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?