A Call for Coordinated Cloudbursts

While researching this post, I received an invitation from About.Me, a service where I already have a simple profile posted about myself in classic vanity press fashion. What struck me most was that the main request in the invitation was for me to try out the new in-dashboard feature from Klout, a web service that allows you to track the number of and quality of (ranking) posts you provide in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere. Yes, two buzzwords at the end of one sentence.

However, visiting the link from the invite on Klout works just fine, while the link to About.Me’s in-dashboard new Klout feature fails. Not from user error, where a mass email was sent with a typographical error in the URL, not from database code in the CRM’s mass email system, but where About.Me apparently sent it to everyone at once. Now, like a fifth-grade rumor that has everyone flushing the toilets at the same instant, ruining the school’s plumbing, or every human being on earth jumping up and down in the same moment to move the planet out of orbit, a very real effect has been achieved: the link can’t respond to all the users at once.

The methods behind cloud computing allow for quick scalability, for immediate response to overwhelming web traffic and processing, but the sad truth is that they can be throttled. By choice, by service level agreement, by paid tier, there are numerous reasons why banks of servers that were built to handle small spikes in traffic but can’t hold up to large jumps in processing…. Often the CPU-sharing agreements allow for a “burst” method where processor power on the server banks aren’t always working, but pulse in large part, then slow down.

The beauty on the example of About.Me’s ask was that within minutes (about 8-10 minutes, in fact) they had remedied the problem and the links were working, the integrated Klout functionality was up and running, and I was amazed. Not by the feature, although it’s delightful. I’m amazed at the digital ability to scale in more processor power when needed, in a way that makes me reminiscent of the machines in Fritz Lang movies or steamboat engineers, twiddling knobs and opening valves for more power when needed, slowing it down when no longer necessary. The Amazon Cloud, Google Apps Cloud, and a variety of private services like Rackspace.com seem to have this handled within limits in a very clear way.

But the innovation is still in its infancy.

What is needed is a predictive model, tied in with the CRM systems, so that when an email leaves the “house” containing a link to servers hosted on the same (or a connected) cloud platform, the system can presumptively throttle open more spillways or even veritable floodgates depending on how many recipients are targeted, or, to take it another step further, to integrate with the response mechanisms in those messages, in case a small group of recipients is included in the initial mailing, but the email “goes viral” and includes a high pass-along rate.

A model is needed that can take all of these data points and feedback items into account and can plan to work and react ahead of usage in an overall architecture.

The technology, of course, will follow.

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Strange Love: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Anna Kournikova Virus

(Reprinted from 2600 Magazine, Spring, 2001)

It’s odd the people you keep in your address book. As a reader of 2600 for the past eight years, you learn a lot about what people will and won’t find offensive. You learn that people will complain about things that affect them, and won’t complain if it hasn’t affected them yet.

When I received the Anna Virus, I knew it for what it was: a program created by some hacker that had been sent to me unwittingly by another individual. I guessed it might be a worm that would be sent out to another user after an inadvertent reading or clicking of the email message containing it.

I clicked.

Within minutes I was receiving phone calls and emails, some laughing and joking, others solemn and angry, from all the people in my address book. Some were asking what I had sent. One man even wanted help opening the attachment. “I’m sure she’s hot,” he replied. “But my mail program won’t open the picture.”

I had sent email to people who owed me money, to people I am in litigation with, to women I haven’t called after an affair went sour, to men I had admired, to persons I had feared.

Worst of all, I hadn’t just sent an email. I had sent them the virus.

It took a few hours to sink in the potential impact of what had happened and you can imagine that I could have been angry. I could have been dismayed. But I had made the choice to try the virus anyway. I had been in good company. CNN carried news of the virus well into the next few days. I was elated and disgusted at the same time. I had burned bridges and made others laugh at my actions. I felt happy I had made no mistake. I had run the virus on purpose.

Now the most important question many would ask is why create such an ugly virus? “Why do hackers have to waste so much time and money on destructive forces?” they demand to know. My response is simple. If the virus I received had short-circuited my copy of Windows, if it had sent instructions to my hard drive to reach for a sector that didn t exist, gouging a new hole in my storage space, the Anna Virus would have been wrong and sickly twisted, something I could hate.

But it didn’t. It taught me, and many of you, a lesson. It taught us to guard against such threats and to be ever wary of what we see and open. It took nothing from me, nothing but a little pride, which I could make do without. And the Anna Virus introduced me to people I haven’t spoken to in a long, long, time.

Their emails may begin with “I think you have a virus….” But they all end with “So how are you doing these days? How is life?”

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Meeting Warren Avis

In an unassuming building on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I met
the head of the Avis Empire in 2001, the man who had built and sold Avis Rent A Car and all its innovations in the 1960s. His small staff buzzed productively from room to room as he announced, “Each worker for Avis is respected…”

   Why create the Shared Participation theory?
   I wanted to contribute something to the business culture.  I had been very successful, and had spent ten years at Harvard Business School and knew I wanted to do something people would benefit from.  When I look at the Newman’s Own salad dressing bottle, I see that $100 million has been donated to charity as a result of people buying that bottle.  It makes me feel good to do it.
   Team management is a buzzword in today’s business society, but if you include regular meetings, with truly anonymous comment systems, will work every time.  Blame the implementation, not the system if it fails.
   This was first an idea in the 1970s as a shared problem-solving process.  The growth of the system, and the books I wrote led to the formation of Shared Participation using team implementation.  By forming teams, with regular meetings and anonymous comments, people learn to respect the process, and most importantly, learn to respect each other. Using Shared Participation, you learn that every voice in your structure is important. This brings harmony by allowing two people in a conversation to really listen.  You cannot out think the system, you cannot out think a team of five people.  It simply is not possible.
   The Montgomery GI Bill made the United States the great nation it is today, because it changed the educational value system in this country.  Before, most families didn’t send children to college because of the cost, because they didn’t see the value in higher education and the ability to get it.  With the GI Bill, many families of all incomes suddenly had the ability. 
It has educated our nation like nothing could.

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I jumped at the chance to join eBusinessware

Winners aren’t perfect. 

I jumped at the chance to work with eBusinesswareBut in a career of sales, I’ve seen with my own eyes that the companies to survive and thrive are the ones that practice consistency. By showing up every single day, they deliver, even when it’s a slog through rough going. Those organizations make a name for themselves.

There are a lot of reasons I joined the eBusinessware team this summer: The most important isn’t the human face the company puts on global banking, or the enterprise solutions they offer in the financial marketplace. It wasn’t innovation in technology or doing business on Wall Street. It was a chance to play for performers.

There are a lot of buzzwords that come and go in business, and New York global operations aren’t shy to pump them into marketing communications. “Outperform the competition,” or “High performance platforms,” litter the landscape. This performance is different, and it’s better.

This week I ended a conference call with the due diligence team at a leading investment fund, and the VP we had spent our time with thanked us by saying, “you’ve managed to make one of the unglamorous parts of this industry more efficient.” Ed Hoofnagle, our CEO, looked me right in the eye and said, “we built our name on this work, from reference data architecture to wealth management.”

It was true. The most attractive quality of joining eBusinessware is that as they enter a third decade of work in financial services, the company’s focus continues to be making work easier for the organizations they serve, not niche-marketing to hot topics like hedge funds or foreign exchange markets. These are only pieces of the overall puzzle that CIOs and CCOs  work on every day.

Consistency demonstrates commitment. That means if you can perform every day, your clients keep coming back. You earn their trust because you’re consistent. They believe that you’re committed to them for the long haul. When problems arise, and they always do, if you’re focused on coming in daily and finding a way past the obstacles, what you offer is of far greater value than a “flavor of the month,” or worse, a fad. What you offer instead is innovation.

By showing up to get the job done in reference data architecture, or interior communication of wealth management firms, what you offer is unsexy, every single day. But that you can show up and make life easier for the people you serve, not just the organizations or institutions who are clients, will mean something to them because you get the job done, and that means they know that you are here for them.

Which really is valor, when you think about it. Not glamour.

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The Walt Disney Effect

Early sales lessons teach to ask a prospect what they need, and then find a way to offer it, at a price. The modern methods of selling haven’t lost this principle, making clear the leaders in dollar volume.

Walt Disney Montage   In my first position as an application specialist, I worked closely with software sales staff, performing demonstrations for current customers and often, brand new prospects. I will always remember the words one sales trainer shared with me, just moments before the client walked in, “No matter what they ask for, even if the software can’t currently do it, or it’s irrelevant, say yes,” he said, “we will find a way to make it do that, even if it costs extra, it is what they’re asking for.”

For years I felt this little episode in my life was a sad travesty to sales, a man selling ‘vaporware,’ desperate to close a deal any way possible.

I’ve learned better.

Disneyland, and Disney World, are clear examples. You rarely hear complaints about the experience they offer, only about the high price. These destinations make every opportunity in your vacation experience worthwhile, and they charge top dollar to do it. Today’s sales leaders can learn from the Late Great Walt Disney.

Questions to a prospect must be about them, not you, your product or it’s features. Start a conversation about their needs, and you will quickly identify that you can help, and make a sale, even out-of-the-box at a premium, or that there is no way to help from your options, and you both can move on to better things. Either choice is a win.

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House Call

As seen on Apartment Therapy week of 22 June 2010

Sean & Mary’s Beacon Home

Name: Sean & Mary
Location: Beacon, New York

We recently moved into a structural brick building that had been built on the footprint of the original apartment house from when Beacon was a millinery center. The cabinets cried out for a matching island, and our taste for mid-century modern and contemporary design was a fit.

Mary is a French professor and has European minimal sensibility, and I work in real estate lending for a NYC bank, so I’ve seen almost a decade of what can go right, or go wrong with a living space, so we wanted our apartment home to showcase good design without shouting.


How do we look?

Thanks Sean & Mary!

See the full article on ApartmentTherapy.com

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On the Importance of Plateauing

Speaking with leaders in business, sales, and athletics has led to new confidence in understanding the phases of growth, and how we discern one portion of our life’s journey from the next.

Athletic Clip Image       While sitting serenely in the Jacuzzi at the local gym after a winning session of Les Mills Body Pump, I struck up a conversation with one of the usual suspects, a friend I’d never shared the workout with, but had often been in the hot tub at the end. He was on what must have been his third crash diet, failing his way through Atkins, South Beach, Master Cleanse, and what must now be some newer fad.

“I plateaued at 230,” he commented.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “When I lost my weight, I got stuck at 230, then 210, then 200 before reaching my healthy weight.”

“That’s right,” said my girlfriend, joining us in the Jacuzzi, “your body needs to rest from time to time, just drink more water, add a little more exercise and you’ll see results again.”

This advice is simple, straight-forward and amazingly clear. Consulting for start-up companies in growth mode all the way to enterprise-level standards, I’ve seen many leaders beating themselves up or berating their employees for hitting a flat zone.

These periods aren’t just rests, they are signposts, the milestones along our travels to show us the way upward. Kudos to those losing weight, winning friends &  influencing people!

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