Crowdsourcing Projects

We’ve developed expertise in methods of distributing work tasks and targeting information to relevant people in ways that were not previously practical to outsource. The creative use of new crowdsourcing tools has started the new wave of productivity increases. We can bring projects in quicker and at lower costs because of the vendor management skills we’ve developed in remote staffing. No, we’re not talking about sending your work to India, but we might send it to someplace like Iowa or split the tasks between 1000 people.

If you need to create a list, have Halligan Projects utilize Mechanical Turk instead of bringing in a temp or putting interns on it. You’ll get the results in a day rather than in 2 weeks at a fraction of the cost. (Approximately 75% of Mechanical Turk workers are American.) Companies building add-on services with Mechanical Turk are changing the nature of work distribution. Turk workers can be engaged directly, thought 3rd party services, or through APIs.

The contest or prize-based model is a way to get many creative people working on your problem. People are using 99design to crowdsource their graphics. Netflix just concluded a contest to improve their recommendation engine. InnoCentive and others are solving scientific problems through crowdsourcing. On top of getting great results, these tactics can make for great PR.

We’re also incorporating Elance and Guru workers in projects to do everything from translation to data entry. For work that doesn’t require face-to-face contact, having someone in Iowa perform work for you is much more affordable. Like eBay buyer/seller ratings, the reputation ratings of the freelancers on these sites remove most of the risk.

We plan to incorporate such practices into our larger engagements and pursue specific crowdsourcing work. It takes some creativity to incorporate these tactics and a leap of faith to start using them. We have both going for us. With the frequent changes in available technology tools, it takes too much time for any CTO, CIO, COO, marketing, or PR person to follow. Not keeping abreast of disruptive technologies can lead to your job or company’s getting disintermediated. Let Halligan Projects advise you on work distribution tactics or let us do it for you.

Throw a small task at us to let us show you what we can do.

Not-profit-motivated Services

​I’ve long thought that our society should patronize and develop more services on the model of not-profit-motivated WordPress, Wikipedia, Drupal, and craigslist if we want a better world. I’m not condemning venture-funded  and profit-motivated companies. They’ve done and will do great things; but in a macro sense, it’d be better to develop more companies oriented toward the public good than to maximizing profit. We need to bring the ethos of open source to services that we use day-in and day-out like banking, investing, housing, food production, and transit. Crowdfunding companies such as Kickstarter help this business model have new such opportunities. With the combination the two principles where companies don’t put profit first and where they are crowd-funded, we have a new opportunity to build institutions we can trust to do its users, society, and the planet right.

Web or app-based services like Facebook and Twitter are venture-funded and will likely be ruined by the company’s monetization efforts. As an example, when asked why I don’t use Flipboard, I replied that they are venture funded and don’t give their users a method to export their data. When Wall Street decides Flipboard needs to start actually making money, I want an option to move my list of feeds to which I subscribe. Since they don’t allow export (an OPML file is a standard feed export/import format), I’m not going to use them.

Did Facebook do anything for its customers with the billions it got from its IPO? It seems like they effectively just sold us out. They added ads everywhere. They are worth twice the combined market cap of the Big 3 auto makers largely because they say their ads are targeted and relevant. Have you found the ads they throw you to be relevant and targeted? Are the huge valuations of Airbnb, Uber, and WeWork a good thing?

The founders of WordPress, Wikipedia, Drupal, and craigslist made big money and great reputations. They may not be billionaires like the founders of many of these venture-backed services, but they have enough money. They monetized, but they did not sell out. They institutionalized their corporate culture by exclaiming to their user community and in their corporate documents such as by-laws that they are not going to sell out. That reputation they developed for not selling out is reputational currency in itself. Billionaires make huge money and then often give it back to charity later. Why not be like Craig Newmark of craigslist and decide that a largely-free service, ethically run,  gives him and our society y the highest reward?

There’s a lot to this, and I don’t feel these few paragraphs do the idea justice. And yes, I see the irony (or hypocrisy) of my working with Microsoft’s products and espousing the use of the opposite above. More to follow.

Clutter Folder

I enabled the Clutter function in Outlook and OWA about a month ago. It uses artificial intelligence to puts mass emails and emails that you don’t usually open into a new Outlook email folder called Clutter. It works well. It’s been better than most Junk mail filters at deciding what to remove from my Inbox. I had thought, “I do want all my mass emails that I receive” and I still do, but having them in a different folder works.

The best part is, it puts everything which I wouldn’t want to be notified of in my Clutter folder. So, now I can set my phone to chime when personal emails come in, because my Inbox now only registers a new email when I get a personal email (since the mass emails now go into the Clutter folder).  I have an Inbox, a Clutter folder, and a Junk folder to check, but that’s working out better than having just an Inbox and Junk.

Transition Progress

I’ve started doing Office 365 tasks within my projects that I used to have to farm out. There are still plenty of Microsoft Mysteries, but I think everyone occasionally assumes something would work out of the box that is actually difficult. The creativity in finding the best solution for a process in SharePoint that was previously otherwise-handled is the fun part.

With Office 365 now free for non-profits, small firms can now have the tools that used to take major investment and geekery to install and maintain. Getting EDs to understand what they can do for project management and collaboration is my challenge.

I’m looking forward to starting another SharePoint Boot Camp in mid March and have been developing my Microsoft Partner credentials.

Strategy in Company Location and Technology Choice (or Non-Choice)

​I occasionally look at classified ads of companies seeking employees. In a large number of them, two things stick out as compromising the productivity and competitiveness of firms. Small decisions or non-decisions that lead to failing to change, add up.

First is location. Are you going to get creative employees if you’re located in an out-of-the-way location? How about not being on transit lines? Or being located distant from your desired hires? No. Heard about a non-profit that moved out of Dupont Circle, “Why would I want to stay? There’s no train, no parking, nowhere to eat lunch, and no one nearby to each lunch with!”

Second is technology choice. If you have too varied, legacy, or just plain unappealingly technology in your job descriptions, good candidates are going to look on to ads asking people to work with tools that will better develop their career potential. Cold Fusion and Lotus Notes come to mind. Consolidating on as few technologies attracts competent specialists. When I see an ad looking for someone to maintain a long list of software titles, I think, “Good luck finding someone willing to do that – never mind someone good at it.”

If you think you are saving money by having low rent and retaining old technology, you are likely being penny wise and dollar foolish.

Pants and Soulcraft

​I was enjoying the audiobook The Year Without Pants so much that I was hoping it would never end. Despite that, when about halfway through Pants, I began trying to decide between two books to listen to next. I was really torn between two.

Seemingly serendipitously, as I finished the last few minutes of Pants, the book I would listen to next was pretty much decided when Pants referred to one of the two books I was thinking about reading next. Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford had been on my reading/listening list for 4 years.

Soulcraft is related to Pants. They are both about the future of work. Pants is about how WordPress succeeds at remote work, and Soulcraft is about how on-site work is important. For a 2013 technology book like Pants to refer to the (ancient by technology book standards) four-year-old and not hugely-popular Soulcraft decided it for me. That tie between Pants and Soulcraft sealed my decision to listen to Soulcraft next.

Recent MS Study

This past month I’ve studied 3 days at Ignite DC downtown, 2 days partner training at the Microsoft offices, and 30 hours at Mack Sigman’s SharePoint Boot Camp. If I can fit in my schedule, I’ll do Mack’s SharePoint Admin course in Dec or Jan. These all involved prep and follow-up study.

These studies are all in Microsoft technologies of Office 365. The Project/Program/Portfolio Management methodologies have been of a particular interest. Why spend so much time studying Microsoft Office 365? Two reasons: we’ve been concentrating our practice on Office 365 because it’s now free for all 501(c)3 non-profits and because Google Apps is not even free for small organizations anymore.

Many thanks to Mack Sigman and other FEDSPUG/WSPDC volunteers Bisi Adebesinx and Nikkia Carter for their many hours of community-building work and teaching.

If you get too much email, maybe you should spend more time WRITING each email

If you concentrate on writing clearly and concisely, when it’s your role to weigh in, to only the people who need that information, you and your co-workers will get less email. When someone multi-tasking fires off an unclear email to 8 people, that will often generate 10 more emails rather than settle a matter as intended.

By trying to multi-task you often make your entire organization less productive. I often think, “That email was great for 2 people on the email list and completely confused the other 12. Now, someone is going to spend a lot more time cleaning that mess up.” All the recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is much less productive than deep concentration.

I can’t tell you how often I hear someone say that they can’t get any work done at the office. They have to get their REAL work done at home or on a plane. That’s a corporate communication culture problem that needs to be addressed. I’ll often say. “I don’t think that’s a meeting issue. We can solve that by  email or phone in less time than it would take for us to prep and gather for a meeting.” Death by PowerPoint.

When someone responds to “How are you?” with “Busy” every time, I see that more as a time and lifestyle management problem than a point of pride. Skipping sleep does not make you more productive. All these little behaviors add up.

What Do We Mean by Strategic Technology Focus?

Plan Strategically...Think About It
Plan Strategically…Think About It

Almost every non-profit I go into has kluged-together technology. As they grew and shrank over the years, they picked up a website run on one platform that doesn’t talk to their data. Their program management doesn’t talk to their accounting. Their accounting doesn’t talk to their CRM or the link is so tenuous it takes hours every month to get anywhere. Their intranet is on a 5th platform. Three servers are new and they don’t even know what’s on the other ones. Many tactical decisions were made that add up to a bad work environment.

That mess is usually quantifiably negatively affecting their productivity. When presented with this situation, shown how that can be improved over a period of time, and in a way that saves money, strategically focused management is willing to go through the changes to make it happen. Getting to that point is a lot cheaper than it used to be. Most of the issue with too many firms is getting over the fear of changing how things are done.

A Few Reasons Why I Hate Texting

I hate texting for the below reasons. This opinion is, admittedly, out of the main stream. I thought I’d document and explain.

Everyone I communicate with has email to their phone. Email has many more capabilities. Most people lose their text archive when they get a new phone.

I’m sitting here next to my computer happily typing away and the cell phone over by the door makes this unfamiliar noise that means I have a text message. Texting’s the only medium that one can’t use on a full keyboard.

An exception is that some workplaces use Chatter, Skype, or Yammer successfully. Those are usually answerable multi-modally by computer or phone..

Texting got popular when people were too cheap to pay for minutes to talk and I think a lot of this continued because early iPhone weren’t very good for voice. Now, minutes are cheap and most phones actually work as phones.

Texting is supposedly less intrusive than phoning. But a call goes to VM and you answer when you choose. One is expected to promptly answer a text. If the sender or receiver happens to be in a different country you pay more.

Can’t we just simplify. Between phone, email, Facebook chat, Skype, Skype chat, and Twitter, there are plenty of ways to reach me. And call me “old fashioned”, but I think spelling and punctuation actually contribute to understanding. Half the texts I get make no sense.

I don’t have a texting plan, and I don’t really want one. Each text sent and each received cost me the ridiculous sum 20 cents. That usually costs me less than the ridiculous sum of $5 for the min 200 texts a month plan. Texts cost the carrier almost nothing.