I was preparing to write a blog post when I logged in and saw I have 1,500 comments marked as spam. My blog is nowhere near viral status. In fact, I only have one post that is linked by another website. And yet, 1,500 spam comments. It led me to the following idea:

The web is a horror movie

  • There are spiders and creepy-crawlers everywhere. They’re just waiting to latch on to you and suck your blood.
  • Trust no one. You may think it’s your friend e-mailing you a cool picture, then you wake up in a scary place wondering how you got there.
  • There are body snatchers, well – identity thieves, who are trying to take everything you are with their too-good-to-be-true promises.
  • There is blood, violence, and gore aplenty. (and gratuitous shower scenes to go along with it)

but most of all:

If you are brave, pure of heart, and avoid all temptation – you can find what you’re looking for and make it out alive.

I was having a discussion at work recently about the use of BIM (Building Information Modeling) in creating engineering drawings. The point I was trying to make is that BIM is better than plain 2D drafting in many ways. Furthermore, any person involved in this trade should be proficient in both. A drafter/designer should be capable of cranking out 2D drawings, or intelligent 3D drawings when the project calls for it.

To simplify this: it should be as simple as when your barista asks you “Decaf, or Regular?”

 

This got me thinking that when you look at a barista in a coffee shop, you can see they cover most aspects of business. These rules aren’t just for coffee shops, they also apply to offices.

 

Be professional

Tuck in your shirt, and leave your Led Zeppelin T-Shirt at home. The customer is more interested in their coffee than your self-expression.

Acknowledge your customers

Say “Hi!” to customers when they enter, or even just a simple nod. If they look confused, ask what you can do to help.

Smiles give phenomenal ROI (return on investment)

They cost nothing, but they can earn you a lot of money. Sometimes, smiling even though you’re unhappy can lift your own spirits.

Know your craft

It doesn’t matter whether your customer wants a black cup of coffee, or a Mocha-Frappe-Latte Sugar Explosion. You’re an expert, and they’re both very easy for you. In fact, you’ve got it down so well that you even know how to make the 12 drinks that herd of hipsters just ordered without letting the line go out the door.

Make it simple for the customer

Display your menu and show the options they want to see. When they ask for that Mocha-Frappe-Latte Sugar Explosion with half Splenda and half organic brown sugar, don’t roll your eyes or sigh heavily because it’s complicated or not on the menu. The reason the customer is asking you to make it (and giving you money to do so) is because they don’t want to do it themselves. If it was easy, people wouldn’t pay you to do it.

Know your customers

Who pays $8 for a drink of coffee? No one, because it’s not THAT good. However, people will pay $8 for Wi-Fi, a quiet environment, clean restrooms, and a comfortable seat to relax in while sipping their coffee. Customers don’t buy the end product, they buy the whole experience. If your customers are only buying the product, how will you survive when a competitor sells the same product AND has comfy chairs?

Know your repeat customers

We’re all human, and we all love attention. I wish every one I walk past would say “Hey, Derek!” The fact that my local baristas know me and acknowledge me as a person, not just a wallet with legs (and a slight caffeine addiction) makes me feel good. It also makes me feel good that I don’t have to explain the drink I want every time. They know me and they know what I want.

Help your customers understand what they want

Have you ever found yourself blankly staring at a wall of choices, add-ons, and flavors with no idea what you want? If your customer doesn’t know what they want, ask them what mood they’re in. Or, suggest a drink you like. The worst thing they can do is ignore your advice and make their own decision. However, this does not mean you should shamelessly attempt to offload a pound of coffee on them when they only want a drink.

I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and I’m sure it will be my undoing. It has resulted in many unfinished projects and unmet expectations.

I have come to terms with the fact that it is not possible for me to know everything. However, knowing this doesn’t make the truth any easier.

I’m constantly struggling with my “to-do” list full of books to read, topics to learn, and projects to complete. Earlier this year I made a big dent by finally getting my Bachelors Degree after already being a working professional for 5-7 years. My next steps have been slower than I would have liked, but I’m finally making progress.

I have been working on side-projects, and reading books on various topics.

The first book I read is quite a good read, even for those not in the IT industry: Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is involved in anything that someone else will use. Whether it’s on a web page or a sheet of paper, the principles in this book apply to almost all forms of physical media that will be consumed by end users. I find myself using the term “usability” more often than I expected now that I’ve read this book.

My current read is: Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process.

So far it has been good, and I plan to move on to Kanban and other topics as well. Who knows, I may even manage to sneak in a CompTIA certification before the end of the year.

I can’t help but feel like I have been inadvertently getting prepared for what happened this weekend.

As I gear up for travel, I was running through my checklist of things to take care of. One of these things was my laptop that likes to immediately shutdown when the battery hits 40%. Yes, it is quite annoying to have your computer tell you “You have two hours left” and then go black. This simply will not do for travel. I was hoping I could just send the battery back, but GIGABYTE insisted I send the entire laptop and AC adapter.

Thankfully, I’ve just finished setting up my NUC.  It’s a good thing I decided to go with a desktop version of Linux, because it’s my main system now. So, over this weekend I’ve had to back up my data, image a laptop, convert it into a virtual machine – all of which I’ve written blog posts about. Last but not least, I also had to get my current time-waster (Path of Exile) to run on this machine.

In a few words: I am impressed. This mighty little NUC has been able to run my P2V’d laptop (Windows 7 64 bit) as well as play Path of Exile (thanks to wine, winetricks, PlayOnLinux, and some helpful forum posts).

Is it perfect? No, but it’s also not permanent. It is a pleasant surprise to see how far things have come in the last few years, from virtualization, to small computers, and even the impressive community of gamers that is still growing within the Linux realm.

It seems that in any industry, there are those who want to invent and those who want to commoditize these inventions. One person creates a new technology or service, and another (or sometimes the same person) then quickly finds a way to turn it into profit.

This is not a new phenomenon. This process is good and bad, and different industries have varying levels of success. For example, you could hire a plumber to fix your toilet, or you could learn to Do-It-Yourself. There are many videos, books, and kits that will teach you how to do this. Obviously, not everyone will be able to pick up a book and be proficient; there is a natural inclination which can be more valuable than mass-produced instructions.

This same thing is true for technology. Now more than ever, there are companies like WIX who are trying to convince people that web design is easy, and you can just Drag-N-Drop to create a web page. Companies have been doing this since the web was born. Granted, great strides have been made, but you won’t see features like this in a WIX site.

So – what do you want to do with your technology? If you just want to have a blog to have one, sure, go ahead and use WordPress (I fear my tongue may cause my cheek to rupture at any moment). If you want to push the envelope, then you’d better get your hands dirty with HTML, CSS, and some server-side language. Considering W3C had to split CSS3 into modules in order to make any progress on it, how can anyone believe that a pre-made website builder will possess features that haven’t even been completed yet?

Let’s say you do want to make something new, something great, and something that really sets you apart. That’s great, and the world needs more people like you! If you want to have an intelligent design process that runs circles around the competition, you’d better make sure you’re using some custom tools. If everyone is working with the same recipe, the only difference is the ingredients – so make sure you’re not shopping in the same store as your competitors!