It can’t be just me, right?

IMG_0770A dear friend recently blogged about his experience years ago dealing with a situation in which the ‘problem’ was an “is it them or is it me” kind of scenario. He mused on the fact that in the face of everyone pointing to him as the problem, it really wasn’t him, that in fact, the problem really WAS with everyone else.  It’s a hard place to be, but luckily he came out of the situation well and can look back if even with a hint of smugness and know he was indeed in the right.

But, like my friend, when you’re deep in the thick of it all, it isn’t quite as easy to see the truth. When we, as individuals are in the middle of situations that are degrading at a rate forcing action, we don’t have the luxury of detached observation that we are afforded with time and experience behind us. In these cases, when we are in the middle of a situation, it is often hard if not impossible to see our own truths for what they are and guide us to the right choice.

I’ve recently been wrestling with this same feeling, the “is it me or is it them” feeling when it comes to a lot of socio-political issues. I have an odd dichotomy of emotion where my confidence in truth is shaken, while simultaneously being reinforced and strengthened. I wonder if I am really as smart and progressive as I think I am, or if I really did miss the memo and am off in lala-land with the other nut jobs who think similarly to me? When you’re in the thick of a cultural shift, conviction to your ideals is essential albeit difficult for fear that in some small way you may be wrong. After all, the crazy people are convinced of their certainty, and totally unaware of how crazy their ideas really may be.

When people I respect, consider friends, and look up to hold views in contrast to my own, I wonder how otherwise very intelligent people don’t see the world as I do. How can they not see the same truths as I? Surely they have more experience, deeper knowledge, and greater intellect than me, so how can some of their beliefs be so out of step with my own as to seem almost backwards? It is in times like this I begin to reflect on the “is it me, or is it really them? Are so many of them really that wrong, or are my own ideas the problem here?” questions that shake my convictions just enough to cause doubt and deeper contemplation.

I guess it all just means I am still a work in progress with no real answers yet…

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1jXq19R

A social quandary

IMG_0140I’ve often heard the adage that one must never discuss such off-putting topics as religion, politics, or sports at the dinner table. That adage has, of course, been levied as appropriate for any social interactions, be it at the dinner table or in the broader world of social media.

I used to subscribe to this idea, and still do for social business. After all, when it comes to business, professionalism is tantamount and none of those topics really have place for discussion in business dealings. However, I am starting to question the validity of such a phrase in personal relations. Are we to hide our head and ignore a deep undercurrent of cultural shifts simply because we don’t want to rock the boat or engage in passionate discussion?

I know of some people recently who have begun to filter out any religion or politics from their feeds on social sites, while I also know of others who actively seek out people to follow whom hold conflicting or opposite views as themselves in an effort. But I’m conflicted. There are days when I want to bury my head in the sand and forget that not everyone thinks like I do, to ignore the strife and arguments, and live in my cozy world of denial… and then there are other days in which I want to shout from the mountaintops and help steer a cultural/social shift to what I believe is the right way of thinking; to fight for progress and demand the change we need for fear of losing our humanity to cultural implosion.

I’ve been sharing a few sociopolitical posts recently, but in doing so realize that I am likely sharing with people whom already share similar views or opinions, as I generally surround myself with like-minded people. So, in effect, I am preaching to the choir and the people I want to reach will never read, nor likely understand what I share. It puts me in an echo-chamber, or a vacuum of social sharing at times, which really just equates to mental masturbation whenever I share something I believe to be provocative and progressive.

While social media has done wonders for us to engage in these conversations and raise visibility to problematic ways of thinking, it also has a dark side of deep judgment and polarizing effects when passions rise. To this end, I try to retain as many of my network connections as I can, regardless of their socio-political views, as I do believe that being open to seeing opposing views is a great thing and can only serve to improve me as a person. Insulating myself to only those people around me who agree, makes for a silo-ed existence devoid of growth and understanding.

What I strive for (and often fall short of) in my own life both on-line and off, is a balance. To think critically about any questions posed, any statements made, to ask questions with respect and desire to learn, and to take personal responsibility for both my words and my actions. Can you imagine how the adage would change if we all worked to think critically and take personal responsibility? No longer would sports, politics, or religion be taboo at the dinner tables or social gatherings, instead perhaps, they’d be welcome topics driving growth and understanding rather than the divisive and polarizing realms in which they currently exist.

I have a lot more rumbling around in my head here; So many recent events are tied so deeply and complexly together at their roots, that touching on one without acknowledging others is a disservice to truth and will only serve to cause more of the same cultural divide, the polarizing us/them/this/that false dichotomies that I so desperately wish to avoid. Yet, they are so complex in and of themselves that each could be a thesis of their own.

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1jxlASP

My takeaways from WriteTheDocs 2014

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Apparently everyone at a tech writers conference has impostor syndrome. It seems the deeply technical nature of documentation is partially responsible for writers to feel like impostors when working alongside skilled developers. That, along with deep API documentation and treating docs as code, were the three long running themes throughout WriteTheDocs 2014 held at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon this past Monday and Tuesday. I don’t know of any other conference that can compete for the price paid. I most certainly got a solid benefit from my $100 corporate ticket.

Rather than try to translate/ regurgitate my own session notes in this blog post, I’ll point you to Andrew Spittle’s blog where he live blogged each session’s notes (seriously amazing skill there!) along with the page hosting the videos of each session if you care to check out one of the many amazing sessions presented at WriteTheDocs 2014 (currently only 5 are uploaded, more to come I’m sure!).

Instead, I’d like to highlight two takeaways from some of the key sessions using the above blog post and videos as deeper context where you may need it.

 

  • Communities are awesome:
    •  Build community not minions. Work with your community on a common journey, not with intent to dictate.
    • Deal with churn early and up front, as this will avoid more painful and damaging churn at the end cycle of the release.
  • New Sheriff in Town:
    • Deputize your vigilantes. They have an intrinsic motivation that can be channeled for good. Give them power to change and provide focus to channel that motivation to improved docs!
    • Insert docs into product roadmap, dev, and life-cycle meetings. Remind all facets of the org that docs need to be treated as part of the product.
  • Ignorance is Strength:
    • Write docs by learning as you go. Use your ignorance to build meaningful docs from a new user perspective.
    • Write anything, even if it is wrong. Having something written can give a framework for improvement/ updates.
  • API Consumers are not who you think they are:
    • Zapier.com has great developer documentation of their APIs which allowed an unexpected audience to develop a use for their service they hadn’t expected.
    • Great developer focused docs which include text and screen shots / examples to explain the same concept in different ways.
  • Wabi-Sabi Writing:
    • Find beauty in the imprecise, the transient, the imperfect. But this is not luddism nor complacency.
    • Less Faulkner, more Hemmingway: less flowery, more simple and clear. Less Coltrane, more Davis: economical restraint.
    • Done is beautiful. (Art is shipped.)
  • Strategies to fight documentation inertia:
    • Talk to newcomers and beginners, ask them to write as they learn. Use “this section missing” stubs instead of blanks as motivators to complete that section by others.
    • Social engineer motivation to edit/update with strategic but obvious errors to fix. Use low hanging fruit to entice editors to make changes.
  • Improving Your Content’s First Impression:
    • Community outreach for feedback- export docs to community and import content from community.
    • Feed Stackoverflow questions in-line with documentation and embed feedback surveys.
  • Better APIs through Empathy:
    • Understand and share your user’s needs by using your own APIs.
    • Use other APIs and read their docs too. This will help you write for your user, not for you.
  • Ditch your CMS with Git and Static Site Generators:
    • Build your docs like you build the product you’re writing about. Use iterations and version tracking, then simply auto-generate your content with build commands.
    • Integrating developer tools provides consistency and familiarity across the development and docs process.
  • Documentation as a Product:
    • Like your product, answer the question: What problem are your docs solving?
    • Documentation can be marketing. A sales differentiator. Good docs can lead to client satisfaction, but you need to measure sentiment.

The net/net of the 2014 second annual WriteTheDocs? Would go again. I had a great time and was able to pull out some solid (as well as esoteric) takeaways from a short, local two-day conference. The benefit of being able to attend locally made this conference a seriously valuable event for me. Icing on the cake? A friend visiting and also going to the conference as well which made the event even better for me (friends don’t let friends conference alone).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1jCATxK

Don’t blame the tools

Today, the Grammarly blog ran this image as the main bit of a simple post, noting the downside of short form communication:

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image credit via Grammarly at: http://ift.tt/1i2H7lH

As you may have guessed from the title of my post here, I disagree. But more specifically I believe it is they way we misuse the communication tools available to us for the wrong conversations. This hearkens back to one of my earlier posts on my business blog “Notes from Rational Support” during our drive to work outside the inbox: Using the right tools for the right conversations

In that post I outline how using open and transparent communication tools like blogs, wikis, and forums to collaborate on ideas before transitioning them into actionable work can be a wonderful method for building an efficient workforce. More importantly, however, is that using the right tools for the right conversations aide with improving communication all around.

Use the tools you do have available to consciously move those conversations away from short-form, email, or closed systems to the more open and transparent mediums and you’ll see your communication improve in an almost passive manner. Make use of forums and wikis and blogs to collaborate and drive your work forward, use texts for simple quick updates/questions, and of course pick up the phone and call someone when the conversation requires that deeper connection and free-flowing discussion.

Texting isn’t the issue with failed communication. The issue is using texts for the wrong conversations and not moving those conversation to the right medium when texting begins to cause confusion.

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1i2H7C8

Stag Party – a Dalmore tasting

LA Scotch Club – ClubMez Dalmore tasting and paired dinner at the Far Bar

EventFlyerWell that was a mouthful, and so was the evening.  I’ve always liked Dalmore, but it never made a distinct impression on me until now – and now I even know why. Through conversation I learned Dalmore chill-filters and uses coloring additives. I find the later more disturbing that the former – but it does explain the uniformity of color across the six drams offered.

And for the taste – while chill filtering can remove some of the particles and oils that can add distinction to a dram, I learned every bottle of Dalmore has been  in at least two barrels, American oak, then sherry.  I think this tradition is what leads to the sameness of flavor throughout expressions . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The setup:

TheLineUp

The plan was to introduce each dram, taste it straight then try the offered food pairing. With one ounce pours, this will require some restraint, and since the food was set-up as a buffet, a little more exercise than I’d planned – but it worked out okay.

I’m of two minds on the provided mat; while I like having reference material, I don’t like being told what one should perceive on the nose and or palette. I like to judge a taste completely blind so I don’t look the flavors mentioned in the descriptions as I make my notes.

Dram the first – 12 year http://ift.tt/1tEEcZr
Matured for an initial nine years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being carefully divided. One half continues its maturation in bourbon barrels, the other half is transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry casks. Complex, yet balanced, The Dalmore 12 year old is the epitome of the Dalmore house style.

12WithSoupA nice medium gold, and a mild nose of citrus honey and wood. The taste is soft, with a little burn that is a slightly disturbing counterpoint to almost floral tones.  There is a whisper of citrus, but it’s gone as soon as you perceive it. It wants to be complex, but it’s just not there, the few different notes are disparate and when the get close they are more likely to combat one another instead of layering harmoniously.

This was served with a Beef Cocino, and the fatty broth and rich flavors brought out the honey notes and otherwise complemented the dram nicely.

This was a nice start, but I found it a short and simple dram, gone almost before you are finished tasting it.

Second Offering – 15 year http://ift.tt/1rmUT9T
“Twelve years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, then a three year finish in three different sherry woods – Amoroso, Apostoles and Matusalem oloroso. A robust, yet elegant spirit.”

15WithBeef This is a deeper gold, with thick legs. The nose is still sweet, with notes of apples, oranges and honey in the background – odd that for all that wood it’s finished in; I don’t pick up any of it on the nose. It is softer than the 12, more fruit than wood, but I lose the sweetness I liked in the 12 and on the nose of this one. Overall more harmonious that the 12, but not my favorite.

This was paired with a “aussie pie” which is a beef pasty – this dram wants something lighter, with more layers of flavors, maybe a chicken Florentine, or stuffed fish.

 

Last age statement, the 18 year old http://ift.tt/1rmUT9U
Matured initially for 14 years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, the whisky is then transferred to 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry wood for a further four years. Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, The Dalmore 18 year old offers a provocative and intense taste experience with an enduring aftertaste of cinnamon and nutmeg.

As I was holding each up to the light, I noticed colors all seem to blend together – this is when my friend mentioned Dalmore’s use of colorings. Makes sense – look at the lineup side-by-side:

Dalmore Lineup

from Dalmore’s own site

I don’t think you can get that kind of tonal uniformity without creating it. I’m sure using the similar barrels in all expressions helps, but still, I’d be curious what these look like straight out of the barrel, or rather barrels.18WithDuck

The nose is like oatmeal, a little nut and spice mixed with the grain, there may be wood in the background, but I’m not picking up much.

This is the first layered flavor I’ve had tonight, unfortunately the second layer is burn. This starts of soft and sweet – a little dried fruit, and little vanilla . . and then your mouth is full of moonshine for a moment.  Once that passes you get a beautiful finish of spice and nutshells that linger in the mouth like chicory coffee.  Food – a duck empanada was offered – suppresses that fiery middle layer and turns this into something I can drink all night.

 

 

The Reserved Dram – Cigar Malt Reserve – http://ift.tt/1rmUVOV
The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve benefits from a judicious selection of aged stocks drawn from casks of three types: American white oak ex-bourbon casks, 30 year old Matusalem oloroso sherry butts and premier cru Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques.
Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume, the body, structure and character of this extraordinary expression is the perfect complement to a fine cigar.

This was in place of the Grand Reserve on the mat – so I got my blind tasting since I hadn’t touched the handout beyond taking this picture:

Cigar malt

This is a darker gold than the others, almost a mahogany. The nose promised me notes of caramel, chocolate and peaches. And the taste is just what I like: smoky without smoke, fruity without sweetness, caramel notes lingering on the mouth,  a rich and smooth melody that hums a while after finishing the taste.

CigarWithLambCurse the Los Angeles legislation, but now that it was mentioned to go with a cigar, I want one. It’s funny, I got quite a bit of burn from the 43% 18-year, but this, at 44%, had almost none.

The roasted lamb is very nice, but it’s not the right thing for this dram – I’d save this for dessert – something sweet and equally rich.

 

 

 

Hail to the King – King Alexander IIIhttp://ift.tt/1tEEcZJ
Crafted to honour the act of saving Scotland’s King in 1263, this expression unites six specially selected casks housing spirit of perfect maturity. Whiskies matured in ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, port pipes and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques are brought together in perfect harmony. Each cask gives its own flavour notes, delivering a unique complex single malt whisky revered by connoisseurs.

This was the crown jewel of the night, two people at my table said they were here just for this dram, and hinted that one can not get it in the states.  The expression spends time in six different woods . . this should be a soft and complex expression . . .

KingAlex

Or not.  The color seems flat and next to the others – I’m not sure what bottle they used for the promotional image – maybe it’s the full bottle, or the black background – but in this glass it looked pale. The nose has the similar sweetness as the others at the core, but highlighted by grass and grain with whispers of berries and cream.

The taste is almost not there. I took a moment to clear my palette and start again with the nose, but the taste is very faint . . soft and gentle, very easy to drink straight, but not very complicated.  It reminds me of an Irish with the soft green notes. It’s a fine dram, but I don’t think I’d pay $300 for the bottle. Pass the Cigar Malt back here, please.King Alex

Oh yes, it was paired with a very good éclair, iced in chocolate and filled with pastry cream; a delicious end to the dinner, but far too rich for this soft, whispery expression.

 

 

 

 

 

I ended the evening talking whiskey and barrel-aged beers with the host, and pouring myself another dram of the Cigar Malt .  . really, this was the standout dram. I may have to invest in a bottle and get together with some smokers and see if and how it enhances that experience.

Any takers? ;>

 

from The 3 Drunken Celts http://ift.tt/1hlLQmq

Information is currency; Privacy doesn’t exist

IMG_1955Earlier today one of my dear friends shared this article and tagged me for comment: Facebook Knows Everything About You, And If You Don’t Believe Us Here’s Proof

The article details out how UbiSoft’s marketing for their new game inadvertently shows how much Facebook knows about you. This is done via their Digital Shadow site after asking you to connect to it via Facebook authentication in which you grant access to your data as housed in the social network. The article paints a F.U.D. based theme (fear uncertainty, and doubt) around an individual’s privacy and how they may want to change their settings within Facebook to tighten things down.

Here’s the thing, though: there is no privacy on the internet. Security settings and custom privacy tweaks are speed bumps at best, and theater at worst. Like a glass window next to your home’s front door, any motivated attacker can bypass these settings with some small effort. While the addition of privacy settings are indeed necessary and effective to avoid the most common of breaches, they have also worked to the larger cultures disadvantage by allowing us to be a bit more complacent and reliant upon tools to do the job of privacy control. The best privacy control you have is the ability to choose what information you share.

Be careful, though. What you share may initially seem innocuous and irrelevant to most security or privacy concerns, but as the article above and the site referenced, there are things that can be inferred and connected across the data you share to build a view of your life which you may not have intended to be visible. Simple things like your location when combined with a job title can tell me a fair estimate of income as well as likelihood of work schedules and how valuable your digital life may be. The site does a good job of holding up a mirror to anyone sharing via Facebook and how that information can be connected to build a larger, perhaps unintended picture.

What does this really mean for you, as a participant on social media channels? It means you need to make informed choices. Understand that information is a form of currency used to trade for access to these sites and deeper connections to your networks of people. In my case, I trade quite a bit of information to maintain my connections with you while also working to build domain expertise in my career as a social business strategist. I make very specific choices about how open and transparent I am with what I share via any social channel, knowing that information is at best only obscured by my privacy settings and likely will be seen by many more people I’d not intended or expected. (Oddly, it is one of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging for so long now: you may be writing for one audience, but there’s likely other audiences reading and connecting… pay attention to them as well, as there may be wonderful opportunity for growth when you identify those unknown audiences).

We can’t trust companies to maintain our privacy for us. We need to take personal responsibility for our own information, what and how we share. While this may seem like a call to lock down your profiles, it isn’t. Rather, it is a call to become more informed and to begin thinking before we share and making the choice to use our information to pay for access or connection instead of just assuming it all comes for free. There’s a cost to social interaction, and what we are willing to pay will likely differ for every individual. Knowing that cost is the first step before paying the toll by sharing your information.

 

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1fqxc9n

Customer service is easy, so why is it so hard?

The principles are easy: set the right expectations, then meet or exceed them and your clients will be happy at the least, and become champions for your product and/or company if you’re really awesome.

So why do so many companies fail at providing stellar customer service? Because they set expectations to exceed what they are capable of delivering upon and unable to communicate appropriately. Unfortunately I am experiencing this first hand with a company presently and will use them as an example of how simple it can be to create negative clients instead of building champions:

In November, 2013 I ordered a product which I thought too good to be true: the 10 year hoodie. For twice what I normally spend on a hoodie ($100 versus my normal; $45) I figured that if it lasted twice as long, I’d have come out even, and any longer then I’d be truly sold on the product. Since my hoodies last me about one year, I figured a ten-year hoodie was a pipe dream but worth the gamble as it came with a repair guarantee. So, I clicked checkout and waited…

When I received delivery, I was impressed with the quality of construction and comfort of the fabric. It was soft, but sturdy, with key reinforcements to ensure longevity. So, in mid November I put it into service as my ‘work’ hoodie, wearing it daily at home as I worked my day job. I never wore it outside, so it only saw desk time and couch time as the main activities. Which is to say it wasn’t put through any heavy-duty use that would be adversely rough on a garment.

You will then understand my surprise that after only two months it began to show signs of wear (shown below) which lead to failure after only two and a half months. So, I contacted the company on March 5th with the following image to ask about the process for warranty/guarantee repairs.

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I’ll point out here that my expectations were set early on with their 10 year guarantee. I expected the hoodie to last at least a year with the same wear as my normal, less expensive hoodies provide. As such, my initial contact was already taking damage to my ability to be a happy consumer and really champion their product. That said, the support I received was solid and confidence inspiring with good communication, and they sent me a shipping label so there was no cost to me to return the garment for repairs. They indicated that when received, they’d provide an estimated time for repairs and ship it back once complete.

So, on March 6th, I shipped it off and watched the tracking info update until it was delivered to the company on March 12th. I then promptly forgot about it until March 28th, when I realized I’d not been contacted upon receipt and after they determined how long the repairs would take. A quick message out to them on the 28th was returned on the 31st with a note indicating they had indeed received it and that they hoped to see all repairs ship back out by the end of that week. Forgiving the 2.5 day reply time and the fact that I had to proactively ask them for an update, I was pleased to know that my hoodie was expected to ship out by April 4th…

And here I sit, on April 17th still awaiting any sort of communication, let alone delivery of my repaired hoodie. I have sent off another request for an update earlier this morning, but as yet have no indication of a reply.

To recap here, two failures have occurred: failure to communicate based on the expectations which the company set for me, and failure to deliver the repaired product within the time-frame as communicated by the company. What could have turned me from an annoyed client to a champion? Simple and easy communication. Meet the expectations the company set as the baseline, execute on the guarantee as outlined, and communicate any delays that may prevent meeting those expectations on a proactive schedule. How to turn my annoyance into a lost customer with no hope of converting me back into a paying client? Fail to deliver on your promises and don’t communicate unless poked and prodded to do so. Sad really, since in the grand scheme this is really a minor thing, and with so very little effort the company could have turned a minor issue into an opportunity to make me, as their customer, a champion for their products. All that would be needed to build me into a champion would have been timely communication, and delivering a repaired product when indicated. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy.

At this point, when my repaired hoodie is delivered (and hopefully it will both be delivered and repaired), I’ll close the books on this company and never have any interaction with them again. Even if my hoodie requires more guarantee repair work, I won’t be wasting my time with them again. Likewise, I also won’t mention the name of the company since doing so will only amplify their share of voice, even if said voice is negative. I’d rather they fade into obscurity and be forgotten.

A 10 year guarantee you say? Yes, it is indeed too good to be true…. at this point even a 6 month guarantee would have been too good to be true. Caveat Emptor.

 

from The Wayward Celt http://ift.tt/1qQyQbo