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.

PowerPoint 101

As we gear up for the fall conference season, I’m starting to get the sneak previews of presentations that will be used in various places.  There are a few simple rules to building good presentations, but they clearly haven’t been shared with everyone just yet.  So, as a public service, here are a few of the lessons everyone should know by now.


Colors are good.  But let’s not get garish.  Keep them muted unless you are really looking to draw attention.  Also, colors evoke emotions, and you can use that to your advantage.  If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • Green means good.
  • Red means bad.

That first rule of finance will help keep you in line.  Even if you aren’t reporting on financial data, stay with it.  Business leaders, which hopefully means your audience, are programmed to respond in certain ways to those color.  Help them stay in the right frame of mind.


Words are bad.  Words are hard.  But most importantly, words mean reading.  And if I’m reading, I’m not listening, am I?  Don’t ask your audience to divide their attention.  Keep the words in your notes and off the screen.  OK, a few words is fine, but keep it to a minimum.

I have seen people at conferences who pick up a copy of the presentation material when they walk in the door (as is often provided), glance through the slides, realize all of the content is included, and walk out.  When you can read the notes later, why stay to have them read to you?

A good rule of thumb as a presenter is that if the slides tell the whole story, they don’t really need you.  And we all like to be needed, right?

Bullet Points

Some people will tell you they are forbidden.  I disagree on this one.  I use them for effect, but I try to limit them to two or three words each, and no more than three in a list.  Even then, they have to really mean something to make the page.  But if you remember the point above from Words, you can use them effectively to pull attention to your point.


Images evoke feelings, just like colors.  Only more.  So get good ones.  Make sure they are high quality, relevant to your point, and interesting enough to look at for a few seconds.  DON’T use grainy pictures.  DON’T use stock pictures that still have a watermark on them.  DON’T use the ubiquitous smiley faces on every slide.  Do any of those, and your audience will hate you, and you’ll look like a rube.


There’s plenty of arguments here as well.  I’ve been told twenty slides for sixty minutes is right.  I generally do double that or more.  But I move through slides quickly because I want the presentation to be visually interesting. In the end, the number of slides you use will depend on your topic and your style.  But I would have a hard time staying on one slide for more than a minute or two without feeling like I am boring the audience, unless it is a tool or technical piece I am working through and I have the audience engaged.  But if in “lecture” mode, you can bet I’ll be moving on before then.


Good animation can make the presentation less dull.  Great animation can help you make your presentation sparkle.  Bad animation can sink you.  How can you tell the difference?  If the animation draws attention to something you are saying, it is good.  If it distracts, it is bad.  If you can’t tell, you should probably do without.

What else?

I’m sure there are other great tips out there.  If you have one, feel free to share in the comments.  Together, we can stamp out bad presentations.

HR Technology Doesn’t Matter To Me

Shouldn’t matter to you either.

Now I know this is an odd thing to hear from someone who just gushed about the great HR Tech conference, and who has more than just a little geek in him.  But I believe there is a very simple order of operation when it comes to developing the HR practice.

People.  Process.  Technology.

In that order, and in that order of importance.

You cannot build your technology strategy until you know the process you are trying to support and improve.  And you can’t effectively implement or improve your processes until you understand the needs of the people who will be using them.

That said, there is a fine line that has to be navigated between understanding your audience and being a slave to their whims.  Vague feelings of concern or the ever present scope creep are your enemy.  You will need to pull out the stick and make command decisions on occasion.  But the technology itself shouldn’t be the driver.

Once you know what your people need, and what the process needs, choosing your technology answer should be relatively easy.  Don’t underestimate it, but don’t be afraid of it, either.

Moving Sidewalks

Coming home from the road last week, I had the joy of riding a moving sidewalk through the airport.  I love moving sidewalks.  They make me feel like I’m finally living in the future that the Jetsons promised me.  At some point, I was struck with an analogy of moving sidewalks and Lean.

Both are a different way of getting from point A to point B.  Both are effective at moving a large group from A to B, but that only happens if everyone is moving.  We’ve all seen these things jam up when one guy wants to lounge on the walkway, usually on the left side (despite the multiple very clear signs to stand on the right).  But when everyone is working together, it’s magic.

The other similarity that struck me was stepping onto the belt.  It feels a bit wonky at first.  The speed changes, the belt isn’t quite as solid as the ground you were just on, and the handrail isn’t always moving at the same speed as the belt.  But you jump on anyway, because you’ve got places to go and the belt gets you there faster.  Once you are on, you see all the people you are passing, even the ones who are trying really hard to prove they can move just as fast on their own.  When you reach the end and step off, it’s like the entire world has slowed to a crawl, and getting from point B to point C is a whole lot more work than it should be.  Unless there is another moving sidewalk, of course.

So grab your bag and step on.  It can be a fun ride.  And if you see someone standing on the left, put your arm around them and invite them to walk with you.  Or push them over the rail.

HR Tech Conference iPhone App

If you are planning to attend (and by all accounts, you should), and if you have a iProduct of some sort (and statistically, you probably do), you might find this of interest.

“This is the version of HR Technology 2010 for iPhone / iPod Touch. This is the official mobile guide app for the 13th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Expo being held at Chicago’s McCormick Place, Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2010.
The HR Technology® Conference & Expo is the world’s leading business conference and expo on every aspect of technology for HR.
This app will enable you to view the full agenda, look up details such as speakers, sessions, and search for exhibitors, sponsors and Expo information. Utilized onsite, this will be a great tool to help you easily get around the conference.”

**Disclaimer:  Not my software, haven’t yet tested it, can’t vouch for performance.  Will update as warranted.**

Technology and Interpersonal Relationships

We’ve been hearing for a long time that the Internet, social media and email are causing more distance between people, and relationships are suffering because of it.

This story changed my mind…

Athletes, politicians, celebrities, and even employers are starting to understand that the Internet doesn’t forget.  Ever.  Neither does email.  Or Facebook.  Orwell’s “memory hole” might be a welcome addition to our lives for some, but the reality is that once something is published, emailed or shared, it’s out there.  And you never know when it will come back.

So the safest way to communicate may just be face to face.  That’s the one time we know we are secure, and our secrets and thoughts can be shared without fear of them coming back to haunt us.  Assuming, of course, you are sharing them with the right person. 

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