MonthAugust 2011

My 140 Character News Network

Where were you Tuesday afternoon shortly before 2pm? I was standing in the lobby of a building on the National Institute of Health Campus waiting to get my ID Badge. I was about to get into an elevator and head to the badge office. However, when the ground began to shake I was standing in the lobby.

I was confused at first. At first, it felt like a very large truck or a subway train passing by. Then I felt the floor shake back and forth. I had never felt that before and I knew something was up. As I stood in the hallway with two co-workers, one suggested we head outside so we did. ((Clearly us East Coasters have no idea what to do in the event of an earthquake.))

Once outside and away from the building, we heard the fire alarms going off inside the building we had just left and others nearby. There was no more shaking. I felt safe and it was clear we weren’t going back inside any time soon. So I turned to Twitter.

First of course, to add my voice to the chorus of tweets.

[blackbirdpie id=”106061817771593728″]

But more importantly to find out how big a quake it was.

I was surprised to find its epicenter was in Virginia. I was also surprised to see how far it had been felt. First, there was a flood of tweets from Richmond friends. Then people in North Carolina. Then even a tweet from Boston and a few New York City asking if what they just felt was an earthquake.

Wow. This was a bigger quake than I thought. It was also interesting to read today why East Coast earthquake are felt so far from their epicenter.

The last earthquake we had in Virginia was when I lived in Richmond. It was December 9, 2003 ((Happy Birthday Mom!)) when a 4.5 quake shook the Temple Building where I was sitting after having been up all night working on my advertising final project.

I remember being so sleepy I didn’t even realize the earth had shaken. I thought it was just me. I remember everyone else in class reaching for their cell phones and calling friends and parents. Meanwhile, I sat in my chair yawning and unable to comprehend the situation. Good thing I wasn’t in any danger.

Twitter was my first place for information. I don’t follow any news outlets except Bethesda Patch which is a hyper local news site in the Patch.com network which AOL runs.

The news and information I was receiving was coming in from friends and internet strangers who I trusted and followed. Their observations and retweets helped me comprehend what had happened, the scope of it and it was before any news outlet had put anything together.

Even 45 minutes later as I stood in the NIH Badge office awaiting my turn to get my information, photo and fingerprints taken the TV news was taking calls from locals to get their reaction and weren’t providing much information.

I was already well-informed. I checked out Facebook as well and shared what I knew and gained a bit more knowledge about the quake.

After I had checked Twitter, I texted my wife to make sure she was OK. Not that there was much of a chance of damage or danger, I wanted to be sure. My mother texted me shortly after that to confirm I was fine.

She had good sense not to try to call me. As soon as the quake hit, the phones were instantly flooded with calls from everyone else frantically trying to call their family and friends. Text and data seemed to be unobstructed while voice was nearly impossible to use.

Times really have changed when Twitter, SMS, Facebook and email are how I receive my information quickest and most accurately.

As we prepare for the Hurricane Irene, which by all indications is going to bring very high winds, many inches of rain and we could be without power for days, the news is talking about email and texting loved ones after the storm hits.

Twitter and the Internet have fundamentally changed how we communicate. While the storm to come is uncertain, it is good to know I can still receive reliable information from my hand-picked network of people located around the US and around the world.

Feeling Welcome

I have a new job. I have left the fine folks of the Atlantic Media Company and joined Terpsys. I went go from supporting journalists, bloggers, designers, developers and other media company types to supporting scientists and researchers looking for a cure to cancer. ((In reality, I’ve spent the past few weeks learning policies and procedures and waiting for my accounts to be created and badge access. But one day I’ll get back to supporting people!))

I was very excited to join the company and they have made me feel welcome.

After receiving my job offer and accepting, I received an envelope in the mail from my new employer. It was a small envelope that couldn’t have held any official paperwork. ((I had already received that by email.)) Curious, I opened it.

Inside the tiny envelope was a Thank You card. And in the card was a Starbucks gift card.

They were thanking me for joining their team and offered to buy me a drink. ((Next up, find a Starbucks.)) I was touched with the gesture. It wasn’t something they had to do. It wasn’t even something I expected or had seen before.

They took the time and effort and money out of their day to hand write me a note and pickup a Starbucks card for me. This shows all their talk of customer service is not just talk. ((Terpsys is a customer service company that happens to work in Information Technology.))

This one seemingly insignificant gesture told me more about the company I had just joined more than a hundred meetings or a thousand Powerpoint presentations ever could.

If they treat their employees this well, then they must really care about their customers. And it shows.

It is always the little things that makes a company shine. Just as the small touches in a design can really make it shine, paying attention to the details and going above what is expected will always be appreciated and remembered.

Unique Screaming Proposition

I hate television. I hate how loud commercials get. The explosions in Burn Notice are nowhere near as loud as the screamer yelling at me about the new Mazda Blahblahblah.

BUY THIS BEER! IT WILL MAKE YOU FAMOUS AND DESIRABLE TO WOMEN!
THIS CAR IS THE BEST CAR EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!
ONE DAY CURRENT HOLIDAY SALE! GET THE BEST PRICES EVER!!!! ((Until our next holiday sale!))

Do advertisers feel a louder ad makes people more likely to buy the product advertised? It does nothing for me except hurt my head and constantly lower the volume to a tolerable volume.

The dilemma remains. Do I turn the commercial volume down then turn it back up when my TV show returns? Do I sit through the screaming advertisers at higher volume then return to enjoying my show?

I wish I had a third option. I wish commercials were the same volume as the shows around them. This is an issue with live TV because Netflix has no ads in their shows and Hulu has ads but the volume doesn’t go up drastically. Even the Tivo’d programs can be fast forwarded. On the rare occasion TiVo fails or misses the last few minutes I can go looking for the episode online, there are no commercials at all there.

Am I the only one that is so turned off by the screaming ads that watching live TV my last option for entertainment?

Tips for a better flight

Flying is stressful. Flying is very trying on your patience and sanity. Flying is harder when you’re tall. I’m 6’5″ and do not fit well into standard airline seats. The joys of having the seat in front of me smashed into my knees. The inability to move or reach to the floor and the lack of armrest space makes for a miserable travel experience. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to attend a couple of family functions requiring air travel this summer and as a result I’ve compiled my thoughts on flying.

Be Flexible if you can.

Sometimes taking a later flight in the day will result in upgrades (to first class) or a voucher for a free flight later. I was once given a first class upgrade just for volunteering to take a flight leaving an hour later. I got on my original flight but was bumped to First Class as a thank you for my flexibility and offer to move back.

Luck

Sometimes you’ll get an empty seat next to you. Sometimes a person in a more desirable seat will offer to switch with you due to their poor planning. ((Usually being separated from a family member.))

Planning

If you have the opportunity to choose your seat, do so as soon as possible. On a recent flight US Airways emailed me the moment we could choose seats. As a result Annie and I snagged Exit Row seats on both legs of our flight to and from Las Vegas. It was an infinitely better experience flying without the seat in front of me smashed into my legs.

Relax

TSA is just doing their job. If you relax and let them do their jobs and be polite and agreeable everything will go smoother. I had the pleasure of having my bag searched three times on a recent flight because the TSA checker couldn’t find a small fold-up screw driver that could have been a knife. I was patient. I was polite. I made my flight. It was annoying but not the end of the world and stressing out wouldn’t have helped the situation.

Rewards

Sign up for clubs or rewards with an airline you fly often or use a credit card with airline perks to book your travel. That being said, do **not* sign up for the credit card they offer you on the plane. The interest is sky-high and there’s always a catch to those thousands of miles they offer at sign up.

Research

Find the terminal maps and gate locations before landing or even leaving. Knowing where you need to get to after you land can save you some frantic minutes searching for a map.

Relax again

Travel is unpredictable. Take it all in stride.

Pre-Plan

Refreshments are limited. Buy something on the ground once you’re through security to take with you. Though be aware of the liquid rules and buy something after you get through security.

Geek

WiFi on the plane? Find out if there’s a free promo going on.
Track your flights with apps like Trip-It to assure they’re on time.
Find gates and connections before you land.