I feel so honoured.

I got this email today:

Dear Valued Candidate,

It is my pleasure to inform you that you qualify for a 2012/2013 membership to the National Association of Professional Women,

the largest network of professional women in the United States.

The NAPW highlights and profiles the country’s most accomplished professional women in over 200 industries and professions.

We provide an exclusive and powerful networking forum for our valued members to communicate and achieve social and career success.

I never thought I would be asked to join such an exclusive group. Of women.

I know. It’s just spam. But for a moment there, it felt so nice. After all, one can dream, can’t they?

Really? Nobody saw this coming?

Apparently, that questionable post you put up on Facebook might cost you your job:

Little did Ashley Payne know that the festive photo of her holding both a pint of beer and a glass of red wine would lead to her losing her high school teaching job.

The 24-year-old educator posted the image to her Facebook profile, and after a parent complained, school officials told Payne she’d have to choose between resigning and suspension, according to IOL News. She resigned.

And nobody had an inkling that this might happen? Would you post the same photo on the school’s bulletin board? If not, then it probably shouldn’t be on Facebook, which is even more public.

Now I’ve given social media presentations where I’ve suggested that in a few years this will no longer be a problem. When today’s 24 years are tomorrows management, they won’t consider Facebook photos like this to be a problem, because they will be socially acceptable because everyone has done it for years.

But for now, it is best to adopt a “poster beware” sensibility.

Infrastructure deficits don’t happen overnight.

Over the past few years, municipal governments have begun to trumpet their growing infrastructure deficits. Waterloo, Ontario, a city of about 100,000 people, claims its infrastructure deficit is around $250 million:

Q. What is an infrastructure deficit and why is it so high in Waterloo?

A. This is a common issue across Canada. The solution must be long term and include senior levels of government. Municipalities own a large portion of Canada’s infrastructure, yet we receive only 3½ cents on every tax dollar to maintain it. With just 3½ cents, our municipality has been asked to fund all city services as well as to maintain and build new infrastructure. Funding for ailing infrastructure has not been at a sustainable level for many years, so more assets are falling into a deficit category. We estimate our infrastructure deficit is $250 million.

What is an infrastructure deficit? It is the aggregate cost of all maintenance required on city infrastructure.

I’m sure municipalities would love to have you believe that this just popped up out nowhere completely by surprise. Unfortunately though, this deficit arises from a systematic failure to maintain existing infrastructure over time. It’s like owning a house, doing no maintenance for 20 years, then being surprised that it needs a new roof and new windows.

They aren’t calculating these numbers in a rush to fix things; as you’ll notice in the paragraph above, this is merely a tactic to shame higher levels of government into coughing up some cash.

Spending on infrastructure isn’t sexy. It’s much more fun to build ice rinks, a theatre, or an LRT. In fact, they might even stop cutting the grass to save money (though enough complaints might make them reverse that decision), but isn’t cutting the grass and maintaining the roads pretty much the core of municipal services?

Municipalities like to complain that they don’t have that much money, but the truth is that their revenue growth has far outstripped population growth. They have just chosen to spend in on other things, mainly salaries and benefits for employees, which account for more that half of their budgets. (I would quote a paragraph from this article but the National Post doesn’t seem to understand the concept of fair use or fair dealing – their loss as I probably won’t link to them again, though I could easily subvert their right mouse click capture).

Municipalities aren’t going to rush to fix the infrastructure problems. The potholes in my neighbourhood make that abundantly clear. They just want more money, so that they can spend more, without having to answer to their constituents. They just ignore the fact that there is only one pocket to take the money from in the end.


Maturity is underrated.

I’ve commented on the fact that tech companies don’t want to hire older people before. And startups are typically comprised of younger people. This has become so prevalent it is newsworthy when older folks do startups:

“Lets face it. Technology is a young person’s industry,” said Alan Kearns, head of Canadian career coaching firm CareerJoy. “It’s never impossible for an older employee to get in, but you have to prepare for more challenge.”

However in the Waterloo tech cluster, a number of mature entrepreneurs have created successful new careers in tech, defying the industry’s ageist attitudes in the process.

Never mind that these guys are only 32 and 38. The article also quotes CEO Carol Leaman, who is 46.

I’m 52, so I’m swimming upstream right from the start. Apparently I’m ultra mature (though nobody has ever used the word “mature” to describe me in any capacity).

Yes I have gray hair. So what? I have more energy and talk faster than most people you’ll ever meet. And my words aren’t even close to keeping up with my thoughts. I’ve been ahead of every technology shift in my career and I’ve managed to be involved ahead of the trends. I’ve changed and reinvented myself constantly. I can write code and marketing copy. I can sell, and I can support customers. I can build a product from idea to product sale. And I have plenty of experience doing it all.

We always claim that experience is a valuable teacher. Then in practice we just ignore it.

You can certainly hire young people if you choose. But what are you giving up by not hiring “mature” people?

eHarmony wants to make a match.

I’ve noticed that spam email seems to run in groups lately. For a couple of days I’ll get groups of 4-6 spam emails with the same sender or subject. Then that topic will fade away, and it will be a new one.

I hadn’t checked my email this weekend, and when I looked at it this morning it wasn’t 3 or 4. It was about 200 spam emails from “eHarmony Partner”. Now I know it isn’t really eHarmony sending these emails, and I know that they are just probably click bait for affiliate links that will generate pay per click revenue for the senders. And just for their edification, there is zero chance of me clicking on any of the links. They will be deleted post haste.

I did open a couple just to see where they came from and from whois this seems to be a common contact (the address is also at the bottom of the emails):

Registrant Contact Details:
vlz marketing
shawn reed (shawnreed49@yahoo.com)
2885 Sanford Ave SW #17117
Tel. +001.6169656630

It seems that this guy has nothing better to do than spam people, and obviously isn’t concerned by the CAN-SPAM Act. Sadly, this must work pretty well for spammers to continually annoy people like this.

Things change. Eventually.

I was listening to Boston while doing some work around the house this morning, and it took me back to my high school days. Back then kids thought of success as when your band made it big, or your team scored the winning touchdown. Neither musically inclined nor athletically gifted, I learned to write code.

In my teens I started working for a company that designed and built its own computer – Geac – but it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of the company. They actually had their own unique programming language, which ran in an 8K partition. Yes, that’s 8 kilobytes. Not megabytes or gigabytes. Kilobytes. I think I was employee number 21 or something like that. Back in the olden days that was very uncommon. Computers were big room-sized things, and there was no such think as 12 year olds building apps. A computer on your desktop wasn’t yet a thought for the average person, even though they were just beginning to exist.

Back then the smart kids – geeks probably wasn’t the correct word then – didn’t get the girls (ok, I did get at least one – she married me). They really didn’t get much of anything. People with the highest marks in school did get awards, but just a couple as opposed to the annual Athletic Awards banquet. But that wasn’t me either. I got good marks in the 80s and 90s but that didn’t interest me. It was the drive to learn new things constantly that drove me. School just couldn’t keep up with that for me. I learned the stuff too easily, but it wasn’t that interesting, so I just didn’t put that much work into it.

So I went to university, became an electrical engineer (there wasn’t such a thing as software engineering yet), and worked for a series of companies; some enjoyable, and some not so much. I found that I especially enjoyed the smaller companies, or the small leading edge groups the I worked with inside. When the group or company got too big I left, voluntarily or involuntarily. I soon realized that I didn’t enjoy working for somebody; I’d rather be starting the thing myself. I didn’t have a problem with risk, and I preferred to be in control of my own destiny.

I was a bit ahead of my time then. There were no startups like there are today. Starting a company cost millions, not hundreds. No cloud computing, and barely a hint of the pre-World-Wide-Web internet.

But now, decades later, though I’m sure musicians and athletes are still celebrated, the new badge of success is entrepreneurship – starting your own successful business. It’s finally cool to be a geek, with hit television shows like The Big Bang Theory watched by millions every week. And the smart guy gets the cute girl now.

I’m a bit older than startup founders typically seen in Silicon Valley, but I continue to spend my life right there on the bleeding edge, doing something new and different every day. I’ve realized that my biggest goal is to do something spectacular, because the truth is, I don’t want to be forgotten. So I’ll keep going until I hit that target. As Edison said, “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.

I guess if you are patient, the world will eventually catch up with you. So if you feel a little out of place in your life, keep in mind that it does get better. And it’s never dull.

Used computer. Bought in 1976. $640,000 or best offer.

Thinking back to all of the computers I’ve junked or sent to e-waste recyclers, I’m wondering if I should have saved some of they. They might have been worth something:

Last November, an Apple-1, also commonly known as the Apple I, sold for $640,000 at an auction in Germany. That sale surpassed the previous record of $374,500 set only five months earlier at Sotheby’s in New York.


We’ll think about telling you what’s going on.

The city of Waterloo, Canada announced their new website a few months ago, with a sky-high price tag of $384,000, paying far more than comparable sites of other local governments. And that was after removing a whole bunch of information that should be public:

The City of Waterloo chose to restrict access to thousands of pages of public documents when it revamped its website in January — and Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner is calling the move “inadequate and unacceptable.”

Six years of council and committee meeting minutes, agendas and other city reports are now only available upon request.

Initial suggesting that this was due to provincial accessibility legislation requirements, they later gave the real reason:

“It was just such a large amount of (documents) that we decided not to include them on the website,” said Megan Harris, director of communications.

So let’s get this straight. The documents were on the old website, but you just decided not to include them on the new website? I guess that we do need to conserve space on the internet; it’s getting so big after all.

I especially loved this comment by Waterloo CAO Tim Anderson:

“It wasn’t meant to do anything in terms of not providing information to the public,” he said. “If there’s public demand for access to the information I think that is an administrative decision that we can reconsider.”

So basically he’s saying that yes we took the information away, but if enough people ask what the city government is doing, then we’ll think about telling you. It’s kind of simple really. When you take away the information, then you have very clearly made a decision to not provide information to the public. Kind of obvious, right? This action was a clear result of an intentional decision.

This is public information, and he doesn’t get to decide what citizens get to know and what they don’t. There is a law that covers that. And the councillors of Waterloo should be ashamed of themselves for completely failing in their duties to act on behalf of the citizens of Waterloo.


Us and them.

I always thought that it should be a cardinal rule of advertising to not give attention to your competitors. Obviously Microsoft does not agree. Their latest tablet add attempts to show how much better theirs is than the iPad:

Microsoft choses to highlight Windows 8′s side-by-side apps with Live Tiles, PowerPoint, and the $449 price of the 64GB ASUS’ VivoTab Smart as the benefits of Windows 8. It casually ignores any strengths of the iPad, while assuming consumers will purchase a comparable 64GB model at $699. “Should we just play chopsticks,” quips Microsoft’s ad, with a sequence that mimics the iPad mini commercial. Microsoft recently created anApple vs. Samsung wedding fight for its latest Windows Phone ad, and this latest commercial feels all too similar to the “I’m a PC” ads that Microsoft crafted to counter Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaigns years ago.

I suppose they need to do whatever they can to get people looking at the product so they can sell some. Though for the first time I did see a couple people with Surface tablets the other day.

I still think reminding people of the competitor in your ad is counterproductive. Pepsi insists on displaying Coke prominently in almost every one of the ads. Strangely enough, even if I wasn’t thirsty before, when I see the ads I suddenly want a Coke. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Pepsi’s goal, but they brought Coke up after all.

You can judge for yourself how effective Microsoft’s ad is.


Ask before you sell my information.

I’m sure when most people signed up for mobile phone service, they didn’t expect that the providers would be tracking where they went when web browsing, and then selling that information:

When a Verizon Wireless customer navigates to a website on her smartphone today, information about that website, her location and her demographic background may end up as a data point in a product called Precision Market Insights. The product, which Verizon launched in October 2012 after trial runs, offers businesses like malls, stadiums and billboard owners statistics about the activities and backgrounds of cellphone users in particular locations.

It’s one thing when a free service like Google uses my information; in that case I am the product, and I exchange information for the value of the service. But when I pay a company like Verizon for a service, they should be barred from doing anything with my information unless I am informed and possibly compensated.

When we agree to allow a company to use our “information” I’m certain most people think that only includes name, address, and phone number type stuff. But these days that information extends to anything that might pass through their pipes.

Companies should be forced by law to enumerate the information they plan to use, and how they plan to use it, and allow customers to agree, disagree, or opt out later.

It should be my information, first and foremost, not theirs.