Saturday, January 25, 2014

Customer Service: Just say "No-no" to aggressive promotions (and future medical students, beware!)

Yesterday, I had to call my car dealer (the Koons Ford in Falls Church, VA).  The service desk has an 800 number.  Whenever I called it, I kept getting routed to a promotional campaign.  The script asked me if anyone in the household was over 50.  I answered no to get past it but it still put me into the promotion.  (You even had to pay a small membership for the rebate promo!) I finally got a human being to answer, and she said it was her job to sell the promotion.  I rarely raise my voice with anyone, but I did this time.  I just don’t have the time to be interrupted with promotions when I have a service issue.
I tried three times and could not get out of this script.  So I finally had to drive to the dealership to set up the appointment I needed (I needed to speak to someone;  a web appointment wasn’t enough on this). 

With all the robo calls I sense an air of desperation. It seems as though phone bank work is the only kind of job some people can get, or supporting volume sales and spam.  Actually, some products to sell are actually valuable.  Like some of those sold through 800 numbers and advertised on CNN, like the pouch for baking potatoes.  But please, not “No-No” or Microtech.  I wonder if the day will come that surgeons and even make nurses are required to use something “No-No” for hospital infection control.  In this job world, people will be changing their exteriors just to make a living, just as in the soap operas. In the past tattoos were taboo; now they could be mandatory/
To get back to the subject.  I don’t like telemarketing calls (who does), and I wonder how I could have worked doing this myself for almost eighteen months.  Likewise,  it’s risky to allow door-to-door salesmen to come to the door these days.

In previous generations, people accepted the idea of being solicited and buying things from sales people.  My parents bought our 1950 World Book that way. 

Culture is different now.  People are more independent, on their own, and less willing to have their time taken. Sales inquiries become disruptive.  So others have a hard time making a living.
By the way, I just tried to set up Nomorobo with Xfinity, and see that you can only set it up if you put the Xfinity Voice 2go on your cell phone and set it up through that.  I haven’t gotten around to using all the gimmickry on my cell phone yet.  I’m just not into being able to find the nearest CVS when I’m driving, even though I see that it could be useful.  My smartphone is due for upgrade soon, anyway (Feb. 13), and it’s a little slow. Actually, Voice 2go looks like a good idea for home security if you travel a lot, so it will probably go onto my next smartphone. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Contract negotiation, for businesses and individuals, seems to become a growing field, perhaps for seniors

Tuesday, ABC World News, in its “real money” report, talked about reducing home telecommunications bills by negotiation and I thought it mentioned that there were companies that do the negotiating for you (though that costs).  I couldn’t find the company online (something like “Price Cutterz(s)”), but there is a real career for some people in becoming negotiators. For-profit universities are offering degrees in contract negotiation, and offer guidelines like this. Wise Geek has a page on the opportunities here

At the information technology procurement level, negotiation is a career field, as shown by the website of this company, here. I remember hearing about this all the way back in my Army days, when a civilian I worked with in the Tidewater Virginia military complex described how procurement was a full time career. 
But a lot of other jobs require some kind of negotiation.  Debt collection often involves it to get the debtor to make a reasonable payment.  Debt consolidation, and consumer counseling when legitimate, would require negotiation skills.   
It seems that more of the jobs particularly waived in front of senior employees nearing retirement age are likely to involve these kinds of skills, migrating in to being able to help specific clients or people with specific problems, which sometimes can be personal. And, perhaps not so desirably, assertiveness and the ability to persuade people to do one’s bidding becomes important, sometimes to people used to working in more abstract settings. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Javascript eccentricities complicate making Blogger archives work properly

A bizarre programming issue seems to have shown up in Blogger, with respect to the Archives.
Over the weekend, I took a small Windows 7 Gateway notebook to New York and wrote new blog postings on a few of my blogs about the goings-on.  On these specific blogs, when I got back home and accessed them with the much more powerful laptops at home (both Windows 7 – Dell and Windows 8 –Toshiba) I found that the Archive could no longer be accessed from the Blogger gadget on the left side of the screen.  Normally, when you press the sideways arrow, it brings up a hierarchy, and the arrow turns down.  This no longer worked.

I found a discussion form (which I can’t seem to find again today) where a Google associate recommended moving archives to the bottom of the page, where the full width of the page is available to display blog titles.  I did so and indeed this fixed the problem.  The curious thing is that the problem seemed to occur only on blogs that had been updated with me signed on to Blogger with a smaller display screen.  Blogger seems to behave a bit differently on a narrower screen.  But once it detects it has been updated this way, it seems that the archive will never work again until it is moved to a location where it has access to the full page width.
The associate also suggested creating a new page for the archive, as the best idea because then the load page need not be so long.
There are various forum posts online on how archives are programmed in javascript, for example here .  It seems that this problem is known but not often mentioned.

Curiously, even though the archives work, when I run the cursor across the area, I see a “javascriptvoid” popup, suggesting that there is code that needs another branch to process a null result. 
I think on this blog I won’t have the issue, because it hasn’t been updated on the small notebook.

I have not seen this issue with my Wordpress blogs.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Employers use video games to screen applicants; in Colorado, "legal" pot use can still get you fired

Employers are starting to use video games to screen job applicants, according to a CNN report early Saturday.  Applicants are asked to log on to a site and play games that measure personality characters.  Some of these games are run by Pygames and Pymetrics (link ).  Somehow the name of the service makes me think of “pupilometrics”. The characteristics measured include attention to detail, persistence, endurance, and risk taking.
Employers also ask tricky “IQ test” questions like, “If you’re running a race and pass the second person in line, what position are you in line?”   I can imagine some riddles, like what happens if you give a mouse a cookie?
It’s interesting that China is only now allowing video games for consumers again, and they have to be manufactured domestically.
Also, CNN reports that even though recreational marijuana use for adults (21+) is legal now in Colorado, people can still be fired for use there.   

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Why isn't Java more secure; a decade ago, it was "all the rage"

The security risks associated Java as a programming language on the Web remain perplexing.

When I worked for ING-ReliaStar, I took a one-week course in Java at a training center on I-94 west of Minneapolis in February 1999.  The company was already planning to use Java for the data access layer supporting its GUI interface, all the data replicated daily to a Unix mid-tier from the IBM mainframe legacy systems.

The company used PowerBuilder for the inhouse GUI for its Customer Service Workbench (GUI).  Indeed, during the recession in 2002 (after 9/11 and the dot-com collapse) the job market in PowerBuilder was better than it was in Java.

For Policy Access for external customers (online) I don't recall whether it used java or not, but there were few support problems in that area.

It sounds like a mystery with the Java Virtual Machine hasn't been made more secure.

Commentators say that Java was touted as a way to improve consumer interactivity, but it has been supplanted by Flash and by enhanced javascript, an unrelated scripting language.
The idea that home users should disable Java has been promoted since the recent Yahoo! breach was reported.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Federal hiring was not adequate for Obamacare; great mismatch of needs, skills in Europe

The rather random way information technology careers have developed and been counseled over the past fifteen years or so may explain the difficulties some parts of our economy is having in doing its job.
The Wall Street Journal this weekend has a story by Gautham Nagesh, “Health site failures spur push to ease tech hiring”.  It’s true, the USAJOBS site looks welcoming and had a comprehensive way to submit resumes online, but it didn’t result in hiring the kind of people who really could manage the Obamacare healthcare website development and implementation, especially the stress testing, as well as deeper understanding of the business requirements.  The need was not so much for coding skills (contractors supply these) but for management, supervision, and very deep understanding of requirements and how processing would flow.  (The Supreme Court decision in the Medicaid area in 2012 may have thrown a curve, too.)  The link (paywall) is here

The Obamacare project still reminds me of CABCO (Combined Medicare A&B), a failed attempt by seven Blue Cross, Blue Shield plans in Dallas from 1979-1982.   
And Liz Alderman has two recent articles in the New York Times showing the mismatch between university educations in Europe and the tech skills employers need, the most recent Saturday morning, “Many jobs in Europe go begging for skills”, link here

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Email from Dice discusses AOL job openings; the company has quite a history

I don’t know if AOL and Dice have merged or have some formal business connection now, but I got an email (that I think is legitimate) that AOL is looking for developers, will fluency in a number of products like HTLM5, JQuery. MongoDB, and the like.

In the 1990’s, AOL was one of the pioneering Internet companies.  Around 1994 or so, it shared the stage with Prodigy.  Later it bought Compuserv.  In 1996, Steve Case sent out an April Fools joke claiming to have sent a probe to Jupiter.  It had one 24 period in 1996 when it was down, and that was traumatic.
AOL also pioneered “Hometown AOL” and offered one of the first self-publishing platforms with its own FTP link, in late 1996.  It discontinued offering that around 2007, encouraging conversion to Blogger.

As other companies, including social media, upstaged it, it had to look for new ideas, and it teamed up with the liberal news site, Huffington Post. 

AOL became my email provider in August 1994. 

But I don’t know what project these jobs are for.