Browsing articles from "November, 2010"

Twitter: How Has It Made You Better at Your Job?

Nov 29, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Social Networking  //  4 Comments

One of the issues I struggle with in getting people to understand why I tweet is demonstrating the value of engaging with others to people who haven’t engaged on Twitter.  Yes, it’s a Catch-22

I have read that the majority of the people who sign up for Twitter (and other social networks) create an account, post something like “I have an account”, the sit back and wait for all the magic to come their way.  But these networks don’t work that way.  The benefits I’ve realized  don’t happen because I broadcast a message but because I’ve had very brief conversations with smart people like you from all over the world. 

Yes, I do tend to post some personal items like the pictures of odd or funny things I’ve seen in my day, but for the most part I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for professional reasons.  Sure, I appreciate the parking space that Noel and Tamara donated to me, the collection of postal packages that Yanni and John provided and a nice spot to sleep this week at Erin’s place, but those came because I had already engaged with these people prior to asking for help.

Located between snippets of fun are my DB2, SQL Server, WordPress and a myriad of other technical questions and answers I received from the Twitterverse.  Sometimes from existing contacts and sometimes from strangers.

Before the network of networks I could have done my best to interpret vague documentation, called the tool vendor, called one person who I think worked with these technologies, or found a forum and posted my question.  I still do those, but 9 times out of 10 an answer comes back from a social network long before these other resources had time to respond.

My ability to reach out to ask if anyone is using feature X of product Z, to ask for opinions of the best way to accomplish Y or if anyone knows the best place to get a dead car fixed(Chicago, 2010) has helped my clients and me respond faster, with better answers than ever before.

What have you told not-yet-ready-for-prime-time people about why they should be blogging, Tweeting, posting to Facebook, etc. for their professional lives?  What would be the best way to demonstrate the resources available to them?

Contest: Tell Me Why You Need a New Tassimo Brewing System

Nov 29, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Social Networking  //  9 Comments

Good news:  Tassimo Canada sent me a new home brewing system to try.

Great news: Tassimo Canada has given me TWO more Tassimo Brewing Systems to give away to blog readers. 

Tassimo Brew Bot – *not* Exactly as shown

This contest is open only to Canadian residents.  Sorry everyone else.  I hope you have been good this year; maybe you can ask Santa for one.  We do have future contests planned, so stand by.  But over there.  Yeah, a little bit further over.  Thanks.

To make this easy, the management team at InfoAdvisors will be choosing the two best answers to this question:

How would having instant access to an infinite number of fresh cups of coffee make you more productive at work?

The rules:

  1. Must be a Canadian resident to comment and win.
  2. Comments are moderated an subject to our posting guidelines.
  3. One comment per person.
  4. You must give your answer in the comments to this blog post.  Comments posted elsewhere will be read and enjoyed but not considered.
  5. A winner will be chosen from answers posted prior to 6PM EST 30 Nov.  That’s tomorrow!
  6. You have to supply a valid e-mail address in your comment so that we can contact you with instructions on how to claim your prize.
  7. A skills testing question will need to be answered.
  8. Two systems will be awarded, one each to two people.
  9. All selections are final.  No cash equivalents.  No substitutions. Your mileage may vary.  Subject to arcane laws in your local jurisdiction.  Do not immerse this rule in water.

Technology Is Not the Final Answer….

Nov 26, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Data, Database  //  4 Comments

Every year Infosecurity performs a security-related experiment.  They ask office workers questions about their passwords, where they work, what they do…then ask for their actual password.  A shocking number of people hand it right over.

OK, so here’s the question: Exactly how ignorant are they? The experiment found that out of 576 people questioned this year, 21% were quite happy to reveal their passwords in exchange for candy.

But maybe some of the dire news of late is sinking in, because that number is a heck of a lot lower than when the same experiment was conducted last year. Back then, a whopping 64% of the respondents were willing to give away their passwords. It seems that users have never paid attention to their mother’s advice about strangers and candy.

A curious aspect of the results was that, of those willing to trade away their passwords, women were 4.5 times more likely to spill the beans then men. Even more astounding was that 61% of all people surveyed happily revealed their date of birth!

This stuff drives me crazy.  I see people handing over personal data all the time in stores in exchange for a free t-shirt or even a free sample of something.   I always chalked this up to naiveté, but I can point to my own derivative experiment based on the Infosecurity one.  When the results are announced each year, I bring this up at work with my IT peers.  Usually 80% of my co-workers are willing to tell me enough about their passwords for me to guess or find out what it is (“My password is always my girlfriend’s birthday, so I never forget it” or “I always use Star Wars, but spelled with a Z instead of an S.”) without my even asking. I’d also say 9 times out of 10, talk turns to passwords for the non-user accounts, say the SA password for a production SQL Server.  For some reason, all sense of security of this information goes out the door as the password is almost always mentioned.  I’ve always wondered if this is because workers don’t value these non-personal resources as much as they do their own browser history, e-mail, and YouTube ratings.

I remember meeting with a potential financial advisor for a very large financial institution. Our talk turned to passwords and I told him about the study where people would hand over their passwords for the most trivial of treats.  He rolled his eyes and then said how stupid IT professionals are to require these. I mentioned that I was an IT professional and that strong passwords were the best defence against data theft and fraud.  He then proceeded to talk about all the new online systems that his company was foisting upon him and his clients.  And, of course, then he proceeded to tell us what his login and passwords were and why they were so easy to remember.  I sat their in stunned silence.  His giving out this information was not a great selling point for me for his services.  After having bragged about managing millions and millions of dollars of portfolios for some very famous people, then telling me his login credentials, he had basically showed me he could not be trusted with my data or my finances.  Needless to say, he did not get my business.

And what is this “women were 4.5 times more likely” to fall for this scheme?  Are we females really that clueless?  Is it that we avoid confrontation or have been raised to never say “no” when asked for a favor?  That number bothers me.  The Register believes it is because women love chocolate more than security.

I remember another conversation with a budding IT professional.  He had been talking to our intern about how secure the newest encryption technology was and how absolutely unbreakable it was.  As a sage (old) IT pro, I had to break the news to both the intern and the IT-wannabe that the encryption technology was useless in an age of social engineering and corporate cluelessness.  Both were flabbergasted that I could possibly question the value of what was probably 32-bit encryption at the time.  They both spouted off mathematical certainties of how many billions of years it would take to crack the code of highly secure encryption.  I tried to explain to them that technology was not the issue most of the time.  The both rolled their eyes and said that I just couldn’t understand how big the numbers were.

So I dragged our IT-wannabe over to the assistant to the CIO’s desk and lifted up her keyboard to show him the Post-It note with all the CIOs logins and passwords.  He objected that the list of what were obviously user names and passwords could be anything.  Then I took him over to the DBA set of cubicles and showed him how the whiteboard outside their cubes contained mysterious pairs of what were obvious user names and passwords.  He still didn’t believe me.  So he asked the admin assistant the next day how she kept track of all the logins and she showed him that she wrote them down on a Post-It and stuck it under her keyboard.  Then he asked the DBAs if those were credentials on the whiteboard, and they first denied it, then admitted it.  He chalked this up to clueless IT people.  So I walked with him back to his cube, and pointed out that he kept his own password on a Post-It note stuck on the side of his monitor.   Cluelessness, indeed.

Some days I feel as if all the work we put into data governance, information quality, and information security is for naught.  Why bother if no one values the data in the first place? Why don’t business uses and IT caretakers love their data?

I believe that we data management professionals must hold ourselves to a higher standard that what we see in the rest of the world.  We can go on and on about data quality, information integrity, and information protection.  But if we are giving out passwords right and left, writing passwords on whiteboards, and generally following terrible security practices, how are we ever going to convince the business that they need to treat the data better than we do?

Your thoughts?  Your observations?

I am Speaking: OEMUG – Cleveland 1 Dec 2010

Nov 26, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data Modeling, Database, Social Networking, Speaking  //  1 Comment

On Wednesday, 1 December 2010 I’ll be speaking three times at the Ohio Enterprise Modeling User Group:

10 AM ET

Classic Data Modeling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

We’ve all been there: a shortcut here, a compromise there, an over-modeling over there. In this presentation, Karen demonstrates classic and all-too-common data modeling mistakes that are easy to make and yet just as easy to avoid. We’ll look at data modeling generalizations, applying surrogate keys, understanding the difference between design and business requirements, data model changes, flags, and sharing data models.

11 AM ET

Modeling Global User Community Webcast: Normalization of Social Networking in the ERwin Community

In this webcast, panelists discuss social networking from an ERwin data professional perspective. Facebook, InfoAdvisors, LinkedIn, Twitter, My CA,, and data-centric tool social networks offer many options for you to join a virtual data community. If you are new to social networking, a seasoned tweeter, or just want to use social networking more efficiently, this webcast is ideal for you.

  • Social Networking 101
  • Deeper Dive / Benefits for Data Professionals
  • Security / Personal and Professional Boundaries
  • “Why Be Normal?”


Data Modeling Contentious Issues

A highly interactive session for seasoned modelers, attendees evaluate the options and best practices of common and advanced data modeling issues, such as:

  • Party/party role
  • Natural vs. surrogate keys
  • Varchar Minimums
  • Identity Crisis
  • SOAs, Ontologies, ESBs, New TLAs and Shoe Strings
  • What is Logical? What is Physical? Why Do We Care?
  • Politics vs. Customer Satisfaction

Participants in this session will be presented with an issue along with a range of responses or possible solutions. We will vote on preferred response, then the group as a whole will discuss the results, along with the merits of each possible response. The goal of this workshop is to help practitioners identify potential points of conflict in data modeling, as well as alternative approaches to resolving the issues.

During the event there is a presentation by Donna Burbank about upcoming release of ERwin v8.

I hope to see you there.

Field Testing Agloves in The Big Apple

Nov 24, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Reviews, Travel  //  3 Comments

This past weekend I had a great opportunity to use my new Agloves in the field, as I was speaking at SQL Saturday #59 in New York City.  I love visiting New York, but it always seems that we visit during a cold spell.  The first time Rob and I visited together the wind chill was about –15 and the cold wind tunnel effect of all those tall buildings made it feel as if the weather was going to suck the life right out of us.

My initial review talks about the quality and content of these gloves, but I hadn’t had a chance to use them in the field prior to this week. 

What I remember most about our previous trips to New York is trying to take photos in that bone chilling weather, but having to:

  1. remove my gloves
  2. swap my gloves for my phone in my purse
  3. wait for my phone to start up
  4. enter my phone password
  5. open the camera app
  6. wait for the camera to focus
  7. help the camera focus and choose the right lighting by clicking on the screen
  8. click on the screen button to take the picture

…and trying to do all that with creeping numbness in my fingers which just made all that take longer.

While it wasn’t quite that cold in NYC for this trip (it was around 38-40 degrees at the coldest), it was still chilly enough that I was happy to have my Agloves and to be able to use my iPhone and iPad without ever having to remove my gloves.

Rockefeller Center

30 Rock 


You can see from the pictures above that while we were visiting Rockefeller Center I could take my time to compose a photo.  The lighting was tricky there because it was cloudy and the statue of Prometheus was behind scaffolding, so I had to keep setting the lighting and focus properly.  Being able to keep my gloves on also meant that I was able to take many more photos than I did the last time.

As the day went on, we walked to most of the regular tourist stops in Manhattan.  It was starting to get dark and much cooler by the time we got to Macy’s in Herald Square.  More tricky lighting in that the Macy’s windows displays had projection, glass reflections, dimmed lighting and animation.

Macys WindowHere I’m taking a photo of one of vignettes of the “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” story.  Again, I had time to work on the composition, lighting and focus.

One of the other benefits that I hadn’t considered when I first purchased these gloves was that I didn’t have to know if the device I was using used the type of technology that required a capacitive touch technology to work.  Not all touch screens require this, so regular gloves could work…or they might not….  But I didn’t have to know, I could could keep my gloves on either way.

I didn’t realize how many touch screen devices that weren’t mine I used on a typical trip, but here are some of them:

ATM machine

An ATM machine


Best Buy Vending Machine  A vending machine


A vending machine in the subway. A vending machine in the subway.

I’m betting that most of these last devices, including the ones in the taxis, were not capacitive.  I loved the fact, though, that I didn’t have to know either way; I could leave my gloves on and interact with all these machines without getting cold.  I have to admit, too, that my inner germaphobe loved that I wasn’t using my bare hands to touch these screens.  This was a special bonus.

I’ll be posting some of the pictures we took in New York while we were there so that you can see the results of our having time to compose better photos.

I also checked, just for fun, and the gloves do work on the Xbox 360 controls (on button, DVD eject button) which won’t work with regular gloves.  Not sure if I’m ever going to wear them while playing, but I just had to know.

Finally, while the temperature did not dip down below freezing, I found the Agloves to be warm, unlike acrylic gloves, and breathable.  They aren’t overly thick, so I was able to tweet and send mail during our walk through NYC, all while keeping warm.

Overall I’d say our field test was a success.

From previous tweets, it sounds like Agloves is going to run a Black Friday special of some sort.  You can follow them or search for their Twitter ID to find out what specials they have in mind.

Are We Too Unfair to Gen Y Team Mates?

Nov 24, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Generations, Professional Development  //  10 Comments

Brent Green, author of Marketing to Boomers, has a blog entry that analyzes (or is it attacks) a 60 Minutes segment on Generation Y in the workplace.  His entry, Boomer Bosses, Generation Y Employees, is scathing in its response:

A representative Safer observation:

“Faced with new employees who want to roll into work with their iPods and flip flops around noon, but still be CEO by Friday, companies are realizing that the era of the buttoned down exec happy to have a job is as dead as the three-Martini lunch.”

This flip of a journalistic middle finger at a young generation is not new. Boomers were often criticized during their ascendance into adulthood, when the young, determined and idealistic were hell-bent on changing the nation’s social realities. (As well documented by Professor Leonard Steinhorn, that determination eventually helped the nation become far more socially and economically inclusive for women, for racial minorities and for people thought as odd when compared to the narrow strictures of 1950’s value consensus.)

I have actually seen the “roll into work with their iPods and flip flops around noon, but still be CEO by Friday” attitude with my team members.  My perception on this attitude is that if there is anyone slammed by this it is the Boomer society that raised these workers.  So while Green believes that expressing such fatigue at a generation that has different social norms than the previous generation is a commentary on that generation, I believe it is a commentary on the previous generation.

Flip flops?  I hate them at work — not because they are casual, but because they are annoyingly noisy.  They remind me of dorm days, listening to other students make their way to the communal showers.  Now dorm rooms have private ensuites, so I’m betting flip flops are worn everywhere other than the shower.  I’m showing my Boomer age by saying that I will always feel these items of apparel belong at home, at the beach, and never anywhere else.   I’m just a crusty old Boomer, I guess.

Rolling in around noon?  Did that Gen Y worker spend 4 hours on a phone call to India starting at midnight?  Did he stay up until 11 PM working on a new set of code?  Or was he in the World of Warcraft form the time he left work until 15 minutes before his noon arrival?  We don’t know and it could be any or all of those options.  What I do know is that manager who want to judge productivity solely by a 9 to 5 clock will stop getting all that extra work time out of Gen Yers (and Boomers) if they stick to such a poor measure of effort and accomplishment.

However, that Gen Yer may have had a 9:30 AM meeting with a Boomer business user who waited until 9:45 before giving up and vowing to never agree to meet the Gen Yer again.  The Boomer did this because the Gen Y worker expected to be forgiven for not showing up because she had a good reason.  She didn’t think to call to let the Boomer know that he wasn’t going to make it because she sent a text message to the Boomer instead.  But the Boomer had (politely) turned off his cell phone for the meeting.  A mis-match of communication methods led by a generational difference in expectations.

Wanting to be CEO by Friday?  Maybe a week from Friday.  This is the one thing that I’m going peg on the Boomer society.  Not Mr. Rogers.  If Mr. Rogers was able to skew the outlook of an entire generation, world wide, then it is a sad commentary on the parents that allowed a TV character to form the entire foundation of their kids outlook on work, life, and getting ahead.  Yes, Fred Rogers said that “you are special”, but parents should have been saying that, too, with the proper context of how the world actually works.  If millions of kids had only Fred and Mr. Speedy Delivery to form their tiny minds, why is that the kids’ fault?  Or a Boomer Boss’s fault to judge the appropriateness of this generation’s workplace behaviours?

It’s not wrong for Boomer Bosses to observe this generation’s differing approaches to work or even to personally be annoyed by it.  What is wrong is for us to try to force our outdated view of the world onto people living and inheriting the world we made for them.  That’s where the outrage ought to be focused.


Subscribe via E-mail

Use the link below to receive posts via e-mail. Unsubscribe at any time. Subscribe to by Email