How Fun Was The SOPA Blackout?

The answer:  Great fun indeed.

Oh sure, I couldn’t read Dinorsaur Comics for a while.  Or XKCD.  Or Cyanide and Happiness (that one’s a little NSFW, justsoyaknow).  But other than my webcomic needs, my favorite Firefox add-in (Morning Coffee, in case you didn’t know) functioned just fine, thanks for asking.  In fact, it was kinda fun.

Yes, the bill in its current state was killed before the protest.  Just ask Sarah White..

SOPA - it's over, was pulled yesterday - why are we protesting it still #watchnews
Sarah White

I still had the joy of referring to my one-man wiki for information.

We saw geeks rise up against their overlord masters.  (I count myself in their ranks, or at least as a sympathizer.)

I heard from MC Hammer for the first time in years.

And, in what might be the best stats of the day, 8 million people looked up info on their congressman from the blacked out Wikipedia page.  (They could have just asked Victorio, though.)

That’s a good day, folks.  People getting engaged, getting educated, taking a stand, speaking their mind.  All over something that hasn’t yet happened and might not.  And doing it peacefully.  I’m proud of you kids.

Now get back to Facebooking me.  I don’t want my Klout score to drop.

Go Internets!

Should HR Care About SOPA?


The Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA, as it has come to be known) is about to cause you some problems, whether you or for or against it.  Even if you don’t know what it is.

In short, SOPA is all about holding people accountable for the content of their site.  There’s more to it, of course, but rather than try to explain it, I’ll let The Guardian take up the task.

Got that?  It’s all about the Benjamins, of course.  But this is a battle between lawmakers and pirates, right?  It may not be as much fun as ninjas and pirates, but it’s still a good show.  And not one we are likely to join.

But should we?  Should HR care about this?  How is it going to affect our lives?

Um….well, first there’s all those shiny new social media tools.  Like those?  Like your Facebooks?  Your Twitters?  Your Google+s?  (Just kidding.  I know you aren’t using Google+.)  Plus that social media savvy recruiter you added to the team.  They won’t be real useful.  Um…and…hmm.  Yeah.  That’s about it.

So, no.  SOPA probably won’t do a whole lot to the HR community.  Let’s face it, we don’t have a lot on the line here.  I mean, sure, you might have an employee picked up by the Federales and have to replace them, but that goes on all the time.  So no reason to get involved.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

I said, move along.

Oh, wait.  Are you one of those “progressive” HR types that talks about wanting to understand business, not just HR?  Looking to have something pithy to say at the next Operations meeting?  Then pay attention to this.  It is important.

SOPA is poorly understood and poorly covered.  But it’s about to get interesting.  On January 18th, sites like Reddit, Tucows and Wikipedia are planning to go dark for the day in protest.  It’s about bringing visibility to an important issue and igniting conversation. It is your chance to get in front of an issue before it is the topic of the day.  That’s not a place HR gets to be very often.  Take advantage of it.  Here’s some things you can read to get started…

Mashable: Stop Online Piracy Act Roundup

Wikipedia’s SOPA entry

Lifehacker’s SOPA review


Everyone has an angle to sell here, so don’t take everything you read as gospel.  Do some exploring.  Be curious.

I won’t tell you how you should feel about it, but I will tell you that you should have an opinion.  I have one, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.  If you know enough to have one, please feel free to share it.

Office Decor

I have often been criticized for my office decor scheme.  Specifically, I don’t have one.  I don’t mean that my first edition Thundercats action figures clash with my talking Nietzsche wallpaper.  I mean that, in general, I don’t decorate.  My offices over the last decade have had a few common items.

  • Coffee pot (unless there was one within 10 feet of the door already)
  • A handful of photos
  • A whiteboard
  • A small demovitational picture

That’s about it.  I’ve never been one for much on the walls or the desk.  I even had the facilities manager try to move someone into my office while I was traveling because they thought it was unused.  Seriously.

On the other hand, I’ve seen offices that could have easily passed for someone’s bedroom, sans the Serta.  Every inch of their space was covered in personal paraphernalia, and they had clearly marked the territory as their own, including a signature scent or air freshener.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people somewhere in the middle, but there are for sure extremes on both sides of the spectrum.

What’s the right balance?  It’s a personal choice, of course, but I think of it along the lines of a visitor.  If I’m out of the office and someone needs to use the space, how will the room make them feel?  If the answer is, “I’m clearly unwelcome here” or “Has this wing of the building been abandoned?” then you’re probably off target.  I normally fall in that latter category, I guess.

In the end, there is a line.  You can personalize without going overboard, just as you can keep a Zen office and still have furniture.  Like most things in life, it’s all about balance.

How’s your digs set up?  Any chance you’ll have your desk taken away?  Any chance you’ll be accused of having moved in permanently?

Penn State, Blame and the NCAA

I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this, but I guess I am.  Wish I didn’t feel the need, or that there was anything to write about.  But there you go.  I’m not going to recount the details at any level.  That’s been done plenty in other places.

I have been fascinated by this story.  Not by the crimes, the terrible failures of leaders, the men who stood by and did nothing in exactly the situation where any person with a shred of compassion would have taken marked action.  Those things are tragic, but I think speak more to social inertia and to the incredible failure of a system that is supposedly designed to protect our youth. I don’t want to hear more of that than I already have.

I am, though, fascinated by the reaction of those uninvolved, or at least those whose involvement goes not further than their connection with the school, the football program, the coach, or to sports in general.  People who have made their voice heard on talk radio shows, ESPN, local newspapers and, of course, the Interwebs.  And far, far too many have spoken up in defense of Joe Paterno.  (For the record, I define too many, in this case, as any number greater than zero.)

Much of the bickering is over at whose feet would should lay the blame for this tragedy.  Some, quite understandably, demand the blame belongs to the perpetrator.  No argument here.  There’s not a punishment great enough.  But many of those people defend the coach, as he reported what he heard through “proper channels.”  The administration handed it to the police.  The police investigated and decided nothing need be done.  Time marched on, as did the string of events and victims.  The system failed.  Which of the people should take the blame?

Here’s the thing.  There’s no need to point fingers in the chain of command.  Every last one of these men are culpable.  Those who are concerned about the “legend” of JoePa are in arms that he was fired over the phone.  Stay tuned.  It’s not out of the question that a prosecutor decides to go ballistic on this case and file charges against everyone who knew anything.  And I have to admit, I’d be just fine with that.  If you knew something, anything, and stood idly by, that in my mind makes you part of what happened.

There’s another aspect that I’m waiting to hear, and that’s the NCAA response.  On the same day that Paterno was fired, ESPN ran this story that Ohio State (sorry, THE Ohio State) “will face a ‘failure to monitor’ charge in addition to more allegations of rules violations by its troubled football program.”  That big deal about players getting free tattoos seems a little silly now, right?  Are you sure that “failure to monitor” note wasn’t intended for someone a little further east?

The NCAA is ready to step in whenever revenue is threatened or there is a perceived inequity in player treatment.  Except Cam Newton, of course.  How could they consider standing idle in this case?  It may be that they are waiting for the facts to come out, then plan to step in.  I hope that’s the case.  If not, it will be as great a failure as they have ever had.  They have handed out their “death penalty” to programs for recruiting and eligibility violations.  They take the team off the field, cancel scholarships, take away bowl and television appearances.

If you want to make sure schools, not to mention anyone who works for or with those schools in the capacity of watching over youths who come their way, take this to heart, you need to make a statement.  A bold one.

Take away the Penn State football program. 

I don’t mean a few scholarships.  I don’t mean their bowl rights.  I don’t mean their wins.  I mean the whole thing.  Shut it down.  Shut it down tomorrow.  Tell the world that there is a price to be paid by anyone who is in any way connected to this kind of crime.  There will be no more cover ups or hush money.  There will be a much higher standard applied going forward.  And it would be voluntary.  But it can only be driven home with a sledgehammer.  When you are done, stand aside and let them throw the bunch of them, Sandusky, Paterno, McQueary, Schultz, Curley, and anyone else involved, in jail. They each should bear the responsibility of what they have wrought.

Heroes Among Us: Phoenix Jones

Something different this time around.  Not a comic book hero, or villain even.  A real live person.

In case you didn’t know (and there’s a good chance you didn’t), Phoenix Jones is a “real life” superhero.  He patrols the streets of Seattle, looking out for his fellow nor’westerners.  Until recently, that is.  Jones was arrested for assault after breaking up a fight amongst friends.  There are a few discrepancies to be worked out regarding the event, but he was arrested for assault at the time.  There are more details (including a video) here.

But what caught my eye was this story:

After self-proclaimed superhero Phoenix Jones announced he had been fired from his day job Thursday, the State Department of Social and Health Services tried to set the record straight and explained that the “Guardian of Seattle” could return to work – someday.

Jones, whose real name is Ben Fodor, was told by DSHS that he could no longer help teach life skills to vulnerable children because an October arrest for assault had shown up on a routine criminal background check done when his contract with the agency was to be renewed.

“I’m just really confused,” Jones told KIRO FM’s Ross and Burbank. “I sort of feel like you have to be charged with a crime before you should really have consequences for it.”

So we have a gentleman who spends his days teaching life skills to the disabled, and spends his nights looking out for victims on the streets of Seattle.  You can be sure the police are not fans of his work, as is also the case of many four-color heroes.  And you can understand why, if you think about the potential damage a vigilante could wreak.  At the same time, most people would like to have more police on the streets (except the country of Georgia, I guess), so perhaps getting them a little civilian help isn’t a bad thing.  But the potential damage to people and property can’t be overlooked.

Remember The Incredibles?  What drove the heroes into hiding?  Lawsuits.  Property damage.  The safety of their families.  Same thing happening here.  Life, meet art.  I liked that movie a lot.  I like it less in real life.

Jones isn’t being treated unfairly, of course.  A pending assault charge will get you dismissed from that job in just about every state.  And if it is cleared up, he may be back at work.  There should be a place for those who care so deeply about their fellow man.  Just like there should be a way to integrate civilian peacekeepers into our urban plans.  It’s all about using the skills of those on the team.

Good luck, PJ.  And when this is over, try to find a more acceptable outlet for your energy, m’kay?

Seven Billion and Counting

That’s her.  Baby 7 Billion.

Think about that for a moment.  Seven billion people schlepping this pebble we call home.  Think rush hour is bad now?  Wait until this young lady and her classmates are old enough to drive.

More to the point, if you are under the age of forty, you will for sure be sharing a workplace with this generation.  Let’s call them the Sevennials.  (Get it?  Like Millennial, but with a seven in front.  Sevennial.  I just made that up.)  Think having four or five generations in the workplace is a lot?  Just wait.

Of course, the raw number means little without some context.  From our friends at Index Mundi:

Age structure

  • 0-14 years: 26.3% (male 944,987,919/female 884,268,378)
  • 15-64 years: 65.9% (male 2,234,860,865/female 2,187,838,153)
  • 65 years and over: 7.9% (male 227,164,176/female 289,048,221)

Median age

  • total: 28.4 years
  • male: 27.7 years
  • female: 29 years


  • Mandarin Chinese 12.44%
  • Spanish 4.85%
  • English 4.83%
  • Arabic 3.25%
  • Hindi 2.68%

So what does that mean?  Well, the scary story we hear about the inverted population pyramid (too many boomers, not enough youngsters to support them) won’t last forever.  There are more able bodies under 14 than over 65.  That seems like good news if you are hoping to grow the world economy with more bright minds and busy hands, bad news if you fixate on unemployment rates.  (Here’s a hint:  I’m in the camp of the former.)

Also, if you are a single language brain, it best be Mandarin.  Those of you reading this in English (because that’s all you CAN read) should either start watching some old Sesame Street reruns to brush up on Spanish or go spend six months in China on a language immersion program.  Both will be time well spent.

And, if nothing else, think about this:

Ten largest urban agglomerations

  • Tokyo (Japan) – 36,669,000
  • Delhi (India) – 22,157,000
  • Sao Paulo (Brazil) – 20,262,000
  • Mumbai (India) – 20,041,000
  • Mexico City (Mexico) – 19,460,000
  • New York-Newark (US) – 19,425,000
  • Shanghai (China) – 16,575,000
  • Kolkata (India) – 15,552,000
  • Dhaka (Bangladesh) – 14,648,000
  • Karachi (Pakistan) – 13,125,000

The U.S. clocks in at number six.  China at number seven.  There are bigger cities out there than either of the big players can boast.  And who is filling up those cities?  Sevennials.  Lots of them.

You might want to start looking at your recruiting strategy now.


Halloween is here again, and that means that offices far and wide are stocked with candy for the good boys and girls who work there.  And, as part of that annual world wide sugar rush, I found myself stalking the seasonal aisle of the local MegaloMart in search of appropriate fodder.

There were, as to be expected, all of the usual options.  And as I perused them, I started debating the merits of each, and the message they send to a potential visitor to the HR offices.

Snickers:  Every time you say “seat at the table….”

Payday:  While a lot of organizations have moved this to Finance, people still come to us when they have questions.

Twix: The comfort food of candy bars.  I don’t know why they are so good.  Probably magic.

Zagnut: Just kidding.  These haven’t been seen in the wild for years.  Tragic.

M&Ms/Skittles/Reese’s Pieces: Loose candy in a bowl.  At the start of flu season.  What could possible go wrong?

$100,000 Grand Bar: What people come looking for at annual review time.

Zero bar: What we too often have to give them.

Apples:  Unless you are giving out iPods, you know better.

Smarties: More appropriate than most people think.  But still not appreciated. 

Gum: The interns might appreciate it, but hopefully you don’t let a VP walk out with a wad of Double Bubble in their cheek.

Generic candy in orange and black wrappers: You remember these.  You may not know they are peanut butter candy, and surprisingly good.  You wouldn’t know it because no one eats them.  Less risky to just egg that house and move on.

In the end, I went with a mix of Take5 and Reese’s PB Cups.  I don’t know what message they send.  But they taste really good.  And that’s enough for now.

So…Where Was I?

As you may have noticed, things have been quiet around these parts.  It’s been a busy month or so, and the blog suffered for it.  One the plus side, you didn’t have to read a bunch of half baked or irrelvant posts. 

New posts are on their way, so stay tuned.

HR Tech Conference 2011 Swag Blog

You knew it was coming, right?


From the Archives: Why I Blog. Why You Should, Too.

I presented on a blogger panel yesterday and made reference to this post.  I’m reposting today for those who might have been there and would like to read it, or for anyone thinking about getting into blogging in general.

For anyone who knows me, finding me at the keyboard isn’t a surprise.  Despite my current position in Human Resources, I grew up in IT with a sprinkle of social services thrown in.  I spent many a formative year hunkered down in front of my Apple IIc playing Zork.  I ran tech support, taught an A+ certification class and started a side business building computers, all of which I was, at the time, completely unqualified to do.  So to find me engrossed in my laptop at all hours of the day is not out of the ordinary.

What does surprise some people is the blog.  I write a lot, and some of it I share.  My blog is, so if you don’t work in HR or with Lean, there wouldn’t seem to be much to read, right?  So people are surprised when they check it out and see posts about poor customer service, grocery self-checkout lines, comic book characters in the workplace, or my stereo issues.  I usually tie it all back to HR, but how many times can you write “So what does this have to do with…” before you sound like a tool?  So I let my inner geek run free, and just assume that no one reads it or no one cares.

But there is, to me, still value in this tiny display of egoism.  Blogging makes me think.  It makes me consider my feelings on topics, crystallize them, and commit to them in a way that simple pondering never would.  There is power in the written word, including the power to make you commit to opinions you didn’t even know you had.  There is also power in knowing that once you hit the publish button, you might be asked to defend your thoughts to strangers.  It’s rare we are asked to do these things in the workplace, so the act of blogging can push you to develop yourself and your outlook in new and interesting ways.

There is also the social aspect of blogging, of course.  I’ve met some wonderful and smart people through this hobby of mine.  I read their work, they read mine (or say they do), and we converse across time and space on a myriad of topics.  I’ve learned a lot about my chosen profession, and I think I am better in my job for it.  My network is far wider than it would have been, and I have a large group of people upon whom I can call for help.

That’s great, right?  But what if you aren’t that excited about your job, have nothing to say, or just aren’t comfortable saying it?  No worries.  That’s the beauty of starting a blog.  See, while I assume no one reads my work, I can promise you no one will read yours.  Not for a while, anyway, especially if you don’t promote it.  Mike Birbiglia, the wonderful comic, talks about his “Secret Public Journal.”  That is, in effect, every blog that is started.  Unless you are a captain of industry, a celebrity or guest blogging for someone else, your work won’t be seen for months.  That’s a good thing.  You’ll have time to find your voice, find your topic, and find out what you believe in.  You can play around, learn the tools, and learn yourself.  Where else can you get that kind of personal development for free?

The other good news is that bloggers are generally pretty social.  If you need help, ask.  There are lots of bloggers out there that are happy to help you get started, offer tips, and critique your work.  Be prepared for the feedback, though.  It may not be pretty.  But bloggers generally like to see other good content shared, so we’re all for more voices being heard.

The down side is that you will be putting yourself out there for criticism in a way you’ve likely not experienced before.  But sometimes growth requires pushing through the soil.  If you aren’t sure you are ready for that level of growth, start small and write anonymously.  Sharpen your skills first, and then deal with the public eye later.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of getting started is to pick up your keyboard and get started.  There are several free hosting sites that can walk you through setting up your very own blog in a matter of minutes.  Fuss with the layout, set up feeds, post a picture of yourself, or do none of those things.  Take your pick.  But start.  Post once a week, once a month, once a day, or whatever works for your schedule.  But get started.  We need more smart people contributing to the world.  Be one of them.

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