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February 22, 2009


Public Service Announcement: Many Technical Problems are Caused by Bad Power

There are a ton of electronics today that use wall wart power supplies. These power supplies are really bad at holding their voltage output correct. The issue with this is that electronics start to do funny things when they get bad power into them. Over the years I’ve seen routers, switches, phones (the latest), and a whole host of other electronics develop strange behavior (packet loss, dialing failure, lockups, etc.) when the voltage creeps up (as they tend to do.)

Before you go replace your expensive piece of equipment grab a volt meter and verify that the output voltage matches what the power supply says it should be outputting. If it’s not within 10-20% of the output voltage get a universal power supply (like this one) with at least as much amperage as the original unit. Set the output voltage on the universal power supply at or slightly (10%) above the stated output of the original power supply. Find a tip that fits (most ship with a variety of tips). Make sure you get the polarity on the tip correct (match the original power supply.) The easiest way to tell polarity is to look at the old adapter. It will generally have a line figure that has + or – pointing to the center and the other sign pointing to the outside. Test and see if the power problems go away.

Don’t know how to use a volt meter? Simple. Get one cheap (like this one). Set it for DC Volts. Connect one lead to one side of the connector (generally inside) and the other lead to the other side. The display should show you how many volts are being output. Don’t worry about positive/negative — that’s just whether you have the leads reversed or not.

Good Customer Service – An Example

I’ve already spoken once about bad customer service — the worst I’ve ever seen. However, good customer service is so hard to find I’ve not had an opportunity to talk about it. I alluded to some good customer service in that article, but while finishing Groundswell, I realized that institutionalizing good customer service isn’t as easy as it might appear — or is it. Lilly Tomlin did a Saturday Night Live skit some time ago (Season 2, Episode 1) where she said in part “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Phone Company.” Honestly, I feel like a lot of companies have this attitude. Whether they’re the phone company or not.

So lately, I’ve been having some conversations with AT&T’s U-Verse service. I was having some problems with my phone lines after switching to their voice over IP phone service from Vonage. (Honestly, Vonage’s service was good, I just wanted fewer devices in my environment — fewer things for the wife to have to worry about when I travel.)

The thing that’s startling is nearly every customer service or technical service person I spoke to asked me the same question “How can I provide you with excellent service today?” Wow. I guess it is easy to institutionalize good customer service. Put in the script a question that the agent must ask for which there is no escape from providing good service. How hard would it be for someone to treat you poorly after they’ve asked how they can provide excellent service?

Similarly, I have a gentleman who is cleaning my office for me. Every time I talk to him, after we get through the hellos he asks “How can I serve you today?” Wow. For him, it’s not lip service. He actually does care. While I’m not personally the most observant when it comes to leaning in my office, I appreciate his attention to service.

Apparently, it’s simple to get good customer service. Oh, as a sidebar to this story, the AT&T U-Verse thing that I was calling for wasn’t their problem. It turns out I have a cordless phone that’s going out. The last agent that I spoke with took the time to help me troubleshoot the problem step-by-step. It helps that I have a Butt Set and a completely modular wiring closet in my house. However, that’s not the point — she was more concerned with helping identify and resolve the problem than getting me off the phone. She called the lines for me so we could see if they were ringing correctly. It was truly great customer service.

I’m not saying that AT&T U-Verse service has been perfect. The first technician they sent did more harm than good trying to diagnose the problem the first time he showed up. (It took me a day to realize what he had done.) They claimed to have resolved a cross-talk issue which, well, they didn’t. However, I can deal with technicians who are in front of me. Knowing that they really do care about customer service is a big deal.

On an less happy note, I’m preparing a blog post about my experience with HP — and the two desktop machines that have died on me in the last two weeks. Their situation has been a disaster. I’ll provide all the details when the situation has been resolved. I’m hoping at the end of the day I at least feel neutral about the situation.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

Book Review-Groundswell

I realize I’ve not posted a book review on my blog since October of 2007. Ouch. I guess I’ve been busy. One of the two reviews that I did back then was for a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, Back in August of 2007 I reviewed The Long Tail. In July of 2007, I reviewed Wikinomics: How mass Collaboration Changes Everything. In April of 2007 I reviewed Linked. You may be sensing a bit of a theme. I’ve been watching the topic of the influence of the Internet and more specifically its ability to empower people — all people — to participate.

Groundswell is a book about this influence and how it’s changing things. It’s about how you can leverage this transformation to your benefit. It’s written by some Forrester analysts. They’ve worked with large organizations, they’ve run surveys, and they’ve provided their thoughts on how to support your organization with social media.

If you’re in a large organization and you’re struggling to understand the social media sites you’ve seen. If you’re trying to figure out how blogs are helping — and hurting your organization — then you’ll want to pick it up and read it. Unlike any of the other books that I’ve mentioned above, Groundswell is a manual for how to implement social media in your organization. I’m not saying that it’s a literal prescription for you. However, it does layout for you the kinds of things that you want to think about to get a successful project.

There are two key things — from my perspective — that you can take from the book. First, the idea of psychic currency — a non-monetary compensation that drives people to participate in the groundswell. Here’s the incomplete list presented (without the details the book provides):

  • Keeping Friendships
  • Making new friends
  • Succumbing to Social Pressure for Existing Friends
  • Paying it Forward
  • The altruistic impulse
  • The prurient impulse
  • The creative impulse
  • The validation impulse
  • The affinity impulse

The second thing is their four step planning process abbreviated as POST:

  • People
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Technology

If you’re trying to figure out how these social events can impact your organization, Groundswell may help.

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