Boston

Twitter is Penetrating My School

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

That's right, the little tweeting bird is all over the place on campus.  Every department, administrative office, and student now has an @ handle.  I walk down Commonwealth Avenue and hear college kids debating whether the posting to twitter is "tweeting" or "twitting" (I'm in the tweeting camp...).  It's just so strange to think that Twitter has become a main-stream(ish) service that the masses, at least at the college age/level, have seemed to adopt and run with.

Last week, my friends @DeanElmore, @JohnBattaglino and Tom O'Keefe (@bostontweet) led the first Boston University "tweet crawl."  Here's a concept for you.  Combine Twitter/social media, with the age-old tradition of imbibing intoxicating beverages and you've got yourself a dangerous combination.  It seems that the crew didn't have a schedule or even a route prepared but they tweeted their next stop and a crowd formed to follow through the standard BU haunts - the BU Pub, Cornwall's, the Dugout.

It's funny to think that I joined Twitter 643 days ago, according to www.whendidyoujointwitter.com - it was a time when twitter was still VERY new and definitely didn't have the sort of following it does now.  Really, it was just the insiders, the ones that knew about it because they were truly geeky.  To say that you tweet, was an automatic admission of your geekiness and further, proof that you probably were of a technically inclined nature.

Twitter activities here at Boston University and in Boston as a whole have increased significantly of late.  There was even a discussion of which campus in the Boston area was most with it when it came to twitter... I think BU won: Boston tweet debate.  The real question here is whether or not you "get it" and use the service or just use it because everyone else is.

One can see this clearly by the high number of people with protected tweets.  Very few hardcore twitter users will protect their tweets but so many students are worried about what employers can and will see, that they are cutting out the greater twitterverse in lieu of keeping their messages for their close friends.

I guess that means that the real question is why do you use twitter?  I know why I do (a topic for another night), but why do YOU use twitter? P.S. you can follow me on twitter at @jamesconnors.

My Real Education Is Outside of the Classroom

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 05:  Dan McGoff #19 of the B...

When describing how to best take advantage of Podcamp Boston 3, Chris Brogan said something to the effect of, "It's not what people are teaching in the classrooms that makes Podcamp special.  Rather, it is what goes on in the hallways, lounges, and small informal gatherings that makes the magic that is Podcamp" (Loosely quoted).

It was soon after podcamp that I started to learn this same principle while interning for the IT consulting firm, Accenture.  We had formal training, workshops, on the job learning and the rest but what made working for them so special was the day to day interactions passing by a coworker's desk.  It was the informal talks at internal networking talks that provided huge value, not the formal reports and speakers.

As I've entered my final year of college, I've brought the lesson of informal gathering, investing in intertactions, and the value of uniting others to my every day life within the University.  It is easier to parse through the lecture notes and find the important chunks.  Focusing in class is far less challenging now that I know what is important.  All the classwork prepares me to work with peers in the hallsways and on teams.  My experience informs my actions in student groups and guides the decision making I use every day.

So what are the next steps?  Here are a couple:

  1. Find what drives you - focus on it and develop it.
  2. Get extroverted - we all have introverted days but getting outside yourself lets you see the value you have to bring to others and vice versa.
  3. Get involved - you can find something that excites you every day that you're alive, I promise!  Find it and follow it.
For me, I have found a new energy investing in the Student Alumni Council at Boston University.  It wasn't until I took a leadership role organizing our members to assist with the University-wide Reunion and Alumni weekend that I actually rediscovered my love for the group.  I do a lot of grunt work but the few hours of networking and the fun pay-offs of meeting new people were more than enough to jumpstart that drive within.  SAC will be a new priority for me in the coming months.
What are you passionate about?  Have you started to find the value in the hallsways and informal gatherings?  What are you favorite conversations to have in the halls of conferences?

 

Dublin Meets Boston

Dublin 049-Dublin 056

Hey there everyone.  I wanted to announce that I have just rolled my content from jamesindublin.com into this site since I will be shutting down JID in short order.  I appreciate all the comments and messages that these posts have brought and to that end, I have imported all of those comments to the posts here.

Hopefully some of you will find value in these posts - everyone can find the articles I wrote in Ireland at Dublin so enjoy!

Lessons From a Weekend of Training Cadets

US Civil Air Patrol members practice searching...

This past weekend, I spent my Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday out in the Blue Hills reservation just south of Boston, MA training the cadets of Boston Cadet Squadron.  These young adults are members of Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer organization that I have been a part of for eight years now.  Our goal for the weekend was to work as a single team while we trained in Emergency Services, survival, and overnight camping.  At least that had been the plan.

I have been instructing these same topics for a number of years now but of late, my lessons have focused on learning through my teaching.  Working with cadets that are from ages 12 to 18, I have found it a challenge for me to properly orient my instruction and leadership style to suit the varied needs of the cadets in our squadron.  Timing can be ironic - I'm currently a teaching assistant and candidate for Teach for America.  This means that I've been working in the "teaching" area for a while now and I am just starting to notice the issues that come along with being a teacher.

There are such varying levels of support needed by our cadets - everything from complete autonomy to complete and total supervision.  There are a few that I would trust to be out in the woods for weeks on end but others that I would prefer to have a physical leash to.  How does one cope with these situations?  How do I change behavior when I don't have the "full" story on cadet conditions, attitudes, and history?  Answer: you do your best and work as a team.

In order to make legitimate change with these cadets, I need to alter behavior.  Through my experience, I have found this to be a difficult task, though not impossible.  The United States Air Force Academy taught me many things about leadership and one of the most powerful tools we experienced was the power of peer accountability.  This is the idea that you are responsible for the actions of your teammate, and they are likewise responsible for yours. 

We are making changes in the way that we work within the group.  I am changing my role within the power structure.  We will go back to basics in order to obtain the correct temperment and attitudes.  We will remove priveledges such as talking, break times, and "fun" activities if need be.  We will provide structured rituals such as current event and news reviews, squaring of corners, and the buddy system.  Finally, we will delegate responsibility to the lowest level possible while enabling those levels to make good decisions.

Hopefully, these changes will create the environment necessary for proper learning to take place, for friendships to form, and leadership to flourish.  My goal for these kids is for them to develop into leaders with a sense of purpose, drive, and self respect that their peers in inner-city Boston do not have.  I want them to be constantly thinking about the group, not just themselves, I want them to work as a team.

If you have suggestions for making this process easier, please email me at james(dot)m(dot)connors(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment here for people to share.

[Edit: removed "children" from first paragraph 10.10.08]

Go to Office Hours

It's a lonely place here in the School of Management Starbucks... I'm all alone while waiting for students in my IS323 class to come and pick my brain about their projects.  Let's be honest, they're not coming.  The only team that stopped by today did so when I wasn't even officially having my hour.

Yet here I sit, waiting to make their lives easier, impart knowledge and experience, and maybe -just maybe- make their days a littl ebit brighter.  The SMG Cross Functional CORE Curriculum is a challenging experience for everyone involved but I'm here to make it easier.  The school is literally paying me to help make students' time easier, yet no one is here.  I shouldn't be surprised, people rarely take advantage of this "free" help.

But why?  Why don't students admit that they could benefit from some help and keep me company and learn something.  I promise, I'll even crack a few jokes when you're really feeling down about your homework.  Office hours are your chance to get in touch with students that have gone through and been in your shoes if they are for your Teaching Assistant.  We're not worht THAT much, but what about your professors.

Academia is probably the only place where genious professors, people with high knowledge and value are literally being paid to sit there and talk with you.  It doens't matter what you talk about; the weather, the Red Sox, the financial crisis, or even your *gasp* assignments.  Take advantage of your professors - their time is worth a lot more than you can afford.

Responsibility, Hazing, and the Lawyer Nation

Since when have we lived in a state where people are so afraid of litigation that we purposefully change our lives (that are well within the rules) just to appease those that stand to sue us?

Today, I experienced for the first time the empty feeling of caving into someone else.  We had traditions, all of them legal and safe, but they must be broken because of the mere threat that an administrator would choose not to like our activities and censure us.

The laws pertaining to hazing in this state are broad, open, and seem to encompass just about anything that one could possibly want to do.  They set forth a few examples of common issues but then throw in a wildcard stating that "any other activity or practice" that harms mentally or physically another person is considered hazing.  Take that a step further.

Boston University is so afraid of litigation that they have taken the wildcard and applied it to all manners of activities from scavenger hunts to dress codes, wearing greek letters to how we term certain things, and everything in between.  It's ludicrous .  Now, on a mere rumor, we are changing our process because of the possibility that it maybe out of line w. their interpretation of the laws/rules etc.

Individuals need to take responsibility for their organizations.  We aren't hurting people, honest.  Our practices do serve a purpose.  We are indeed helping them learn and though we are open to changing, why are you forcing us to because you're afraid of being sued?  Shouldn't the student experience mean something?  Shouldn't the fact that we are preparing our members for the real world be important?

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 12:  Brian McGuirk #28 of the Boston University Terriers is surrounded by teammates Kenny Roche #6, Tom Morrow #21 and Pete MacArthur #16 after McGuirk scored the game winner during the Beanpot Tournament Championship Game on February 12, 2007 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston University defeated Boston College 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian McGuirk;Kenny Roche;Tom Morrow;Pete MacArthur

Before you flame me, yes, I understand the issues involved.  Number one - hazing is a VERY touchy subject... no one is contesting that.  However, we are not hazing.  No one is being hurt by our process, no one has complained, no one is distressed or altered.  Number two - Boston University cannot afford litigation and even if not a lawsuit, the bad PR that would stem from the mere alligations of Hazing.

So I leave you with this thought for the evening: When did we become so sensitive to hurt feelings that we are allowing ourselves to compromise our missions and objectives?  Why are we so trigger happy to sue when most issues could be worked out with a mature conversation?

A Weekend Of Lasts

Trim Castle  

Image via Wikipedia

This is our last weekend in Ireland...

This thought screamed through my head this morning as I woke up.  Tomorrow is the last full Saturday that we'll be in the country, the last Sunday, Monday et all, following too.  This weekend is last bit of our European adventure.   I'm left stunned at all we did.  I'm stunned with all that I've done.  I came here saying "no judgement" and "no regrets" so it's been a few days that I've been thinking back through trying to evaluate my successes on that account.

It's time to remember the great times, the trying times, the hard times, the late nights of laughs, and the early mornings of tears.  It's been a trip filled with a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts.  Funny how the time seems to have been stolen back away from us.  It was just yesterday that I was feeling the same bits of anxiety as I prepared to embark on this adventure in January... I have those feelings again.  What will Boston, the US, the summer have in store for us - for me?

At the same time, I feel myself getting ramped up for production.  I fell into this semester from the highest functioning lifestyle that I've ever experienced.  Needless to say, my Irish lifestyle did not match the fervor of that pace.  Having completed a number of phone interviews in the last few days, the first few conference calls for Accenture and some student groups, I'm reminded what it feels like to be back "on edge."  Listening to my fellow interns address the analysts on the call while my mic was muted gave me the first example of how we Americans are always "on edge."  They sounded tense, wound up but held back - like a mouse trap ready to spring.  Is that really how we are?

This weekend will be busy with seeing my Irish friends and saying goodbye to them.  We have the International Street Performers Championship going on too - I hope to make it over to Marrion Square for that one.  Here's one that I never thought I'd find here in Ireland - International Gay Rugby Championship.  I was on the bus with one team and helped steer them to the pitches the other day.  In any event, they will be playing for an international cup this weekend just a few hundred meters away from our accomodation.

My projects are on their way to completion.  I was able to collect over 115 responses to my online survey regarding student experience - that was amazing!  Thank you to all that participated.  That will be going into my research project that I will present to my office on Tuesday and hand in a report on Thursday.  Also due on Thursday will be my research project comparing the Irish and American teaching methods at University as well as a internship journal.  So, needless to say there will be a lot of working to be done... and of course, as soon as I say that the roommates are telling me that we're going to some gardens.  So stay tuned for further info, I guess.

PS - photos are now up at my new flickr account.

 

 

 

 

Google As a Social Commentary

 

Image via Wikipedia

I'm not sure if this is the post that you were looking to find on this blog but stay with it for a few minutes because I think it's going to turn out fine.

For many of us, "Googling" has become the new standard for information searching.  I know for my own self, Google has become the center of my world.  After UCD blocked our access to outside mail servers (they were afraid of scary viruses...) I had to find other email solutions outside of Boston University infrastructure.  Naturally, I turned to the one parent figure in my digital life - Google.  Gmail, GCalendar, and GTalk are now the focal points of my information gathering.  I have embraced the Goog and it feels good.  I know that I am an early adopter of sorts but I can't be the only one doing this.  Google is now inseperable from our society and we from it.

Yesterday, Thursday the 5th of June, Google announced a new feature to their ever popular GMail service - GMail Labs.  This beta service, along with many other Google Labs program, is a way for you to access non-mainstream features in order to make your life easier.  Features such as changing the way your signature is displayed, adding the old Snake game, or even locking yourself out of GMail for 15 minute email time-outs are all part of the offering.

So, that's all well and good, James.  We know you are a geek and love this stuff but what about the social commentary part of all this?  Here it comes.

Google doesn't do things lightly - they move relatively slowly, though much faster than other corporations of its size.  The launch of a new service is a definite sign that there had been interest in such a feature as well as someone that was interested in developing the tool - perhaps part of their progressive 15% time allocation for employees to pursue their own projects.  To me, this is a sign of a new wave of human.  In my mind, this is the same sort of movement that is propelling Barack Obama through to the Democratic party's nomination - we want change and now there is a voice, a drive to get it.

Let me expand.  As part of this new feature, private users will be able to code their own features for GMail and have them integrated with the service.  Sure, you can do similar things using extensions and personal scripts such as Greasemonkey and Better Gmail 2 for Firefox.  Those services are great but they aren't native, each user has to go out and get it for themselves.  GMail Labs will be for the masses and supports all those that are out using Google products.

Some are bashing Generation Y as the generation that will ruin the world with our preoccupation with social networks and social media.  I happen to believe that we will be the agents of change that our parents could never dream to be.  We have a drive, a carnal need to change things.  We are driven to make an impact on the world around us.  Generation Y will be a seen as the network of individuals that come together to make change in this world.

The launch of GMail Labs is a perfect example of this.  When a company like Google makes a move, it's for a good reason.  Their strategy reflects society and our passions, our desires.  I would look to Google to become the next Microsoft... but in a rather friendly, positive partnership rather than the hostile prisoner relationship we have with Redmond.

 

 

15 Days To Go

I promise that I will write more... I promise, promise, promise.

As the headline says, our program has 15 days remaining before we leave the Emerald Isle for the harsh realities of the United States. I don't mean that to be a negative statement but rather a sobering fact. We've been in a world where a dollar means nothing, where cars run on the wrong side of the road, where it rains every day (almost). Returning to Boston is going to be a shock to our system much the same way arriving in Dublin was - but we're "normal here" (not many of us are actually normal to begin with so... I'm not sure how to put that into thought, sorry).

Our impending departure illicits a whole plethora of emotions, mostly panic. There are a mulitude of things to wrap up here before I can even think about heading home. Our internships have projects that need to be delivered (more on mine in a few), we have a portfolio and research project for BU that no one has even looked at. On top of that, I just don't want to leave. I like the abstract world that we live in. My decisions here don't necessarily have real-world impact. Allow me to unpack that.

First, our grades don't matter. They do, but they don't. Whatever mark that we earn from University College Dublin is then passed through a matrix to yield a conversion to the "American" system. That matrix tells me that a 70% is an A... you tell me if you wouldn't laugh a little bit. Euros are funny money. Long past are the days that we were converting the currency in our minds. Pints are well over $7 USD and just hopping on the bus feels like an investment (over $2.70 each way). On top of all that, I speak differently. It's sloppy, inprecise, and sort of bugs me. I'll say something such as, "Oh, he was acting like a fool, like" and my questions no longer have the proper syllabic emphasis, e.g. questions don't end with your voice being "high" we sort of put it in the middle.

Did I mention that my rambling has gotten worse? That sentence was how many lines long... geez.

The moral of the story is that we're changed but it's as if we're in a playground. Our choices here don't impact our career (in theory). Mostly, I'm thinking of my internship with that thought. I'm using this experience as an opportunity to practice being at a real internship, practice for Accenture and EMC this summer. It's actually really helpful to see what I'll be able to get away with and what won't fly even whenconsidering what the different expectations will hold. I guess it's like I get to expell all the bad habits now... to include blogging while at work (oops).

So now that the kvetching is over, let's talk shop a little bit. I've been living in another culture for so long, I sometimes forget that all of you are sort of watching this game from the bleechers. I love Ireland. Despite the ups and downs in my personal life and the various other concerns that have come up, this semester will go down in my Wikipedia page as one of the best experiences ever. I am eternally grateful to my parents, Paul, Laura, and Brian, for their unending support, latenight phonecalls (my time, not theirs) - I could not have been here in Dublin without their support.

By the way, remember that melodramatic post a while ago about needing to find that "BIG" answer... some sort of wholistic change?  Well I found it.  Let me tell you a secret - it was with me the whole time.  Basically, I got a dose of reality - some would call it a good smattering of perspective.  Not only have I finally grown to see my parents as good friends instead of those people that try to embarrass me all the time, but I've found myself.  I've found the internal value in myself that doesn't require external validation for me to know that I'm me and that's really ok.

While my world no longer plays like a Las Vegas slot machine, I can tell there are going to be many, many new adventures to be had and all I have to do is be patient for them.  Hopefully you all will be a part of that with me.  I intend to quintuple efforts for this blog between now and my return.  There will be a few post-return entries that will hopefully have some interesting stories.  Then I'll be archiving these posts into my other blog, http://www.jamesmconnors.com under their own tags so they don't disappear when the jamesindublin domain expires.  Thank you for stopping by - I hope to see you next time!

 

 

Starting A "Real" Job

I've started a new chapter in my time here in Ireland. With exams now over, it's time that I turned my eyes away from the pages of notes and stick my head into the wild world of business. Yes, that's right, I'm at my new job... internship, work placement - whatever you want to call it. I just posted up a bit on how the whole exam thing went down... very interesting indeed. I'm currently mooching my lunch as much as possible and have the entire room of the office to myself. So, what am I doing? I'm working as a management intern at Campus IT ltd. Their main offices are in Dublin, Ireland with another office in the UK. It's an interesting company - they build software applications on top of Oracle database programs and sell them to colleges and universities. The real wonder is how they can exist when the market is so small. Since there are probably as many college in all of Ireland as there is in the Boston metro zone, I would say that their market is rather small.

What am I doing here? Well, it's not computers and it's not finance either. I'm actually going to be running a research project on what makes up a student's experience. Since their market is primarily the administration of these large colleges and universities, the student experience they talk about is the one that is tied to the differing models of administrative back-ends. I think it could be an interesting project and will definitely be a good conversation piece for future interviews. My role will be lead project manager, interviewer, head researcher, presenter, and coffee guy.

In reality, though, I'll have the opportunity to stretch this oddly creative brain of mine to try new things and experiment with the way I think. Having no background in sales, marketing, or market research, I wouldn't think that I'd be a good fit for the role BUT we had that amazing thing called the Cross Functional Core Curriculum! Hurray for Boston University School of Management and your ability to make me stretch my mind further and further every year.

I'll keep you all posted on the outcomes of the research and periodic updates for sure!

Irish Education or American, You Decide

This semester, I have been studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland through the Boston University Dublin Management Internship program.  Unlike many of the other BU abroad programs, we directly enroll in a host institution rather than taking classes at a Boston University student center.  This means we are taking the actual Irish classes along with Irish students as they work towards their degrees.  This interaction and firsthand experience has allowed me to gain an interesting perspective on differing educational systems. Here at the University College Dublin Quinn School of Management, the curriculum, course requirements, and credit hours are very different for equivalent degrees in the United States.  There are a number of reasons that I think the educational environment is different here.  First, students do not pay for their school tuition, the government does.  As much as it is elitist to say, I think this may contribute to student buy-in as far as the educational process goes.  Since they have no financial responsibility, as compared to US students, students may not take classes as seriously as they might otherwise if there was a financial stake in their coursework.

Second, many Irish students have a three year program to earn their Bachelor's Degree as compared to the American four year system.  When looking at the curriculums, the Irish spend their entire university career in the college of their major taking courses that relate directly to that major.  There are not the same sorts of "general education" or "elective" course requirements as we have at Boston University.  It seems that by reducing the course load of outside classes, Irish curriculums are able to graduate students a year faster than most American colleges.  I wonder whether this has an effect on the work place and hirability.  One might question maturity and experience given students are hired into firms for full time work at the age of twenty-one rather than our traditional twenty-two.

Finally, the Irish curriculum and teaching style that we are experiencing is very different from that which we are used to at Boston University.  Classes are almost exclusively lecture style with little to no classroom participation and minimal feedback.  The instructor will generally talk about notes they have prepared in a PowerPoint presentation or an Adobe PDF that then displays on a projector.  Classes tend to be about three hours long with a break in the middle and meet once a week.  In contrast, the longest class I had experienced prior to UCD was two hours, met twice a week, and was VERY interactive.  Even our large lecture style courses tended to interact either by cold-call, interactive clickers, or other real-time feedback.

I have not yet formed my opinion about what system is "better" since I have not really gone out and experienced what it is like to work alongside these students.  In a little over a week, I will be starting an internship in downtown Dublin where, among other goals, I hope to experience firsthand what it is to work in Ireland.  I personally prefer the BU system and curriculum because it works better for me, or perhaps because I have grown up with it, so to speak.

What do you think?  Does the Irish system of education sound better to you?  Is it more fun?  If you were a hiring manager, who would you rather hire?  Post a comment or drop a line to james.m.connors [dot] gmail [dot] com and let the community know what you think.

Amsterdam: Red Lights, Smokey Streets, and... Museums?

Well, there's a headline for you if I've ever seen one! This place known as Amsterdam is such an odd place for an American. From the get-go you're assaulted by foreign languages and strange sights but for some reason, it's not overwhelming. I flew into the city on Thursday afternoon not knowing how to get to town, how to get to the hotel, or really how to do much of anything in this new city. I made it... safe and sound. That's sort of been the theme of this trip so far - start with a goal and figure out how to get there. I'm sure there's some sort of deep moral statement floating in there somewhere but I've not found it yet. Probably something to do with having an end in sight and just working until you make it there.

So, allow me now, for a few moments, to pontificate about what it means to be in Amsterdam and how this city would never be possible in the States. First, the entire city is built for the people that live in it. Parking is about 35 euro a day so there aren't many cars around. To make up for that, there are THOUSANDS, and I mean THOUSANDS of bikes around everywhere. Every single spare space is filled with bikes locked to fences, railings, light posts, other bikes, and more. There are special lanes on every street for bikes to go through. These lanes have their own street-light system and are completely separate from the passengers. Trams are everywhere and go to every point in the city. We've yet to find ourselves lost in the city without some tram-rails sitting around nearby. It's great. All of the taxis are BMWs or Mercedes Benzs - clean, new, and expensive?

On the approach into the airport, I saw a number of firsts for me. At first it was the wind turbine farm that was off the coast. Next it was the turbines lining the major canals outside of the city. Then it was the canals themselves - they were both a great way to tour the city but also a means of travel. The Dutch have a very intricate energy plan here - something I wish we could make work for the states. On the canals, individual company lands had their own turbines - it was great! Who would have seen that coming?? States, take note.

Unavoidable when talking about Amsterdam is a discussion of the Red Light District. This was something I would have called Las Vegas if I didn't know better. Apart from the rest of the city, this area of town runs along two minor canals just south east of the central train station. Here, the setting changes from the quaint cultured structures of the rest of the city in exchange for neon neon neon. Girls here, sex toys there, a whole manner of debaucheries for those so inclined. Instead of Las Vegas' street vendors shoving cards of naked women into your hand along the street, the RLD was tame with the main drags being rather tame while letting the side alleys hold the practitioners of the world's oldest trade.

I still don't know how I feel about this whole situation. My mother would probably try to understand what they do by way of "cultural relativism" but I'm not sure that I can really agree there. The streets were crowded with on-lookers. Couples, homosexual and heterosexual, old people, young people, foreign and domestic. You name it and people came to gawk in hopes of seeing something but there weren't there to partake. Much like me, these people were just walking through the RLD - something that would leave a trip to Amsterdam otherwise unfinished. Sure you saw some Johns going in and coming out, heard the taps on the windows from girls in underwear etc. It was rather uncomfortable really. But just as soon as it started, it was over. The RLD is tiny - much smaller than I had imagined. In fact, it didn't really stand up to any of the preconceived notions that I had. It wasn't dirty, sketchy (too much), and was seemingly safe. Police on bikes, motorcycles, and cars patrolled the area much more often than other parts of the city. Security cameras were everywhere - who knows who was working them.

In general, it shows a rather mature approach to what we Americans look down upon as dirty and depraved. When reading some of the brochures of tours etc that were given to us in our room, we understood more the Dutch attitude towards the RLD. True, they are trying to get rid of it and they will eventually. But I'm not sure if that's the best way to control it. As it stands, the whores are unionized, have structured health tests, and apparently command a good salary. One history article mentioned that it was the oldest profession in the world, exploiting the woman's power in the work-place, and how it's a job that's portable. I personally see that as a bit of a romanticised version of dealing with it but whatever. I didn't partake but I don't look on others with disgust - it's a personal thing I suppose and everyone has their reasons, who am I to tell them theirs are wrong?

Another controversial topic bubbling through the canals that ring the city center is the bit about weed... It's legal here, you'll smell it EVERYWHERE from the shopping malls, to the Irish pubs, and definitely down the alleys where the "coffee shops" make their business.  It was strange... very strange.  Being on the outside of this one, I didn't really get it.  I know in the states that weed is illegal and all but for the most part, that law keeps it off the streets.  It's not something that is EVERYWHERE.  Perhaps it's because this is one of the few places where the drug is legalized and therefore everyone comes here to partake, but it sure seems like the legalization increases the amount of people in the general populace lighting up or even having to smell it.  The widespread use of marijuana calls up some concerns about safety - aren't there a bunch of commercials in the states about how driving high is just as bad as driving drunk?  Hmm... I guess that's why they have lots of trams and bikes...?  Then there's the thought - if it's legal, can you just go out for a smoke like people lighting up cigarettes while you're at work... that's gotta be different - maybe it'd make afternoon meetings more entertaining?

In general, I'm not convinced that the States ought to bring this drug to the legal market the way it is here.  Whether it's a matter of culture or if it's a matter of details, I'm don't think the States are the place to rock the boat on this one.  Yes, we can go back to cultural relativism and the like but at the end of the day I ask myself, is this what I want it to be like in Boston?  Resoundingly the answer is no.  Unlike the RLD, which doesn't publicly affect anyone else, those partaking of weed tend to affect those around them without their consent.  It's been so long since I've walked into a restaurant and been asked "smoking or non" that I'm not sure whether I could deal with being assaulted by weed-smoke every time I went to dinner.  Maybe the food spots would like it (reference munchies) but I doubt that their profitability would outweigh social welfare and responsibility.

The last bit that makes these last two topics so incongruous is the sheer density of museums here.  Every block there's a museum, especially around our hotel.  Granted, we're living in the Museum District, but even in other parts of the city there are MANY MANY places for one to visit the past.  So far, my favorite has been the Van Gogh museum - I actually felt as though I learned something that I didn't already know and found it interesting as well.  It was great.  His works were organized in chronological order and were accompanied by stories of his life.  I can definitely say that I knew more coming out of there than I did going in.  Not just about the painter, but about what it meant to be a painter.  Van Gogh, for those out of the know (haha), was a self-taught artist.  He rejected all formal training and refused to go the traditional route.  So, he set out on his own going into nature to discover the true forms of art and how to capture them.  He kept himself in strict discipline to study only sketches and then once mastered, moved into the paint.  His career was very short - he painted for a short 9 years before killing himself (another shocker).  We could see the progression in his artwork as he was influenced by new people with whom he came in contact.  We could see his skill building, peaking, and then fall away as his life dwindled in the twilight of his life.  Disturbing but in some ways poetically tragic.

So, I sit here in the hotel lobby alone hoping that my travel companion makes it back ok tonight as we sort of did our own separate things this evening.  We leave early tomorrow morning with a 10:20 departure from Amsterdam on our way to Barcelona.  It's going to be an interesting few days to be sure.  I'll do my best to keep you guys in the loop and whatnot but no promises.  Check out the contact page for more ways to get ahold of me!

Wow - Long Time, No Write

Sorry to keep you all hanging.  There's really no reason for not posting - I've been having a great time relaxing in the past while since writing last.  Brief overview of what's been going on to catch up quickly: 1 - Last week was the last week of class before our break.  It was really uneventful except for the first bit of work that I've really needed to do.  It was a term paper for our Irish history class and it's worth 30% of the grade.  I'll be sure to let you all know how it went.  I wrote about the causes of the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland.  It was just like most of the other rebellions in Ireland (unsuccessful) except that it was the first look of the North vs. South and Catholic vs. Protestant conflicts that have been in headlines over the last few years.  Needless to say that I did a lot of research for a 2000 word essay and got lost in the beheamouth that is James Joyce Library (HUGE - think Boston Public Library on steroids).

2 - Last weekend I went down to see parents and cousins in the southern portion of the island.  Castle Island, Co Kerry where they called home.  There was a lot of catching up, a bit of harmless birthday partying, and lots of relaxing.  It was really great to see all those that I hadn't seen in 9 years now.  How things have changed, but oddly stayed the same in some ways.  I ended up doing some work online for one set of cousins while fixing a couple computer issues with another.  I guess it's just my currency with which I can pay the family back for all their hospitality and the like.

3 - Currently, as of 5pm yesterday, I'm in the historic Amsterdam City.  I met Grace, long time best-friend, at the airport last night then journeyed through the city to find our hotel.  It's a cute little boutique hotel (Hotel Piet Hein) situated in the quiet and quaint depths of the museum district.  Things here have been great so far and I'm going to be writing more for sure.  So stay tuned and come back often for updates (I mean it).

Thanks for staying subscribed and keeping up to date.  Just a reminder - if you want to get in touch, don't hesitate to email me at james.m.connors@gmail.com or leave a comment here.

Galway and Aran Islands Venture

Ireland3 034  Ireland3 003 This past weekend a rag tag group from Boston University ventured west to the far off city of Galway.  While there we would sample the local flavor, shops, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and ride the Aran Islands.  I stayed in my first hostel (not like the movie Hostel fortunately) and enjoyed a nice weekend away from the stressed of the town we call home (UCD Belfield/Dublin).

Galway is in many ways just like a little town in Maine known to the world as Freeport - the home of outlets galore and the headquarters for L.L. Bean.  Unlike Freeport, there wasn't any sort of huge anchor store, but much like Freeport, there were tons of little shops, pubs, eateries, classy hotels, and B&B's.  Whole streets, "shop street" for example, were closed off for pedestrian traffic only and sort of resembled the Diagon Alley of Harry Potter fame.  We explored many of these shops the first night we were there, Friday. I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy a certain measure of touristy stuff but only to a point.  I really don't like playing the tourist with camera in hand and city map in pocket.  I don't like feeling like an outsider in this country.  Slowly but surely, it's starting to dawn on me that we're here, that we're actually living here in the country and little by little I'm gravitating towards the local spots.  For the first time, we've been able to find an organic Irish session where musicians sort of show up and play great music together.  It was a wonderful time eating a late dinner while listening to some musicians jam away with a fiddle, pipe, drums, and banjo.

Saturday started early with our group getting some food before departing on a bus for the Aran Islands.  Weirdly enough, Galway itself doesn't have a ton to do, but it's a hub for all the other cool places around - the Burren, Aran Islands, and The Cliffs.  After the 45 minute bus ride to the docks, we climbed aboard a large ferry amidst the ever present haze and set off.  Upon arrival on the island, a salty 30 minutes later, there was some dispute about how we should see the island.  It was very much like the Bahamas with some vans cat calling and trying to get us to come on their tours.  We opted for the road bikes.  It would so much more intimate to see the island under our own power than to go flying by it in a van.  That said, our entire group wasn't ready for that.  Needless to say, we made it out to the ruins and the cliffs at the far edge of the islands.  Let me tell you, it's a rather heavy hit to look out from a 300 vertical drop, see the horizon and know that the next landfall would be your country.

We climbed back down to find my bike's tire had gone flat, though there is suspicion that someone had switched their bike out with mine.  Though, this would be the first of two flats in our group of 7 - I don't think they took good care of the tires...  We took the coastal route back to town and saw seals in the bay though they weren't out on the rocks as promised.  This was very disappointing but inevitable I guess. Finally, it was back to town, the sweater shop, the boat (sleeping), the bus (sleeping), and back to Galway for a nap.

The whole hostel situation was interesting too.  I had been dubbed the accommodation booker/trip leader (I wonder why?) and therefore organized all of the rooms and such.  I made sure the girls (4) were in a 4 person room with their own bathroom - this ended up being a great move for them.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get us 3 guys into our own room so we were sharing our accommodations with 3 other people who all woke up before us.  So the rule of thumb was go to bed early because the last 2 hours of sleep sucked as others would hit the shower, slam the door, rustle through backpacks and leave.  In any event, it was cheap, the place was clean and welcoming, had great service and generally didn't live up to the negative stereotypes that we sometimes hear.  I definitely think that hostels are going to be the way to travel, except for that 5 star hotel Brian agreed to pay for in Amsterdam.

I'm pooped, I'll write more tomorrow and finish this off.

Expecto Patronum

Ok, all I can say is that JK Rowling is absolutely amazing!  Last night I was among the select few that got to sit within the presence of one of the most influential writers in my life.  This event got national media coverage as well as a HUGE following here at UCD.This adventure started a few weeks ago when I was at Refreshers Day where all of the student clubs (known as societies) toted their wares and tried to entice students to join up with their groups the same way vendors sell produce at Boston's Haymarket.  At this event, I was physically stopped and pulled me back in order to explain all the multitude of reasons that I ought to join up with their society.  That society is known as the L&H Society (Literary and Historical Society) and their mission is to bring attention to the arts within the UCD community.  For 2 euro, I could open myself up to "untold treasures" but what got me was the event that went off on Tuesday.  2 euro would get me in to see the person whose words have enchanted my mind and emotions, offered escapist nights of reading, a second life where anything was possible.  2 euro would get me in to see JK Rowling, the famed author of the Harry Potter series.

Unfortunately, they didn't email the tickets to me but rather, I ended up standing in line an hour early in order to queue up to get a ticket on Monday morning.  But boy was I happy that I did!  After softball practice on Tuesday, I walked up to the library and found a rather HUGE line waiting for the doors to open to let us into the amphitheater.  After 45 minutes the line begins to move as the masses flood into the gargantuan lecture hall.  Security guards and media people were whirling around snapping photos, checking bags, and a whole manner of other duties.  The decision was hard, go back and get high or stay low and be in the front.  I opted for the latter and sat off to the right hand side thinking there might be a good look at her from the side but I was in for a whole lot more than that.

When JK came into the room, cheers, clapping, hoots and hollers erupted from all around me.  We got to our feet to welcome our prophet into our midst.  A large thrown chair was brought in and put on stage not more than 10 feet away from me and you know who settled into the cushy seat in an elegant black dress.  She read from Deathly Hallows at the part where Ron comes back to the other two in the forest after saving Harry from the pond.  JK brought the book to life - I mean I'd hope she can, it's her book after all - but it was more than that.  She gave the book soul.  Her voice took on the personality to the characters.  Her emphasis, perfect.  Her accent, true.  It was overwhelming.  At interval she would stop, explain something from her writing process or other background that just fueled the atmosphere in the room.  When she stopped, there was a palpable feeling of remorse that the sweet storytelling had come to a close.

The next phase of the reception was to take questions from the audience.  She answered the questions of 10 students who had submitted their questions ahead of time.  With honesty and openness, she answered questions about her writing, the story lines, the pressures and all.  Two major points really panged at our hearts though.  The first was when she spoke of not writing Harry Potter any longer.  It was clear that she was going to miss this story that had been part of her life for 17 years.  17 years, she said, and this story had been the one constant in all this that time.  I have no doubts that she will miss it every day.  That said, the second and most emotional point was when she called us out as her target audience, "her people" as she named us.  We were the age group that she had been gunning at when the first book was released.  The entire room cooed with understanding and emotion.  JK herself started to get a little misty when she was talking about that bit.

In any event, the evening came to a close after the L&H Society's auditor presented JK with the famed James Joyce award in recognition of all her contributions to society.  She has singlehandedly helped students and adults rediscover their passion for reading and imagination.  This event was amazing and absolutely thrilling.  I'm so happy that I got to participate!

To Belfast and Beyond

Well hey there everyone - I'm sorry that it's been a while since I've written anything on this blog.  A lot has gone on, as you can imagine so I'm thinking that I'll break it up into a couple different posts.  This one will cover our trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was an interesting trip, though not nearly what I wanted it to be.  So what did we actually do?  As I've written before, the Quinn School of Business puts on a number of great events and programs for us but this wasn't one of them.  No, this trip was a sort of add-on trip for us from the Boston University program at Dublin City University.  The few of us at UCD that went (6 of 11) were invited along on their special program as part of their Irish culture class.

I should have known this wasn't going to go well.  Originally we were told that we'd be driven up in the coach with all of them and that there'd be a short presentation and then we'd be on our own for a few (3-4) hours to explore the city.  Well, it ended up being a 1 hour presentation, followed by an hour lunch (tasty I must say), followed by 3 hours of bus touring seeing various paramilitary murals on the sides of houses or walls from back when there was such sectarian violence.  Our guide was the same guy that gave the hour powerpoint on flags and their significance to the religious fighting.

Ok, so it wasn't a total bust but it definitely wasn't what I had been hoping for.  I wanted to get to walk around downtown and see the memorials, I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway.  I had such hopes for that sort of stuff and we really didn't get a chance to get off the coach unless it was to see a couple murals all in once place.  Though, I do have to say that there was one stop where the locals came out to heckle us - including one little girl with blue hair.  But let me tell you, I never thought I'd be bothered by something here in Ireland but the 10 year old with a bottle of beer drinking in the doorway of a block house really hit me weird.  I get that it's a culture thing and that we're getting used to these new sort of cultural norms but come on!  In a country where you can legally drink at 18, what're they starting at 10 for?

Finally we parted ways with our tour guide and a few of the students that had apparently planned to stay the night in the city and we were on our way back to Dublin.  It felt like it had been a dream almost but that may have been the fact that I slept most of the way there (we had to be up at 6am... the earliest yet) and most of the way back (did I mention that we were up at 6am?).  I wish that I could have spent more time in the country because I think there's more to see and experience there than just the reminders of how recently war had gripped this otherwise developed country.

After talking with Mom and Brian, I've decided that I'm going to grab a bus north next weekend to see around with or without anyone else.  Obviously, I'll invite the rest but I'm not going to let them hold me back from seeing the country.  I really want to see the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast up there.  I've heard such amazing things.  Next post will discuss some of the coursework from this week, an Irish house party, softball, and an article I wrote for the University College Dublin Observer.  Thanks for reading!

2nd Week and Still Going Strong

Ireland 049.jpg Check out more photos at my Flickr Page!

Hey there, all. It's been a couple days since I wrote last - must be having fun, right? Well absolutely! It's been a very busy week so far - an absolute gas. To cover in this post: food shopping, sight seeing, and horse racing. Hopefully this will be a good read and you'll enjoy it. Remember, you can subscribe to the bi-weekly newsletter to the right and find out how to get in touch with me at the contact page.

FOOD SHOPPING

Food shopping is one of those things that everyone takes for granted in the United States, isn't it?  I mean, how many times do you really consider where, when, for how long or plan extensively your shopping trips?  Yes, you may have shopping lists, a general time when you want to go but here in Ireland we do it a little different.  First, there's a caste system of food shopping locations.  For quick or urgent needs, one would walk to the Centra or Spar for their needs.  If it's time to find a specific or hard to find item, one might get on a bus to the Tesco for higher quality and moderate prices.  Finally, for general shopping and the purchase of staples, one would plan a trip to the city center to find and Aldi or Lidl.  These are foreign owned, discount markets with stocking habits of Walmart super center and the cramped confines of Johnny's Fresh Market.

Here's another one for you - you need your own bags!  This is such a twist.  I mean, stroke of genius for sure, but sooo inconvenient when compared to shopping in the US.  I had over a week's worth of groceries on the first weekend but I was hugely confused, embarrassed, and upset when I realized I had no way to get the food home, no one to help bad, and the people behind me were getting rather heated with me.  Needless to say I figured something out but the 6km trip home was not gentle to my hands with the overstuffed bags etc.  This gets me thinking about things - what are they trying to teach?  One, don't be lazy, you can bag yourself.  Two, don't waste, buy reusable bags combined with the financial disincentive of having to pay for your bags.  Finally, buy what you need for the week.  I had done a big shopping run for a week plus some staples.  This earned me three large fabric bags to tote everything back to campus.  That walk home taught me that it's best to just buy what you need for the week and leave the rest for later.

SIGHT SEEING

Over this weekend, we took a walking tour with a representative from the Erasmus Student Network (international student union type thing).  We saw many of the staple locations around the city centre.  We got to see Dublin Castle as well as many of the night hot spots around the city.  We even saw a small time rapper doing a budget music video -we're talking Youtube production.  I thought it was a really interesting trip and definitely helped with my sense of direction.  As one could imagine, Dublin isn't really a planned city - New Yorkers curse the place often.  If you're into Boston's layout, you'll feel much better about Dublin for sure.

After a nice lunch at Bewley's cafe on Grafton street, we ventured west towards St. James Gate - the beloved brewery of the Black Gold: Guinness Stout.  This was such an improvement to the old facility that they don't even compare.  The Guinness Storehouse is an amazing facility that's part museum, part amusement park.  Starting on the ground floor, visitors make their way up 7 floors to the gravity bar - a 365 glass bar on the very top of the facility - looking at, touching, smelling, experiencing all of the steps to the brewing process.  It was a really great trip and the post tour pint was scrumptious.

HORSE RACING

Sunday was another action packed day here in the Emerald Isle.  After an early wakeup, it was off to the Leopardstown Horse Track for the AIG championship hurdles.  It was a really nice location, professional security, catering, etc. Top notch for those that can afford it.  I wonder if this is just a small version of the Kentucky Derby?  Anyways, it was to the pub to get a pint (required for all school sponsored trips) then to register with the bookies.  40 Euro later, I was scouring the reports, the breeders notes, the critics and all just hoping to be able to pick out the horse that would make my fortune.  The whole day reminded me of Mrs. Knight telling me how she used to be top notch at picking horses at the races back when she was younger - I definitely could have used her skills that day, haha.

Oh!  I should note that when I got there, a structure on the far side of the field was burning - that was different.  Apparently one of the TV camera stands caught fire and burned to the ground.  Soon after, a bunch of large corporate helicopters came swooping in dropping off their precious cargo.  At the end of the day I walked away with 36 of the 40 euro... I consider it a success.

Well, that's the bulk of the news from me this week.  I'm hoping to get a newsletter sent out in the next couple of days - I'm trying to get out and enjoy the nice weather while it's around and get these posted up when it's crummy outside.  Friday, we're going to Belfast with the other BU program so stories from that trek will follow soon after.

I hope all is well with you all - I'm missing you!!

I Started a Couple of Different Projects

It has been far too long for this blog to get updated.  It's true, weeks and months have moved past and settled without a single update, not a word.  I kept promising so many things and didn't get you anything.  I'm sorry about that everyone, I feel badly.  That all said, I want to show you a couple of the projects that I've been working on. Number 1:  SCHOOL!

Some of you know that I'm in Boston University School of Management's Cross Functional Core Curriculum program.  For those of you who don't know what this innovative program is, let me fill you in.  CORE, as it's known, is a comprehensive class sequence that integrates four different classes together as you work in a team towards building full business plan.  What constitutes an integrated program?  Well, let me put it this way: I take four classes that are in different subjects but the topics, the goals, of each class is to provide you with more information about your business plan.  Marketing, Operations Management, Finance, and Information Systems classes feed us bits of information that we must assimilate and coalesce into a complete and manageable business plan.

My team is working on a product known, right now, as the Portable Laptop Lock.  Without going into details right now, let me say that seven other teammates and I have worked countless hours designing, developing, marketing, building, and all the other applicable verbs, for this one little product that culminates in 30% of our grade.  Which is silly since we spend 80% of our time on the team project.  It's unique in that having one common thread throughout the course gives examples in real time, something solid and tangible to tie the business concepts to that we're working on.

Our product will be able to be found on our team website at http://www.hemispheresecurity.com where we'll be able to show off what it takes to be a real presence in e-commerce.

Number 2: College Tech Central

My other baby is my new podcast, College Tech Central.  But, James, what is a podcast? A podcast is very similar to a blog, sometimes called an audio blog.  I first got turned onto the idea over the summer when I was using a MacBook Pro provided by my office at ISPS.  It was so easy to play in the digital lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I didn't get out any shows before I had to turn the computer back out.  Macs make it so easy to build a podcast and produce and distribute the entire system.  Well, I finally got it up and going.  If you run over to the website you can see some of the great content that we're putting out over there.  I'm recording Information Systems lectures from Professor Shankar, with permission, as a student study resource.

Once the class winds down a bit, I'll be able to produce a more robust podcast that brings together so many more bits.  College Tech Central, Technology on Campus, is your home for technology news, tips, tricks, reviews, and secrets where we demystify computers and make it easy for students and young professionals.  Tune in sometime soon for some great content.

Well, that's all for now, everyone.  Thanks so much for surfing over and taking a look.  I hope that you bear with me as I try to get more work done and still maintain these blog posts at least on a weekly basis. Until next time, take care!

Adding Another Hat

Some of you may know that I recently accepted a new position as the Network and Web Administrator for Generations Incorporated.  If you've read this blog for long, you know also that I'm currently working desktop support for Boston University.  It's about 10:30 here in Boston and I was thinking about the transition in skills and knowledge of a job such as this.  Desktop support with Information Systems Planning and Support has been a really great experience where I've learned a great deal from the technical aspects to time management and relationship maintenance.  These are all skills that I'm able to apply to this new organization I'm working with. Unfortunately, as a student employee and the nature of the desktop support position, I have not learned much in the way of server technology.  Sure, this means that Generations Inc (GI) took a bit of a gamble with me since their prior admin was basically a brain-child genius.  On the other hand, having worked in an environment where you don't always see the whole picture or deal with users that honestly don't know what happened, I have learned the ability to troubleshoot problems.  Perhaps this, the ability to systematically find problems and resolve them in an orderly fashion, has been the greatest benefit I've gained from my work with ISPS.

Troubleshooting skills aside, I face a large learning curve when it comes to specific technology such as Windows 2003 Server, Windows Small Business Server, Terminal Services Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.  These particular OS's are my bread and butter - the daily grind if you will.  My primary tasks on a day to day basis are communicated via the task application of outlook and revolve around server maintenance and backup, desktop user support (similar to my position with ISPS), and longer term research and development projects.

I think I'll mention a couple of the projects I'm working on right now.  The first, a full inventory and audit of computer assets, users, policies, and infrastructure.  This is a rather basic concept - figure out what we have, where it is, and who uses it, then make changes as necessary.  Since we're such a small shop, it won't be difficult to get any one bit of information but to do the updates and remediation that I think will be necessary, I expect that I'll need some out of hours time.  The other big project I'm working on is to align mobile computing to our network where users with Blackberries will be able to sync with our servers or perhaps Windows Mobile devices will use the AirSync technology.  I'm still in the research phase for this project, gathering the raw numbers and information to then present to the directors in a report.

So what spurned all of this?  Well, I was bored for one.  I'm in the midst of a book that teaches the Windows 2003 Server information in a crash course sort of way.  I've been reading about installing, domain controllers, all sorts of bits about network infrastructure that I just needed a bit of a break and here I am.  In any case, I will bring this to a close.  I know I haven't been writing often but I think that my more regimented schedule will do well for my publishing cycle.

Thank you to all that continue to read and support City Streets, my professional blog and website!

Microsoft Office LIVE Focus Group

PremiseToday was the first time that Redmond has reached out to put money into my pocket. About a week ago, I received a phone call asking me to work with a market research firm to speak about their product - Microsoft Office Live. The whole program is software as a service - in other words, you pay for programs as if they were a subscription with varying levels of functionality and support for different price points. I think the whole concept is ok in form but Microsoft's implementation has been horrific at best - they seem to get that, hence the focus groups targeting users that signed up but then almost never went back.

Body Upon arrival at a rather interesting office building, I was asked once again to screen and answer questions that pertained to the study. It's ok... I guess, but it was the third time that I was screened (the first at the initial interview request and the second upon the confirmation of the appointment). I understand the need to be thorough but I think it's a bit much to answer the same questions three times over. The desk attendants showed me to a waiting area with some warm sandwiches and soda. As more people arrived, it became clear that they weren't going to take everyone and lo and behold they took only three of the crowd that had assembled.

I didn't hear what became of the others because I was called into the room for the focus group. There was the stereotypical mirrored glass behind which researchers were scrutinizing our every move and phrase. This is normal to me now since I have completed a number of different focus groups around the Boston area. The warmup questions were similar and always landed just short of what we were there to discuss. I think that it was an interesting contrast between we three chosen ones - one artist lady that didn't know anything about computers that AOL didn't tell her - one would be start-up guy that thought he knew everything about computers but had a financial advisor's background - and then me, the college kid that works in IT working towards a degree in MIS. It was clear that I had the most technical knowledge of the bunch. I'm not making that distinction because I'm "better" so to speak but rather because they drew a good diverse background - a fair cross section of the possible future users.

An hour later we had decided that the program wasn't useful because it was too hard to navigate and wasn't giving the user what it needed when it needed it. In other words it wasn't user friendly or intuitive. As a group we had given the researchers some targeted feedback that I think was worth our $130 honoraria... If I do say so myself. It will be interesting to watch over the next few months to see if anything from our small panel actually makes it to the end product at Microsoft.

With that, I bid you adue - I'm hoping that these will come more often now that final exams are over for me. I definitely appreciate your readership and hope that you stay tuned!