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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Fri, 18 Dec 2015

The problem with packages -- and I mean actual boxes that Amazon delivers to your doorstep

I run a lot of stories about package thieves, people who either trail delivery vehicles carrying packages from Amazon and scores of other online retailers and grab the goods, or who just troll neighborhoods looking for boxes already on doorsteps and then drive up, take the booty and drive away.

Many of us are ordering more online than ever. We got Amazon Prime and have really stepped up what we have delivered to the house by various couriers -- USPS, UPS, Fedex, OnTrac, Amazon contractors, and probably others.

So what do we do to keep those packages from being targeted by thieves?

You can always get the packages sent to your office, where delivery is usually made to an actual person. I've use this method sometimes, though not as much as I used to when I only made occasional orders.

That aside, I think we need a better solution for home package delivery.

What I'm thinking of is some kind of large, secure box that you can bolt to your front porch. If it can be designed so items can be placed into the box but not easily removed without a key, that would provide an extra measure of security for home delivery of items that can fit into the box.

I'm sure there is already a commercial product that does this very job. I'll look around to see what I can find. If you know of something that fills this role, let me know about it.

Sun, 22 Feb 2015

Jono Bacon: Too much hierarchy kills your company, community, family (and anything else)

"Bobbing for Influence" by former Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon, now community manager for XPrize, is an insightful look at a problem affecting many communities.

And if you don't recognize your organization, be it a family, project or company, as a community, you're doing it wrong.

Jono's articla is all about how rigid observance of hierarchy can really kill a company's culture, mission and even bottom line. The worst is when your boss/CEO/etc. thinks that acting like Steve Jobs is going to work. Steve Jobs was a genius. And an asshole. (The chances that you're a genius are slim. And the idea that genius only thrives when mashed up with asshole is stupid. Steve Jobs was an edge case who made thousands of other guys mock-turtle it up and steamroll everybody in their path. Not good.)

Be that as it may, Jono says it better:

A big chunk of the problems many organizations face is around influence. More specifically, the problems set in when employees and contributors feel that they no longer have the ability to have a level of influence or impact in an organization, and thus, their work feels more mechanical, is not appreciated, and there is little validation.

Now, influence here is subtle. It is not always about being involved in the decision-making or being in the cool meetings. Some people won’t, and frankly shouldn’t, be involved in certain decisions: when we have too many cooks in the kitchen, you get a mess. Or Arby’s. Choose your preferred mess.

The influence I am referring to here is the ability to feed into the overall culture and to help shape and craft the organization. If we want to build truly successful organizations, we need to create a culture in which the very best ideas and perspectives bubble to the surface. These ideas may come from SVPs or it may come from the dude who empties out the bins.

The point being, if we can figure out a formula in which people can feel they can feed into the culture and help shape it, you will build a stronger sense of belonging and people will stick around longer. A sense of empowerment like this keeps people around for the long haul. When people feel unengaged or pushed to the side, they will take the next shiny opportunity that bubbles up on LinkedIn.

Jono goes through 10 individual points on the problems of lack of influence in communities. I can think of few people who wouldn't benefit from reading this article. (I sure did.)

If this isn't a chapter in one of Jono's current books, it should be in his next one, for sure.

Wed, 24 Sep 2014

Sure we need to kill e-mail dead, but here's an article with some interesting alternatives

In a business context, e-mail is horrible, outdated and a time-waster. With that (and more) in mind, Thomas Knoll of Primeloop writes for Medium, I banned email at my company.

Sure his reasons for ditching e-mail make sense, but what makes the article value is that Knoll mentions more than a few services that Primeloop is using to replace e-mail and help his team collaborate and communicate.

Among them are:

I'm still trying to wrap my head around what these services do and how/why to use them, but so far Slack and Hackpad look extremely promising for "situations," I find myself in.

It's not lost on me that the context of this article is a startup company leveraging the work of other startup companies, with all of that work being proprietary and hosted by said companies and not available for self-hosting at all. Even if a service is web-based, it's nice to have the option of loading it up yourself, on your server (or rough equivalent), and controlling it without a company getting in the way.

But a compelling service that fulfills an acute business need (or three) is well worth looking into and possibly adopting if that need is real (and unfulfilled). If/when the startup responsible for the product is acquired and said product is Hoovered up into the mothership, that's another problem, I guess.

Fri, 31 Jan 2014

BoingBoing: Why Dungeons & Dragons still matters

Most interesting read before 5 a.m. (yes, I'm up that early these days):

BoingBoing: At 40 Years Old, Dungeons & Dragons Still Matters -- Ethan Gilsdorf looks back on four decades of pen-and-paper role-playing tradition

Did I play D&D "back in the day"? A little bit. Would I play it again? I might.