Mar 6, 2013
So we have all read books on the topic of outsourcing your life (4HWW, TWIF), and they recommend outsourcing tasks that are frankly a waste of your time. I remember sitting in a senior management meeting of a mid-sized company in 2002, the CEO stood on stage and encouraged all his managers to stop making copies leave that to the administrative staff. The intent was to focus efforts on strategic and higher skill related tasks utilizing resources at lower bill rates to do more administrative tasks. Great in concept but does it really work? I can understand in a larger company setting when you have staff supporting you who gets to know you and work with you, there is a certain learning where they can take over some specific tasks with high level direction, in the case of a short term resource or where language may be an issue it seems to be proving that its easier to just do some tasks yourself. In the spirit of GTD (David Allen) you can save up those tasks for a specific context where you knock all those lesser tasks in a moment most appropriate. When Lee Iacocca started work in the eBike startup he shared how in a large company you have many people surrounding you and in a startup you are the resource and you answer your own phone and make your own copies.
In today’s advanced world, we find ourselves constantly pursuing efficiency. We seek to outperform our contemporaries and we seek to expand our business and personal lives. With Tim Ferris covering Brickwork India and Your Man In India (YMII) / GetFriday.com) their business has expanded greatly. But as you see in the past 5 years the quality of these concepts has not increased. Increased demand has actually resulted in poor quality. New competition has entered the market (GetSunday.com) and often the skill set has decreased to many smaller tasks. In the time you explain what kind of flowers you wanted and where to send them when you could have done it yourself. Perhaps someone could have helped in finding all the options of where to send flowers from (ftd, 1-800-flowers.com, pro flowers, etc) and you could have had them review all your discounts available and search for coupons online.. but in the end the cost is not commiserate with the value.
So where does that leave us? The world is flat yet round? Is it cheaper to find someone locally for $15/hr part-time through Craigslist? Or someone half way around the world where you may have cultural, cognitive, language, and time zone differences? Is there an opportunity for north and south outsourcing yet un-tapped? Where you can take the time-zone factor out? Or is it better to look for resources in areas where wages might be lower but still be domestic and reduce many of those other issues.
The reason why America had a competitive advantage was the fact that our innovation improved our quality of life at a lower cost, our labor was cheaper, and our ability to do more work for less money increased. Today as India and China have growing educated workforces they have had a cheaper workforce especially in the manufacturing center. Today they also seek to expand that into knowledge work and in many cases this proves to but more cost effective.
In my experience working on a variety of large and small projects with a variety of regions from the baltics and asia. I have found that most require excessive documentation, hand holding, and extra support. In some cases it takes more resources to get less work.
In some cases this is the result of using under qualified resources that were over sold. In other cases its a context issue where you inability to directly manage the resources results in time sharing on the backend where a resource may be working multiple projects and yours may not get the appropriate attention it deserves. In the case of larger companies they may be able to bankroll these resources for staff augmentation and keeping them on longer engagements. This enables a greater focus on the work and organizational knowledge over time.
As an independent practitioner looking for a part time resource this still leaves a gap. While some have had very good experiences with virtual assistants, many do not and abandon the concept or change companies within a few months.
So how do you find quality part time resources that are cost effective, reliable, trustable, and well useful? I think the jury is still out, but its definitely an area for someone to emerge to fix that problem.
Jul 29, 2012
Are you getting the AssistantServices.framework bouncing in your dashboard when trying to use dictation in OS X Mountain Lion? This simple fix will get the framework to stop bouncing and for you to see the cool dictation box popup properly.
sudo vi /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/AssistantServices.framework/Versions/A/Resources/Info.plist
Insert the following between row 4 and 5 (right after <dict>) :
Save the file down and you’re all set; double click your fn button and dictate away.
Nov 9, 2009
The grand opening of the new Wegman’s grocery store near the house opened yesterday. The anticipation had been growing as the store had been under construction for some time… and early November was always far far away. The opening day finally arrived, November 8, 2009. It was mostly a non-event, until I realized Sunday morning that I needed to run out. The normal trek would have led me to a local grocery store if I was in a hurry (Giant or Harris Teeter), but more typically Target or Costco. Then I remembered; Wegman’s opened today, why not go check it out.
I arrived to the surpise of massive traffic jams getting into the parking lot. The first entrance was blocked by police. Routed around the corner I had what appeared to be angry Loudoun County Police officers very authoritatively pointing to move into alternate lanes. This took me around the back of the shopping center to the public parking… (this is where I would park if I was going anywhere but Wegman’s.. still the mini-town center is vacant at the moment). This is where things got interesting… despite the police and traffic routing… I found a parking place fairly quickly… as I walked toward the store I followed the loose line headed for the front. On my way I noticed a courtesey shuttle taking some of the older customers by van.. but it was a beautiful day — I opted to walk.
Approaching the door I passed a builder collecting personal data for a lead list offering up a chance to win a $500 gift card, I almost took my chances till they accosted me with questions like how much does my household make, and what price range of a home do I want to buy… i kept my partially completed entry form and worked my way to the door. At the door I was greeted by a couple of wireless terminals where the store employees happily scanned my Virginia license apparently getting enough information to allow me to "easily" cash checks in their store.. I declined on this feature and instead took my new customer affinity card and headed into the main entrance.
Simply put, it was a zoo. People packed in like sardines. That said this is the biggest store of it’s kind I think I have ever seen. Even more impressive than the Wegman’s on the other end of town. I grabbed the super small cart and found it easy to navigate through traffic, since I had to carry what I bought back to the car… I was on the light load… but I did have my Wegman’s coupon mailer that had free butter and flour… and figured that would be my first items to track down.
So the store was packed, but it was still interesting figuring the layout. This layout was sort of backwards from the other Wegman’s in the area which made it confusing at first to figure out. The people didnt help with the navigation either. Passing through the fresh produce… the auto-watering shelves were cool. The wine and seafood bar was pretty cool… especially as it was packed with people drinking white wine as their seafood was prepared. The indoor and outdoor seating was huge. I found the wine section to be more impressive …
I also noticed the price comparisons. Now there is something to note, I could not go five feet without hearing other customers on the phone saying how great all the prices were. I assume this was promotional and by design to establish a new customer relationship. Regardless, 12-pack soda was $2… they couldnt keep the shelves full. I also started to notice price comparison tags on select products… this product is cheaper than the same product at Costco, Harris Teeter, etc..
The the cheesy jazz band started to play behind the wine bar.. all in all it was an adventure. I spent two hours roaming the store… (and working through the crowds) … check out was seamless other than my new affinity card was not tied to my phone number yet..
All in all it was a great experience, and I will go back. What was most impressive was the attention to every detail and the preparations to drive people into the store and how hard they worked to establish that initial relationship… I applaud Wegman’s for the effort and wish them the best… which from overhearing some employees talking… the numbers for Sunday’s launch were well above projections…
Oct 31, 2009
About seven years ago after getting yet another speeding ticket, I sat across the table from my attorney at breakfast meeting one morning. I was inquiring to see if he knew anyone in a remote part of the country that could assist me with my legal traffic woes. It was in that moment he said, "you want my advice? get a Valentine1!"
So I did.
Granted, it was expensive compared to the other brands out there. It’s selling points were pretty clear. Well designed, detects pretty much anything they can throw at you, and was fairly invisible to the K40 radar detector detectors.
After some seven plus years, covering hundreds of thousands of miles on the road– The Valentine1 has been flawless.
…until last week, it suddenly started to see ghosts.. signals from everywhere around ever turn. Immediately, I checked for support on the website, which led me to believe I did in fact have a problem. I called the customer support line who reiterated what the website confirmed. Something was amiss.
Some $12 later, I had shipped the unit back to Ohio for repair. Feeling separated from a trusted part of the family. I waited for word…
…a week went by and FedEx arrived.. returned my Valentine1 returned to perfect function. Despite being loved for many years… and well used… the repairs were made at no cost and return shipping paid.
I must say that, I was fully prepared to pay the $45 diagnostic fee and reasonable repair charges, and had all been hopeless I would have found a way to buy a new one. But instead, Valentine1 exceeding all my expectations did the right thing to maintain their position in the marketplace as the high quality radar detector.
Thank you Valentine1 not only for an exceptional product but also for providing exceptional customer service!
Oct 30, 2009
Ran into the annoying mach-o problem for compiled rubygem extensions on a few gems (mainly RedCloth and CSVScan). First pass at Google rendered a few people who had experienced similar problems but no real solutions. Finally broke down and figured out how to fix it.
First, what is the problem; in the land of OSX you have many architectures this includes the old PowerPC world, 32-bit (i386), and 64-bit (x86_64). In the old world everything was always 32-bit and nobody was the wiser, but with Snow Leopard the world changed and suddenly you could run things in 64-bit. So here’s the rub, 64-bit and 32-bit dont play nicely together. They are consider different architectures and even as Apple has done a great job to provide 32-bit emulation when you have a 64-bit app that tries to access a 32-bit library or vs versa things stop working.
The fix is pretty simple, figure out what architecture your primary application is, then re-compile the library to comply. This error pops up usually as a “mach-o, but wrong architecture” error. And this is true across all languages but in this case I will explain how I fixed my rubygems that had incompatible bundle files.
Step 1: Identify which architecture you need. This goes both ways, if you have a 32-bit app with a 64-bit library you need a 32-bit library to run. If you have a 64-bit app with a 32-bit library you need a 64-bit library. Easiest way is to use the “file” command. If you dont mind larger executables you can compile all architectures in, but this wastes space. Below see a few examples.
prompt$ file /usr/local/bin/ruby
/usr/local/bin/ruby: Mach-O executable i386
$ file /bin/ls
/bin/ls: Mach-O universal binary with 2 architectures
/bin/ls (for architecture x86_64): Mach-O 64-bit executable x86_64
/bin/ls (for architecture i386): Mach-O executable i386
In the case of RedCloth, removed the 64-bit bundle;
$ sudo /bin/rm /usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/1.8/i686-darwin9.5.0/redcloth_scan.bundle
$ cd /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/RedCloth-4.2.2/ext/redcloth_scan/
Now you can edit your Makefile to include the ‘-arch i386′ or ‘-arch x86_64′, once again you can add one or both. For some reason most of the gem builds scripts don’t account for what version of ruby you run and default to 64-bit which is where the problem originates.
Edit your CFLAGS and ldflags or archflag and just add ‘-arch i386′ or ‘-arch x86_64′ to the lines. Run a make clean; make … then go back to the root of your gem and run the ruby setup.rb install. Make sure you dont re-run config as this will overwrite your Makefile changes. This will install your new bundle and you should be ready to go.