Keeping Vendor Meetings Productive

I spent a good amount of my professional life in meetings. Tons of meetings. When I worked for a Fortune 500 company, I started to think they were paying me just to fill a chair in a conference room. I started jotting down notes on meetings and how to best run them. I recently came across those notes and figured I would just throw them up here in the event they happen to be useful to someone else. Full disclosure, I am a well documented anti-meeting guy. I am not a fan of them and feel that more times than not, they are a waste of time and money. However they are a necessary evil, especially when working for a large organization or with large teams, and if handled correctly can actually become productive. One area where meetings can't be avoided and have a high requirement to be well organized is when meeting with new vendors.

Meeting with a new, or potential new, vendor can be like having to talk to someone you don't know at a friends party. You know you have the friend in common but really don't know much more about one another and yet you need to try and have a conversation with them. I've found following a couple of rules make meetings with vendors a lot more efficient and productive.
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Keeping It Simple

simpleI have long since abandoned "The Bank". This is not to say I squirrel away my paychecks under my mattress at home, trust me you don't want to see what is there, but I don't use Banks to hold my money instead opting to use Credit Unions. To be completely honest with you, the first Credit Union I used I don't think I even differentiated between a Bank and a Credit Union. At the time it was more of "who has the lowest fees" approach. Since then, I've worked for and opened accounts with other Credit Unions and the difference is very clear to me now and I doubt I would ever go back to a traditional Bank, at least not as my primary fulltime account.

But this post isn't about the pros of Credit Unions or the cons on the Bank industry. Instead this is a post about my experience , to date, and opinion of a new form of banking and a new service called "Simple".  Simple is not a traditional Bank and in fact is a new approach to Banking. For starters, Simple is a completely virtual bank, with no physical locations. Simple is currently by invitation only and I was just invited sometime back. As of today, my account is still not fully enabled but I will get back to that in a little while.

My primary Credit Union is pretty aggressive and stays on top of a lot of the new offerings. They have a very verbose web site that allows me to do a lot with my account, tons of free ATMs, and features such as mobile check deposit. But Simple promises to take managing you money one step further. It's been described as a blend of  a Bank and Mint.com. Allowing you to closely track and graph how you are spending money and what you are spending money on. It also allows you to do things like set goals and contribute money to those goal, in essence creating what seem to be small virtual savings accounts.

Being the Geek I am, this platform appealed to me hence why I signed up for an invite. Not sure how long ago I had requested and account and I had honestly forgotten about it when I got the email giving me access.  Once I got the invite it took me a couple of days to pull the trigger and deposit some money into the account. I just really didn't have a good reason to create another account with another financial institution. However one thing that has always bugged me with the my current accounts is the fragmentation. To a degree this is self-imposed, I would take a car loan with one because of a better rate, then open a credit card with another for the same reason. We have accounts for our daughters and I have yet another account for my business. Moving money between the various account at the various institutions has proven to be somewhat of a challenge. Bouncing money between different accounts within the same Credit Union is simple and happen instantaneously but I long for being able to move my money around like that between different Credit Unions. I kind of hoped Simple would offer something like this.

To date I don't know if they will or how efficient it will be, one reason for this is because my account as I mentioned earlier is still not 100% enabled. Signing up was  a little challenging. Security is obviously important to Simple and unfortunately security is not historically user-friendly. You also need to make an initial deposit and then your ID needs to be confirmed. It seems this took a couple days to process, but once completed then I needed to create my log in information to my account. Once  you have a log in you still don't have any money in your account because that initial deposit in kind of in limbo until all this effort is completed and have you signed off and acknowledged all their agreements and disclaimers.

This is where I am today, I have an account and my initial deposit is still pending. So far my impression are pretty simple (see what I did there). After creating my account I did experience a day where I had issues logging into the account when Simple kept saying I was using the wrong username and password. As a long time user of LastPass I knew that wasn't correct and the problem did seem to clear itself up the next day. I still don't have any money in my account that I can do anything with, it's still in a pending state. There are a lot of ways to get money into your account but I have yet to see many ways of getting money out however this may be a limitation to my account right now because the account is essentially empty.

Moving forward, I am going to track my money in this account very closely. The main things I am going to look for a fees, see where they are and how much they are. Also how easy is it to get access to my money, and how easily can I use to pay bills or move to other accounts.  If you are interested in some particular aspect of Simple, leave a comment below and if it something I can check out for you I will.

 

New SDPHP Mentoring Program

I am helping organize a mentoring program for the San Diego PHP User group. We officially announced the program at last nights meeting.

The SDPHP Group is always looking for what it can do to better strengthen the PHP community in San Diego. It is in this spirit we are launching a project to help facilitate PHP Mentorship. The purpose of this project is to give individuals looking for guidance and personal development with PHP related topics a clear avenue to find people willing to help them. As well as to help organize individuals who are willing to offer guidance and a support, by giving them network to allow them to give the best help possible.

Feel free to check out the full posting, especially if you are interested in getting involved with the project >> SDPHP Mentoring Program

SCALE 11x Interview: Philip Ballew

I got the opportunity to do another Scale11x interview, this time with Philip Ballew. Philip was a real pleasure to talk to and I even got the opportunity to meet with him in person since he is a San Diegan. Philip is a great guy, very passionate about Open Source.  I am looking forward to catching his talks up in L.A. later this week at Scale.

Video Interview: Philip Ballew | SCALE 11x.

3 on 3 wheelchair basketball tournament

Had the pleasure to play in a 3 on 3 wheelchair basketball tournament today for the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation. Good group of people offering a competitive athletic environment for everyone.

Guadalajara, Tequila, and Computing Power

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Full Stream can be seen on Flickr here - Trip to Guadalajara July 2012

Just sharing some pictures on a trip I took to Guadalajara And Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico July 2012. Most of the time was a lot of long hours working however meal times were pretty awesome. From breakfast at the RIU hotel to the many places we had lunch and dinner, all the meals were great. Also, the day before we left we managed to slip out for a tour of the Tequila distiller for José Cuervo which was pretty cool. Enjoy the pictures.

Sony <<EOF

Today I bid adieu to my employment at Sony. I was fortunate in the sense that the decision to move on with my career was my own. My latest tenure here a Sony lasted over 7 years making it the longest I've ever spent with 1 employer. This being the second time I had been employed by Sony, previous time being as a contractor for 2 years early 2001.

I hope to get around to posting some of my experiences at Sony as one of their IT geeks. I especially would like to take sometime and do a few posts on my views of cyber activist and around the events of the attacks on Sony about a year ago, it was a very interesting time.

For now I just want to thank the people who help me grow, who worked the solutions with me, and who hacked away with me until things worked. You know you can always reach out to me, personally or professionally.

As for me, I am moving on to another organization here in San Diego. It's a company that creates solutions in the educational arena so I am hoping I am a little more comfortable posting on some of the cool things I am working on without worrying about leaking information that isn't suppose to be public yet.

A very ugly Friday the 13th on the Sony campus

A very ugly Friday the 13th on the Sony campus (Taken with instagram)

Easter Eggs with a twist

My daughters gave dying eggs with some of my old silk neckties a try. The warmer colors like red came out really nice, even captured the patterns on the tie. Blues didn't do as well.  

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The process is super simple, just wrap up the egg in the tie, tie it with string and boil. 

Here is a Blog post with more details on the process => http://www.mommyknows.com/silk-tie-dye-easter-eggs-tutorial/

 

 

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Seeing the world through rose colored Goggles

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I am close to tech, very close, and sometimes in my field we do things for the enjoyment of technology. Sometimes we do things to see if it can be done, how cool it is when it is done, and what we had to do in order to get it done. However, sometimes we also loose sight of the real world use cases of a particular technology. I recently had that happen to me and thought I would share the story of how Google Goggles brought peace into our house. (Ok, that might be a little dramatization but you get the point.) 

My wife loves to scrapbook. She's been doing it for years and she is pretty good at it. She enjoys it so much she will scrapbook other peoples pictures. I use to tell her she should think about doing web layout designs because it was very similar and we could us it as "together time". Her reply was "maybe you should learn scrapbooking"... I didn't approach that topic again, point was taken. When she scrapbooks for other people she gets pictures in all sorts of different states. Some are very organized with detailed information or what, when, and where a picture was taken, sometimes its just a box off random photos. 

My wife has learned that when I am coding not to worry or concern herself with the signs of frustration I may display and sometimes the colorful language I may use when in such a state of mind. As I have learned the similar lesson when she scrapbooks so when she was showing some of those signs of frustration with her latest project it wasn't unusual. She had received a bunch of photos of a families vacation that spanned a bunch of locations around the world. She was told the family had gone to China and then Italy but that this was over 5 years ago and no one was sure of exactly which landmarks they had photographed. 

The wife had spent days trying to decode what were in the photos and where they were taken. In one of her moments of frustration she says "I need to be able to feed these pictures into a computer and have the computer tell me what they are. Can you please write something like that." My reply went something like, "Sure honey I will get right on that .... Hey wait a minute, I think that already exist" I pulled out my HTC Evo running Android and asked her to give me a picture. I had seen that look she flashed me before, the look that borders on "you are full of BS" and "don't waste my time". I tell her, "No I am serious, give me a photo of something you can't identify" She hands me a photo of some old ruins with pillars. Nothing really special about the photo and nothing really stood out to me. I fired up Google Goggles on my Evo and scanned the picture and almost instantly it returned the results "Pompei Basilica, Pompei, Italy". We just looked at each other and said "COOL!", but was it right? We clicked on the link that Goggles presented to us in the results and sure enough there was another, almost exact same photo, on a site talking about the ruins. 

The wifes face lite up. "Let's do another". We did a couple more and thing were looking good until we ran into a little snag, "The Parthenon". The problem was the Parthenon was in Greece, not Italy. "No one mentioned a visit to Greece" the wife said. We did some research and it really seem liked Goggles properly identified it. We scanned some more and would run into more landmarks from Greece, then Istanbul, Turkey. Two places never mentioned to the wife that were part of the trip. Needless to say this dramatically impacted the scrapbook layout she was working on but she was ecstatic about the new tool she found. She managed to scan her entire book in less that an hour, catch, and make several geographical corrections. 

Wife walked away with a new appreciation of technology and I got to feel like a little bit of a Super Hero for a few hours. Just thought it was a cool series of events and thought I would share it.  

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Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani) and Me (@shocm)

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I got the pleasure to meet a person in my industry who I have the utmost admiration and respect for. Gina Trapani is a Open Source developer, author, host on TWIG, founder of Lifehacker, and a prolific blogger. It was a real honor.

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Not sure who this guy is or what he is selling but I like his message :-)

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Honk if you love the cloud.... 

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