After Jan 27th Watch Your Credit Card Statement ~

Unless you live in  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas, where it is currently restricted to charge consumers an extra surcharge on transactions, keep your eyes on your credit card statement for “checkout” fees.   The fee can be up to 4%.



Of Mice and Weeble Wabbles

What do you think?

Recently I have been thinking about ethics, morals and values.   It is absolutely ridiculous what is happening around us.  It seems like we are falling into an ethical downward spiral as a society.   I am not sure exactly what I can do to help the situation, which is what I think a lot of people are feeling.  I know that I personally can’t solve the worlds problems and that within itself this isn’t what is keeping me up at night.   It is that I don’t have to tolerate or participate in unethical, immoral or bad behavior.   I may not be able to avoid it but I don’t have to support it.

We are facing a myriad of political and social issues that are exacerbated by talking heads and political showboating.   We all know the issues as we are bombarded with them through every form of media that we have.   I am really addressing my frustration and the frustration I have heard from others.  I am not giving advice here, I am simply stating the obvious.

I want to pass onto you something that a friend of mine said the other day because it was powerful and frankly it hits a nerve.

Howie, don’t take this the wrong way, but.. if the Newtown shooting happened to Congress…. I think I would be happy about it.

I wasn’t shocked by his statement and he was very uncomfortable in his physical demeanor as he was saying this.  I think it is very powerful when peaceful law abiding citizens are so upset and angry at our government that they would feel that a death blow to politicians would be the only way to create a positive change.

It is clear that our politicians are making poor decisions with the economy.  We are realistically being victimized by their bad behavior and bad choices.  Who raises our personal debt limit if we don’t handle our personal finances responsibly.  When I was in the Navy, I would see a lot of young sailors spend every penny of their paycheck and get themselves into debt.   The Navy didn’t give them more money or take care of the debt for them.  These kids were forced to handle their business and they were responsible and liable for their poor decisions.    Our political leadership gets a pay raise for bad behavior.

They award themselves and pat themselves on the back for all the hard work.   They fight with each other of the floor of the House and Senate and go for drinks after a rough day at the office.  A congressional research service report in Oct 2012 stated from empirical data that they estimate 2.1 million job losses.

A congressional research service report from

Of the estimated 2.1 million job losses,

• 746,000 were direct jobs (277,000 federal civilian jobs and 469,000 prime
contractor jobs),
• 433,000 were indirect jobs at suppliers and other firms that depend on prime
contractors for business, and
• 959,000 were induced jobs (i.e., jobs throughout the economy supported by
workers in direct and indirect jobs spending a portion of their paychecks).


Federal employees may have to take unpaid leave.

There is a lot of talk about the benefits of being a government employee and how a lot of these people sit on their asses all day and do nothing and get paid and benefits but I think that is mostly nonsense.   There are people who are toxic workers everywhere.  There are hard-working people in the government as well as folks that sit and read the news all day.    The point is that irresponsible spending is the cause of these problems.   The question is

What are the effects?



If people don’t have their needs met; bad things happen.


We are the mice and leadership.. is the..

Ask yourself what you would do to protect your family.   Ask yourself what you would do if you lost everything.   We don’t need to really think hard about this, all we need to do is look at our history.    The only point that I want to get across here is that our issues aren’t because of Republicans or Democrats, they are because of self-centered irresponsible people handling national interests when it appears that they place their personal interests first.   Every time I turn on the television and I see a politician, I feel agitated.   I don’t trust them any of them and don’t want them to represent me, my family or our national concerns.

I think we need to focus as a nation on common sense concepts and keep these discussions going in order to make sure that our politicians do what they are supposed to do.    We also need to come up with solutions and send them up as ideas because that is the only way we are going to recover and move forward as a nation.    The Weeble Wobbles don’t fall down.. but we don’t have to play with them.


21 Days to something better.. It ain’t easy being you.

Be Positive, Work Hard, Success Will Follow


There is a lot of talk about helping people but most of it is bullshit.   Today I want to pass on to you something that was given to me this year.  My friend Frank approached me after one of my blog posts and said.. “Howie, I am here for you to talk.”   Giving someone your time from my perspective is one of the most precious gifts someone can give especially with the busy schedules we have.

At work we don’t have counselors, mental health professionals or people who have time to really sit down and talk with.   We have to be productive citizens that work towards the goals of the job.  For a lot of people who is the reality, there really is no time for depression, anxiety or any other challenge.  There are a lot of people who come to work sick.   Staying home or being sick doesn’t seem to really be an option.   A lot of companies got rid of sick day allowances.  The point is that mental health seems to get lip service but that is about it.

There are two points here:

  1. Happiness is tied to success 
  2. Unhappiness presents cascading challenges which can produce undesired results.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

What can I do?

Be like Frank.   People don’t want to admit when something is wrong.   A lot of times we don’t even know that something is wrong.  You don’t need a degree and 20 years of psychology to know when someone you are close to is acting different.   The question is what are you going to do about it and how will they react if you do something?  Here is what Frank did.

  • Asked me what was wrong
  • Offered to help
  • Gave me a card (the top picture) now is on my refrigerator.
  • Told me he cared about me and that if I need him that I should call him with no question.

With a small kind act he effectively impacted my life in a very positive way.   I have shared these concepts with my children and we talk about being grateful on a regular basis.  I am reminded everyday as I pass the refrigerator that I should be grateful and health is tied to meditation, exercise, expression and acts of kindness.   I am also reminded that Frank cares about people and he cared about me to share this.  I care about you to share this too.

We can petition the white house for help but just as the Death Star was turned down because of cost, the government can’t afford to fix mental health.  The money isn’t there.   It is up to us as individuals to help each other one person at a time from person to person.

I am not a qualified mental health professional, I don’t want to get involved

Right…  So what?  It doesn’t matter.   Doing nothing is doing something and with the way people are acting today we need more people to be caring and mindful not just to help others but to help themselves.  It reminds me of the first Spiderman movie where Peter Parker let the criminal go and the after actions of that criminal resulted in a direct blow to Peter.   If you see something is wrong and you do nothing, it may be you that ultimately is the one to pay the price.

If nothing else.. share the image of the card Be Positive, Work Hard, Success Will Follow.

Mental health is a “big rock” issue and the complexities of mental health issues are astronomical in nature.  I am not suggesting that we are going to solve all of the problems with mental health by working harder.   The point here is that as a friend, co-worker, good citizen, neighbor, good person, when you see something that isn’t right there may be something you can do.  In this case Frank shared ideas with me that resonated and I am sharing them with you.   Relating to work and success was his choice and vehicle for communicating his care and concern.

Every conversation will be different and your approach to helping someone will be different.  I am simply saying to do something and not wait until the government or others to help.  If the challenge is too big for you to help with, you will know that right away and you can seek further help and guidance.

Why People Leave Online Communities

As a Forge.Mil Community Manager, I wanted to understand the psychology of online communities.   I spent a lot of time reading posts about why people stay online or leave communities.  I also wanted to develop measures and metrics that would create a clear picture at any given time for our leadership and other Community Managers.  I posted a discussion about metrics here in June.


I was looking at the community from the perspective of a Community Manager and even though I worked really hard to empathize with the community.  What I came to realize was that I may have been part of the community but not the part that really counted.   I did have experience with being part of new online communities and I have a long history of interacting with people online in many forms.  The point is that I was a Community Manager and that I have experience with the technical, social and human factors concerning this subject area.

Now that I got that out-of-the-way, my friend Matt asked me this week to write about why people LEAVE online communities.   I recently left a work related community and he felt that it would be good to share some why people leave.

 I apologize profusely ahead of time if I offend anyone. 

Community 3

Oh, did I just apologize?

When a community starts up, you get the early adopters.  These are people who are really interested in making the concept of the community work.  They work hard to be flexible and understanding.   If something comes across inappropriately in text, they will more likely than not help a community member self correct or they will as a group help govern the community in tactful and thoughtful ways.  Not.. “You are an ass#%^@ get off this page.”

One of the biggest attractions to using online communities is FREEDOM!  I can say what I think or believe within reason and that is bound by social norms and culture.  In other words, if I am on a church forum, I probably wouldn’t post about that girl I met last night and what happened after she got me all tipsy.   Well, maybe if I were the Pastor.. ohhhhhhh nooooo..  I shouldn’t have said that. **humor alert**  I wish all my words had context tags.

Bottom line, you can say what you want unless it is offensive to the community itself.   The community is a body and this body can and will deal with outliers as needed. “If you don’t stop your behavior you are OUT of here.. ”

Once early adopters get some traction, you start getting a lot of other people.  If you are interested in measures or why people come to communities or any of that stuff, you can find some thoughts on that in the other link. This post is about why people leave.  Now to the meat and potatoes, unless you are a vegetarian then it is on to de beanz and rice.

  1. I am bored 
  2. I am hurt
  3. I offended someone
  4. I am getting angry
  5. Oh, I shouldn’t have done that
  6. I was hijacked by corporate
  7. There is little or no value in spending time here

1)I am bored

If you want to know the SECRET to online communities I could tell you the answer.. it will cost you a million dollars if you click this link or.. I could just say that it is all about feedback.   How does the community relate to you?  What is the context?  When you post or publish something did anyone notice or respond?  If not, it won’t be long before you are bored or other factors drive you to stop participating.  It is like talking to the wall, unless you have the need to talk to yourself in a public space, why do it?  People leave because they are bored and there is no feedback.

2)I am hurt

More than me hurting you, I am upset because you hurt me.   This is the way things are..  Once you hurt my feeling and it is possible to hurt my feelings with words, I am leaving.  Why should I stay here and take this kind of abuse?  People leave because they are hurt.

3)I offended someone

Just imagine on a company website someone posts a picture of themselves in a suit but they are disheveled, obese and holding a turkey leg in one hand and a can of diet soda in another.  Someone is bound to say something funny, I mean offensive and that isn’t going to work out when the picture becomes contextually relevant.   Like you find out that the guy was at his fathers funeral and he is of a cultural background in which they celebrate life and death.   If I made a joke or comment.. I am now feeling bad and I may leave the community, especially if this is a company site.  I could take this a step further, we can’t talk about religion, politics, sexual orientation, economic issues, company concerns, current issues we are facing or the weather without someone being offended.  Next step.. leave the community.

4)I am getting angry

I am trying to deal with an issue or something I need help with and I post a question about it and instead of getting help I get a reprimand or it turns into something that is totally out of context.  I was trying to deal with one thing and I got hijacked.  Yep.. happens all the time because PEOPLE want attention.  Some people want to be the mayor of the community and they fight hard for it.   Watch this.. ready.. I am out..  Yeah and other people leave for that reason too. 

5)I shouldn’t have done that

Offending the community is one thing, making a big mistake like posting something that you shouldn’t have is another.   One time when I was working at Forge.Mil, I posted a tweet that was meant for my personal twitter account.  I had to delete it but not before a lot of people saw that tweet.  Needless to say it wasn’t something that would have gotten me terminated but certainly something that I should have been more careful about.   If that happens on an online community people try to delete it and close their account to make-believe it never happened. It did happen.. whoops.

6)I was hijacked by corporate

It was bound to happen, companies realize how cool all this talking and communication stuff can be.  They realize that people are self organizing and making things happen so they want to get involved.  Makes perfect sense, except that it will suck the soul out of the community.  People will operate under a different set of conditions and the reality is that FEAR may devalue the community.  I said “may”, this is my blog so I will say that corporate getting involved in a community even though that community is related to the business is a recipe for a “Stepford Community.”

Post#1 “Hi, got my timecard done today.”

Post#2 “cool, me too.. remind everyone to get theirs in by 3:00.”

Post#3 “wow, being online is great #iluvthis.”

7)There is little or no value in ME spending time here

I can’t say what I am thinking, I have to filter through 100 posts about how people love their cats and babies and when I do post something that is about the work or something that is interesting that adds value it is carried away in a sea of words.  If the community doesn’t provide healthy and useful feedback to ME then I leave.   “Oh Howie.. the community is not about YOU, it is about the COMMUNITY.”

A community is a group of people and people are individuals that make the community with individual choices and so it is ultimately about YOU and ME but since we are individuals it has to be about ME first then YOU.  Those aren’t my rules, that is the way it is.   We can’t help others until we help ourselves and this is no different.  You could argue around that communities themselves are the body but the fact is that we can’t be a WE until there are a bunch of me’s involved. Then it becomes the greater group or body.  There is an order to these things.

Clarity of..

Disclaimer, I am for the record speaking generically about communities with some discussion of corporate communities.  This isn’t specifically about any one company.  Because if it were then I would be on #5.   I don’t want to be on #5 because I stepped on #2.


There are more reasons that people leave online communities.  I just put a few to consider.   Just remember that anything you put online will stay there until the “Singularity” occurs and then your thoughts and comments will be part of the machine anyway.  Don’t put anything online that you don’t want to be accountable for.  I can’t even get my Intel friends to send me a note in email.

Community 4

What are your thoughts?  Do you think I am right or wrong?  If you have a different perspective, please share it.