Monday, October 17, 2011

Exterminator Wizard!

I've been taking a game programming class through the "University of Reddit," which has been lots of fun and surprisingly educational.  Nearly everything I did as a systems programmer was iterating through some kind of a list.  This has required trigonometry, linear algebra, and matrix math that I've not used since my undergrad.

I present my second homework for your clicking pleasure: Exterminator Wizard.  Its a fun little Robotron-style shoot-em'-up that I'm pretty happy with.  You'll need Java on your system to play it.

No, there's no sound.  Stop asking.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Follow Me! Social Networking for Businesses

Businesses consistently surprise me when misusing social networks.  You'll see their marquee with "Friend us on Facebook" or "Follow us on Twitter," but when you sign up you see nothing but advertisements.  

Personally, I find this irritating for two reasons: its misuse of what is a perfectly good customer base, and I'm often a member of that customer base.  On any social network, this is a partnership: your followers are giving you something valuable (their attention.)  Reward them as such and you'll be building a loyal customer base. 
  • Show them photos and videos from "behind the scenes."  They're interested in your business, they'll likely want to know more about where the magic happens.
  • Create written or filmed tutorials that explain or encourage use of your products/services.
  • Offer them a discount or coupon that you don't offer anyone else.  Put your money where you're mouth is and offer your followers something that demonstrates how "special" they are.  Interact with your followers to find out what they want on discount.
  • Hold contests and offer real rewards.  The rewards can even be t-shirts or hats (read: mobile advertisements,) buy-one-get-one coupons, or opportunities for them to participate in something enjoyable or something they'll think is cool. They'll be attracted to your business when you give them an opportunity to be part of it.  Let them name or design a new product.
  • Send them announcements before you tell others (and tell your followers they're seeing it early.)  
  • Interact with your customers on these social networks: people seek reciprocal relationships and they want to feel like they're getting something they value in return for the effort and attention they're giving you.  If at any point, the effort to read or view your content becomes more than the follower thinks they're getting from the effort, they'll stop being a follower (and potentially stop being a customer.
Treat the people who have subscribed to your social network as insiders.  They've said they're interested in your products/services, take advantage of that.  Don't just send them advertisements, make it worth their while.

How have you seen social media used well (and badly) in a business context?  What could be done to improve it?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Marriage

I'm so glad this chick hangs out with me.
A friend of mine mentioned that his sister just got engaged (if she's reading this: Congratulations and best of luck!) and it got me thinking about what The Wife and I have done to keep our marriage together for the few years its survived.
  1. Marriage takes work. Plan for it.
  2. The wedding is one day. The marriage lasts years.
  3. Talk to your spouse. Be honest. Don't expect you can read their mind (or vice-versa.)
  4. Make sure you and your spouse understand each others expectations, priorities, and goals. That sounds like the components of a task list, but you both have something (potentially different) you want from the relationship.  Talk about this repeatedly; it will change over time.
  5. Don't try to change each other. It will make you both miserable.
  6. Treat your spouse like your best friend. Your spouse is not your therapist, abuse target, maid, mechanic, mother, father, etc. They don't owe you anything.
  7. Accept that some of your spouse's family or friends may dislike you, and vice-versa. Let it go. Don't return the sentiment or it runs the risk of coming between you and your spouse.
  8. Your job is to make your spouse's life as easy and enjoyable as possible, and hope they'll do the same for you.  This isn't easy if its done right, but its very rewarding.
  9. Fight in private. Agree in public. If a third party is involved: always be on your spouse's side.
  10. Don't stop treating each other like you did before you were married. You can't take your relationship for granted. Go on dates. Spend time together, setting time aside if necessary. Exchange gifts and cards. Let your spouse know they're appreciated.
  11. The relationship will have good years and bad years. Cherish the good ones, and work through the bad ones.
  12. Never pass up an opportunity to tell your spouse you love them.
(I admit this is an update to old note I wrote back in December 2008.  Its not been on the web for awhile, and folks ask me for it enough that it needed a repost.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Accept No Excuse!

I often catch me lying to myself about a task or project I don't really want to work on.  This is dangerous, especially when some of my projects are of the "no excuses" sort. There are always times when you're not allowed to (or don't want to) say you couldn't get something done.  How can you think past these excuses, both for work- and home-related projects?

Think about some of these you may have heard or used:

"I didn’t have the resources to get that done."
  • What resources did you need? More people, money, space, materials, etc?
  • Did you try to get those resources?
  • How do you go about getting the resources you need?
  • How will you manage them?
"I didn’t have the time."
  • This is a special case of "I didn't have the resources" and shows a problem with priorities.
  • Figure out what your long- and short-term goals and strategies are, and that will tell you what your priorities should be.
  • Where does your project need to be in one week, one month, one quarter, one year, or one decade? How do you get there?
  • What does success look like? What does failure look like?
  • Is any given task or subproject steering your toward success or away from failure?
"We’ll have to go through the approval process on this."
  • Thats fine: even "no excuses" projects need to follow the rules. Just don't let this become a roadblock.
  • Ensure that everyone working the approval process understands the priority. Monitor and follow up on every step if necessary.
  • Keep in mind that the "tail shouldn't wag the dog."
"I didn’t know that was my responsibility."
  • When I delegate a task, I work as if everyone forgets their tasks as soon as I pass them the request. They're responsible for the work, I'm responsible for it getting done.  So, I've made a point of scheduling reminder tasks when any task gets delegated.
"Because we didn't plan for that, something else screwed up."
  • Plans fail.  Deadlines slip.  Processes fail.  There are always areas out of your control.
  • What do you have in place to handle the unexpected?
  • There are always risks and threats to your project.  What high risk areas can't tolerate failure, and what are your backup plans?
  • "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." — Mike Tyson
"We were working on the project plans."
  • Planning isn't the same as progress.  It is required and necessary, but it can easily become a goal in itself if you're not careful.
  • Two perspectives on this:
    • General Patton is quoted as saying: "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
    • "Five birds are sitting on a wire, and four plan to leave.  How many are left?"  Easy: five.
I encourage you to figure out what you want and figure out how to move toward it.  Be unstoppable!  Break legs! Steal candy! Do what it takes to get progress! (It should go without saying: be motivated, but do not actually do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical)

Having said that ... what other excuses or problems like this have you heard? What tricks do you use towork around them?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back on the Street

Welcome to my new blog.  I'm the eponymous A. J. Wright.  (I admit to trying for many other website names, but all the good ones are taken.)  I work in higher education as a technology strategist and an IT security officer.  For fun, I enjoy homebrewing beer, snow skiing, and SCUBA diving.

I'm working on topics like social media—including the Facebooks and the Twitters—technology, and any number of other subjects related to doing business in Information Technology.  I'm planning to post here about those things about once a week.  Please feel free to subscribe.

I appreciate discussion, feedback, comments, and observations either here, or via the methods mentioned on the contact page.

To paraphrase from one of my favorite blogs: It is my pleasure to serve you. Let the adventures begin!