New Support and Information Tool

I'm the first to admit that I don't know everything. In fact the older I get the more I discover that I don't know. But one thing I have learned in my many years in IT is that I don't need to know everything, I only need to know how to find out the correct information. That source of information can be via the Internet, newsgroups, and my network of IT contacts. With the advent of Web 2.0, it is easier than ever to tap into the global pool of knowledge and experience.

The folks over at Splunk have just launched a new Wiki called Splunk Base. Splunk Base is designed to let you post and search through log files (system, database, etc.) in search of answers. Since it just released there's not a lot of data yet, but I suspect it will become a useful resource rather quickly.

To capture and index your own log files Splunk offers two different products, Splunk Server which is free and limited to indexing 500 MB of info per day and Splunk Professional which is licensed based on volume and includes additional features.  Currently they only run on Linux/Unix platforms.

Employee Rewards?

It’s nice to think of ways to say thanks to employees that are doing a great job. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but can be something as simple as a gift certificate to a local restaurant or the movie theater.

However there are things which just say all the wrong things. For example, if your employees have come in over two weekends to clear up a big backlog of work, you don’t want to reward them with stupid meaningless gestures. A manager here decided that they would “reward” their employees who worked so hard by gathering a bunch of rocks and hand painting “You Rock” on them. This manager then handed them out to their employees.

WordPress and NewsGator

NewsGator has plug-ins for several different Blogging engines (so you can post to your Blog directly from Outlook), but didn't have one listed for WordPress. After some searching around I ran across a beta version of a plug-in (exe or zip) on this NewGator forum.

This post and the previous one were both submitted via the plug-in. So far it is working well. Give it a try. I did mention it is beta, right? So YMMV.

Getting out from under

I thought technology was supposed to make life easier? Instead it’s just made us too accessible and overloaded us with way too much information. Ellen McGirt from Fortune magazine address some of these issues in her story here.  The key thought and paragraph in the article is this:

“So how are modern knowledge workers to weave their way through the minefield of interruptions and conflicting priorities? The simple answer is this: By figuring out what is actually worth paying attention to, and when. Which turns out to be really hard to do.”

Ultimately I find it takes stepping back from trying to deal with everything coming at you and setting aside time to be creative and strategic. I’m working towards this using a few different tools. One is the Getting Things Done system. Once I can get all my “stuff” out of my brain and into my system, then I can use my energy and brainpower to deal with issues that I’ve identified as important.

Secondly is making sure I set aside some time to actually think. I may not even have a predetermined goal or issue that I need to think about. In fact some of my most productive times come when I don’t plan them out in advance. But you have to set some ground rules for yourself.

1. No computer. That means no eMail, no Web, no reading blogs. I know this is the most difficult step of all, but it can be done.

2. Have paper and pencil available. Nothing worse than having a great idea only to see it vanish because you never wrote it down.

3. This one is kind of strange, but I find performing menial tasks help me think. Mowing the lawn for example almost always results in either some new great ideas popping into my head, or the answer to an existing problem presenting itself. And remember item #2. That means keeping a small notebook or index card with you all the time.

One more thing not to do

If you have submitted a resume and are expecting someone to call you on the phone, make sure to have a professional sounding message on your answering machine. I just called a candidate that had Timon and Pumba from The Lion King singing as his message. I almost hung up and tossed his resume in the trash. He’ll have to go the extra mile to convince me to call him in for an interview now.