Stop Blocking!

Shel Holtz has started a site that encourages corporations to not block their employees from large chunks of the Internet: Stop Blocking!. From the site:

Companies everywhere are blocking employee access to the Net, fueled by questionable research and irresponsible pronouncements of self-serving individuals and organizations. This site is designed to serve as a hub information resource for those who believe the benefits of providing access far outweigh the risks.

Shel was kind enough to post a link to my idea about making online holiday shopping a benefit rather than an infraction. Shel’s initiative is combating all the misguided rules put in place instead of actual good management practices. Bravo!

Not to mention the damage companies do their employee’s ability to engage online on their employer’s behalf. Plus the recruiting implications. Think the generation coming out of college now will take well to corporate nannyware?

A final aside. Discovering Shel’s Stop Blocking initiative only happened because I wrote an entry and someone commented on it pointing to Shel’s site. I love the serendipitous discoveries that blogging creates for me.

DRM is Hazardous to Your Revenue

I answered a question yesterday about tools for applying digital rights management (DRM) to electronic products such as PDFs and digital video files.

The short answer is that you do not need to act like an big media executive in how you offer digital products. Applying DRM to your electronic publication products is counter productive in most cases. I offer a few more thoughts on this in the short slide presentation below.

As an aside: I’ve been having fun with this past week, as you may have noticed. The key to using this as a medium for sharing your ideas is to design for it. Slides from my presentations are optimized to support my talk. Slides on slideshare need to stand on their own.

Update: This set of slides is currently featured on the home page. Nobody can resist a good DRM smackdown.

Shopping Online at Work

I am quoted rather extensively in a West HR Advisor feature article on whether and how to monitor employees shopping online at work.

This article won’t be available online for long, so check it out now if you are interested. Funny how the president of an internet usage monitoring system recommends tracking both time spent online and content viewed by your employees. Gee, why would he say that?

My rebuttal:

Given the pros and cons of time-based monitoring, employers should put more effort into performance management. “Employees should be evaluated on how well they are achieving the outcomes they are supposed to do for their employer, not how long they spend surfing the web. If someone is meeting or exceeding their goals, who cares how long they spend online at work?” Gammel asks.

I even get the bottom line quote at the end:

“Ultimately, those who want to goof off will find ways to do so even if the web isn’t viable. This is a management and motivation problem, not one of monitoring,” Gammel says.

You have more fundamental problems in your business than online shopping if you have to go Big Brother on a regular basis. Installing nanny software may seem easier in the short run but it is not going to help improve the value of your employees’ contributions to the organization.

Here is an idea: if you know your employees are going to be shopping online during the day anyway, why not make it a benefit?

Announce that each employee is encouraged to spend up to 2 hours shopping online for the holidays. Tell them they have to work out coverage and scheduling with their bosses but that you want to recognize all they do for you year round by making their shopping a bit easier. You gain good will and scheduling efficiency while losing nothing that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

Marc Andreeson on Facebook's API

Marc Andreeson, founder of the original Netscape, has posted his thoughts on Facebook’s new API, which has created quite the storm of attention since it launched. This observation is quite interesting:

Analyzing the Facebook Platform, three weeks in

The implication is, in my view, quite clear — the Facebook Platform is primarily for use by either big companies, or venture-backed startups with the funding and capability to handle the slightly insane scale requirements. Individual developers are going to have a very hard time taking advantage of it in useful ways.

In short, creating a Facebook application with the API requires that you provide your own server resources to power the application. Facebook’s super-viral distribution of popular apps leads to crushing load on your web servers in a very short amount of time if you are (un)lucky enough to create a popular application.

The capacity to rapidly scale up server capacity is probably beyond even some large corporation’s ability unless they have specifically prepared themselves to do so. Your web application needs to be designed for scaling up the number of servers as well.

Draft Standard from ASAE Data Standards Committee

If you need some reading for beach this weekend, have I got a draft standards document for you!

Seriously, the draft standard described in the announcement below is the first step in an overall effort to improve the ability of association systems to integrate more effectively and efficiently. If you are an association IT exec or a technology vendor serving this market, please take the time to review and comment upon the draft.

The ASAE Data Standards Task Force is pleased to announce the release of
a draft standard for expressing constituent records in XML. This
standard will serve as a core for expanding into other data
representations. Therefore, it is especially critical to gather feedback
on the draft standard from the association technology community.

Please go to this page on the ASAE web site in order to download the
standards documents:

Please review the draft standard and consider how well it serves your
needs as an association or those of your customers if you are a
technology vendor. Once you have reviewed the standard, please provide
your comments.

You will need to register with the site in order to submit a comment,
but you do not have to be a member of ASAE. Go to the same page from
which you downloaded the documents
( and follow the
instructions on providing comments.

Non-IE browser (Firefox, Safari) users: Before logging in, you will
receive an error message “Website Certified by an Unknown Authority”.
Accept the certificate permanently and you’ll be able to continue.

Please share this message with your database experts on staff or with
supporting vendor companies. Their input as experts in implementing your
technology is highly valuable to the standards development process.

We thank you in advance for your critical review of the draft standard
and the feedback you provide.

On Launching and Marketing a Redesigned Web Site

There was an interesting thread last week on a list I subscribe to about how to best launch a major web site redesign. I ended up writing a white paper in response on how to best prepare for a web site launch from a technical standpoint: Five Critical Steps for a Successful Web Site Launch.

There was also a discussion of whether you should market the new site in advance or launch it quietly without fanfare. In my view, the decision should be driven by your overall goals and confidence in your timelines.

If the new site is the embodiment of a major initiative, making a splash with the launch may be in order. However, if you are not highly confident in your ability to stay on schedule, the soft launch will ameliorate a lot of potential risk.

Finally, when you do market the new site, focus on the new value it provides to visitors rather than the fact it is new. This sounds obvious but it is easy to lose sight of after the organization has invested so many resources in the effort.

Is IT Head Count a Relevant Benchmark?

I posted this question to an ASAE list earlier this week in response to a discussion of average IT positions per staff: do IT staffing averages serve much purpose these days?

My opinion is that, with so many options for outsourcing some functions combined with the increasing role of technology in operations (countervailing trends to a certain extent), I don’t think an average is going to be all that meaningful without a lot of additional controlling data that isn’t available in most studies. Similar organizations can have very different approaches to how much they use technology and how aggressively they outsource commodity functions. An average IT head count number won’t tell you anything useful on its own.