Sunday, January 30, 2011

Harvard Business Review Says to Think at Work to Increase Productivity

From the Harvard Business Review: "...when you sit down at your desk in the morning, pause before your turn on your computer or pick up the phone. Take a deep breath and give thought to what you are about to do. You may find this focus helps you accomplish tasks more carefully and productively."

That's advice from one of the foremost business schools in the world "give thought to what you are about to do." Have we as as species devolved so much that the smartest among us must tell the rest of us that we need to think in order to do our work?

The quote above was taken from Reuters website and adapted from Peter Bregman's The Value of Ritual in Your Workday, which isn't a study, but just an article not much longer than the Reuters tip-o-the-day. Bregman had an epiphany while watching The Last Samurai (the second time), so perhaps I will try to institute some rituals into my day. Rituals that don't include stopping, taking a deep breath, and thinking about reasons not to shoot myself in the face as I watch one of the employees do something that will ultimately cost far more than they are worth. And perhaps I can get my employees to do something ritualistic that result in better productivity and less all-around stupidity.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Opened an eBay Dispute - Just to Be a Dick

The other day I ordered a lot of items on eBay...reluctantly.  I needed something.  I didn't want to pay anywhere retail, and I figured the chance that I'd have to deal with some idiot eBay seller was worth the huge savings that I'd get by shopping there.

Ordered item.  Received item in timely manner. Opened box. On top was a stack of newspapers about 1-2 inches thick, not balled up, just a stack of newspapers thrown in to fill the last 2 inches.

Two of the items had obvious damage - damage that was not described. Everything was covered in about 20 years of dust and grime. The items look like they could have been salvaged from the Got Junk trucks after a filming of an episode of Animal Hoarders. And to top it all off, the seller paid postage and printed a label for a large flat rate box, but shipped the items in a #7 priority box (which is larger, and cannot be shipped via flat rate).

Annoyed, I emailed the seller. He emails back and says that I should have read the description [I had read it] and was passive aggressive and offered no type of apology. This lot of items would retail for well over $200. I paid $30, including shipping, so it wasn't a money thing, more of a principle thing.

As I was typing, seller responded to the case. Defiant and rude. Dude, if I escalate this case, you're gonna be out of your items, the $15 I paid for the item, the $15 you paid for shipping and your eBay and Paypal fees...learn to compromise and apologize.  At least he could do is fake a bit of sincerity for the sake of customer service and to not lose $30+.

Ah, gotta love eBay.

How to Center Google Adsense Gadget in Blogger

OK, a note to futre self, who won't remember this and to anyone who has ever asked the question: How do I center my Google Adsense ads in blogger when created with a gadget in a Blogger template?

1. Choose 'Design' tab.
2. Click 'Edit html'
3. Click check-box above code (expand widget templates)
4. Find the following code (ctrl-F and search for "adsense" until you find something similar):
5: Your code will look something like the above code, except for the align='center' bit, it won't be there, so add it like pictured.  This should center your adds in your template.

Best Reason of the Week to Call Off Work

As an employer, you've heard every excuse under the sun why an employees NEEDS the day off or just can't make it in.  The best reason I head this week comes from one of our employees who has been around for a while. It went something like this:

"I don't think I can make it in today. My boyfriend came home drunk last night and was falling down and breaking stuff.  When I told him to leave, he started smashing shit and woke up the baby. I had to call the cops. So I didn't get any sleep. it's snowing really bad outside and I don't know if I can make it there. I think I will just get some sleep and then work from home."

Said employee lives 10 miles from work in next town.  She was seen later that day in town, driving to meet someone.  Then later in the day she did a Facebook update from another town 20 miles away. To be fair, she did log-in for about an hour from home that evening.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Employer Fined $4000 for Looking at Email Accounts of Employees

Techdirt alerts us to a story about an employer who was fined $4000 for snooping through an employee's email, not company email, but a personal email. The email was able to be accessed because the former employees (one of whom was fired, the other quit) saved their passwords on the company's computer. Stupid employees. Stupid judicial system.  These employees should owe the employer $4000 for the wages they were paid while playing on their personal email on his time!
      As social networking continues to gain popularity and the masses become computer literate and workplaces become more reliant on computers and online services, this type of situation will become more prevalent. There have been numerous stories about worker's online exploits during work that have resulted in the courts siding with the worker.
      What is disturbing is that in order to check on employees that you suspect are off task and abusing the internet, you have to look at what they are doing.  Should you need a court order to open a worker's web history and view their activities?
      We recently had to terminate an employee who abused the internet. Other managers and I would catch the employee on sites that were off-limits except during breaks. He was told repeatedly about his usage of email, Facebook, forums, etc. Still he visited them on an hourly basis.  One day he visited 260 pages that were non-work related in one shift. After his shift our IT person blocked certain sites from his workstation (including Facebook, his online email provider, etc.).  The next day he used proxy sites to gain access to Facebook, where he proceeded to post negative remarks about work. So after his shift, IT blocked over 200 proxy sites. The next day he found even more proxies. This went on for three days until he was finally terminated.
      And then there's the issue of these idiots staying signed in to their email and Facebook. Nobody in their right mind should save any passwords at work, especially on a shared computer, but still they do. The workers who come in for second shift started checking Facebook (among other sites) to see if the person from the last shift had stayed logged in. So when they find that they can access the other worker's accounts, more time gets wasted, and then they start to banter back and forth about what stupidity was posted and it becomes a contest to see who can waste the most time.
       Sure, we could block everything except our company's websites, but there is a lot of research that goes into many jobs here, therefore there is a need to have pretty broad access to the internet. Needless to say, today we implemented a policy where the employees are not allowed to access certain sites and have added a clause to our company rules that allow access to workers' web history and access to pages visited, including password protected pages, provided that the password is saved on the machine and/or the worker is still logged in.

Does Visiting a Website Entitle You to Free Information?

Why is it that so many people think that just because a website exists, they should get unfettered access to the minds behind the website? Or is it that these people actually don't realize that websites are run by humans - perhaps they think that websites are some type sentient beings put on earth by God to help the stupid navigate through life.

The usual format of questions from people seeking info goes something like this: [No greeting] "I have this antique that was my grandma's.  It looks like a duck without a head, wings, feet or tail, but is pink and I'm sure it is made of gold. What's it worth? [no thanks, just signed] Mr. Stupidwebvisitor" [no photo attached]

This happens on a daily basis, a friggin' hourly basis! What makes you think that I want to provide you with free information that took me years of education, trial and error and hard knocks (oh and don't forget reading hundreds of books) to learn?   ...and for free! The hundreds of thousands of products in my online inventory didn't get there by themselves and there is no free database of antique descriptions that I can use to describe the item and categorize it. No, that stuff I had to learn on my own, or pay employees to do it for me.

Perhaps it is I, who is the stupid one. Perhaps that next time I have a leaking pipe, I should go to the first plumbing website I find and send them an email describing my problem, without a picture, and ask them to help me. Or go find the first doctors website that I find and email a list of symptoms and demand a diagnosis. If you thought to yourself about either example, "Hmm, that's a good idea!" you should be dragged through the streets by your ears. You wouldn't open up the yellow pages and start calling retail businesses or service providers looking for free information, so why do so many people feel it's OK to do so online?

While I'm ranting on the subject.... What's up with seems like a lot of these people being unable to ask an actual question? I've gotten to the point where I just ignore most questions looking for free info, but I most certainly ignore any question that, well, isn't a question. It seems that half the world missed the three week period in second grade where they covered sentence types, specifically interrogative sentences.

This is the basic structure for many o' questions: "Hi. I have (something). It has (lame description that could describe anything from a turd to a FabergĂ© egg). (signed with a first name)." Statements are not questions! Therefore they should not require a response. If all webmasters out there implemented a policy not to respond to statements, maybe these people would eventually get it.