Character

beachI have heard it said that your real character shows late at night when you are alone, and no one can see what you’re up to.

While that is probably true, the problem for the rest of us is that no one is there to see you, so we cannot figure out your character.

Maybe your character shows on a nearly deserted beach like this one near Emerald Isle, NC. At least someone might catch a glimpse of what you are doing.

Actually I think technology has made it much easier to see inside that protective coating which keeps most people from knowing who we really are. It has nothing to do with cameras or surveillance.

So how does technology reveal our character?

Sometimes it is as simple as technology providing anonymity through a nickname with instant messaging.

Most often it just provides distance or a buffer from real personal interaction.

What better to really tell someone off than in a voicemail or perhaps a cell phone call where the connection is so bad that they can’t even fight back?

Then of course there is the flaming email which is well known to all corporate dwellers.

In a sense people really do hide behind the technology. Technology lets the real person sneak out without fear of consequences that might come from a face to face confrontation.

The other day, I had someone go off the deep end in a phone call. They said things which they should have never let slip out of their mouths. I seriously doubt if the conservation would have been anything near that had it taken place in person or face to face.

What it did let me see is the real person who masquerades behind a facade of civility. I now know that the person is someone whom I probably rather avoid, especially in business dealings.

I recently had another illuminating moment with a business partner.   His real character wasn’t revealed by technology but the way he said something had almost the same effect.

He decided that he wanted to get out of a joint business deal with me. Instead telling me directly, he waited to dump it all on my wife while I was at work.  My wife had not been involved in setting up the deal, and actually wanted no part of it.  She had even recommended against it.

It is probably one of the more cowardly episodes that I have ever heard.  It is perhaps something that only a very small minded person would do especially since it almost knocked my wife into depression.

His actions showed a complete lack of real character. It was pretty obvious that his only consideration was his self. I actually cannot think of someone who has so grossly violated the code by which most men of honor operate.

I guess it goes to show that while technology can reveal a lack of character, those completely without character don’t need technology’s help in showing their lack of worth.

I have an interesting post on the concept of “Sour Grapes” at my Blogger site.  I wrote it after an Apple maniac decided my purchase of a Windows laptop was based on dissatisfaction with my former career at Apple.

The machines that own us

combineThey say that machines are supposed to work for us.

For a long time I have been skeptical of that.

When I bought my first tractor back in 1971, a very intelligent Uncle of mine said that to really pay for it, I would have to run it day and night.

Well I haven’t yet figured out how to work without a little sleep so I still can’t do that. Perhaps it’s good that I no longer own tractors.

Now I just have to run computers day and night to make them pay for themselves. Still when you have a machine worth a few hundred thousand dollars, it just blows my mind to see that it is only one man and the machine. While this combine was grabbing corn and shelling it (the work of many people), there was another tractor with an auger wagon almost full of corn.

I’m sure the combine driver would finish a load and head home for lunch and come back with an empty wagon. It seems so weird that one person with machinery can do so much work.

I saw another example which I had been waiting to see.

We went over to Beaufort, NC to have a look at Blackbeard’s cannon which had just been raised to the surface after nearly three hundred years under water.

There were some reporters from local television stations setting up to do stories. At least one of them happen to be reporter and crew in one person. She got the camera running and started talking in front of it. She checked the film she had done and then interviewed someone with a camera crew.

I am not so sure, but the machines might be winning.

The information glut

Just right beachThere is something interesting that can happen if you write a lot on the web on specific topics.

You can end up being your own expert. That’s fine in theory but has some problems if you want to expand your knowledge.

Sometimes the web can be a crude tool when you used for search. Most books aren’t on the web, and we end up being reciprocal experts.

I provide you with information for the area you’re interested in, and you provide what I am looking for today.

We can do little more than hope that each of us is doing a good job. Considering it is hard enough to get anyone to proof your free writing for spelling errors, I seriously doubt that we will have much luck finding folks with the time to start checking for accuracy.

I hope we can keep ourselves from one hundred percent reliance on the web.

The reality is  that much of the web information is never validated. We have more information than we could ever hope to grasp, yet much of it means little.  We should be careful what we believe.

Maybe one of these days all those old encyclopedias will be worth something, or we will get some web sources that we can count on for accuracy.

Communicating without connecting

Roanoke ValleyWe have more ways to communicate today than ever before.

There is instant messaging, smart phones, voice mail, email, presentations, and even the venerable memos.

Sometimes it seems that we are saying more and understanding less.

We have lots of ways to say things and plenty gets said.

Often in spite of all the communication, people don’t understand each other.

Part of the problem is people don’t say what they mean. Another challenge is that some folk hear what they want to hear.

The challenge is to not only get the audience’s attention but to set the stage so that a properly crafted message hits receptive ears.

Few people can do this consistently. There are lots of tips that can help get a message across, most of them don’t involve technology and certainly not Powerpoint slides.

If I could pick one thing as important in setting the stage and delivering a message, I would pick consistent eye contact.

If you cannot look a person in the eye and say what you have to say, then don’t bother saying it.

The fine art of ignoring a phone call

Raymond's GutThere are places that phone calls should be ignored. This quiet spot near the White Oak River is one of them.

There are lots of other places also where phones are out of place. No one likes a phone in a restaurant, or at meal in your home.

We all fear the cellphone-using driver of a car when we see one making a turn or talking on the phone in heavy traffic.

Considering there isn’t a big difference in immediately taking a call and calling back when you are in safes spot, you wonder why taking or making the call now is so important. Even responding to the voice mail as quickly as possible is pefectly acceptable to most folks.

Some people have to catch the call at all costs, some let it mellow as a voicemail before responding, and then there is the group that doesn’t want to do either.

As technology has given us more tools to be connected, it has also given us more tools to choose the person with whom we might want to have a conversation.

I’m not sure that is good, but it is probably no different than hiding behind your secretary in the old days.

I take pride in returning my phone calls. Some I don’t want to make, but years of experience have taught me that it is better to get involved early in problems and to take the hits up front than to let trouble build.

It is strange though to see some of the Blackberry toting executives of today be just as disconnected from the real world as their predecessors in the sixties who relied on dragon-tongued secretaries.

We’re almost taking communications intravenously, yet some folks seem to be allergic to it.

Lost in the digital chaff

Clyde Phillips Shrimp BoatIt is so easy to take digital pictures that they have little intrinsic value these days. Anyone can also print them as high quality snapshots.

We have become so adept at capturing images that no one takes the time to appreciate good photography. Few actually make the effort to get the image onto to paper.

Some people never even get them off their cameras, Then there are those who tote the images around on their iPods, iPhotos, or other digital devices.

Of those who do print pictures, almost none take the time to try to print something other than a snapshot. Those who do try to print and sell large scale photos often find people who want the image but not the print.

I find it hard to even cover the costs of the ink for my Epson 4000 printer when I do large scale images.

If there are jobs harder than real estate, they might be selling digital prints for more than $24.95 or convincing people to pay attention to the real issues of the day.

As technology makes us more capable, it might also be making us less appreciative of  real life and some really great photos.

Lots of important things seem to be lost in the chaff of the modern world.

Maybe some of the pictures will at least live on as long as the servers keep the Internet humming.

The anonymity of technology

Raymond's GutWe can’t live without technology.  That’s no secret.

What is interesting is how technology has become something to hide behind.

People have online identities that are virtually untraceable.  It is not very hard to have an anonymous email account.  There are people who don’t even have the courage to have that anonymous account.

People also say things online that they would never say in person.  It is easy to write a note if you know no one can touch you. It is a whole different story if you are in an office and have to make the comment in person.

If talk is cheap, email is cheaper, and anonymous comments are the cheapest commodity in the land.

I have a number of blogs, one very popular one called Applepeels.  I have to moderate the comments there, because it often touches a raw nerve with some Apple people. Once in a while they write things in response to my posts that aren’t in the spirit of reasonable discourse to put it mildly.

As employees of a Fortune 500 company, you would expect that the Apple folks could provide some real arguments if I am off base.  Those real debates never happen with Apple people.

Unfortunately Apple is the North Korea of technology companies.  The one thing these people fear more than anything is losing their jobs if they speak in public forums.

They afraid to use their real identities.  I even had one Apple person make a comment, and send me a note asking for it to be removed because he thought he might have given away his identity.

Of course I removed it.  More troubling are the Apple people who have a hard time handling the truth.  Today I got a comment from one of them.  He has sent comments before and usually has the same thing to say.

All he can do is launch into personal attacks. It is course the sign of a very tiny mind.

His anonymous rants also highlight his cowardice since he never uses his real name or email.  I guess he doesn’t have the intelligence to set up an anonymous email account.

He hides behind the anonymity I allow.   Still technology keeps me one up and allows me to monitor the comments and not publish the ones that I don’t like.  I don’t force authentication because a few Apple folks will make intelligent comments, and I don’t want them to get fired.

In another time, I might have been writing opinion pieces and my cowardly antagonist would have sending anonymous poison pen letters.

While technology makes it easier to hide, it also makes it as simple as the click of the mouse to remove comments from the small minded folks who cannot stand the light of day.

Technology has just given us different tools with which to work.   On the one hand it is easier to control the idiots and on the other hand they can still be pests.

The new tools will probably always keep those of us who use them ahead of those who try to abuse them.

Reinventing business knowledge

Roanoke Valley Before SunriseThe last four years since I left Apple’s sales team have been interesting.

I have worked for a couple of other technology related companies.

One was full of youngsters who were determined to learn everything the hard way.

I have also done technology consulting, writing, photography, and I am now a Realtor® on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I ended up in real estate mostly because you can work a lot on your own, and there are plenty of older people already working in real estate. Still now is not an easy time to be in real estate.

I find myself at 58 years old more skilled than ever. I feel more knowledgeable than at any time in the past. I know more about technology than when I worked at Apple. I have learned Linux and Windows along with ultra high speed networking for research labs. I also sold email services.

With real estate, I went back to the classroom, and now I understand settlement statements and a host of other things.

I have written an article for pay for the Guardian newspaper in London. I have consulted on a couple of articles for the WSJ. I have even written well over 1,500 posts on the Internet.

I have sold prints as far away as Texas. My travel guides for Emerald Isle, Swansboro, and Beaufort, NC, all towns along the Southern Outer Banks, are highly ranked in Google search.

My websites get very good reviews, and in the last month four potential buyers from out of state have shown up to look at property. In today’s real estate market that is a near miracle.

The websites I create for my listings have everything from podcasts to movies. I have listed property and sold property.

The other day, I had some customers ready to give up on our area. I completely turned them around in a few minutes.

A lot of years in the trenches has taught me leadership and of necessity sales.

I think that I am pretty close to the top of my game, but in our world which increasingly values youth over experience, I find myself wondering why it is so hard to find a place to be really successful. You would think up and coming companies would want to suck my brain and those of others like me dry before they put us out to pasture.

Yet I have learned from experience that most companies would rather learn the hard way than listen to the experiences of others.

It is almost like we have created a class of individuals who are so sure they are right, that the only way they can learn is when they really screw up.

It is a hard way to do business, but it is becoming the American way as much of the talent and business knowledge retires. It is especially difficult for good customers.

Few companies have cultivated a strong relationship with more experienced employees. In high tech companies have been pushing older employees out the doors for years and replacing them with less expensive young employees who get no knowledge transfer from the older employees. The best new employees are sometimes the ones who can put on the best appearance of pretending to know what they are doing.

It seems to be the new mantra is don’t worry about not knowing how to do your job. We have plenty of customers for you to practice on over the next few years while you are figuring it out. It might be a way to save some dollars in the short term, but it is a foolish way to keep your business humming.

I guess it is good thing I have little at stake in these businesses. I can stick to my own business.

And in that there is always the satisfaction of mastering my new field and doing my job really well.

A box that we don’t understand

Gabrielle SunsetI once wrote a post, Our technological infirmity. It has the same title as I have chosen for this blog.

The post worries about all the great technology that we have which often no longer works without increasingly scarce expert help.

We might have more expert help to solve our problems, but we have decided we want that help for free or built into the cost of the products.

The products of course have become so inexpensive that the companies cannot afford to support them. Many companies assume there are so many customers they can afford to lose a few disgruntled ones.

Here in this blog, I am worried about something far worse. It hit me yesterday as I was waiting out Gabrielle on North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks. Our information has become even cheaper and possibly less reliable than our Chinese built products.

We have many people who have become so dependent on the views and experiences of others that they cannot tell the truth from hype or fiction. They have lost those skills. Technology might have contributed to their demise. On top of that we have no accountability for those publish shoddy information or lead people down the garden path with their rosy scenarios.

As the Weather Channel was trying to wish Gabrielle into a hurricane I had to smile at the Mayor of North Topsail beach as he ended his TV career by saying that the high water the reporter was trying to hype was no worse than what the area sees after a good thunderstorm. Yet people depend on this garbage.

It is not just television that fails to deliver accurate pictures of what is happening. Much of the print media cannot get it straight either. Add in reliance on a few experts who have little inclination to share their professional evaluations, and we have a soup of misinformation.

Then there is the whole world of advertising. No one seems to care when products don’t match the hyped advertising.

Our local paper had the Monday headline “Carteret get light rains, wind from storm.” Gabrielle had passed through on Sunday afternoon. It was gone by 7 pm. Perhaps some would excuse the paper because they had to publish early, but it appears to me they published a story that was written before the story was over.

At four pm yesterday, which we can at least hope was after this story was written, the skies opened and Carteret County got much more rain than even our weather experts were calling for in their late Sunday forecasts which went something like this.

…the rainfall total wasn’t expected to exceed one inch in Carteret County.

As I was reading that online, water was flooding down my driveway. We ended up with an additional one and one half inches of rain to bring our total to two inches which pales in comparison to Morehead City which got over three inches and Beaufort which got almost 8 inches.

We have become so accustomed to being entertained or even excited by our news that we have created a vicious circle of having to get news that meets that criteria of entertainment even if it is off the mark on credibility.

We have become consumers of headlines without really pondering the details below the headline.

Our local paper also had a headline today, “Whale shot with machine gun, harpoon off the coast of Washington state, survives.”

Unfortunately the first line of the story under the headline was the following.

A California gray whale that was harpooned and shot with a machine gun off the western tip of Washington state has died, officials said.

I guess the revised headline made for a better story than the real story. That’s not too different from the Weather Channel trying to make North Topsail Beach’s ongoing erosion problem a result of Gabrielle which wasn’t even as strong as the nor’easter we had last spring.

I don’t know where to put the weathermen who send us forecasts which are debunked by looking into our driveway. Weather is hard to forecast, but surely someone can tell when eight inches of rain is on the way. It would be nice if our news was as easy to verify as our local weather reports.

The only technology required for that verification is standing on your porch and looking. A computer doesn’t have to be involved at all. I can trust my eyes and my senses. I am glad they still work.