Robin Hood

robinHoodI don’t know about you, but I am already tired of election politics and we haven’t even really begun the race for the White House in 2016. I guess it gets on the news because people care. I don’t. Many of the people vying for my attention now will not even make it to the final round … I am busy and I just don’t have time for all this. Plus, I am tired of the number of Robin Hood personalities they all seem to want to offer.

According to Wikipedia: “Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore who, according to legend, was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. He is often portrayed as “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” alongside his band of Merry Men. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the late-medieval period, and continues to be widely represented in literature, films and television.”

Yep, that is about it. Let’s all rob from the rich and give it to the poor. That of course makes sense only if you are not a member of the rich class. And, given that the rich are a minority in our society and that we use democracy as our method of picking our leaders … well, you can fill in the rest.

It is interesting to me to listen to the varied points of view here. Yes, we have excesses among the wealthy. Yes, we have seen money and power corrupt. But, I have also seen examples of the wealthy doing many good and noble things in our society. Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffet and others are certainly good examples. You can always find an example of good and evil.

The Robin Hood problem is alive and well in the energy industry. It is just much more complex. We have net metering and a host of electric rate designs that are truly Robin Hood mechanisms. When the number of poor is low, these become “acceptable” taxes on the rich. The numbers of poor are growing and these taxes are about to reach or have reached the tipping point. They have certainly hit that in Hawaii and in Germany.

Politics is ugly, but it is what we have. Once again, Wikipedia is helpful here:

“A variety of methods are employed in politics, which include promoting or forcing one’s own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising force, including warfare against adversaries.”

The formula seems clear then. Our industry needs to do a better job at negotiation, making laws, and exercising force within our rightful playing field. Hope is not a plan. Silence is not a good strategy. Laws seem almost impossible to change or enact. And, exercising force is totally unpopular. Seems we are left with one obvious choice: negotiation.

To many who hold high principles, the idea of settling for less than the best is unpalatable. Mediation seems to some more like giving in. And, it seems to me that we have the age-old problem of seeking reasonable answers rather than attempting to solve the problem perfectly. The phrase I like is “the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.” Once again, we can find some advice in Wikipedia:

AristotleConfucius and other classical philosophers propounded the principle of the golden mean which counsels against extremism in general. The Pareto principle or 80–20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort. Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so, as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient.”

Negotiate with Robin Hood while there is still time.

The Internet of Me


Can we get any more narcissistic? Selfies are bad enough, but now the Internet of Things morphs to the Internet of Me? Well, brace yourself, at least according to Accenture … because this is just the beginning.

Check it out for yourself.
“Much of the Internet’s appeal lies in the personal power it bestows: “My” newsfeed, “My” playlist, “My” book recommendations, and so on. But as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Even more authentic and meaningful individual experiences await.

Look all around: parking meters are going digital, the refrigerators and other comforts of home are getting brainier, and the next time you take yourself out to the ballgame, you may just receive a smartphone alert on which concession stand has the shortest line for hot dogs and beer.

Everyday gadgets and machines are increasingly interconnected and consumers are demanding more “smart” tech. Those who embrace the Internet of Me will sustain higher customer engagement and, in turn, open up new avenues of growth.”

According to Accenture, 81% of their clients indicate providing a personalized customer experience is among the top three organization’s priorities. Of those, 38% report is it their top priority.

“In a world where every car, every home, and every object is a new set of conversations with customers, enterprises must make sure they get that experience right, before someone else does.” – Michael Biltz, Managing Director Technology Vision, Accenture

Today, every customer experience is becoming a personalized one. Ordinary “things,” from parking meters to refrigerators to security systems, are becoming intelligent devices. And enterprises are going beyond just providing “things” to providing products and services molded specifically to the customer.
The handwriting seems to be clearly on the wall, and widely spaced for easy reading …

The Selfie Generation


This is truly a new word to our lexicon, brought about by the proliferation of cameras in cell phones. It seems that much of the online world is preoccupied with pictures and some of the latest gadgets are designed specifically to enable people to take these pictures. And as if selfies alone aren’t bad enough, now there is an abundance of selfie enhancers including extendable selfie sticks, boom arms, and remote control shutter releases with self-timers… I don’t know about you, but the idea of me taking a picture of myself kind of bothers me. Guess it truly dates me.

My last blog talked about relevance. This Selfie Generation clearly cares about some things. On the surface, it seems to be “all about them.” I offer a link to an article in the New York Times that gives a fabulous overview of the challenges here. I especially appreciate this paragraph:


“The millennials’ skepticism of parties, programs, and people runs deeper than their allegiance to a particular ideology. Their left-wing commitments are ardent on a few issues but blur into libertarianism and indifferentism on others. The common denominator is individualism, not left-wing politics: it explains both the personal optimism and the social mistrust, the passion about causes like gay marriage and the declining interest in collective-action crusades like environmentalism, even the fact that religious affiliation has declined but personal belief is still widespread.”

– Ross Douthat, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times

Read the full article here.


That is quite a persona to fit into the mix now isn’t it? Maybe we really need to think differently about our agendas if we are going to engage this group. Maybe we need to actually ask them how we can be relevant. Are we asking the right questions? Are we really listening to their points of view?

And By Analogy


We seem to take a lot of things for granted these days, especially when we become comfortable and dependent upon technology to make our lives easier. For example, I will bet that you use Google Maps and real time traffic alerts in your daily commute. Why not? It is great and seems to magically update in very close to real time.

But, do you know how this works? Here is the explanation from Wikipedia:

Google Traffic works by analyzing the GPS-determined locations transmitted to them by a large number of cellphone users. By calculating the speed of users along a stretch of road, Google is able to generate a live traffic map.  Google processes the incoming raw data about cellphone device locations, and then excludes anomalies such as a postal vehicle which makes frequent stops. When a threshold of users in a particular area is noted, the overlay along roads and highways on the Google map changes color.

These GPS locations are a public source of information. Just think about the value created here if someone had thought through the value of this information and arranged to capture it ahead of anyone else in the market. Might there have been a competitive advantage? Might there have been a stream of others who would gladly pay to get this channel of information?

Some of you are aware that we have done precisely that for the energy industry with our precision temperature monitoring data channel. You will hear more about this over the next few months as this scales up to the same level that these GPS locations do.

I want you to think about this every time you now use your Google Traffic service … that right now you get free … or do you really? You are being watched friends … very closely.

Modern Shorthand

mom text

Some of my recent blogs offer thoughts about how easy it is to think we are communicating, but we are not. I am constantly reminded of the differences between the way engineers think and the way others think. We love to argue the fine points while we leave those around us wondering what on earth we are talking about.

The “Big Bang Theory” constantly points this out to me, and it is funny to most of us. Well, at least it is funny to me. However, it is probably not funny at all to people like Penny in this series. And, given that most Americans are closer to her point of view, we really should be paying closer attention to this.

This week’s blog looks at the word that comes to mind here: shorthand. When I was young, the ability to take shorthand was a key skill for secretaries. Back then, the skill itself was called stenography and it was extremely important when people wanted to dictate a letter or a note long before voice recording was practical and inexpensive. Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language.

Now, with word processors so widespread, there are very few clerical positions like this anymore. But, we do have a new style of shorthand. Texting has created a whole new dimension. Texts like LOL, etc. are so widely used they are in the dictionary. Shorthand expressions are now viewed as words even though they are not.

I hope you enjoy the conversation shown here as a texting sequence. The clear warning is to learn to speak the language of the customer. This is not easy for us technical types to do.