Ben Langhinrichs

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E-mail address - Ben Langhinrichs

December, 2005
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.

Mon 19 Dec 2005, 02:23 PM
People obviously can't wait, because there are already a number of hits on the Lotusphere 2006 Sessions DB page.  But now, it is actually available.  This is our sixth annual sessions db made available in Journal format that is suitable for synching with your PDA, or for just general browsing.  Actually, there is much more functionality for general browsing, fun and scheduling this year!  The database is available at LS2006_SessionsDB.  As before, it appears that IBM is not planning on releasing their own database, so I figured I'd better do it again.  Rocky, who has started working for IBM this year, has indicated that just maybe there will be a link to our sessions database again this year on the official Lotusphere page, perhaps even a bit earlier.

One change this year is that many of the folks from the fabulous Penumbra group, of which I am a humble member, have joined in to contribute ideas, features and functions to the database.  Some are already there, such as the Topic Cloud, and several are held back for the on-line version that we will offer this year.

This database is free for you to use either as is or with modifications.  If you make interesting changes, or build another tool around it such as a web services or .NET interface or whatever, let me know and I'll provide a link (or just update my db if you like) on the webpage.  Feel free to point anyone to this post or to the page directly.

I am not doing a session this year, by the way, but I will have a pedestal (#604) and will be showing CoexEdit, finalist for the 2006 Lotus Award (aka Beacon) for Best Tool/Utility.  I'll also be showing CoexLinks and the Midas Rich Text LSX, so drop on down and find me and see the cool stuff you can do when thinking outside the box.

P.S. If you don't have any other reason to download the database, how about the first public sneak peek at the CULT shirt for this year?  Just look for my name and look under the CULT tab.  You know you want to.

Copyright 2005 Genii Software Ltd.

Mon 19 Dec 2005, 12:54 PM
I had an interesting insight on Sunday, and I thought it might be worth relating.  The insight came about due to a scary moment when my 83 year old mother-in-law was flying in to town and didn't show up for about forty five minutes after her flight landed.  My mother-in-law isn't quite as quick as she used to be, so my wife, who was at the airport to pick her mother up, didn't worry at first.  But after a while, my wife began to get worried, because for some reason she had not actually talked to her mom that day before the flight.  As time went on, it was hard to have unpleasant visions, which were not helped by my ten year in the backseat saying "Is Granny dead?".

I was working, so my wife called and asked me to check in with the airline to see if her mother had actually gotten on the plane.  This is where the insight started.  I checked the Continental website, and couldn't find a number where anybody could help.  I checked the Cleveland Hopkins Airport website, and couldn't find a number.  On both, I called a few different contact numbers they had, but all were only operational on weekdays.  Now, Cleveland Hopkins is a pretty big airport, and they have a lot of flights every day, so it stood to reason that there must be some way to get help.

As I was sitting starting at the Continental website one more time, I noticed that in the upper right, right after the Contact Us menu, was the Help menu.  I figured, "Hey, I need Help", so I clicked on it...

Inline JPEG imageAnd it provided just what you would expect, help on navigating the site, help on getting travel deals, help on using the menus, etc. etc. etc.

But what about when Help means HELP!!!  This is an airline after all.  People fly, they don't show up, they get lost, they lose their tickets, they might even see a possible terrorist incident developing.  They don't need Help.  They need HELP!!!

You might think this is isolated to public websites serving lots of people, but what about even a simple software website.  It may not be a missing mother-in-law, but when you server goes down and thousands of people aren't getting their e-mail, or can't access your e-commerce site, or can't get medical information that is needed out of a system, they might not think "I should call support".  They might just, as I did in this case, think "HELP!!!".  Perhaps we should give it to them.  Sure, the Help menu could still provide the purpose we are used to, but maybe it should also have a clear statement near the top saying, "If this is an emergency, call (xxx) xxx-xxxx".  It wouldn't take much space, but it might be just the HELP!!! that is needed.

And by the way, my mother-in-law is fine.  Her luggage didn't show up right away, so she was waiting for it.  I'm just glad I didn't need more real HELP!!!

Copyright 2005 Genii Software Ltd.