O’s and Royals

For those of us who grew up in the DC area in the 70s and 80s the closest thing to a home baseball team we had was the Baltimore Orioles. My friends and I spent a good amount of time driving up I-95 to go to games first at Memorial Stadium and then at Camden Yards. The 70s and 80s were heady times for the Orioles who were perennial contenders in the AL East division against the hated (by Os fans) Yankees. The 70s and 80s were also a great time for Royals fans; their team dominated the AL West for years and they probably hated the Yankees almost as much as Boston fans do today since the Yankees seemed to always beat the Royals in the AL Championship Series.

Here’s an interesting twist though – the Royals and Orioles never faced off in the playoffs when they were both so strong. According to this Wikipedia page on the AL Championship Series the teams both appeared numerous times in the ALCS, but they never faced each other head-to-head. Checking out the Orioles team page confirms that they’ve never met, and that surprised me because in my notably fallible memory I could have sworn they had. All that’s to say that the fans who are old enough to remember the teams’ heyday should really enjoy this series.

Pamper Yourself (or Your Favorite Lady) and Help Feed the Hungry in the Process

Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC has a great event coming up next Sunday that offers a unique opportunity to have some fun and help feed the hungry in the process. It’s called Wine, Women & Shoes and it will be held at Revolution Mills in Greensboro from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday, October 12, 2014. Details below and you can visit the website to order tickets.

Social Media Tools Reveal Tools

Boiled down to their essence, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are communication tools. They enable anyone who has them to communicate in a way that used to be restricted to people who could afford to buy their own printing press, radio station or TV station. That’s pretty cool, but just like any other tool it can be dangerous for those who maybe shouldn’t be allowed to walk with sharp scissors. A couple of cases in point:

The former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party has tweeted that Ebola victims should be euthanized to help prevent the spread of the disease. Here’s a couple of his tweets:

KincannonTweets

The second example is an image of Vladimir Putin that some conservatives are sharing on Facebook and suggesting that we Americans should follow his lead:

If you’d told me 20 years ago that Republicans would be looking for policy inspiration from a Russian autocrat I’d have said you were nuts. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

The first example is obviously pretty extreme, but it’s a big deal because the person who posted it is prominent in his field and is seen to represent a large group of people. In the past, before he could express himself directly to so many people with just his two thumbs and a smart phone, he would have needed a witness to capture the moment and then share it via one of the traditional media outlets in order for anyone to really see it. In other words he likely would have had a media professional around to say, “Whoa, that’s some bat**** crazy stuff you’re spewing. Let’s not share that with the rest of the world.” Now he has all the tools he needs to reveal himself as a tool without anyone’s help.

The second example is a classic case of someone sharing what they think is an astute observation, no matter how half-witted it is, and then have it shared by like-minded people. This is interesting to me because it tends to say as much about the sharer as the creator and so over time people reveal their character and intellectual outlook by what they support and share. The only corollary I can think of from days gone by would be people posting signs in their yards or putting bumper stickers on their cars, and that by it’s very nature provides a much smaller window to the soul than do peoples’ social media activities.

Of course there’s a positive side to this. People can share inspiring messages, truly insightful observations, interesting facts, etc. on social media just as easily as they can negative/hateful thoughts, dumb ideas or historical inaccuracies. All-in-all it’s a net positive, especially when you consider that in addition to all the positive stuff we find via social media we also have a much more effective way to identify the tools in our midst.

Convention Center Fined $600,000 for Jamming Visitors’ Mobile Access Points

This story won’t surprise anyone who’s been involved in trade show or event management:

The Marriott-run Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville was faced with a dilemma. Like all hotels and exhibition centers, it charges exhibitors and conference organizers exorbitant amounts for Internet access on trade-show floors, as well as nightly fees for guests…

Thanks to fast cellular networks and portable WiFi hotspots, though, these halls are losing their extortionate edge. A carryover from the days of a captive audience who had no other choice, the wheeze was always factored in as a cost of participating in trade shows and other events. Now, however, the 4G LTE standard–whose frequency range penetrates buildings far better than most older cellular technologies–offers data rates in the tens of Mbps…

The Gaylord Opryland came up with a clever plan. Some level of hotel management understood that its Wi-Fi intrusion-mitigation system came with a feature that could kick people off networks — and not just their own. So, as the FCC explains in a press release and consent order [PDF] released today, Marriott staff at the facility made it impossible for people in the vicinity to use personal hotspots, portable routers, and the like. This is a big no-no: a violation of Section 333 of the Communications Act. A clever visitor to the convention center — likely someone irritated at being knocked off his portable router over and over again — discovered the deauth behavior and reported it in March 2013 to the FCC…

Marriott (which acquired the property in 2012) is paying a $600,000 fine, and under the terms of the consent decree, must halt its Wi-Fi blocking and implement and report on a compliance plan at all its properties in America.

The lesson here? If you’re staying at a hotel and you keep getting knocked off of your own hotspot you might want to go in search of a geek to help you find out if the hotel is messing with you.

BTW, about ten years ago I sold trade show booths for one of my clients and the one thing I could count on was getting phone calls from exhibitors complaining about the cost to rent carpet, furniture, electrical service and, more than anything, the cost of internet connections. After the trade show was over the number one complaint on follow up surveys with the exhibitors was the crappy speed of the internet connections or the connection going down for hours at a time. Mobile hotspots were just coming online at the time and their signal strength was often terrible in the concrete bunkers that convention centers often resemble, but as the quality got better more and more exhibitors relied on them. That’s why it’s not a surprise a convention center would try this and, in fact, it’s really more surprising that it’s taken this long for someone to get caught.

That Degree in English Might Finally Get Some Respect

I might need to dust off the old resume, because apparently my English degree makes me a hot commodity:

…the skills you develop as an English major are the skills American business always says it needs more of: critical thinking, analytical ability, and the ability to communicate clearly. That was true 32 years ago and it remains true today. Those skills will prepare you for jobs that don’t even exist yet. I know that’s true because they did for me.

In fact, American business’s global competitors are finding they need the same skills, and that their job-focused college educations aren’t providing the people they need who have those skills. So they’re retooling their higher education along the U.S.’s traditional liberal-arts model.

And if you don’t believe Lex, well then check out this piece from American Express that he linked to. The article outlines some of the skills that employers are looking for that English majors have in spades; communication, writing, researching, critical thinking and empathy. That’s all great and good, but if you really want to be a stud you still might need to add a specific area of expertise to those broad skills:

The Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a recent survey of what employers want from new hires. Its survey report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, shows that more than half of business executives want college graduates to have not only field-specific knowledge and skills, but a broad range of skills and knowledge. They place less value on the undergraduate major and more on a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems. In an interview, Debra Humphreys, vice president at The AACU, said that the economic downturn has “put a premium on college graduates who are really multifaceted … people who have both broad knowledge and skills, as well as field-specific skills.” According to Humphreys, this concern has intensified over the years.

So if I dust of that resume I might want to consider adding a line to the education section. As an English major I’m sure I’d find a second degree, perhaps in nuclear engineering, to be a piece of cake.

Billions Left on the Table

North Carolina is one of the states that didn’t expand its Medicaid program after the passage Obamacare. According to this little item from the Wonkblog there are a BUNCH of states that are reconsidering their decisions to opt out:

Money talks: Medicaid expansion makes headway in Republican states. “Two things have led to a change of heart for some Republican politicians. Most of the 27 states that are already expanding the program have begun to reap billions in federal subsidies for insurers, hospitals and healthcare providers, putting politicians elsewhere under intense pressure to follow suit. As demonstrated by Pennsylvania’s deal with Washington, the Obama administration has also proved willing to accept tweaks that give the private sector a greater role in providing healthcare and place new responsibilities on beneficiaries. All of that has got as many as nine states talking to the administration about potential expansion terms.” David Morgan in Reuters.

According to the Reuters article referenced above, North Carolina is one of the states looking at what it can do:

Some states with Republican governors, such as Indiana, are negotiating with Washington for agreements that could pass political muster with conservatives back home. Others such as North Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming are exploring options.

One of the reasons that North Carolina’s leaders said they didn’t want to opt for expansion is that they feared the Feds wouldn’t pick up the vast majority of the cost as they’d promised (I’m paraphrasing). Now that they’re seeing what kind of money they’re leaving on the table they seem to be second guessing their decision, but they’re likely going to slow-play their hand because things might change in November.

According to the Reuters article if the Democrats lose control of the Senate then the wave of Republican states reconsidering their Medicaid expansions might ebb. Here’s the irony for North Carolina Republicans, many of whom might benefit from Medicaid expansion: on this particular issue they might be better off if Dem. Senator Kay Hagan wins reelection. And if you think the only Republicans who might benefit are those who are eligible for Medicaid then you’re forgetting all the Republicans who work in the health care industry. Just look at the projections for Pennsylvania:

A study by the RAND Corp predicted a $3 billion economic boost and the creation of 35,000 jobs – big advantages for a state that has struggled for decades to make up for jobs lost from the decline of the coal and steel industries.

Unfortunately for the Democrats this kind of issue is far too complex to make an effective campaign tactic. After all, this is a country full of people who said things like “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” when Obamacare was being debated. You can’t possibly expect them to back a candidate out of enlightened self interest when they don’t even know what their self interest is.

Lessons from 15 Years of Blogging

Anil Dash has been blogging as long, or longer, than just about anyone and in this post he’s shared some of the lessons learned. These really hit home:

The personal blog is an important, under-respected art form. While blogs as a medium are basically just the default format for sharing timely information or doing simple publishing online, the personal blog is every bit as important an expressive medium as the novel or the zine or any visual arts medium. As a culture, we don’t afford them the same respect, but it’s an art form that has meant as much to me, and revealed as many truths to me, as the films I have seen and the books I have read, and I’m so thankful for that…

There is absolutely no pattern to which blog posts people will like. I’ve had pieces that I worked on for years that landed with a thud, ignored by even my close friends, and I’ve had dashed-off rants explode into huge conversations on the web. I’ve had short pieces or silly lists that people found meaningful, and lengthy, researched work that mostly earned a shrug. And of course, I’ve had pieces that I put my heart and soul into that did connect with people. If there’s a way to predict what response will be online, I sure don’t know it.

Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anil (briefly – he wouldn’t know me from Adam) when he spoke at one of the first ConvergeSouth events. I remember thinking he was one of the smartest people I’d ever run across and reading his blog over the years has only reinforced that impression.

BTW, ConvergeSouth’s 2014 edition is in a couple of weeks and for the first time will be held in Winston-Salem. I’m registered to attend and I highly recommend it if you have any interest in marketing, social media, etc. Full details here.

Final thought: one of the reasons I enjoy writing our blog at work is that, in addition to giving me a place to compile all kinds of industry information, I’ve found that when I write about topics I come to understand them much better. I honestly believe it’s made me much better at my job.