TitStare – Why women don’t feel comfortable in the tech industry.

It’s not like me to rush out a blog post. I don’t leap to my keyboard everytime something in the media has people crying out against it. But today I just felt so compelled to write about TitStare.

At TechCrunch’s ‘Disrupt’ event in San Fransisco, audience members were presented with the TitStare app by two guys from Sydney, and another app called Circle Shake by a guy in Adelaide where he pretends to jerk off. Part of that audience was a 9 year old girl. Part of that audience was female. Part of that audience was self-respecting men who couldn’t believe what they were seeing. And yeah, it was a little bit funny, but totally inappropriate for a professional industry event.

For more info on the presentations, see http://valleywag.gawker.com/techcrunch-disrupt-kicks-off-with-titstare-app-and-fa-1274394925

TechCrunch immediately published an apology. They stuffed up. Red faces on both sides of the stage. http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/08/an-apology-from-techcrunch/

If I was TechCrunch, I would be furious. Furious that nobody had checked these submissions first. And they are furious. 

But that sadest thing is .. that they have to screen. That there are men in the IT industry that think it’s ok to create something about tits and s*x and present it on stage to an audience. That they think the women in the audience will laugh it off and the men in the audience will applaud.

And now, the women will complain and will be labelled as uptight and told it was just a bit of fun. F*ck off.

So TechCrunch, I’m sorry that you should even have to screen for stuff like this now. I hope that one day society will get the fact that women in tech have enough trouble being stared at in mainly-male events without having to put up with this kind of content too.   

I’ve worked in this industry for 17 years. I used to be the email administrator that sat around with the boys and had a laugh at some of the stuff we trapped in the email filters. But as technology has progressed and society’s morals haven’t, I get enough tits & ass messages on billboards, magazines, pop songs, music award shows & superbowl halftime acts. I don’t need it at work too. And I especially don’t need it at tech events.

What a stark contrast to Microsoft’s recent TechEd in Australia. Their brand is so valuable that they wouldn’t even dare risk anything onstage that hadn’t been QAed first. TechCrunch have now learnt that lesson … but sadly it’s going to take a lot longer before some men in the industry get the concept.

Kudos to the tech guys that already do – it’s awesome to share a community of respect with you.

-SCuffy

 

 

 

Exchange mail delivery stops on Windows SBS 2003 with AVG

We have AVG 2013 successfully running on a number of client’s servers and our own servers, with no problems. However one particular client with SBS 2003 experiences intermittent email problems which always co-incide with an update to AVG.

Symptoms include: Users saying they haven’t received any emails recently or their recipients haven’t received emails that they sent, failed SMTP test on mxtoolbox.com (indicating the Exchange server is not accepting messages for delivery).

Restarting the Exchange services does not fix the problem – a full server reboot is needed.

In the most recent occurrence, we performed some updates in the evening & rebooted the server and tested email – all ok. However the next morning, we received a call from the client when they arrived in the office. Checking the server logs, Exchange had started to fail at approx 6am. Once again, a reboot got email moving again.

Talk about frustrating! I HATE ‘reboot’ as a solution.

Fortunately AVG Support have now acknowledge that they are aware of this problem and the developers are working on it. The workaround is to go back to running the AVG 2012 engine, only on the Server, until a fix is developed for 2013.

The risk of running an earlier engine (with the latest viruses definition files) is a trade-off and is neglible when considering that the workstations still have AVG 2013 (which will scan email attachments on open or save anyway).

Will post an update when we have one from AVG, but for now if you have an SBS 2003 Server with AVG experiencing the same symptoms, stop tearing your hair out and searching the internet for hours/days/weeks etc for an answer.

-SCuffy

 

Why is writing important to me and my business?

Wow. That’s a big question that I’ve never asked myself before. It’s never been important like being at the top of a list of priorities, or even at the top of the ‘important/urgent’ quadrant of a to-do list. But it’s important to my heart, to the part of me that always has writing as the answer to the question ‘what do you really want to be doing right now’.

The comfort of keyboard clicks & screen focus soothes my soul. My writing has always been a natural outpouring of my thoughts and never a chore. Well, mostly never, unless you count struggling through sections of an unknown subject section in a tender document and even then we made it into the top 2 out of 35. Word count has always been a guiding constraint and never an impossible mountain to climb.

So why the heck am I in an I.T. business? And why do I need a writing course?

My business provides a modest lifestyle for my husband and I to spend time with our young daughters, the eldest of which is rapidly heading towards double-figures! Checking support tickets and researching problems and solutions means I can put money in the bank to pay the mortgage etc etc. But my heart still desperately wants to write.

This year, I’ve had opportunities to stretch my writing wings into two areas I’d never dreamt of before: as a freelancer for two different organisations focussed on the wellbeing of teenagers. I’ve learnt about sexually transmitted infections and the impacts of alcohol on teens. I’ve constructed policies, marketing materials and managed social media sites and I’ve loved every minute of it. But in the back of my mind there’s been this niggling doubt. Do I actually know what I’m doing? My clients are happy with the results so far, but I’m chained by knowledge that I have no educational background in writing, no courses or degrees, just the hope of some raw ability. I’m too scared to say ‘talent’.

So while freelance copywriters abound on the Internet, a lack of formal training is holding me back from pitching this as a skill and turning it into income earning potential. In short, I guess it’s about confidence. It would be an absolute dream to sit at my keyboard each day, write from my heart and be able to match (preferably better!) the money I can generate from solving computer problems.

For my two clients (both existing friends), there is enormous potential to take their passion for young people and create presentations, workshops, blogs, guides, books etc that teach teens, parents and teachers. They both have very real, practical experiences that, when shared effectively, will make a difference in the lives of our young people. And I want to be part of that. I want to be the written voice for them when they are too busy and writing isn’t their passion.

And in addition to seeing this knowledge-sharing potential, I fall straight back to my own I.T. business. There are two books inside of me, to help small business owners. There are two books inside of me to start generating some passive income for my family. And there’s a small voice of doubt that holds me back and always finds something more important to do.

So, there you have it. For me, a scholarship to the Damn Fine Words writing course isn’t about being able to create better website copy to get more I.T. clients. It’s not about a dream to launch a career as a copywriter (I’m not that bold …yet). It’s about learning techniques, knocking rough edges off some writing ability and smashing that barrier of doubt. Because with that new confidence, I can help to change the lives of teens, small business owners & my own family. And the thought of that makes my heart sing.  

-SCuffy

When business & IT collide.

I had the pleasure of showing a team the features of their new CRM software. Have I lost you yet with how boring that sentence is? Fortunately the reality was far from boring.

To me – the CRM system is a plugin to a Joomla website. There are some bits I can configure & some bits I can’t (especially as I’m not the Joomla site admin nor do I ever ever want to be.
To the business owner – the system means no more monthly fees to a Cloud CRM system. This one off purchase will last her for at least 3 years and will handle the growth she is expecting. It’s also one place to see how her sales pipeline is looking & to get instant access to the conversations had with & information that’s been provided to her customers & prospective customers.
To the team members – this is a ‘central console’, one place to get a picture of what they have on the go and what others are working on too.

So you see, I’m the only person who views this system with technical eyes.

The business owner sees the results she can get from it and the capability it will give her.
The team members see how it can track the work that’s being done & how it will help them organise their next move.
THIS is the value of I.T. This is truly ‘information technology’ at work, delivering business benefits.

The session was purely run by demonstrating how to create & edit information & how to report on it. It was filled with ‘what happens when’ and ‘if we do this, what would enter into the system’ type questions. 99% of the answers actually had more than one way of doing things and were solved by refining the business process or drilling into more detail about what they actually do right now, without this system in place. As nervous as they may have been about learning a new system, they walked away with lightbulb ideas about how they would be using it.

Bliss.

Now they’ve been sent their logons. Even more importantly, they’ve been given a test Person and a test Company to play with. Change details. Create, edit & delete deals. Play. Try. Do.

This is not the Rolls Royce of CRM systems. It’s also not the prettiest web-based software I’ve seen. But right now, it suits them. It’s functional without being overly complicated. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Don’t be distracted by new, shiny things. Be inspired by how it will actually help your team to do their jobs (and help you to do yours).
When business & IT collide, in a good way, it’s actually pretty exciting.

-SCuffy

Authentic.

Last week, on three separate occasions, I was given feedback by people I admire. Two of those were part of a formal assessment process. One came out of the blue. I respect the skills, opinions & experience of all three people. And I was glowing.

‘Exemplary’ ‘A style that’s yours – don’t ever change it’ ‘Have you considered contacting this publication’

To say I was on Cloud 9 is an understatement. And then, in that same week, I had an opportunity to speak into a few people’s lives. An opportunity to sow some seeds of encouragement, build some people up, cheer for them on the sidelines. Not to give advice, not to solve anything, but just to reassure.

It made me think that this is what the world should be like. In fact, despite of the public and not so public face of ‘trolls’ this is generally what my social media experience is like (especially with my online ‘girl mafia’). The receiving and giving of this encouragement just felt so damn good.

This week, the echo has continued .. authentic, authentic. It’s in my inbox, in my twitter feed, in my facebook timeline. Different authors, different messages, same theme – be authentic.

I’ve never really struggled with the concept. I’ve never felt a desire to try and fit in (apart from my teenage years when I just wanted to feel accepted by my peers, but that’s high school for you). But the workforce just came with a desire to feel acknowledged for what I was capable of. I never felt like I had to change who I was or what I did. So I’ve always been authentic.

Clearly, it’s an important theme though and something I need to take conscious notice of. I’ve no idea why or how it may serve me, but I’ll hold tight to it.

Be Authentic. There’s no-one else in the world like you. And that’s important. 

-SCuff

P.S. Before you go thinking how perfect I must be, I yelled at my kids today in the supermarket. Authentic also means human.

Why I’ll never have a Filing pile again.

This post is going to be short & sweet, as a grocery list is staring at me & the school pickup is also looming. Being self-employed means sneaking into the supermarket BEFORE pickup, so as not to drag two kids through it afterwards & it take ten times longer. But hey, if Seth Godin can write short daily posts, so can I (just don’t expect them daily)!

A business expert once said ‘do your filing once, each week’. Another business expert said ‘never handle a piece of paper more than 3 times’. I tried the former, and ended up with a pile called ‘Filing’ that NEVER got emptied, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was the perfect Friday job with some great music playing loudly.

So, I got rid of my Filing tray. And now, it doesn’t stare at me every day. Yippee!

Step 1: Clean out your vertical files. Only keep stuff relevant to that financial year (like current insurance certificates). Yes, you can scan them & keep them electronically if you’d prefer.

Step 2: Place everything else in archive storage boxes. Shred box contents of expired financial years (keep the last 7 years).

Step 3: Make sure your vertical files are organised & labelled.

Step 4: Use Ring Binders for A4 receipts with monthly tabs (split into half-year if necessary) and ring binders for bank statements & BAS return paperwork (worksheet & reports).

Step 5: FILE AS YOU GO. Yes, once a piece of paper has been dealt with & no longer needs your attention, throw it straight into your vertical suspension file or ring binder. Filing done at the cost of an extra minute.

This works for me because I hate seeing papers on my desk. The only things on my desk are things that need my attention or need putting into a reminder system so I remember to do them later (eg bills get entered into financial software & paper copies thrown into a red Bills to be paid manila folder on my desktop vertical file holder.

Getting rid of my filing pile was one of the best things I’ve ever done as it makes me feel in control. How do you handle the filing of your paperwork? Do you scan, save & shred everything or do you have a pile of unfiled papers like I used to?

-SCuffy

(not really being a short post at all!) 

Solar power & the QLD Government

When the QLD Government announced that solar power users would be paid for power that they generate, don’t use and feed back into the grid, I didn’t give it much thought. Our power bills were slightly higher than the average, running a business from home and having computers on 24×7, but the cost of a solar system was way beyond our budget. But then, we did the numbers.

We were going to be significantly better off if we drew-down on our mortgage to pay for our solar system. Our mortgage payments wouldn’t rise any higher than we were already paying plus we’d have free power & feed in payments. So, we took the plunge and invested in a 5.5kw system. We love it to bits, especially when our power bill arrives each quarter, in credit.

How greedy of us. How dare we make use of a government scheme that was set up to pay us back for our power. How sneaky of us to realise that we could maximise this benefit by running our appliances in the dark hours, when the grid power cost us less than our solar feed in rebate. Didn’t we realise the impact we were going to have on pensioners and low income families? Slap on the wrist.

Are you kidding me? The QLD government sets up a solar incentive scheme and THEN blames the people that have used it? Including those who scrimped every cent out of their budget or went into debt to put in their solar systems, looking to help alleviate the pain of the rising quarterly power bill as doomly forecast?

But now: “Energy Minister Mark McArdle concerned they are reaping benefits beyond the scheme’s intent” “I don’t believe that was the intent of the scheme and the debate must be had on who should pay what, in regards of their power bills, when you consider a large number of people pay no power bill at all,” he said.

So, dear government, what EXACTLY did you think would happen? What exactly was your intent with this scheme? Lure householders in on a good thing, then panic & change the rules when you realised you’d stuffed up? I fail to see how anyone could have missed that the solar feed in tarrif was going to lead to masses of people installing solar and knocking out their personal power bill.

So now the electricity retailers are crying poor. The total cost of solar to their network (tarrifs, infrastructure etc) is going to ruin them, so they are putting up the price of power for everybody, which screws over the non-solar owners. Yes, that sucks, and it should never have come to that. Did the retailers alert the government to the possibility of this before the tariff was approved? Did they get a chance to?

Electricity is an essential utility, like water. The government needs to decide how much it will regulate that, to keep it fair on the consumers. It can’t just jump in when it’s suitable, setup incentive schemes and not be held accountable when they have a flow on effect.

“Cabinet is debating on Monday how it can lower revenue raised by the state-owned electricity distributors, a price set by the Australian Energy Regulator.” Well, how nice of them. Where did they think the money was going to come from to pay the feed in tariffs? Not it’s own revenue stream, that’s for sure … until the whole mess reached a crisis point and they decide to look into it.

I haven’t touched on the effect that a power price hike will have on consumer confidence -> consumer spending -> business profitiability -> business confidence -> employment ->business tax income for the government. Not only will this hurt Queensland householders, it will hurt Australian businesses (both the little SMBs and the large, high power consuming corporates).

So yeah, I’m a little furious. Furious that a government could be so blind and not see that the incentive scheme would lead to this. Furious that, after playing by their rules, solar owners are being labelled as greedy and not playing within the intent of the scheme.

Dear government, please go back to high school economics, because if you didn’t see this coming, what else are you missing?

-SCuffy