Introducing MoveThemAll

My Posterous Album on Facebook recently stopped receiving new photos.  This was the point that I realized that Facebook has a limit to how many photos that you can have in an album – turns out that number is 1000 and I hit it.  I LOVE Posterous, but this was a problem; there is no way for me to chose a different album to send my photos to, so the only option was to move all of my photos out of that album or create a new album for every post from Posterous, even if the album will only contain one photo.

I tried to unlink my Posterous account from Facebook to see if it would create a new album if I linked it back – no luck.  I went to move my photos out of my Posterous album, but there is no good way to do that in Facebook; your choices are to move them one-by-one or to delete the album.

Needing a good way to move all of my photos out of a Facebook album, I created a Google Chrome extension to do just that.  Chose an album to move your first photo into, and the dropdownlists for the rest of the photos in the album are automatically set to the same album.  Press Save and you are good to go…except for one thing – Facebook breaks when you try to update too many photos.

Facebook has a limit to how many photos you can have in a photo album, but the limit as far as how many photos you can edit in that album is somewhat less.  When you try to save your changes, Facebook throws an error everytime.  MoveThemAll doesn’t really help me, but I’ve released it in case it helps someone move photos out of a more reasonable sized album.

MoveThemAll – Chrome Web Store

Review: Hulu Plus on Roku

We have been cable television free since Spring.  We’ve been using Windows Media Center and a TV tuner card to record over-the-air shows such as The Office and 30 Rock.  This has worked pretty well for us, aside from the occasional hiccup of signal from the antenna.  However, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of the Hulu Plus channel on our Roku Player, so when it finally became available this week, I signed up for the service (at the reduced price of $7.99).

I want to like this service.  I’ve read a lot of commenters that refuse to subscribe because they don’t want to pay for a subscription and see commercials.  For me, this isn’t a very big deal – if I were paying for cable, I’d see commercials there too.  There aren’t very many commercials on Hulu Plus and I still get through the show much faster than I would if I were watching it live.  More importantly, the quality of the videos is great and the Hulu Plus interface on Roku is nice.   The UI passes the wife test, as she was able to find everything easily and wasn’t confused by the menus.  The only issue we had with the interface was that by including clips for the prior season in the videos section for shows, they make it seem like the entire series run is available when, in reality, only episodes from the current season are available for many shows.  My wife has been wanting to try Modern Family and the inclusion of video clips for Season 1 makes it seem as though prior seasons are available.

This issue underlies the problem with the service, which is that there just isn’t that much content available on Hulu Plus.  Sure, if we didn’t have Windows Media Center available to record these shows for us, we would need to look for a different solution and Hulu Plus might be a candidate.  The fact is, though, that we don’t really need this service.  If we didn’t have Windows Media Center, a TiVo box with an antenna might cost a bit more but would likely be a better solution.

Hulu Plus just needs more content.  The service needs more shows and it needs shows from the cable channels that are available on regular Hulu.  We were disappointed to find that Community wasn’t available, even though the other Thursday night NBC comedies are on Hulu Plus.  Finally, the service needs to beef up its prior seasons – we haven’t watched Glee or Modern Family but I think we might give these shows a shot if we would watch prior shows on the service.  The only thing holding Hulu Plus back from being a must-have subscription (like Netflix) is this content issue but, until more shows become available, our Hulu Plus subscription will likely be going the way of our cable subscription.

Are Your Project Tasks Complete?

My Project Management professor asked the class to consider how, as project managers, we can determine if a task is truly complete.  How do we make sure we get accurate information about tasks status.  Here is my response:

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s organizational method ‘Getting Things Done’.  I’ve read the book a couple of times and, even though I’m not as meticulous with keeping up with the system as some people, I find that it really helps me to stay organized.  I won’t take the time to explain the entire methodology, but a big component of using the system means that I have several lists to keep track of tasks I need to do at any given time.  An item that belongs on my Actions list is the next thing I can do on a particular project.  If that project is a big project with many items to complete, I have a separate list with all of the tasks that need to be done.  So, for applying to grad school, for example, I had a Grad School list that contained all of the remaining items that I would need to complete for that “project” (schedule GMAT, take GMAT, request transcripts, request recommendation letters, etc.).  My Actions list contained the next item that I could complete on the Grad School project, as well as entries to pay the water bill, call my Mom re:Thanksgiving plans, and get a haircut.  For me, it is very liberating to have a list of all of the individual actions I can complete on my personal projects at any given time.  My GTD lists are essentially my own personal project “portfolio” and project plans.

I’ve seen a lot of managers, developers and business analysts struggle to understand the specific things they need to do to complete a project.  For a given task in a project plan, there may be several subtasks that need to be completed in order for a task to be considered “done”.  However, when people don’t take the time to think through these things, it can result in a lot of problems.  How can someone make an estimate on how long a task will take if they don’t think through all of the subtasks that will need to be completed?  How can someone actually be working on a task if they can’t tell you what subtask needs to be completed next?  How can someone tell you a task is done if they weren’t able to identify all of the subtasks that needed to be completed in the first place?

A good project manager may not need to know every little subtask that that goes into a task.  However, I think that a project manager can get a better idea about task status by using some of the GTD methodology on their projects.  Asking “What’s next?” on tasks that aren’t finished can give a project manager a better idea if a resource actually has a grasp on the subtasks that need to be accomplished in order to mark the task as complete.  Also, when a task seems stuck at 99% complete, a project manager should work to identify the remaining subtasks that need to be completed to get the task to 100%.  Finally, when a task is “technically” done, a project manager needs to ask what actions need to taken to make the task actually done.

Extra Credit – Art Fair Business Ideas

I told my wife that she should organize an art fair.  She laughed.  It would be a lot of work, of course, but I think it would be interesting to have an art fair specialize in a particular medium (my wife is a jeweler/metalsmith and knows many others).  I like the idea of a small show, run by artists, where there is only one medium present.  Have a bunch of jewelers get together in a small park the second Friday night each month during the summer.  Hire a different jazz band each month.  Bring in a couple unique food vendors for each show.  I’d go to that.

5 Ways for an Art Fair to stand out

For the first time, my wife sold her jewelry at art fairs this year.  I encouraged her to do this, mostly because I was unaware of the work that would go into selling jewelry at art fairs.  We only did a few shows this year but we learned a lot in a short time; every show is a little different, with different people running the show, different vendors, and different patrons.  It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into these things from everyone involved but I’ve noticed a few things that I would be sure to do if I ran one of these shows:

  1. Every one of these shows have a packet for the artists to pick up when they arrive at the venue.  Invariably, they have a sheet of paper with all of the guidelines, rules, regulations and procedures for the shows. A lot of these sheets have important items in bold font.  Sometimes, though, a point is even more important, so it is bold and underlined. EXTREMELY CRITICAL ITEMS ARE BOLD, UNDERLINED, AND ALL CAPS. After I wrote one of these informational letters, I would take advice from Steve Krug and cut half the words on the page.  And, since it’s usually 7:00 a.m. when I’m handing these things out, I would have e-mailed the information to the artists ahead of time, so they might actually read it.
  2. A lot of these shows are during the summer, so I would assign volunteers to take cold water to the artists several times a day.  I would also have the volunteers give the artists regular breaks, standing guard at the booths so the artists can step away for a short time.
  3. Music and entertainment is a great draw for these events but I would keep the FM radio station vans and booths away.  Blasting Lady Gaga songs across the festival doesn’t create the ideal environment to sell art.
  4. 99% of the artists are very cooperative and wonderful to deal with, which makes the other 1% really stick out.  I’d be making rounds during setup and teardown to make sure that the majority wasn’t having any problems with a minority.  Also, artists wouldn’t be feeling pressure from security guards or volunteers to hurry up during teardown.
  5. The artists at these shows have to put a lot of faith in the fair organizers.  They pay a fee to be juried and a fee to be in the show.  Certainly, there are expenses that an organizer incurs – permits, cleanup, advertising.  These are all important.  I think that an organizer would generate a lot of loyalty from artists and vendors, though, if he would share some of the risk with them.  Bad turnout?  Here’s some of your money back.  Bad weather?  Here’s some of your money back.  I can’t give it all back but we’re all in this together.

Trick-Or-Treat

We were halfway to the mall to take our daughter trick-or-treating when we realized that we forgot the plastic lack-o-lantern to store her haul.  Of course, she isn’t even 1 year old yet, so she can’t eat most of the candy anyway.  But we parked and walked through the department store, and my wife decided to ask a department store employee if we could have a shopping bag so our daughter could store her stuff.

Now, I understand why this department store might not want to give away shopping bags.  After all, plastic sacks do cost something and the store doesn’t want to give bags away for people to carry items out of the store without paying.  When the employee said he wasn’t supposed to do that and he’d have to call his manager to ask, I wasn’t surprised.  I wonder, though, what the benefit is to that company if its employee was enabled to make a mom happy on her way through the store.  I wonder how many other opportunities that company misses because its employees think they have to ask for permission to help a customer.

Group projects and teamwork

One of the more interesting challenges of my MBA classes during the first year is working with group members on projects.  In undergrad, working on a group project for a CS class generally meant working on some software project and handing in a working program (and perhaps some user documentation or design documents) at the end.  Projects generally required work done individually by the group members and then putting it together at status meetings.  It was important to have clean code, of course, but the primary goal was to have a working program at the end of the project and if someone was having trouble or a feature didn’t work quite right it was pretty easy to see.  We could make changes and e-mail the rest of the group letting them know what we did.

In these business classes, though, it is a real challenge to keep everyone on the same page.  When working as a group to turn in a paper or to prepare and give a presentation, the group members need to come up with some sort of thesis or conclusion that the paper/presentation will reach.  Of course, as graduate students, most of us have jobs and significant others and some of us have kids, so it is extremely tempting to have an hour meeting where we split up sections of the paper/presentation and agree to get back together at a later time.  At that time, we go over what we have discussed, start putting the pieces together, and decide who will present or write the introduction and conclusions of the paper/presentation.  This leads to all sorts of organizational issues with the project:

1.) The paper/presentation is disjointed.  One section does not lead to another or does not make sense.  The supporting information of the paper/presentation does not actually support the thesis. Two group members may not have agreed on something that is important to the conclusions that the group reached and they don’t even know it until one person is speaking at the presentation.

2.) The paper/presentation is not consistent.  One section of the presentation has 5 slides with 10 words on each slide.  The next section has 1 slide with 60 words on it.  The paper really sounds like it was written by 6 different people (even though there were only 4 people in the group).

3.) The paper/presentation goes extremely long.  Everyone wants to get their 5 minutes in, even though their section of the presentation just isn’t that important.

4.) The person that writes/presents the introduction, conclusion, or main themes of the paper/presentation gets it wrong or misses a key point.

The groups that have been the most successful are the groups that keep things organized and cohesive in an efficient manner that doesn’t piss people off.  You aren’t going to be able to keep the entire group together in a room for hours while you go over every detail; there must be some delegation.  Moreover, when people do go off and do things on their own, the other group members have to be diplomatic when they come back with stuff that doesn’t fit with the rest of the paper/presentation. At the end of the day, though, each group member has to rely on other people that they just don’t know very well to be prepared and do good work.  Good leaders must be able to trust their team and accept the consequences.

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