Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

social-media-icon-setI was in the Toronto airport recently and had some time to reflect on how much power, whether good or bad, society has been given by social media. Be it Instagram, FaceBook, Yelp or Twitter, anything you do, anyone you meet, and anywhere you want to go, people have messaged about it and those messages and posts can make or break an event/place/person.

President Obama has been in the news a lot lately discussing truth in news and how FB and Google need to ensure facts are being reported … If we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have serious problems.

To a lesser extent the same is true about the average Joe/Josephine and their use of social media.  How do we filter out the facts from the fiction?  The first thing many people do upon experiencing something new (I am guilty of this myself) is post about it.  More often than not, it is the negatives that get posted.  When you have a problem, you want to complain and think someone, anyone, is listening.  Social media to the rescue.  A platform with no real checks and balances, and more often than not the first place we go to find out what others think of something we are thinking of doing, or to “research” a place we are thinking of going to. (I am guilty of this too, especially when it comes to hotels and restaurants)

So often I have heard the same comments about a place, only to find out, it was because one person experienced it and then everyone else just regurgitated what they read, retweeted, reposted, etc without actually experiencing it themselves.

Take for instance a prime example that just happened this morning in my office.  Restaurant ABC gets a bad review on yelp and is taken as gospel because it had more than one bad rating, and as such the person I was talking to said they would not be trying it out.  Who knows, it could have been a bad day, it could have been an isolated problem, it may have been just not quite what was expected, or the person giving the bad review was just being petty.  Disgruntled worker maybe?  You can learn from others mistakes or experiences, but that doesn’t mean that they will have the same experience as you.  With restaurants especially, the particular cook can make or break a meal, your palate is different from someone else’s, maybe you like salt more than sweet for instance, etc., there are a myriad of possible reasons.  And hey, who knows maybe it does legitimately suck.

Everything you post should be understood and interpreted as “in my limited opinion and experience at this particular time and location” but rarely it is.  A few negative comments can quickly become a tidal wave simply due to our inherent nature of listening and trusting others opinions – It was on yelp/Facebook/Google/Twitter/ etc, so it must be true.  We can’t prevent the rants and negativity but we can learn to take it with a grain of salt and realize it for what it is, free advice.  And as with any advice, you usually get what you paid for.

One final note, getting back to the airport again.  Chef Roger Mooking has a new (or at least new to me) restaurant in Pearson.  Having eaten at another chef’s restaurant there, Massimo Capra’s Boccone, and thoroughly enjoying it we thought we’d try “Twist“.  Lets just say I hope chef Mooking pops in again soon to make sure they are preparing his menu properly since his “not so philly cheesesteak” to use some of his own words when judging on Chopped, is a one note, dry offering, in need of some sauce.  But that is just my opinion, well that and my traveling companion.  So two free opinions.  Take it with a grain of salt, … which wouldn’t have helped this sandwich.

barkerp

 

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I mentioned this on FB last night, but a pet deserves more than just a post or mention that typically lasts only a few minutes in this crazy busy world of info overload.

from FB… “Sadly lost our last of the original 3 chickens today, “Pumpkin”. Passed quietly after almost 9 yrs of entertaining and teaching us what having chickens as pets is like. We raised her from 3 days old. She was like a dog, came when called, always nearby when we were outside, liked to dig in the garden with us. All with the added benefit of giving us eggs. So, a little better than a pet dog in some ways. She’ll be missed. Hopefully see her again on rainbow bridge.”

We didn’t really know what we were getting into when deciding to get chickens nearly 9 years ago, sure we’d read a lot on the internet and some books and talked to some people who had them but until you actually have them yourself you really don’t know how much personality and life these little characters have.
Pumpkin, named for the orange head and black body, helped teach us what worked and how tough these little feather friends are. She was one of the original 3, Pumpkin, Ginger and Zena, and lived the longest.  She also helped train each new chicken we brought into the flock.  Taught them not to wander onto the road, (they have full roam of our property with no fence around it, just farmer’s field, and a highway out front) where it was safe to sit and roost, to always come running when we called, to stay close when we were digging to get all the good bugs, etc..

They adjust to the weather, even our cold harsh winters up here. Sure they may not like walking on the snow, but they just stay cooped up (pun intended) for the really harsh weather and come out whenever it is sunny enough and they can see grass, even if it is just a path I cleared thru the snow for them.  Rain, sun or snow, heat or cold, they just endure it.

They are not just dumb animals, they are more than just food.  I hope that me sharing a little piece of her life story makes a few people realize that they are not just meat.  They really are no different than a dog or a cat, they are pets and our lives are better for having known them.

RIP little Pumpy, wait for us on rainbow bridge, there is a good number of our beloved animals there to keep you company.

barkerp

burning-bridges-clipart-1An architect friend of mine shared a quote he heard when starting out in this business, “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it“.

Most people’s first thought is you shouldn’t burn bridges.  But some relationships, whether personal or business are toxic.  It happens, you try everything you can to keep them working but there comes a time when sometimes enough is enough and you have to walk away and may even need to burn that bridge.

We are in the service industry.  Really, aren’t we all?  Everyone is doing what they do because someone needs something, whether it is creating something for someone, fixing something, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, etc… we are all working for clients.  But, there are some instances in life where you’ve been pushed beyond reasonable limits and maybe it is a moral issue, or a financial one, or a compatibility problem, regardless something has to give.

Knowing which bridges is the tricky part.

A perfect example of that on a small-scale happened the other day.  I pulled into park at a job site I was about to inspect and was sitting in my car gathering my thoughts, checking who the contact on site was, etc., when a car pulled in and parked next to me so close I would have had a hard time opening my door to get out and she would have had the same problem. I just smiled, and moved forward into a different spot.  As it turned out, that woman was the person I was meeting on site.  Bridge not burned, nor even scorched a little.

And sometimes it is not you burning the bridge, but someone else leaving you behind and burning that bridge in front of you.  It happens, and it is always funny when they realize they DO in fact need you, and try to cross back over.  The clients that you’ve worked with for years, had a good relationship with and then one small problem and they hang you out to dry or move on to “better” companies?  Those I have a special place for.   Needless to say they are not tops on the priority list of which messages get returned the fastest.  It’s not a bridge I’ve burnt, but it is a shaky one I remain hesitant to rely upon.

Some bridges, as I said, should be burned.  Mostly it comes from being wronged or mistreated, whatever the reason, there are times, as my architect friend said, that a bridge needs to be burned.  You need to make a stand and be true to yourself in business.  Rely on your moral compass and know that you can’t be all things to all people, and that it is never good to be someone’s doormat.

Just make sure you have another route available though.  Bridges burn fast, but take a long long time to rebuild.

barkerp.

I get a lot of email. A LOT. Between work and personal emails it is a wonder I find time to do anything other than answer or deal with emails.  All I know is, that on those days when something goes wrong with our email server, there is a lot more work getting done, although the urge to keep checking to see if it is back up and running does cause some stress.

Part of the curse that is email, is dealing with spam and junk emails. If you set your filter too strict you end up missing important emails, and if you don’t use any filtering you end up with so much crap to deal with you will be pulling your hair out.  Of late I’ve noticed an increased amount of utter crap coming in again.  Not sure why, seems to be a cyclical thing every few months, and I have to laugh at the horrific spelling and grammatical errors in the emails and wonder if they ever catch anyone in their webs with these?  Below is a perfect example of what i mean…

greencard

The nice thing is that the spelling and grammar mistakes usually make it easier to spot the spam. (‘appliance’ used when they meant ‘application’ for instance)

Another dead giveaway is the “actual” email address that the email is coming from or directing you to reply to (dontreply@perfectinput.org in the example).  More often than not, you will see a link that when you hover over it you can see the address which rarely matches the supposed subject (witoptions in this case does, but if you google it it doesn’t exist as a company and is fishy enough not to clink the link) and takes you to some ad website that will get you stuck in an endless loop of trying to close popups and pop-unders.  A good idea is to use a domain lookup site like “Whois” and check the domain name to see if it is even valid.  If it’s a real site, there will be info on it.  That doesn’t mean it is a valid website or email, just a better chance that it might be legit.

When spotting spam in the wild, there are tons of common phrases to look for.  Offering pills is big one of late, and I’m sure we’ve all seen at least one from some President of some foreign country offering to send us money if we give our banking info.  Many make vague statements about you and your previous involvement with their company, or offering you something for nothing.  Typically I find it best to toss any suspicious emails without even opening them just by previewing the subject line.  It used to be you could create a list of words to block, but even that is getting tougher since many bots or people substitute other letters or characters for some letters in words to sneak thru.  A bracket ‘(‘ for a capital ‘C’ for instance, or using the number ‘0’ for the letter ‘o’.

Remember, no bank is going to contact you via email and request info, or confirmation of any interactions you’ve had with them, so anything you get from any bank it is best to assume is fraudulent and follow-up with your bank directly.  I’ve even forwarded a few emails to my bank so they are aware and can warn others.

The old adage, “when in doubt throw it out” is never more on point than when dealing with email nowadays.  Thankfully the scammers and spammers are attacking in bulk and hoping they get one response out of the thousands they send out, and as such their attacks are easily spotted with a little vigilance.  Keep your eyes open and be careful what you click on or reply to.

“He is most free from danger, who, even when safe, is on his guard”. (Publilius Syrus)

-barkerp

I saw an image being shared around LinkedIn and Facebook earlier today that really annoyed me.  I’m sick of these so called enlightened experts telling others how to live, and what constitutes an acceptable amount of working hours.

  
1.  Work can be completed.  Projects are started and completed every day.  Saying it is never ending is not true.  I’m not building the Hadrian wall single-handed here, I’m referring to jobs that have a beginning and an end.  They do in fact get completed every day, all the time, by many people.

2. Yes, this is true.  So is point 3 and point 4, which are all basically variations on the same theme – don’t forget to live life, and don’t forget to spend time enjoying family and friends.  Thanks Dr Obvious.

5.  This is the one that pissed me off.  For one, some careers involve working long hours to get the job done, and usually involve working to suit someone else’s timeframe and schedule.  To make statements like someone who works late is incompetent is utterly ridiculous and offensive.  Many times we don’t get to decide when a project needs to be complete by, and as so often happens, the best laid plans do not always go as expected.  Sometimes getting a project done on time means working long days.  Farmers have an expression, “Make hay when the sun shines”.  You work when it is necessary.  Crops aren’t going to wait for you, when they need to be harvested, you do it.  Same as many areas of work.  When something needs to be done, you get it done.

6.  How is working hard becoming a machine?  Working the same length of time, with the same effort, every day without fail is much more machine-like than someone who works when needed, helps out others, puts forth more effort when necessary, and takes time off when schedules allow, seems much more human than machine to me.

7.  I am a boss.  But I don’t force anyone to work late, and if work needs to be done I am the first to chip in and help out.  Sometimes we have to put in extra hours.  It is the nature of the business.  There is nothing ineffective about it, and it doesn’t mean I have a meaningless life.  It means I have agreed to meet a deadline, and I have the work ethic to get it done.  Not just punch the clock and call it a day.  I expect the same from anyone who works with me.

So Dr., It’s this kind of entitled thinking that creates lazy people who expect the world but aren’t willing to work hard enough to make it happen.  Maybe you had everything given to you in life and got to take the easy route I don’t know, but for the rest of us who made something of ourselves, the road was paved with hard work which sometimes involves working long hours.  Doing better than the generation before us is what we should all strive for, and that isn’t going to happen if we create a bunch of clockwatchers.

Barkerp