Coffee Release – Failure

My Coffee Mug

Well it’s time for a confession. I wrote a few weeks ago about wanting to kick the coffee habit. I even wrote about managing for two days. Anyone who actually reads this blog will have noticed that I haven’t talked about it since. Well that’s because I’ve been an out-and-out failure. If you want to form a new habit you need to work at it for something like 40 days. Clearly 2 days is nowhere near 40.

But do I try again? I haven’t decided yet.

I notice that Steve is yet again well focussed and managing to cross of his resolutions. ah well, perhaps some of us aren’t made that way (I would have linked to him, but he seems to have deleted it).

Design – from an amatuer

Above Scorton

I have updated my blog design in line with some reading I have been doing on design. it’s an interesting idea within the blog space. Is the design of the web page actually that important, on the basis that people could be reading the content in all sorts of ways, without even touching the web page.

Anyway, I have gone for a green design, with a predominant white feel to it. The green is to fit in with the ‘oak grove’ theme. The picture in the new graphic is one of mine. It was taken at Tarn Howes, so it’s a real English Oak. I’ve tried to stick to the web colours in the design so as to enable good compatibility. I’ve also removed the picture of the face in the sand because I’m not sure that it was saying much. I actually don’t have a good picture of myself, when I’ve taken one I’ll add it in I think.

Role Profiling – Does It Have Any Value?

Gause Bush

I have set myself a little challenge this week. It follows on from some discussions last week within a management meeting. And here is the question:

  • Does a role profile really make a difference to an organisation?

The background behind the question is this.

I work in an organisation that has on numerous occasions done role profiling exercises and generally failed in it. These exercises normally have numerous purposes and numerous customers. Even as an employee you want a role profile for more than one purpose; you want it to position you within a grading structure, but you also want it to tell you what you need to develop and you also want it to tell you were you are in the salary band for the role that you are doing. Each of these issues is fraught with danger. The company I work for wants to be able to position people in roles so that it can understand it’s skills base, but it doesn’t want to link that to salary because that would lead to all sorts of issues.

The company has recently undertaken it’s latest exercise and communicated a structure (badly) to each of the staff. As far as my team is concerned more than 70% of the team is sat within two bands within a single role.

So does all of this stuff actually make a difference? Do companies with a strict role profiling mechanism achieve a higher level of staff satisfaction (for instance) than do companies who have absolutely no structure at all. Do companies that point both ways have more problems than companies that are at one extreme or the other? Is the role more important the more junior you are?

From a personal perspective, I don’t think I care. But why don’t I care? In what situation would I care? I am only thinking about it at the moment because I have been told what my role profile is (I have worked for over 10 years not knowing what it was), and because I have been asked to be part of management team that looks at the issue.

So what is the value of a role profile. It definitely has a cost, but does it have a value. To be perfectly honest – I don’t know.

Suppose that means that it is time for some research. Great, I love learning something new!!!

Queueing to Vote

Feeding the GeeseI had great fun last night queueing to vote. In a highly efficient country like the UK (yes, I am being serious) we aren’t used to queueing to vote.

Yesterday evening though was a different matter, it was hilarious.

I normally vote in a morning before I go to work but this time I was away on business so the plan was to call into the local school (where the voting was taking place) on my way out to pick Jonathan up from football training.

As I wasn’t expecting to queue I hadn’t left much time before he needed picking up. Imagine my surprise when I walked in  to the school hall to find it full. There were people everywhere, and three very stressed, very red faced election officials sat at a primary school table processing people as fast as they could. But clearly not fast enough. After a couple of minutes I decided that I needed to go and get Jonathan and would call on my way back.

Having picked Jonathan up, I was now back at the school. But now it was raining and the queue was out of the door.

“Do I stay or not?” I mutter to myself, but all I could think about was all of those people in other countries who have had their first taste of elections over the last few years and I feel ashamed for even thinking the questions.

In a sense it’s a pointless exercise for me to vote because the local Conservative candidate is almost certain to get in however I vote (Nigel Evans-majority 14,000 ) but actually I see it as a civil duty. He only has a 14,000 majority because 26,000 people do vote for him, that’s 26,000 who have made a decision, it’s not a block vote of 26,000 it’s 26,000 individuals.

So I join the queue. It’s quite exciting really. They are obviously a little concerned about the possibility of a disturbance because the police turn up to make sure things are OK. As it happens one of them is the Dad of one of Emily’s friends (who is also with me). The other thing is, I got to see all sorts of local people who I haven’t seen in ages (“Hello Sarah, how are you?”). I even met a work colleague who I didn’t realise lived anywhere near me (“Hello Geoff I didn’t realise you lived around here.”) The funniest bit was the couple directly behind me. If I had been a bit more stressed myself I would have told them to ‘shut up’ but as it was it was comical. Their conversation consisted of these few phrases repeated in random ways for nearly an hour.

  • “Oh we’re moving a bit quicker now.”
  • “I’ve never had to queue to vote before.”
  • “Why is there only three of them?”
  • “I don’t think we’ll get in before 9 o’clock.” (which is when one of the ballots was supposed to close).
  • “They’re still coming in.”
  • “Look at the queue behind us.”
  • “I wonder what the police want.”

I must have heard each of these phrases about twenty times, because they weren’t ever silent, they just used another one of the phrases and they didn’t talk about something different in any one of the sixty minute we were there. It seems to me that this type of muttering is a complete waste of time and energy but some people seem to be masters at it. I think what made it more comical was that they were both quite short and had small winy voices to match. It’s 24 hours later and I can still here them.

Anyway at just past 9 o’clock I voted, and the hall was still full (“Hello Eddie how long have you been queueing”). Jonathan and Emily had gone to sit in the car, Jonathan was asleep (It’s hard work playing football) and Emily wasn’t far off (she’s normally in bed for 8). It was fortunate I didn’t leave it any later because in the end they had to turn 100 people away. And it sounds like the police were definitely on hand for that.

next time I’ll be voting in the morning (or maybe not ).

"Black Box" in Windows

IMG_1513In his keynote address to WinHEC Bill gates talked about adding a “Black Box” capability to Windows. ZDNet commented on it here.

I have written recently about the need for the IT industry to have much better ways to understand and analyse issue. I’m not sure whether a “black box” on the device does it for me though, what we really need is a “black box” on the infrastructure. Many problems are caused by issues away from the device.

  • Data sent to server and not returned.
  • Name resolution issues.
  • Remote application server issues.

A black box in the device isn’t going to tell you anything about these issues.

Every time this issue is discussed people are always concerned about the privacy issues and they are right to be so, but at the same time we need the information to resolve the problem. See all the comments in slashdot. But most of the people who go over-board on it have obviously never been involved in a difficult problem resolution situation. I have and I know how difficult it is. I also know how unreasonable we can be as humans. I must have heard something like this many-many times “why do you need me to tell you what I was doing, just fix it”, at the same time they say “don’t you dare go near my data”. They expect the IT organisation to be Sherlock Holmes, but sit him in a black room with no evidence to go on.

PS I removed ZDNet from my blog list and I still got to know about the information. See I didn’t need it after all.

Another view on the story that someone sent me.

IMG_1647My friend Lee left me this comment on one of my posts (you know the one with a story of a professor who talks about the things that fit into a jar):

Nice message. It’s only too easy (maybe more so for men) to have only 2 contents in the jar, pebbles and sand. Instead of golf balls I may fill my jar with only a few tennis balls as any free time is spent with my immediate close family, I need to make an effort to visit my parents, brother and sister, and further extended family. People I sometimes come across in my work life make me forget that I actually work to live and don’t live to work!

Lee and I work in the same organisation so I am going to avoid talking about specific people, but how true he is. Work is about work for so many people, they are focussed on work and little else. But I believe that there is so more to life than that. I have been trying to formulate my thoughts over a few posts, these are all under the “My Time” category.

It's blog clear out day

IMG_1595I’ve decided that it’s blog clear out day. I have been inspired by a number of posts by people talking about procrastination and information overload.

So I have decided to go through the list of blogs I subscribe to and weed them out. There are a load that I have in my list because they once wrote something I was interested in, but have now fallen into ones that I scan over. The primary reason for this is that they are new regurgitator, they don’t add anything to it. If I want ‘news’ I’ll go to the feeds from The Register or the BBC and look (because I like them), what I want is intelligent comment. But there are other reasons, some peoples comments aren’t worth looking at. There are also a number which haven’t been updated for a while.

Some examples for you:

  • Computerworld Feeds – there are a load of well broken down feeds but for the last few weeks all they have given is the SAME information and that’s been from partners trying to sell me stuff.
  • IT-Director.com Feeds – most of the feeds don’t tell me anything new.
  • Windows IT Pro magazine – again more news, but also loads of information that I’m not that interested in anymore because it’s at the detail level.
  • ZDNet UK – of and more news. You’d hope that the ones that are marked ‘comment’ would be commentary but I’m afraid from my perspective they aren’t.
  • Spiderwebwoman – again, I’m sorry but it isn’t commentary or added value, it’s more news.

The one I am leaving in there for now, but it’s under review is Scobles link blog. I still have a bit of the ‘what if I miss something’ in me.

There are also a number of blogs which have ended, can I please have a ‘clean up dead blogs’ option in NewsGator.