My Takeaways from The 10Ks Of Personal Branding

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 01:56 PM with 0 comments

photo of the back cover of The 10Ks of Personal Branding by Kaplan Mobray

Though personal branding has always been around, its focus has been amplified thanks to the Internet. Previously someone was only concerned with how they were perceived locally within their community where today this community has a much larger reach. Just as it is something you would always be aware of and modify as necessary, the attention to it, just like the reach, is now much greater.

With this in mind I picked up the copy of The 10Ks of Personal Branding by Kaplan Mobray I already owned, but never read. When I did I didn’t feel I had a need to make major changes to my personal brand, however I hadn’t done any significant review of it for a while, plus I was curious of what the “10Ks” were and what I would take away from this book. I share my takeaways here.

Simplify Your Message – The idea of an “elevator pitch” is to describe yourself in the few seconds of an elevator ride. I’ve had various pitches over the years, changing the approach I used based on various factors. In The 10Ks it talked about taking a more simpler approach in talking about yourself instead of using buzzwords, industry jargon or other lofty terms. The book also breaks this down and has workbook-like tools to take you through the process, which was helpful in coming up with what I have used and has been well received.

Practice Makes Perfect – Many times we put something out there, but do we really get the feedback we need on it? The time before when I created an “elevator pitch” it worked well in writing, but when I actually spoke it for the first time, not only did it get an odd reaction from the people I said it to but it was awkward even for me to say it. When I created the new one after reading The 10Ks I practiced it aloud many times and on friendly audiences before I tried it on strangers. This helped ensuring what I said was natural and effective.

The Big Picture of Personal Branding – When I first became aware of personal branding, it was not from taking a class but from observing others and learning by example and application. The 10Ks of Personal Branding lays it all out well, from understanding it to developing it to living it. Having this kind of end-to-end resource is helpful in evaluating and changing your own brand over time.

Don’t Judge a Book by Who Gives it to You – As I mentioned I had this book before I actually cracked it open. It was given to me by a former manager that I previously talked about as one of my worst managers and for that reason it simply sat on my shelf for years. Where I can’t say I my opinion of this manager changed because I enjoyed the book, it’s a reminder to judge something based on its own merits.

The 10Ks of Personal Branding is a good, energetic read that gives you a little kick as you are reading Mobray’s personal life stories and working through the exercises in the book to create and refine your own personal brand. For these reasons I recommend it to anyone, whether in business or not, who wants to pursue a new or refine their current personal branding. As I give away all the books I read, I will send this book to the first person who contacts me through comments to this post and asks for it.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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All I Really Needed To Know In Life I Learned In College Radio

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, April 08, 2018 at 04:57 PM with 0 comments

photo of WNEK-FM station members in 1988 – Mike is in the middle of the second row in the tie

After a while, memories of college tend to be more nostalgic than educational. Especially for someone like myself who graduated over a score ago, most of what I specifically learned in the classroom in my coursework is a faded memory. But college is so much more than the courses you take and the grades you get. The life experiences, formal and informal, tend to stay with us for a long time, as college tends to be the place where we first invent or reinvent ourselves.

When I found out in a roundabout way that my college radio station, WNEK-FM in Springfield, Massachusetts, went off the air as a broadcast station and became a purely Internet streaming station, it made me sad. Thinking about my 4 years at Western New England College, the school that held and later dropped the broadcast license, I realized I learned more within the walls of the radio station than I did in any classroom.

Of course I Iearned much in my coursework at the school better known by its acronym, WNEC. But it was my involvement in its college radio station that not only served as a true training ground for me, but offered me challenges and opportunities I couldn’t have possibly got from any professor in any class.

It’s hard to summarize my total college radio station experience in one post of reasonable length, so here’s highlights of what my radio broadcast days taught me.

Leading vs. Managing … Your Friends No Less – In addition to being a broadcast station, my college radio station was the largest, most-active club on campus, with well-over 75 students, faculty and staff between on-air DJs and off-air support. This is where I cut my teeth for the first time in a leadership role, having to lead, encourage, manage and discipline station members, many who were my friends. Sometimes lines were crossed and I had to take unpopular stands my senior year when I was the station’s General Manager, not their friend Mike. What I learned here I took into managing my first post-graduation work projects and teams.

Surround Yourself with the Right People – Within such a large club, there was a smaller core number of people whom I considered confidants in helping me effectively run WNEK-FM. Some were board members holding other roles such as program director, music director, etc., and others were DJ’s and off-the-mic support. They helped me think through tough decisions, and their points of view were invaluable to me.

This group that surrounded me was not a finite group that never changed. Over the years, students would come and go, and new people would join and, over time, become trusted advisors. As much as I had a good group, I was always looking to see who else could contribute, a task all leaders should be doing.

True Cultural Diversity – Most people who were involved in the radio station were there with common interests, namely music and broadcasting, and as you could guess these interests crossed all races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, geographies, et. al. As a result we had the most diverse student organization on campus.

For someone like myself who grew up in a predominantly white, Christian, middle-class town, looking back I didn’t really think about it at the time; these people were simply my friends. I learned not to judge someone by what they looked like – the person with the mohawk and black leather was no different than the one in polo shirts and khakis. As I grew and entered the real world, I cherished I was exposed to and learned to appreciate this diversity.

Do Your Homework – It may not come as a surprise that someone as myself, who has worked in technology my entire career, spent most of my academic time in the computer lab. But here I am not talking about my computer class homework, rather the homework needed to be the best DJ and broadcaster.

I learned this the hard way when I interviewed Civil Rights leader Julian Bond who was speaking on campus. Back then there was no Web to lookup his Wikipedia profile (in case you’re curious, the concept of the Web wasn’t published until my senior year in college), but I didn’t even walk over to the library to look up something on him or get more information from our school’s PR department who arranged the interview for me. This was clear when I opened the interview with Bond saying he is a current Georgia state senator to which he quickly corrected me. Needless to say, I did a facepalm in my mind, then sucked it up and continued the interview.

Networking Early and Often – Networking for me started small, and as I saw others reaching out to me I did my own outreach and found many win-win situations.

An alumni of the radio station and college came back and asked me if he could be substitute DJ, which many alumni who lived near campus did. Over the course of the year I offered him a few shows when others couldn’t make their own. When I heard a certain New York City developer was going to be at a local game manufacturer for the launch of an eponymous board game, knowing this alumni worked there I asked if I could cover it for the radio station. As the one-time news director for the station I did cover local, high-profile stories in the past. When I reached out to him if I could get a press pass, he said not only could I do that, but as he was the product manager for the game, I would be invited with the other press on a tour of the plant and lunch in the executive dining room afterwards. As you might have guessed, the developer was Donald Trump, the game maker was Milton Bradley, and the rest, as they say, is history. Video proof can be found in this news clip I recorded on VHS tape then and posted to YouTube. Incidentally, the college radio station exposed me to another 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate. The son of Bernie Sanders handed me a radio station application; at the time his Dad was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. As a native New Englander whose family was from Vermont, I knew of his father well, before many around the country would decades later.

Though I never knew for sure, another case of networking may have come in handy as well. Over the course of an overnight softball marathon on campus, some DJs were caught by campus police with alcohol in the studios. The campus police were unlocking the doors for the morning DJ, who just happened to be the Academic Vice President for the college, who did not know the station would be occupied at that hour. After the incident I was paraded before the associate dean of students who, as judge, jury and executioner, ordered the radio station off the air indefinitely (something he threatened to do a lot). However it never happened, and I was given a stern warning and said we would remain on the air. Again I don’t know what he said or did, or if he did say anything at all, but did the Academic V.P. say something, perhaps to the college president whose office was next to his, that may have reversed this? I don’t know, and I never asked. Over the course of the year I got to know the V.P. well, as he reached out to me when he first came to campus the summer before as he tried and failed to get a radio station at his last school. He was a great friend of the station, and when he expressed interest in doing an early Sunday morning radio show, a timeslot we could never get a student to fill for obvious reasons, it worked out to be a great win-win. Especially, perhaps, when this situation came up.

There’s no substitute for real, practical experience – A lot of my hands-on approach to, well, just about everything I do was nurtured greatly at the college radio station. Covering the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger my freshman year taught me how to work together as a team when things were moving fast and not all of the information was available. That was later reinforced when I spent the day shadowing the news director of a local radio station. And there’s no better way to learn you’re not prepared for everything than engineering the broadcast of a college hockey game in a sparsely attended, freezing cold hockey rink, and the equipment failed and the broadcast never happened. All of these things happened well before my official, academic internship the summer before my senior year, and taught me much, much more.

The role of music in my life – Prior to signing on the air my freshman year, I had a limited range of musical tastes, and probably even less appreciation for it. Spending 4 years on a radio station that literally exposed me to every genre of music, coupled with experiencing it through and with others, brought this appreciation to a great height. Maybe that’s why I work best with ambient sound surrounding me rather than silence. Today I still enjoy almost all music, but 80’s alternative rock still holds a special place in my heart, and ears.

photo of WNEK-FM bumper sticker from 1988

Deconstructing My College Radio Experience

When I first signed up for my college radio station, I had no idea what impact it would have on my life. Immersing myself with a great cast of people allowed me to try, fail, succeed and learn to degrees I couldn’t get in the classroom. Passion of course played a great part of this. Where I was and am passionate about my chosen career path in computer technology, the foundation for the successes – and failures – I have had in my career were built on a well-rounded foundation of both my classroom and broadcast radio education. Whether or not the school took something like this into consideration when they decided to drop the broadcast license, I have no idea.

Thank God for college radio!

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Takeaways From The Book Steve Jobs

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, April 05, 2018 at 05:17 PM with 2 comments

photo of back cover of Steve Jobs book on an iPhone

When the authorized biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs came out shortly after he died in 2011, it was a book I was interested in reading. As someone who remembers the ascent of Apple as a kid and used both an Apple //e and early Macintosh in college, not to mention a recent convert to the iPhone, I was curious of what else I would have learned from this tech and marketing pioneer. That being said, with all else going on in my life and an existing unread tower of book at home, I didn’t buy it. However I always said, if the opportunity presented itself, I would read it.

That opportunity came a little over a year ago when I was visiting my aunt and needed to make a call for work, so I ducked into a room off the commons of her apartment complex to make the call. This room, which I never knew existed, was a literal library – books of all genres, movies on DVD and VHS (yes, VHS) as well as CDs. As I made my call I perused the shelves and low and behold, I saw the biography by Walter Isaacson, and started reading it on my trip home.

Though I finished reading the book Steve Jobs last year, I made notes of my takeaways from the over 600 pages of first-hand recollections from Jobs himself as well as from many people in his life. Where it’s been a while, these takeaways still ring true in my mind as well.

Do you need to have a personality like Jobs to be successful? This was my greatest takeaway from the book. My original notes said, do you need to be this “ruthless” and thinking about it more, I’m not sure if that is even the right word. Many influences in his life led to his personality of being highly focused, brutally honest, harsh… I could go on. In reading stories of successful people over the years, these types of traits tend to be a common theme. So I wonder, do you need to be wired a certain way to achieve a certain way, at least in business?

Marketing’s role in the rise of Apple – I had always heard that Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, was the technical brains behind the operation, with Jobs being the marketing and front-end pitchman for the firm. However I didn’t realize the extent of all he did, from early days of positioning empty boxes to the design of the cases, to create the aura of what Apple was and is. This level of detail and decision-making made Apple unique, as well as its products.

How much different would the story be if it was written now? As the book was released mere days following Jobs’ death, the interviews and stories of others in the book were given while he was still alive. As I read this, tucked in the back of my mind was how different – if any – would those stories have been if they were told to Isaacson after he died. Where we may not know completely, over time more may come from those interviewed.

Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, I recommend reading Steve Jobs, especially for people who are interested in the personal (and personalities) that are behind businesses. As I give away all of the books I read, this one went to a person who was more interested in the personalities and their interactions within the empires Jobs created.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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3 Reasons To Vote For My Friend Rishi Agrawal For Cook County Judge

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 04:59 PM with 0 comments

photo of Rishi Agrawal and Mike Maddaloni

On Tuesday, March 20, please vote for my good friend, attorney Rishi Agrawal, for Cook County, Illinois Judge in the 8th Judicial Subcircuit.

When I say “my good friend” I mean it, as in I knew Rishi long before he decided to run for judge. As I thought about how to best share why I think he is the best candidate for the judgeship, rather than just say he is an awesome person (which he is!), 3 things came to mind which, after you read them, should lead you to punch number 163 on your ballot.

His passion for practicing law – Rishi and I were neighbors when I lived in Chicago, so as you would expect I would see him just about every day. When we would talk about our days, when he was going to or coming from court or meeting with clients, you could see the excitement in him. He loves litigation, being in court and giving the best representation for his clients. Where of course he wouldn’t give me specifics, he would talk with excitement of how he would prepare and go up against other lawyers or work to negotiate a settlement. Such a positive attitude, energy and regard for the law is something he will carry to the bench.

His ability to understand the big picture and how the law applies – Whenever you get a bunch of friends together casually and politics or current affairs come up, the conversation is certainly spirited. Often, people will come up with something that leans towards a legal opinion, even though most of us are not attorneys. In times like this, Rishi would take in the conversation, then join and acknowledge how people may be approaching an issue, then sharing how juris prudence may apply in a certain case. Not only did this help a conversation from getting outrageous, but it helped us all learn about the law and a point of view we may not have considered. This respect for the law is what Rishi will take to the courtroom when presiding over cases.

Giving back to his community – Whether it’s getting up early to coach his award-winning elementary school debate team before the school day starts, taking on pro bono clients or ones who had difficult cases that other attorneys would not touch, to his involvement in the local school council to local cultural and legal organizations, Rishi finds the time to give back, help his community as well as help to ensure people have access to quality legal representation. I admire his dedication and ability to multitask all of this with his own private law practice and family, and he stands as a model for others.

Voting for Judges Just as Important as all other Elected Offices

When you vote for judges in Cook County, they are usually at the end of the ballot, well after all other elected offices. However voting for judges is just as important as all other office, as you are sending someone to represent your best interests and those of the community at large, in this case to ensure fairness in the court system. Maybe you usually skip judges, or maybe you go fill out a ballot not knowing who any of them are. As I no longer live on Cook County, the biggest thing I and my family miss is our friends. This extends to not being able to vote for Rishi. Allow me to present a good friend and great individual that will make an even greater judge – Rishi Agrawal.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Buy Me A Coffee With Ko-fi To Support The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 10:11 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of Ko-fi Buy Me a Coffee button

Over the past decade plus that I have been writing here at The Hot Iron, I have mentioned this is a labor of love, writing and sharing my thoughts with you reading it. For most of that same time I have explored options to make a little money from my endeavor, and I present my latest one with Ko-fi.

Buy Me a Coffee, Please

I came across Ko-fi a couple of times in the same day, which prompted me to check into it. It is a free service which allows you to post a button to your Web site or share a link to your personal Ko-fi page, where someone can choose to buy you a coffee, which is in essence giving you money. You can choose to follow others on Ko-fi or have them follow you. You can try all of this yourself by clicking the "Buy Me a Coffee" button on the right column of my blog (or click the photo in this post), or follow this link to my Ko-fi page.

In order for me to receive the money (presumably earmarked for a hot caffeinated beverage) I tie my PayPal account to it, and funds are deposited there. As a result it is a straight cash transaction, and no actual coffee is exchanged in the process, unless I move the money from my PayPal account.

But wait, could there be more?

Where in some regard it is not much different than putting a PayPal donation button or link on my blog, Ko-fi is a unique approach as it is not an ask for cash rather an offer for someone to buy me a beverage. The community around the profile page shows the extent to how folks have supported by coffee consumption, which is usually not far from my keyboard or notebook when I am writing.

Of course when I see something like Ko-fi, the entrepreneurial part of my brain is triggered, and there is great potential for this service. The idea of micropayments are not new, but this is a new, unique way of asking for them. A coffee company - hello, Starbucks or Peet's - could be a sponsor or even an owner of it and tie their current gift cards and mobile apps to Ko-fi, thus making the coffee purchase that much easier to the recipient.

As I mentioned, Ko-fi is in a long line of methods for asking for contributions from my readers. I have had Google AdSense ads on my blog for years, which over time has contributed some but has waned as display ads become almost invisible and blocked by Web browser plug-ins. CentUp was a short-lived service which required you to create an account both to give and receive. Google Contributor offered the ability to block ads from being displayed if you contributed money to a site, but it has been all but eliminated by the search giant. Ko-fi is free, but asks me to buy it coffee, which I have done out of support for it, and to ensure its developers are well-caffeinated when doing their part.

Deconstructing Earning Revenue for Blogging

As the early days of the Web were driven by the free distribution of content, later attempts to earn revenue for content have had a mix of success. Large newspapers and magazines have struggled with earning digital subscribers as their print subscriptions plummet. Attempts at paywalls are met with people finding ways to avoid them and get the content for free. Smaller publishers have also had the same mixed results, most positives coming from extreme niche content. These gaps have driven services like Ko-fi to find a different way to help publishers earn money. Where others have failed, it remains to be seen if a unique payment service could gain traction. If anything, small publishers like myself are certainly cautiously optimistic.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Penalizing Managers For Giving Bad Reviews As Afterthought

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 08:48 PM with 0 comments

photo of performance review form

As the new year starts, for many it is also the start of the annual review process with their employer. Where this process varies from company to company, typically it entails creating goals for the coming year, taking into consideration the goals for the team, organization, group etc. and then at the end of the year measuring if you met those goals or not along with feedback that was accumulated throughout the year.

Ask any person who goes through this process and they will likely tell you they would rather spend time standing in line at the DMV! Many people feel it's a waste of time, not only in the fact that they have to spend time working on it but also at the end of the year a couple of things typically happen - one, they don't get a raise or a bonus, and two, for the first time they learn at the end of the year of something that happened months ago or even earlier in the year.

When you get written up on something in December that happened in March, how can you really do anything about it, nine months later, to affect any change? In other words, the performance appraisal process is broken, and I have an idea to fix it -penalize the manager that gives you a poor review or feedback at the end of the year as an afterthought when they had the opportunity to tell you earlier.

Say what?

If you think about it, at the end of the year when someone is giving you a review, their own personal review doesn't necessarily reflect yours. It should, for a manager should be measured on the overall performance of their team, as they should be ensuring their team is excelling at all times. Some manager do believe in this (including, fortunately, the manager I have now), however many managers don't want to be bothered by this throughout the year and as a result giving a poor performance review at the end of the year is really no skin off their teeth and comes naturally to them. Sometimes that poor performance review is based on asking others who have worked with you to provide their input, which is often referred to as a 360° review process. Even when organizations say they have a "immediate feedback mechanism" to let people know when they do well or when they do poorly, it rarely happens this way. Finding out about a problem at the end of the year when there's really nothing that can be done about it serves nobody well.

If the person giving the negative feedback is giving it too late, it is they themselves that should be marked down for it in the end of the year process. This gives the person giving the poor review skin in the game and makes them part of the solution. The whole idea is to inform people at the time something happens that something was unsatisfactory or could've been done better or could've been corrected. When it's given at that point, the person that has the opportunity to make the correction, discuss impacts on their workload that impacts their success, identify the need for education or training or greater organizational issues that need to be addressed that the manager may not even be aware of, et. al. The person and their manager or whomever is giving the negative feedback can then together put a plan in place to lead to success, along with a timeframe and measurement.

Been there, wish it was done

Many times throughout my career I have been on the receiving end of negative feedback too late to do anything about it. When I asked why nothing was brought up sooner, I was never given a definitive answer, namely as the review process did not require it. On the flipside, I have had many managers who gave me continuous feedback, comments, adjustments, etc. as I worked with them, and this was not only greatly appreciated but led to my success and the success of the project I was working on. I also hear this from friends and colleagues that hear of such late-in-the-game feedback they can do nothing about, which simply makes the workplace even less tolerable.

Deconstructing Giving Timely Feedback

Why not strike while the iron is hot, and give feedback while it is fresh, meaningful and can produce a positive outcome? This takes facing issues head-on, something many managers may not be comfortable with or other senior people don't want to be bothered with. By making these mid-game corrections, it allows everyone to succeed, and may also impact the bottom line of the team or organization. This investment in one's team is as important as any training or materials you spend money on them, and can reap even greater rewards.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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The Secret Life Of Old iPhones

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 06:33 PM with 2 comments

photo of Apple Care packaging to return an iPhone

When the spotlight was shown on Apple’s “feature” to reduce the power of later model iPhones to compensate for degrading batteries without the owner’s knowledge, the tech giant’s remedy for this, accompanied by an apology, was to reduce the price they charge for a replacement battery from US$79 to US$29. A future upgrade to the iOS operating system will allow owners to disable this “feature” which should close the loop on this issue.

Like any action, there is always a reaction, or maybe 2 or several. In this case, Apple’s reputation has lost a little more of its luster, continuing what many have seen in a decline of their public perception since the death of founder Steve Jobs. No iPhone owner will be surprised if they receive an email or letter in coming months about a class-action lawsuit against Apple. I would add to this an observation I made when I was packaging up and sending in 2 iPhones for new batteries – a new life for otherwise “outdated” devices that may impact their future sales.

Reasons for Upgrade

Whether it’s a car, house, clothing or a smartphone, we all have reasons for upgrading to a newer model when available. On one end of the spectrum are more functional reasons, such as the “need” for new features – in the case of a smartphone, a faster processor or more memory. On the other end are reasons more for “form” or simply the desire to have the latest and greatest of whatever it is. Where I know people in the latter category, I know more that, especially with the rising cost of these devices, are sticking with older models.

Typically, these decisions were merely personal. With the lower battery cost, economics comes into play. By getting a new battery for around $30, you are in essence getting a new, older model smartphone. If you still want to upgrade to a new model, by making a small investment you can conceivably have a more valuable older model device, or one you can pass along to be used by someone else as if it were new.

As the ability to buy a used or new, older model device already exists, the aftermarket for iPhones will now expand with the opportunity for additional devices to be available in it. Or in my case, the demand for buying a new or additional devices has decreased with additional, well-suited devices, available to be reused for a lower cost.

Digital Hand-Me-Downs

Recently I got a new iPhone 8 mainly for the memory, as my iPhone 6’s paltry 16 GB was forcing me to delete apps just to take a few videos of a few minutes in length. And of course, the battery was spent to the point where I had to charge it several times a day, not to mention carrying a spare battery with me all the time. Despite these drawbacks of the 6, it was in great physical condition, and would be well suited for someone else to use.

Such a reuse is going to happen, as the device will be used by a family member who is upgrading from a flip-phone. I have sent it and paid the approximately $30 (I believe there was tax on top of it), once I get the phone back I will set it up for this family member as their more-than-perfect entry into the world of smartphones. Other older models of iPhones are already in use in my family, as my kids use them as WiFi devices and without a SIM card, after I followed what I shared before on how to best setup an iPhone for this purpose.

With the number of iPhones sold over time, there’s a demand for the new batteries. I personally ordered and sent in 2 iPhones, a 6 and a 6S, as I no longer live within walking distance of an Apple Store. Where I sent in the 6 before the 6S, the 6S came back within 3 days. Looking into it, there is a shortage of 6 and 6+ batteries. Apple’s Web site gives me no indication my replacement is pending for this reason though. Once again, a spotlight is being shone on Apple that they have to react to.

Deconstructing a New Life for old iPhones

How will this new life for these iPhones impact the market for new ones from Apple? It’s hard to say exactly. Technology today is made to be disposable, as repair costs will typically cost more than buying a new item. However, with the cost of the new iPhone X at US$999 or even the new iPhone 8 at US$699, paying thirty bucks for a new battery is almost a no-brainer, whether you personally need the device or are looking to sell or hand it off to someone else.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Takeaways From The Book Stonewalled

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 09:35 PM with 0 comments

photo of the back cover of Stonewalled

You don't need me to tell you that today the news media is as much about the story as what they are covering. If you're like me you'd rather not hear about reporters and networks being the top story, rather what's actually going on in the world. Where we may hear a digested, front-end view of their involvement in the story, rarely do we get an insider's view of what's really going on behind the sense in newsrooms or how someone is being impacted, especially when they're being impacted negatively.

As someone who doesn't have cable TV or an antenna and haven't for a very long time I almost never watch the network news or major cable news networks. Instead my news comes from online, reading news Web sites, subscribe to their RSS feeds and following their Twitter accounts. In addition to this, I follow many individual reporters, reading not only what they are posting as new stories but their own Twitter timelines. Where this aggregation of information of information is probably more comprehensive and time consuming than simply “watching the news,”, but it allows me to come to my own informed consensus of what’s going on.

Among the reporters I follow is Sharyl Attkisson, a national investigative reporter who is the host of Full Measure and author of the book The Smear which I recently read and shared my takeaways from. As I have been following her and her reporting for several years, I was drawn to read her most recent book, as well as her first book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington, where she chronicles covering news events in Washington, and believed political forces worked against her, even hacking into her computers.

Though I read Stonewalled before I read The Smear, I still recall well the takeaways and questions I had from this book.

The “making of the sausage” that is network news – If you think about it, there is very little network news available to be watched. A 30-minute newscast is really only 23 minutes of programming and 7 minutes of commercials. In this time only so many stories can be covered and only to a certain depth. This is also costly in reporter-power plus research. Even the 27/7 news channels don’t cover all that much news as compared to opinion programming.

In Stonewalled, Attkisson states that this plays into whether stories are aired or not. As well, it can be up to the news anchor themselves what gets aired. If that person has a bias, stories may never get seen by the viewing public. She details many cases of this during her years at CBS News.

Overflow news stories on the Web – When some of Attkisson’s news reports were not aired on the evening news program, they were often posted to CBS News’ Web site. I personally had no idea this happened; my assumption was that stories on the Web site were simply what aired. As a result, I have added news Web sites to the mix of news sources I mentioned above to gather all points of view, think for myself and form my own opinion on events around the corner and around the world.

Did the government really hack into her computers? As of this writing and for over 10 years, Attkisson has been trying to get information from the government on what she suspects and was confirmed by her informants, that employees of an unknown part of the US government hacked into her personal and work computers. Why? She suspects her persistent coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal and other government investigative reporting may have led to this. And to date, she has yet to get any official answers.

Stonewalled is a well-written journey through the life in the US capital area, complete with shadowy figures as well as those operating in broad daylight. I highly recommend it as a compliment to what was observed in the news over the last decade. As I finished reading this a while ago, I also promised it to someone a long time ago, and finally the book is in the mail.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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The Hot Iron at 11

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 12:03 PM with 0 comments

photo of 11 Alive jingle on an iPhone

To anyone reading this, THANK YOU! I have been writing and posting to this blog now for 11 years. Where many of you have been reading for part of the time, there are a few who have been reading the whole time. No matter even if this is the first time you have read something here at The Hot Iron, kudos and karma now and throughout 2018!

When I think 11, the first thing that comes to mind is 11 Alive, what New York TV station WPIX used to use as their tag line back in the 70’s and 80’s. For some reason, it was part of the cable package in Massachusetts when I was a kid, and here I share with you their jingle – watch the embedded video below or follow this link to watch it.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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7 Blog Topics Written in 2007 That Are Still Relevant Today

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, December 28, 2017 at 11:53 PM with 0 comments

photo of 7Up soda bottles

Back when this little blog from which you are reading this post turned 10 a year ago, I started thinking about what I have written over these years, especially that first year. As a new writer at a time when social media was still in its infancy, I wondered what topics or “hot irons” I decided to “strike” a decade ago. This led me to pour through the archives of The Hot Iron and reading what I wrote in 2007.

As it turns out it was a mix, from well thought-out articles to short pieces that would have probably been social media posts had those networks been more prevalent. In all, I made 236 posts over 365 days. Where some in hindsight I probably would have written differently or perhaps not at all, there were many I read which pleased me that I shared my thoughts with my new audience. Overall, there were 7 topics or themes which I covered back then that I feel are still relevant today, and I would like to share them with you on a short trip down memory lane.

1. Domain Names – As the genesis of this blog was from, and was to support, my former Web consulting business, coupled with the fact I felt many people knew very little about domain names, I wrote several articles on domain names that first year. Over the years, I continued to write even more about domain names because, even after over 2 decades of they being commercially available to the public, I felt then – and still today – domain names are not well understood.

Among the posts included Be the master of your own domain (name) on registering domain names in general, Own the Domain Name for Your Name to encourage my readers to register the domain name for their own name, Know Who Manages Your Domain Name as many register domains but will forget where they did so, Beware Unsolicited Invoices for Your Domain Name on deceptive practices for selling registration and Web-related services by sending what looks to be a legitimate invoice, Domain Name Owners Not Who You Would Think on missed opportunities to register domain names and Observations of German Domain Names about how this American saw domain names in action in Germany.

Ten years later, I think all of these posts and what they discuss are very relevant. As I work with firms and talk with people about domain names today, much of what I wrote could inform them, and possibly save them time, money and headaches.

2. Networking – I never took a class on networking in college or afterwards, namely for until recently there was never such a thing. What I learned about meeting and connecting with people I learned literally on the job, through trial and many errors, as well as successes. Perhaps I should have developed a class on it (or perhaps I still should?) but as a close second I wrote about several aspects of it.

Posts on networking I wrote were My Networking Event Checklist about how I prepare for networking events, Community building is up to ALL of us on why I network, Nametags Essential for Networking on why there’s nothing wrong with wearing nametags and Time to Write The Note Cards on following up with people after meeting them.

In several of these posts I mention Jason Jacobsohn, someone whom I met online then in real life after following his blog Networking Insight, which today is still a vibrant resource on the art and science of networking. Even though I no longer have my own business, the need for connecting with others still exists, and is the driver for why I recently started dMorning.

3. Opportunity Cost – Shortly after starting my business I learned quickly about trade-offs, and when you do something it often doesn’t allow you to do another. Through this balancing act I had a flashback to college and penned All I remember from Economics 101 - Opportunity Cost. Where opportunity cost has come into play for much of my life, as it does for most of us, it was intensified when I was the boss and sole staff of my business. This discipline was an on-going effort, and helped by seeking the counsel of other small business. As time went on, and jobs replaced my business and my family grew, recognizing the opportunity cost of one decision over another became even more important in my life.

4. Customer Service – The challenges I faced as a small business owner, I learned, were not that much different than those faced by much larger organizations. However I was always stunned how an entity with many, many more employees could still miss the mark on things that, to me, were obvious. I thought that then, and sadly I still do today.

In 2007, JetBlue Airlines had an incident where passengers were stranded on an airplane. During a discussion on this with a colleague, an idea popped into my mind, which I wrote in A Free Idea for David Neeleman, an open letter to Neeleman, the founder and then CEO of the airlines, and I offered to him this idea. I have no idea if he, or any other airline CEO, ever read it. But by hearing the customer services disasters airlines still experience in 2017, my guess is not.

5. Accessbility – My first exposure to Web site accessibility came when I helped a friend who is legally blind with his PC. This was a rare case of providing tech support to a friend that had a benefit – learning the world of accessibility tools. I learned about JAWS, a leading “screen reader” which literally reads aloud what is appearing on the screen – be it icons, a menu or what is in a Web browser. Where this was great to be exposed to, I also learned of the challenges he faced with using the Web – most Web sites are not designed or programmed to make it easy for someone who is visually impaired to navigate and use them.

I wrote specifically about my experiences with my friend’s computer in a post called Unintentional Unusability where I barely scratched the surface on many areas, and mentioned how a design decision for this very blog was based on this experience. It was because of this I was eager to adopt the now-defunct service Odiogo which I went into detail in the post Hear My Blog Posts.

Today Web site accessibility is something I am still concerned with and work to overcome. As technology and their tools continue to advance in some areas, they continue to lack in this particular area.

6. Giving Back – As giving back to the community has always been a big part of my life, I made sure to include it when I came up with a list of “gift ideas” which were simply promotions of my clients. Where the idea was to send business their way so they would ideally send more business mine, I wasn’t betting the farm on this tactic, and it was probably good that I didn’t either!

Among the posts I wrote was one that would only send a good feeling back to me, and needed resources to a great organization. In Gift Idea – Help Young People by Donating to YouthBuild Boston I asked people to make a donation to YouthBuild Boston, a non-profit in Boston that I have supported for years, and at the time were a pro-bono client of mine. YouthBuild Boston works with young people to help them be self-sustaining. They offer skills training in the construction trades, as well as the support they need to succeed. They are an amazing organization, and one that is well run as well. If you haven’t made all of your year-end donations, they are a highly worthy recipient today as they were then.

7. Health – When I started my blog, my business was home-based and my office was in the den. A decade later, I am once again working from home, this time for an organization. I have a nice short commute, but it is a commute where I walk and sit, and sit for a while. When I came upon the post I wrote Walk to Work Even If You Work From Home, it reminded me that I need to get off my butt more during the workday, even when the weather is in the single-digits as it is as I write this.

Deconstructing What I Wrote 10 Years Ago

As time goes by, some things remain a constant, which I found in re-reading what I wrote over a decade ago. Many issues and thoughts I had then are top of mind today, and I this to the fact they are part of who I am and what I believe in. My quest for people to learn, understand and be able to use technology in a calm, connected, active and charitable world is a journey I am still on today. As I continue my blog into its second decade, topics I will write about will likely include those mentioned above.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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