Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How thin can you spread yourself...

First of all if you are reading this then you know about RSS and Blogging, or at least enough to know how to get to this page. This is only one form of communication however at this point in my life, it appears to be the best means of communication to truly get the point across. Why? Because you first of all are taking the time to read it, meaning you are hoping it will tweak your interest enough to continue to read it. Of course like with anything we choose to do, you may grow bored of it and move on to something else. But what if you find something you like to do, you will find yourself wanting to spend more time doing that. This is only natural as well. Being notified of when someone has created a new blog is as simple as subscribing to it-(look for the RSS icon if nothing else), which is where you will find many forms of subscribing. Your choices are up to you in how you choose to read that RSS feed.

So knowing you have 24 hours in the day, and that you will at some point be tired and want to rest, take away 8 hours as I believe you will hear most Doctors recommend (at least) 8 hours a day. Personally I would agree that rest is very important but believe our bodies are machines, which require food, rest, health and fitness. So when you are like myself, where I look at my work as my lifestyle and not necessarily 'work', since I enjoy what I do and that would be helping others learn technology to be used to their advantage, to allow that person more time to do the things they want utilizing this latest technology in a positive way-healping you live a better life in some way. Now, when that technology becomes an issue of stress, whereas you find yourself getting more and more frustrated by --typically it's speed or the fact that it doesn't work the way it should. Welcome to my little juggling act! Yes, I have found many, many, many hours of frustration tackling certain computer and other technological issues where I will find myself throwing away what seems like countless hours of 'repairs' only to have it crash somewhere down the line and then realize there is an easier way, but of course, not until after you have spent what you would consider lost time. This is R & D time, not lost time, but to many that is time they would much rather be doing other things with! This is where I have found in my position of trying to help as many people as I can within the 24 hour time. Obviously I attempt to place myself in to the same position as the person I am consulting with, therefore if it was computer related, the bottom line would be that I want it working the way it should, so that when I use it, the only problem will be from my own stupidity in not know how to use the program. I truly try to place myself in to the situation and see how I would feel about it. I look at when I have found a great plumber that does good work, is fairly priced (of course) why wouldn't I continue to use this person's service, just as you would when you find a 'family doctor'. So when I attempt to do my share of helping where help is required--most likely something technical if you have contacted me, I am going to want to solve this problem and when I first examine any issue, I realize that simply fixing one problem may bring on others, depending on the issue at hand and most likely, how long it has been since the last time it was looked at for any sort of repair (or upgrading).

I have found as I do my work, that there are more and more people that I am helping and as I help these people, they tell their friends about my service and they tell their friends, and a social network is created. I all of a sudden have a client-base and typically I would hope (if I have communicated well enough to these people) that they should be able to shoot me an email, asking me anything at all, whether I can give them the answer they want to hear, I am hopeful that I will have at least pointed them in the right direction. So as any good business person/analyst may see that there will be a time when you can no longer accept people as clients due to the limitations of time. But wait, I don't believe a dentist would ever truly send a patient away, probably would just charge more because they are highly suggested/recommended which would surely weed out the people that would be going after your service. But then that isn't what I would want to do because to me this is a lifestyle, but one of which I do realize requires certain business aspects or 'order' to make it work. So it seems I should create some model or formula for which I see my current situation. I have the ability to speak freely on a blog as I am currently doing. Since this is my 'business blog', I would consider this the place I am going to discuss (and sometimes vent) about certain technical issues. In this case I am going to also be explaining my current 'work frame' for lack of what else to call it...Some sort of a mission statement maybe?

I believe communication is the key to ... Success, or , pretty much anything in life.. So why must it be so hard to communicate when we have all this technology and if all else fails, face to face communication is always the option. That pretty much sums up how it is for anyone that works in a service industry. When dealing with computers, the most logical method would be via electronic means-email, but what if the email doesn't work? Why not just pick up the phone? OK good point, so you have made the call, now remember, I"m on the other end of the phone eventually right? Now you see where this 24 hour issue comes to play. Just how many phone calls could you possibly answer? Who knows how long you are going to be speaking on the phone? Quite possibly very briefly, such as less then 5 minutes in which case the problem is solved, or you have all the information you require to take a look further (remotely or at a scheduled pickup time). Yes, don't forget that with my employees (my service loaners) you do not have to be without a computer at all. In fact the amount of down-time depends on how long it takes you to communicate with me. That, as I say, through the phone, or email or other means may take longer then you want. Now if you know you have all these services at hand, isn't there one that works better then the other? No, not in my case, but then again, my cell phone you would think, is the best as it would be with me at all times. Now that this cell phone is also internet capable, email or texting or other means is possible. But what happens when there is no cell service (the odd time I do get away to go fishing for example). Then yes, at this point there is no immediate solution, but one will be available soon enough, whereas like having a 'emergency hotline" I will create the 911 of computer help which will essentially be you contacting this (number/person/automated device) which would then send out a service loaner to that location, pick up your ailing computer and leave you with a working one. Now the data that is currently on your computer will first be backed (if possible) before any attempt to actually 'repair' the problems, as Data has become far too important to start messing around with. One important issue is that once the data is reachable, then odds are some, or all could then be transferred (remotely) to you and your service loaner while your computer is repaired.

So what about the on call time and just how much time do you schedule for this? Well I was initially looking at 2 hours, which meant if I were to make the call to your home, I would typically find at least 2 hours of work to be addressed. Some could quite possibly done in an hour, however that second hour would quickly be used up by the explanations which would take place in how the problem can be erraticated in the future, or hopefully avoided in the future! Training is something that I love to do, and wish that I could "find the time" to do more.. Something that I would like to start scheduling would be a regular time slot and location that I can perform these sorts of things possibly, small lectures.. No, the only way this works is one on one. I have found remote lessons have worked the best. Whereas we set up a time, you would then contact me via the phone (currently all incoming time on my cell phone is free therefore it makes more sense for you to call me!) I then connect to your computer remotely and you start using your computer just as you would when you then come to your problem, whether it be not sure what to do next from some prompt you have, to simply not knowing how to get to the next step. If this is an area that I am familiar with, at this point I would then take over controls and continue on, whereas you are then watching exactly as I do. Now there are teaching cd's that do this very similarly but of course in no way as accurate since it is like you get to the point where you would say "OK computer take over" and it does.. Most people learn by doing and by doing again, routine things are just that--routine. As much as we like to follow some routine, more then others, there comes a time when you have to allow yourself to change your ways, albeit hopefully in not to drastic a fashion as newer software or programs come out (such as AVANT BROWSER) which I believe I have managed to persuaded a number of clients to use. Personally I have seen a dramatic difference in the amount of 'security related' trojan styled problems on these computers that use Avant over any other browser (especially IE). So now, that the time spent becomes so precious, it seems that 2 hours can seriously be a misjudgement in time management whereas spending that quality time once the major problems have been fixed on the computer, then it is more of a lesson then problem solving which works out much better since people would rather learn the right way to do something rather then having to learn an entirely new job to do in order to do the same thing they could do before. As a result people get lazy and figure that it doesn't have to be done "all the time" as once stated, but in fact it does... As a result, more problems. Well, that is user beware, and that is where once again I state there is never a dumb question asked, only a dummy for not asking it in the first place! I had one client contact me only 3 or 4 days after she had gone without internet. I first have to take that as doing something right, since it is nice to see that any computer issue would be directed to me, whereas in this case, I pointed it back to the cable modem itself after spending approx.. 30 minutes diagnosing over the phone. Sure enough a simple contact to the internet provider proved to be reset point required and she was back up and running in as long as that call was to them. Was my 30 minutes a waste of time? Yes, in this case it was, but what wasn't a waste of time was the 30 minute lesson my client got on how to check things to see whether it was your computer at fault or not (which is quite often what the internet provider will do when they can't solve the problem immediately on the phone). Now obviously there is no way that I could just allow 30 minutes of what ended up not being 'profitable' to be truly considered a waste of time, nor should I believe I could just donate all 24 hours of my day to free tech support only to provide me with some sort of income at a later time. This sort of karma, although it may exist, isn't the reason we have credit cards to live off of? Yes, the billing cycle. 30 days to pay, or what happens? You start to get charged interest, so you are being penalized for not paying on time. So what about the ones that do pay on time, should they be given some sort of break? Sure,if you have some sort of break in mind, let me know. I like the idea of bartering time over money. Personally (I blog personally as well), I have often wondered what the world would be like if we all lived on the bartering system. What sort of world it would be, and if it would be a more unified one since we would truly have to live and survive by sharing! In any case, as you can see it is quite easy to go off topic, and that is why in this case, I created my title before typing.... As I am Blogging this for example, it has so far taken well over 3 hours to complete to this point. Why? Because I have found other things that required more immediate attention. In a way that is one more thing that I want to try and explain from what I am learning about technology in general and that is the fact that no matter how much you dream about where we will be in 5 years, 10 years, 100 years, you are still blown away by how quickly certain items of technology are picked up by the general population and become so overwhelmingly important items in our life that we find ourselves as though we can't live without. But this simple blog about how I see my own self in a world of technology and how I can help as many people as possible, in the simple 24 hour span of a day, working by myself/for myself! But quite possibly from the formula that could be created by my blog's ideas and others that also either do similar work or simply see whatever work they do, could be used to help even more people by having a means for these people that may have just that one common interest and that could be found through searching the internet for blogs that have similar content. These are the sorts of things that were initially discussed at earlier Gnomedex conferences as RSS has been around for a few years now, blogging is pretty much an offspring of the RSS Feed, now we can see how much potential blogging has, both personally and professional and in business. Just as a forum can give someone a place to vent or discuss their views on something, a blog allows the blogger the ability to communicate through their own words and to follow this up with links to just what the heck they are talking about. Such as what is 'consulting' and what kind of fee should be charged for any consulting?

There are some that say maybe it would be wise to set up an 'annual contract' which is like having a cleaning company come and clean your home ,or do the gardening, this would be me managing your maintenance for you. What I typically say to this, is that I am and will continue to always be able to help my clients out but at this point I have seen no need for a contract because everyone uses their computers differently. Some more then others, and in some cases, more then one person per computer or household for example. Therefore I usually use the motto "if it ain't broke don't fix it" but then that doesn't mean "routine maintenance" or "daily scanning and backups". Depending on how data savvy you are, you should be doing a number of cleaning issues yourself. Much like your own living conditions, you could look to the computer the same way. I can ask the question, " I have just found a key-stroke logger styled virus that appears to give me very little time before I will not be able to access anything", (yes this has happened to me), so what I am going to ask is "what is the most important file you have on this computer-where is it?" because you are going to want to get there in as less amount of steps as possible (typically my documents will hold this file in windows). So without making this blog in to a computer lesson, realize that the messier you leave your computer, the odds are when you do have that problem, and I am not going to say when that is because you may be very fortunate and go many years without a problem, but when it happens, are you ready for losing everything? Probably not--why should anyone have to go through that? So I have found education is a key--the amount of TIME I can allow to educate my existing clients is one thing, but what about posting those tips on to the web where you can then itemize them and search through them for the answers? Well this is something allexperts.com came up with many years ago... Setting up a website where you can go and ask an expert no matter what field of expertise these people were in. Was I an expert? Well, I knew my stuff and I continue to learn, and since I saw this as a place where I could leave my calling card and people could then ask me computer and technology related problems whereas I could either answer it directly or I would be forcing myself to educate myself in finding the answer. How is this to help me? because I figure the more people that have this problem out in the internet world, I would also run in to this same problem with my own clients and then be able to solve the problem. This has now been going on for close to 8 or maybe 9 years! As you can imagine things have changed a lot and yet many things stay the same. My current rate for example.. Yes, talking about time/money. My hourly wage has not been changed for over 7 years! How is that possible? For me it means managing my time a lot better and that is where my service loaners have been able to give me the flexibility I needed (up until now that is). Now, when a major virus hits, or something else so major whereas I have multiple clients contacting me through all avenues available to them, I have to start a serious juggling act between "importance of call as in the computer has crashed completely" to when the call came in and when I can actually get to it. You can image spending time with someone, trying to have a conversation while their cell phone continues to ring and they continue to say to you, "excuse me while I answer this-I have been waiting for this" or something like that.. How? because of call display. A simple feature that has allowed you to quickly decide whether or not to answer that phone call as it is 'more important' then the current conversation you are having with someone 'face to face'. Sorry but personally if you are on the job, that phone shouldn't be an issue at all! But then what if it was a family member in an emergency? Well I guess it all depends... You will always have a reason to make one a priority over the other. But to keep one from feeling they are not important is the key. The key is to make everyone feel as important as the other. So this means Quality of Service. So even though you find yourself being able to handle everything thrown at you, when everyone calls at once, you are going to have to solve this by going in order of what you consider important. Maybe that could simply be "they called you first" This, my friends, is by far, the largest obstacle I have to face in a life where anyone that contacts you must be important, since they are contacting you.. You must have the answer to whatever problem they have since they have chosen to contact YOU. It is up to YOU to decide where to place them on the importance scale! Because I know when a computer is on my bench, I can spend as little or as much time as I feel is necessary to make sure the computer is functioning properly. That is, until the actual user starts using it, and starts to install more programs and surf the web and go and do whatever they would do, that makes it almost impossible to make the computer un-crashable. Sure many may argue that Mac owners don't have that many problems.. That is also because they are in no way in the same league of amount of users, not to mention the 'hardware' that you may attach to this computer will be for the mac (and mac only) therefore it is sure to work... There are so many versions of PC clones out there that it would be impossible to say for sure, although I will argue that most 'Microsoft products' do work best on Microsoft windows operating system. It only makes sense doesn't it? So is that not why more people still use IE? Probably.. Because they don't want to use something else because it would mean installing, updating and making sure it stays up to date. So yes, there is truly a need for some sort of 'routine maintenance'. So I would ask my existing clients if they felt it a good idea to have some sort of routine payment structure which would have some sort structured maintenance of your technology that needs maintenance by someone such as myself? Since we have already created the established remote connectivity, wouldn't it seem logical to continue remote connectivity in checking and basic upgrades? But what happens when that connection fails and an obvious service call is required.. Should there be some automatic call out fee? This is where anyone I have ever met that does what I do in some sort of manner have made some sort of structured guidelines and so that should also be something I will have, as business dictates this and so, with sections from my personal blog pasted in, I give you my current structure:

Considering I don't work, and do this as a lifestyle choice, and the simple fact that electronically, people can currently pay one person directly from their bank account, why not change your 'rate' of dollar per hour to the work performed is worth something .. Such as :7 Days/6 Nights stay (for two) at some sort of resort get-a-way (ie: downhill ski chalet, fishing cabin, florida/hawaii/arizona/california/european styled winter living condo or similar)this would be equivalent to 24/7/365 remote access and repair to any problems you have. Hardware charges would still apply. Accomodation/transportation negotiable.(have I thought about this? sure, just now!)So what about month to month service?What about the one-time repair?Why wouldn't you want this service?How much in dollars is this worth?

As you can see from above, these are questions that I ask myself when someone asks for a reason for finding a rate of payment.

So there is some sort of structure. To note, any service call where I am connecting remotely (at this point) has not been charged out at all, other then when I am spending a number of hours have I charged for my remote time. Note that if I were to consider my time as a lawyer whereas they can charge by the minute, if I were to connect to your computer for 10 minutes, 6 times in a month, that would be 1 hour of my time, but during the connection, I might be busy scanning something that takes an hour, therefore I will connect an hour later for another 10 minutes. The entire process may take 5 days of connecting (when you were not needing use of the computer) less then an hour per day, to get the problem solved. In this scenario in the past, the client was charged 3 hours, whereas the computer was removed of viruses and spyware and updated, basically for at least 6 months as I don't typically hear from this said client on more then once a year basis. Was it worth 3 hours time? I guess it would depend on what that rate was right? Based on the fact that the computer was repaired remotely, it did not have to be unplugged and removed from your home, you didn't have to go without the use of it, and it is now working well again, much faster then it was before... So what is that worth?

Trust me when I say I am not a big fan of money! That must be quite apparent by now right? Since I have on more then one occasion found myself venting over the simple truth that people want everything in this world for as little as they can get away with paying, or doing, if that means physical exercise, we will always attempt to find the easy way to go to that location without all the hurdles in the way. Whereas some may find time being important in their lives, will pay a little more to get it done right away (service loaner helps since you are immediately using a computer that works but realize your data is not necessarily going to be readily available until that is either transferred to the loaner or your current problem fixed, again, depending on how long it is determined to take based on the problem). But since I have not raised my 'rate' for as long as I have, this means I must have found some other form of income right? Wrong, simply put, a different way to distribute the workload! True not all things break down at the same time, but then when a major virus lets loose, you can imagine how swamped I might find myself. Much like the current WGA issues of Windows which I have been talking about a lot lately as it has most definitely brought out a number of those that have at one time, used my services since it requires a number of tweaks to fix this problem, all of which you will find sollutions for on my website's SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page and or other places such as this blog. Quite honestly when I need to find something that I have talked about before, I simply do a search from within my blog and I usually find what I was looking for right away. It is no wonder searching has become such a huge market!

I could use the emergency room nurse/doctor philosophies or in military or other emergency scenarios whereas a triage is created, those bleeding must wait on those that aren't breathing! I enjoy what I do, I want to continue what I am doing and do it to the best of my ability, but only until what I am doing is no longer 'fun' then I will move on to something that is, therefore pushing me to go faster is probably not going to get me to actually go faster, more likely to lose interest and move on to something else.. After all I am only Human just like you! Yes, placing myself in my clients shoes, something that I try and do with each and every conversation I might have. Therefore if I haven't heard from you it must be because "no news is good news" and that everything is working just the way it should be.

True I have many clients out there that are currently with issues, that have emailed me and I am aware of it, and I have been working on it, but if nothing seems to be getting fixed, or you haven't had any email response, then odds are you have been forgotten about... No, please don't take this the wrong way, but quite simply I have most likely connected, and repaired what I had thought was the problem and have failed to respond to you stating that I have completed it, since I had probably found more issues and it is still in my list of ones to get to. It usually happens when there are multiple issues, that is one more reason why 'the squeaky wheel typically gets the grease'. Therefore it is quite apparent that an ongoing communication channel is required, that is why we quite often just turn to the phone to call so that you can talk directly with that person. I don't know if you have actually tried to call your family doctor and talk directly to them about your problem without making an appointment first but without making it sound as though this is what needs to happen, this is pretty much what needs to happen. Somehow I need to know you have a problem and knowing that with remote technology and the fact that most computers are now on a high speed connection, why wouldn't you want to take advantage of this when you don't have to do anything other then send me that current IP address (in most cases). This will also depend on just how long it has been since I have touched your computer... Some of you that email me more frequently (some know who they are as they will usually comment on how they feel they are bothering me which you aren't!) Those that find themselves spending hours and hours enjoying the computer and the internet and what it has the ability to do for you, will quite often have more issues then those that simply use the computer to communicate through email or search for the odd question they may have. Regardless of how you communicate with me, I am hopeful that this blog is by far the most accurate way you will have to know just where I am coming from , since this is my 'business blog', I do hope to keep it business related, and in this case, pretty much anything technical will end up here. Including this sort of more personal (or personable) approach to where I come from when I am only one person trying to help as many as I can, in a most effective manner that I know how. So the framework of pay structure versus work completed, how is this calculated? For that I will request that you visit this blog again as I will make that a separate entry... Since I am also working on a much more broad formula for technology geek instruction in general.

When does the job get fixed? That is I guess, the point I am trying to make when it comes to remote repairs, sure as soon as I am aware of any issue you might have, hopefully you have communicated it through email along with your current ip address which will allow me to help you remotely, if I can. Obviously if you are having issues that is connecting to the internet at all then that would have to be addressed with your internet provider first. When a problem is an ongoing one whereas it hasn't really affected your computer time much, then maybe the remote diagnosis and cleaning is all that is required, however without a doubt, if you want whatever the problem is fixed, then be aware that computer is going to be benched and you will immediately upon me knowing that this computer is on my bench, will a service loaner be in place if necessary, to allow you to get back to your normal computer work (again within reason of data management). In a perfect world, you would be saving all of your important data (my documents) on a daily basis to a DVD RW (which is the method I would choose as this will give you a removeable copy that you can now save in your safe deposit box or neighbor, just out of your home, where you could suffer ever more severe damage such as house fire. That is pretty much the only time when you realize how important Pictures are--since they can not be replaced! There are other means of backing up and as a consultant it is my duty to report to you on just how it is best for you.. another question you can throw my way or you may find the answers to simply on my website for example. Webshots is one way that I know of for sure, but you can go to my link about this to learn more. This is the other wonderful issues with blogging that allow so much detail depending on the reader. If I choose to fill this blog with link to the various topics I have gone over, I am sure you would understand more, just how much of an A.D.D life I do lead as do, in my opinion, anyone that deals with technology in the manner in which I do. There is just so much to learn and so many cool things to do with it, a good imagination, time, and an unlimited income it would be truly amazing to see what could be accomplished to help those in need, no matter what need they may have!

Something must happen before you realize there is a problem and in this case, depending on how serious it is, possibly health related, then it is likely you will take it more serious, that is why health must always come before anything else. Dealing with stress is something we all must deal with differently since we all deal with different sorts of stress. Some things may not be as stressful for one as it is for the other, that usually is why some excel at things that others fail misserably at but at the same time, the knowledge to accomplish the task was taught to both people. The only difference is that one understood the tool more correctly to solve the problem then then other. Therefore the tool may be the fault and not necessarily the 'engine' that is completing the task. This is why the term, 'cut out the middle man' comes in to place or 'shortest distance between two points is fastest' . When it comes to technology and supply and demand, it becomes an issue of just how much does it cost before it tweaks your attention in owning something or dreaming of some day owning something, that in some way will give you many hours of enjoyment or the ability to have the time to create your own hours of enjoyment as this technology or product gives you that freedom to do.

Since I have gone on long enough and in so many directions, I am sure I have made it pretty clear just how messed up one person's day can become when you just sit back and watch things break down around you. Sometimes the only way to solve these sorts of problems is wait until you can breath again, and pick through the pieces, looking for the sollution to solving not only one persons problems but more then one persons problems with the same task. Welcome to RSS and Blogging. The more people that read this one blog, they will all have a better understanding of my lifestyle as I have chosen to live it, through the day to day living and breathing of repairs to the current technlogy we call computers, the internet, and anything to do with it. Though these final words are almost written, I will next spend possibly hours creating links to what it is I am referring to at the time, spell checked of course, and then posted and published (done with one keystroke), at which time, my words have been spoken, but to only those that have choosen to listen. I don't allow comments on my site, but that is only becuase I would hope that you would be able to communicate with me on a more direct nature-on any issue you may have. Just remember my clock is ticking! No but seriously, this blog has taken 8 hours to complete due to the simple fact that other work must go on and I haven't the luxury at this point in time, to be able to set aside that much time to one (very lengthy) blog entry. But then again, I do believe my existing clients and any that may actually take the time to read my very lengthy blog about all sorts of computer related issues that I have taken seriously enough to write about. Trust me when I say not all blogs must be this style as I am sure you will learn as you start to read more and more blogs.