CIO Symmetry

October 15, 2008  7:51 PM

Emotional working: What the financial crisis is doing to US employees

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

We’re all a little on edge lately. From the stock market to the housing crisis, feelings of instability infiltrate our daily lives. There’s no escaping it – we’re in an economic mess. And as the pressure mounts and the stress continues, some interesting things are happening in the workplace…

Passive-aggressive emails, tight-lipped smiles in the office kitchen, no more jolly hellos in the halls. What’s going on?

The answer? Desk rage: an increasingly common affliction within the office as stresses over rising costs, debt or job uncertainty continue to haunt Americans. Jennifer Bunk, assistant professor of psychology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, has collected data on the subject from more than 1,000 workers. She found that 75% of people she surveyed have been treated rudely in the workplace at least once every year. Bunk also found that even mild rudeness decreases job satisfaction and commitment to the company, affecting turnover rates and retention. If someone quits, the company has to invest resources into finding a replacement. And if you happen to be the person to quit? Good luck commandeering the job market –budgets are tight.

A recent Fierce CIO Report found “the Corporate Executive Board in Washington, D.C., surveyed 50 CIOs, and nearly 25% said they have imposed a hiring freeze, while half said they are cutting spending on consultants and contractors.”

With job cuts and hiring freezes taking place, expanded work roles for IT staff are becoming standard procedure — which means more work and more time spent in the office.

What happens when single professionals with very little dating breathing room (less money, less time, less energy…) are cooped up in the same building everyday, experiencing similar events?

You guessed it – the office romance.

Results from Vault’s 2008 Office Romance Survey show 82% of respondents have known of an office romance between co-workers and 46% of respondents have been involved in an office romance themselves (20% of which resulted in “true love”). Well if the desk rage didn’t get you, the awkwardness post (potential) breakup will — one third of the relationships actually become “long term.” On the upside (yes, upside – I’m not that cynical) 42% believe that their mood would improve, encouraging them to go to work each morning.

Difficult times call for difficult measures, so do what you have to do. Just make sure your office romance doesn’t transform into office rage.

October 10, 2008  1:53 PM

Google Goggles may prevent work email regret

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Google has introduced its new Mail Goggles – and I love the idea.

The application, once enabled, will check your mental clarity by making you solve math problems after clicking send; then, if you can’t solve the problems, the email doesn’t go through. The default settings make Mail Goggles only active late night on the weekends but are completely adjustable. According to the Google Blog, the late-night default settings are there because “that is the time you’re most likely to need it.” The buzz centers around the midnight drunk emailer, the person who comes home and just has to send the ex an “I miss you” email because all those beers really made everything seem so clear — the email equivalent to “drunk dialing.”

OK, that’s one scenario. But it can provide professional protection as well.

Think about it: Maybe you weren’t pummeled by pints on a Tuesday night; instead, you were working late finishing up a project … alone. You’re at your wits’ end, feeling underappreciated. Upset, frustrated, angry – you decide that you’re going to send an email to your boss (or your co-worker … or whoever will listen at this point). In the heat of the moment, you draft a passionate email and hit the send button – and you’re prompted with math questions. After an attempt at ratios and long division, suddenly, maybe you’re not that upset after all. No harm done, the email is cancelled and you aren’t haunted by the ghosts of emailers’ regret as your passive-aggressive words slip away into cyberspace.

With email being the main form of communication within many companies, people in the organization have to be more aware of their emotions in stressful situations. Why? The online disinhibition effect: People behave with less restraint on the Internet than in real-world situations.

This is obvious in some of the email horror stories I’ve read and heard. What about you? Any “friend of a friend” email tales of regret?

October 9, 2008  2:02 PM

Google and the tech stock drop

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Yes, even Google, one of the Internet companies best-positioned for a financial downturn, has falling stock. I watched the real-time trading with sick fascination as the little red down-turned arrow blinked again and again. Maybe it’s not as surprising to some; stocks go up and down on a regular basis. But the stock dropped more than $50 since last week, hitting the lowest numbers since March 2006. Analysts have cut back their earnings estimates for Google based on the weakening global economy and the rally of the dollar. But analysts remain optimistic on search advertising’s strength in a potential advertising recession

Google, a search advertising money-making machine, essentially organizes online information and then throws some ads on it. This search advertising brings in about 40% of the $40 billion online advertising dollars spent each year, overpowering the likes of Microsoft Live and Yahoo. So what is a company like Google to do when the times get tough?

Look for more advertising opportunities?

The New York Times reported that Google released AdSense for Games, offering 15- to 30-second commercial-like ads bringing more advertising formats to brand advertisers. Google will also start click-to-buy advertising on YouTube with the YouTubevertorial. A Google blog post on the matter describes the click-to-buy links as “nonobtrusive retail links, placed on the watch page beneath the video with the other community features.” Essentially, users interested in the material can get instant gratification and click to buy the song, game, etc.

Already bombarded by ads wherever we go online, I’m curious to see how these new ad formats will affect the typical Web user. Will we get bogged down with advertisements in a financial slowdown?

October 8, 2008  6:45 PM

Web 2.0 in the workplace: Say “hello,” not “goodbye”

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

How much of our personalities is being lost behind Web 2.0? We Facebook, we blog, we get hooked up in LinkedIn, we SMS and email and twitter – but who are we portraying and who exactly is on the other end? And I’m not talking about customizing your Ning network with your personal preferences or updating your Facebook status as a way of portraying who you are. I’m talking about the human interaction.

Not just in a “Kumbaya” sort of way— but from a professional standpoint. Especially with the current economic situation, where layoffs and hiring freezes are very real concerns – are we slowly phasing ourselves out by not coming in?

In my daily scan of compelling tech news and points of interest, I came across a “This I Believe” NPR recording titled “The power of hello.” Ready to slow my search and kick back with my earbuds, I listened to the podcast by Howard White, a Nike executive.

In his own words, White recounts a moment from his childhood that changed his life: His mother scolded him for not acknowledging a neighbor, saying, “You let that be the last time you ever walk by somebody and not open up your mouth to speak, because even a dog can wag its tail when it passes you on the street.”

White continues on to describe his role in Nike and how after years of conversation with the founder, he finally got the courage to ask him for a meeting and … the rest is history.

I know, I thought it sounded a bit Pursuit of Happyness, myself – but I immediately began to think of it in context of my own job. And yours.

Knowing the people you work with by face and not just by AIM screen name gets things done. You know who to ask, where to go and who will go the extra mile to help you make a deadline.

With more and more people telecommuting and instant messaging (in and out of the office), are we losing our office humanity? Rather, is being just a face in the crowd (or a name on the email list) making it easier for you to be overlooked as a strong, capable, employee who should be promoted and kept around? And for CIOs, do you look for someone with personality and team camaraderie when making hiring (or firing) decisions?

I certainly get caught up in the tech world. It’s exciting, it’s opened doors to worldwide communication and “anywhere connectivity.” But I also see the importance of making oneself known as a person and not just an employee or a name. Maybe it’s just nice to know your team and feel good in your work environment.

Maybe I’m not willing to settle for a toothy-grinned emoticon.

October 3, 2008  2:22 PM

Obama’s iPhone App

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

The Obama campaign has introduced an iPhone application — Obama ‘08. Self-described as the “official, comprehensive connection to the heart of Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s campaign,” the application has features and tools to keep interested voters up to date.

The application’s features include up-to-date campaign news, a “call friends” feature (allowing the user to reach out to friends to remind them to vote, etc.), videos, photos and talking points (to help users convince their friends to vote for Obama).

The free application was developed in less than three weeks by volunteers and is available in the iTunes App Store. In his blog, Senator Obama’s staff notes, “This tool is designed to help you become more directly involved in our campaign to change the country.”

The country hasn’t been changed yet, but the Obama campaign has changed the way Americans connect and become involved during election season. Before Joe Biden was announced as his running mate, Obama promised to text message the news to those who texted VP to a designated number. He also offered up free Obama buttons via Facebook to those who requested them.

The Obama campaign has taken social networking to a whole new level – using technology to its advantage. And it’s certainly not afraid to try something new – blogging, Facebooking, texting, Twittering and creating iPhone applications.

For those of you who try it – phone a friend. Or at the very least, share your phone-a-friend option with Governor Palin.

October 2, 2008  2:14 PM

Is Microsoft trying to buy users?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

In an attempt to get more users, Microsoft has added SearchPerks to its Live Search service.

But, unless you have Internet Explorer 6.0, you aren’t even able to access the SearchPerks registration form. Yep. In order to test out SearchPerks you need to have IE 6 or higher. That’s a deal breaker right there.

With only a 9% market share compared with Google’s 60%, Microsoft refuses to give up on the search market. And you have to admire that fact – despite the failed Yahoo acquisition (which Google sidled up and snagged), it’s full steam ahead! Microsoft will not quit – but it will pay you to use Live Search.

So what is SearchPerks? Registered users agree to download a usage tracking program and then earn one ticket per every Live Search query (up to 25 tickets per day) until the program ends in April. Users can then redeem their tickets for prizes or donate the rewards to charity.

As interesting as it sounds, the SearchPerks registration page has a bit of a late-night infomercial feel to it. Things like “the sooner you sign up, the more opportunity you have to earn tickets!” are reminiscent of the “act now to receive your second Magic Bullet completely free!” But then again, perks persuade people to buy (or in this case, be bought).

Why hasn’t Live taken off? Is it because Google is so well known as a reliable search engine that newcomers barely have time to make it out of the starting gate? Cuil didn’t get too far, either – and it had pictures included in the results lists. But maybe that’s it – we don’t want the extras, just give us our search results so we can continue on with our task at hand. We don’t have time to register and redeem prizes! I found the added prize bonus to be an incredible turnoff. I want results, not prizes. If I were aiming for the latter I’d open a box of Cracker Jack.

By offering up SearchPerks to attract users, has Microsoft inadvertently proved Google’s strength? The search engine should speak for itself, no gimmicks necessary.

September 29, 2008  9:51 PM

I’m a PC, and I don’t necessarily like Microsoft

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

After the annoyingly strange Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercials promoting Microsoft, a new batch of adverts surfaced featuring the slogan “I’m a PC.” It goes something like this: Microsoft employees and users are meshed together in a montage of “I’m a PC and I [fill in stereotype of your choice here]” in a battle against Apple’s commercials portraying a PC negatively. Because, as they say in the ads, a PC is not a stereotype. But grouping all PC users in as Microsoft supporters is not?

Well, I’d like to go out and say I’m a PC, but I can’t give Microsoft all the credit in that decision.

By the way, why is Microsoft able to benefit from the term PC? Last time I checked, PC stood for personal computer and Wikipedia defines that as “any computer whose original sales price, size and capabilities make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.” So regardless of the operating system, aren’t we all using PCs?

Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t I just as much as PC user with my Linux operating system as you are with your Mac operating system? And, no, I have not forgotten that MS-DOS was the catalyst making the personal computer a reality. But nowadays, Windows is just one of the operating systems that make our PC world go ‘round.

Do you automatically associate being a PC user with Microsoft Windows? If so, is it because we’ve been trained to think PC = Microsoft? Maybe. Look at the constant barrage of ads we’re faced with. It happens every single day with everything. We automatically call all tissues Kleenex, gelatin of all brands is Jell-O and no one flinches when asked to “Xerox it.”

Is Microsoft playing into our ad vulnerability? Worse, are we falling for it? Let me know what you think.

September 25, 2008  8:34 PM

Face-to-face social networking? Nticing

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Finally, we may be seeing the end of the business card.

I always forget to bring my business cards to the events and conferences I attend. On the rare occasion I do remember to grab a small handful from my desk drawer, actually handing them out seems … so out of date. If I don’t even like carrying my own cards around, why should I expect someone else to want it? They smudge, they wrinkle (who wants to hand out a finger-printed and bent, tiny white card?) and they’re a bit of a hassle.

Plus, how many do they ship you in a box? A million? Who actually goes through all those? And information changes, you need to get another million shipped out to you and before you know it, you’re sitting on 5 million crinkled-up cards that no one (including you) actually wants.

When I attended the MIT EmTech Conference this week, I remembered to bring along my necessary (professional contact) evil. To my surprise, when I registered I did not get the usual name card on a promotional lanyard – I was handed what looked like a remote control (on a lanyard). When turned up to face me, it vibrated and beeped to life – displaying a brightly lit options screen and introducing itself as an nTAG.

Slightly bulky but surprisingly light, the nTag is built around the world’s first interactive name badge and provides a communication solution for the events and meetings industry. According to the site, the nTag (created in 2004 by Rick Borovoy and George Eberstadt) “pioneered face-to-face social networking solutions via wearable technology.”

Equipped with an electronic agenda, a messaging system, event information, your personal profile and contact information, and a way to wirelessly share this information nTAG to nTAG, you can practically say goodbye to your registration packet and business cards. And those “hello my name is” stickers? Never again. When you get within conversation-distance of someone wearing the nTAG, his name flashes up on your screen with the option to add as a contact.

On top of all that, the reusable devices eliminate all the waste (paper and time) of events packets.

All in all, the nTAG was useful and fun. I didn’t have to hand out a single business card (even though I’m dying to get rid of them) and I could update my profile and check out my contacts during the … umm … slower presentations.

September 25, 2008  8:29 PM

Are we all too busy?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Do your users pay attention to dialog box pop-ups? If you’re thinking, “yes, of course,” read on.

A recent study by members of the psychology department at North Carolina State University shows most people do not pay any attention to these dialog boxes – even when presented with information indicating potential malware.

The authors created four fake dialog boxes – one of them was indistinguishable from standard Windows dialog systems. From subtle (moving the mouse over the “OK” button would cause the cursor to turn to a hand — typical of browser control) to blatant (alternating between black text and a white background to white text on a black background), the dialog boxes should have been a tip-off to users that something wasn’t right.

The study was conducted by loading a series of medical websites to a panel of 42 college students, who were told to watch the sites and expect questions to follow. The fake dialog boxes were loaded randomly and the responses of the users were tracked. The response time showed the users did not spend any time evaluating the fakes. During the follow-up questions, students found “any dialog box a distraction from their assigned task; nearly half said that all they cared about was getting rid of these dialogs.”

Is there just no time for “dialog box speed bumps?” With the quick-answer Web-search service ChaCha growing in popularity, are we all too busy to even search for answers on the Web? Wasn’t that the point of the Web in the first place – a place to access information from all over the globe?

Are your users too busy to pay attention? Should you rethink the use of dialog boxes and consider another venue for that information?

September 19, 2008  1:47 PM

Microsoft reclaims ‘I’m a PC’; ditches Gates/Seinfield

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

As quickly as they started, the Microsoft/Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates ads have ended. Phew.

The nonsensical ads left viewers scratching their heads and Seinfeld with quite a heavy pocket. The comedian reportedly earned $10 million for the commercials in Microsoft’s attempt to connect with its target audience.

But who is Microsoft’s target audience? It may not be the twentysomethings … but choosing 54-year-old Seinfeld as the funny man may be meant to attract the “thirty- and fortysomething business community” Marc Ippolito, president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, told The Wall Street Journal reported Microsoft turned down Will Farrell and Chris Rock because it didn’t want to seem like it was catering too much to the younger market.

Well, maybe Gates doing the robot will gain audience appeal and Vista will get another shot – if the robot’s not dead yet, Vista certainly can’t be either.

In an interview with, Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw confirmed the plan to have “two teaser ads” (no — the weird Seinfeld/Gates ads weren’t cancelled, this was all planned). The next leg of Microsoft’s attempt at revitalizing the slogan “I’m a PC” includes celebrities (Eva Longoria and Pharell Williams among them) as the company works overtime to overcome the stigma Apple attached to being a PC.

What won’t you have to see again? Seinfeld asking Gates for a Microsoft product that makes computers “moist and chewy like cake.”

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