Tag Archives: technology

The Technology We Will Read About Soon – The Online Buzz Last Week

We have provided synopses for many books on technology over the now completed 14 years of the First Friday Book Synopsis.  Clearly, there are many avid readers who embrace technology and can’t wait to see what’s new.

Here’s the next one that we will likely see covered in a book soon.  It is called Project Glass, and it is a pair of Internet-connected glasses under development by Google.

In essence, you wil be able to be online and view sites through a small glass window that rests in the upper right or left corner of your lens.

The Wall Street Journal provided these statistics in an article on April 7-8, 2012, p. C4.  Out of 2,482 social media posts on Facebook and Twitter between April 4-6:

  • 77% were excited
  •   9% were skeptical
  • 12% thought it was too much
  • 2%  cracked jokes

Click here to read the full article and see some of the quotes taken from the respondents.

And, remember – don’t ever say, “what will they think of next?”  As soon as you do, you will be behind the curve.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it really soon.

 

Where Will The Jobs Be? – Even Waiters Are In Jeopardy; High School Graduates Really Do Have Fewer Places To Work

News item:
The company is selling its cost-savings and margin-boosters, not just its benefits for customers sick of waiting for the bill, to businesses. First and foremost: lower labor costs…
Annie Lowery, This Waiter Doesn’t Need a Tip:  How restaurants will use tablet computers to replace servers. – Slate.com.

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In an ongoing series of posts over the last couple of years, I have asked “where will the jobs be?”  I have presented synopses of a number of books (practically all of the best sellers) on the financial crisis of recent history.  But the problem that bothers me the most is this:  more than the mortgage crisis, the Wall Street crisis, the European/Greek crisis, the real crisis is the disappearance of jobs for the hard-working high school graduates.

In Pinched:  How the Great Recession Has Narrowed our Futures and What We Can Do About It, Don Peck (author of the widely read Atlantic article, Can the Middle Class Be Saved?), writes this:

“Forty years ago, thirty years ago, if you were one of the fairly constant fraction of boys who wasn’t ready to learn in high school, there were ways for you to enter the mainstream economy,” says Henry Farber, an economist at Princeton. “When you woke up, there were jobs. There were good industrial jobs, so you could have a good industrial, blue-collar career. Now those jobs are gone.” And men have yet to adjust.
In 1967, 97 percent of thirty-to fifty-year-old American men with only a high-school diploma were working; in 2010, just 76 percent were.
In her 2010 Atlantic essay “The End of Men,” the journalist Hanna Rosin posed the question “What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men?”

From 97% to 76% is quite a drop!  Where did these jobs go?  Robert Reich attributes the problem primarily to “automation.”  He wrote this in Aftershock – The Next Economy and America’s Future

The problem was not simply the loss of good jobs to workers in foreign nations but also automation…  Remember bank tellers?  Telephone operators?  The fleets of airline workers behind counters who issued tickets?  Service station attendants?  These and millions of other jobs weren’t lost to globalization; they were lost to automation.  American has lost at least as many jobs to automated technology as it has to trade.

I have little worry about the future of the better-educated (though, even the jobs for this group are not quite as plentiful and well-paying as they were just a few years ago).  The much bigger worry is for the “lesser-educated.”  And the problem is that, literally, there are not enough jobs left for this group.  (See the quote at the top; now even wait staff will be reduced by technology).

So, as I keep asking, “where will the jobs be?”

Thoughts on Technology, Old Fashioned Mail, and Constant Contact

This is just an “isn’t this interesting” thought.

Here’s a little exercise.  We pretty much publicize the First Friday Book Synopsis with Constant Contact, and nothing else.  (I’ll leave out our web site as part of this little exercise).  We used to simply use our own e-mail program.  This is so much better!

We send out three e-mails a month for each monthly event.  One original e-mail, then ever so slightly adapted versions for two reminder e-mails.  Total yearly cost:  $454.68.

Let’s break it down.

I just sent out the first of two reminder e-mails about our August First Friday Book Synopsis.  We pay $35.00 per month, plus tax, for a total of $37.89 per month.  This allows for unlimited e-mails, and more than enough storage for e-mails and images.  (We have lots of book cover images).

I’m not smart enough to figure out the share of cost for my computer cost, and my internet access.  But, Constant Contact just added a new feature, at no additional cost, where they tweet my e-mail to my Twitter account – thus they create a web page for my e-mail for the tweet link.  (you can follow me on Twitter here).  Here is the link to the e-mail, provided by Constant Contact.

So – after being grateful for this new feature, I decided to figure out what it would cost to mail this in the old fashioned way – you know, with paper, and envelopes, and postage.  Of course, our mailing list is substantially larger than the number of folks who actually, regularly attend.  If you have ever had an old-fashioned mailing list, this is usual practice…

Here’s what I came up with, for our current mailing list size:

Postage (figured at First Class – we could save with some form of bulk mailing): — $865.92

Envelopes (the inexpensive kind): — $ 35.89

Copies of “flier” – (I figured this black and white, one side of one page) — $100.00

Administrative time (to stuff, seal, etc…) — $60.00 (a guess – I think conservative).

Total cost for one mailing:  $1061.81

Let’s pretend we mail it twice a month (we send three Constant Contact –e-mails a month – we discovered that with travel, etc., two reminders works better than just one reminder):  monthly cost, $2123.62

Money saved per month:  $2085.73

Money saved per year: $25028.76

This one page flier would have much less info that we can put in our e-mails.  And the images we use would not look as good on the flier.  In fact, we still distribute a paper flier at the event itself, for the next month.  The e-mail looks a lot better!

I’m sure I have forgotten something in this calculation.  But if you consider what Constant Contact saves us, then you begin to see how technology has an impact on productivity, and job creation or loss, in a multitude of ways.

(And, in case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of Constant Contact).

Take Your Kids to Work Day NOT!

Cheryl offers: I flew home from Boston this week only to learn how lucky I was to not be flying from JFK. It seems on February 16, an air traffic controller decided to bring his kids to work and let his son, the next night his daughter, provide instructions to departing flights. I had no idea it was Take Your Kid to Work Day and guess what? It wasn’t! Now I have flown about 2.5 million miles in my life, so I’d say I’ve had a lot of different experiences flying from cranky passengers to cranky flight attendants, screaming kids to well behaved mannerly children, good, bad, awful, strange and no food, clean and dirty, all colors, makes and models of aircraft. However, I never thought an 8 year old would be giving my pilot crew clearance to takeoff.  I had to ask myself, “What on earth was this air traffic controller thinking?”  And even more so ”What was his supervisor (who is in a leadership position) thinking when they allowed it to happen?” I recall a quote from The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari.

“Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions.”

When you take the job as an air traffic controller, you take responsibility for the welfare of hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. It’s a big group. When you are promoted to a leadership role, the responsibility increases even more. Dealing with the consequences of saying “No” to a spouse, child, or employee is nothing compared to the possible consequences of a garbled or misquoted message to an airline pilot. I’m not sad to see these 2 people added to our unemployed population.

Dehumanized, a Second Take: Dehumanizing The Consumer and Job Seeker

One of the more popular, most-read posts I have written on this blog is Dehumanized — A Cause for Alarm in Education, and in the World of Business Books.  It was prompted by, and quoted from, a terrific, thought-provoking, confrontational article by Mark Slouka in the September issue of Harper’s: Dehumanized:  When math and science rule the school. (Note:  subscription required for access to full article).  This piece was about the ascendancy of “mathandscience” and the decline of the humanities, in education, and, in my view, in the world of business.

My brother, Mike Mayeux, CEO of Novotus, read the title, and jumped to his own conclusions about the subject of the article before he read it.  He thought that “Dehumanized” was referring to a world with less and less actual human contact, replaced by human-less technological contact.  So – he wrote a lengthy comment.  It is provocative, and I decided to make it a separate post – a “guest post.”

Mike’s observation reminded me of the John Naisbitt High Tech/High Touch theme first appearing in Megatrends (1982).  Naisbitt warned that the more technology takes over, the harder we have to work at keeping and nurturing a genuine human connection.

Mike Mayeux

Mike Mayeux

Mike Mayeux read the word “dehumanized,” and thought about the ways we are removing the “human” from business.  Here are Mike’s thoughts:

Dehumanizing The Consumer and Job Seeker

The internet and other technologies have increased the cadence in American business that has led to the dehumanization of Consumers and Job Seekers.

Remember when your bank had a “retail banking” division, but when you went to the bank they remembered you by name and were glad to see you. Today it is called “consumer banking” and they greet you like a stranger and only know who you are once you swipe your card and your account comes up and they then ask with a pasted on smile. “Yes, Mr. MayYucks (my name is pronounced MY-You) how can I help you today.” They changed the name when retail customers became familiar with the difference between retail and wholesale, and about that same time technology was getting better and there where new supply chain and transaction ideas coming online. While there has never been wholesale banking, with the advent of wholesale warehouses, and simply as this word crept into our vernacular, retail became a dirty word. It messaged high prices in exchange for some kind of service. We, retail customers, traded convenience for better prices in some categories and the word slipped away.

Ironically, I recently met a banker who wanted to get my business account at Novotus, and he asked me where I did my personal banking and asked me if I had a personal banker. I learned then that banks are offering “Personal Bankers” to wealthier customers and using personal service as an inducement to garner these big depositors. Upon hearing all that a personal banker did, I said “This is fantastic, can I get this for my employees”? He then explained that my employees would have to go through their – wait for it – Consumer (not retail) banking service and have to swipe away. Novotus

The business scenario in this example above is simple. Companies understand they can lower the price of a good or service if they lower the expectations of the consumer and increase volume. They AMP up the volume and sell more units (Walmart) and lastly they streamline both the delivery of that product as well as the transaction cost/friction (Technology use – Supply Chain Management and Transaction Automation – Customer Self Service). The negative is that the Customer becomes faceless.

Faceless -- not quite human

Faceless -- not quite human

Talent Force

Talent Force

I run the largest recruiting operation (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) in Austin, TX. I am familiar with the game described above because we facilitated the hiring of over 1200 people last year with about 15 recruiters and 10 support staff. We have hundreds of thousands of Candidate Customers and hundreds of Hiring Manager Customers. We facilitate hiring relationships between these two huge ecosystems through highly refined procedures, powerful technologies and super smart and committed people. All of these things allow us to do three important things:  increase quality, increase volume, and the best part is that we charge 60-70% less than the typical external recruiting agency. We fight a daily battle to make this a more intimate and personal experience. Hank Stringer and Rusty Rueff explain this struggle in recruiting best in their book Talent Force. In their book they describe the process of nurturing your talent community so that you might increase your companies Talent Brand. This is incredibly important, as next to banking, healthcare, and several other intimate transactions, changing jobs is one of the most stressful and important transactions in a person’s life.
So it’s a new ballgame out there and we are all being affected by it. There are so many wonderful advantages to our highly enabled business world. We need to continue to push these methods and technologies, as there is so much good that can be had. What we need to do also is to continue to find ways to automate with a mindset of doing business with one person at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I want a great deal when I am buying the family pooch another 50 lbs of dog food, and I will carry it 200 yards in the rain to my car to save that money. I just think that we have to continue to realize that the PEOPLE (Mothers, Daughters, Sons, Fathers, Grand Parents, etc…) matter as much as these new processes.

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I think Mike is right.  One way we are becoming “dehumanized,” less than human, is that speed and technology are slowly eroding the human connections that make us, well, human.

Data, Data Everywhere; Is There a Drop of Wisdom in its Midst? — Some Thoughts prompted by Neil Postman

I do not have time (or at least do not take time) to re-read books.  I always have my next assignment, and the clock and calendar are so unforgiving.  But occasionally I think back to a book that I feel I need to rediscover.  My current such volume is Technopoly:  The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman.  I first discovered Postman more than three decades ago in his book Teaching as A Subversive Activity. He nailed the coming entertainment age with his classic and very important book, Amusing Ourselves to Death.  These, and really all of his volumes, are important.  But I think Technopoly has special insight for our current era.

Here’s the quote that got my attention this weekend:  “the old adage that, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Without being too literal, we may extend the truism:  To a man with a pencil, everything looks like a list.  To a man with a camera, everything looks like an image.  To a man with a computer, everything looks like data…”  Read that again:  “to a man with a computer, everything looks like data.”

His thesis in this book is pretty simple to grasp, but challenging to ponder:  technology changes everything.  And, at the moment, as numbers crunchers and data finders keep looking for the formulas for business success — you know, those absolute formulas that say “Do this, and you will inevitably succeed.  Don’t implement this, and you will inevitably fail.”  We all seem to be enamored with data.  The Moneyball baseball experts, the pollsters in politics, the numbers crunchers in business circles – they all have found the secret of success.  Or, believe that they will find it soon with just the right formula to use to crunch the numbers, to find the data.    We are increasingly convinced that with computers, able to succeed so well at computing, business nirvana is right around the corner — the golden age when all unnecessary and unproductive work is clearly identified and jettisoned.  Only productive, profitable work will be tackled.  No more wasted, unproductive hours.  Everything we try, everything we do, will work just right!  This is the ultimate promise of technology – of the discovery and proper use of data.

If only!

It is true that much technology has delivered on its promise.  But – have we given too much honor to data itself?  Postman’s volume is a warning about technology. We do not know what it will take away.  We do not know enough of its dark side.  His stories are insightful – like the Benedictine Monks in the 12th/13th century who invented the modern clock so that they could pray the proper number of times per day, and how that very discovery, the clock, ultimately has taken away so much of our time from reflection and prayer.

Technopoly is the arrival of something almost unnameable.  Here’s how he puts it:  
”For something has happened in America that is strange and dangerous, and there is only a dull and even stupid awareness of what it is — in part because it has no name.  I call it Technopoly.”

So, as we write of business books with business success ideas and business failure warnings on this blog, remember – we could be wrong.  The books could be wrong.  The promise of technology may not always come to fruition.

Postman accepted the lable of being a cultural critic, and such critics are frequently satisfied with posing a problem and leaving it up to others to finding the solution(s).  His recommendation:  that we all become “resistance fighters” against the encroachment and spiritual emptiness of technopoly.  How do we do that? – maybe it’s time to order the book.  (It’s in the last chapter).