Attn: PR People

When you write blog posts about technical topics, you will receive a bunch of emails from PR people who want you to cover their clients’ products and services. However, most of these don’t usually pertain to the topics that I blog about. This post is free advice to any eager PR folks out there–target your messages to bloggers and opinion leaders that care about what you are trying to sell.

Some examples from my inbox over the last week:

Hello Joel,

The Super Boring Sounding Conference early bird price expires this TOMORROW—register by midnight November 20 and save $550 off the full conference price.

Sorry, I’m not going to be in Phoenix that week.

Hi Joel,

[Insert timely sounding news story blurb]. I’d like to offer the analysis of John Guyyou’veneverheardof, who is a very important research analyst. If you or any of your colleagues are working on related stories, Jim is available for comment.

Wow–I wish I could talk to more research analysts. I have some research to be analyzed.

Hi Joel,

I thought you might be interested in the news from Who’sThat Research. The company has named Bob SomeIdiot  as President to help build the company’s new Voice-Driven Research strategy. Bob has an extensive background in consumer market research and will be guiding the company to make the most of its new speech-to-text IVR survey platform.

Maybe you should call John Guyyou’veneverheardof. He’s a very important research analysist, and perhaps he would be interested in doing his research in a voice-driven manner.

Hi Joel,

I know that you cover trends in customer service for the trucking industry, so I wanted to share some super interesting research that shows [some boring stuff]. This is under embargo until Dec. 1, so don’t tell anybody yet.

I have never blogged about customer service for the trucking industry, and do you think that if you tell me that something I don’t care about is under embargo that I will want to tell people about it?

Hi Joel,

An impartial HPC technology intelligence and analysis subscription service will be launched at DR15 by the Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG) and Blue Spruce Consulting. The NAG HPC Technology Intelligence Service will deliver technology insight and risk-reduction to help HPC buyers and users make better decisions and optimize their HPC investments.

You know what we need? More acronyms.

What it means to be a neighbor

I was recently reminded of something that happened 27 years ago that made a big impression on me as 13 year old boy. My father was a farmer, and late in the summer he fell and severely broke his leg and pelvis, putting him in the hospital and unable to bring in the crops in the fall. The neighboring farmers took time out of their busy harvesting to bring in our crops with their equipment. Here are the articles from the newspaper about that day.

farmers help_1farmers help_2

I’m In! for the CRMUG Summit 2015

  

If you are coming to the CRMUG Summit in Reno NV this week, you can catch me at one of the following sessions:

Going On Premise To CRM Online Thursday 2:00-3:00

Scott Sewell and I will look at lessons learned and best practices in moving your Dynamics CRM environment from an on-premises environment to CRM Online. Real customer examples of lessons learned may be shared in helping shape what you need to know in taking Dynamics CRM on-premises to CRM Online.

A Mobile & CRM Administrator View Thursday 4:45-5:45

Ivan Kurtev and I will look at going mobile with Dynamics CRM. During this session we will look at how to plan, configure, test, and troubleshoot your CRM configuration in the new mobile world. The mobile platform provides many new opportunities for CRM Users, but having many different types of devices to support can lead to increased complexity for administrators like you.  Learn how to provide a good user experience to your Users, no matter what device they are using.

50 Tips in 50 Minutes Friday 10:30-11:30

Where do you even begin? This fast paced presentation will dive into some of the most helpful and useful tips that any CRM User can leverage to get more out of their Dynamics CRM experience. We are all End Users, but you may also be in charge of ensuring adoption of CRM happens for your team and department. Join this session to take away some of the greatest functional tips to help the everyday User.

15 Tips from the CRM Tipsters Friday 1:00-2:00

George Doubinski joins me to talk about some of our tips from CRM Tip Of The Day. We will be playing CRM Tip Russian Roulette, and we will be unveiling our 500th tip.

Monopoly: You’re Doing It Wrong

Over the past few weeks my social feed has been full of people trashing my favorite board game, Monopoly.  Articles like this have misrepresented the findings of a poll from boardgamegeek.com. The articles focuses on Monopoly having a rating 4.5 in the boargamegeek rankings, but on boardgamegeek there are multiple editions of Monopoly ranked, some  with poll rankkings in the 5-7 range. This puts Monopoly solidly in the middle, and if you average all of the Monopoly rankings, you would have a solidly above average game.

A better choice of subject would be “never play CandyLand.”

Based on the comments associated with some of these posts, I feel that I must don the top hat and defend my beloved game. Most of the criticism leveled at Monopoly is based on people playing the game incorrectly.

Criticism 1: It takes too long

The average professional football game is over 3 hours long, but I don’t hear people complaining that is too long. The reason many Monopoly games take a long time to finish is due to one of the following reasons:

  • You have the wrong number of people. The right number is 4, maybe 3. If you have two people, it will take too long to buy up the property, there won’t be enough players with which to build trades, and the game will take forever. If you have 6 people, the property will get purchased quickly, but it will be spread too thin, making it harder to build deals, and the game will take forever. If you have four people, there will be a good chance that one person will get a natural monopoly (without trading), motivating the other players to make deals. with four players, the game typically is over in about 90 minutes.
  • You are adding stuff to the rules. Money on free parking, double payday on go, all of this stuff is not in the rules. People add this stuff to the game to make more “feel good,” but it has the effect of making the game longer by increasing the amount of money in the game.

Criticism 2: it is boring

See criticism 1. A fast paced, four person Monopoly game is infrequently boring. A two player game is always boring.

Criticism 3: My kids cry when they lose

What’s your point? My kids cry when they lose any game.  Maybe it is because you are a sore winner.

Criticism 4: It’s the worst game ever

Not hardly. You know what is the worst game ever? Clue.

At least with Monopoly, nobody gets murdered (maybe after the game, but not during). Clue is extremely boring, and since you drag the person you are accusing into the room you accused them of killing Mr. Body, it can take forever to get to the room that you want to accuse somebody of killing Mr. Body, because you keep getting dragged into rooms across the board, and the game takes forever.

But if you think that Monopoly is the worst game ever, you just aren’t using strategy. And there is a strategy. I recommend the long out of print 1974  book

The Monopoly Book: Strategy and Tactics of the World’s Most Popular Game by Maxine Brady. This classic guide will help you understand the real value of each property, probability of it being landed upon, and help you win more Monopoly games. The last game I played I won with the “Railroad Magnate” strategy, and I’ve heard of players winning with only the cheapest of monopolies.

Favorite Albums discovered in 2014

This post lists my favorite records that I discovered in 2014. Not all of them are from 2014, but 2014 is when I first heard them. These are albums that “moved” me—I’m not an artist, I’m not a musician (although I did take piano lessons for three years, until my mother begged me to stop). I’m not saying that these are the best albums recorded in 2014, just the ones that I liked the best.

Reviewing my list, I have come to some interesting conclusions about my evolving musical tastes:

  • In my 39th year, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I am not cool. Many people would find my taste in music to be lame and closer to the music department at Cracker Barrel than hip. I’m ok with that.  
  • I like songs that tell a story. That is what good country music does. Unfortunately, there is very little good country music played on the radio these days.
  • I like sad songs
  • I have a soft spot for harmony.

This list is not in any particular order.

1. She and Him – Classics

She sing pretty. I didn’t like their last album, but this one struck a note with me.

2. The Devil Makes Three – I’m a Stranger Here

I almost saw them at a concert this year where they were the opening act, but I missed it because my sister was in the restroom and almost left her ticket there. This album actually came out in 2013, but I didn’t know about it until 2014. I love their sound, combining ragtime, bluegrass, and other sounds with a drummer-less stomp.

3. Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap

This is a surprising album—it is hard to believe that the voice you hear is from someone so young. Acoustic with hints of young John Prine. Listening to his music, it is obvious that he had a religious background.

“First his family attended a Pentecostal-Holiness church, then an Assemblies of God congregation, where the services were charismatic and the theology geared more toward vigilance than comfort. Says Millsap, “Mine was like, ‘Any time you sin, you have to ask forgiveness for that sin particularly, or else if you die and you haven’t done that, then, sorry, you lose. You’re going to hell, because that sin was still in your heart.’ Which can be kinda stressful, especially if you kinda have a guilty conscience, which I did, and do.”

“Truck Stop Gospel” is a very interesting song that tells the story of an over-the-top preacher spreading the gospel at truck stops, and it treats the subject of the story with more respect than most Christians give to street preachers. it is especially jarring following the lead track “Old time religion,” a song about a not so well intentioned believer.

I also love the lyric in “At the Bar (Emerald City Blues)”: I’ve a weakness for waltzes, I’m a sucker for sad songs/ It ain’t my fault, it’s the way I’ve become/  Don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy as the daytime is long/ But in a melancholy melody is where I belong.

I told you I have this thing for sad songs.

4. The Haden Triplets – The Haden Triplets

This album, produced by Ry Cooder, is the triplet daughters of Jazz great Charlie Haden singing old time songs from the Carter Family and others. It was recorded in a 100+ year old house, and the acoustics and harmony on the album are amazing.

I have this dream of my family sitting around my house and singing with me. Unfortunately, I cannot get anyone to sing with me, so this is a good substitute.

My favorite song on the album is “Raining.” Because it is sad.

5. The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down

This one grew on me after listening to it several times. Their last album was good, but mainly covers of old songs. This is mainly new material, with beautiful harmony.

The highlight is “Iuca,” a murder ballad about two young people getting married. The harmonies will give you chills.

6. The River & the Thread – Roseanne Cash

This album paints a picture of the deep south, and the river runs through the songs. it is beautiful, peaceful, soulful music. Pretty close to a perfect album. She is joined by some very good musicians, such a Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, John Prine, and John Paul White. If you ever go on a road trip through the deep south, this is the album to listen to.

About a year ago I had a Facebook debate about what is the best song about a river. I would now vote for “A feather’s not a bird.”

7. Rock & Roll Time – Jerry Lee Lewis

I also am a sucker for what I call “Old guy about to die records.” Like Johnny Cash’s American Recordings albums. Someone singing, not because they have to, but because they love the music.

Setting aside that Lewis is 78 years old, this is just a great album. I imagine that if Elvis was alive today, this is the kind of album he would make. Great blues vibe. Highlights for me were Bob Dylan’s “Stepchild,” and the only cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” that I didn’t hate.

8. Reflections – Don Williams

Growing up on the farm, music was 1980’s country music. Don Williams is what country music is supposed to sound like. Plus he does a great cover of my favorite Merle Haggard song, “Sing me back home.”

9. Mandatory Fun – Weird Al

I have long argued for the musical talents of “Weird Al” Yankovic, and for two weeks in July the record buying public agreed with me.

Like many other pop artists in the past 25 years, the artists parodied by Al will be forgotten while Al is still making great music. The best songs on this (and any) Weird Al album are the original, non parody tracks. My favorite is “Jackson Park Express.”

Consider the following lyric:

I gave her a penetrating stare
Which could only mean
“You are my answer, my answer to everything
Which is why, I’ll probably do very poorly
On the written part of my driver’s test”

If you like that line, you will like this album. If you don’t, you have no sense of humor.

“Last Christmas” Flowchart

It seems like the holiday song that you cannot escape is “Last Christmas.” It plays in every restaurant, store, or waiting room that you go to after November.

And it is a terrible song. Basically the same two sentences repeated over and over. It is so bad that there is no best version of the song. Only varying degrees of worse.

Despite being so terrible, it apparently is very popular. According to my search on Xbox Music, there are over 700 different recordings of the song.

So I thought I would take a closer look and see if there is a deeper meaning that I am missing. So I made a flow chart.

Last christmas

The song identifies four parties: I/me, You, Someone Special, and an indirectly referenced mystery person. Upon reviewing the flow chart, some immediate questions come to mind:

  1. Every year I hear the song sung by someone different. Does this mean that the person singing the song this year is the ‘somebody special” referenced by last year’s singer?
  2. If the person that the singer gave his/her heart to gave it away THE VERY NEXT DAY, how did he/she get the heart back to give to somebody special this year? Did he offer some kind of exchange to the mystery person to get his heart back?
  3. Why does the singer sing “somebody special” in such a creepy voice?

Why I came back to Facebook

Last year I wrote a post entitled “Why I Left Facebook.” In the post I detailed my frustration with Facebook and my reason for getting off Facebook. I stayed away for six months, then I came back.

The six month hiatus was good, and helped me break many of my bad Facebook habits. Always feeling like I need to check Facebook, worrying about what others thought about me, and getting involved in arguments about things that I have no control over.

Ultimately I came back for what is good about Facebook: it’s where all the people are. I missed catching up with people with whom I used to work and go to school. I also find it very useful to keep in touch with other Microsoft MVP’s and people in the Dynamics CRM community.

Here’s what I learned during my absence from Facebook:

  • If I’m bothered by Facebook, the problem isn’t Facebook, it’s me. If I feel compelled to check it every five minutes or worry that nobody liked what I posted, that is a problem with me and my natural tendencies to seek approval. Sure Facebook might amplify that, but ultimately the problem is me.
  • Getting away is no big deal. I still regularly disconnect my account when I need to focus on a project or other aspects of life. It’s really no big deal. You can always come back and pick back up.
  • I’m not as important as I think I am. I see people posting “I’m going to be taking a break from Facebook for a few days.” The reality is, if you disappear from Facebook for a month or two, nobody will notice or care, and that is how it should be.
  • Leaving for an extended hiatus is the perfect time to cull your “friend” list. If you go away for 3-4 months, when you come back, you can “unfriend” all of the people who get your blood pressure up or you don’t really know, and have a much better Facebook experience.