If I lived somewhere where Clearwire provided service, I would look very hard at the service as an alternative to DSL or cable internet. Clearwire provides wireless internet access for residences and business using the WiMAX protocol. Check out their coverage areas and see if you might be able to evaluate the Clearwire service.Tags: Clearwire, WiMAX, wireless internet, ISP, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Jajah and Sprint/Nextel free incoming plans
So I was thinking that you could do some serious free calling using Jajah and a Sprint or Nextel phone with one of the Sprint/Nextel free incoming call plans. Jajah initiates a free call between your number and another number through a web interface: you simply enter your phone number and the number you want to call, and Jajah calls your number and connects the call to the person you are trying to reach. Jajah allows you to make free long distance calls within the US, Canada, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong (Jajah refers to these areas as “Zone 1”). For other countries, Jajah has fairly aggressive, low per minute rates.
You might question as to the usefulness of this service if you have to be in front of a computer to initiate the calls, Jajah has recently announced a mobile version that allows you to initiate calls using your cellphone’s internet connection, meaning that you no longer have to be tethered to your computer to initiate a call. Jajah mobile currently works on all Symbian phones and for most phones that support Java.
Among the services JAJAH offers, Users may initiate phone calls between them which are partly or fully handled via JAJAH telecom partners. Therfore any information which You may post during such phone call, including any personal information shall not be deemed private. JAJAH cannot guarantee the security of such information, that you disclose or communicate in such phone call and you do so at your own risk.
The cheapest free incoming plan from Sprint is $49.99, so it might be worth looking at combining a free incoming plan with the Jajah service if you spend a lot on cellular and don’t have conversations that you would prefer other not hear.Tags: Jajah, Sprint, voip, cell phone, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Monday, September 25, 2006
scanR adds business card functionality
I’ve written about scanR before, but they continue to add useful functionality, most notable right now being the ability to take a picture of a business card with your cellphone camera and have the scanR service turn it into a vCard. Note that in order for the business card scanning to work effectively, you must have a 2 megapixel camera.Tags: scanr, business cards, scanning, cell phone camera, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Wal-Mart to sell generic drugs for $4 per month
Wal-Mart has announced, according to Fast Company Now, that it will begin selling 291 types of generic prescription drugs for only $4 per month. Why is Wal-Mart doing this? It’s a little hard to tell if it’s a move to literally destroy their competition or if it is as Wal-Mart CEO, Lee Scott, states:
"Competition and market forces have been absent from our healthcare system, and that has hurt working families tremendously"
Here’s the simple fact of the matter: $4 per month is less than most people’s insurance co-pays for generics.Tags: Fast Company Now, Wal-Mart, prescription drugs, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Guy Kawasaki linkfest
Here are a number of great posts from Guy Kawasaki:
- Dear Libby — learn how to write an effective cover letter and resume. Guy even provides examples of how not to do it and reasons for why he is doing what he is doing.
- Getting a job in Silicon Valley — I’ve never seen this kind of list from an industry insider that’s based in the Valley; if you are even considering going after a job in the Valley, you should read these tips at least 10 times.
- Examples of great marketing and employee handbooks — Guy found them and they are definitely worth the read. Note that the CEO of the company was involved in authoring both documents — it makes a difference.
- The Art of the Layoff — I’ve never seen a list that gives such a powerful amount of information in such a concise way. For anyone that is or ever might be in the position to conduct layoffs, there is no reason not to read this post.
Get more pay
The Northwest Florida Daily News is carrying an article originally published by Perri Capell of the Wall Street Journal about getting the most pay out of your job. Here are the 10 ways:
- Listen to your boss
- Bet on yourself
- Seek financial advice
- Learn about special commissions or awards
- Change your tax withholding
- Take the free money
- Pay for as much as you can with tax-free income
- Ask for a pay re-evaluation
- Turn down benefits that cost the company
- Don’t forget the small stuff
Full details in the article.Tags: Florida Daily News, Wall Street Journal, pay, employment, raise, jobs, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Saturday, September 23, 2006
CFLs and how you can change the world
I don’t often author posts like this, but if you read the whole thing, you will find out not only how to save yourself money, but also how you can change the world for about the cost of a coffee at Starbucks.
Let’s talk CFLs — here are the opening paragraphs of a recent Fast Company article that got me focused on CFLs:
Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.
The product is the compact fluorescent lightbulb, a quirky-looking twist of frosted glass. In the energy business, it is called a "CFL," or an "energy saver."
CFLs can be had for less than $3 at both Lowes and Home Depot when purchased in the 60W equivalent, non-dimmable, contractor packs — the more that you buy, the more that you save. There are higher equivalent wattages, decorator-style bulbs, flood bulbs, 3–way bulbs, and dimmable bulbs that all cost more or less than $3, but you can replace nearly every light in your house with CFLs.
I replaced almost every (more on why I didn’t replace every light later in this post) light in my house today at a cost of around $100. On average, the CFLs that I purchased at Home Depot draw 1/3 the wattage of incandescent bulbs to produce an equivalent wattage. For example, the 60W equivalent CFL coil lights that I used in the majority of my fixtures draw only 14 watts; the packaging estimates a $46 savings per year per bulb. Do the math yourself: if you spend $3 per bulb with a first year savings of $46 and a sunk cost of the bulb that you are replacing of about $2, the net savings to you in year 1 is $41. Oh, and there is a warranty that, under normal usage conditions, guarantees the operation of the bulb for 9 years.
Consider this statistic from the Fast Company article:
. . . if every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.
I just replaced around 70 sockets worth of bulbs — consider the impact if everyone replaced even half of the sockets in their home instead of just one socket.
But I didn’t replace every socket and here’s why: neither the Lowes nor the Home Depots close to my house carry dimmable 60W equivalent bulbs and I have several dimming switches installed in the house. Searching online, I did find dimmable bulbs, but the cost is hovering between $16 and $18 per bulb, which is quite expensive for all of the bulbs that I need to replace. Fortunately, the places where I have dimmers are used very sparingly (i.e., formal dining room that is used maybe 4–6 times per year). Once the dimmable bulbs are more available and/or come down in price, I will probably go ahead and replace the bulbs in those sockets as well. Consider that I replaced around 70 sockets with CFLs and the dimmable sockets represent only 8 sockets in my house.
Oh and I forgot to mention that after reading this article, me and my team replaced every indoor incandescent bulb at my work with CFLs — that was something like 180 fixtures. Then we replaced every outdoor flood fixture with outdoor CFL bulbs — that was something like 120 fixtures.
Want to change your impact on the world? You can start today. Skip Starbucks on Monday morning, take your coffee money and buy a 60W CFL, take it home, and replace just 1 incandescent light in your house, apartment, RV, etc.Tags: cfl, lightbulbs, fast company, save the world, energy, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Have you ever wanted to put the size of something up to a known reference?
That’s exactly what sizeasy does for you — you input the dimensions of your object, tell sizeasy what you want to compare it to, and sizeasy generates a 3D comparison. From their site, here is a comparison of a Microsoft Zune, an iPod Nano, and an iPod 30gb with a deck of cards as a reference:
Interesting stuff.Tags: size, size comparisons, sizeasy, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Wikipedia's effect on brands
You can try it yourself: Google a major brand name and many times a Wikipedia entry will show up in the top results. Steve Rubel has some interesting data about brands that are spending big money on media and how Wikipedia results may be influencing consumer behavior more strongly than the dollars being spent. Here are some points to walk away with:
- Brand managers should know what Wikipedia says about their brand.
- Brand managers should not try to modify Wikipedia entries — the social nature of Wikipedia means that they will be caught
- Brand Managers should not hire others to modify Wikipedia entries about their brand — the social nature of Wikipedia means they will get caught
- Brand managers need to understand the real impact of Wikipedia on their brand and where Wikipedia entries fall in search results.
Read the rest of the Rubel’s article for further information.Tags: Wikipedia, brands, search results, Ross Hollman, Strategize
19 inch LCD for $99 until 9/30/06
The More Stuff 4 Less Bargain Blog has a post with full details about how to get a 19” LCD monitor for $99. Although it may not be the absolute best monitor in the world when compared to more expensive competitors, chances are good that it will suit the needs of about 80% of the population and you just can’t beat the price. Be sure to read the instructions.Tags: LCD, monitor, deals, rebates, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Friday, September 22, 2006
Is your conference room boring?
Ever thought about how nice it would be to have windows or even a skylight in your conference room? The Sky Factory specializes in just these sorts of things through a combination of lighting and high-resolution photos that give the illusion of windows and “skyceilings.” Here’s a picture from their site:
The whole ceiling in the picture above is create by The Sky Factory.Tags: conference rooms, skylight, skyceiling, windows, The Sky Factory, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Amazon + TiVo
Rumor has it that Amazon is in talks with TiVo to allow users to directly download and view Amazon Unbox movies. Not surprisingly, these reports come closely on the heels of Apple unveiling its yet-to-be-released iTV that will presumably allow the viewing of movies and tv shows downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
I have to say, as a TiVo user and a Mac/iPod/iTunes user, that I would probably wait for the Apple solution and here’s why: the Apple solution seems to involve streaming the movies from a computer that has iTunes installed whereas the Amazon/TiVo solution would seem to involve downloading content to the TiVo box, taking up memory and causing me to need to access the content via TiVo Desktop to retrieve it from the TiVo. My preference is to download content directly to my computer and stream it, but that’s just me; of course, without knowing full details of the Amazon/TiVo solution, I could be totally off-base.
I’m sure this space is going to really heat up in the next few months and into the first months of 2007 when it is has been reported that Apple will release iTV.Tags: TiVo, Amazon, Amazon Unbox, iTunes, Apple, iTV, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Sonos now compatible with Rhapsody
A great way to get subscription-based music services to actually work is for the services to figure out ways to get into the household without necessarily being tied to a portable player. Enter the Rhapsody and Sonos compatibility that allows Sonos users to access the Rhapsody service. Certainly the Sonos equipment is expensive, but having Rhapsody means that you have an ever-expanding catalog of music to choose from provided that your high-speed connection at home is not down — if you compare the price of Sonos to other professional, multi-room systems, certainly Sonos is a much cheaper and more robust option.
Rhapsody and Sonos might be a good solution if you have a limited audio catalog that you own and are looking for access to lots of content at a low monthly rate — Sonos currently supports the playback of lots of types of files, but does not support playback of any audio files with DRM (so, no, it does not work with iTunes Music Store purchased tracks).
Link — Playlist review of SonosTags: Sonos, Rhapsody, iTunes, music, speakers, audio, home audio, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Multi-room audio over electrical lines in your home
The Pioneer MT-01 allows you stream audio to different rooms in your house using just electrical cables to transmit the signal. There are all kinds of interesting features, but here’s a short list:
- Large speakers (25W) have remote control sensors that allow system control from anywhere they are placed
- Small speakers (5W) have motion sensors that start and stop based on motion
- 5 inputs — 2 USB, 2 analog, 1 “front audio input”
- Multi-room playback from 2 distinct sources
Unfortunately the system currently only seems to be available on the Pioneer UK site and there is no mention of pricing.
I have to wonder how many simultaneous electrical line devices can run over the same lines without interfering with each other.Tags: Philips, multi-room audio, power line, electricity, music, audio, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
MacWorld's iTV guide
MacWorld has assembled a guide about the forthcoming Apple iTV hardware — some of the information is inferred, while some of the information is based in fact from the demonstration of the prototype unit. Unfortunately, while the guide has a good general overview, there really is not further information about the purpose of the USB connector or what wireless protocol the iTV will use.Tags: Apple, iTV, mac, MacWorld, iTunes, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Zillow now allows you to add in information about your home's value
Zillow now allows users to claim their home and add additional information (i.e., remodels) about the home to help come up with a more accurate value. In addition, if, like my home, the data that Zillow has about number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. is wrong, you can fix that information as well. Once you have completed the multi-step process of updating home information and values, you can then choose to make your estimate public or to keep your estimate private. If you are in the process of selling your home, there’s no reason not to ensure that all of the information is correct on Zillow.Tags: zillow, real estate, homes, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Will Elmo TMX be the next Tickle Me Elmo?
It’s been 10 years since Tickle Me Elmo caused parents to lose their minds and spend crazy money (and in some cases engage in physical violence) to get the must-have toy of the season for their kids. Mattel/Fisher Price is predicting that there will be shortages of Elmo Tickle Me Xtreme (TMX; note that the “X” also signifies the 10th anniversary) if sales are anything like what they were 10 years ago.
As a new parent, it’s amazing to see how attached small children become to characters like Elmo — we already have 3 sizes of elmo dolls at our house and pre-ordered the TMX from Amazon to make sure that we had the perfect Christmas present for our daughter. Several interesting things have happened today, the release day of the TMX:
- We received notice from Amazon that the order has shipped, so we will definitely have a TMX for Christmas
- Searching for “Elmo TMX” on Amazon no longer brings up Amazon results, but instead of receiving an Amazon purchase page, but this page that is from a company called “Dakota Sales” and lists the price at $100, which is about 3 times what we paid.
- Our local Target had about 15 TMXs in stock, so we bought a couple just in case the same sort of madness that happened a few years ago happens again; I figure that we can always return them if we keep the receipt and don’t open them.
- Ebay is already swarming with listings that seem to, on average, start at double the retail price. This auction, which ends in 9 minutes from the time of writing this post lists the high bid at $305.
I’ll be watching closely to see what happens and whether or not our purchase of the 2 TMXs was a worthwhile investment.Tags: elmo, elmo tmx, ebay, amazon, toys, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Note that if you use the bookmarklet:
- In Firefox, right-click the bookmarklet and select Properties. Copy all of the text out of the “Location” box and paste it into Notepad to make it easy to edit.
- Make sure you change or delete the “YOURNAME” and “YOURBLOGNAME” in the code and repaste the code into the “Location” field or you will get those words as tags every time you run the script.
- Be sure to put a comma and then a space after every tag if you are running multiple tags at once.
- The code that the script outputs needs to be pasted into the HTML/code portion of your blogging program; if you use the WYSIWYG editor function, it will not work correctly in most cases.
Remember the sunscreen
Winona Ryder is appearing naked for skin cancer according to Outside the Beltway. Here’s a picture from the same site and be sure to remember to wear sunscreen . . . when you’re outside . . . sunbathing naked . . . with only a surfboard for shade:
Tags: sunscreen, skin cancer, winona rider, Ross Hollman, Strategize
Remember the sunscreen
Winona Ryder is appearing naked for skin cancer according to Outside the Beltway. Here’s a picture from the same site and be sure to remember to wear sunscreen . . . when you’re outside . . . sunbathing naked . . . with only a surfboard for shade:
Google Webmaster Tools
Just came across Google Webmaster Tools that have all kinds of nifty utilities that allow you manage your site more effectively. I just activated Google Webmaster Tools for this blog and am happy to report that the tools work very effectively with Blogger sites (just be sure to put the meta tag for verification in the correct place on the blog, which is after the “<head>” tag in the template.
30-day rule for purchasing
The [non]billable hour has a great post about “The Thirty Day Rule for Technology Purchases,” but the rule is applicable to all kinds of purchases. The original list comes from Get Rich Slowly and consists of the following 5 steps:
- Whenever you feel the urge to splurge — whether it’s for new shoes, a new videogame, or a new car — force yourself to stop. If you’re already holding the item, put it back. Leave the store.
- When you get home, take a piece of paper and write down the name of the item, the store where you found it, and the price. Also write down the date.
- Now post this note someplace obvious: a calendar, the fridge, a bulletin board. (I use a text file on my computer.)
- For the next thirty days, think whether you really want the item, but do not buy it.
- If, at the end of a month, the urge is still there, then consider purchasing it. (But do not use credit to do so.)
I’ve been consciously trying to make myself do this on all kinds of purchases and have found that I generally wind up getting a better deal on things that I would have otherwise bought on impulse. At the very least, before you make a big purchase in the store, you should write down what you are going to buy and use internet tools to see if you can get it more cheaply.
iTunes reverse syncing
Reverse syncing in iTunes now allows you sync music back from your iPod to another computer, but unfortunately the syncing process only works for purchased content so that you have to authorize the computers that you are syncing. Lots of comments about how this misses the mark on the full functionality that everyone would want (syncing everything on your iPod between multiple computers whether the content is purchased or not). There are still lots of programs and work-arounds to get music files off of your iPod, but it would sure be nice if full functionality was built into iTunes.
Moo.com has a deal where you can get 100 business card-size full color prints from your Flickr account for $19.99 — anyone that is in the photography industry should definitely be using these as their business cards and it makes me think about interesting opportunities for my own business cards with a variety of cool pictures. Essentially you get a Flickr image on the front of the card and can add your contact information to the back of the card.
Insure the music on your iPod
TUAW is reporting that Nationwide Insurance will now insure the purchased music files that are on your iPod. Actually, the coverage seems to extend to all kinds of purchased downloads like ringtones, music, and videos. I’d have to see if this insurance was available separately or if it needs to be an add-on to a Nationwide home insurance or renter’s insurance policy — if it has to be added on to an existing policy, I would be worried about making claims that might negatively affect other policy premiums and coverage. It is important to note that if you enroll and pay for this insurance, you will need to prove your original purchase receipt, so save all of those iTunes Music Store receipts in your e-mail.
I think I’m going to stick with my RAID at home with monthly back-ups to Amazon S3.
Apple’s iTV seems really cool and Engadget has a great hands-on post iwth lots of pictures. I do like the look of the external design of the box (not surprising) and hopefully they sell it with a mounting kit so that it can be hidden behind wall-mounted televisions. The on-screen interface looks very Mac-like, which is also very cool.
Check it out.
iTunes 7 interface
Love the the cover browser interface for all of my music and it looks really cool on 20”+ LCDs.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Zune information from the horse's mouth
Engadget has a great interview with J. Allard, Microsoft Corporate VP all about the Zune that answers all kinds of questions that a lot of us have been asking.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Those of you that read my blog know that I’m very happy with my Treo, but I missed some specs about the Blackberry Pearl that lead me to believe that this one phone may generate some massive industry changes. I am not referring to the fact that Blackberry finally got a camera on a phone or that the phone is more consumer-focused, rather I am referring specifically to the music capabilities of the phone.
The Pearl is not yet for sale, but is listed as “coming soon” on the T-Mobile site. Interestingly, when I view the “features” section of the phone’s page on the T-Mobile site, I find this information across from the “Music Player” category:
MP3, WMA, iTunes, and ACC
I’m going to assume that “ACC” is actually “AAC,” but the reference to “iTunes” makes me wonder if this phone can actually play DRM’d iTunes Music Store files. I did a little bit more digging and came across actually screen grabs of the Pearl manual on BBHub — here are some of the features:
- True side-loading of music on to the phone. Unlike other phones that require a user to go through some steps to hack and get music on to their phones, the Pearl allows true loading of tracks from your computer on to the phone.
- Here are some of the audio extension files that will play: .aac, .amr, .m4a, .mp3, .wav; no mention of .m4p, so unfortunately it does not appear to have the capability to play songs purchased from iTMS.
- Songs can be played either off the phone’s internal memory or from a media card
- Playlist capabilities.
- Shuffle capabilities.
With a little bit more digging, I was able to find the full user guide for the phone on Engadget Mobile — here’s some more information:
- All other features of the phone can be used when music is playing.
- Ringtones in all formats above can be side-loaded.
I’ll be very interested to see if any carriers attempt to disable the music features in the Pearl or if they all decide to let the features be as described in the manuals and screen grabs as they stand now.
Link — T-Mobile Pearl Features page
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
ZYB backs up your mobile phone over-the-air
ZYB is a service that allows you to back up the calendar and contact information on your cell phone over the air. Not only does ZYB allow you to synchronize contact information between phones, if you lose your phone, etc., but ZYB also allows you to share information that you have backed up from your phone with family, friends, etc. The ZYB site lists the service as “free forever,” but it is not unlikely that there will be some sort of premium service that they will create to back up SMS messages, pictures, etc. — ZYB actually lists future services such as iPod synchronization, Outlook synchronization, and MSN synchronization as future fee-based services.
ZYB requires a phone with SyncML installed and their site claims that there are over 200 phones that do have this software and are compatible with their service. Further, ZYB requires the use of carrier data service such as GPRS, EDGE, CDMA, etc. in order to complete over-the-air synchronization and back-up. Currently the ZYB site lists 1.4mil contact backed up with their service.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Demobags — designed by a contractor to resist rips and tears and to trap dust. I’ve yet to find them at Home Depot or Lowes, but they are pretty amazing.
How long to keep financial records
Bankrate.com has a great grid that shows how long to keep financial records — go buy yourself a shredder and start getting rid of all the unimportant stuff.
IceLink Bicycle bracelets
What if you had a great product that people wanted and no one could find it?
IceLink Bicycle bracelets are just such a product. Just try searching for the bracelets and you will find 2 webstores, the IceLink website, and a bunch of people on E-Bay selling the bracelets. Lots of celebrities wear IceLink bracelets and usually product placements are designed to sell more of your product. Why are IceLink bracelets so hard to find? When you go to the IceLink site and navigate to their “Stores” link, you will find that every country where they might have stores is listed as “coming soon”.
Is the inability to easily get the bracelet part of the exclusivity and allure of having it? It seems to me that you manufacture a product in order to sell it, but perhaps that not the case with IceLink bracelets.
I actually know a lot of people that want these, so perhaps I’ll contact IceLink and try to become a retailer.
What to learn in college
Guy Kawasaki has a great list of what to learn in college; I’ll go through his list (in bold) with my comments about my college experience:
- How to talk to your boss. I never spent a lot of time with my professors, in fact, I think I went to office hours one time during a database class that I was taking — the simple fact of the matter is that it will be your responsibility to use all of the resources at your disposal to figure things out. Much of my free time was spent working and the vast majority of my work at school was in security — I learned to talk to employees, I learned to talk to customers, I learned how to lead in an unsupervised environment, and I learned to talk to my bosses remotely and talk to them effectively. Find and create similar opportunities for yourself because it is that important.
- How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run. Learn how to play the game and not walk out on poor meetings or poorly run classes/lectures for that matter. The biggest thing that you can learn from poorly run meetings is why they are poorly run and ensure that you do not run meetings that way.
- How to run a meeting. Read Guy’s tips in his post because they are 5 great tips for running a meeting. Seek opportunities to run meetings whether structured or unstructured because you need all of the practice you can get. Also, regardless of what your professors say, effective meetings do not require Powerpoint presentations every time and if you have to do Powerpoint, do it correctly.
- How to figure out anything on your own. I never stepped foot in the library and my college, not once, not even on the initial tour. Why? The library is probably the least effective place to find information — how many businesses have you been in (besides large law firms) that have their own libraries? Learn to make use of every resource at your disposal to figure out problems.
- How to negotiate. Negotiations in college are practice for the real world; that doesn’t mean that I was running into every store trying to negotiate the price of, say, a pair of socks. The biggest thing to learn in college is how to come up with win-win solutions — read Guy’s post for his 4 points on this topic. What’s nice about college is that you are generally not negotiating very major issues, so you’ll have ample opportunity to screw negotiations up and not get hurt too badly.
- How to have a conversation. I tried to talk to people that I did not know in my classes. With the exception of my core business classes, there were 20,000 other people at my school that I might not see again, which meant that I could work on figuring out how to talk to people with a very realistic expectation that I might never see them again after any given semester. Learn to listen and actively listen and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to talk to people.
- How to explain something in 30 seconds. The most frustrating classes that I took were ones in which the professor would either give long-winded explanations to questions or allow students to give long-winded answers to questions that the professor had asked; effective classes were ones in which professors gave brief and succinct answers and students giving long-winded explanations were cut off quickly in favor of students that could provide shorter responses. Bear in mind that a 30 second answer isn’t necessarily a one word answer, it’s simply brief and to the point.
- How to write a one-page report. I had a lot of classes where there was a minimum length limit on written reports, but I luckily learned that you got the best grades by presenting your argument and a good summary on the first page — once I did a 12 page report on Fleet Financial with the first page being my entire argument and summary of points supporting the argument, the remaining 11 pages were all a whole bunch of facts and graphs, and I still got an A. Executive summaries of not more than 1 page are important in business and even better if you can get the information across in less than 1 page.
- How to write a five-sentence e-mail. Are you starting to get the brevity theme? If not, please re-read numbers 7 & 8 above. Guy thinks that the optimal length of an e-mail is 5 sentences, which is fine. I think that you need to learn how to get somewhere in between text messaging on your cell phone and writing more than 1 paragraph. Also, learn that e-mail does not transmit emotions and learn to remove all emotion content (and emoticons) from your e-mail.
- How to get along with co-workers. If you are lucky, you will quickly get into classes that are small enough for the teachers to team you up in small groups to teach you about teamwork — I was very lucky that most of my business classes were small enough to be run in this manner. Take as many opportunities to learn about team dynamics, attitudes, etc. because most everything you see in college is a microcosm of the same kind of things that you will find in the real world.
- How to use Powerpoint. If you are lucky, you will have a professor that gives you very specific guidelines on Powerpoint (see the link in number 3 above). I was never lucky, so all of my Powerpoint slides in college were endless slides of bulleted content (note that this is the way that most professors prepare their slides to teach you, so while you may learn from the slide content, do not plan on learning by example as it relates to Powerpoint). One thing to keep in mind if you do follow good rules about Powerpoint is that you may get dinged by a professor for not putting in enough information, so understand that effective presentations in the real world are the ones that are not reports in slide format.
- How to leave a voicemail. See number 7 above — my personal rule is to spend not longer than 30 seconds leaving a voicemail and, in fact, my outgoing voicemail says, “. . . leave a message, and you have thirty seconds to do so . . .” Consider that if you are leaving your name, your phone number, and a brief description of why you are calling, 30 seconds is not a lot of time, which is the whole point. I have not recently seen a voicemail system that does not stamp time and date, so unless that information is critical to the subject, chances are good you can leave that out and save the listener some time.
My bonus tips:
- Read other books on the subject. Lots of college textbooks really suck, so if you’re actually interested in what you are studying in any given class, go invest in some books by other authors on the subject. Warning: a side effect of reading other books on a subject may lead to healthy debate with your professor during class. Reading other books is especially important if your professor is the author of the book your are required to read for any particular class unless you don’t care about the subject.
- Learn to effectively argue. Learn to debate verbally, especially with your professor — good professors invite debate. When writing, learn how to clearly present an argument and support it. One of the best classes I took in college was Business Writing — the professor made us write arguments and to make it interesting, made us argue the side that we did not agree with or argue a side that did not make sense.
- Write and expand your vocabulary. I am simply amazed by how horribly people write in the business world. With the volume of e-mail, blog posts, reports, and Powerpoint presentations, you cannot afford to write poorly. The best book that I’ve ever read on writing is Eats Shoots and Leaves. When I was in college, I would write monthly updates about my life and e-mail them as attachments to family and friends and if blogging had been as well developed at that point, I probably would have blogged my updates — e-mail updates and blogging are free ways to practice writing and writing, like anything else, gets much better with practice.
- Manage your time. It starts when you pick out what days to attend classes and drills all the way down to how you spend your hours every day. If you can develop a time management system in college that works effectively, it will help you significantly in life.
- Learn how to type. Hunt-and-peck stopped being ok with my generation and the voice recognition software that I’ve used just isn’t that good, so if you don’t know how to type by the time you get to college, use those 4 or so years to learn how.