Saturday, 27 October 2007

An Observation on Blogs and Podcasts

I've come quite late to the Web 2.0 world. About a year and a half ago I started to listen to podcasts while walking my dog. One of the things I discovered is how much differently I react to people when I hear their voice in a podcast.

When I read what Steve McConnell and Joel Spolsky write, I have trouble getting to the end of their articles because they seem to be just so wrong about too much. (I'll explain why below.) However, when I heard podcasts by them, they made a lot more sense. I don't know why, but there's something about a verbal communication, even when the person isn't present, that seems to somehow help me hear the whole message in the right context.

For example, when I read Joel's stuff about how to manage software teams, I think he's out to lunch because what he recommends would be impossible to implement for 99.9 percent of working software development managers out there. I'm sure he's said so much in his writing, but it wasn't until I heard a podcast by him that I really heard how much he admits that his is a special case. As soon as I heard that, my opinion of him as a person changed and I was able to read and listen to him in a whole different way.

With McConnell, I've always felt that his experience, research and analysis of software development was staggeringly good, which made the fact that he draws absolutely the wrong conclusions from his knowledge all the more maddening. I forget what it was about the podcast that softened my opinion of him, but I do remember quite well finishing the podcast and thinking that, while his conclusions are still wrong, I have much more respect for him than I did from his writings.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Mac Joke

I'm part-way through a podcast by Guy Kawasaki where he recounts a joke the Apple II team had in the early days of the Macintosh: How many Mac team members does it take to screw in a light bulb? One: He just holds the light bulb and waits for the universe to revolve around him.

The podcast is good, too. At least so far.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

How Long Will People Put Up With Us?

Vancouver Coastal Health is gearing up to make sure that no one has problems with meetings scheduled in Outlook when we switch back to standard time from daylight savings time. In the leadership group for Pharmacy, about eight senior managers, the executive assistants have spent at least a full person-day, if not more, changing the subject line of meetings to include the intended meeting time, as recommended by Microsoft.

This is an office productivity tool?

I know DST changes and calendaring applications aren't easy. You can find lots of discussion on the web about the challenges. In this case, we seem to have put the responsibility for dealing with the complexity on the users, rather than figuring it out and giving the users a solution. But do we really think we can expect our users to put up with this twice a year forever?

I believe if you handled the DST rule change in March 2007, you shouldn't have to do anything else. However, IT organizations seem to think otherwise. Are they just covering their butts?

In one sense I don't blame the IT staff at an organization for being a bit reluctant to try to optimize the process. Take a look at the Microsoft knowledge base topic on the DST change and Outlook. The table of contents fills my entire screen top to bottom, and I use a small font.

So what should IT departments do? One thing you can do is be brave and don't tell the users to do anything special. Then, when the complaints come in about meetings being wrong, go out and fix the computers that didn't get the timezone update, or that didn't run the Outlook timezone fix tool. Sure, your the affected users will think you're a jerk because their calendars were wrong once. But you know what? All your users already think you're a jerk twice a year because you expect them to do all sorts of manual work-arounds.