Sunday, March 23, 2008

Time Warner's "Free HD" not so "Free"

Time Warner added four HD channels here in Columbus last week. This is great, since I now have two HD sets since we picked up a 26" Panasonic on clearance for the bedroom a few weeks ago (thank you tax return).

There's just one small problem. "Free HD" really means that you need a digital cable box to view the channels.

Not so free when you need to pay to rent a cable box.

You see, the Panasonic has an ATSC tuner with Clear QAM. QAM is the technology that handles transmitting a digital signal across cable lines. If the signal is in the "clear", then it can be decoded by a TV that supports Clear QAM.

In Columbus, we get CBS HD, PBS HD, PBS Ohio, PBS Plus, Columbus Sports Network, NBC HD, NBC Weather Plus, CW HD, ABC HD, My TV and Fox HD in the clear. All of these are broadcast over the air, so Time Warner is required to transmit them over cable in the clear.

According to Time Warner, "Free HD" includes Discovery Theater, TNT, STO, FSN, Vs/Golf, TBS, A&E, HGTV, and NatGeo.

If it was truly "free", I'd be seeing these channels in my bedroom like the 60 odd analog channels being picked up without a cable box.

That would be something worth marketing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Crew Complex in Hilliard?

The Crew now has added Hilliard and Columbus to the mix for a potential training complex.

The Hilliard bid is due to a recent annexation of land next to the Municipal park. They have about 155 acres to develop: I believe it has to be the farmland south of Scioto Darby, West of Alton Darby, North of Heritage Golf Club and, East of the Municipal Park.

What's interesting about the site (if this is the site) is that right there in the middle of it is a large soccer field complex. How convenient.

This would have to be the location, in Hilliard, wouldn't it? It couldn't be East of Alton Darby, right?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inbox Zero (aka Email Nirvana)

For the longest time, my email inbox was thousands of entries marked red. Once I got on the ETT train, and began to read more about things to enhance productivity, I dove into GTD.

I tried GTD some months ago using Google Notebook with mixed results. I struggled with having to maintain the app, and moving email info from one message to another was just flat out annoying. So to see more folks talking about GTD as my next step was a bit scary. it still didn't help me from groking our email system which is where "everything" gets done. As an aside, email overload is one of the advantages of implementing RSS technologies to let us know when things we're interested in are updated. But that's a much larger topic.

Inbox Zero is a concept, mindset, what have you on how to manage your email. It's a concept that I discovered by searching the Outlook blogs to find information on how to implement GTD in Outlook. Instead what I found was a way to implement Inbox Zero in Outlook.

Today when I receive an email I go through the following steps:

  1. Is this email related to my job, or is it just noise. If it's noise, delete it.
  2. Is this email related to a project I'm working on, or have worked, or is it informational like an organizational announcement. Categorize it with a category called "Fiserv" ir the project I'm working on.
  3. Determine if this is an actionable item for something I need to do. If it is drag the email to the To-Do bar. Setup a date for completion. If there's something I need to wait on in order to complete this task, mark the task with a category of "@Waiting". Otherwise, do nothing.
  4. Move the email to a folder. Be it a project folder, a folder of all "@Waiting" items, or whatever. Right now I'm using project based folders.

This has been immensely freeing. Now I don't have to sort though thousands of emails to determine if I need to do something. it's now in my to-do bar. It's easier to schedule time to work on a task by dragging the task into my calendar. It is now easier to track down what you've been doing when you go into your 1-on-1s or annual reviews. (Yes, I wish I had started this months ago).

This is the first step on the way to implementing a GTD process. I could go two ways. One way is to drop project categories, which I like since it color codes my meeting schedule (which I now also categorize). The other is to drop project folders and use categories to sort in a @Done folder which contains everything that is completed. Or I could just keep things the way they are now, which isn't quite GTD, but it feels darn close and much better than the mess I waded through before.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Going Old School With Time Tracking

About a year ago, my team began using a tool called Enterplicity to track projects as well as integrate time tracking. It is especially effective in managing large portfolios of projects and tracking them at executive levels.

However, I've personally been challenged when working with it. I stuggled to mesh my desire to have a time tracking tool be my task tracking tool. I felt that if I was working on something, I should have a task in this tool to track it. Unfortunately, life isn't that simple. Is it appropriate to have my project manager add tasks for each little piece of the app I'm working on? It would if I am using it as a task tracker.

Eventually I realized that I was losing productivity trying to get this tool to work for me rather than for the project manager. So, over the past month or so I've been working with a new system to keep track of my time.

It's old school. Paper and pen. Sounds crazy, but it's been highly effective.

Instead of trying to add everything into the tool, I decided it would be better to actually work the task, and then after some time, determine if it's something worth tracking at a granular level.

Enter a tool from David Seah, an interactive designer. Ryan Jacobs pointed me in the direction of David's Printable CEO series of PDFs, of which I've taken to the Emergent Task Timer. The Emergent Task Timer is a very simple bubble sheet with 15 minute increments. Each day, I write down the task I'm working on, be it, a Project Call, Admin (email sorting, HR crud), On-Call, Project coding general, Project coding specific, etc, and I simply fill the bubbles out at the day goes on. I don't have the 15 minute egg timer as is suggested, but I try to keep the thing updated about every hour. It has the added bonus of keeping the day moving and making sure I am working on something worthwhile. Filling out the bubbles means something. You don't want to have too many bubbles in Admin.

Why is this easier for me than Enterplicity? Two main reasons. I don't have to log into Enterplicity to track these random items, and I can very quickly look after a few days and see if it's worth requesting more granularity in the project plan. Once or twice a week, I log in, enter my items off of a task sheet (I generally get 2 or 3 days out of a single sheet) and move on. If the random item only took a couple of hours, I enter it into the general line item or the line item that closest matches what it is I needed to do. If it has been going on for two days, I'll ask the PM for a real task to track it.

I used to feel that Enterplicity hindered me in some respects. What I really wanted was for it to be like the ETT, but that's not what it is. It's a project management tool not a task management tool. Realizing that, and looking for my own productivity methods has been extremely freeing. Now I feel like my time in Enterplicity is accurate and useful to those doing analysis, when at times I just felt like it was in the way.

Moral of the story: Don't try to get the tool to conform to the way you do work. First, be productive. Then and only then, figure out how to deliver the accurate entries into the tracking tool your team uses.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maybe I'm Getting Old

But I'm not enjoying Facebook as much as the business related social networks. I'm trying to get into it, but it's just not doing it for me yet. There seems to be a lot of silly applications which are fun, but also sort of scary. I mean, have you seen some of the quizzes you can take on that thing?

Maybe I just don't want the whole world to know what sort of a drunk I am. But maybe it's that I can't take these things in private. The whole nature of the social graph forces me to spam my friends with certain "fun" apps. And that's just not for me anymore I guess.

For whatever reason, I find looking at LinkedIn and seeing what old classmates are up to more interesting. This probably sounds infinitely boring to a lot of folks. Plaxo's Pulse feature is very intriguing since it lets me know about blog posts, Twitters and pretty much anything one wishes to share with their career network. I know Facebook has these things, but these places just feel more mature.

Yes, maybe I'm getting old.