Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Good News about 2009 (Part I of III)

Now that everyone has come down off their contact high with the groundbreaking election (dare I say a well deserved victory), we can all start doing our work to figure out what the heck we civilians should be doing to help turn things around. If you've been following this blog for the last few months, I've been posting advice on how to get everything done more efficiently in the world of web, tech, computers and sometimes your interpersonal relationships (hint: if you try to put  your wife in Hibernate mode, it's time to take a step back from work).

Anywho, in my stream of consiousness way, I'd like to begin a three part series: The Good, the Bad, and the Lucky. Now I know all of you out there in Internet world want to get rolling right away with the lucky...but if you've earned your bones in business you know luck is something that is earned - not freely given. BTW Click here for an article from about the scientific background of luck. So I encourage you to thouroughly read through the first two parts of the series, and then roll with the third. Think of it as your trip through Heaven & Hell on the way to the Truth of things.

So, let's begin...

The Good: Part I of III

Most of us saw history in the making two weeks ago. The election of President Barack Obama has given a decent number of Americans - and members of the International Community - that small slice of Hope that things are gonna get better in the coming years. Of course for some in Middle America, the concept of having a President in office that doesn't think that Jay-Z is a well marketed sneaker manufacturer might be new to some, but I imagine that over time, the culture shock of that revelation will sink in, and we will all live in better harmony with one another.

Beyond this, there are some really, really cool things that the President brings to office. I will cite three in this blog.

For a primer on the first item, please quickly check out this article: Obama's personal win: keeping the BlackBerry - Yahoo! News.

Special thanks to Linda O'Donnell from Home Instead Senior Care for providing this article. 

Awesome thing #1: Yes folks that is correct - Mr. President will be bringing the concept of technology back into the Oval Office. It will start with the Blackberry that he often checks to keep in touch with friends and family (no, he's not TMing Abdimihniminiajed just yet), but if he sticks to his intent, we may just have the first President in history to have a laptop on his desk. 

Seemingly innocuous as it sounds, that is a wonderful cultural shift for Americans in general. As noted in the inaugural speech, the President cited our responsibility to help to return our Nation back to a place that we can all be proud of once again. Part of that challenge to us involves embracing ideas and initiatives that can help us to overcome the latest supposedly insurmountable odds that have been stacked against us. To accomplish this, I feel that embracing technology as a whole will play an integral part of the picture moving forward. More people will get on board - and not just soccer Moms checking up on their kid's activities on Facebook (a good thing).

Just think about the devices you use on a daily basis. From GPS systems to mobile phones to your computer loaded up with Microsoft Office (probably 2003...but you just gotta try 2007 - it rocks), most of us already have all the tools we need to more intricately track the projects, prospects and profit that flows through our hands on a daily basis. And when the financial industry recovers from its severely flawed processes of indulgence, the phoenix rising from the ashes will be - as my good friend Sven from Valley Cabinets says - "leaner and meaner". 

Additionally, new technologically savvy tracking methods, compliance and regulatory practices will be locked in, preventing the most affluent and wealthy of our society from taking more than their share...well, for the most part. I mean there will always be a few people who benefit from bucking the system and causing great harm, but in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always."

From an Intenet-based perspective, the picture is even brighter. Just looking at some of the current trends, we can already see a difference:
  • One survey cited 49% of retail respondents updating their web presence, either through design, development or search engine optimization
  • 76% of those expect higher sales as a result of their initiative
  • In December of 2008, Facebook added 222 million new unique visitors, and has grown 10% each month since September of '08. It is gearing itself up as a marketing platform for a new generation of people - not just to throw a fake snowball at your friends list (ugh), but to let your crew know what you and your business are really all about. (Source: Advertising Age - February 2, 2009)
  • New kid trends on the block will continue to grow, such as cloud computing - which allows many to start businesses and use only the small amount of resources they need in order to get things done. a good example is, which charges a monthly rate for Customer Relationship Management tools for the mobile workforce. This translates to a more measured way of doing business - akin to the concept of pay as you go mobile phones, which will open the doors of commerce to a new startup generation.
Positive shift #2 is that sharing and giving are back en vogue. For those of you who sympathize with Bernie Madoff, let me explain in very simple terms: The 2/3 of the world that don't have the advantages that the rest of us are blessed with NEED OUR HELP. And through the advent of new government-inspired programs, as well as truly good-hearted people such as Sensei Mike Malandra, those who suffer will not be forgotten.

Believe it or not, great rewards can be garnered from the simple child-like Faith to give. Take for example Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. He took the concept of Microcredit and applied it to the financial industry, offering very small loans to humble impoverished souls who could not offer any collateral. Astoundingly, the loans were paid back, and Grameen continues to grow today. In 2006, Mr. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Click here to learn more about Grameen Bank.

Even if you're sitting at home in your PJ's thinking "yeah whatever", let me put this out there for thought - I admittedly haven't had that much time on my hands this past year, working to organize Rockland Web Design into a business that can provide attractive, affordable and measurable website results (that's my 5 second commercial). However, one day after our radio show last year I was blessed with the presence of a woman who has struggled throughout her entire life. All she has wanted to do is make a difference...simple as that. And through our now weekly conversations, we're finding ways to keep that dream alive, even when it seems all hope is lost. (If you're reading this, ---------, I'll do my best to help you with the Anti-smoking initiative. ) My point is that you don't have to donate your entire life; just reserve some time each week to give back. Simple as that.

Cool thing #3 is that the world just got a little greener. :-) Over 50 billion dollars of the economic stimulus plan is reserved for energy efficiency projects, such as a smart electric grid, loan guarantees for renewable energy and more. This is a huge incentive for companies older than the first Christmas fruitcake to finally get on board, retool their manufacturing / production processes, and finally keep tabs on the environment.

One of my biggest pet peeves is paper. Way back when I used to work at Next Steps as a technology instructor, and I kept on pushing the staff to go completely digital. And while I do admit that paper has its purpose (recreational reading and quilted wiping), I still can't reconcile the unbelievable amount of paper waste that exists in this area even in light of our efforts toward recycling. So, I found a great tool that may help Rockland Web Design as we return from our networking and on-site Internet service efforts...the NeatDesk! It is a high speed scanning system that allows one to empty their pockets and desks of receipts, contracts and invoices, popping them into an Automatic Document Feeder and digitizing everything. When I saw it in action, I nearly cried.

Pardon the fuzziness, I needed to reduce the size of the embed coding.

Back to the point, a hopefully real green initiative means several things:
  • A new industry and opportunity for businesses to in which to grow,  innovate, profit
  • A source of employment for Americans searching for the next growth sector
  • Less waste and more reusable materials to get our work done
  • Perhaps, just perhaps...the existence of a breathable Earth in 2050
  • and very, very cool cars - check out the Aptera, currently being tested in Cali

For those of you that are looking for more hard numbers to justify all the Faith and Hope that I've spouted out in this article, all I've got is links to lots and lots of resources which may satisfy the naysaying for now (Peter Griffin: "And for all you naysayers, I have one thing to say to you...Cmon...cmon!".) If you read the next blog: "The Bad, Part II of III", you'll probably relish its content much much more. But for those of you that still have a little spark left in you, those that wonder if tomorrow can actually produce believable, significant meaning in our and others' lives, for those who are ready to RockOn...I salute you. This is your time. Let's get to it.

See you next week. Bring your notebook.

Tom Ossa
Web Strategist
Rockland Web Design
Stony Point, NY
(845) 271 - 4488

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to Be More Automatic

A few days ago, I patted myself on the back.

As 2009 rolled in, I realized that Rockland Web Design needed to change all of its forms, web-based materials and other important files with some updated company information. I was not relishing the idea of doing this; the vision of sitting at the desk until 2:30 am flashed through my mind a few times. Something like that should only be reserved for when you're hiding from the wrath of your significant other...wocka wocka.

So finally I convinced myself to start the project, and believe it or not - it took only a quarter of the time that I expected. Yay! The reason why is because I listened to some very important advice from my programmer friend Matt Galemmo of Deluge Interactive: "Always think automation." So, at the beginning of last year, I started 

As most of us go through our workdays, there are 50,000 urgent little  things that - at first glance - seem to look like the coming of the AntiChrist unless attended to within 14 seconds of first knowledge of them. And while you'll hear a few different theories on how to handle them, the truth is that they don't just magically go away - even after you take care of the most important, long-term tasks that will help your company grow, you will still need to go back to your "priority 3" tasks and start mopping up the mess.

So below are 5 techie suggestions to help you automate your daily tasks, and help you to deal with them in a more timely fashion:
  1. "Think automation" in everything you do: Matt was right - if you start thinking about your urgent tasks in terms of how things could be sped up when encountered, you start considering very, very cool solutions for making your life easier. 

  2. Detect patterns: If you see or hear something once, no big deal. If you start hearing the same problem occurring over and over again, you have a real opportunity to make the situation easier to deal with, if you stop and consider the root cause. But first you need to detect the recurring situation, such as too many emails to answer, difficulty in generating contracts, filling out forms.

  3. Take time to discover a solution to the problem: Face it, you are probably not laying out the technical schematic of a solution oriented module that will alleviate the designated core challenge. So the hell with it...just sit down at your computer and create something that will actually work, and keep tinkering with it until it is as close to perfect as possible. Just don't get too O.C.D. about Irene Gutmann from Eagle Life Coaching reminded me recently, "we are not God, and sometimes good enough is good enough."

  4. Create templates: For instance, if your forms need to be updated every year, perhaps you should be creating templates or re-usable documents that allow you to change the information once or twice in a few locations, and once saved, automatically changes all your other documents. Sweeeeet!

  5. Deploy your new system: I just wanted to write the word "deploy". But what I really mean is to take your new system out for a spin. If it doesn't make your life easier, go back to steps 3 and 4 and work on it again. If it does, start plopping information into it. One thing I am planning for the office for the New Year is to use a paper-scanning system called NeatCo, which allows you to literally walk in the office, drop 35 or so paper items into a mega-scanner tool, and it all shows up on your PC. No more clutter on the desk, and once it gets in the computer each item can be quickly filed to the place where it belongs. rockOn!
Make sense? Good. Now try it out this week. Here's a few examples of places in your business life that you can start with the 5 steps:
  • Sales leads - Every time the phone rings, a new email comes in, or you return from a network meeting, do you have a place to put your stuff that you can easily access? If when a contact calls you and it takes you more than 15 seconds to find their information, the answer is no. Consider either creating an Excel Spreadsheet with all your lead information, or perhaps employ a web-based system such as Salesforce to enter information. If you need something a bit more customized for your company, Rockland Web Design can build a good web based system for you, which can be accessed from anywhere.

  • Financials - hopefully your company is doing this already, but I strongly recommend that you use an accounting software or web application such as Quickbooks to maintain every penny your company spends. And if you are inexperienced in using it, get an expert to help set it up. I used Karen Caccavo from Personal Money Manager. If you live in Rockland, Bergen, or Westchester County, give her a call.

  • Contracts - When a new sale is created, do you take a long time to write up your contracts from scratch? On Word Documents, there is a little-known function called "MacroButton". It helps you to add quick information to a contract in key locations, leaving the rest to be typed once and done. Learn more about MacroButton by clicking here.

  • Website - I don't need to toot our own horn here, so I won't. If you don't use Rockland Web Design currently, that is ok. But keep your mind open to suggestions from your web person to make many of your daily tasks as automatic as possible. A recent client of ours is very happy that we thought through some daily tasks of theirs with an eye on the long-term, so now they can log in and add their stuff quickly and easily.
There are plenty of other examples. Feel free to post your stories about how you automated your world. 

Also, a great resource for thinking ahead Steven Covey's book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". The book changed my life about 10 years ago. I hope it will, or has done the same for you.

And finally, I'd like to say this; if you are frustrated, if you are saying "Oh my God I just can't take this anymore!"'s ok. The only way we grow as businesspersons...and as human beings, is to go through the trials and tribulations of continuing to work to get it right. As Irene had mentioned, "good enough is good enough". So if you don't get it the first few times, keep trying to adjust. Just don't make the mistake of giving up on adjustments. If you do, I can recommend a really good Chiropractor to do it for you.

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Dark Side of Social Networking - Viruses

No...I'm not talking about the viruses you can catch when you Socially Network in person.

If you're reading this, you're probably a web-savvy person. But even those that have a higher level of tech knowledge are getting hit by a seemingly innocuous which could spell great trouble if not avoided.

Several days ago, a very good friend of mine posted an item on my wall stating that she posted my profile pix on "Floatfaint-com". (You'll notice that I wrote a dash instead of a dot - that's because if it were a dot, it might show up as a link, and Facebook might detect it and try to remove the posting...also I don't want you to go there accidentally, because I care, dammit) Anyway, of course I wanted to check it out because I was curious. But once I got there, I was asked for my user name and password; a BIG NO-NO.

After checking around, I found a lot of my friends had the same problem. After doing some research I found out that there is a new wave of attacks by morally destitute hackers - this one was not as harmful as most, but is used to trick a person into submitting their email address and other information, presumably for the purpose of spamming. A blogger from the reputable security company Trend Micro found that the spammer owns several hundred domains, and is known to have links to cybercriminals. 

There are other dangerous attacks that are of them in recent months is named the Koobface Virus, which hacks into a profile to gather personal information, and potentially turn a victim's computer into a Zombie attacking computer, takes your cc info, etc. etc.

I quickly informed my friend of the situation. She was smart to quickly change her password, and also notify all of her friends that any such posts are NOT from her.  Great job!

Here are five ways you can prevent a Social Networking Attack:

  1. Check the source - a new website, idea or fun application is not necessarily bad. But in line with Bill Gates' motto "Trust But Verify", make sure you find out where this thing comes from. If someone recommended a site to you, check with that person before installing anything or visiting the site. If you receive an email, look at the email address very closely to ensure it is from a reputable source. And before you install anything with a .exe extension, double and triple check the source!

  2. Protect your password like George Costanza - You remember that episode where he wouldn't give the password "Bosco" out to anyone...even his fiancee or a guy stuck in a burning ATM booth? That might be a bit extreme, but if your password or profile information is requested, be vewwwy vewwwy careful.

  3. Don't install tons of third party applications - Let's face(book) it, we allow a lot of apps to access our personal info. But how many of them do we actually use? I do use a few like Superpoke, Test Your IQ and What Superhero are you (I was Professor Xavier), but we don't have enough time to use all of them. Therefore I suggest that you keep your apps down let's say 10. And make sure others have used them so you know they are safe

  4. Help your friends protect themselves - If you see something suspect on someone else's profile, let them know. If they don't respond right away you might want to even consider writing on their wall to ignore particular messages that may have been posted as a result of a hack. I did this when my friend did not respond right away, and I think she appreciated it. (If you don't hear from me in a week, it means she did not appreciate it, and she used a baseball bat to state her case).

  5. This one is pretty Captain Obvious, but make sure you have good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. I recommend AVG or Norton for Antivirus, and Spybot as an AntiSpy. Also check out Comodo - a free firewall that I've used for the last year. It is a paranoid little program, but my PC has been safe thus far.
Some additional resources regarding the latest Facebook Information:
Hey everyone...Happy New Year. I know some of you out there are worried about the economy and the state of the world, but remember that success isn't just measured in dollars and cents. Care for your fellow human beings, and the rest will take care of itself. God Bless all of you in 2009 and beyond. "rockOn!"


Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488