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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DailyGood: 10 Worst Listening Habits -- and Their Cure

Tell Me Your Story
--by Dan Gottlieb (Jun 09, 2008)
Listen To Reading!

It came to me in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago, four words that could change the world:
Tell me your story.
These four words could have an impact on everything from global conflict to personal well-being. All we have to do is ask others to tell us their stories and then be quiet. Oh, one other thing: While you are listening, try to imagine what it would be like - and how you would feel - if it were your story. That's called empathy.
So just ask people for their stories, listen, imagine, and feel - sounds naive, doesn't it? Stick with me here.
First, saying these words will change you. Listening to others is an act of emotional generosity, and there is ample evidence that generosity stimulates the brain's endorphins - natural antidepressants. [...]
Second, this little exercise will change the person whose story you've asked for. Socrates may have overstated the issue a bit when he said, in modern translation, "an unexamined life is not worth living," but we humans do have a fundamental need to be understood for who we are. Think of how full we feel when someone looks in our eyes and says she wants to know how we experience our lives.
In today's world, social networks are shrinking. The number of people who report having no intimate friends is increasing. Simple eye contact, along with a caring "tell me your story," can go a long way toward diminishing someone's feelings of alienation and aloneness. I've spoken those words to kids of all ages in all kinds of neighborhoods. Most thank me for asking - and say that no one has ever done so before.
Third, beyond diminishing alienation and increasing a sense of connection, these four words can have a biological effect on both parties. According to Herbert Adler, a psychiatrist at Jefferson, compassion in the doctor-patient relationship actually changes each person's biological healing system. And if that happens in those relationships, it happens in other relationships. It literally promotes healing.
(...) Try it with a neighbor you don't know very well, a relative with whom you've had a misunderstanding. Try it with a street person and see what happens to both of you.
Just four words. We could start a movement.
--Dan Gottlieb

10 Worst Listening Habits -- and Their Cure

University of Missouri Extension

CM150, Reviewed October 1993

Listening: Our Most Used Communication Skill

Dick Lee and Delmar Hatesohl
Extension and Agricultural Information

Listening is the communication skill most of us use the most frequently.

Various studies stress the importance of listening as a communication skill. A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.


Several reasons are likely.

Listening training unavailable

Even though listening is the communication skill we use most frequently, it is also the skill in which we've had the least training. From personal experience, we know we've had much more formal training in other major communication skills — writing, reading, speaking. In fact, very few persons have had any extended formal training in listening.

The same is true of informal training. It's not difficult to find workshops and conferences that provide opportunities to improve our writing and speaking skills. But it is difficult to find similar training programs to sharpen listening skills.

Thought speed greater than speaking speed

Another reason for poor listening skills is that you and I can think faster than someone else can speak. Most of us speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute. However, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking at 400 words per minute (if that were possible).

This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we're using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. We still have 75 percent to do something else with. So, our minds will wander.

This means we need to make a real effort to listen carefully and concentrate more of our mental capacity on the listening act. If we don't concentrate, we soon find that our minds have turned to other ideas.

We are inefficient listeners

Numerous tests confirm that we are inefficient listeners. Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50 percent of what was said.

Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50 percent to a final level of 25 percent efficiency.

In other words, we often comprehend and retain only one fourth of what we hear. We all want to be more than 25 percent efficient. It's not difficult to see the many problems inefficient listeners can create for themselves and others. Poor listening causes us many personal and professional problems.

Listening skill suffers with age

Other studies indicate that our listening skill suffers as we get older. Ralph G. Nichols, long-time professor of rhetoric at the University of Minnesota (now retired), says in his book Are You Listening? that "if we define the good listener as one giving full attention to the speaker, first-grade children are the best listeners of all."

Nichols describes an experiment conducted with the cooperation of Minneapolis teachers from first grade through high school. Each teacher involved was asked to interrupt classes and suddenly ask pupils "what were you thinking about?" or "what was I talking about?"

Results were discouraging but informative. The answers of first and second graders showed that more than 90 percent were listening. Percentages dropped in higher grades. In junior high school classes, only 44 percent of the students were listening. In high school classes, the average dropped to 28 percent.

Listening is hard work

Another likely reason for inefficient listening is that it's hard work to listen intently. Have you been forced to listen intently for an extended period of time? Try to remember your feelings. You were probably physically and mentally tired after such a period of concentration.

Ten worst listening habits

Nichols has described in speeches and articles the "10 worst listening habits of American people." He says that listening training is primarily eliminating bad habits and replacing them with good listening habits and skills.

Here are the 10 bad listening habits. You'll recognize some that you have and that you can make an effort to correct.

1. Call the subject matter uninteresting

You go to a meeting, the chairman announces the topic or you see it on a program, and say to yourself, "Gee, how dull can it get anyhow? You'd think they could get a decent speaker on a decent subject."

So you've convinced yourself the topic is uninteresting and you turn to the many other thoughts and concerns you've stored up in your mind for just such an occasion — you start using that unoccupied 75 percent of your mental capacity.

A good listener, on the other hand, might start at the same point but arrives at a different conclusion. The good listener says, "Gee, that sounds like a dull subject and I don't see how it could help me in my work. But I'm here, so I guess I'll pay attention and see what the speaker has to say. Maybe there will be something I can use."

2. Criticize the delivery or appearance of the speaker

Many of us do this on a regular basis. We tend to mentally criticize the speaker for not speaking distinctly, for talking too softly, for reading, for not looking the audience in the eye. We often do the same thing with the speaker's appearance. If speakers aren't dressed as we think they should be, we probably tend not to listen closely or we may immediately classify the speaker as a liberal or conservative, a hippie or a square.

But if we concentrate on what the speaker is saying, we may begin to get the message and we may even get interested. Remember, the message is more important than the form in which it is delivered.

3. Become too stimulated

We may hear a speaker say something with which we disagree. Then we can get so concerned that our train of thought causes us to spend more time developing counter arguments so that we no longer listen to the speaker's additional comments. We are busy formulating questions in our mind to ask the speaker, or we may be thinking of arguments that can be used to rebut the speaker. In cases like this, our listening efficiency drops to nearly zero because of over-stimulation. So, hear the speaker out before you judge him or her.

4. Listen only for facts

Too many of us listen for facts and, while we may recall some isolated facts, we miss the primary thrust or idea the speaker is trying to make. Be sure that your concern for facts doesn't prevent you from hearing the speaker's primary points.

5. Try to outline everything that is being said

Many speakers are so unorganized that their comments really can't be outlined in any logical manner. It's better to listen, in such a case, for the main point. A good listener has many systems of taking notes and selects the best one to fit a speaker.

6. Fake attention

This is probably one of the more common bad listening habits. If you're speaking to a group and suddenly you become aware that most of your audience is sitting with chin in hand staring at you, that is a good signal that attention is being faked. Their eyes are on you but their minds are miles away. We probably have developed our own faking skills to a high point. Let's recognize what we're doing and eliminate faking as a poor listening habit.

7. Tolerate or create distractions

People who whisper in an audience of listeners fall into this category. Some distractions can be corrected (closing a door, turning a radio off) to improve the listening atmosphere.

8. Evade the difficult

We tend to listen to things that are easy to comprehend and avoid things that are more difficult. The principle of least effort will operate in listening if we allow it to do so.

9. Submit to emotional words

We're all aware of the emotional impact of some words. Democrat and Republican are emotional words for some people. So are northern and southern for others. There are hundreds of examples. Don't let emotional words get in the way of hearing what a speaker is really saying.

10. Waste thought power

Nichol's 10th bad listening habit is the one he feels is most important. It is wasting the differential between thought speed and the speed at which most people speak.

Three ways to improve listening skill

Nichols says there are three things that you can do to help yourself stop wasting thought power and become a better listener.

One is to anticipate the speaker's next point
If you anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If you anticipate incorrectly, you wonder why and this too helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points. By and large, we use only three ways to build points: We explain the point, we get emotional and harangue the point, or we illustrate the point with a factual illustration. A sophisticated listener knows this. He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. This becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve yourself as a listener is to periodically make mental summaries as you listen. A good listener takes advantage of short pauses to summarize mentally what has been said. These periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

In summary, most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist. We think faster than others speak. Listening is hard work.

We've listed some ways to improve skills
to concentrate, to summarize, to avoid faking, and others. Just as important are your attitudes — be positive, concerned, sincere.

It's a challenge to be a good listener. But good listeners get big rewards.

CM150, reviewed October 1993

Introduction to hire purchase and leasing

Study Notes: Business Finance & Accounting

The acquisition of assets - particularly expensive capital equipment - is a major commitment for many businesses. How that acquisition is funded requires careful planning.
Rather than pay for the asset outright using cash, it can often make sense for businesses to look for ways of spreading the cost of acquiring an asset, to coincide with the timing of the revenue generated by the business.The most common sources of medium term finance for investment in capital assets are Hire Purchase and Leasing.
Leasing and hire purchase are financial facilities which allow a business to use an asset over a fixed period, in return for regular payments. The business customer chooses the equipment it requires and the finance company buys it on behalf of the business.
Many kinds of business asset are suitable for financing using hire purchase or leasing, including:

- Plant and machinery

- Business cars
- Commercial vehicles
- Agricultural equipment
- Hotel equipment
- Medical and dental equipment
- Computers, including software packages
-Office equipment

Hire purchase
With a hire purchase agreement, after all the payments have been made, the business customer becomes the owner of the equipment. This ownership transfer either automatically or on payment of an option to purchase fee.
For tax purposes, from the beginning of the agreement the business customer is treated as the owner of the equipment and so can claim capital allowances. Capital allowances can be a significant tax incentive for businesses to invest in new plant and machinery or to upgrade information systems.
Under a hire purchase agreement, the business customer is normally responsible for maintenance of the equipment.

The fundamental characteristic of a lease is that ownership never passes to the business customer.
Instead, the leasing company claims the capital allowances and passes some of the benefit on to the business customer, by way of reduced rental charges.
The business customer can generally deduct the full cost of lease rentals from taxable income, as a trading expense.
As with hire purchase, the business customer will normally be responsible for maintenance of the equipment.
There are a variety of types of leasing arrangement:

Finance Leasing
The finance lease or 'full payout lease' is closest to the hire purchase alternative. The leasing company recovers the full cost of the equipment, plus charges, over the period of the lease.
Although the business customer does not own the equipment, they have most of the 'risks and rewards' associated with ownership. They are responsible for maintaining and insuring the asset and must show the leased asset on their balance sheet as a capital item.
When the lease period ends, the leasing company will usually agree to a secondary lease period at significantly reduced payments. Alternatively, if the business wishes to stop using the equipment, it may be sold second-hand to an unrelated third party. The business arranges the sale on behalf of the leasing company and obtains the bulk of the sale proceeds.

Operating Leasing
If a business needs a piece of equipment for a shorter time, then operating leasing may be the answer. The leasing company will lease the equipment, expecting to sell it secondhand at the end of the lease, or to lease it again to someone else. It will, therefore, not need to recover the full cost of the equipment through the lease rentals.
This type of leasing is common for equipment where there is a well-established secondhand market (e.g. cars and construction equipment). The lease period will usually be for two to three years, although it may be much longer, but is always less than the working life of the machine.
Assets financed under operating leases are not shown as assets on the balance sheet. Instead, the entire operating lease cost is treated as a cost in the profit and loss account.

Contract Hire
Contract hire is a form of operating lease and it is often used for vehicles.
The leasing company undertakes some responsibility for the management and maintenance of the vehicles. Services can include regular maintenance and repair costs, replacement of tyres and batteries, providing replacement vehicles, roadside assistance and recovery services and payment of the vehicle licences.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Facebook to slay mobile makers with HTC 'Buffy' phone: report

November 23, 2011
Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

This post was originally published on Mashable

Facebook is working with HTC to develop a phone that has a much deeper integration with the social network than any previous "Facebook phone". That's according to a report from All Things D, which says the phone is probably 12 to 18 months away from hitting store shelves.
Codenamed "Buffy" after the vampire slayer of the same name, the phone will run a modified version of Google's Android, but Facebook is reported to be tweaking the system "heavily". HTC is known for modifying Android on its phones with its HTC Sense interface, and both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have created tablets with highly customised versions of the Android, so it's possible that Facebook is adopting a similar strategy.
Part of the package would be serving up Facebook apps via HTML5 support. This would allow users to play games like Farmville and Poker directly from the Facebook app. While most developers offer their apps as separate downloads from Facebook, that prevents them from tapping into active Facebook users, while cutting Facebook off from potential revenues. Buffy would presumably bridge the gap.
Buffy will be far from the first Facebook phone. Earlier this year INQ Mobile released two phones, the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q that put the service front and centre. Then HTC took it a step further with the Status, which came to the US on telco AT&T this year and featured a prominent dedicated Facebook button. Finally, Facebook released an app designed specifically for the iPad in October.
Apple, however, hasn't played as nice with Facebook as the service might have liked, however. When Apple unveiled iOS 5, the latest major update to the software on iPhones and iPads, it featured deeper integration with Twitter — letting users share photos directly from the phone's camera app, for example. An option for sharing to Facebook was noticeably absent.
Both HTC and Facebook told Mashable that they don't comment on rumour and speculation, though the Facebook spokesperson added, "Our mobile strategy is simple: we think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world."
The collaborative picture Facebook paints is a far cry from the ultra-competitive war among mobile platforms with Google, Apple, Facebook, and others vying for consumers' hearts and minds. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the rumoured phone is the codename. With a name like Buffy, the Facebook phone's mission is clear: slay all comers.

Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.

Read more:

Red hot, smoking iPhone self-combusts on airliner

November 29, 2011 - 1:03PM
The iPhone 4 Regional Express has regulators investigating.
The iPhone 4 Regional Express has regulators investigating. Photo: Supplied

An Apple iPhone 4 was glowing red hot and emitted a "significant amount" of dense smoke as it spontaneously combusted on board a flight in Australia in the second reported incident of its kind in the past month.
It's not the first time electronic devices have exploded or caught fire. Numerous incidents have occurred over the past decade including Dell laptops catching fire, a journalist's LG phone catching fire and Sony Australia recalling 4300 laptops (440,000 globally) from its Vaio TZ series due to fears they could overheat, damaging the machines and potentially burning users. In 2009 iPhone users in France also reported similar incidents.
Advertisement: Story continues below
The anonumous reader's iPhone after its battery allegedly "exploded".
The anonymous reader's iPhone after its battery allegedly "exploded". Photo: Supplied

The incident involving a passenger's iPhone 4 glowing red hot occurred on board Regional Express flight ZL319 operating from Lismore to Sydney last Friday after landing, the airline reported.
The second incident, which Fairfax Media was made aware of by an anonymous reader, allegedly happened on November 3 when their iPhone 3GS (an earlier model) did something similar. The reader provided pictures as evidence.
In an emailed statement at 12.35pm today, Apple Australia spokeswoman Fiona Martin said the company was looking "forward to working with officials" investigating the first incident. No comment was offered on the second incident.
The underside of a Dell laptop which burst into flames in Singapore in 2006. Inset: the burn mark on the table top.
The underside of a Dell laptop which burst into flames in Singapore in 2006. Inset: the burn mark on the table top.

In a statement regarding the first incident, Regional Express said a flight attendant carried out "recovery actions" immediately and that the red glow was extinguished successfully, adding that the matter has been reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) as well as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for investigation and directions. All passengers and crew on board were unharmed, the airline said.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told Fairfax today that the ATSB was going to strip the iPhone 4 down "and try and understand what happened". The intention was "to do that some time this week", he said, adding that the iPhone 4 was no longer operational. Anecdotally he had never heard of a similar incident occurring during or after a flight.
An ATSB spokeswoman said it was very early in their investigation "for anything to happen in regards to the investigation". Its website lists the incident as involving fumes, smoke and fire.

The second incident involved an iPhone 3G model's battery allegedly exploding after a software upgrade.
"My iPhone was expanding in size in terms of its width," the anonymous reader said. "[It] continued to grow in size. Before long the phone refused to even turn on and ... just expanded to what it looks like now."
The reader noted that - like others - their battery life "was rapidly shrinking after updating to the iOS5 .... so much so that it would go completely flat once I got to 30 per cent". Apple acknowledged battery life issues remained after another update.
The reader suspected there was a clear link between their upgrade to the iOS5 software and their battery "exploding".
They said that what was "even worse" was the fact that Apple requested $89 for their iPhone 3GS to be fixed. "I'm the person who lost all their contacts, all my saved university files, all my photos - and now I'm the one whose being asked to fork out the dollars to get it fixed. Are you kidding me?"

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

Read more:

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 10 most important things to teach your Excel users

The 10 most important things to teach your Excel users
By Susan Harkins | November 23, 2011, 7:57 AM PST

Excel users come in all levels, from novice to power user to developer. But there are several Excel behaviors and features everyone needs to learn.

Some of these seem basic. But to the novice, they can seem like rocket science — at least until you explain them. With these skills conquered, even beginners can use Excel competently.

1: Absolute and relative referencing
Without a good understanding of absolute and relative referencing, a user doesn't stand a chance of setting up a reliable spreadsheet. Throw in 3-D and mixed referencing and the novice user will become thoroughly confused. Don't assume your users know how to apply absolute and relative referencing correctly.

2: Limitations
All applications come with some limitations. The problem is these limitations can generate ambiguous errors that users won't know how to troubleshoot. Even casual users should be aware of the software's limitations for non-Ribbon and Ribbon versions to avoid hard-to-troubleshoot errors.

3: Quick help on functions
Excel has more functions than anyone can hope to commit to memory. Fortunately, that isn't necessary. Built-in features help users pick the right function and use it correctly. First, during the data entry process, Excel displays a list of functions. Users can choose from this list or just use the list to help trigger their memory. In the Formula bar, users can click Fx to launch the Insert Function dialog, which helps them choose and enter the function correctly. Users also have quick online access to information on Excel functions.

4: Right-clicking
Right-clicking an object — cell, range, control, form, and so on — is the quickest way to gather information about something. A right-click will usually display a contextual menu that will apply to the clicked object. It's the fastest way to get information and perform simple tasks. Even if nothing happens, it doesn't hurt to try.

5: User preferences
Everyone works differently. And although Excel does a decent job of anticipating the needs of the average user, some users will prefer things to work their way. Show users how to explore these options. In Excel 2003, you'll find them in the Options group off the Tools menu. In Office 2007, click the Office button and choose Excel Options. In Excel 2010, click the File tab and select Options under Help. There are many options, and users don't have to know them all. They just need to know that they have choices.

6: The fill handle
Excel's fill handle is an amazing tool that saves time when entering formulas or creating a series of values. You'll have to show it to them, because it's not exactly intuitive. They might or might not find it by themselves. Even if they do find it, unless they understand #1, their results will be inconsistent.

7: Formula auditing
A formula that doesn't return the expected results is frustrating. Sometimes there's a problem with the evaluated data, but it isn't obvious. Sometimes, the formula's just wrong. Either way, auditing the formula will usually pinpoint the problem. There are two ways to audit a formula and you'll want users to know about both:
Highlight references in the Formula bar and press [F9] to evaluate just the highlighted component.
Use The Evaluate Formula tool in the Formula Auditing group on the Formulas tab.
Both methods will help users work through problems on their own, and it will help them learn about functions, formulas, and referencing.
Users should also know how to quickly find cells that formulas reference. First, select the formula cell and then press [Ctrl]+[. Excel will highlight all the referenced cells and move to the first reference in the formula. Use [Enter] to move through the highlighted cells. To highlight formulas that reference the current cell, press [Ctrl]+].

8: Stored values vs. displayed values
Formats determine how Excel displays values, and the displayed value doesn't always reflect the stored value. Consequently, formulas often return unexpected results, which might confuse users — Excel's not calculating right! What's wrong? — when Excel is performing exactly as it should. It's a simple guideline that users need to understand: Excel evaluates the stored value, not the displayed value. If they review the stored values in the Formula bar, the results will make sense.

9: Status bar info
Excel's Status bar is full of practical information, and with a quick right-click, users can customize the display. Several indicators alert users to current use, such as selection and overtype mode, whether a toggle such as Scroll Lock is on, page number, and so on. Perhaps its neatest trick is the display of the Sum, Average, and Count functions, which automatically evaluate the selected values. It's handy for those unexpected questions on the fly. Even a novice user can use this trick confidentially.

10: Paste Special options
This feature takes care of a number of problems, from pasting text without the original formats to returning values in place of the evaluating formulas to letting you work with filtered sets. Users don't have to know all of its tricks, but they'll certainly work more efficiently if they do.

Bonus tips: Data Validation and named ranges
A worksheet is only as good as its data. If users enter the wrong data, nothing else matters. Excel's Data Validation feature goes a long way toward protecting the validity of data by rejecting invalid entries. Your users should be able to implement this feature. At the very least, they should be able to recognize it at work and know not to circumvent it in distributed workbooks.
And one final tip: Learn to use named ranges. Your users can work reasonably well in Excel without knowing about named ranges, but creating, understanding, and maintaining formulas will be much easier if they use them.

Social media, American Express helping holiday shoppers get good deals

Social media, American Express helping holiday shoppers get good deals
Christina DesMarais | Nov. 28, 2011

Move over Black Friday, it's Small Business Saturday, and American Express has a deal for you that you can use online social networks to help you get.
The credit card company is encouraging people to do their holiday shopping at small local businesses instead of big box retailers. It is giving its cardholders a $25 credit on their statements when they spend $25 or more at a local business Saturday.
To get the deal, you can sync your American Express card to your Facebook or Foursquare accounts. After inputting your name, email address and card number, Facebook will not only give you access to deals such as $2 back after spending $10 at Burger King, but also lets you add the $25 deal.
After doing so, you'll get a message telling you that you will receive a $25 statement credit when you spend $25 or more at a small business on Nov. 26, 2011. Click the 'Confirm' button to register, and use your linked American Express Card to redeem the offer.
The Foursquare sync is especially cool since the app is all about making the most of local businesses.
In case you haven't used it, Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that lets people "check in" to local businesses using a smartphone and share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges.
When you sync your American Express card to the app Saturday, Foursquare will show you which local businesses are offering deals for Small Business Saturday and also make sure you get the $25 American Express credit when you use your card at one of them.
To use the Foursquare sync and get the $25 deal, just use the app to check in to a business, then tap the button that says "load to card." Shortly after you pay, you'll receive notification that you just got at $25 American Express account credit, which will appear on your statement around five business days later.
This marks the second Small Business Saturday. Last year, 1.5 million people "liked" the event on Facebook. This year that number has climbed to more than 2.6 million.

Tech at the heart of StanChart drive to innovate

Tech at the heart of StanChart drive to innovate
Chee Sing Chan | Nov. 23, 2011
Standard Chartered's CIO in Hong Kong, Ashley Veasey talks to Computerworld Hong Kong about the bank's new vigor for innovative customer services and the role IT plays in the company's success

CWHK: How did you get into career in technology?

Ashley Veasey (AV): A computer science degree at university is where it started and that came about due to parental advice. My parents suggested three things for me to consider: first was a career in banking; second was to look at technology and applications; the third was to do something more exciting like missile defense or aerospace. In the end, I plumped for banking and technology.

CWHK: And your first job after university?

AV: My first job was at Citibank, then I did two years at a US consulting firm that was just setting up in the UK and I recalled the office was initially like a telephone box stuck in the middle of Heathrow Airport--we could fit no more than two people in there and we were flying everyday. After a stint as a consultant, I went back to banking and joined JP Morgan in New York.

After that, I joined a startup in London during the dotcom rush when everyone was jumping into web startups. Having been at a small firm before I was used to pulling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty again -- it's so different from corporate life and I'd do it all again. Thankfully, I didn't lose my shirt but I learned a lot. That came and went, then an opportunity at Standard Chartered came up.

The bank seemed quite progressive in their plans so I did one year in UK before heading to Asia to take on a role in Singapore. Following that I was CIO Thailand and Vietnam for two years and, now, I am based here in Hong Kong, our largest market globally.

CWHK: Recall your days as a computer science student, was technology seen as an exciting career path then?

AV: Looking back then, technology was definitely seen as a unique and sexy career, much more than it is now. It was the days of the old IBM PCs in the 80s running on Intel 8088 processors with 10 MB hard drives, black screens and dinky green characters. Everyone was still looking at computers and wondering about all the new possibilities that computers could bring.

But more recently, there's a less enthusiastic perception around technology, since the dotcom bust and the subsequent fallout of failed web ventures. However, we are seeing a shift right now with the rise of social media and new consumer technology devices.

We are seeing a lot of young people coming out of university and while they are interested in banking, they are also interested in technology. What's appealing to Generation Y employees is the buzz around consumer technology with all the gadgets that are on the market now. They have a keen sense to explore how these technologies can be connected to create new ways of doing business and improve people's lives or, in our case, it's about improving customer service.

The shift to enterprise mobility is an important part of the bank's strategy. Standard Chartered is the first bank to make a bold move and adopt iOS as the main mobile platform. As a direct result of our adoption of iPhones and iPads, we have drawn a lot of young professionals to explore working within the technology function of our bank.

There's a definite pull of people back towards careers in technology as a result of these trends but it's a very different side of technology compared to what I grew up with.

CWHK: Standard Chartered has historically been a very conservative bank but with things like your move to iPhone, launching a raft of mobile and other online services, is innovation and pushing the boundary a key strategy today?

AV: Over the past seven or eight years, the bank has invested in technology to be at the forefront of new ways of doing business and this has resulted in several service innovations, such as our Breeze suite of banking apps. To be fair, our competitors have some good offerings in the market, however, we also look at how other industries are creating outstanding customer experiences. We look at how companies like Starbucks and Nike have differentiated themselves in their space and really focused on the customer.

For us on the retail banking side and to some extent on wholesale banking too, there are two key themes for us: technology convergence and innovation. But it's not about innovating for the sake of innovation, it is part of our strategy to put the customer right at the heart of everything we do -- looking after customers, safeguarding their money, and providing security of systems and data.

We're making sure we listen to our customers. So instead of expecting customers to come to us, we look for new ways to reach out to them. That's a real change in mindset which is necessary if we are to successfully address the next generation of customers. I recall pleading to my son to go with me to a bank branch to open his first bank account and he just sat there motionless at his computer, hands hovering over the keyboard. Kids these days are likely to do everything from their PC, so opening a bank account shouldn't be a problem either.

CWHK: We've seen a number of banks have technology problems and service outages, how do you balance new services and innovative offerings with the need to be secure and reliable.

AV: At the end of the day, we remind ourselves that we are a bank, not a media company or a technology company. We manage our customers' money and so we do everything to retain our customers' trust. While we are exploring new technologies, before we roll out any new mobility offering or new feature on ATMs, iPhones or iPads, we absolutely make security and reliability paramount in all that we offer.

The basics must always be in place first. It's like a layer cake, we need to have the fundamentals like secure and reliable transaction processing systems all in place before starting to add the layers of mobile and online banking. We prioritize these basics before adding on the layers of innovation.

CWHK: Detail some highlights in your job as a CIO?

AV: The diversity of the CIO role is what is compelling and exciting for me. My role combines technology and operations, much like a COO, we could coin a new position -- the CIOO. Add to that the different locations I've had the opportunity to work and the role becomes very exciting in the number of different things we as technologists can do to change and improve the business. I feel genuinely that I can make more of a difference in a technology role than in a business role with the way technology drives the business today.

However, the aspect of my job that gives me most satisfaction is seeing the people who work for me develop and grow. It could be seeing them taking on new and larger roles or watching them succeed and win awards. More than anything, the business of banking technology is all about people and seeing our people succeed is the most gratifying thing. As a technology leader, I spend at least 50 percent of my time on people matters, helping them meet new challenges, helping them overcome change and work closely with our business units.

7-Eleven US hits growth spurt

7-Eleven Hits Growth Spurt
Business Focus - Nov 23,2011

DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. will open about 650 U.S. stores this year, more than double the number of new stores it opened in 2010, according to a published report.

The Dallas-based company saw an increase in acquisition opportunities, while also having organic store growth, Sean Duffy, senior vice president of development, told the Dallas Business Journal.

"We had opportunities with the ExxonMobil stores that were for sale and lot of the older companies selling their assets," Duffy said.

In August, 7-Eleven acquired 51 north Texas ExxonMobil On the Run stores. Duffy said those stores will be converted in January. The company also acquired 183 ExxonMobil stores in Florida and 188 Wilson Farms locations in June.

CSNews Online reported last month that retailer had finished converting the first seven Wilson Farms stores to the 7-Eleven brand, part of its multimillion-dollar investment in western New York State, according to Mark Senay, 7-Eleven's operations director.

The remaining Wilson Farms stores are expected to be converted in 2012.

According to the 2011 Convenience Store News Top 100 report, 7-Eleven was the fastest-growing convenience store chain in the United States during the one-year period that ended April 30, 2011. The company added 204 net new stores during that period, edging out Shell Oil (195 net new units), Casey's General Stores (95 units), and Sunoco (85 units), according to Nielsen TDLinx store count data.

7-Eleven's expansion goals include Canada, as well. CSNews Online also reported last month that the retailer plans to open up to 200 new stores in Ontario from 2012 to 2016, with the bulk of this growth focused on the Toronto area.

"What is driving our growth plan is we believe we are incredibly under-stored in a vibrant area of Canada," Ken Barnes, regional development director for 7-Eleven, said at the International Council of Shopping Centers conference. "There are a lot of people here and not nearly enough 7-Elevens."

The expansion would significantly boost 7-Eleven's presence in Toronto. It currently operates 467 locations in Canada.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Divorce in the Age of Twitter

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 08:31 AM PST

Editor's note: Guest contributor Miles Beckett is the CEO and and co-Founder f EQAL, the media company that builds influencer networks around celebrities and brands. He was the co-creator of the original web video series lonelygirl15, and was previously a medical doctor.

Divorce.  It happens to the best of us.  As emotionally heart wrenching as it can be, it's even worse now that we're living out our lives on the public stages of Facebook, Twitter and the like.  If the recent very public separation of Ashton and Demi is any indication, it's only going to get worse.  As a former physician, current internet entrepreneur, and ever-curious observer of the human condition, I'm fascinated by how the internet is broadly shaping our culture, and the day-to-day implications this has on our interpersonal relationships.

It used to be simple, our public lives and private lives were distinctly separated by physical boundaries.  It was really hard to bring public attention to our relationship status in the days before iPhones, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and most of us didn't need to think about our "public image", nor did many people care.  The closest historical analogues to Facebook and Twitter were the society pages in newspapers around the country, but those were only available to an elite class more comfortable with the concept of maintaining a carefully constructed public image.  Now we all have the ability to broadcast our lives, but many of us aren't equipped with the tools to handle it.

It's no surprise that there is a national fascination with celebrity relationships.  Just as with every other aspect of their lives, their marriages and divorces are a reflection of ours, and now more than ever we can learn from their successes and failures.  Like a giant tripping and falling with a massive BOOM!, when a celebrity makes a mistake on Twitter they crash and burn harder than us "regular people."  Ashton and Demi provide a lesson for all of us, both their successes as early adopters of the medium, and their more recent breakdowns.

I've learned a lot of lessons about how to navigate a celebrity brand through both positive and negative PR.  I've also spent some time talking to everyday, non-famous people about how they managed their personal brand during their divorce.  There used to be another layer of privacy, but now relationships can become very public very quickly.  I found that everyone from my next door neighbor to a veteran entertainment publicist agree that we must now control our urges to make the private public unless we are prepared to live with the consequences.

With this in mind, here are my "Do's" and "Don'ts" for managing your relationship, separation or divorce while living in the public eye:


Be open about your relationship status once it's formalized and all loose ends are handled (it will become public whether you like it or not)

"Hide" your ex from your Facebook feed and move them to "Limited Profile" (you need a little separation and privacy!)

Show public civility between you and your ex (tagging them in photos or @replying them when appropriate is okay)

Continue Tweeting and Facebooking once the divorce has happened (it's important to confidently move forward with "business as usual")

Try to move on, have fun and share that with your friends and followers (everyone likes a winner)


Tweet, Facebook, 'Booth, Batch, or 'Gram scantily clad photos of yourself to anyone (they will be used against you…)

Use a Twitter handle that incorporates your spouse's name (@mrskutcher has a dilemma on her hands)

Sell your ring on Craigslist (can we say, "tacky"?)

Post nasty updates about your ex on Facebook and Twitter (no one likes a sore loser)

Confide in your Twitter and Facebook audience before you confide in your significant other (no one likes a surprise)

Un-friend or un-follow your ex (it's public and nasty, just ask Kim or, um, Kris)

Bottom line:  Pause and think before you Tweet.

10 ways to combat the threat of mobile malware

10 ways to combat the threat of mobile malware
By Ben Conner | November 23, 2011, 2:54 PM PST
With the number of mobile device users rapidly increasing and the growing saturation of mobile devices in the enterprise, mobile malware has become a topic of major concern. But even though mobile security has begun to get more attention, consumers are still under-informed about the dangers of malware. All smartphone users — as well as enterprise IT teams — need to be aware of the severity of mobile malware and take steps to avoid it. Here are some tips that can help.
1: Do some research
Research and test any apps in the market before downloading to your smartphone and always read reviews on the app before installing. Make sure you aren't getting an application that can expose your data. Always look at feedback from other users of applications that you are downloading, as they often comment on suspicious and malicious applications.
Android can be particularly vulnerable due to its popularity and the open ecosystem; you can get applications from diverse repositories. iOS follows a "walled garden" mentality, providing additional oversight into the applications that can be installed.
Consider a policy of application whitelisting. While this method presents increased administration, it can be worth the trouble. By allowing only whitelisted applications to be installed, you can fully test any software before it gets released to the user base.
2: Avoid risky app stores
Use only legitimate app stores that scan for and remove infected apps, and don't enable the setting to allow third-party applications. Stay informed on applications that have been removed.
Unless you have jailbroken your iOS device, Apple will have you covered on this point. You can't download anything outside the Apple app store. However, third-party applications and app stores are common for Android. The applications available via outside markets will not be vetted as well as native-market applications. At a minimum, stay with trusted markets, such as the Amazon App store, and avoid applications posted on Web sites that aren't available in the Android Market.
3: Turn off your Bluetooth/Wi-Fi
Do not leave Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on unless you're going to use it. When you're done, turn it off.
Ensure that Bluetooth is not in discoverable mode. Bluetooth has a range of about 10 feet for a mobile device. However, some high-powered devices can achieve a range of up to 300 feet. If your Bluetooth configuration is not secured properly, you're providing an opportunity for someone to gain access to your device.
Disabling Wi-Fi when you aren't using it will prevent your device from attaching to an unknown network. When you're on a public network, you're opening yourself to man-in-the-middle attacks and traffic snooping.
4: Use up-to-date AV software
Ensure that your antivirus protections are up to date and applied at the client, email server, and Internet gateways. When you connect your device to any mail server or Internet site, you are potentially exposing yourself to unwanted attacks and viruses. Make sure that you are securing your mailbox before a virus can reach your device. Just as you monitor the AV software on your PC, you need to apply the same practices to make sure that your mobile security software is as effective as possible.
5: Avoid weak passwords
Always use complex passwords to lock/protect your device, and set an idle timeout to lock it. If someone can get into your device, you're exposing not only what is stored locally, but also any Internet resources you're attached to. Using a complex password can help prevent your data from being made public from a lost or stolen device.
In addition to your device password, make sure you have a complex password protecting your iTunes or Google account. With the release of Apple's iCloud, when an application is installed on one device, that application can be automatically pushed to your other devices. So if you lose your iPod and someone installs malware on it, that application can get pushed to your iPhone without your noticing it. Strong passwords are the best defense.
6: Don't store passwords or sensitive data on your mobile device
If you're storing passwords on your device, you might be unknowingly exposing them to other applications. Be careful that you aren't allowing malware to transfer your passwords to the Internet for others to use. Also, be wary of any application advertising to store your passwords for you. If you find one you trust, check the permissions on the application to make sure it doesn't need any unexpected access to other nonrelated functions.
Many applications can access data stored on your device. Keeping sensitive data off of your device will help ensure that it doesn't become exposed to malware.
7: Encrypt your mobile device data stores
Encrypting data is especially important if you store sensitive company information on the device. In addition, use hardware encryption when possible. Hardware encryption uses your complex password to create an encryption key. This key and password are needed to decrypt the data on the device. Without any encryption, you are potentially opening up full access to your data.
With iOS, take advantage of the Find My iPhone application to locate and/or remotely wipe your device.
8: Be careful with permissions
Read the permissions you're granting an app before installing it. Always be aware of the level of access you're allowing an app to have. Anytime you install an application, you're granting it permission to take certain actions. Always review and understand exactly what you're allowing that application to do. And with Android, keep an eye on the applications you're granting administrative rights to.
If a simple application is asking for permission to send and receive SMS or MMS messages, consider that a red flag. Be sure that the requested permissions are commensurate with the expected function of the application.
9: Watch what you open
Just as you would with your PC, be careful of any emails, attachments, and URLs you open. This is just good Internet practice. Don't open suspicious attachments or follow links to unfamiliar Web sites. Remove emails from people you don't know. Be aware of your activity in email and on the Internet.
10: Don't jailbreak or root your device
Not only are you voiding your device warranty, but you are also exposing yourself to any malicious code that might be embedded in the application you use to jailbreak the device. You might be tempted to forgo security in favor of increasing functionality; however, you will remove the security architecture that was built into your smartphone. If you subsequently get malware onto your device, the mechanisms for protecting your device and data will have been weakened.
Mark Hansard is vice president of systems and security and Ben Conner is a product manager at Virtela Technology Services Incorporated, a managed network, security, and cloud services provider.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Visa introduces mobile payments for emerging markets

Visa introduces mobile payments for emerging markets
John Ribeiro | Nov. 18, 2011
Visa has introduced a payments product designed for emerging markets to serve the needs of "unbanked and under-banked consumers" who have mobile phones.

The trend in emerging markets is that mobile phone penetration will be higher than bank penetration, Brad Jones, director for mobile money at Visa, said Thursday. Consumers are far more likely to have a mobile phone than a bank account, he added.

The prepaid Visa account can be accessed through a mobile phone and can be used by account holders to send funds to each other, send and receive international remittances, make purchases at merchants or online where Visa is accepted, or withdraw funds at a Visa ATM (automated teller machine), Visa said in a statement.

Users of the payments product will not require Internet connections on their mobile phones, and will be able to use the cheaper phones in the market, Jones said.

The common access channel for the product is USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) which can be accessed on low-cost handsets, Jones said. USSD is a protocol used by GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones to communicate with the operator's computers.

The technology for the service comes from the company's acquisition earlier this year of Fundamo, a South African vendor of a mobile financial services platform for financial institutions and mobile operators.

Users at ATMs or aiming to make transactions online will have to enter combinations of the mobile number linked to their account, an identification number, and a CVV (card verification value) code issued to them, Jones said.

Visa plans to work with existing mobile money programs to extend their functionality and interoperability with other systems. It said that developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are among the first target markets for the new product.

A tie-up with Visa will help customers who are using closed-loop mobile money systems to connect outside the loop to ATMs and points-of-sale, international businesses, and online transactions, Jones said. "It is really increasing the transactions that those consumers have available to them today," he added.

MTN Group, a telecommunications provider in Africa and the Middle East, plans to offer the new Visa product to MTN MobileMoney customers across its markets. As part of the Thursday launch, the new product will be available to customers in Nigeria and Uganda.

MTN MobileMoney is an electronic wallet service that enables users to send and receive money from other mobile users, as well as withdraw cash and send money to people who do not have mobile phones through MTN-designated agents. Customers can deposit money into their prepaid accounts at MTN service centers or through MTN agents, according to information MTN's Uganda website.

Mobile payment services are a large opportunity both for banks trying to extend their reach, and mobile operators trying to boost revenue, according to analysts.

A number of banks in India for example have tied with mobile operators to take mobile payment services to India's poor who do not have access to banks, but have mobile phone connections. The payment services have got a boost after the country's central bank, Reserve Bank of India, allowed banks to appoint "banking correspondents" in remote areas to open new accounts, dispense and accept cash from customers, and offer other services on behalf of the bank.

In June, Nokia started shipping mobile phones in India that were preloaded with its banking application, based on the Obopay mobile payment platform. It is offering services with two banks in India, and is offering some of its retail outlets as correspondents to banks, a spokeswoman said. The deal with one bank has brought the company 500,000 users so far.

Google wants to help 50,000 Malaysian businesses get online

Google wants to help 50,000 Malaysian businesses get online
AvantiKumar | Nov. 24, 2011

PHOTO - Hiral Doshi, proud owner of Urbanwaves, is among the first SMEs that set up a website through GMBO.

Internet giant Google together with Malaysian regulator MCMC [Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission], domain name registrar .my DOMAIN REGISTRY and regional training provider Itrain, want to help 50,000 Malaysian businesses get online with the launch of a new scheme called 'Get Malaysian Business Online' (GMBO).
Speaking on 22 November 2011, Google Malaysia country head Sajith Sivanandan said four-fifths of Malaysian small businesses still do not have a website, which means they are invisible to two-thirds of the Malaysian population as well as the rest of the global market who are online. Malaysian agency SME Corp figures show that out of the 700,000 Malaysian SMEs that are currently operating in Malaysia, only 100,000 have a website.
"We think there is tremendous growth potential for Malaysian SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and this programme is part of our long term commitment to the country which we hope can bring about tangible economic benefits for all Malaysians," said Sivanandan, adding that 17.5 million Malaysians regularly turn to the Internet to research local shops and services.
He said the first 10,000 participants are to get a free website, including domain name and hosting for a year, said the partners on 22 November 2011. "Through GMBO, Malaysian businesses with zero online presence should take no longer than one working day (upon domain approval) to get their business websites up and running with no strings attached."
GMBO training
'MCMC is glad to be sponsoring the 10,000 domains for the 'early birds' to this programme, and together with Google and our other partners, we intend to take GMBO nationwide," said MCMC chairman, Dato' Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi.
"It is our fervent hope that this attractive package can help SMEs to register their business online where they are able to widen their market and increase sales," said .my DOMAIN REGISTRY chief executive officer, Tengku Intan Narqiah Tengku Othman. "Having your own website also signifies that you are serious in business dealings besides having a local presence with .my domain name."
"We will be conducting GMBO training around several major locations nationwide including East Malaysia and we look forward to exploring the vast potential of the Internet and assisting our homegrown SMEs," said ITrain chief executive officer, Bikesh Lakhmichand.
To set-up a website, a Malaysian business needs to visit the GMBO site at and enter their business details such as licence number, business phone number, street address and opening hours, among others.

NEC Corporation of Malaysia has new MD

NEC Corporation of Malaysia has new MD
AvantiKumar | Nov. 24, 2011

PHOTO - NEC Corporation Malaysia MD - Andrew LEE Kok Wah.

IT solutions provider NEC has appointed Andrew Lee Kok Wah as the new managing director for NEC Corporation of Malaysia. Lee will replace Daisaku Takeuchi who held the post since June 2007.

In a statement on 21 November, NEC said Takeuchi will be returning to NEC Corporation in Japan. "With more than 20 years of experience in the local IT industry, Mr Lee brings with him a wealth of experience in the IT business. Prior to this appointment, Mr Lee was the general manager and director of the board under its Solution & Distribution Business Unit in Jardine OneSolution, where he was responsible for leading the solutions and distributions business operations of the company in Malaysia."
Prior to this, Lee was the country manager with CSA Distribution, before it was acquired by Jardine OneSolution in 2000. Lee was also with Canon Marketing (M), in charge of direct and channel sales to develop and grow its inkjet business under the Computer Division.
"NEC is a leading technology company in the world, with many innovative solutions and applications for both public and private enterprises," said Lee. "With my experience and knowledge of the local IT industry, I am keen to promote and bring in NEC's cutting-edge technologies to the local market. I look forward to work closely with the other NEC subsidiaries in the Asia Pacific region to grow the NEC brand and business together in Malaysia."

25 "Worst Passwords" Of 2011

25 "Worst Passwords" Of 2011 Revealed
By David Coursey | Forbes - Wed, Nov 23, 2011

If you see your password below, STOP!

Do not finish reading this post and immediately go change your password -- before you forget. You will probably make changes in several places since passwords tend to be reused for multiple accounts.

Here are two lists, the first compiled by SplashData:

1. password

2. 123456


4. qwerty

5. abc123

6. monkey

7. 1234567

8. letmein

9. trustno1

10. dragon

11. baseball

12. 111111

13. iloveyou

14. master

15. sunshine

16. ashley

17. bailey

18. passw0rd

19. shadow

20. 123123

21. 654321

22. superman

23. qazwsx

24. michael

25. football

Last year, Imperva looked at 32 million passwords stolen from RockYou, a hacked website, and released its own Top 10 "worst" list:

1. 123456

2. 12345

3. 123456789

4. Password

5. iloveyou

6. princess

7. rockyou

8. 1234567

9. 12345678

10. abc123

If you've gotten this far and don't see any of your passwords, that's good news. But, note that complex passwords combining letters and numbers, such as passw0rd (with the "o" replaced by a zero) are starting to get onto the 2011 list. abc123 is a mixed password that showed up on both lists.

Last year, Imperva provided a list of password best practices, created by NASA to help its users protect their rocket science, they include:

It should contain at least eight characters

It should contain a mix of four different types of characters - upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters such as !@#$%^&*,;" If there is only one letter or special character, it should not be either the first or last character in the password.

It should not be a name, a slang word, or any word in the dictionary. It should not include any part of your name or your e-mail address.

Following that advice, of course, means you'll create a password that will be impossible, unless you try a trick credited to security guru Bruce Schneir: Turn a sentence into a password.

For example, "Now I lay me down to sleep" might become nilmDOWN2s, a 10-character password that won't be found in any dictionary.

Can't remember that password? Schneir says it's OK to write it down and put it in your wallet, or better yet keep a hint in your wallet. Just don't also include a list of the sites and services that password works with. Try to use a different password on every service, but if you can't do that, at least develop a set of passwords that you use at different sites.

Someday, we will use authentication schemes, perhaps biometrics, that don't require so much jumping through hoops to protect our data. But, in the meantime, passwords are all most of us have, so they ought to be strong enough to do the job.

The 3 Generations Wealth proverb

富不過三代(富不过三代) (fu bu guo san dai)

Literally: Wealth does not pass three generations.

Meaning: It's rare that the wealth of a family can last for three generations (the 2nd may see the value of hard work, but the 3rd forgets it).

Explanation: In business, the first generation works extremely hard, so that the second generation reaps the benefits. By the time the third generation arrives, the wealth is squandered.

Compare: the proverb of Lancashire, England: "Clogs to clogs in three generations: the first generation makes it [money/wealth], the second generation saves it and the third generation spends it!". In Victorian times, clogs were wooden soled working mens' shoes, commonly worn in the factories of Northern England.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stephen Bayley: The gentle art of selling yourself | From the Observer | The Observer

From the Observer
The gentle art of selling yourself
You are your own finest creation, says our design critic, Stephen Bayley. Here are his tips for making the best possible impression

reddit this
Stephen Bayley
The Observer, Sunday 4 March 2007
Article history
'You do,' someone once said, 'a very good impression of yourself.' Self-invented people are the most interesting ones of all. Believe me, I know. Technically, you and I are much the same: 96.2 per cent organic elements, including water, the proteins of RNA and DNA, lipids and sugars. Then there's oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, calcium, sulphur and traces of chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, tin and zinc. The difference is in the intangibles of the personality we create for ourselves.

John Osborne was a great self-invention. He said: 'I was born with a sense of loss, a feeling of things withheld and banished.' Osborne, acting to the end and even beyond, was buried in a Turnbull & Asser smoking jacket with a favourite edition of Hamlet with all the parts crossed out except the protagonist's. Splendid stuff.

It wasn't that bad for me. I grew up comfortable, but rootless, most psychologically at ease in the back of a car or in a restaurant. Actually, I am convinced my passion for modern architecture and design was based on a need to find substantial values in a shifting, temporarily Godless, universe. That was the beginning of my self-invention, but it is not just me. We are all at it. We are all works of art, or, perhaps more accurately, works of architecture with those three essential elements of core, frame and envelope. For the moment, I am most concerned with the envelope. As Machiavelli knew, appearances are real.

So it is important to understand how we make an impression. You give a first impression whether you want to or not, so best make it work for you.

Psychologists know that first impressions are based on our spontaneous assessment of status, clothes, sex, age, size and posture, speech and facial expression. Let's just deal with the clothes. Lord Chesterfield advised his son: 'Dress is a very foolish thing; and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well-dressed.' And Jay McInerney says of life today in meritocratic Manhattan: 'You won't be judged by your accent... but you will be judged by your shoes.'

This is nothing to do with Church's or with Prada but with attitude and style - style being the dress of thought, the feather that makes the arrow fly straight, not the feather you put in your cap. It matters because somebody who does not care about their appearance will care about little else. But we are locked in a game of continuous evaluation from which there is no escape to a value-free neutrality. Even the decision not to wear clothes betrays a set of prejudices. The person who says: 'I don't care what I wear, I just put on a T-shirt and jeans' is merely confirming how much he cares about creating a certain sort of wearily insouciant impression.

In matters of dress, you can be sympathetic to your audience, subvert it or confront it, but you should not ignore it. Kandinsky constructed his vivid and elaborate abstractions while wearing a tailored three-piece with a watch chain. His Bauhaus colleague Moholy-Nagy (while working on his life's project which he called 'the hygiene of the optical') wore a boiler suit to demonstrate technical credentials. I would dress differently for, say, a book launch, a date (even with my wife), a student lecture or a formal meeting where I was hoping to raise £5m from a Swiss bank. And it might not be exactly as you suspect: the flowered shirt with jeans for the bankers and the dark blue suit for the students would, I think, make the most interesting impression.

In all of this self-invention, confidence plays a part. The great thing about confidence is that it is self-perpetuating. Get a little and you will soon have some more. It's a cumulative process; as people respond positively, your confidence builds. Sometimes, the most unlikely people lack the confidence trick. The formidable Beatrice Webb said: 'If I ever felt inclined to be timid as I was going into a room full of people, I would say to myself, "You're the cleverest member of one of the cleverest families in the cleverest class in the cleverest nation in the world; why should you be frightened?"' Try this, I recommend it.

Disraeli is helpful here. His 'never complain and never explain' is well-known, but I particularly enjoy Elbert Hubbard's addendum: 'Your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you.' Anyway, being disliked can be a powerful stimulus to high performance.

But you do not have to be present to do effective self-invention - you can do it remotely, via the Post Office. In a man's letters, his soul is laid bare, so the craft of writing has a special significance in DIY design. In the early days of the mail, postage was paid by the receiver, but Rowland Hill's conceptual revolution made it payable by the sender. Thus the psychology of sending letters is significant. To write a letter is to show you have spent money, spent time and made an effort. I discovered very early on the power of the letter, a powerful tool in teenage courtship - more powerful still now that the majority of the post is garbage and any clown can generate something exquisite in Helvetica 14 point. The price of decent writing paper and a first-class stamp is one of the great bargains. A letter is an opportunity to write an advertisement for yourself.

I also discovered the power of postcards. First, they are amazingly cheap to make. I had an early period where I copied Expressionist woodcuts, matched them to depressing quotations in German and had them printed in the hundreds by the local copyshop. I have now matured to homilies from Ruskin printed in woodblock on handmade paper by a master typographer, but the principle is the same. Then there is the question of the correspondence itself. Four or five square inches requires real ingenuity to make sense or be funny. Writing sensibly on a postcard is an exercise in data compression, similar to - but more demanding than - text message. No one exhibits your texts for inspection on the mantelpiece. Postcards are a personal form of viral marketing.

If you are pitching yourself in a letter or a postcard, the handwriting assumes terrific significance. I developed an extravagant hand, loosely modelled on what I thought was an architectural style: black ink, italic, splashy, a weird combination of high visibility and low legibility, but it nonetheless impresses. I have often thought that hearing a woman say: 'You have beautiful handwriting' is one of the most seductive moments of all.

Indeed, a newspaper once sent my handwriting away for graphological analysis, a sort of psychological blind-tasting. The result came back: 'His presentation skills are off the chart, as is his creative thinking. He is opinionated, innovative and people-oriented. Blessed with the courage of his own convictions, he leans to extremes, black or white. Never grey. You simply can't ignore him. The word "bolshie" comes to mind.' This delighted me so much I have it as a header on my curriculum vitae (just in case anybody should ever ask for it).

A certain audacity in conversation, a reckless promiscuousness with reference, are other elements of the self-invention package. It is said the recipe for happiness is good health and a bad memory, but a good memory works better. I learnt that powerful recall and an ability to quote quotes and cite dates gave a persuasive simulacrum of high intelligence. I discovered at university that a certain lecturer's notes were taken verbatim from a standard work (I used to amuse chums by running my finger along the lines in synch at the back of the auditorium) and this taught me that very few people are truly in possession of the intellectual or academic authority they claim. This was an invitation to boldness. If you have the nerve to say it, something like, 'There's a charming little panel by Valdes Leal in the monastery at Elciego' has an impressive effect. There isn't, but who will refute you?

Stephen Potter advocated a similar device in the notoriously tricky area of wine snobbery. He recommended saying something completely meaningless, such as: 'This wine has great corners.' But the important thing is to say something interesting. There's a wonderful self-portrait by Salvator Rosa in London's National Gallery. It carries the inscription 'Aut tace aut loquere meliora silentio'. Shut up, or say something useful. They do a very nice postcard of it. I have used lots.

Of course, there are dangers in designing your own personality. Marcel Proust and Cary Grant had a lot in common besides fastidious taste in clothes. Each knew that the most dangerous sort of plagiarism was self-plagiarism. Grant perfected a screen persona of dazzling suavity and effortless cool. Hauntingly, he once said: 'Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.'

It is said that we are all three different people: the person we think we are (the one we have invented), the person other people think we are (the impression we make) and the person we think other people think we are (the one we fret about). You could say it would be a lifetime's quest to reconcile this battling trinity into a seamless whole. Maybe, but for the time being I am convinced that, in Kurt Vonnegut's words (there I go, quoting again): you are what you pretend to be.

· Life's a Pitch... by Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity is published by Bantam, £14.99. See

DiGi: First Malaysian telco to offer Gmail SMS

DiGi: First Malaysian telco to offer Gmail SMS
AvantiKumar | Nov. 21, 2011

PHOTO - Mobile device shows DiGi's Gmail SMS service

A partnership between Malaysian telco DiGi and Internet services giant Google means that DiGi subscribers can use the country's first Gmail SMS service.

"Gmail SMS joins an expanding stable of SMS-based Internet applications and services that offer DiGi customers an alternative yet convenient means to access their favourite online applications," said DiGi head of mobile Internet & ADS, Praveen Rajan, speaking on 18 Novermber 2011. "This strategic partnership with Google also positions DiGi as the first mobile operator to offer the Gmail SMS service in Malaysia."

"A recent Nielsen survey reported that Malaysians are spending an average weekly of more than five hours accessing the Internet via mobile devices," said Rajan. "The partnership with Google empowers us at DiGi to offer the SMS option to millions of Gmail users in Malaysia to significantly extend their chat community through real-time chat via SMS, regardless of any mobile device type."

"Gmail SMS brings the popular Gmail Service to a non-smartphone easily," he said. "With Google's Gmail SMS, people can send free text messages to their friends directly from their Gmail account. Replies and responses to the text message will appear as a reply in Chat."

"One of the most important aspects of Google's overall mission is to make information accessible and useful to people," said Google Malaysia country head, Sajith Sivanandan. "SMS has long been a common means of mobile communications in Malaysia and many Malaysians still rely on their non-smartphones. Gmail SMS makes instant communication between Gmail and a mobile phone possible via SMS."

For DiGi customers, the service is free and requires no subscription; chat messages sent via SMS from their mobile phones are billed at RM0.10 (US$0.03) per SMS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

10 Reasons Not to Brand SharePoint

November 02, 2011 01:00 PM

10 Reasons Not to Brand SharePoint

Think that branding is a must? You might be surprised!

It seems that one of the first things people want to do with a new Microsoft SharePoint installation is to brand it. Branding public-facing SharePoint sites is considered practically mandatory.
Branding internal corporate portals to reinforce the company image might also make sense. But the most common use of SharePoint within an organization is for departmental sites, team-collaboration sites, and document-management sites. Should you brand these internal sites?
There are two kinds of SharePoint branding for internal sites. One preserves the full SharePoint UI and feature set. This type of simple branding modifies graphics, colors, and font types. It uses features that are built in to SharePoint to let site owners update site navigation and Web Parts.
This branding might involve changes to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or edits to the SharePoint master pages, but it leaves the UI completely predictable to the average SharePoint user and can be supported without help from an outside branding expert or the person or department that performed the branding.
Anything more complex than this falls into the second category of branding. This type of branding often involves an outside branding consultant and hours upon hours of planning, design, and implementation to match the external company website or an older, custom internal site. This type of branding changes how SharePoint and its UI work.
Before you decide to brand internal sites by using this second category of customizations, ask yourself the following 10 questions. (If you still insist on branding your SharePoint installation after reading this article, see the sidebar "If You Must Brand SharePoint.")

#1: Would you pay to brand Windows Explorer or Microsoft Excel?

Have you branded your word processor or your email client? Of course not! These are tools. They should have a consistent and predictable UI, such as an obvious start button. After learning how to use a tool one time, you should be able to figure how to use the same kind of tool the next time.
SharePoint is also a tool, especially when used for team collaboration and document management. Branding sites that are used for those purposes-especially when users might access more than one site-should be treated as such.

#2: Do you want to increase your per-user costs?

The per-user cost of a SharePoint installation is fairly reasonable. That is, until you start spending $10,000 to $30,000 per department-or even per site-to pay for a graphics design firm or branding consultant to customize your internal sites. The real-world branding costs can easily be in the hundreds of dollars per user and provide only a cosmetic benefit.

#3: How fast do you want users to get to work?

Customizing UIs takes time and often delays the start of a new SharePoint installation. Then, when branding has been approved, teams are put together to get the sites branded.
These teams must interview consultants, review designs, wait for delivery, and test the result before the sites can be deployed to users. And then, if each site looks different, with a different and unpredictable UI, users will be wasting time figuring out how to navigate the site and how to find content.

#4: How much do you want to spend on training?

Out of the box, SharePoint has a wealth of available training and support resources, including instructor-led classes, books, online videos, and endless web resources.
All these resources are affordable (or even free) but are useful only for uncustomized sites. Custom UIs require custom training; without it, users are less productive.

#5: How much do you want to spend on support?

If each site is different, will your support groups be able to help your site users? Will your Help desk be able to answer questions such as, "In the HR site, I click on a green duck to get to the employee manuals, but I just went to the IT site to find software manuals, and there's no green duck. There are just two trucks, a race car, and a go-cart. Which should I click?"
(If you think the duck-and-cars example is ridiculous, I'm not just being silly. I've seen many branded SharePoint sites that can be described only as "unique" and can be explored only by clicking everything you see until you find what you're looking for. You've probably seen sites like these, too-although, to be fair, site owners are sometimes the ones who insist on these odd designs.)
This brings up a related issue: Graphic designers aren't always good SharePoint designers. Graphic designers tend to think of SharePoint as just another custom website and often break or remove the most basic features, such as Quick Launch or the ability to add or change a Web Part.
After the consultant, designer, or brander has finished with the site, who will pay for fixing such issues, or even updating the site later? If you want to add just one more link to their custom-designed navigation, will you need to pay to redesign the site?

#6: How much time do you want to waste?

Of course, much too often, the site owner is the one doing the branding. SharePoint Designer is free, easy to download, and talked about everywhere on the web. And it's so easy to use that site owners often become self-taught site web designers, spending much of their time playing with SharePoint Designer.
This problem isn't new. Remember the early spreadsheet days, when managers switched from managing teams to spending all day playing with spreadsheets? Now, in the age of SharePoint, we have managers and team leaders spending too much time as web designers. Most of these site owners have no design training and no governance.

#7: Do you know who's in charge?

When every department is doing its own thing with SharePoint, is any department doing the right thing with corporate assets? Are site owners following corporate standards for site content and content governance, or are they simply creating cool-looking sites with random links and storage?
If you lose control of SharePoint and the content that's stored there, you might never get it back (short of starting over from scratch). And when the legal or R&D departments ask, "Can you find X?" or "Can you tell me who did Y?" are your SharePoint sites organized and structured enough to actually perform an audit?

#8: How difficult will sites be to audit?

If each department and team feels free to create custom UIs as a means of branding, then they also might feel free to store their content any way they like. If they have their own branding, then they will surely have their own custom content types, list types, and metadata.
How will a researcher or auditor find anything in such a system? Imagine being an auditor who must visit a hundred sites, each with a different UI, to find a document about a customer or a product. This Wild West approach is expensive and difficult to maintain.

#9: Are there better places to invest your money?

How much sense does it make to try to reduce costs by licensing SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server Standard Edition, only to spend a lot of money on custom (and cosmetic) branding, and then more money on custom training and lost productivity because of the branding? For the same price, you can stay with out-of-the-box SharePoint and spend the extra money on SharePoint Enterprise Edition, Microsoft FAST Search Server, and some powerful business intelligence (BI) tools.
You might even have enough to invest in faster hardware, the next level of SharePoint, or more user training. If you're interested in doing things the right way, right from the start, then invest in a governance plan and an ongoing governance team.

#10: Do you really want to do this all over again?

Your branding costs don't end with the current installation of SharePoint. Sooner or later, along comes the next generation of SharePoint with a whole shopping cart full of new features that you want and need.
Branded sites almost never upgrade cleanly. Over the past few years, I've seen how the migration from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007-and more recently from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010-has worked for branded sites.
Typically, it hasn't been a good experience and has required paying branders to rebrand all the sites to work in the new version. Are you willing to bet on the effort and cost of moving your branded sites to the next version of SharePoint?

The Bottom Line

Before you make the decision to brand internal sites, make sure you have a real business need to do so. Remember, SharePoint is a tool, like Microsoft Word or Excel. You don't brand those programs, do you?
Talk to other companies that use SharePoint, and find out what it's really costing them to brand sites, including the ongoing costs to support branded sites. Will new hires be able to figure out all the custom UIs and site designs? Will you need to upgrade customized sites to a new version of SharePoint (or even to another product)?
Look at your budget. Can you afford the up-front costs, ongoing support costs, end-user training costs, and eventual upgrade costs of branding?
And what about legal and business accessibility requirements (e.g., support for screen readers, high-contrast text, nonmouse navigation, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines--WCAG-2.0). How might branding affect these requirements?
In a nutshell, do you really need to brand?

If you're still not convinced, see the sidebar to Michael's article: "If You Must Brand SharePoint." We're curious to know what you think.]