Thursday, December 29, 2005

Driving without a license

It's funny, and sad, how Americans can be so resourceful and determined on one hand, and so lazy on the other. I can't be surprised at the level of disdain other cultures have for us, given the "we don't care" attitude we project.

The way we deal with personal computers is an example of this. We scream and holler about viruses, spyware, and spam, yet we're right up there with the worst offenders at its propagation. The expression about "one bad apple spoiling the bushel" doesn't apply here; we're a society of bad apples, with the good apples complaining about their plight.

In this case, I'm talking about the good apples being the minority who know enough about computing and the Internet to practice "safe computing" while the bad apples being the computer users who want to look at their computers the way they look at their telephones and televisions. The good apples are clearly outnumbered, but they are also reluctant to admit that they have little choice but to live with solutions that would keep the bad apples at check.

I've seen countless arguments over who should have the responsibility over keeping the Internet clean. One side wants the ISP to take more control, while the other side resents any efforts the ISP makes to take that control. The fact is, if the ISP only had good apples as clients, the ISP wouldn't need to place restrictions on their Internet use. We know this isn't the case, however, so the ISP should take on some responsibility.

Let's look at the highway analogy a moment. In the early days, anyone who had a car could drive it down any road. As more cars entered the picture, it became clear some rules would be needed to avoid disaster, and so governing bodies applied some basic rules (which only got more complicated as time passed, of course).

Since the car couldn't be made foolproof, the next best thing would be to reduce the number of fools behind the wheel. Drivers were required to get licenses, insuring they knew the basic rules of the road and could no longer use ignorance as an excuse. Those unable to demonstrate the knowledge are not legally allowed to drive. Those too young to make sensible decisions about driving are not allowed to get licenses. Those who disregard the rules eventually lose their licenses, and can no longer legally drive. Professional drivers have a more difficult test, and must follow more difficult rules, but also have some freedom in choosing the capabilities of their vehicles (an amateur driver cannot legally drive a tractor-trailer, for example).

To help keep the road running smoothly, the governing body developed rules for proper behavior, but they also introduced traffic control devices to manage the use of the roads.

There are plenty of problems with the analogy, as there are with just about any analogy, but it should give rise to thought. The lazy populace, the bad apples, get away with their laziness because the powers-that-be allow them to. If we (as a society) drove cars the way we operate PCs on the Internet, we'd find the roads too dangerous to use. Shouldn't we, then, have some mandated restrictions for the protection of the rest of us?

The road needs rules (not just the technical RFCs, but real rules), it needs traffic cops to enforce the rules, and the drivers need licensing to insure safety on the road. The ISPs are well-positioned to be our cops, and those who cry for freedom on the Net should only prove their competence to gain their improved access. Misbehave, and have your license suspended or revoked.

The computer makers will not make foolproof computers, as that makes them liable for the fools who find ways around the protections. So, rather than look at Microsoft, Apple, or the Linux distros for relief, we should be looking at ways to govern the use of the Internet, keeping the bad apples from ruining the bushel for all of us. Make the ISP become responsible for the actions of its subscribers, and you'll see some very dramatic changes in how the Internet is used. License the Internet users, and you'll see a dramatic improvement in the quality of Internet users.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

These Things Won't Go Away

I admit I'm surprised at the lack of feedback after my last blog. I was certain that the Linux fans would crawl out of the woodwork to defend their favorite distro against the thought that they would be forced to play second fiddle to Microsoft on the desktop forever.

I also expected some comments by the staunch Windows advocates, either in agreement, or to show how I was right for the wrong reasons.

Lacking that feedback, I'll apply some of those aforementioned observations to another issue, and offer a principle to explain it:

There have been some very good writings on the subject of PC security (or the lack thereof), and why we'll never get a handle on the problem of viruses, worms, spyware, spam, and the like. If I could remember where I saw them, I'd provide the links, and I encourage readers to share the links if they have them.

My take on it is simply that the average PC owner simply can't be bothered with the effort to secure, and keep secured, his or her PC. It isn't that they don't want to know, but that they simply don't care. Even those who suffer from the slowdowns and other minor effects of infection aren't concerned for it beyond a grumble. I've personally seen cases where computers contain 100s of spyware intrusions and pop-up problems, left uncorrected. The owners often say they don't know why it happens, but they are unwilling to spend the money to have a professional clean it up and they have no interest to learn how to do so themselves, even when told they can do it for free.

I've cleaned those machines, installed preventive measures, and watched the machines get re-infected because the owners fail to perform routine maintenance to keep up with the problem.

I call this "the Laziness Factor" and the application of this is widespread (personally observed in the United States, and may exist elsewhere). That principal reason why Linux can't catch up with Windows on the desktop is the same reason why we'll never keep malware off the home PC. The owner is simply too lazy to do or learn what is needed to maintain the system. In an age where we want our cars to be low maintenance (maintenance-free batteries, high-mileage tune-ups, delayed oil changes), we can't expect the PC owner to want a high-maintenance PC. So, if it doesn't take care of itself automatically, a problem won't get fixed unless the PC stops working entirely. No matter if the cost of later repairs is greater than the cost of regular maintenance; if the repair costs more than a few hundred dollars, the common reaction is to either put it off, or replace the computer. The funny thing is that, with Linux being a lower-maintenance operating system, it still misses out - because the learning curve is just too steep to climb!

How many machines sit at home running the factory defaults? Anti-virus subscriptions expire, and are allowed to run without updates. Machines go for months or years without being scanned. Heck, I've seen Windows machines that have never been defragmented!

Watch for a discussion of solutions in an upcoming blog... if anyone cares to discuss it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Linux will never beat Microsoft

I know you've been waiting for me to say something profound. After all, I'm a former pundit, right? That means I should have some earth-shattering opinions, right?

Try this on for size:

Linux doesn't have what it takes to beat Microsoft on the desktop.

Not all that earth-shattering, I suppose, unless I also mention that I'm a big Linux fan. Yep! Got it right here, dual-booting SuSE with Windows 2000 Pro on my notebook. Been playing with it for about two years.

But, see, I'm being realistic. As much as I'd love to see Linux kick MS around, I don't think any distro of Linux has what it takes. And having said that, I'm duty bound to explain.

There isn't any one thing that makes the difference. Oh, if only it were that simple. And it isn't all technical, or it would probably already be done. In fact, it isn't even something entirely in the Community's control. It'll take maneuvering by a bunch of people and some dreadful mistakes by Microsoft to displace Windows.

It can be done. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

It's been said that Linux needs a killer app, or that Linux needs a decent e-mail client. I don't necessarily agree or disagree. The terms "killer" and "decent" are subjective; one person's "killer" app or "decent" e-mail client is another person's "ho-hum" development. Here's the truth:

A killer app can create a market for an operating system, but the operating system goes a long way toward making the killer app. Before Windows, we had DOS, and we had DOS apps. We also had hardcore computer users, and tossed in a group that depended on menus, being totally uninterested in learning/using DOS. Windows came along, but Windows didn't catch on with most computer users of the day until Microsoft provided Microsoft Office (particularly Word and Excel) for Windows. The killer apps, one might say.

Yet, was the advent of Microsoft Office sufficient to switch DOS users to Windows? No, of course not. It required finding other publishers to bring their software to Windows, or reasonably competitive substitutes, so users could give up their DOS applications in favor of the aesthetically nicer Windows.

And even with a growing library of applications, Windows wouldn't have caught on, if it weren't for one more thing.

The manufacturers, who were pushed by Microsoft into putting a copy of Windows on every PC they made.

Now, if you're a new home computer user, clueless to the realities of the world, and you just bought a new computer, are you going to look for an operating system to replace the one the computer came with? Of course not! You'll leave Windows in place, then look for programs that run on your brand new Windows computer.

Is the situation really any different today? The family that has never had a computer before and knows nothing about computers will have the choice between Windows and... Windows! (Apple users are actually in a similar boat, but by choice.) To my knowledge, only Linspire has had the foresight to get their distro of Linux pre-installed on a brand new PC, but you have to work to find those machines.

And even though PCs have been popular appliances for many years now, how many of the principal owners of the in-place home PCs actually know how to use them to their best effect? Not many, as evidenced by the proliferation of viruses and spyware on these machines. Do you think Microsoft wants to correct this shortcoming? Of course not, as knowledgeable users can choose to change, and that isn't in Microsoft's interest.

So Microsoft makes Windows so smart that the home users can remain computer-illiterate. When a Windows user wants to install a new program, what does he or she need to do? Buy a CD containing the new program, set the CD in the tray, close the tray, and follow the prompts that magically appear on the screen. When a Linux user wants to install a new program, what does he or she need to do? If your answer starts with "that depends...", you've demonstrated my point. Can a computer-illiterate comfortably use a Linux PC? Even one running a distro as dumbed-down as Linspire? Only until he or she has to perform any non-menu-based maintenance.

The question isn't one of killer apps, decent e-mail, easy availability, or even cost. The question isn't even ease-of use, although this is the biggest single obstacle in my mind.

No, the question is all of the above. Simply put, there isn't enough reasons for the mass market to justify changing operating systems. Microsoft got there first, got entrenched, and barring some serious errors, will be there for some time to come. The public is in their comfort zone, and the only way for Linux to supplant Microsoft on the desktop is for Linux to become more comfortable than Windows and its successors. Linspire is closest, but comfort is not defined as look and feel. Comfort is a state of mind. Microsoft has achieved it. Linux hasn't, and Linux will play second fiddle to Microsoft until:
  1. Linux is comfortable to use (and maintain) by the computer-illiterates,
  2. Linux is as easy to find, pre-installed, as Windows is today, and
  3. Linux has a sufficient developer-base as to guarantee each person's own subjective killer app is available for easy installation (per #1, above).
I still like Linux. I'm still a huge fan of open source. But there isn't any way Microsoft's monopoly over the desktop can be broken unless these three conditions are met.

I don't see it.

And I'd love to be proven wrong.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Spam: No one said it had to be in English

I haven't written lately (as you can plainly see), in part from being busy, but in part from simply not feeling motivated to do so. This is a benefit of the "who cares" nature of blogging. If this were a true column, I'd feel pressure to write (and burn-out is on its way), but with a blog, no one is paying me to write these thoughts, and having read little feedback, I can't even say anyone is reading these thoughts (one day I'll have to add a hit counter).

So, what have I been up to?

Most of last week was spent making preparations for the career change Bocona wants me to try. I've earned my Accredited Claims Adjuster (ACA) designation, and have applied for my license. This means, in effect, I'm no longer allowed to offer an opinion on insurance matters, unless it is directly related to a claim I'm working. Bully. Not that I've had anything to say about insurance, so far.

But preparing for a career change isn't the same as making one. While the applications have started going out for claims adjuster positions, the resumes are continuing to fly in the PC world. I'm looking at it like a race; let's see which career will come through first.

Meanwhile, a comment on the not-unexpected feedback I got from the last posting. Remember when I offered an only-slightly disguised e-mail address to write to if you know of an IT management position available? Well, I got some replies. Unfortunately, I can't read them... they're in Arabic and Hebrew (I can tell them apart, but can't read either language). Frankly, I'm amazed. What's the sense of sending spam to someone if the recipient can't even read it, much less act on it?

Then again, who said the spammer(s) even bothered to attempt to read my blog. They simply found an easy to translate address and fired away. I wouldn't be surprised if the spammers couldn't even read English. It's not like understanding the blog is relevant to them!

A note to the spammers, potential and otherwise. My e-mail (even the job account) is plenty filtered, between gray lists, firewalls, e-mail client-based spam filtering, etc. It's not worth the effort to add me to your list, so why don't you simply pass my e-mail address over and move along?

And wouldn't we all be surprised if that request actually worked!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm..."

As my readers should know by now, I've been involved in a bit of career searching, and of course that means some time digging through I've had a tendency to stay away from the larger outfits, but their offerings still appear on the radar, so when a single company starts showing an abnormal collection of openings, something seems to be afoot.

I have to admit having heard rumors that Jabil Circuit in St. Petersburg, FL was an uncomfortable place for IT workers, so when I saw an unusual string of positions open up there, I had to look a little deeper (the following links are to Jabil Circuit's web site, and were valid as of 11/30/2005):

Manager of Information Systems
Technology Architect-Client Services
Enterprise Solutions Specialist II SD
Enterprise Solutions Specialist II HR
EDI Application Support and Training Specialist
Business Systems Analyst I

These all appeared at the same location (St. Petersburg) on the same day... quite a turnover, from where I sit, given that some of those positions are pretty high on the local totem pole.

Now, look at this snippet of the job description for the Manager of Information Systems:

Recruitment and Retention:
-Recruit, interview and hire Information Systems Reporting Manager.
-Communicate criteria to recruiters for Information Systems Reporting Manager position candidates.
-Coach Information Systems staff in the interviewing/hiring process.
-Monitor team member turnover; identify key factors that can be improved; make improvements.
I put the emphasis on that last line.

Might it be that some of those rumors I heard was true? Does Jabil Circuit have such a turnover problem sufficient to place retention a priority for the job description, and particularly that aspect of learning why people are leaving and fix it?

One can't begin to know the whole story, or even a significant piece of it, from a list of job openings, and so my speculations here are entirely my own. I would like to say, however, that I wish the new Manager of Information Systems at Jabil Circuit in St. Petersburg the best of luck in his or her new job, and hope he or she doesn't learn the problems come from someplace out of his or her reach!

On my own search...

Bocona isn't pleased with my progress so far, and wants me to explore new career opportunities outside my comfort zone. So, while still digging around, I am also preparing to become licensed as an insurance claims adjuster... just in case something better doesn't materialize before the next hurricane season.

Personally, I'm still rooting for the IT industry, so if you seriously know of a small business in the Tampa Bay area that would like to interview me for an IT management position (and isn't Jabil Circuit ;-) ), please drop me a note at career [at] frayernet [dot] com (please no spam - serious inquiries only).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hey Verizon - It isn't the money!

In case you're wondering where I've been the past few days, please allow me to explain. I'm a bit of a pack rat, which annoys Bocona to no end. Over the last year I've collected a fairly large pile of magazines, most of which I have no use for, but never took the time to read. When Bocona decided to do some holiday cleaning, she targeted the magazine stack, and shifted the stack to my desk... right on top of my trusty notebook computer.

"You don't even think about using that computer until you deal with those magazines!" Bocona can be persuasive.

So, for the last few days, while suffering the pain of computer withdrawal, I was sorting through my magazine stack - a task consisting mostly of shifting the stack from point A to point B one magazine at a time, discarding enough to show serious thought had gone through the culling.

Somewhere in there I encountered a statistic I felt worth sharing. It seems 38% of American Internet users choose to exclusively use dial-up access. Please note the word choose. These aren't necessarily financially disadvantaged people. These people don't cite cost as the reason. No, within the United States, price is not why people aren't using broadband. And yet AOL, NetZero, and PeoplePC all market their dial-up service as if that were the case, and Verizon markets its DSL the same way.

No, 38% of American Internet users choose to use dial-up because they don't see why they should upgrade. They don't use any Internet service that is so speed sensitive that they can't simply be a little patient and wait for dial-up. As marketers, the web developers have been so sensitive to the needs of the dial-up users that they are literally removing the incentive for the dial-up user to upgrade.

Remarkable. Even more so that some folks have talked about pushing the US government to subsidize broadband access to help the lower classes join the fast set. Look at the stats, people! It's not the money!

Now, if someone needs subsidizing, turn to the Internet users outside the US. I've heard stories about speed/billing issues that would have kept me offline had I been forced to use them. But if you're building content for American visitors, do them a favor. Don't over-optimize the site. Give them the reason to join the rest of us!

And hope I don't have any more housecleaning chores lined up for the near future.

On Rudeness...

Add to my list people who set appointments, then fail to keep them. Rude! Don't build a candidate's hopes then avoid the contact when you change your mind. If you intend to be a boss, be one, and start with getting up the backbone to call the candidate and explain that you changed your mind, and you no longer wish the interview. Candidates will be less likely to hold a grudge if you cancel the appointment than if you stand them up!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Digital TV, Courtesy of... Cisco?

One of those days... plenty of newsworthy events, but little I feel the urge to comment on. It was days like these that probably contributed to my burn out a decade ago, taking me off the charts. So I won't push it. I'll keep today's blog short.

Tonight I notice, as I'm browsing through the AP newswire, that the line separating TV from computing is growing a little fuzzier. I've about come to the conclusion that only time stands between us and the consolidation of anything remotely data related. On one hand I revel in the knowledge that I live in a time when so many technological events foretold in the science fiction novels I read back in the '70s are coming to pass. On the other hand, I feel like Alvin Toffler understated things when he wrote Future Shock.

The latest indication that TV is encroaching on computers (or computers are encroaching on TV, take it as you will) is the announcement that Cisco plans to purchase cable-TV equipment giant Scientific-Atlanta. Since I'm a DirecTV subscriber, it was easy for me to forget all about Scientific-Atlanta, but they've been around forever - I once helped some friends sell SA satellite receiver systems back when it was techie-cool to have one of those monster dishes sitting in your yard. Now all Cisco needs is a TV programming source and they can set up their own cable network, without laying any cable! Just pump the programming across our already congested Internet connection to a set-top box that sends digital television to your HDTV receiver and (through the magic of routing technology) Internet data to your in-house PC network.

Imagine Comcast's screams as Congress tells them they have to allow Cisco to use their broadband network to send TV signals to their digital subscribers homes. This is going to be fun!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rudeness in the Hiring Process

I haven't been hiding the fact that I've been seeking work, and I've commented on how different things have been for me when compared to my glory days. As blogs are well-known as forums to discuss pet peeves, today I'll chime in on one of my perceptions. I particularly welcome comments from those on the other side of the hiring process to explain why they feel the following practices are just.

It may not be the case in other industries, but there is apparently no shortage of applicants for IT positions in the Tampa Bay area. Once upon a time, a job seeker would respond to a classified ad by phone or mail, but today e-mail is the dominant medium used in applying for a job. The employer typically requests the applicant to e-mail his/her resume and salary requirements to an address checked occasionally by the first level person in the hiring process (often an HR employee). Usually the HR employee is expecting a resume prepared in ASCII text or more commonly as a Word document. The applicant is rarely told in what format to send the resume, and if the resume is not in the desired format, it is apparently discarded without comment; there are too many applicants for the employee to take the time to request a new resume in the desired format.

Unfortunate, but I can understand this, just as I can understand today's trend towards not acknowledging receipt of the resume (though some addresses have autoresponders that do just that). So the vast number of resumes are sent without expectation of reply. If you don't make the first cut, you simply never hear from the employer.

No, what bothers me is the lack of communication after a one-on-one dialog, however brief, has occurred. Let me give a few examples.

  • A recruiter for a telecommunications company sends an e-mail asking for an updated resume and salary requirement. He started the conversation, yet after receiving the requested information, he refuses to reply to additional requests, even if only to state the position was filled or the candidate didn't meet the requirements to go to the next level.

  • After receiving a faxed resume, a clerk calls to verify a single question left unresolved on the resume. Upon receiving the clarification verbally, the clerk says someone will call "in the near future" to arrange an interview. The employer is never heard from again.

  • After a lengthy and apparently promising interview, the interviewer (a VP in the company) gives the applicant a business card (with an e-mail address) in case the applicant has the need to contact him. When the applicant does e-mail him, however, the e-mails go unacknowledged.

In each of these cases, one-on-one contact has occurred. The candidate is no longer simply a piece of paper, and deserves the same courtesy the applicant has given to the employer. After all, the applicant is also a consumer, yet the applicant is treated as something less... as if the decision not to hire is equal to not wanting anything to do with that person or anyone that person knows.

It's rude, and it's bad business. Don't lie to the applicant and don't ignore him/her after you've made a personal communication with him/her. It leaves a negative impression of the employer that can become lost revenue in excess of the cost of a more professional attitude as the applicant shares his/her experience with others.

On the positive side...

I've had an encouraging phone interview with a company seeking marketing assistance with their e-commerce web site. Another conversation is scheduled for Monday. I'm holding my breath... because this person is treating me like another person, not like a piece of paper.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Google Analytics: The Saga Continues

Thank you, Kas, for your comment... and the link to your blog, Negative Logic. While it was heartening to see I was not alone in having initial difficulties, either I'm luckier than you, or being a former pundit still carries a little weight.

I got my e-mail response last night, but only read it this morning... in an e-mail I can't reach from here (I have my computer dual-booting Windows 2000 and SuSE Linux, and of course the e-mail is sitting in the wrong partition). But the Google techs indicated they were having difficulties with the verification routine (and it appears they still are). The good news is that the site would collect data even without verification... and that proved to be true.

I checked Google Analytics at roughly 6 AM EST, first using Mozilla under Linux, then an hour later with my preferred Firefox under Windows 2000. I mention this because Mozilla and GA didn't get along. I suspect I'm missing an undefined plug-in, as the reports were simply unreadable in Mozilla. With Firefox it was another story.

The good news is GA did indeed have yesterday's traffic analyzed. I admit I was surprised at the volume of information GA provided, including data on pages on which I had not placed the tracking code! The software is indeed potent, but it will take me some time to learn to use it to the most benefit. Each report page includes explanatory text that will make that task much easier, but even the basic information can work to show me where some adjustment might be needed.

The bad news, which leaves IndexTools my preferred analytics tool, is the data is clearly not intended for near-real-time reporting. Great for the big picture, but if you're a micro-manager or simply ultra-curious GA doesn't cut it.

My quick review can be summed up by saying Google Analytics is a nice tool for the economically-challenged webmaster or marketing manager who has the patience to wait out the installation issues.

Now, let me address some of the comments I saw on Kas' blog:

It should be pretty obvious to anyone following events in the IT world (including former pundits like myself) what's going on between Microsoft and Google. I'm personally glad it's happening, as this competition is driving some bold advances in Internet technology. Google may not be exactly doing no harm, but I think we'll all benefit from the effort.

You see, the really good web analytics companies offer astounding products at equally astounding prices... making many small companies settle for cut-rate solutions. By taking a top drawer product like Urchin and making it accessible to the small shops, Google is not only giving the little guy a helping hand, but they are encouraging the other top drawer companies to look at their offerings a lot closer. As a result, some will eventually start cutting their rates, while others will look to see how they can make their products even better to justify their rates. Ideally, we'll see both. There may be some bruising in the market, but the end result will be a lot healthier for that bruising.

I'm giving Google Analytics some time to clean up, then I will watch the competition to see how they respond.

And thank you, Kas, for taking an interest in my blog!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Google Analytics Revisited/The Job Hunt

Two hours after my ramblings on Google Analytics, still without an e-mailed reply to my request for help, I check on my GA account and find the site "waiting for data". Google apparently found and fixed the problem on their end, and was waiting for me to discover it.

Now the product says may take up to 12 hours to collect the data necessary to begin reporting. I think you'll be hearing more from me about this product tomorrow.

On the Employment Front

I've been handing out resumes like a child molester hands out candy to children on Halloween (well, maybe not exactly like that)... and have had few responses (could I be too eager?). I'm not really surprised; as I mentioned, these aren't exactly the old days, and I've heard unconfirmed statistics to say there are between 100 and 200 respondents for every IT position advertised in the Tampa Bay area. When someone does contact me, it's almost cause for celebration.

Today a national home builder asks me for my salary requirements, after I replied to their ad for a Support Analyst (what we used to call a PC Support Technician in the day). I hope I didn't scare them off, but I have a mortgage to pay!

Google Analytics

Google keeps trying to impress me.

As an underemployed, former pundit, I like free stuff (I like open source stuff even more, but that's fodder for another blog). When I heard that Google was jumping into the web site analytics biz with a free analytics tool, I just had to look into it.

My favorite analytics tool has been IndexTools for years. There is no shortage of tools and methods for tracking web site visitors, but I found the argument in favor of browser-driven analytics compelling, by comparison to the many log-driven tools, and IndexTools gives me just the kind of reports I like to see... in near real-time. But IndexTools can be expensive for web site operators on very limited budgets, so Google Analytics made just the right offer... I had to try it.

I was underwhelmed.

Registering is easy, and the account that gives access to most Google services gives access to Google Analytics. Tell them the URL of the site and some basic contact information, agree to their EULA, and they give you a few lines of JavaScript to put in the page headers of the pages you wish to track. So far so good.

I plugged the code into about 20 pages of a site, including the home page, and following the instructions, told Google Analytics to check the status of the service.

Boing. Tracking Unknown.

It seems Google can't see the code on the page. Countless times I verified it, and countless times it failed. I see the code, in the right pace, when I look at the page source through my browser, but Google still can't find it. I wrote a note to Google tech support, and some hours later have no answer.

I'll keep checking, and I'll let you know if/when Google Analytics starts working. So far, however, this appears to be one market where the existing services don't need to panic yet.

I'll say this much, though: Google will eventually get it right, and Microsoft will probably follow along, not far behind (isn't it Microsoft that has a stake in, so the existing services will want to get off their laurels and grab some market share while they can.

Monday, November 14, 2005

So who am I?

Anyone remember those old American Express commercials with famous people you wouldn't recognize if it weren't for their acheivements and their AmEx cards?

Just wondering.

I'm not one of those people. But during much of the '90s I felt like it. I was on top of the world. In the late '80s and early '90s I was on my way to becoming an accomplished writer in the computer industry. I had my own commentary column in a local magazine, was regularly writing product reviews for major publications, and even had a book deal.

Need more?

The old timers (in computer terms, 15 years is ancient history) might remember me from my column, PC Life, which gained worldwide exposure as a regular feature on the pre-Internet WildNet BBS Network and the Exec-PC BBS. These days anyone with an opinion can readily share that opinion with the world (this blog is proof of that), but back then you needed talent and saavy. If you don't mind me tooting my own horn, I had those. I had fans. I spoke at conventions (yes, they were small, but I was invited to speak).

So what happened?

I burned out. I couldn't keep up the pace... writing engaging columns each week and writing income-generating articles is hard work. And if you don't stay in the limelight, they forget you.

I held on for a while as a contract instructor, teaching people to become Novell certified. But by 2001, I was done. I was no longer famous. No one outside my immediate circle knew me. And I pretended it didn't bother me. It did. It still does.

I've done some really nice things in the last few years. I've made some wonderful friendships and connections. But when the consulting contracts expired, I couldn't lean on my accomplishments to get me to the next step. There was a time when it seemed like everyone wanted me on their payroll. Now, I'm lucky if someone plucks my resume out of the stack for an interview.

Depressing? Sure it is, but that doesn't mean I'm depressing to be around. I'm an Average Joe again. And as I've mentioned, what used to be special is commonplace these days, so I don't see myself picking up where I left off. I will always be The Former Pundit. It would be so easy to sit here and reminisce, but that isn't what I've got in mind (well, I might entertain the idea from time to time). Instead, I've decided to ramble on about my life today. I still have opinions; I still have adventures. I'm older, wiser, and having to start over.

Shall we see where the world takes me?