Archive for November, 2011

I’ve Been On This Call

Monday, November 21st, 2011 by The Director

The Startup: A Less Productive Alternative to Unemployment — powered by

Working off site is cool, because the mute button can hide your screams.

As I Was Saying

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by The Director

Last night, this video about what motivates people made the rounds on Twitter:

It’s an interesting summation of Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

At first blush, you might think it does not agree much with my list of priorities with a job. My top item:

I want money. I’m not in this to change the world. I am a mercenary with a good skill set. I want a good paycheck. Also, they tell me benefits are important. But if you’re not going to offer me good compensation, I’m not going to work there.

The emphasis of the talk is on other things to empower and motivate people (autonomy, mastery, and purpose). But lower in hierarchy of needs remains money. From Dan Pink’s talk:

Fact: Money is a motivator at work, but in a slightly strange way. If you don’t pay people enough, they won’t be motivated. What’s curious about that, there’s another paradox there which is that the best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. Pay people enough so that they’re not thinking about money, and they’re thinking about the work.

Too many organizations are going to take away from that talk that money isn’t important and the other things will motivate employees to work for the company at a discount. Kind of like HR people trying to sell you that the staff bowling parties, free sodas, and great atmosphere of an organization is worth $25,000 in annual salary. It’s not the way to go, because other companies are going to catch on and start moving in this direction–so many have already–that underpaid employees (and employees who wonder if they’re underpaid) are going to wonder whether the grass would be just as green and the salary more green at that company up the road.

When the Dearth of Testing Causes Nightmares

Monday, November 14th, 2011 by The Director

A Cracked list: The 8 Creepiest Glitches Hidden In Popular Video Games.

I Hope They Tested That Installer

Friday, November 11th, 2011 by The Director

Ford owners getting a software update for their vehicles will have the chance to perform the software updates themselves:

If you’re on of the 300,000 or so customers out there with MyFord Touch, you’re already on the list to receive a USB flash drive containing the update. You’ll be able to do it yourself or take it to any dealership.

With this major upgrade, Ford is delivering on their promise to keep your tech up-to-date as long as you own the car. “Evolving the software with meaningful enhanced features was part of our plan from the very beginning. It’s no different than the experience with our smartphones and laptop computers – except now, it’s your car that gets better,” Jablonski added.

You can find tips on testing software installers here.

(Link seen here, along with the quip “Is it possible to brick an entire car? We’re about to find out.”)

Same Stuff, Different Way

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 by The Director

The leader of the largest independent advertising company does it differently:

After more than four decades in business, there are certain things that Stan Richards, the 78-year-old founder of The Richards Group, believes to be true. Employees, for one, must arrive by 8:30 a.m. (not 8:30-ish-they have to punch in). Time spent on the job must be accounted for in 15-minute increments, daily. Fail to do so, and you’ll be docked $8.63. Arrive promptly to meetings or be shut out of them. Close of business is 6 p.m. Finish your work and go home.

Given all that, you could be forgiven for concluding that Richards runs a widgetmaker or a call center or a print shop—the kind of operation in which work needs to be highly regimented to get done efficiently. In fact, The Richards Group is an advertising agency.

And not just any advertising agency. Founded in 1976, The Richards Group is the largest independently owned ad shop in the country, with billings of $1.28 billion, revenue of $170 million, and more than 650 employees. Its portfolio is packed with some of the most memorable campaigns of the past 30 years. Chick-fil-A’s famous cows, those alluring Corona beer ads with couples lounging on the beach, Motel 6’s “We’ll Leave the Light on for You”… all were born at Richards’s Dallas headquarters. Most recently, and infamously, the agency went perhaps a bit too far, sparking a nationwide controversy with a set of startlingly direct ads for Summer’s Eve cleansing wash. The spots declared “Hail to the V”; some cheekily used hand puppets to play the roles of multiracial talking vaginas.

Highly structured and rules-bound companies, of course, are not supposed to produce work like this. “Creative” industries such as advertising, software design, and the like are supposed to require a loose, anything-goes culture, in which workers are free to come, go, and dress as they please. It’s a world of verdant campuses, foosball tables, and caffeine-fueled all nighters. Introduce things such as start times, end times, and time sheets—rules—and watch your creatives run for the exits. Richards, obviously, feels differently. “We need to be disciplined,” he explains. “We are not gallery painters who paint when the feeling moves us.” And Richards has made it work. The 29 creative group heads at Richards’s shop have an average tenure of 17 years. “The genius of the place is completely counterintuitive,” says David Fowler, who wrote the landmark Motel 6 spots back in 1986 and today is the executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York City. “Somehow, Stan made you feel like you were only limited by the size of your ideas.”

A lot of organizations run towards the latest fads in development methodology or towards the common pop-culture representations of how things are done, but different organizations can succeed outside the vogue. One wonders if this agency would have reached that level of success doing things differently, that is, like everyone else does. I doubt it.

When Search and Replace Becomes Search and Destroy

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 by The Director

Content management systems, ya gotta love them. Unless, of course, you’re a professional quality assurance professional who likes to make sure that every i is dotted, t is crossed, and serial comma is twisted. Then CMS packages are scary. They allow just anyone to get in there and throw something up onto the Internet that the whole world can see and mock. I’ve often maintained that if you’re going to use CMS, you still need to have a two-person system at the very least. One to type it up and one to preview it.

To keep something like this from going where it will scare the innocent users:

Search and...destroy

As you can see, all the appearances of li have changed to p. Forensically speaking, we can ascertain that someone changed this from a bulleted list and used search-and-replace to do it.

Never, never, ever, do a blind search-and-replace on your text. And have someone else look at it before it’s scattered across the Internet.

Early Boundary Failure For Amazon

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by The Director

A profile in the Wall Street Journal identifies a costly boundary analysis failure for

At launch, the site wasn’t even truly finished. Mr. Bezos’s philosophy was to get to market quickly, in order to get a jump on the competition, and to fix problems and improve the site as people started using it. Among the early mistakes, according to Mr. Bezos: “We found that customers could order a negative quantity of books! And we would credit their credit card with the price and, I assume, wait around for them to ship the books.”

Remember, 0 isn’t the smallest number to test.

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