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Friday
Mar072008

That tabloid journalism

I suppose I am the only person who missed this when it was published by The Onion back in January:

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/area_eccentric_reads_entire_book

GREENWOOD, IN—Sitting in a quiet downtown diner, local hospital administrator Philip Meyer looks as normal and well-adjusted as can be. Yet, there's more to this 27-year-old than first meets the eye: Meyer has recently finished reading a book.

eccentricreader.jpgYes, the whole thing.

"It was great," said the peculiar Indiana native, who, despite owning a television set and having an active social life, read every single page of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. "Especially the way things came together for Scout in the end. Very good."

Meyer, who never once jumped ahead to see what would happen and avoided skimming large passages of text in search of pictures, first began his oddball feat a week ago. Three days later, the eccentric Midwesterner was still at it, completing chapter after chapter, seemingly of his own free will.

"The whole thing was really engrossing," said Meyer, referring not to a movie, video game, or competitive sports match, but rather a full-length, 288-page novel filled entirely with words. "There were days when I had a hard time putting it down."

Even more bizarre, Meyer is believed to have done most of his reading during his spare time—time when the outwardly healthy and stable resident could have literally been doing anything else, be it aimlessly surfing the Internet, taking a nap, or simply just staring at his bedroom wall.

"It'd be nice to read it again at some point," Meyer continued, as if that were a perfectly natural thing to say. (Continued online at The Onion)

 onion.jpg

 

Friday
Mar072008

What is the real crisis in manufacturing in the USA?

Robotichand.jpgThe factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. Warren Bennis

According to a Minnesota Public Radio story that aired this morning, our state lost 3,800 manufacturing jobs last year - 55,000 jobs in the past  eight years. So what do manufacturers say their biggest problem is?

A lack of workers!

But not just any workers - skilled workers.

...[Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Dan] McElroy said Minnesota manufacturers tell him they're looking for workers, but not for the low skilled manufacturing jobs of the past.

"Trades like machinist, plant electricians, welders ... engineers, skilled draftsman, the technical professions," McElroy said were some of the jobs manufacturers needed to fill.

McElroy said Minnesota isn't training it's workforce at a fast enough rate to fill those jobs. He said Minnesota manufacturers should work closely with high schools, technical colleges and universities to make sure students know those jobs are available and are trained to fill them.

Is NAFTA really the problem? Or is it the inability or unwillingness for our secondary schools to offer more than just college prep programs to their students?

How do school libraries and technology departments serve kids wanting careers in the skilled trades? Do today's workers in factories need to be able to "use information and technology in order to solve problems and answer questions?"

If so, why is information and technology literacy a higher legislative priority? 

 

Thursday
Mar062008

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy - telephone sales calls

ernestine.jpeg

My friend Tim Wilson over at the Savvy Technologist blog posted this little rant about vendor presentations. Go, Tim!

I've made similar observations as well about F2F sales presentations, but maybe it is time to educate those poor schmucks who do telephone cold calling. I sincerely dislike sales calls. I am a very tough sell. I am tight with the district's money. I am a born skeptic. And I am unfailing polite. Being nice to someone I can't tolerate causes cognitive dissonance which annoys me even further. 

Sales callers (whom I imagine all looking like Ernestine - yes, even the guys), here are a few tips for selling to guys like me:

1. Talk to the right person. Believe me immediately when I say that I do not select textbooks, library books, or video tapes. Yes, my office orders them, but we do not select them. I make no decisions about things like photocopiers, firewalls, servers, and online database - I only act on the recommendations of those people in the district who have the appropriate expertise and whom I trust.  Sell to the right person.

2. Tell me why I should give you my time within the first 30 seconds. Our telephones, our network, our website, our Internet filter, and our e-mail server all are working just fine. Thank you. If something was not working or I had a pressing need, I would be calling you. You've got 30 seconds to tell me how you are going to save me time, save me money, or improve learning opportunities for my students. Talk fast. Oh, and give your dumb company a name that actually means something. When you say you are calling from Matrix Optimization Apogees, you could be selling diet cola or hair restorer as far as I can tell.

3. Don't ask me how I am doing. I will tell you how I am doing. I will tell you how every tech director and every tech department employee in the entire world is doing:

I am busy. 

Unless you really want to know about my aching knees, my district's tight budget, and a troublesome co-worker, come up with a better opener.  

4. Do a little basic research and keep notes. Don't try selling me telephone service when your company doesn't serve my area. Don't offer me Internet connectivity when I am in the third year of a five year contract. Don't even bother mentioning that WIndows security system since our district is 90% Macintosh - just like it was the last time you called three months ago.

5. "Did you get the information I sent?" is a senseless question. I get even more junk mail* than I get junk phone calls. There is a convenient recycling container right by the mailboxes in our offices. Sweet.

6. Be ready to provide local references. I guarantee that my first question to you will be: "Can you give me the names of three schools in my area that use your product or service and the name of a contact in each?"  If you can't, I will have to consider myself a beta test site for your product and we should talk about how much you are willing to pay my district to do this work for you.

7. Understand the relationship public schools have with local vendors. It's the people in Mankato and in Minnesota that pay the taxes that support my schools. Anytime I can buy from that taxpayer (and parent) across the street, I will - even it means paying a small price premium for the privilege. Sorry, that is just the way we do business. Oh, an added benefit of buying locally is that if you need to find a throat to choke, it ain't out in California.

8. Know that it is sort of fun to be passive-agressive with you people. I am always nice, but that doesn't prevent me from:

  • putting you on hold and going to get coffee
  • transferring you to somebody I know isn't in the office
  • asking you to call back at a more convenient time AKA when I am out of the office

Here's my best suggestion cold callers - find a job with honor, respect and a future. Say, convenience store stick-up artist, Internet spammer, or American Idol contestant. Something you can be proud of at your kids' career day.

Don't call us; we'll call you.  rant.jpg

 

*A little bonus trivia for marketers from The Power of Intuition: And Why It’s the Biggest Myth in Business Today
By Kevin J. Clancy and Peter C. Krieg
(ChangeThis brief, February 2008)

One of the best kept secrets in American business today is that the average ROI of most marketing programs is zero or negative. Study after study, using different methodologies, approaches, and data, all come to this disappointing conclusion:

  • Nielsen reports a 95% new product failure rate.
  • The University of Michigan discovered that the average cross-industry customer satisfaction score has fallen below 75%.
  • The Marketing Science Institute determined that a 100% increase in advertising expenditures yields just a 1% increase in sales.
  • ROI measurement firm Marketing Management Analytics found that major media advertising for consumer packaged goods brands returns 54 cents on the dollar and campaigns for non-consumer packaged goods brands, 87 cents on the dollar—two losing propositions.
  • A Deutsche Bank study of packaged goods brands found that just 18% of television ad campaigns generated a positive ROI in the short-term; less than half (45%) saw any ROI payoff over the long run.
  • Copernicus observed that brand equity is in decline in 48 of 51 categories where buyers perceive the leading brands as more similar than different, and make purchase decisions based on price rather than product and service attributes.

With this kind of track record, is it any wonder that only two out of ten U.S. companies grow organically—through their marketing efforts and introduction of new products—by more than 2 or 3 percent per year?