Monday, December 29, 2014

Building Competitive Pitches #EvangelistGuide

In my previous post in the #EvangelistGuide series, I discussed writing competitive pitches, but covered quite a bit of ground as well.

As promised, we now move on to the way one builds a competitive pitch. This may take many forms, and formats, with the idea being the same throughout, namely helping the customer say what they need and why they need it.

If you start a conversation with an attack, you put people on the defensive, which is not always in your favor. However, there are times when it not only makes sense, but would be the most direct way to accomplish your task.

Know your audience
If you are speaking to tech people or executives, you need to understand their pain, their business, and their thought process. Many of these people will have logic and minutiae to help them ward off any attack. Your ability to speak their language and work with their fears/loves is key.

Never lose sight of the business aspects, present information in ways that you can say "we provide the option for you to pick which way to implement this solution in house or in the Cloud" instead of "we made this work only in the Cloud" if you are facing companies that cannot go to the Cloud today.

Explain your words 
Do your best not to talk down to the audience, but also not talk above them either. It is not an easy line to walk. Please keep in mind, words and terms which the US may use, or think are normal, may not work outside of the US.

Speak so any person in the room, or their company, can understand your intentions and your solution.

Do not use acronyms, unless the audience has already.

Invest your time
Be there at the moment, no distractions, no phone, no Twitter, just you and them. You may use the same ploys every time, but you need to have many ploys in your bag of improvisational responses. Practice other angles, read more, watch more, write more. You also need to relax and take the time to debrief yourself after you are finished each time.

Test new ideas
If you are on a path of evangelism you should have already read or watched or listened to as much as you can on the subjects of sales, overcoming objections, persuasive techniques, hypnotism, poker, body language, non-fiction business biographies, The Godfather, the Bible, The Art of War and The Prince.

If you are still interested in going into the discussions that make sales people cower, now the hard work begins. Just like you need to push people beyond the law of 3 (3 no's, 3 excuses, 3 yes's) you need to be ready with so many more methods for your attack in case you are thwarted early on. It will happen to you, especially in the earlier days, but even later on, you need more ploys.

You can try to reason with the person on the other side, just remember if you are one on one, they will LIE to your face. Never have these discussions one on one, you want their people in there to listen to you and hear their own management make a case for themselves. You can be on your own, in fact, I advocate it should always be one on many. I like them to feel they can gang up on me, I like those odds.

When reason fails, resort to other tactics that match up with your opponent. They may say they want openness, yet are a closed company. They may be happy with their incumbent, but is that because they fear the new, the unknown or just are afraid to MAKE MORE MONEY. Never be afraid to point out the obvious. Push them to think, push them to visualize the problem through a story of your own. If you cannot reference other companies, or provide a good enough story, you need to practice this further and do more research.

Sometimes the simplest method is the easiest. I like to listen to people tell me why they don't like our solution or a specific vendor while I take notes and wait and listen. You then have them telling you what is wrong, what is important to them, and what the largest issue they face is on this topic. If there is a team of people at the meeting, they may all have input, but the executive is the only one we really care about, so watch the executive as the underlings toss out red herrings.

Help them make a decision
The hardest part is having the customer say what you want to hear, without you saying it first. Just like in salary negotiations, the one that mentions a figure first loses, if you or I suggest an outcome, prior to the customer stating it, we will lose all of the time and effort we put into the pitch.

Walk along with them as they explain themselves. Check in with them while they are speaking by verifying what they have stated in their terms. Lead them if you need to, but work on helping them solve their problem, not on you providing the solution. They will love you all the more, and never look back at the competition.

Coming up in this series, why executives lie, why one on many is important and the differences between Enterprise customers and Family owned business/startups.

If your sales or marketing teams are in need of training on this topic please contact me now as Q1 is getting busy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Few New 2015 IBM Champions I want To Thank

Oh the stories we could tell...

Many of us know each other, if not in person, then online and usually we found each other through blogs and sessions we gave at various events. Or at a User Group event or Lotusphere, IBM Connect, now IBM ConnectED. But sometimes we never meet which is a shame and some people, myself included, never know just how much we helped or are helped by others until they come up and tell us.

I was named a 2015 IBM Champion for ICS for the 3rd year in a row. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I do know a few new people and why they deserve it from my view. I nominated some, and they were accepted, which is always nice to hear. First and only IBM Champion for ICS based in Israel, I now have some serious evangelizing to do to get ICS a bigger push here.

There are a few people I want to mention that I am really happy to see today including:

Daniel Nashed probably has done the most for me from his blogs and especially his AIX perspective over the years with his scripts. I can't thank him enough and very happy to hear he is an IBM Champion. Thank You!

Richard Moy who has tirelessly made MWLUG the great user event that is each year. Very happy to see him, and many other LUG founders/leaders named IBM Champions. My only regret is I did not make it this year, we were moving country at the time. If you are in the Midwest you should go to the next event held in Atlanta in August 2015, it is in a different city every year. Richard also works with me on some client applications and has never let me down.

Kim Greene whom I have worked with in the past, I greatly respect not just for her iSeries knowledge but her excellent sessions on troubleshooting and maintaining Domino servers. If you have an iSeries or Power and do not have her working on your servers, shame on you.

Mark Myers who puts all he has into his work and his presentations to provide some absolute genius development code. And reminds me why I should not code. Ever. A great man that probably has no idea how much we all love him and appreciate him. Let him know next time you see him.

Thank you to the review board and to our chief cat herders Oliver and Amanda who somehow keep sane while dealing with all of the things we manage to raise awareness about over the year.

Congratulations to all 96 of us who made it this year. You can read the full list and official announcement here. Oliver published this post about the process IBM made to find the new IBM Champions after my post went out.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Writing Competitive Pitches #EvangelistGuide

Once upon a time, people would have discussions with one another and argue the finer points of The Beatles Vs. The Rolling Stones, beer vs. wine, blended vs. single malt scotch, or is Eric Clapton really God? Should we be in Vietnam or Korea, or do we colonize Mars? iPhone vs. Android, Jobs vs. Ford, 72' Dolphins vs. anyone.

But the fun and good times eventually give way to serious business discussions at work when you are in sales, and now you not only need to have a good argument, you also need to know information, not the type your Google search, but real data and details. As much as you can recite every word in your favorite song or poem or The Princess Bride movie, that is how prepared you need to be when you get into these discussions.

Except when you won't. Then you may freeze up and do what I try to train every salesperson in the world NOT to do, which is lie to the customer. You make up stuff that even Vizzini would call BS on, but you get away with it because you think the customer knows less than you.

Your customer is not so stupid. You might be, though.

If you can't say, "I don't know the answer to that question, but I know someone who does, and I will get an answer for you by ..." you are not a great salesperson.

What does this have to do with writing competitive pitches? Evidently, quite a lot based on some I have been reading lately. They are the equivalent of lying. Not Competitive pitches.

I will admit, if you are in a strong and dominant position in your market, you probably do little competitive work because you do not need to. Yet. You will because:

"The thing I worry about is some guy in his garage
inventing something I haven’t thought of."

Bill Gates, Microsoft

For everyone else that is in second, third, fourth, or tenth place in their market, you need to do competitive position papers and research. Salespeople will think of it as handling objections, but it is more than that and less at the same time.

What do you need to be in the competitive space? You need to...
  • Be a strong improviser. You never know what will be thrown at you.
  • Have international or at least regional knowledge to understand the nuances of culture and other influences on people.
  • Know about your products/solutions and the competitions inside and out. Like Sun Tzo (Vito Corleone for you nonreaders) said, "keep your friends close but your enemies closer."
  • Read, listen, and watch as many things as you can on topic and off-topic, so you have more angles to work with when involved in different industries. (Your examples should be just as relevant and helpful as your knowledge)
  • Be fearless.
  • Not be arrogant.
  • Have friends in weird, odd, far out, and local places that you can reach out to at random times and days.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Think like an executive or an assistant or a CFO or the person on the 4AM support shift.
  • Know you will not win every discussion, and that is okay. Really. It is.
  • Think out of the box, especially when revisiting clients you already saw. No one likes repeats.
  • Wear a black suit. ( Just kidding)
If you have all of this, you can start to work on your first pitch or presentation for a product or solution...or against one. 

Once you get the slides and presentation done, then you can move up to writing white papers or bigger efforts.

Finally, you can get to the big leagues and go speak to people in person and do battle. It is a battle, of wits, just like in The Princess Bride. The stakes, not a princess, but potentially millions of dollars on the line.

Wits, not geek-speak. If you are involved in development competitive situations, you may have no other way to do this, but geek speak, but since I am not a developer, I will let others who know this field better provide some details or links.

Wits mean you do not go pointing out "we have a one-click interface" or an "open status bar" unless that is all you created. 

You want to aim higher.

Set your goals in alignment with the executive you are meeting with and what they need. CRM, project management, payroll, whatever it is, there are numerous ways to point out the benefits of your solutions without reverting to geek speak. 

You must speak the executive's language, finance to finance, marketing to marketing, sales to sales. Meet them on their terms, not yours. Don't sit in their seat, but if you walk into a conference room, do try to take the seat at the top of the table. Mind games are fun, even if meaningless to you at the time.

Take time to think about your answers, especially when presented with unknown data. Ask more probing questions, find the nugget they hide and let them know it is okay to let you see and hear about it from them, in their own words.

Never put down your competition, Microsoft likes to use the term "legacy" on every other company's products, yet mysteriously they never say that about their own, which are now quite old as well. You can say our competitors do this or that, but we take a different approach. I know, I sound like the startups pitching to VCs, but they learned fast the need to differentiate themselves from the competition. Which is what you should be doing as well.

If you are the only person writing these types of documents, you MUST, I cannot stress this enough, you MUST get input from people inside and outside your organization in order to provide well thought out documents. The last thing you want is for someone to rip your doc apart and start something like FUD Buster Friday posts to show how bad your work was on the topic.

A follow-up post in this #EvangelistGuide series will look at various ways to build a competitive pitch. Until then, if you need someone to help you with your competition, my consulting fees are reasonable, and my time is flexible.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Ship Shit! And Other Things learned from the #IBM #NewWayToWork LiveStream

Don't Ship Shit

If you spent the two hours online watching the video and speakers (link to watch the replay) during the IBM event today, you found yourself going back and forth across a spectrum from amazement to amusement.

The new name of the Mail.Next product is IBM Verse, no mention, that I recall, of the server name being changed. I am not going to try to explain the name, Alan Lepofsky did it quite well here.

This mobile/browser based communication portal unleashes the power of Watson to help you automate and analyze your communications. New and expanded UI to include easier file attaching and locations that used to be difficult are now a click away.

The IBM team did a nice job making sure the UX on mobile and browsers are complementary, instead of exclusionary.

When discussing writing and shipping code, the graphic above appeared on screen and it was probably a first, for IBM US at least, of cursing in public live. This is not your parents IBM, rather it is one which is recognizing the need to go beyond us old folks and find a new way with new voices. They brought in college students, designers, researchers, in short everyone they thought might have some ideas for now and the future. The plan is not to ship code that works, but instead serves a purpose by helping people work better, faster and more intelligently while still providing the utilitarian aspects that are required from communications, like accountability.

It is not available yet, beta coming soon, and will most likely first show up as part of the IBM Connections Cloud offering.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Questions are Free, Answers Cost Money

I had some discussions around presenting and training and my blog style over the last few days.

When preparing presentations, and blog posts, that are of a technical nature, there a few steps involved. The premise of the problem, some investigation work to solving it, testing the solutions then providing details around the one that worked. Many times I provide the question, and the answer, in order to help make other techies lives easier for them, when they run into the same problems.

When I write posts that are more business or marketing related, they tend not to have a definitive answer, although they do have specific questions or premises. It is my way of encouraging people to think about a topic and where possible provide some comments for discussion.

When I am with customers, or reply to email or Twitter queries, I try to provide more questions, in addition to more possible routes to conclusions. Perhaps this limits my monetary gains at times, however, over time, it has provided me with many opportunities to guest blog, write a book, speak at new conferences and more importantly bring me new clients.

Every company you work with is a different experience. Every country you are doing business in is not like your home country. Not everyone will come up and talk to you directly, or ask questions, or even let you know you were any good. You need to make yourself more available, more approachable, more vulnerable perhaps, in order to reach the next stage of your business discussions.

People do not change, we can't really turn you into a collaborative or social person, especially if you do not want to do so. However, we can broaden your horizons, if you are open enough to the ideas we are sharing, to find a better way to work and interact with your employees, your customers and your boss.

There is no perfect way, no silver bullet, or magic dust to help companies become more social and collaborative. Each person, team, group needs to be prepared through discussions and training. There are serious compliance and security issues to be addressed and these can not be answered simply. Our efforts to work with clients to expand their horizons and plan for a better way to work takes months of effort and we are here to help you.... if you are ready for it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Finally Experiencd the Social Connections Conference

If you have been living outside of the collaboration or social space you probably have no idea what conference I am discussing.

The Social Connections Conference, which has just completed their 7th conference in 3.5 years, is an impressive effort that you should experience too.

Having been a part of or attended so many conferences over the years I had been unable to get to any of the Social Connections events until this one in Stockholm, Sweden and what makes it so impressive? I have a 10 11 12 item list for you:

  1. it is run by normal people like you and I, they also have day jobs too
  2. not run or owned by a specific vendor
  3. always in a different country
  4. has a consistent change of audience for each event 
  5. limited number of any vendors people so it truly is customer filled
  6. sponsors that are known and appreciated by the audience
  7. sponsors get to do speed sponsoring and a speaking session
  8. great speakers and thinkers present both technical and business sessions
  9. some cool event venues for dinner
  10. some extremely social interactions of digital and in person kinds
  11. All sessions were streamed and recorded for later usage
  12. beer, as in free beer
OK the last one is available most events, but it is a serious part of connecting with people. I even had a Moo card made that said Collaborate Better with Beer.

While I did spend quite a bit of time on some client work, I also got to spend time with many friends I rarely get to see in person, some I have never met in person, and some I only heard about through others. The connections I made, and the few companies I discussed how I can help them with training and adoption was worth the price of their admission and my efforts.

The team had asked everyone to pay a nominal amount to ensure fewer no shows and it worked as they announced they had 100% attendance! Long may they have that record now. 

While the majority of the attendees are using IBM products, like IBM Connections, IBM Domino, IBM Notes, IBM Sametime there were some people who also used other products and were equally interested in what works and does not work when discussing adoption.

I can't speak for the technical sessions (I did not attend any) but the business side was heavily based on the do's and don'ts for adoption, customer cases both great and tragic, hurdles of jumping from email to an ESN(see my bridge slide) and even an Ask IBM session with prizes given to the best questions and/or most challenging ones that received a "we don't know" answer.

As a surprise to everyone, the next event they run was announced and it will not be in Europe!
It will be in Boston, Massachusetts in the US, April 16-17, 2015.

I hope to see you there!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Didn't you see my Updates?! Slides posted

On Slideshare are my slides from today's Social Connections VII session from Stockholm.

Off the cuff speaking and the ONLY session at #soccnx that was done in Lotus Yellow.

If you need help with adoption, please let me know, I am in Europe and happy to help your organization.

Friday, November 7, 2014

SnTT - In Which Port Settings Don't Quite Work

Been a long time since I wrote a Show n Tell Thursday so let's get on with it.

Building an IBM Domino cluster is not as difficult as it was years ago and I was done with the basic parts and wanted to test the fail over.

I figured easiest way to do this was to enter at a server console "stop port tcpip" while connected via rdp to the server.

I tested mail clients could fall over to the 2nd server and mail routed. Great.

Back to the server and server console and tell it to "start port tcpip".

I didn't think much about it and since there were some server updates to add to the box, I decided to shut it down after the updates were done.

It came back up and was running and I was working on another server in the domain when the client let me know no one could connect to the server. Odd, I was there and it "looked" ok. On closer inspection, it was not ok.

Errors that said databases could not be found, no route found, no network could be found, trace connections and some other fine error messages that mean nothing to the average person.

After poking around a bit, I figured the notes.ini needs to be edited. I checked with Rob Kirkland, of this book fame on Domino System Administration, and followed it to solve the problem.

I found the TCPIP port listed under disabled ports. Deleted it form there.
Found TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088 was missing which is for compression and encryption (see below).
Also missing was Ports=TCPIP

After putting it all back together, rebooted and all is good again. Still not sure why the commands failed and did not help this 8.5.3FixPack6 server but at least someone else out there will not have to waste an hour or 2 tying to figure it out.
Selection NOTES.INI parameter
          Nothing TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12288,
Compression only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12320,
Encryption only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45056,
Both TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088,

EDITED: October 20, 2020 The below is pulled from the most awesome list of ini settings ever.

Configuration for a TCPIP port.

Examples: TCPIP1=TCP,0,15,0,,12288

TCPIP=TCP, 0, 15, 0 [,,x] <----------- This is the setup for your TCP Port
.......|...|..|... Application Data buffer size (0 is default which = 8000)
.......|...|..Placeholder not used by TCP
.......|...Placeholder not used by TCP
.......This is the port driver name

The last parameter x ([,,x] above) can be decoded as follows:
0 X 8000 Encryption is enabled

0 X 0020 Compression is requested
0 X 4000 driver is internal
0 X 2000 no-op
0 X 1000 always for V2 and V3
0 X 0002 set to log modem I/O
0 X 0004 set to enable RTS/CTS

8020 which would be Encryption plus Compression is in hexadecimal code 45088

Selection NOTES.INI parameter
Nothing TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12288,
Compression only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,12320,
Encryption only TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45056,
Both TCPIP=TCP,0,15,0,,45088,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hey Politicians, There is this thing called the Internet

Where we live there is a newspaper, in print, that is free and is very pro the current government.

I say good for them if they can keep it going on dwindling advertising revenue, or the owner is some wealthy patron who feels the need to lose some money, either way, what is the problem?

The problem is some government officials think this is propaganda with the aim of helping the existing government officials stay in office and should be treated accordingly. They are trying to pass a law that newspapers must charge money. Huh? And the cheapest one can be no less than 70% of the cost of the 2nd largest newspaper. Double huh? One article about it.

Not sure how they expect to also close the thousands of websites or blogs or whatever Twitter accounts that do the exact same thing.

There is nothing more important, education? nope. Military? Nope. Diseases? Nope. Drugs? Nope. A newspaper.

Evidently these government officials all went to the same school, the one from 30+ years ago and have not bothered to come out and see how the world has evolved.
“This creates a difficult precedent. A parliament can never close a media source in a democracy –  only the market can close them. This (law) is playing with fire”
Very sad that in an age of transparency and openness, they lack the vision to see what is in front of them, namely an opportunity, on a grander scale, to work differently, act differently and provide new courses of action.

Social media here, oddly enough, has had little to discuss about this and it makes me wonder if at some point when the government or your boss, has had enough of your blog posts, they will come for you too.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Curious Reading from 2007 About Collaborative Networks and Conflict

“A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Conflicts in Collaborative Networks” (Washington, D.C.: IBM Center for The Business of Government, 2007)

While researching my upcoming session at Social Connections VII in Stockholm, Sweden in 2 weeks I came across this article from 2007, naturally backed by IBM, on collaboration, conflict and accountability.

The authors:
Lisa Blomgren BinghamProfessor and Keller-Runden Chair in Public Service, Indiana University and Rosemary O'Leary, Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, University of Kansas
wrote about governments and had much to say about networks, collaborative networks, in general.

The article that they reference from 2006 is titled, A Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using 
Collaborative Networks from Brinton Milward and Keith Provan.

Their slide deck is well worth a read, especially page 4, titled: Contrasting Approaches to Conflict:
Position vs. Interest Based Negotiations, or as we may think of it, silos vs collaboration.

" They conclude that although network organizations generally commit to achieving network-level goals, conflict among network participants is inevitable."  - From a synopsis of the article found here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Have You Designed a Car without an Engine Today?

Half baked ideas? No, they were completely baked and ready to go....except for a strategic piece. Lost in translation or just lost in space, hard to know sometimes where to assign the lack of accountability.

A Cloud solution that is not quite ready for the Enterprise or an application that you are working on when you suddenly realize no one thought about who would use the solution, let alone, why they need it.

Governments, countries, airports and many organizations run into this it seems more often today than ever before. The site, Why Projects Fail, might be useful to you.

Imagine if in walks your business leader with an announcement of a cool new car they dreamed up for the company to produce. It's just a drawing right now, maybe a clay model, but they have a vision!. They have searched out some vendors that promise to make everything nice and clean, like never before, and they asked to let them do everything so the leader can focus on the end game. Agreements are made and a date set to expect everything to be ready for the "1st auto show of the year".

Shortly before the eagerly expected date, the leader calls the vendor and asks if everything is ready. They reply, yes, of course, we made sure you have roads from your office to the show. The leader is confused and asks, where is the engine for the car we designed? The vendor replies no one said anything about the engine, we provide the roads for you to drive and look how nice they are all black and smooth topped."Where's my engine!?" screams the leader. Engine? Replies the vendor, we don't do engines.
I have been in numerous meetings over the years where parts of these discussions went on and I wondered why it happened in the first place.

Would better meetings help? Would an ESN like IBM Connections or Microsoft Sharepoint or Jive? Was there a problem in Microsoft Project? Not enough project managers? Too few? If you had used a different email system none of this would have happened.

It is easy to be carried away by the excitement of a new project and just as easily to be led astray. Just because the client asks to go to the Cloud does not mean you should block it, or help, without some clear logic and information.

Last night I wrote and compiled a two page list of questions for a client that wants to migrate mail systems... to Domino. I broke up the questions, some 60 or so, into 3 groups, the "old info" , the "future info" and the "co-existence".

The actual list could be 80 pages, like an SUT document I worked on previously, or one page. The questions and answers will come but being prepared is more important.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Niche SEO Worked for Us

We ended up here, didn't we because of SEO?

This is the revelation that occurred to me recently when looking at how we ended up in a city in Israel that is not on most people's vacation itinerary. Rehovot was the home of Ubique, a little company IBM bought to include inside their Sametime offering. They still retain offices here for Sametime development.

Many people spend tons of money to increase their exposure and search ranks which boils down to SEO methods that are a mix of data analytics, black arts, html coding, content writing, luck, algorithms and Google's daily whims.

People ask why we moved here and it is because when we searched for qualities of life that were important to us and our family, Rehovot kept coming up in our searches. Neither my wife, nor I, had been to Rehovot in the 9+ years we had previously lived in Israel. Now with kids, we wanted good schools, welcoming community, arts, sciences, location, transportation and other not unusual items.

About a year or two ago, an influential website, Nefesh B'Nefesh, literally translated as a soul for a soul, helps people making Aliyah to Israel. They added and updated some cities and areas for people to move to in Israel and one was Rehovot.

Naturally we did not just rely on this one site, but what we did not realize then was the bigger puzzle. People in Rehovot had started to make some websites, in English, for other people looking to move here. It was grass roots, but sometimes your niche is a niche within a niche and in this case it works.

What were we searching for, and found? Here is a partial list:
  • Industrial Park filled with startups and established companies 
  • a synagogue that is mixed with Israeli, US, European, South African and Australian members
  • some of the top elementary and high schools in the country
  • reasonable living conditions and costs
  • local train station accessible
  • weather similar to Boca Raton
Bonus: A highly technical/scientific community because of the Weizmann Institute

Most people know of Tel Aviv, Haifa and of course Jerusalem which all have benefits to living there (and IBM offices). When you did deeper and find out eBay, Google, Facebook and many others are in the Netanya/Ra'anana/Herziliya areas but I livedin Manhattan and London, and Jerusalem twice, to know I wanted to live in a more relaxed part of the country that my kids can grow up and enjoy the fields and parks, not just the nightlife.

If I was looking for a place to build solar powered hovercrafts this may not be the best location, compared to say gene splicing to help people become more collaborative instead of selfishly silo like which friends of ours work on at Weizmann.

What we all want is out there and your product or idea has a place on the internet and it is up to you to decide if the market is large enough for you.

The synagogue we belong to is the only one on the area that is growing and while 15 new families over the last year have moved here. The number may sound small to some of you, but historically 1-3 families moved to Rehovot a year. That is some serious growth!

The ripple effect of this growth, coupled by exterior influences, like growing anti-semitism across Europe and the US, has led to an increase in housing costs as more people look to purchase property. Various city events and services are being expanded as well to accommodate the foreign immigration.

SEO doesn't solve or provide all of your leads or growth, but sometimes a little bit here and there is all you need.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Captain Kirk, to the Bridge! No! Wait, Go to Engineering!

Apologies to +William Shatner (@williamshatner) for the title but let's talk about V'ger (@_vger), I mean The Cloud.

Cloud discussions may not come from IT, in fact, it seems IT is the last to know about the idea sometimes. While asking some fellow consultants and Business Partners, we are seeing an interesting situation arise and hope this example helps you to not find yourself in the same predicament.

Business leaders are making choices, then telling IT. The opposite of the way things have been done in the past. Not a bad thing entirely.

Is this a step forward for business and one back for IT? Have we finally reached the tipping point where the next generation of business leaders are technically proficient enough to make their own decisions? (If your decision makers at your company are not including you, that is another blog post.)

Let's presume you get included in a decision making meeting about moving email, IM, collaboration or whatever to a Cloud. But you are not invited to provide options and ideas, rather to be told,  "we are moving to this vendors Cloud".

Huh? What? You are knocked across the head like a hangover the morning after drinking some Saurian Brandy. Questions come to your mind, ideas fly from your tongue. All you can say is "Is this a done deal"?

Sound familiar? Is this how your company is going to The Cloud for mail and collaboration? Around you entirely?

When did the business leader get all technical? Or is this a case of someone handing you a carburetor and saying you need one of these because they heard cars have them? When did the leader become Captain Kirk? Let me explain.

Kirk, as many will know, could often be found doing engineering work on the ship, or patching a rocket launcher out of sticks and stones. I did not attend Starfleet Academy, but from my reading, it seems that a Captain does stints in all types of areas of the ship. They also get  class room training time, not just the Kobayashi Maru simulation, and first hand knowledge about other areas as time moves along once the cadet was shown to be captain material. Once you are a captain, evidently you know every Jefferies Tube in your ship and every panel/wiring circuitry in case you need to do some amazing things and save your ship, usually, all withing 50+ minutes. 

Surprisingly, the business leader is not a captain, although they may have the ability, does not have the depth of knowledge of all of your infrastructure to know what is or is not running. Making a decision to go to The Cloud should not exclude your trusted and knowledgeable IT staff or partners/vendors. Each situation is different but moving your email, may or may not break numerous applications.

How can moving your email break applications? Many ways! Here is just one example. 

If other applications rely on a specific directory of your employees for security, how will you access it once it is in the Cloud? If you can access it, what will happen to the application, if the Cloud is down? Or your ISP is down (Spock says this is statistically more probable) how will people work? Is there a size/usage limit for the number of requests sent back and forth before you get charged some exorbitant fees? It is not always about the money, sometimes a little planning goes a long way.

All we ask of you business leaders is you keep us in the loop and work with you.

Let us help you reach your goals without causing problems to your services.

May your company live long, and prosper.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Royal Scam or just a CopyCat App?

Apologies to Steely Dan.

By now everyone has heard of Ello.

The question still remains why?

Someone posted about it shortly after I read Robert Scoble's post about it.Being a messaging and communication person, figured I should check it out.

I described it as a mix between Pinterest and Twitter. Many said it was like Facebook. It does not really matter because it doesn't do anything special, yet, that I can tell. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld is behind it. You know, it's an app, about nothing...get it?

The niche that it may provide something useful to is amusing. If you worry so much about privacy, stop using cell phones, cable tv, your car, credit cards, etc. If you care that much about how Facebook handles your details, and think this will make it more private, okay, have fun. Ideally, yes, nothing should be tracking us, but living in reality is another story.

What if I am wrong? What if it will boom like Twitter? Until you have more friends to search on here, the search sucks right now by the way, it is like a ghost town. You can discover people, but as one of my friends pointed out, "same ol' jokers--- hey guys :)".

Talk about being in a bubble!

Persistent chat room with graphics and not limited in syntax length....yeah so what?

If he was meaner, I would venture one of my friends on the west coast would have asked his programming class to build something to set up the world for such a scam.

So why blog about it, because sometimes life is about failures and what we learn from them.

And yes I have invites still if you really need it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I am speaking at Social Connections VII in Stockholm

Social Connections VII

After a few years of trying to get to the event, I have finally made plans to not only attend, but speak at the IBM Social Business and Connections User Group meeting, referred to as Social Connections VII (#soccnx) which is in Stockholm, Sweden November 13-14th.

Event and registration details here.

The event has had about 200-300 customers attend previous meetings.Vendors and sponsors are of course welcome and want to help you with your business.

The topic of my session is “Didn't you see my Status Update!? Accountability and the Modern Employee".

Trying to avoid this after you have entered your details in whatever software:

The pros and cons of email, ESN (Enterprise Social Networks), Instant Messaging, SMS among other items will be discussed. How to best leverage what you have and provide some purpose to how you get it done. Management's efforts to increase productivity do not always come out the other end as planned. Helping management and helping yourself is the key.

Expect an interactive discussion. You are encouraged to post your questions so we can cover all types of aspects.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Frustrations - Online Bill Paying UX Failure

Received our first gas bill today from the Supergas company here in Israel. I can setup an automatic bank draft or pay by credit card. I can't do the bank draft yet so I figured I would pay by credit card.

Go to their site, find the pay my bill page, get to the screen where I put in my information and there is one small problem...the area code. Mine, 058 is not listed. Link to their page here

Naturally like any good hack I figured just pick an area code and let it go, like entering for the email address. Nope, does not compute. It verifies the phone number on the account with their records. 

Supergas, what are you thinking?

1) Verifying a phone number does not sound like a good idea to me. If you have my account number, address, name, ID # and all, you would think that would be enough to validate me. I want to pay you, make it easy for me. Also which phone did we open the account under? Mine or my wife's? Fail again.

2) Why is area code a drop down AND a required field? Did you think I would not include my area code when I input my phone number? Is it a formatting issue? Then state how you want the numbers entered, using ( ) or . or - is fine. 

3) There is also no help on the page or chat with anyone. I am sure customer service would be unable to help me fix the UI and underlying coding, but they should be able to take my payment, for an extra fee of course. 

This is the gas company that everyone in my city gets their gas from and pays their bills. I can not be the only one that has this problem. Then again, if everyone pays by the bank using automatic drafts I can see how this web page was missed during the QA process.

It happens, someone updated code or forget to add in our area code. I know this, I've done it myself. I am not angry, slightly amused and slightly frustrated though, because what should have taken a few minutes to setup turned into a long process and now a blog post.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My BlueMix Day of Coding

I rarely code anymore, but when I found out about this class, not far from me in Israel, I figured why not check it out.

Last time I did something like this was at IBM Impact 2 years ago when I sat in on a Worklight development hands on session.

Which was more useful? Bluemix is this year's iPhone from IBM and Worklight is a bit quieter.

Bluemix is a term loosely translated to me as "Websphere lite". Why do I say this? There are a lot of pieces to make this environment come together. Not sure how much of it is IBM or the architecture that requires so much, but as an Admin, it does not make me happy to see/hear there are so many moving pieces. As a developer, maybe you are used to this aspect. Yes I come from a silo coding world, so sociliaze me. Chris Sparshott of IBM did nice slides on the pieces.

The class was an all day event, 9-4, I had to skip out the last hour to get home for parent night at school, but we were done coding by then. We opened with a slide deck in English and the instructor presented it all in Hebrew. I may have missed some terminology or aspects, and any Bluemix people want to correct me I appreciate it.

I tried to get a picture of one slide which looked like this:

You may prefer this slidedeck, it is not the one I saw, but will enlighten you farther than I could ever explain it.

Once we got the introductions out of the way it was time to get coding. Well time to first find the pieces we would need.

Bluemix ID, Jazz ID, IBM ID, check. Oh the Bluemix ID is only good for 60 days then you need to pay for access. More on this later.

GitHub is the first stop, go get the files for the class. Fork them over, boil till ready then copy to your local drive. No doubt developers do this in their sleep, admins, we just look at this like it is another foreign language. Yes I have had an account at Github for a while, but I don't code so it was to tinker with some ideas. I followed directions and was amused at how much DOS is still in use. Sorry you all call it a command prompt or terminal.

Great so we have some file. Now what? Go get 2-3 other bits of pieces, and load them into Bluemix. Right, how? I asked the woman sitting next to me for help and she also had problems following. First rule of doing live demos, reset your machine or do it in a VM that can easily be cleaned up. Instructor had all the defaults found for him, but these got worked out and we moved on to the next part.

When we got into the BueMix environment we found there is a 2GB memory limit of usage. We were constantly deleting apps on screen, I at least, wondered how much memory we needed, or if I deleted the right one every time.

Coding involves various drag and drop bits and pieces which you can include. Some things like Twitter have already been included for you to play with feeds and searches easily. In general, I found it to be an easy way to code, if one knew what they were doing. I am still a bit confused about all the preliminary work we did, downloaded and setup(we used MYSQL, but I don't have it on my laptop, so not sure how that works). Naturally I wanted to integrate Domino in here but there is nothing there just yet. Perhaps at IBM ConnectED in January we will see/hear more about it. Then again, if one really wanted a fast development platform that could be used across the board, IBM Domino is still out there. Nathan Freeman had a similar question on his blog.

We eventually made it through to the coding part and made a little parking app. Mine is sitting out here,, for the next 57 days or so. Cute enough and worked on my S4 and laptop browsers. This doesn't get published yet to the IBM Appstore, IBM Cloud Marketplace. I understand only SoftLayer apps can be published here, but I may be wrong with that information.

I presume one can package the app, somehow, and make it available from the Apple and Google stores as well.

My questions for IBM and the product management team:

Pricing to use BlueMix after 60 days, in my opinion limits development. On the other hand, you can sign up with multiple accounts and use it for another 60 days, just without your code. As an IBM Business Partner I would like to think we can have accounts that do not expire or cost us, much, money. The people I contacted had no idea if there was such a BP option. Anyone know?

Having all these pieces of a puzzle relying on SoftLayer, URLs, and version control seems like a lot of failure points to me. Just wondering about it.

Pricing for using BlueMix did not show up on screen, for my over 60 days account, just asking for a credit card, but no amount. Please let people know what it costs.

Speaking of costs, you can see what your built app might cost from inside BlueMix. To me it looks like a nickel and dime effort when all I want to know is how much to host my app every month. Who knew there were large and small push/pull requests. Right, you developers should, but do you really watch the costs? I think this could be done in an easier fashion so that the business line people could understand their budget hits. After all, I doubt the developers look at the bills.

It was fun overall, and when I had the right code, logins and things turned on, or running at all, it all went well.

I will now leave developer land again until the next time, like next Tuesday, when I go to Google's Cloud day and get a different perspective.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Accountability and the ESN

In this Golden Age of social networks that pretend to be burying email servers like Rod Stewart goes through wives, we have a black hole that is not discussed.

Email is not perfect, but better than most countries normal postal services.
IM is great for awareness of who is online, but just because I show up online does not mean I really am at the machine, phone or browser.
Twitter is awesome....when you are connected to the internet.
SMS is far from perfect, as anyone who travels can tell you when they get messages days later, if ever.
RSS feeds do, um, something for some people. But really, do you ever catch up on those feeds?
Faxes are, wait, you don't still use those do you?
Phone calls work well, but not when you are on 12-14 hours of different time zones.

Why do I bring these up? Because if you work any place on Earth, your life is ruled by email.You may say it isn't and for a handful of people, this may be true.

For the rest of us, email is the "certified and return receipt" way of knowing something happens.

Now comes along the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and the status updates. A new inbox, so to speak. Some call it a waterfall, others call it the river, but what it all leads to is a big flooded lake of information.

Inside that lake lies missives of information that you may need to get your work done. But your job now is to go find it. Just when you thought you may have figured out the Inbox Zero thing, along comes another place to check and take you away from important work.

The early adopters will gesticulate so their Google Glass picks up their excitement about getting used to checking in multiple places. For IT people, we are used to getting information from all types of places like our Wii or Xbox not just our phone, laptops, ipads and watches.

Our normal employees, and executives, may not appreciate needing to check multiple places all day long. They can choose to check in every few hours maybe, but then what if they missed something? Those sneaky IT people are always making changes in the background and not telling people what they changed.

Yes, you will say that all the status updates COULD be setup to go direct to people's email. And maybe this is one way out of this mess, but maybe a better way would have been to just integrate email into the ESN properly so there were status updates that were really email? Why have another method or name for what really is just more email? I understand, the ESN sends updates to people that follow you, so the onus is on me to care about you. But what if I don't know you exist yet?

Or better yet, why is there no send update to SMS, Twitter or for the non_IT crowd, Facebook? Why is the default to use their email system or nothing else? Of course, why would a company want their information to get published publicly? For that matter, why would a company want to make their employees lives easier? Isn't that the whole point of the ESN? Helping everyone to know what is going the ESN and hopefully in the company at large? The company values its privacy and security. This reminds me of when companies used to maintain multiple email systems because they could not agree which one to standardize on and for some crazy reason they think maintaining duplicates of everything would be a better solution.

Now we have the ESN where ideally we may be led down a path to drop our email systems.

Except for one little thing. ESNs have no way to talk to each other. They do not have SMTP servers nor gateways to other networks, even their own internal company ESNs in some cases can not talk to each other and they are from the same vendor!

one inbox (If This Then That) should be expanding their reach to help fill some of these holes, but I doubt it will work for enterprises.

If you create a Status Update and no one sees it, now what? What if my stream is so filled with items, and you did not tag me in it, that I just miss the very item I need for my project or deadline? Who's fault is it? How do we work around this problem? Email crush should be the game everyone plays, not candy crush.Your inbox will now be at zero, but your ESN notifications page is massive.

How do you solve this dilemma? Will it be solved? When? How? By Whom? Do we even see the end in sight yet?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is your Candy Corn?

For those not familiar with the reference, Candy Corn is a sweet confectionery candy which is quite sugary and shaped like a triangle with 3 colors in it. Wikipedia explains it this way. The picture below is from Wikipedia as well.
candy corn rocks

I could eat a mound of it and not think twice about it. To me Candy Corn is one of the best candies. It is a happy candy, for me, and I enjoy eating them, in many ways which I will not bore you with here. Sadly for me the only Kosher ones I know of are from the Jelly Belly company. When I shared space with my friend that had a candy business, the smell from a freshly opened 10 pound bag was just heaven. Like being in a doughnut shop when the first ones come out of the oven.

When you get sucked down by the world, what makes it brighter for you? As a parent, the natural answer would be my kids, but being realistic, we all want something to brighten our days that just exists. Coffee is not my thing, chocolate is okay, peanut butter cups are a crutch for me, but I have been known to go way, way, way, out of my way, just to snag some candy corn, and keep it for when I need it most.

But it is not always available. Thus, it becomes a really big treat when it is available. Like having my own time machine to just be a kid again.

It does not provide creativity, my friends provide more than enough for me. It does help bring the fun, the kid in me wants to have that the adult in me may not have time for always.

What sparks you to do something? What helps you get your work done? What makes your boss disappear?If you don't have something that brightens your day, what do you do to get through it? The goal, the item, whatever it might be that works for you, keep that with you always.

Be a kid! Have fun! If YOLO then you should enjoy as much as you can.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Are You Doing, HAL?

My friend Chris Toohey posted this on Twitter:

I replied, I just want my servers to talk to me.
What would you have your server say, if it could talk?

"My Router hurts, are you spamming people again?"
"Drive C has eaten all the chips and needs a bigger belt (no free space)"
"That agent you ran just now, were you seriously trying to crash me?"
"Things would run faster if you shut off service x,y, or z...or just buy me more memory"
"I can't see the Internet, is it a zombie apocalypse or did you unplug a cable?"
"Some one just attached a USB drive to the network with a virus, would you like me to dispose of it?"

I can dream of a smarter network, can't I?
Yes, monitors and notifications work, but I would like to hear form my server. It could call me over VOIP if it wants as well.

If the Internet of Things, as various places claim will take over, when will the computers get voice boxes and properly talk to us?

Please vendors, app designers and developers stop it with the crazy error messages we get onscreen that are meaningless and speak English. Or translate the errors to whatever language one needs them.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Think About This for a Moment

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. This number includes public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.
This table, can give you more details of breakdowns, data up to 2009.

Because of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, which has raised over $94 Million since July 29th alone,
there are now roughly 1,499,999 marketers working at non-profits who may be:
Afraid for their jobs
Depressed that they didn't think of it
Trying to do their own spin of the ice bucket challenge but it better be AWESOME

The problem with being a copy cat is obvious.
Unless you make a really awesome change, think Elon Musk's Tesla's, you will end up like everyone else and get your sliver of market share and that is all. But to your boss you look good. Good, far from excellent or great.

Don't be marginal! Be exceptional!

Easier said than done! I know this first hand.

You want to do so much, but your company gets in your way, fear of lawsuits creeps in, naysayers chime in, budgetary imprisonment meetings keep you from sanity.

Marketers are always pushed further to be original, creative, "viral" and many do fill these traits.

Companies are happy to join in the "me too" game of Fakeopoly. Look they bought a Cloud developer company that focuses on Chinese game sites. The next thing you know anyone saying they do it also gets gobbled up and at the end of the day, you look like the next marketer who has a "challenge" for everyone.

Grab that chalice with both handsReach beyond what yous see! Cross the chasm and grab the golden chalice!

The chalice may not be obvious, you need help, you need to ask people, get feedback, find your Rosebud.

Creativity comes from the competitive side of ourselves that pushes each of us to be original, thing differently, solve a problem, work with what we have, be MacGyver.

Come up with the next challenge, product, idea, whatever you need and think bigger and broader.

Did the ALS team know this would happen? Not necessarily and neither will you, but if you never try it, you will never know.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Conference Season is Picking Up

I have been a bit out of the loop the last 4-6 weeks but for those who have been in the know, there are many conferences, especially IBM ones, over the next few months.

Some are asking for abstracts. Hint, hint.

MWLUG in Grand Rapids NEXT WEEK, August 27-29

ICON UK September 12th in London

Social Connections VII in Stockholm November 13-14 (abstracts due by end of August)

DanNotes November 20-21 in Korsør (abstracts due by end of August)


Lotusphere/IBM Connect/ IBM ConnectED in Orlando January 25-28 (Abstracts not open yet)

IBM Impulse/IBM Innovate/IBM Pulse/ IBM Interconnect in Las Vegas February 22-26 (Abstracts due by Sept 26)

No doubt I missed a few but feel free to let me know and I will add them.

See you out there...somewhere...soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apps That Make Life Easier in Other Countries

On my travels lately we have been using extensively a few apps which some of you may need or want when you travel as well. I am not so excited by any of the lame efforts of gamification, so ignoring this GAM (Game Spam) the apps are:

Everyone knows about WAZE and if you don't, go get it now and never get lost or late anywhere you drive.

Like WAZE, MOOVIT does for you bus users and train users what WAZE does for drivers. A bit confusing of a UI but once you get used to it you will not stop. It handles multiple language inputs as well. Very useful when visiting countries for conferences.

Google Maps, no link, it's on your phone already, yes the basic keeps getting better. We now say in Google we trust as it has bus details as well as traffic.

What's App also has been extremely helpful in helping us in discussions with friends and family, groups or individuals. Cell phone based, needs a phone number, but so much easier and less battery drain than Skype or almost any other IM.

Google Translate app is also extremely useful if you do not speak the local language.

How did we survive before? Well, when you live in the same place for over 10 years you may not have a need. When you move to a new country or just visit for a conference or vacation, best to have as much help, in your native language, as possible.

No doubt there are more useful ones, currency converters come to mind, and hopefully you will all provide more for me and others to look into as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are you a Catalyst?

About two weeks ago I was involved in a discussion on Twitter with someone about blogging and awareness.

He writes a blog about AIX systems which I like but rarely get to play with any more. He tweeted to me about how management doesn’t “get” his blogging nor gives him any credit for it. My answer is, this too will pass and his time will come. Writing for a few weeks or months, even in some cases years, does not produce tangible results until some catalyst brings you into the spotlight.

I tried to point out that blogging is first and foremost a personal endeavor, unless it is your primary source of income. We went back and forth a bit and discussed some posts and ideas. His blog is well written and quite technical and documented well, but probably not for your average person in business. Having worked on many systems over the years, I appreciate when people take time to fill in the blanks of what might be missing in wikis and official documentation.

After a few messages and some others following our discussion, the bloggers readers, some are my own followers perhaps, let us know they read his blog, love it and encouraged him to continue. I also encouraged him to continue, but one person is not enough. If 4-6 people can provide you encouragement, you will be on your way.

There have been times over the last 2 years especially when I wanted to pack it all in. Drop blogging and get on to do something new. Amazingly what I needed was a sabbatical from writing. Changes in my professional and personal life obviously weighed heavily at times, but so did my blog. Sitting there idle, one post a month at times, I felt like my desire to write had flown away. Regrettably, I let my blogging lapse and in turn possibly hurt my own abilities to connect with new people, potential clients and perhaps employers.
I am not likely to become a daily blogger again, that took a lot of time that is now spent on other endeavors. 

On the other hand, I foresee having some more free time, in theory, to write more often.

Everything I read, says one should write daily to get your brain accustomed to writing no mater your mood or ideas. It may not make me a better writer, but it will help on those days when I have documentation to produce.

Maybe I was trying to convince myself about my own writing when I encouraged my AIX blogger friend to keep going. Perhaps I was just trying to help someone else that does not get the value of what they write. 

The value is in the long term benefits of people trusting your skills and ideas and encouraging others to do so.

Peers help strengthen the weaker egos from failure. We all want to see others succeed and exceed all expectations. You are, and can should be, the catalyst for your kids, spouse, friends, coworkers and in some cases even competitors. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Next Stop, Israel

Yes, I gave it all away in the title of this post.

For the rest of you that clicked through to read about this topic, let me start with this story. This quite possibly may be my longest blog post I ever write. You have been warned.
Around 1994 or 1995 I was managing Citibank's Latin American Lotus Notes network. I visited numerous countries there and checked on our cc:Mail, Notes and OpenMail installations and personnel.
One trip scheduled was to Bogota, Colombia. In those years it was common, at least in Miami, to read about kidnappings and ransom notes, sometimes murders, by the drug cartels in Bogota. Nonetheless, I looked forward to going. My family and friends were not very happy, but having already been entangled with the military in the Dominican Republic, I figured this could not be so bad (ask me sometime over drinks if you want to know details about it). Besides, Citibank wouldn't let me go to a risky location, right?
Off I went. Bogota, by the way, is a beautiful city should you ever get there to visit. I spent shabbat down there and got my work done. While sitting with the team, they all asked me what it was like to live in such a war torn place like Miami. You see, in their papers, they only heard about the drug killings, the murdered tourists, the poverty and how brave I was to live there. When I inquired about what I "knew" about Bogota, they laughed and said, sure it happens, if you hang out in certain areas or with certain people. Funny right? There's more.
I returned home to my family and friends and went to the office the next day. I went to my manager at the time and asked for vacation time for Passover, I was going to in Israel and would need about 10 days. After letting me know that the vacation was approved, he said to me, how can you go over there with their bus bombings and some other events that had occurred. After looking at him for a few seconds I smiled and said, funny that's what the Bogota team asked me about Miami.

Why do I tell you this story from 20 or so years ago? Because some things never change. 

The views one has tend to come from our education, our parents, our geographical locations, our experiences, what we read, what we hear and for some, what we experience.

Whether or not you agree with the Israeli side or the people of Gaza's side, you have an opinion, so do I, try to be truthful and respectful. 

One of the things, I hope, that helped me become an IBM Champion, is my drive to not back down from a competitive discussion and led me to my numerous FudBuster Friday posts. If you want to be biased or bigoted, at least have proper arguments and present the truth. I am not going to spend time on this blog about what is true, or not, regarding the situation in Israel. My other social media efforts push some of that information. What I am going to try to explain is why my family and I are moving to Israel, and why now after all these years.

Many of you know I previously worked for Lotus EMEA, prior to that I was in Israel from 1996-1998. I was working, even back then, remotely for US clients and did some high level advisory in Israel. I met some great people, some I still see regularly online and in person at the annual conference previously called Lotusphere, now called ConnectED, in Orlando in January.

I left Israel in 1998 at the request of Lotus to work on the European continent. However, I ended up on a large island and lived in London. If they would have let me work from Israel, which given the road warrior traveling I did for Lotus those years, I would probably still be working for IBM today, and still be in Israel today.

When I left IBM in 2001, weeks before 9/11, I wanted to return to Israel, but my wife wanted to come to Boca Raton. I lost the battle, as they say, but in the end, I won the war. When my wife said to me about 2 years ago she was ready to go back, I would have booked it then. But there are many things to be worked out, for me, her, the kids....the dog, that we eventually settled on this summer.

Why? I get asked this frequently these days. Why now? I get asked daily right now.
If you really know me, the question should be, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?! 

Why now? I am amused how if we were moving back to London, or any other place, it would not be a big deal to most people. But you mention Israel, and people go crazy suddenly. Left, right, center, right field, we heard from all of you, and we appreciate everyone's wishes of luck, prayers and assistance.

For those that ask how can I go to Israel at a time like this? Don't I care about my family? My answer usually is to repeat the story above that started this blog post. And then add, have you read the papers and watched the news lately? Maybe we are not the crazy ones for going after all?

You might say those are real rockets they are shooting. This is true, sadly the area within 1-2 miles of Gaza gets about 50% of the rockets. The US Iron Dome system, patented and owned by the US, which Israel helped develop and is actively testing, has blocked about 40% of the rockets reaching deeper into Israel. Still not perfect, that is a lot of misses, but better odds than without the system.

Israel has long been building residences with safe rooms and bunkers in buildings to protect their people from those that, for whatever reason, can not live peacefully next to it. I have always preferred to know the bad upfront, so the rest is all great. When you walk down the street, do you think about how many people are carrying guns? Do you worry while your kids are in school that some crazy friend of theirs is going to hunt them down? Do you not shop in "those areas" because it wouldn't be safe for you to do so? Yes, there are scary events everywhere, the world is just not a safe place sadly.

Walking the streets of Israel, the Israeli army is there to protect you, the citizen or visitor, not just the government people. Almost everyone you see in Israel wore that uniform, many still do, even 20 years afterwards. They serve not to support a military dictatorship, but a free democracy that not only has Jews, Christians, Moslems and numerous other religions inside it, but also protect some of the holiest places known to the world. The army in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and numerous other places could not understand the Israeli army mentality nor how it is there for us and with us.

My kids will eventually go into the Israeli army. Whatever role they choose in it, I will support them. But understand this, it is not just one family, it is an entire country that joins with them. The Talmud (Shevuot 39a), saysKol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. When one soldier dies, the country as a whole mourns. I have heard it said there is no family in Israel that has not lost a relative to the wars, battles or terrorism. My family lost relatives in the 1973 war.

When your kids are in Israel, even strangers will watch out for them and protect them if something happens because everyone is responsible for each other.

This is true collaboration. When you can step away from being a separatist, or an independent or living in you own little silo of a home, and help everyone else out there, you have found your way in life.

When you can put your faith or feelings into someone else's situation, not just in times of trouble, but every day, you can feel some of what I feel, when I am in Israel.The sense of unity, working as one, even while we may disagree about politics or religion or sports. This post from yesterday put it quite well. While our friends and neighbors mirror these views, on a larger community or even city, state or national level, we have a long way to go in the US.

My kids in America, aged 12, 10, and 7 could never walk just 2-3 blocks to get ice cream from a shop alone. In Israel, kids 5 years old do it all the time. I make my kids at least go in pairs, I have some worries and responsibilities as a parent. But the people on the street or at the shop watch out for my kids, just as much as I watch out for theirs. None of us may know anyone's kids, but we all feel that responsibility should something just not seem right. Some of you in smaller turns or rural areas probably understand this better than city dwellers.

My work day will be longer, in order to support US times, my work week will also be shorter, since Friday for me will mean minimal US interaction by the time Shabbat starts. My holidays will have greater meaning in Israel for me and my kids. All the work I did in teaching them the last 2 years, and their various teachers before me, will come to fruition as they experience the good, and the bad, of events from the Bible, and see it play out in real life today. 

Are they scared? Sure, but they also have hope and are excited to go on this journey. Since they have not been there before, while my wife lived there for 7 years and I did for 3, they are just starting to understand it is not all desert and tents. Modern technology has also made it much easier for friends and family to stay in touch which should help them as well.  

They want to "adopt" a lone soldier, one that is serving in the army and has no immediate family or home in Israel. I have known a few people that were those soldiers and we look forward to helping them once we get settled. 

My kids are lucky, we spent a summer living in London, we spent a December too. They experienced things they never would in Boca Raton. My children will have even more experiences from living in Israel that will influence their view of the world.

Some people want to change the world, I want to help my kids do it by helping Israel grow and flourish.

Today is Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, and a fast day.
This day has had so many bad things happen to the Jewish people over the millenia it is amazing we survived all this time. Because one is not supposed to travel or conduct business on this day, we will be departing from Boca Raton on August 6.

Our journey, 2 adults, 3 kids, and 1 dog in a van with about 15 suitcases and duffel bags will be making our way driving from Florida to New York. We will pass through Georgia and spend the night in Manning, South Carolina as our first stop. It is not the scenic route, just the I-95 one.

We then make a dash to reach Silver Spring, Maryland for Thursday night and spend it with friends after a stop in Richmond, Virginia for Lunch.

Friday we head to the Big Apple, New York City where we will return our van to Honda and spend Shabbat in Woodmere with a neighbor of one of my college friends. These people do not even know us yet, but have been gracious enough to let us stay with them through Monday morning when we head to JFK for our flight on El Al.

Sunday we will take the kids to Manhattan and enjoy all that it has to offer them so if anyone knows anything going on we should try to get to, let me know.

When we land on Tuesday morning there is a planned ceremony from Nefesh B'Nefesh which is broadcast live, about midnight Monday US EST time. Their site will have links closer to the date.

We will be offline for a few days while we get new phone service and internet hooked up at our new apartment, don't let that stop you from staying in touch with us.

We are moving to Rehovot which is just south of Tel Aviv and not far from Ben Gurion airport.

Why Rehovot?

We found a nice community that was mixed Israeli and Anglo. Having a great community is something we will miss from Boca and we think the one in Rehovot will be a good match for us. The schools for the kids worked out for us as well as everyone had only great things to say about the schools. Rehovot is also on the main train line making it easy to get to Netanya, Tel Aviv, Haifa and more locations on the coast line.

If you have made it this far, thank you for your friendship, readership and support. I hope to see some of you in January, usual place. Maybe get to Social Connections 7 in Stockholm in November and see you sooner.

I now return you back to my usual blog posts.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Daf Yomi, 2 years down, 5.5 to go

Happy Birthday to my baby who turned 7 years old yesterday which also happens to be the anniversary of when we started Daf Yomi.

When I started the Daf Yomi, you can read past posts from last year at the 1st anniversary, I wondered if I would stick with it.

It is hard to spend about 45 minutes a day, on average, doing something for yourself. No PR side, no monetary side, no work benefits, just pure learning for the sake of learning.

What have I been learning? Here is a simple breakdown of the last 2 years:

We are still in what is referred to as Sefer Moed, Wikipedia has a nice breakdown here.
Along the way the last 2 years we finished the Tractate of Berachot which discussed blessings and other daily life aspects.

Then we did Shabbat which discussed Shabbat and all types of aspects which led to Eruvin which is about spaces and the ability to carry on Shabbat.

We then moved onto Pesachim this year which deals with laws and customs of Passover, among other holidays.

Next up was Shekalim which discussed giving half a shekel to count people and for the upkeep of the temple or Beit Hamikdash.This is the only Tractate not found in the Babylonian Talmud and is only in the Jerusalem Talmud but is included in the Daf Yomi.

Followed by Yoma which discusses Yom Kippur and the Cohen temple services.

After Yoma was Sukka which makes sense as the holiday follows only a few days behind Yom Kippur.

The next one was Beitza which is not about eggs per se, but more about cooking and general laws of holidays and cooking.

After this was Rosh Hashana, while you would think it should be before Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana deals with not just the new year, but the new year for trees, for kings, for planting and other similar events.

Then came Taanit which discusses fast days, why we have them, what we can and can't do on them. Given Tisha B'Av, one of the only 2 major fast days is Tuesday night and Wednesday it was nice to complete it recently.

We currently are on Megilla which discusses all things related to Purim, Torah readings and how many people to call up and how many sentences to read.

Knowing all of this is helpful, yet does not make me, or anyone else, better to answer questions or provide guidance. I prefer to think of it as background details that I may have forgotten or never learned. After all in school we were lucky to finish a chapter of any Tractate during the school year, let alone an entire one.

So onward I go to another year.