Updates from September, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Dean Waye 5:21 pm on September 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brian wansink, , Business and Finance, Business model, Cialdini, clay shirky, , , , , ,   

    Is Project Management Peaking? 

    Arthur Rudolph

    Image via Wikipedia

    After catching up on Brian’s progress, I started wondering if my own job was easy to outsource to the other side of the world, and decided it wasn’t. Well, it is, though not really. But I started doing a little thought experiment on what might make it obsolete altogether.

    The Thought Experiment: What could make most software project managers obsolete?

    Project managers, in the best cases, can add a lot of value. The best (paid) ones manage undertakings that are either:

    (1) complex, and would surely never happen without someone experienced in the challenges and tools to manage them

    (2) necessary, but hard to make a profit on, without someone who knows how to do that

    (3) fraught with risk, where the PM’s main contribution is to manage the project in a way that avoids loss or ‘failure’

    The above are general enough to suggest that PMs will always be with us. But can a case be made that 10 years from now, most won’t?

    There are a lot of project managers in the world today. There are nearly half a million PMP-certified ones, and most people in a project management role today are not PMP-certified.

    For #1 above, what if complexity gave way to smaller sized efforts? The inefficiency of communications between departments, teams, individuals, or countries yields once the complexity subsides.

    Likewise for #2 and #3, more and more software profits are based on services and other add-ons, where ‘regular’ managers with some project management knowledge could become the norm.

    #1 The March Toward Less Complexity

    These are the questions that are on my mind. Because I read a Wired magazine article a few weeks ago that showed how it is traffic from smartphone apps, not web surfing, that cellular networks are groaning under. And because of an article a few weeks ago about how more and more software development is being based on the iPhone/Android model of strictly defined frameworks (the smartphone/tablet operating systems) instead of more general frameworks like Windows, and that this is being done to protect users from malware as well as handset/tablet/iPad manufacturers from the general bugginess Windows users face. The same security model will, I think, become popular across all software, not just phones and tablets, and while it’s good overall, there are implications.

    Also, apps are less complex in general that other software. They tend to be single purpose, and the definition of a successful one isn’t that it does everything, but that it does something well that you find useful. As those companies (or more often individual coders) try to add in more features, they quickly run up against limits on the device itself. In most cases, they create additional apps, instead of bloating their latest success.

    What could this mean for high-end project managers? Maybe very little for the very best of them, because there will always be some complex projects needed, somewhere. Even if it is primarily to care for the current complex systems. After all, there are still people making a living with buggy whips.

    For the lower-end project managers, it might even be a boon, and these are often the types of location-independent project management jobs that can indeed be sent to a different country.

    But for those in the middle it could mean their ranks will be thinned out. As usual, the middle is the most dangerous place to be. Take out complexity, and you’re left with depending on inefficiency for your job’s value. Since much of the inefficiency is due to the size of the community or bureaucracy those PMs deal with, when it is reduced, so is their value.

    If I was in the middle right now, I’d make a 5 year plan to move up the value chain, move down (by relocating to a cheaper place), or move out.

    #2 The Project Manager Yields to the Profit Manager

    Making a profit is hard. Most project managers whom I know never have to think about doing it. Staying within budget, yes. Adding profit, no.

    Staying within budget is like being on the cost of side an enterprise, instead of the revenue side. In every enterprise, there are the people who focus on cost containment/reduction, and the ones who focus on revenue generation. Some management people have to do both, but generally it’s one or the other. The head of HR isn’t thinking about revenue creation, the head of Sales doesn’t care what paperclips cost. No matter who you are, you are one side of this split.

    If your interest, as a project manager, is on cost containment, then the (merely possible, granted) reduction in complexity as a general trend means this role is less necessary than before. Another reality of our modern life lately, the freemium, means the pressure to find additional ways to create a profit will grow.

    Personally, this is where I contribute most of my value as a project manager*, whichever company I am working for, and it’s tricky. At the last company I worked, I eventually had an entire system fashioned for myself, never shared**, that had me bringing in extra revenue for my employer amounting to 10x my salary. I have been sitting on the article I wrote about how to do it for a while now, because I am sure it would kill my career. It was 100% ethically conducted, but why even let the topic come up in conversation with a customer?

    #3 If I Wasn’t Here, You’d Be Screwed

    This where most of the project managers I know live. Their ultimate role is to manage or protect the project against loss, financial, time, or otherwise, by keeping things moving in the right direction. It’s hard work. It’s time consuming, maybe even life consuming. And it’s thankless. It really is a thankless job. But somebody’s got to do it.

    But what is that somebody isn’t you?

    What if the general trend really is toward smaller, less complex, inside tighter frameworks? Or what if the general business model is moving away from high priced services and toward offshore project managers where the first taste is free? If I lived in this space, I’d be the most concerned. Not only could the general trending be against my favor, but most of the project managers in my world are in the same boat, so there’s going to be price competition for the jobs I want. Price competition is bad.

    If either or both of #1 and #2 come true, depending on #3 for your value to the enterprise becomes risky. I could even argue that we see this already… how many project managers now run multiple smaller projects, where neither is big enough to justify their salary?  Specifically, how many of us have seen this become more common over the past few years? I know I have.

    Relax, Maybe I’m Wrong

    I could be completely off base, by the way. Maybe projects will become more complex. Maybe profits will become easier to create (okay, I’m being facetious about that one). Maybe the PM role won’t change much over the next decade.

    Maybe. But I still feel better having thought about the what-if.

    * Interesting note: percentage of project management job listings online that mention the word profit anywhere? Zero.

    (** If you are interested in the basics, you can contact me, but you can’t publish it anywhere. It’s a blending of lessons from this book, and this one, and this one. Oh, and what triggered this post’s creation was the first 3 chapters of “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky. It wasn’t new stuff, it just triggered the other memories. But maybe it would be new stuff to you…)

  • Dean Waye 5:17 pm on September 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Some days you are the tortoise 


    Just before the Avis bus lumbers out of its parking spot to take us to the terminal, a young attractive couple manages to jump on. Not married.

    At the terminal they leap off that bus and run, yes run, ahead of me.

    Security line. I see them again but I am ahead of them somehow. They get lucky and end up in the faster line. For the second time today I see their backs as they run.

    Through Security. Putting my belt on (mental note, wear this new belt through the metal detector someday. It might not need to be removed).
    I see them emerge on the other side with me. Again they were behind me somehow . Hello again, backs. Bye bye. Run, backs, run.

    Now they are getting on the shuttle just before we leave. I am sitting and try not to watch them. Careful of those doors!

    They are ahead of me again, looking at the departure board. Wrong terminal.

    Today I am the tortoise.

  • Dean Waye 5:13 pm on September 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cambodia, Florida, , Google Alerts, Information technology, Outsourcing, South Florida, Southeast Asia, , YouTube   

    Brian, Outsource Yourself 

    Location of Southeast Asia. This map primarily...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Brian Gordon, American born and raised, just moved from South Florida to Cambodia, and I am trying to help him reverse the outsourcing dilemma you might be worrying about in your own job.


    It was good to hear from you, and I was glad to see that the move to Cambodia was trouble-free, given how problematic the months leading up to it were.

    Now that you are settled in, and want to find work, consider marketing yourself in a way that takes full advantage of your situation.

    First, I think that your story is compelling. The Great Recession + the Florida housing bust wiped out your equity, and then you got laid off. I used to live in Florida, and so I know you weren’t unusual. It was just bad luck – you weren’t sub-prime, you got crushed by falling prices, like millions of other people. And getting laid off during this recession happened to millions of people too, not just you.

    But what you did next is what makes the story so interesting. You picked a place you visited once before and liked, gave yourself a September 1 deadline to find a new job in America, and when you didn’t, you left.

    Now, you can geo-arbitrage. You can work for American companies (or really any company, anywhere), undercut your on-shore competition by 20-30%, and take advantage of the lower cost of living in Southeast Asia.

    Not many people could make the kind of change you did. And even fewer would even try. But you did it.

    So, now, how do you find clients?

    This is the weak spot in your strategy, since ideally you would have lined something up before leaving, but I don’t fault you for it. A big change like that means sticking to a date no matter what. Otherwise, maybe you would have never had ‘enough’ clients, and therefore never moved.

    The situation is what it is. Let’s just get started.

    1. You have a domain name, and an email address (brian.gordon@kronosreports.com). Put your story on your website, along with the type of reports you have done and can do for clients. Keep it friendly. (Note: Brian’s specialty is creating database-driven reports for HR systems)

    2. Decide on a rate schedule you can live with, and stick to it. If possible, be the second-highest cost provider among your competitors.

    3. Get someone to send you a MagicJack, so you’ll have a US number that you can use and a voicemail box for the calls you can’t take (sounds simple, I know, but it matters). While you are at it, sign up for Google Voice.

    4. Email everyone you know, individually. Especially former clients. Tell them your story, give them your contact info and website and let them know that you can handle their work easily from where you are, at prices they won’t find locally, at least not with the experience level you offer.

    5. Record some high-quality video and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo. At a minimum, record a 1 minute introduction to your website, again telling your story and how you are able to offer American-style work in a way that benefits the client. Then embed  the video on the front page of your website (this is easier than you think, honest).

    6. Set up Google Alerts for keywords that include your specialty, former employers, and former clients, and when you see new business deals announced, contact the people mentioned and offer to supplement what they are buying with your own offering. We both know the crazy markups that services like report creation have. Some of those companies will be happy to reduce their costs and get the same results.

    7. Subscribe to Help A Reporter Out. Yours is a story that is extreme enough to get media attention, and that sort of publicity will help you get clients and make them more comfortable with you.

    8. Start a blog on WordPress.com, and write about your career adventure. Posts there are picked up by search engines very quickly. I just googled ‘brian gordon‘ and I am pretty sure none of the top results was you. Even ‘brian gordon reports’ didn’t return anything about you. You have a common name (sorry, it’s true), so you need to start getting noticed by Google, buddy. We can’t all be named ‘dean waye‘.   🙂

    9. If one exists, join a group on LinkedIn for people who either do what you do, or are in industries you have sold into. I joined my first 3 groups the other day, and I was blown away by how many project management jobs are listed. Also, post either your website address or this post to Facebook/Twitter, and ask your friends there to pass it along. Mainly for the Google search results help, but it also might you pick up something.

    10. Finally, take a look at the freelancer sites like elance, guru, odesk, and TweetMyJob. They can get you started on something until you get established.

    Also: Dear Reader… yes, you, you right now, reading these words… What do you think? Got a comment, or a suggestion to help Brian?

    • deanwaye 9:14 pm on September 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Brian, It’s been 4 hours since this was posted, and while ‘brian gordon’ and ‘brian gordon reports’ aren’t showing you yet on Google, you’re number 1 for ‘brian gordon cambodia’. So, that’s a first step.

    • Brian Gordon 2:03 pm on September 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Dean – Just wanted to say thanks. I registered on elance and HARO and will submit my story tomorrow…also, I forwarded your article to a few friends and colleagues and this is where I stand

      A former colleague who now recruits technical talent is marketing my background at 4 companies with crystal report projects

      A controller I used to work with is now looking for me to rewrite standard reports from access

      You spelled out perfectly what I need to do.

      As my cost of living in Cambodia is a fraction to the states I can market my expertise in business reporting AND essentially undercut all competition on price….I think I can own this space with quality work and be the best bargain globally for business reporting….and as long as my revenue is below 90K it will be tax free as the US foreign tax exclusion is 90k……

      Thanks again for such a great roadmap.

    • lucythorpe 5:13 am on September 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      You are clearly a great friend with some sound advice. We could all do with a new road map every now and again! As someone who gives press and publicity advice I think finding your story and getting it out there is a brilliant start.

  • Dean Waye 5:40 am on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: airport, , , , , ,   

    Dear TSA, Do Boarding Passes Matter? 

    Right Date, Wrong Airport

    Dear TSA, do boarding passes matter anymore?

    Last week I posted about being full-body scanned in Raleigh en route to Montreal, and no one looked at my boarding pass to ensure I was supposed to be in the airport in the first place.

    This week’s trip has me flying from Greensboro to D.C. and this time (it is really early, 4 AM-ish) I accidentally handed the wrong boarding pass to the TSA agent that examines boarding passes & IDs. He takes a good long look, he initials that he checked it, and lets me go forward. There is no one behind me in line, so no hurry at all.

    So what was he checking, exactly? He wasn’t confirming that I was in the right airport for that flight. Or that I was on any flight out of Greensboro today.

    If he had given it all a cursory check I could understand. But that’s not the case. He took his time.

    Do boarding passes matter?

  • Dean Waye 11:17 am on September 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Update: Raleigh Intl airport called me this morning, and my bag is being flown to my local airport this afternoon. Wow. I was sure I’d never see that sucker again.

  • Dean Waye 12:02 am on September 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Business Services, Company, , Kronos Incorporated, , , , , , ,   

    Dear LinkedIn.com, How Should I Write Recommendations? 

    Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

    Image via CrunchBase

    Dear LinkedIn Colleagues,

    I wrote my first personal recommendation on linkedin.com 7 years ago, in October 2003. Since then, I have written at least 35.

    My early ones were lousy.  Over time they improved,  when I re-thought the audience. At first I was writing for you. Later, I started writing for your prospective hiring managers, in a friendlier tone, highlighting fewer things about you, but hopefully doing a better job overall.

    I think I have gotten better over time. But practice makes perfect. I’ll rewrite yours, if you are one of the early ones 🙂

    * A short note. People are, in general, bad at requesting these recommendations. Virtually no one knows what they want highlighted. Instead, it’s left up to me. In those cases, you have to take what you get. So please take a moment to consider what you want someone to say to your next boss on your behalf. Also, unfortunately, LinkedIn.com recommendations have zero feedback available. So we never know if anyone reads them, likes them, hates them, or even notices them. Maybe LinkedIn can address that in a future release.

    Here are some examples of what I have written for others, in chronological order.

    1. October 2003, for Raj Vennam at Darden: Raj has the tenacity and sunny personality that make for a great coder.

    [sorry Raj, you deserved better]

    Same day, for Uday Shivaswamy at Microsoft: Uday is one of the best programmers I have ever worked with. Very cerebral, with quick insights. [This one had a typo, that I fixed today, after 7 years!]

    2. February, 2004, a little better, this time for Roy Crippen at Digital Fusion: Roy really set the model for me on what a CEO is and does… broad strokes, vision, incredible people skills, and integrity. I’ve measured every other boss against him, and most can’t measure up.

    3. December, 2005, for Rich Bergmann, programmer extraordinaire: When I needed answers about solving a tough software problem, Rich’s answers were the only ones I trusted. He was the only person we all trusted. If Rich said it was possible, you went back to your desk and worked harder. If you still couldn’t figure it out, Rich was always there to help you. If I had ever been as good a programmer as Rich, I probably wouldn’t have moved into management.

    4. February, 2007, for Nader Hooshmand at Kronos: For me, Nader defines conscientiousness and tirelessness. He cares about every aspect of his job. I’m not sure how he does it. He throws himself into it, I’m not sure he ever sleeps, and he’s one of the smartest people I have ever met. Promoting him to be a practice manager was probably the easiest decision his boss made that year.

    5. May, 2007, for Aaron Fausz at Kronos: Change Management is such a difficult field to excel in… blending the science and art of it takes a certain kind of person, and a certain kind of approach. When I choose people to wade into my customer’s organization, I’m very picky. I have to be. I want someone who has perfected the art of “think fast, but talk slow”. That’s Aaron. He’s the only one I know who expertly does both, so all types of businesspeople feel they are in good hands.

    6. December, 2008, for Uta Grzanna, a former client: None of the multinationals (GE, Honeywell, etc.), governments, or tech clients I ever had at Kronos knew as much about, found as many flaws with, or offered as many solutions to our software’s architecture as Ute. She’s ‘that’ client… the one that keeps pushing you to be better: better designed, better implemented, better supported. If I had my time back I would chosen her as my FIRST Kronos client…  having done the work required to make her happy, I could have cruised through my remaining years at Kronos 🙂

    7. August, 2009, for Sudhamen Chandrasekaran at InfoSys/Time Warner CableWhen Sudhaman QAs your product, you end up treating him like he’s the actual customer… a true pain in the ass customer. He treats your product like he’s the one buying it, and picks at it from end to end. He shines a light on every nook and cranny, and writes you up for every little deviation from the spec. And he doesn’t back down.

    If he wasn’t such a super nice guy, you’d wish he would fall in front of a bus. But somehow he manages to be tough and picky and pleasant, all at the same time.

    8. Last month, for Charlie Shaw, PMP:  Charlie is the project manager I always think of when I think about the PMI, and my own PMP certification.  For me he has always been the PM’s PM. The standard bearer of the PMI Way.  And the project manager you look to when you need the job The Right Way.

    9. Yesterday, for Usman Bashir at Time Warner Cable: Someday, Usman needs to do my job for a day. And I need to do his. Someday, Usman will have to give up that fabled deep-focus thing he does, and handle all the trivia and minutiae and cheerleading and threatening I do, and I will get to focus solely and deeply on that day’s problem until I emerge on the other side with the simplest, most elegant answer ever seen. And manage to know the latest cricket scores at the same time.

    Someday… but likely not.

    So.. the later ones are better than the early ones, right? I hope so. Later, I will tell you the secret behind the recommendations others have posted for me.

    *Something occurred to me. This blog is indexed by Google within an hour after the article posts… if your name is mentioned above, this post will soon show up whenever someone Googles you. Try it.

  • Dean Waye 5:50 pm on September 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: audible.com, , Beverages, , , , , , ,   

    Dear United Airlines, 5 Good Things About Your Losing My Bag 

    United Airlines 777s

    Image by matt.hintsa via Flickr

    Dear United,

    Forcing myself to look on the positive side, I came up with 5 pros to what you did you me yesterday (the cons being a lost bag, 5 additional hours stranded at Dulles on a Friday night, and your overall frustrating ineptitude).

    So, here they are, however weak:

    1. Forced downtime (1): I got to enjoy some alone time, listening to “The Big Short” on audible.com. Excellent book about the 2008 financial crisis.

    2. I tried a coffee my wife likes, and it was good: Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. Not as froo-froo as I expected.

    3. Forced downtime (2): I cleared all my work email, so Saturday morning was free.

    4. I didn’t have to lug around two bags. A mixed blessing, for sure, but nonetheless…

    5. I had two hands free, for writing articles. Like this one about you. Ah, the circle of life…

  • Dean Waye 7:21 pm on September 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Asia, , , , , ,   

    Dear Starbucks, UAL Ruined My Evening But You (& Bob Marley) Helped Me Get it Back 

    Dear Starbucks,

    Thanks for being, this evening anyway, the Anti-United-Airlines. In Terminal D at Washington-Dulles airport.

    Aregawi from Ethiopa (on the right), and Hsueh Ho from China, both immigrants like me,  were rocking out to reggae, upsold me a snack even though I am not hungry, and reminded me that not everything about modern air travel sucks.

    Thanks to both of them. Hope they like their picture 🙂

  • Dean Waye 6:21 pm on September 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Airports, , , , , , , , united airlines sucks, United Breaks Guitars, Washington   

    Dear United Airlines, I Can’t Even Look at You Right Now 

    Dear United,

    I checked my carry-on bag plane-side, and you managed to lose its tag while it was inside the plane. That’s a new one for me.

    So we landed and you gave the other carry on bags to the other passengers but you wouldn’t let me leave with my bag.

    Of course I had my claim check. And of course it was useless because you managed to lose the tag on the bag itself, while it was inside the plane on a 1 hour flight. So you told me to go to baggage claim, get my bag there, come back through Security all over again at this intermediate airport (Dulles) and try to make a tight connection.

    And of course you then managed to lose my bag during its 5 minute trip between the plane and the baggage area. And it doesn’t have a tag (remember, you lost that inside the plane?). Let’s be honest here. That bag is gone forever.

    And, naturally I missed my connecting flight. So I have to wait 5 hours for another one.

    Here’s a tip, United.

    I appreciated that everyone was polite and somewhat helpful, within the very limited orbit you allow them to be. But mine was the only plane-side bag ‘unclaimed’ and I was the only passenger claiming it. I had a claim ticket. And you messed me up instead of being sensible.

    Now I understand the ‘United Breaks Guitars‘ guy.

    Oh, and my flight tracker app  just alerted me that my intended flight has landed in Raleigh while I sit here in Washington.


    I can’t even look at you right now.

  • Dean Waye 12:01 pm on September 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Health, , , Montreal, Paris Hilton, Reproduction and Sexuality,   

    Dear Hilton Hotels, Thanks for the Condoms (?) 

    Hilton Place Bonaventure

    Dear Hilton,

    Sometimes, you crack me up 🙂

    I DO appreciate the option, at the Montreal Hilton downtown, to buy different internet speeds (are you reading my blog?). Although, having wi-fi only in the lobby is not useful.

    On the other hand, I have to give you points for creativity, or understanding (some of, but not me) your customers… this is the first hotel in my experience where next to the snacks and a mini-bar, you also sell ‘Intimacy Kits’, with condoms, lube, and ‘obstetrical towelettes’. (I confess, I have no idea what those are, but I am not willing to pay $12 to find out).

    Still, someone must buy them, or you wouldn’t sell them. Go Montreal!

    Canada…. it’s like a whole other country.

  • Dean Waye 12:06 am on September 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Department store, , , , , , , Vending machine   

    Dear Hilton, Why Aren’t You Selling Me Anything? 

    Hilton Brand Logo

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Hilton,

    I am at a new hotel near the Raleigh Durham airport right now. And it is the same, hotel room experience as always.

    Which started me thinking… why is it always the same experience, everywhere?

    I mean, you have me here and there, at hotels all over this country (and others), and what do you sell me besides a benign experience? Why do you only ever try to sell me the same thing, for the past decade(s)?

    –  A pay per view movie? I can get movies and TV shows from a lot of different places now. This is 2010, not 1990.

    –  A spa-something? Never been interested. And only offered at a fraction of locations anyway.

    –  Internet access? Well, now it is free. Thanks for that. But let’s be honest. It is uniformly lousy. Have you seen that iPhone commercial where the person in the hotel is using the video conferencing on their phone? That could never happen with any hotel wifi anywhere.

    Can you please think about selling me any of the following?

    –  On demand fast-as-blazes wireless Internet. Sometimes I need a g.d. fast connection.  This is doable. Honest. I’ll pay for it. If only because it would let me watch TV and movies from the sources I prefer anyway.

    –  Something in the vending machines besides stuff that could have been put there last year.  Because I get hungry at night.  I work a lot. And I can pay for real food.

    •  Car detailing … since I am leaving it in your parking lot all week. And it is dirty.

    –  Freemiums.  People in hotel rooms are bored (sorry, in case this is news to you).  There must be a ton of other companies that would be interested in your guests. Internet services and very small sizes of things would be the logical first step since I already packed without making room for more stuff. And national brands would work best, I suppose, or items that are not location-dependent, since I might not ever be back here. Anything I would buy using a laptop can work.

    … A hotel room is one of the last places where that sort of shopping or sampling can be done privately.

  • Dean Waye 8:34 am on September 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Technology, , , USA   

    Dear United Airlines, You Did the Minimum Right Thing 

    United Airlines SFO luggage counter

    Image by rynosoft via Flickr

    Dear United Airlines,

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing the obvious, minimum, and (for me) critically necessary.

    When I checked in online, and saw that my ticket put my name as ‘Dean Dean Mr Waye’ (no, that’s not a typo), your agent, who I found after checking with Get Human, was straightforward and sensible, and changed it to the right name and got rid of the ‘Mr’ part altogether. For free.

    I know, especially to those who don’t deal with airlines often, or maybe live outside the USA, that this sounds like the most mundane ‘Dear… Thanks’ post yet, but you and I know that this was no small thing, and that my odds of getting this fixed in a single call, on a holiday, the day before an international flight, is nothing short of a small miracle.

    So, thanks. I appreciate this. So much so, I listened while the agent ran through her script trying to sell me a United Airlines credit card, just to be polite. And her script about booking a rental car in Montreal. And… well, that’s where I stepped off. Sorry, 2 is my limit these days.

  • Dean Waye 7:39 am on September 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Radio, Scanning, Security, Security scan,   

    TSA and new faith in technology 

    An image of Susan Hallowell, Director of the T...

    Image via Wikipedia

    I just cleared security at RDU airport and for the first time in recent memory not one person looked at my boarding pass to make sure I was flying today. But the new full body scanner they put me in makes that unnecessary, right?

    By the way, the picture on the right is of Susan Hallowell, a director at the Transportation Security Administration.

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 802.11, , , Apple Dippers, Burgers, , Chicken McNuggets, Data Communications, , Happy Meal, Hospitality, , Restaurant Chains, Wi-Fi, Wireless   

    Dear McDonald’s, Thanks for the Wi-fi 

    List of McDonald's trademarks

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear McDonald’s,

    Thanks for free wi-fi. Last week when I nearly bricked my Evo (android) and needed a fast(-ish) connection to download ideas on bringing it back to life again, you were conveniently located, and happened to serve food, too. Nice job.

    Also, thanks for being everywhere. Jeez, seriously. Even crappy little middle-of-nowhere towns in are-you-sure-you-aren’t-lost?-Virginia have a McDonald’s, where I can get a fast drink and half a dozen bags of Apple Dippers (don’t ask, and yes, I decline the caramel).

    About that Filet o’ Fish I bought Tuesday, though… first time in a decade, I’m sure, and never again. Yikes.

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arts, Bacon, ,   

    Dear Hilton, What’s My Type? 

    Hilton Brand Logo

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Hilton,

    Do you group guests into types? If so, what type am I?

    Is there a type for people who stay often, but only for a night or two, don’t drink at the bar downstairs, but do fill out the feedback surveys online that you send out?

    Is there a type that wishes the internet speeds were better than what I could get on AOL ten years ago over a phone line?

    Maybe there’s no group for that type, because it would contain pretty much everyone. 🙂

    PS Thanks for the bacon at the free breakfast. You guys make my favorite bacon anywhere. I eat it every stay, even though I shouldn’t. I tell myself that it’s rare for me since I might not be a another hotel again soon (though we both know that’s a lie).

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Credit card, , Licensing, , , Personal Finance, WinRefunds   

    Dear McDonald’s, Thanks for the 1/5479th 

    Sign outside McDonald's Plaza, one of the four...

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear McDonald’s,

    Thanks for the refund today, and the quick turnaround, since it’s obvious that I didn’t need a large iced tea and also the drink that comes in the combo meal. And thanks for just giving me the $1.08 in cash, instead of asking for my credit card back.

    One question, though.

    According to the revenue numbers here and also here**, the average McDonald’s store does about $5,479 /day in sales. Does it really require a manager’s approval for a $1 refund? The cashier doesn’t have authority for a single dollar in refunds, 1/5,479th of the daily sales?

    ** “Four years ago, the national sales average per store was about $1.6 million. Today, Huebner says, it’s close to $2 million.”

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Dear Starbucks, She Knew My Order! 

    Starbucks Ueno

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Starbucks,

    This morning I went to this store, and even though I only buy there maybe 50 times a year (I don’t live near it, or within 300 miles of it, actually), the same lady always seems to be working the morning shift, and she actually had my order on the counter before I got to the cash register. I am impressed. My local Startbucks doesn’t do that, and I go to that store a lot more often that this one in Reston, VA.

    Nicely done. And thanks for the tall bold (Gold Coast today) that didn’t need to be requested. I know it’s a ‘small’ thing, but at the very least, it told me I travel too much 🙂

    And also that you do as good a job as any brick and mortar company I know for the small things around customer service.

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , iPod Touch, iTunes, ITunes Store, , Operating system, Patch (computing),   

    Dear Apple, Why Does iTunes Need 90MB Downloads to ‘Update’? 

    Ipod Touch at Apple Store

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Apple,

    Nice work on the iPod Touch, it’s a great device. I have the 64MB version, and it’s been very handy while traveling. My Evo has made my Touch mostly obsolete, but nice work nonetheless.

    I confess, I rarely buy music from you. I don’t mean that I steal it instead, I just prefer to use subscription services.

    But I do use iTunes a lot, for podcasts. And I don’t understand this quirk about the software: why, when it needs to upgrade, do I have to download such a huge file?

    Seriously, that’s not an upgrade, it’s a re-installation of a whole program. I update my iPod Touch apps all the time, and that’s a small effort. I update Windows every month, and that’s a small update (usually). Even when Windows needs to restart, it’s the operating system, so an occasional restart is fine.

    I’ve worked in the software industry my entire adult life, and I can’t understand this one. You really can’t just issue a patch that replaces the files or libraries that need it, and leave it at that? It has to be a 90MB+ download?

    I bet this is a way to ensure no one calls you after a failed update , or maybe you don’t trust customers not to mess it up somehow. But really, if even Microsoft can do this well, surely you can, too. Yeah, I said Microsoft…seriously, have you no pride?

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  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon Kindle, , , , , Seattle, ,   

    Dear Starbucks Float 

    Dear Starbucks,

    I LIKE the free drink after every 15 coffees. I always use it to buy something  expensive  (in this case, my better half bought a frap, a venti).

    I DON’T LIKE that I have to load my Starbucks card with money first, then pay with that card. I liked it better with the card from last year, the black one with the gold cup on it. Where I got it swiped with every purchase, for the 10% discount, but didn’t have to pre-pay you.

    My shiny gold Starbucks card is nice, it has my name on it too, but the new way just seems sneaky. Do you make much on the float, the time between when I give you my money and the time I use it?

    Is it worth it?

    PS I may have eaten more of your turkey-bacon breakfast sandwiches than anyone else in America… one question, why is it such a production to get it cut in half before wrapping it up? The folks behind the counter never seem to have a food-safe knife. Really, it’s that unusual to want something cut in half? Sometimes I don’t want to eat the whole thing, they’re chewy as heck and very filling.

  • Dean Waye 12:00 am on September 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Conrad Hotels, , Hampton Inn, Hilton HHonors, , Homewood Suites by Hilton, , ,   

    Dear Hilton, A Key That Works at Every Hotel 

    Hilton Brand Logo

    Image via Wikipedia

    Dear Hilton,

    The other day, as I was checking in, I wondered… why do I have to check in at all?

    Avis didn’t make me stand in line to get my car: I walked to it, got in, and left. And unlike a hotel room, I could actually take a car. Away.

    The airline (!) didn’t make me stand in line for a boarding pass, I printed it before I left home.

    Why can’t I check in on my smartphone before arriving at the hotel and skip the line? Why can’t I use my free Hilton HHonors membership card as my room key at all Hiltons? I don’t carry it today, because it’s useless, but I’d carry it if it opened my door wherever I stayed (especially this one).

    Instead, I have to wait in line, again, even though I have stayed at this same hotel several times, as recently as last week, on the same days of the week. And again, the guest  in front of me has apparently never stayed at a hotel before, and doesn’t understand why things are the way they are.

    On that, fellow traveler, we agree.

    The takeaway: If your hotel membership card was also your door key wherever you stayed, wouldn’t that be a game changer? If your favorite chain had that feature, and the other chain didn’t, wouldn’t that help keep your loyalty?

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