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Miscellaneous Meanderings

Pay-per Towel

My wife and I love our weekly trip to Costco. We gas up, grab a big shopping cart, and head in to pick up our over-sized food and cleaning supplies. We don’t go crazy. We do buy a lot, but we have a plan. Everything is calculated, priced per volume, and going to be used by expiry. Costco can be a pricey place and leave you throwing out a lot of stuff gone bad if you don’t shop smart.

One thing we always picked up at Costco is paper towel. They have the good stuff and they sell it cheap. We always grabbed a great big package of it and filled up our big pantry. And with lots of it around, why not use it every chance you get?

A few weeks ago we started looking a little harder at our cleaning habits and it was obvious this was a great place to start. Out came the old clothes and a pair of scissors. We experimented with a few fabrics to see what would work. Cotton t-shirts seemed to work better than anything else. We designated a clean bucket and dirty bucket under the sink and filled the cleaned one with our newly created cloths. When the clean bucket is running low the dirty bucket goes in the wash.

So far this is what we have found:
– Paper towel is horrible for cleaning. It falls apart and you need A LOT of it by comparison.
– It is expensive.
– It all goes in the garbage.

That last point was the biggest push for us. We were literally buying garbage, ironically wrapped in plastic. Of course with a good healthy compost you can compost quite a bit of paper towel or recycle. However a lot of the time it is soaked in cleaner, and a lot of people still throw it in the trash. Nobody wants to wipe their face with an old shirt so we did pick up a supply of nice cotton napkins, that has also helped save money.

We’re not perfect, we like our big car, and there are plenty of other areas for improvement. But with only about ten minutes, two buckets we already had, and a few sacrificed t-shirts we are saving about 40 bucks a month and a good percentage of our monthly waste. You don’t need to make huge changes, but looking at behaviors one at a time can present simple and obvious ways of doings things a little better.

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays - From The Pod

On behalf of the Pod at Smart Dolphins, I would like to wish all our Blog-Readers a Happy Holiday Season. I hope 2011 was a prosperous year and that 2012 is even more so.

 

All the best!

 

 

 

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OMG Minecraft 1.0!

There has been a lot going on at home in the last month. Somewhere in the hustle and bustle I missed Minecraft 1.0 being released. I don’t know if you Minecraft, but I do. My wife Minecrafts, my family Minecrafts, our cats probably Minecraft.

 

I’m not going to get lost in all the great updates to this version. The big deal here is that Minecraft is finally out of Beta and is officially released. We’ve been playing the beta pretty much since it came out and run our own server. Updating the world we’ve built up over the last year was pretty fun, finally seeing our work fully polished.

 

For those unfamiliar with Minecraft it is a very simple game, easily accessible to non-gamers. The premise is that you start out with nothing in a fully craftable block-world. Your first task is to build or seek shelter because at night… monsters come out. The rest is up to you. If you’re the creative type Minecraft is an amazing canvas. There is literally no limit what you can craft with the elements around you. Engineers will feel at home with the amazing construction and mechanical capabilities.

Unfortunately version 1.0 means you’ve missed the beta pricing but it is still well worth money. Get it right now, you won’t regret it!  That is our server below:

 

 

 

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#SDDonates Winners Announced!

A few weeks ago we posted that we were going to pick from submissions for donation. We wanted to buy the chocolates we are going to give out to our customers as a thanks for the holiday season. The time for submissions has come to an end.

First, let us thank you to all that retweeted our annoucements on Twitter. Without your help we couldn’t have spread the word. However, it seems that even with the help we did not get the turnout we were hoping for. Will we let that get us down?

NO!

Since we only had two submissions to have us buy chocolates from our local community we have decided to split our $200 across both of these organizations. Adrian will be in touch soon to make arrangements.
Thanks again to everyone for your participation and help. Now, onto our winners!

Wishart Elementary and Saseenos School!

Congratulations to both of you! Adrian will be in touch soon.

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Movember!

Movember is finally here again. A whole month of uninhibited moustachery!

Most people are now familiar with Movember, in case this is the first you’ve heard of it, read on. Every November men everywhere help raise money for cancer research, primarily prostate cancer. We do this by growing incredibly awesome moustaches and collecting donations.

I look totally ridiculous with a moustache, it’s great. That is the idea though. Men don’t generally put their health issues right out there. We’re really quite bad at talking about these things. A whole month of moustaches is a great way to make sure we are talking about our health. This is a disease that has touched our family. We have been lucky where many have not, and not lost anyone. Regular screening and just plain taking care of yourself really can save lives.

You can check out the Movember team I’ve joined up with at mobro.co/tyhedden and I’ll be sure to have an update picture soon as I’m been working hard this past week to grow a fine show-stache.

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#SDDontes!

During our last weekly meeting we thought about what we could give to our customers as a small token of our appreciation for the holiday season.

Christmas Baskets!

Next question is, what could we put into those baskets, why chocolates of course! Next step, buy some chocolate.

Wait, wait, wait…there has to be a different way to do this.

Introducing our #SDDonates campaign! We want to buy $200 worth of chocolates from a local charity, organization or school to put in our customers Christmas Baskets. We are looking to you, our readers, for recommendations. Why #SDDonates? The # sign in Twitter is a hash tag. People can follow these hash tags for information on a specific topic. We are hoping to see lots of #SDDonates on Twitter over the next 3 weeks.

We of course don’t want to exclude those of you that don’t use Twitter. Please simply comment on this post using a valid email address with your suggestion and why we should choose that charity, organization or school. All suggestions will be put into a hat and one or two will be drawn at random on Monday Nov 21st 2011. All suggestions must be in by Sunday Nov 20th 2011 at midnight.

Let the recommendations commence! Thank you in advance to everyone that helps us with our endeavour.

We know that $200 isn’t going to change the world. However, we do feel that every little bit helps. If we can help get the word out there for some of our local groups and organizations then at least we have given some more exposure, and again, every little bit helps.

Thanks!

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Taking Your Time

Raise your hand if you have too much time on your hands.

No hands? None at all?

Some days I’m overwhelmed by how fast we all move nowadays. Work, kids, dinner, cleaning, sleep, all packed into 24 hours. So much on our plates and not quite enough time to do any one thing perfectly.

This weekend we got in a little fender bender. Well, to be fair we didn’t get in a fender bender, we were run into. Nothing too dramatic. We had just pulled out of a parking space and were on our way when another car pulled out too fast and put a sizable dent smack dab in the center of our car. (right between the doors on the drivers side).

My point? Well, honestly there was no reason for this to happen. Sure, I’ll agree that “accidents happen” but I feel that is too simple. This is a case of somebody not taking enough time. It takes a certain amount of concentration and diligence to operate a car. Seems like something so simple doesn’t it? Pulling out of a parking space… Not really. Failing to take a few extra seconds to look twice, and be really certain of what you are doing can save everyone a lot of aggrevation and time.

I could say the same for the irresponsible drivers I see every day on their phones. Texting and talking when they should be spending a little more time on the task at hand. My favorite ones are those texting at red lights. I don’t know what to think of them. The messages they send while they aren’t paying attention must be incredibly important. I wonder what makes their agenda so critical they couldn’t wait to pull over or get home to deliver that all so important message.

I’m not talking about spending twice as much time on a simple task, just a sliver more. This is what makes the difference between a job perfectly executed and one done half-baked.

Slow down a bit. In your cars and in your day to day tasks. We don’t need to be in a rush. A few extra minutes (even seconds) here and there are what separate pros from amateurs. Whatever you’re doing, take a little extra time and do it as best you can.

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Pacific Legal Technology Conference

Banner from Pacific Legal Technology Conference


Last Friday Dave and I had the privilege to head over to Vancouver and take in the Pacific Legal Technology Conference. Someone we have met over the summer at a local law firm asked if we had heard of the conference to which we both shook our heads. After reading the program for the conference the next question was, who is going to go!

Dave and I were both really excited about the opportunity to learn more about the legal realm and we both felt this would be a great way to strengthen our understandings.

The conference was held at the Vancouver Convention Centre WEST on the second and third levels. There was a section for vendors to show their different technologies, a lot of coffee and tea and even more people attached to law in some way or another. We met lawyers, people that worked in different law based library’s and a couple other people like us… just there to learn more.

At lunch it was time for a keynote speech from Chas Rampenthal, Vice President of Product Development and General Counsel, LegalZoom.com. This was an entertaining talk that had the room buzzing regarding the topics he covered. Can law be served out a la Coscto style? You’ll have to check out Legalzoom.com to find out.

Dave and I went to completely separate tracks so as to cover as much material as possible. And cover material we did. I learned so much about The Paperless Law Office that at the end of the conference I wanted to head back to Smart Dolphins and start to implement it for ourselves NOW!

Which leads me to the main point of this post.

Whenever conferences come up we always hum and ha about whether or not to go. Normally we end up going, and never have we regretted it. This conference was no exception. We went to learn, not to sell and with that in mind, the conference paid for itself. I now know what I can and can’t help our law customers with in terms of paperless office, hosting data in the US and small things like tips to help organize their email better. Moreover, I learned a lot that I can use at Smart Dolphins to help make me and my fellow Pod mates lives better. Lastly, I received a nice shot in the arm of energy to help keep passion alive. I mean lets be honest, passion wanes far too easily and things like this conference really help give you a boost when you seem to need it.

For those of you on Twitter, you can search for the hash tag #PLTC2011 and see what people were saying during the conference. Interesting stuff! Also, take a look at the program on the website to see what topics were covered. I would highly recommend going to the next PLTC if you haven’t had the chance to go yet.

Thank you #PLTC2011!  I cant wait to come back again in 2 years and learn even more.

 

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Focus

One of the things I’ve been particularly aware of lately is focus.  I’ve held a lot of different roles in my time here at Smart Dolphins.  My most recent shift was about a month ago when we restructured our reactive support department and created the Service Desk.  For me this was a pretty big change.  Previously I had my fingers in a bunch of the different pies, like a lot of us here.  But moving to the Service Desk would change all that.  And to be honest, it made me a little nervous.

When we made the decision to create the Service Desk, we knew some very specific things would be required for it to be successful.  The main chunk of the Service Desk would consist of two technicians and a service manager.  And that chunk would soon be responsible for resolving 90% (or more) of all service requests.  And we’ve been doing that in spades.  How, you ask?

While I’d love to tell you it’s because we’re just that awesome, the real answer boils down to just one word:  Focus.  We’ve set aside a bunch of the pies we had our fingers in, and we just do one thing.  We don’t plan for your long term network health (that’s Sean), work with you on your IT budget (Ade), investigate that weird nagging issue that’s been ongoing for months(Ryan), or put in a shiny new server (Joe). We run the Service Desk.  If you can’t find your Word icon, your email is suddenly all Cyrillic, or you can’t remember where you put that file, we’ll come to your rescue.  We’ll have your hidden icon back front and center, your email restored to plain English, and your file fetched from the abyss in no time.  When it gets beyond that – if you need significant infrastructure changes, new hardware, or if someone just plain needs to be in your office to get something done – the rest of the team takes over.

Some things about working on the Service Desk are tough.  Handing off an issue to someone else when it’s not resolved is hard.  Not doing something you know you’re capable of is hard, especially when you know help is needed.  But trust makes it possible.  Being able to trust the rest of the kick-ass team that is Smart Dolphins.  That’s what lets us focus.  That’s what lets us help the next person, and the one after that.

Yeah, at first I was a little nervous.  I thought I’d miss my odd projects, my infrastructure planning.  But I don’t miss those things at all.  I’m on the Service Desk, and I’m loving it.  We’re focused, and we’re knocking it out of the park.  This is what being part of a team should feel like.  Together, we can do anything.

And we’re doing it for you.

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Emotional Decision Making

I met with “someone” (protecting the innocent) recently and discussed with them making the switch to using Smart Dolphins for their computer network support. The meeting went really well. This company was in growth mode and was really looking to transition to a new level in many ways. Their existing IT support had been coming from a friend who runs a local retail computer shop. This friend was doing a good job – certainly nothing glaringly bad. However, I explained to him how we have structured our company and how we approach IT support and he “got it”. His techie friend simply could not get him to where he needed to be. Smart Dolphins would need to charge him a bunch more than he’d been paying, but he could see how we’d impact his organization on a much grander scale than his IT bill. He was JAZZED to make the change.

He told me yesterday that he couldn’t go ahead at this time. He was adamant that Smart Dolphins was the better business choice for him, but he couldn’t do it yet. He would likely make the change in the near future. We talked about this a bunch. He had all sorts of things rattling around in his head and we talked about these various things. Most of his issues were non-issues once they were on the table. We boiled it all down and in the end, it was simple: he couldn’t “fire” his friend.

I make no judgment about his decision. I only tell this story to highlight how emotionally driven we all are. We think we are rational and we can be, but if something is important, our emotions typically drive us. Here is an astute business person who sees a profit maximizing decision he needs to make. He can’t go through the uncomfortable conversation to end a loyal friendship.

There are other flavours of emotions that I see all the time (including in myself). I talked to a law firm that was paying MORE than we would charge and they were unhappy with what they were getting. They didn’t make the change and I ultimately think it was because of the uncertainty of the unknown evil (us) or a sense it was too good to be true. Logical? Not really.

Even when I meet with people to talk about their technology, most start very icy. It is amazing how many people I meet with who have PERFECTLY running computers and they pay next to nothing for it. Interesting. I’m not saying they’re all liars. I am saying that most are afraid to tell the whole truth for fear of being sold to or having to face the truth. Moreover, most people won’t even meet because they’re too afraid to look under the rock.

Fear.

Where are your emotions steering you?

P.S. I read a great book a while back called Predictably Irrational that touches on this idea (and many others) – I highly recommend the read.

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