner, waiting for her to go beyond that imaginary line that you call her “area.”

What can I do to stop this from happening in my company?

Be more culturally sensitive and enforce the spirit of a rule and not just the rule itself. Cultural background has an impact on what employees end up doing when they are faced with a choice. Some may believe that it is right to help others no matter the cost while others may have been brought up in a culture where it was expected to follow the rules exactly. Having helpful employees is a valuable intangible asset to your company and its occurrence should be nurtured. Perhaps incorporating these ideas into your managerial training programs will help your business obtain or keep a competitive advantage, because when you piss customers off they are more likely just to stay at home and order online so they don’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense.

84,584 boxes of tissues were bought to wipe away the tears caused by Frank.

Daniel Millsap

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Houston Red Light Cameras and giving voters the middle-finger

Posted by on Nov 26, 2011 in Houston Red Light Cameras | 7 comments

The man hatches his new plan for social good.

yes mastah.

Have you ever been driving through an intersection that happens to have a red light camera on it? Have you ever accidently gone through only to see the camera flash in your rear view mirror? How does that make you feel? Nowimagine this: You were given a choice, in the form of a vote, on whether or not you wanted to have this fun little experience. And the vote passed in favor of disabling the cameras. (sigh of relief right?) Now imagine that a year or so later you are driving and miss the red light only to see the flash that should not even be there. NOW how do you feel? Not only do you begin to worry about whether or not you will receive an unwanted holiday card from the city but you are given the middle finger because you have been reminded that, even though you went to vote, and everyone else went to vote, and that the vote was to take them down, they are not down. (edit: looks like they did take them down.. and then put them back up. and then take them back down. and then put them back up?)

Even assuming arguendo that they were turned back on because they mayor said so, the fact remains that the action is still bullshit because that would mean that the Mayor is expecting us to tune into channel 11 news or read the Houston Chronicle every 15 minutes to see what the law was going to be for that day. Speaking of the law, isn’t that what the results of votes are for….

Picture of Jeremy Bentham

This guy has more Facebook friends than you do

Ah! It’s good ole’ Jeremy Bentham reminding us from the grave (sorta) that people avoid pain and the pain of not knowing whether or not the flash has any significance is good enough to keep us servants in line.

Photograph of a prison designed using Panopticon theory

home sweet home

“Hence we design the prison so that the prisoners are forced to behave as they ought because they think the unseen warder in the centre of the spider’s web is always watching them. We design the penal code so that self-interested people, desiring to avoid punishment, do what they ought.” (Harrison 2001)

or in his own words

You will please to observe, that though perhaps it is the most important point, that the persons to be inspected should always feel themselves as if under inspection, at least as standing a great chance of being so, yet it is not by any means the only one. If it were, the same advantage might be given to buildings of almost any form. What is also of importance is, that for the greatest proportion of time possible, each man should actually be under inspection. This is material in all cases, that the inspector may have the satisfaction of knowing, that the discipline actually has the effect which it is designed to have” (Bentham)

Yes but [ insert idiot here] ….. you say:

  • idiot #1: You shouldn’t have run the red light then.
  • Response: Nice try, but the issue is not about running red lights, it’s about the fact that the cameras are there after we voted against them.
  • idiot #2: Studies (insert ridiculous reference to CNN or whatever) show that these red light cameras reduce the incidence of accidents etc.
  • Response: Well isn’t that nice. But even if it were true,and once again, the issue is not about whether or not they prevent this or that, but why they are even there in the first place after we voted against it.
  • idiot #3: The city has a duty to fulfill its contractual obligation to the company that manufactures and operates the cameras. They will be fined millions if they break the contract.
  • Response: Well then they should have thought about that before signing the contract. We were not given a choice on whether or not we wanted to take them down 3 years from now, we voted to take them down now.
  • idiot #4: What are you worried about? Even though the cameras are still on and flash when you run the red light, they are not on in the sense that they no longer result in a ticket being sent in the mail.
  • Response: Well, yes they do?, and secondly, I didn’t vote on whether or not I wanted a ticket in the mail, I voted on the use of the cameras in the first place. You see, seeing that light flash in my mirror is just as bad, if not worse, than getting a ticket for it, because it reminds me that there is always the chance that I will get a ticket, even if I can get it thrown out (by wasting time writing, calling, showing up somewhere). It also reminds me that the people who gave us the choice don’t really give a shit and that they are going to do whatever they want anyway.

The ramifications

What kind of message does it send to the people when you give them a choice, and then take it back like a 3 year-old on the playground that is not happy because she got tagged “it.” That’s what voting is for: to gauge the sentiment of the people. And it is your (politician I’m talking to you) job to represent the sentiment of the people. That’s why we elected you. So get off your fat asses and start doing your job correctly.

The point of the camera is not so much in making the city extra revenue, or about saving you from an accident,

its about reminding you that “the man” is always watching you, and can inconvenience you at any time and for anything. And if you are bothered by that then tough, that’s your problem. Find a way to get past the hardwired reactions in your brain,learn to turn it all off, or go back to playing on your computer. Or better yet, go read a book.

Selected Writings on Utilitarianism (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) by Jeremy Bentham. With an introduction by Ross Harrison.ISBN-10: 1840221119

In the spirit of Maddox

7,8894,004 people have had their emotional affect violated by the man since the vote passed to take down the red light cameras.

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Using Social Network Analysis and Deception to Expose Anonymous Organizational Structures

Posted by on Nov 14, 2011 in Social Intelligence | 1 comment

Social network collaboration graph

Come out come out wherever you are

故策之而知得失之計,作之而知動靜之理,形之而知死生之地,角之而知有餘不足之處。故形兵之極,至于無形;無形,則深間不能窺,智者不能謀。因形而措勝于眾,眾不能知,人皆知我所以勝之形,而莫知吾所以制勝之形;故其戰勝不復,而應形於無窮。孫子

Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s own tactics – that is what the multitude cannot comprehend. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. Sun Tzu.

What better way to oust an anonymous and technically savvy organization than to use their own strength (anonymity) against them? What better way to drive them from hiding than by setting a trap and then watching the ensuing communication patterns as they frantically try to determine what is going on, who issued such a statement, are we really at war with X,Y or Z?

If you follow the news then you know that every once in a while an organization known as Anonymous comes out from the shadowy landscape of cyberspace to do good or do bad, depending on who you ask or what side of an issue you believe in.

Most recently, I came across a very sophisticated piece of financial analysis (PDF) that would seem to have come from someone very adept at forensic financial analysis. Was this really something that came from the same “Anonymous” that I had come to know? If it wasn’t then would I really expect them to turn down responsibility for such a nice piece of work?

When I came across a video purported to originate from Anonymous threatening the Zeta Mexican cartel after an alleged kidnapping, I began to wonder whether or not these latest events really came from such a group or if it was a way of testing some new form of technological warfare from someone who saw the anonymous group as being a threat. (FBI CIA NSA/CSS ?)

After all, how could an invisible group deny doing something? In fact, only a few days after the video was posted, another news story came out in which the veracity of the kidnapping event itself was questioned.

If I wanted to take down a group, why not start something with a powerful group and have them do the dirty work for me? And if I was having trouble identifying who was in charge of a group that was good at hiding, why not start something REALLY BIG and then analyze the internet traffic afterwards to see where all the talk was coming from and going to?

Further reading:

Social network analysis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_analysis

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War

Collaboration Graphing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_graph

Daniel Millsap

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Houston SPCA adopting out your future pets this weekend for $11 only

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in Pets | 1 comment

Feels Good Man

There is no better feeling in the winter than waking up with two doggies and a kitty or two huddled up against you warming you up; there’s no better feeling in the summer than laughing at your doggies as they chase the squirrels up the tree inthe back yard.

Considering the fact that blood pressure medication can cost you hundreds of dollars a month, why not get the same effect from your pets for free? Well that is not quite true. Vet bills are not cheap and I wish more people would understand that before adopting or buying a pet with the assumption that they cost little or no money to care for. But that is for another day.

I want to share the good news that I received in my mail box this morning. In honor of Veterans Day the Houston SPCA is adopting all dogs, cats, and small mammals for only $11. Here is a link to the story on their website.

Some people may have the misconception that rescued animals or somehow less intelligent, less healthy, and less desirable than animals purchased from a breeder or store, but I am here to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.

But don’t take my word for it. Go on down to the SPCA and see for yourself!

The Houston SPCA celebrates Veterans Day this weekend with an adoption special aimed at saving the lives of homeless animals in our community. The goal is to place 111 animals into loving new homes from Friday 11/11/11 through Sunday 11/13/11 during the “All American VeteransDay Adoption Extravaganza.”

There are hundreds of freedom-loving furry friends waiting for a family at the Houston SPCA. Visit the shelter and choose the right one for your family for only $11.00*. The adoption fee* will be waived completely for ALL veterans in honor of Veterans Day.

Each canine and feline adoption package is valued at over $400 and includes:

  • A health evaluation, initial vaccinations and rabies vaccinations for felines three months and older;
  • Spay / neuter surgery;
  • Deworming;
  • Microchipping with free lifetime registration;
  • A complimentary overall wellness examination (within five days after adoption) and complimentary 14-day follow-up care for certain conditions, provided by VCA Animal Hospitals to give your pet the very best in medical care;
  • One bag of cat food courtesy of Hill’s Science Diet;
  • 30 days of pet insurance coverage through Shelter Care;
  • And, of course, a friend for life!

For an additional $25, FeLV/FIV testing is available to all felines at the time of adoption from the Houston SPCA.

The Houston SPCA is the only local shelter open seven days a week with the most convenient evening and weekend hours to make choosing the adoption option as easy possible. Visit today, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 7 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.

*Restrictions apply. Adopters must be approved and the discounted adoption fee does not apply to horses, farm animals or dogs and puppies in the Spot Peabody Small Dog and Puppy room.

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Cultural Artifacts In an Impermanent Digital World

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in culture | 3 comments

A gentleman remembers an event which can only exist in his mind and in this archive in the form of a photograph of his deceased loved one

Does this scene mean as much to us as it does to him?

Oh Sweet Memories

Where do fond memories exist but in the minds of those whose shared experiences created them? How can one possibly convey the emotional value of those memories when words can only scratch the surface of the deeper feelings that remain so vividly in the minds of those for whom such mental pictures seem but only seconds old?

The above picture was used in a speech given by Jason Scott at Def Con 19 which was titled: Archive Team: A distributed Preservation of Service Attack.

Jason Scott represents an organization called the Archive Team, which he describes as a “rogue band of archivists, preservationists, and jerks dedicated to saving online and, in some cases, offline history.” Their mission is to come in and rescue sites that look like they are about to be shut down. The content is downloaded and archived so that it can later be accessed by anyone who wishes to do so. This is important because the memories embedded within the soon to be thrown away content has meaning to others and therefore should be saved and given acknowledgement as being carriers of emotionally valuable content. Scott reasons that they [the Archive Team] “duplicate stuff because otherwise the conversation ends.”

Jason gave a very entertaining and at the same time very emotionally moving speech about the conflicting definitions of value attributed to the content generated by and on digitally created user communities but hosted by economically interested corporations that give little or no thought to making a decision to close an online community once it is no longer economically profitable for them to keep it open. The fact that these communities can be and are created and destroyed so easily by the corporations that created them without any concern regarding the emotional value that the content represents to the users is concerning when one realizes just how much emotional value some people give to the memories generated in and shared by online communities.

A greater message embedded in the speech was that a digital object can be an emotionally meaningful item that has relevance to a culture and a world. Once people have a shared experience the memory of that experience becomes something that they then consider as being a part of their identity.
These things which were being deleted with little or no warning were not just out-dated websites but were rather collections of memories that had been generated by and thus valued by the people who were once a part of that community.
Scott describes these shared experiences as cultural artifacts, which are “objects that maintain memory, objects that are a part of us, have relevance to us, even after their initial use may be initially gone.”

Memories exist in the minds of those who experienced an event. Online communities consist of people who share collective memories from having shared experiences in time. Something they created, something they did together. This has actual meaning for the people who experienced them, much like the gentleman in the picture can see a memory of himself sitting with his now deceased loved one whereas someone who was not there at the time sees only the park bench and the background. But where do these experiences and memories exist but in the minds of those who experienced them? Once the community has been removed, the people are no longer able to convey to others the beauty that was once shared. Quoted from the speech: “how do we destroy lives, how do we destroy cultures? and the answer is this: disenfranchise, demean, delete.” The creators of the online content (the online users) are disenfranchised because they do not control the space in which they participate in and create memories. It is done on some company’s web server. It is owned by the company and so the users are out of luck if the company wants to change the rules or shut down completely. The old content is demeaned by others who do not share the same digital time-space and thus can not share the same memories. Once the company hosting the content no longer cares, the content is deleted and former users are no longer even given access to any form of record that their community had ever existed. Scott describes it as a case “where a company went speculatively into user-generated content and when they decided it wasn’t worth it anymore they got out of it; like getting into a library and then deciding the library business isn’t worth it and burning it down.”

Where’s my World PvP?

This next part of my writing may only be familiar to those who play World of Warcraft, but the idea can be translated into other online games, other environments shared with friends and foes. The forums are always full of nostalgic reminiscences of and yearning for the return of earlier days, when battlegrounds took days instead of minutes, and quests were puzzles to be figured out and not inconvenient way points on a quest-helper map.

A Screen capture from the World of Warcraft depicting world player versus player combat which some claim no longer takes place in game

remember this?

Newer players are unable to comprehend what it is that those people are longing for… they have no way to, for how do you archive memories of participation in an online game which is always changing in its purpose and in its goals? The temptation for newer players is to tell those people to shut up and deal with it. To adapt or get the heck out. But before you embark on a message post to belittle the person yearning for the good old days of “vanilla wow,” try and put yourself in their shoes. Remember a fond memory and then imagine how it must feel like to try and convey the joy it brought to you to those who have no way of knowing what it was like.

A screen capture from the World of Warcraft in which a survey of who is online reveals that I am the only one

Where'd you all go?

If you wish to learn more about the Archive team and maybe get involved yourself, feel free to visit their homepage at www.archiveteam.org
Jason Scott left the following email address in his speech so if you have any questions or comments you would like to direct to him yourself: jason@textfiles.com
As of November 8, 2011, the speech can be seen in its entirety on Youtube at the following URL

Daniel Millsap

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Blizzard Entertainment: Coincidental or Cunning?

Posted by on Nov 7, 2011 in World of Warcraft | 1 comment

Don’t you ever get bored?

Every once in a while I get so bored that I decide to download World of Warcraft so that I can once again escape to an instance or battleground. My friend Tommy also was once the WOW enthusiast and so every time I decide to re-download the game client I send him some screen caps of the download process to remind him of fun times. He has long since canceled his account while I leave mine open as an option.

The morning after I had reinstalled the game, I received a forwarded email that had been sent from Blizzard to Tommy, “reminding” him that he had to hurry, because it was his last chance to play two weeks for free before the offer expired in just a few days. I was tempted to believe that this was just an amazing coincidence but the skeptic inside me wondered whether or not the email was a deliberate attempt to get a former player back paying the monthly subscription.

Ohh Ahhh Must Be Magic

actual photograph of email sent to Tommy from Blizzard Entertainment

Coincidence or Cunning?

There would be nothing magical or coincidental about it. Just some simple database kung fu. My logging in after a long absence could trigger an action where Blizzard could go through my friends list (an in-game instant messenger where one can communicate with others), see which ones had not logged on in a long time or who had canceled accounts, and then automatically send an email telling them to hurry up as their door of opportunity was about to close. So as I sit here I ponder still – was it all just a coincidence or might a company that recorded $4.4 billion in revenues for 2010 put to use some money for serious psychological research for marketing?

Daniel Millsap

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Bumblebee Software : Rm -rf ing your /usr since 1889

Posted by on Jun 20, 2011 in funny | 1 comment

funny picture explaining the oopshttps://github.com/MrMEEE/bumblebee/commit/a047be85247755cdbe0acce6#diff-1

Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter, and the funniest stuff out of life sometimes comes from the most unexpected of places.

Daniel Millsap

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