Friday, October 17, 2008
Ok, I'll admit it. I watch Nascar sometimes hoping to see a good wreck.... Who wins? Well, thats not that much of a concern to me. There is at least a little bit of this person in everyone. Have you ever wondered why? What makes a Nascar wreck so interesting? I think there are actually a few different things that come into play.
The first and foremost is that in most cases no one is seriously injured. This is a primary reason why someone who sees a wreck happen in front of them on the interstate will have nightmares about it and yet that same person loves the carnage of a Nascar wreck. This will, of course, vary between person on how the respond but at a very base level there is a part of every one of us that has a huge respect for other human beings and care about their well-being. I don't think that in today's age we make that very evident because there are so many things in our enviornment that lead us in a different direction than what our base selves are trying to be but I'll touch on that a little later.
The second thing that is extremely important is that it is totally unexpected. Did you ever wonder why a wreck seems so much more exciting when you're watching the entire race as opposed to just seeing a clip of the wreck it's self? It's the element of surprise. If someone is showing you a clip of a wreck then you are expecting it.... but if you're watching the race and it happens live, it's unexpected and it's just that much more exciting.
The third important thing is that it's a break from the norm. If you look at a typical Nascar race, all of the cars race around a track 200 some laps. It's the same thing over and over again and why there are a lot of people that just simply can't stand watching Nascar. Some people take notice of the details of that race regarding who is in what position and they may know stats of who is expected to win and it's exciting to them when they see someone else taking the lead -- the more unexpected that person is to take the lead, the more exciting the race is. A wreck is the ultimate break from the norm.... instead of cars going around laps on all 4 tires, suddenly, it's different... things going in different directions.... We are designed to break from the norm so when other things break from the norm, well, then we almost "relate".
So we relate to chaos? Actually, I think we do in a very abstract way. Why are horror movies so popular? Thrillers? Comedies? Drama? Did you ever stop and realize that every single one of these genres of movies have a very important element -- the element of surprise. Why is it that Drama tends to be a less "popular" genre of movie? If you think about the typical genre, there isn't always a lot of surprise. There's the boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married.... we except these things to happen. A good drama is hard to build because dramas all tend to be based on the same thing and it's hard to integrate these unexpected things.... that's why we've started seeing so many more "romantic comedies" ... We just can't simply have the same romance films and be entertained and the best way to mix in unexpected happenings is with comedy. That's really all comedy is.... something that is unexpected.
Since I have been working on my TV system (MythTV / LinuxMCE) I have started relaxing more with hulu.com and ended up starting to watch Fringe. This show has gained a lot of popularity and its not hard to see why.... the confusion, the thinking, the mystery.... these are concepts that our lives were designed around. Fringe has made me realize a lot of additional things than just these elements.... things that may exist in me and not many others.
When I was a kid I had a matchbox city set. It was a little town that folded up and had streets, police department, fire department, some stores, hospital, etc. I remember it being entertaining to me to cause accidents between cars on the streets... sure, every boy did. The more I have been thinking about how my life has been going and the directions God seems to lead me in I'm starting to remember something very interesting that I used to do when I played with that town. When an accident occured I would, of course, bring in the fire truck and police car.... but I always did something interesting.... I would build temporary roadways and find ways of directing traffic around that accident. For me, it wasn't so much the accident it's self that was exciting but it was trying to find a way around that accident.... how can it be taken care of?
Now, I don't think you'll run in to many people that could say they built temporary roadways on their matchbox playset. I guess you really don't meet many people like me either. I remember looking around my room and finding things that I could use to build roads with.... I'd often use paper and cardboard and every kind of tape you'd imagine... straws were useful... The thing was, I always needed to look at what options I had and use them the best way I knew how. Hey, I was a kid that couldn't drive and had no money so was I going to go to the store to buy something? Not a chance. I was forced to use what I had instead of taking the easy way out and getting what was needed.... and I had a lot more fun in doing that anyway.
So what is it that is happening in our society? If you look at corporations that grow larger and larger you'll notice a general trend.... those companies lose their creativity.... they get comfortable.... they grow bored. Oh... they get greedy too. Is it all greed? Well, maybe not. I can imagine if I was an accountant I'd probably get bored of the same thing over and over again... there is that part of me that wants to think and be creative.... but I've got people holding my hand and watching everything I do... so the creativity has to happen in secret.... all of a sudden it's "Can I actually get away with this?" more than it is "I really want to have that money"..... Don't get me wrong, money is driving a lot of disaster but what is the motive to do wrong to get it? Quite possibly it's the lack of creativity.
We, as humans, were created into uncertainty. You can see this in watching a child grow up. Everything is amazing to them.... we're not sure of much at all when we are born.... but we learn..... The problem is how we learn. Are we told "this is the way things are" or are we guided through our experiences and left to figure out things on our own? If you talk to any child psychologist they will likely tell you that you need to give your child options and ask them what they'd like to do rather than tell them what to do.... it's important in their growth. But while the child psychologists have this it seems a lot of parents don't.... most of that is out of frustration..... you want your child to do something because you need a break...... Another place that you start seeing this "do it this way" is in the school systems. I remember in middle school math being told to show my math. There were many times on a test that I lost points not becuase I didnt have the right answer but because I didn't show how I came to that answer. The more I think about this, I wonder if this is why I hate math so much. I remember that I used to love trying to figure out equations but anymore, I can't stand it. It kind of makes me wonder if that's part of the reason my math scores started dropping.... I had my way of doing it.... I figured it out for myself.... but I was punished because I didn't do it the way the school system said I needed to.... It seems to get worse in college.... there is such an emphasis of the way things are that they really no longer cultivate the creativity that we need in order to go beyond where we are now.
We go through our lives in social situations. We're taught what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.... and every single one of us is deadened to at least some extent. If we are raised in a family that is prejudice then we have a greater tendancy of being prejudice as well because, well, we're taught that this is the way it is. We don't have a change to realize that a black person can be extremely smart and that they are just like a white person.... these are things that "any idiot" can figure out.... but we're learning based on what we are told first and then we'll figure out what we're not told.... this, my friends, is why laziness is such a bad thing. We're so lazy that we will take anyone's word on any situaiton rather than looking in to that ourselves.
Take a moment to think of the stereo typical things that you are taught. What child has not heard "when you grow up and make lots of money....." You see, its comments like that that flat out tell us that money is important to our happiness. We stop taking the time to figure out other things in life because our entire world revolves around money that we are essentially told that this is the way it is.... the longer that goes on the more focused we become.... We see the patterns that have made many businesses lots of money and we take those as being told how to do things -- rather than figure out a new way on our own. Then we see businesses making these same moves and even when they are totally wrong us consumers go "well, hey, they are a business".... This horrible cycle repeats it's self. Sadly, that pattern gets worse each time it repeats it.
As a result of these processes and cycles we are not given the chance to figure out who we really are... from the time we are born we are surrounded by this world that is showing us everything the way that it wants to be and because of our internal laziness, we don't take the time to figure it out. We quickly lose who we are as humans and we become part of the problem. If we decided to think on our own we become a "rebel" or told that we just live in a dream world and, in many cases *ahem*, we end up in mental care because we're not conforming to the world is. All of this happens while the world continues to decide that communism is bad. Whether our government is communistic or not we live our lives in such a horrible hippocritical way and we show our own little communism to anyone who doesn't conform to our standards.
I believe that the only way to really save our nation and our world is to break free of the comformity. We need to quit thinking that throwing money at the economy is going to solve the problems. We need to believe that some crazy ideas might actually be the solution..... And maybe we just might need to think about the person that we wrote off our entire life as being totally crazy and psychotic might actually be the uncomformed rebel that we need to help all of us find ourselves.
(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Balanced Customer Service Reporting
Tonight I had an extremely bad experience at the KFC/Taco Bell in Ashburn, VA. I waited in the drive through line for approx 10 mins before giving up and going inside. Once inside I waited 8 mins and not a single person said anything to me.... oh they saw me alright.... at least 2 people (including the manager) pointed at me. I grabbed a recipt that someone threw on the floor in order to get some kind of customer service number and was shocked that the recipt had a time stamp of 5pm on it and it was now 10pm.... trash sitting on the floor for 5 hours?
Typically I try to give people the benefit of the doubt -- I used to manage for Pizza Hut, after all. I've been known to call customer service hotlines to tell them what a great job someone did -- and on multiple occasions. I know how important to hear your doing a good job is, not only as a manager but as a human being.
After blowing 20 mins of my life trying to get a taco I went to McDonald's. I wanted to go through the drive through but they were getting a delivery and their truck had it blocked so I decided to go inside and, since I was in there, eat inside. It wasn't until I was sitting down and the manager went and locked the door that I realized the dining room was supposed to be closed at this time of night but apparently they left it open since they knew people couldn't get to the drive through. Aside from this, the manager was so extremely polite. Stepping back and thinking about this from a psychological point of view I think two things can happen after you've had a bad experience. The first is you're in such a bad mood that no one can do right for you and the second is that even poor service can seem awesome in the light of the experience you had.
So here is the problem. Companies have to monitor their customer service lines with a real grain of salt because ALL they hear is the bad. If you have a good experience somewhere you feel there is no need to tell them but if you have a bad one, well, you need to make sure someone is held accountable. What ends up happening is us consumers create a situation where our complaints get taken with less sincerity because, well, what is there to base how bad the situation is since the customer service team isn't getting any good reports. What's worse is the companies that are doing an incredibly awesome job just simply don't realize they are doing something right and it also reduces their motivation to keep doing that great job.
I don't know if there is a solution or not but I want to make a challenge to everyone (yes, this means you). Aside from the need to sometimes realize that everyone has bad days I think there is a real huge need for customer service hotlines to have a balanced report. I think an easy way for us to start turning this around is for us to set our own personal goals that anytime we feel that we need to report a horrible experience we pick another experience in the same week (or even day) that we also call someone's customer service hotline and tell them about an awesome experience you had with their company. So maybe on Monday you have a horrible experience at Taco Bell but on Wednesday you stop in at Target and an employee does something really great to help you out. Give Taco Bell a call and tell them the situation but then also call Target and tell them about that situation as well. If you have 2 bad experiences in a week that you feel like calling a company about then also pick 2 good experiences from the same week and call those companies and tell them what a great job they are doing. If all of this catches on then we might actually see huge corporations having incentive to keep doing good and seeing more action taken for the bad reports they are getting.
(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
Sunday, January 06, 2008
When will innovation stop meaning "copy"
I just got done watching the last part of Microsoft's keynote from CES and I have to say that I was not impressed. While to many people it may seem that they are doing things that are "new" I did not see a single thing that was new. Well, I will give them the Ford Sync thing except the only thing new there is putting a few technologies together in a single package -- everything that it does could have been accomplished for at least the last couple years.
They went over a lot of stuff about Media Center and it irritated me just like any other DVR company. Even Echostar (a company that I really like) annoys me with their advertising of their "new" features they keep adding to their DVR systems. Open source technology has been doing all of the stuff these companies are doing and more for many years. And it's not really that I want to be critical about them adopting new ideas into their product but what I think is unfair is the statements that are made that they are the only one doing this and that the entire idea was from their company. MythTV can do just about everything Media Center or TiVo can do and it can do a hell of a lot more as well. MythBuntu has made the set up of MythTV just as easy as Media Center (and from some of the horror stories I've heard about Media Center, probably easier).
Then there's the Zune social. This especially irritates me. The entire concept and design is completely a rip off of Last.FM. Last.FM currently runs on many different platforms and is open source so that you can integrate it into virtually anything. I get exceptionally upset when companies try to make something proprietary that is something you want to be centralized. If you want to keep a log of all of the music you listen to and have a system make recommendations for you then you want that system to know what you listen to on every device. If you have a Zune, sure it will work for you..... but what about other devices? What about other software? Other computers? Unless Microsoft sees a profit in making a client for device x, we'll never be able to see it. If you really want to welcome me to the social, then please welcome me with the devices that I have
This post really isn't meant to be a "bash Microsoft" post but I'm really tired of any company that says they are innovators but all they do is copy the ideas of someone else and publish them as their own. It's really more of an example of where our society has gone. We no longer respect people for what they do out of the goodness of their heart or because they really enjoy it. For you to be honored you usually have to accept honor in making money. If you're not in it for the money then you are an outcast of society -- well, at least corporate america right now. People in the open source community create because they want to fill a void or because they enjoy doing it and that passion shows through in the finalized product. Same is true with those that volunteer. It seems that if you're doing it because you want to and not because you're in it for some selfish gain then your motives are questioned and people start looking for what you're trying to gain -- they can't just trust you that you really want to help.
I really do wish people would start looking at everything in life as being part of a team. The long term solution is to help one another and not be in it just for yourself. We all need to give credit where credit is due. Our society can go so much further if we just follow this simple policies.
(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Living in the wrong era
As a kid we could walk to my grandmother's house and just walk right in even if she wasn't home. We didn't have a key - she just never locked her door. There wasn't a need and this was especially true to the people that grew up in their generation.
I keep feeling like God created me many years before I was born and just forgot to actually send me to earth. He finally remembered in 1980 but I was already at least 2 generations too late.
My life is just the same thing over and over again. It happens where I work, where I go to church, who I'm friends with, and even who I date. When someone needs help I put my all in to it. I always have the impression that whoever I'm helping will, in turn, appreciate what I am doing and will do the same if needed. While this was the way life was (and still should be) years ago, it isn't the case now. The result is I'm continually punished because I focus on caring about people but when I'm hurting not only is there no one there to help me, the people that I have been helping expect me to just keep going because they've grown accustom to whatever it is I'm doing.
So at a job, ill get the "this is business and that is personal" comment. The problem is that in order to be so passionate at work, I rely on all the good in my life but when there is a time of trial I end up going back down to average; average in the same standards that an employer will look for in a replacement. But because I put my all into something for a average pay doesn't mean I get a raise but it just means that the standards I get headed on go up. And these standards won't carry over to the next person they hire. No, they just apply to me without me getting any additional benefits. Naturally things go sour in the eyes of the employer and they generally end up disapointed in me. I end up back at square one. With people in my personal life, they just tag me as a horrible person and ignore anything that I did that was good for them. These are the things that turn me into a failure in everyone else's lives and, eventually, my own.
This is my life but its also an example of how society is in a downward spiral. The problem is that no one wants to stand against it because, well, you end up here writing this blog. For me, I don't know how else to live but I don't know if I'd want to anyway. Its just going to continue to be my life and all I can do is pray that I will someday find a girl who has this same problem. Of course I'm not holding my breath because they've all been with numerous guys in the past and have no desire to take a chance on me. Their solution to the problem is to change nothing but if they happen to find a guy that cares they just take what they can until it requires something of them. Once that time comes then the relationship with that vendor.... Oh, I mean person.... is over. We all hate corporate America but we live our lives with the thriving corporation as our bible. So what with that ancient book that was named "Bible" - we have new and greater things in our lives now.
(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
(C)2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
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