I personally enjoyed today’s blog post, Jason. Makes it so much fun to promote! Well done. And I loved learning about the background of a Webtech Wireless employee. You just never know what people do when they aren’t at work! 🙂 I appreciate the personal touches you’ve been using on the blog recently.
—Carrie G. Koens, Weaving Influence Social Marketing (third-party provider to Webtech Wireless)
You are really going above and beyond on the blog posts! Jason, really enjoyed your post today about Ottawa. In my experience, people are more apt to click through a link with a fun picture – so well done. Thanks for making my job easier (and more fun)!
This week, my work has chiefly been in the area of copy editing content for our corporate brochures at Webtech Wireless. I finally discovered why so much of our writing comes off sounding like marketing bumbf, instead of the targetted technical content that it’s intended to be.
Curiously, I found the answer in our case studies, which read beautifully because they’re written in a narrative style (i.e., they tell a story). The simple answer is to employ a narrative style throughout and to chain sentences in a way that tells a good story. Something to think about.
Here’s my corporate blog writing for the week:
Disability and the Law describes how by contrast, your life may seem less complicated than the above three strange and horrifying tales from Quebec of murder, extradition, and disabilities. It’s written to those who’ve had their disability claim denied and are looking for qualified legal representation.
One of the beauties of corporate blogging of course, is to be able to do it from anywhere. As I’ve been quick to irritate my friends and co-workers by saying, “If I can work from home, I can work from the South of France”, which is exactly what I did last winter. This week, however, I’m writing from Toronto where I’m holed up researching and writing for Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet division (headquartered in ultra trendy west King street area). Once again, much of my work is research and less finished projects, so get ready for the deluge when all this stuff goes to print.
Could You Live on 25% of Your Wages? describes the sad tale of Pat Tillapaugh of Burnaby who was in an MVA (motor vehicle accident) and found that her loss-of-work coverage from ICBC amounted to only 25% of her wages.
This week, I interviewed a client at LA County Transit about the InterFleet GPS devices they use to track the whereabouts of their 38 mini vans and buses. They approached me to write the story although their isn’t yet much content. There isn’t really a story, but I’ll probably write a little slice-of-life blog post about how their using this technology.
I also drove up from Toronto to the City of Vaughan (a satellite/service town of Toronto) to interview the senior engineering assistance for their Public Works department about how their GPS winter fleet management solution is equally effective in summer (on grass mowers instead of snow plows). I asked a few questions about business intelligence (the buzz in the industry) and non rolling asset watcher devices, piquing their interest in technology InterFleet is also now offering. Maybe I helped make an additional sale.
In Part I, I described some of the catches with Velib’ that makes it difficult and how to get around them. Now I’ll describe how to return your bike and some good routes in Paris.
Returning Your Velib’ Bicycle
The beauty of Velib’ is that you don’t have to return the bicycle where you picked it up. You can park it at any of the Velib’ stations—if there’s an opening. Here are a few tips about returning the bicycle:
You’ll learn to keep your eye out for the line of green lights that identify the stations.
Be aware that sometimes the stations are full and you’ll have to cycle to another to drop off the bicycle. Each station has a map of the vicinity showing the proximity of other stations.
If your destination is time sensitive, plan extra time in case you aren’t able to park right away. I had little trouble with this, but it is a potential concern if you need to be somewhere on time.
When you return the bike, slide it into its slot. A yellow light appears for about ten seconds while it registers your return. It then turns green. Don’t leave until you see the green light; otherwise, you’ll be charged for indefinite use. If the light is flashing or you here a buzzer, there’s a problem with the connection. Try reparking the bicycle or move it to a different stand and try again.
What You Can See
The advantages of cycling in Paris are huge. Velib’ is a jump-on/jump-off transportation solution, and unlike the Metro (which is underground), you can experience the incredible excitement of Paris as you go. Also, many of Paris’ great monuments are close to each other—well within the 30-minute free grace period.
Here are some of my itineraries and approximate travel times (all my trips started in the Marais near Place de la Revolution)
Pont Sully / Ile Saint-Louis / Bertillon ice cream (famous in Paris) (20 minutes). Caught a beautiful sunset silhouetting Notre Dame by the Seine.
Ile de la Cite / Notre Dame / Pantheon (45 minutes) – Night right around these monuments. Each monument has its own distinctive lighting style.
Rue St. Germaine backstreets to La Tour Eiffel – (20 minutes). There’s a warren of backstreets with fascinating shops. Lots of Velib’ stations if you want to park and walk for a bit too. I got caught in an insane traffic jam on the Champs D’Elysée with repercussions all the way to Avenue de l’Opéra and Tivoli. Nothing was moving, not even bicycles.
Musée Gustave Moreau / Ile de la Musique (45 minutes between the two) – Moreau was an influential romantic painter. His studio and living quarters have been preserved. From there I cycled to the other end of town to Ile de la Musique to see the museum of rare and antique musical instruments.
Chateau de Vincennes / Palais du Louvre (45 minutes each way) – this was an epic journey out to the medieval chateau in Vincennes (take in some of the Bois de Vincennes park if you can) and then downtown to the Louvre. Yes, I did this in one day. The cycling was easy compared to all the history and culture I took in. I was exhausted.
Yesterday, I toured the Basilica de Saint-Denis in the Paris suburb of the same name. Why, on my first day in Paris, I would visit the suburbs may be a mystery to some, but I wanted to start at the beginning and in terms of basilicas and Paris and indeed France, this is where it all begins. Saint Denis is the patron saint of France and his remains are interred here along with those of a great deal of France’s royalty from Dagobert to Marie-Antoinette.
I started in Saint-Denis not just to see the gothic church that inspired all others—Saint-Denis’s firsts include its beautiful rose windows, and its pointed arches—but I think there’s an anti-revolutionary spirit in me. I know that revolutions never replace an ancien regime with anything better, if the revolutionaries do not live the qualities they aspire to. It’s always an inside job. Gandhi had it right.
Over the last few months, I’ve been given the opportunity to place my values in front of my needs and am the better for it. There is a business application for this that I embrace—it has to do with doing what’s right. Here are three examples:
At the tail end of a contract, my manager was let go and I ended with four days of my time owing to the company. Later, the replacement manager asked me if he could hire me back. This is common sense, but while I could have signed a new contract and never mentioned the four days owing (nobody but me would have known), I offered up my four days. As the new manager didn’t know what sort of budget he had, this was enormously helpful, and later paved the way for him to hire me back for an additional four-month contract. Honesty is its own reward.
Likewise, I quoted 24 hours to a client to copy edit his 30-page financial report. I must be getting good at copy editing because the entire job (including the copy edit and designing a new template and style sheet), took me only 6 hours. With the previous example of integrity in my head, it was easy to ignore the little devil on my shoulder and bill only my working hours, not the proposed contracted hours.
Finally, a fellow musician in Montreal put out a panicked message to all her clarinet-playing colleagues on facebook for a certain part of music she needed. I responded that I was too busy packing for my trip to help her. During the day though, I kept thinking about that rare clarinet part and gradually found that it was easy to locate it in a box of my music, scan the section she wanted, optimize it into a compressed PDF, and finally post it to my site where she could download it.
The fascinating part for me was not that I did these things, but that they got done simply by me not resisting their accomplishment. I under-promised and over-delivered.
I sit in cafés watching the patrons tapping away at their laptops or PDAs and wonder how many of them are billing hours for their labours. If they are, I also wonder how they maintain communication with their clients. Are they off in a dream of worker freedom or are they providing value for their clients at least as effectively as if they were in the corporate office?
Having worked from home as both employee and contractor, I know that the only way it can be effective is if I can ensure that the trust between me and my clients (boss) is rock solid. How I do that is through communication. Below are some of the communication tools I’m using:
Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. It’s one of my favourite tools—so much so that I often use it during business hours in Vancouver to save my cell phone minutes. Last year, when I was in Portugal, I found that the Skype connection on my iPod (needs WiFi) was better than on the laptop.
Google Chat is good because your clients can contact you on a moment’s notice (provided you both have it open). By seeing I’m online and available, my clients can have the assurance that I’m working on their projects, etc. etc.
Want to run your laptop and phone abroad and not sure what to do? I was in Foreign Electronics the other day picking up a power adapter and they advised me to remove the SIM card from my phone on arrival in France and just use my phone for WiFi only. I’ve already ensured that all the hotels where I’m staying have WiFi, so if I need to talk, I can use Skype. If I want a cell phone, I can pick up a local SIM card (check that your phone accepts one – my iPhone 5 doesn’t).
Most cell providers, such Roger’s, allow you to send and receive text messages through their web site free. So, if you’re working very remotely from, say, the south of France, you’ll want to keep your texting as low cost as possible.
I recently wrote a corporate blog and came upon some interesting considerations. It’s one thing to write a blog for one’s own site, but to write on behalf of someone else (i.e., a company) is another matter. There’s of course the matter of style and tone, but what is appropriate especially if there are no clear guidelines.
You may have to spin things slightly to represent the best interests of your employer, but don’t be insincere—people sense it. The story I wrote, Iridium satellites not affected my recent solar storms, concerned the effects of recent solar storms on the company’s GPS location-based tracking services. I realized that it was important not to represent their technology as vulnerable or the solar storms as alarmist.
Here’s what I came up with:
Focus on the positive – plays down concerns in the title
In first sentence, I use end focus to draw attention to reliability of products/services of company “…has had no affect on Iridium satellites”.
I chose a beautiful and re-assuring image of the aurora borealis, instead of something that might cause concern.
I was given permission to use images found on the internet (always something to consider), but because I didn’t think the site where I found this image was one I wanted to highlight, I buried the source credit in the code for the image.