March 14, 2006
A Reporter with Guts
Jim Walsh is a humor columnist for the Cherry Hill Courier Post in New Jersey. For a humor columnist, he showed more guts and journalistic integrity than the vast majority of those who claim to be journalists. Here is the story in Walsh’s own words.
Here's the scene: Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather is in Cherry Hill, giving a speech about the need for journalists to do better. "What's gone out of fashion is the tough question and the follow-up," he tells an admiring audience of about 600 people at Cherry Hill's Star Forum.

So how can I, the guy covering Rather's remarks, just sit there? When he finishes, I hurry to a floor mike to ask Rather about an issue that will be part of my story. "Mr. Rather," I say. "Great suggestions. But you left the anchor desk last year after your report questioning President Bush's military service was discredited. Key memos could not be authenticated. Do you think the failure to ask questions then affects your credibility now?"

Rather responds with civility -- if not clarity. He notes, in part, that an independent review "couldn't determine whether the documents were authentic or not."

Eager to please, I follow up: "The Courier-Post won't run something if we're not sure it's authentic. Are you saying it's OK . . ."

But my microphone goes dead -- and the audience stirs to life. Some people jeer. Others glare and scowl (I can now distinguish between the two). This continues outside as I call in my story.

Having taken a few journalism classes at two major universities, I am not surprised by the treatment Walsh received. The most common political debate between journalism students that I found was a discussion about whether they should be honest and register as Democrats or if they should register as Independents to give the appearance of objectivity and then use this patina of objectivity to write is a way to encourage people to vote Democrat. The thought that any one of them might be conservative certainly did not cross their mind.

At any rate, I enjoyed the irony of Rather refusing to answer a follow-up question after he just advised journalists to ask such follow-ups. Kudos to Walsh and may he keep asking tough questions of Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else in power.

March 13, 2006
The Power of the Internet
In 2006, we now take the internet for granted. However, it is amazing how much rapid access to information published by anyone is changing our world. Many people have discussed how this is reducing the power of the mainstream media. Few people have discussed how this access improves business. Two weeks ago, I posted about a problem I had found with a software program from Perseus. Within two days, their Chief Operating Officer, Jeffrey Henning, had personally contacted me and helped me resolve the problem. Think about this.

I have never met Mr. Henning. Because of the search capabilities of the internet (and his initiative), Mr. Henning found my site where I posted about a problem. Without the internet, Mr. Henning never would have learned that one of his technical support guys was misinforming customers and I would have continued sharing a bad experience about a software company. Instead, Mr. Henning became aware of a problem, fixed it, and now has taken steps to improve future calls within the company while turning my (brief) bad experience with his firm into a positive experience.

We live in an amazing world. The internet has provided an amazing tool for managers with initiative.

March 06, 2006
Wired Dreams and Network Question
When I spend too much time on one thing, I sometimes dream about it. Back when I had time to play computer games (and I expect to resume this someday in the future), I would sometimes dream about my games. The other night, I was dreaming about wiring. Yes, simply installing wires in Casa Quixote.

We are in the process of building a new house and I'm doing the low voltage wiring myself. I had planned on doing the electrical too, but decided I don't have the time. Wise move – I'm racing to get just the low voltage stuff done before the drywallers are ready to start. Anyway, after two days of sunup to sundown wiring, I started dreaming about it.

I am almost finished installing the coax cable for the house. I ordered some RG6U cable over the internet. To my surprise the cable is white, not the standard black. I do not care, so long as it is sufficient to transmit satellite feeds over it.

I have installed the coax away from all electrical lines. However, I am wondering if I can install my network cable (Cat 6e) alongside the coax cable without any problems. Does anyone know the answer to this?

March 01, 2006
Problems with Perseus
As part of my career, I create marketing surveys. More and more of my surveys have been online surveys as the typical American now has internet access at either work or home. I have used several programs and services, but I mostly use SurveySolutions Pro by Perseus. There is a feature that allows me to require respondents to answer particular questions. I usually do not enable this, but there are times when a few questions are so vital that if the respondent does not answer, I do not want their data at all. In these situations, it is appropriate to force them to answer a question to continue with the survey.

For some reason I could not get this feature to work on my latest survey. I programmed everything the way it should work, but when I tested the survey myself, I could blow right past the required questions without answering them. I finally called technical support. The people at Perseus are always very professional when I call and this time was no exception. I ended up speaking with a man who, once he figured out I was not making a basic user error, asked me to email him my survey. I did so and he then looked it over. He thought everything looked fine, so he tested it himself. It worked fine.

We couldn't figure this out until I let him know that I had switched browsers and was using Netscape. A long pause. Then he, sounding embarrassed, informed me that this feature only works with Internet Explorer and the other browsers ignore this feature. People who use other browsers can still take the survey, but they ignore the special features such a requiring answers to particular questions. I let him know that this seemed a serious flaw in a professional (and expensive) program in a world where many people do not use Internet Explorer. He agreed and said the company was working on fixing this in their next version...

I thought I would share this in case anyone you know creates online surveys. I also expect some people may find this post via Google when they wonder "Why can I skip that required question?"

As noted in the comments, the COO of Perseus, Jeffrey Henning, found my blog just days after I posted and contacted me. He was very polite and helpful. He was a bit disappointed in his firm’s phone support and did some investigating. It turns out that the gentleman who answered the phone when I called was subbing while the experts were in a meeting. The person who attempted to help me had not completed his training and accidentally misinformed me.

Perseus was not aware of the bug I found and could not replicate it with their software. The COO suggested I upgrade to the latest version of the software. Once I did, the problem went away. I applaud Mr. Henning for his initiative and for quickly resolving the issue.