Saturday, January 31, 2009

Before You Offshore Your Business

So you've been thinking about offshoring parts of your business. Often these decisions are rushed and not properly thought through. If you make the decision without proper considerations it could end up a lot costlier than than you think, so here are some things to consider before you offshore your business.

Do you know the reason that you want to offshore parts of your business? What is it that you hope to accomplish by doing this? There is a widespread belief that by moving work to lower labor cost regions of the world that it will save companies tons of money. In some cases this is true, but the actual cost of doing this is very often not properly calculated (it is often not even in the same ballpark). Some business functions and types of work lend themselves more to offshoring than others, but as you move into unchartered territory the risks become higher and higher. I would make the argument that merely wishing to save labor costs should not be your only reason for doing this. If you're wanting to break into markets in India, China, and so on, then actually performing some type of work there is probably something that you want to do, but even cracking those markets is not a simple task (especially China). Your reason(s) should be compelling enough to deal with the complexities of offshoring.

Touching on the labor cost item again, when you first look at it the inital difference in what is being paid per hour can be very alluring. Depending upon the field and market conditions, the difference in going labor rates can be very large. One of the biggest factors of the wage rates is the cost of living of your labor force. Wages in California (i.e Silicon Valley) have been higher than elsewhere, but when you look at what the real estate prices had been and what it actually costs people in that area to be able to live (factoring out a luxurious lifestyle for the moment), you could buy an awful lot of property and live like a king based on this salary in much of the world. It is exploiting this difference that is at the heart of off-shoring. In classic economic theory, in the long run, the labor rate will eventually reach a market equilibrium. Meaning that for the same position, the wage rate would eventually be the same in California and India. As time goes on labor rates do rise in popular offshore locations as more companies do this and there is more competition for the "cheaper" resources. As other companies move in, they're willing to pay higher wages which can lure away much of your workforce and drive up your costs. Companies can move their work from country to country as the labor rates rise, because there are a lot of countries that will continue to have "attractive" rates for years to come as the labor market continues to move to equilibrium, but there is always the cost associated with making the move.

Your communication costs and effort will rise and chances are that your calculations aren't even close in this front. At the very least your telecommunications charges will need to accommodate lots of phone calls between far flung project and work teams. You'll need to make sure that your phone service will accommodate calls to and from your offshore location. There will be lots of questions by your offshore location as they do work that they're not familiar with, sure they may be experienced in the type of work that they're doing but there will be the natural need to clarify what it is that you want from them. This can be harder because they won't have the same cultural references and many things won't mean the same to them. You can spend a lot of time and effort dealing with false assumptions. In the beginning (anyways) there will need to be a lot of supervision, so that you can "see" that you're understood and that what is being delivered is truly what you want.

Training costs are likely to be a lot larger than you anticipate when you factor in what I've said about communication. Because your new workforce is not familiar with your company, they don't know your history (really know it) and likely don't share your "vision". These are things that will need to be trained. At the very least, they're going to need to know about your product and how what they're doing fits into the big picture. With many non-native English speaking cultures there is a tendency to agree and not ask questions. Maybe this is to save themselves embarssment, but you can't assume that what you've said is understood. If they're not asking questions, there is a very good chance that they don't understand.

Your travel costs will rise. Many companies will offshore to cut costs allowing for the necessary travel within their budgets. Without allowing enough travel, you're setting yourself up for failure. There is no subsitute for people being in the same room. You can see by the look on people's faces if what you've said makes sense and you can get a feeling if your message is at least being heard (if not understood). It is a lot easier to clear up problems face to face that might take tons of email and phone calls otherwise. Face to face meetings also build a relationship that doesn't exist over phone calls and email. It can also help to build more of a team feeling.

When you move jobs offshore, those jobs are then gone from your local economy. You're likely to be putting people in unemployment lines at a time when it isn't so easy to find work. If the displaced workers do find work, it is often a far lower rate than they were paid before. The wage differences might be enough that they're not able to pay their mortgages and provide for their families. If you then factor in the other jobs lost offshore the overall local economy is dragged down that much more. These displaced workers are now not likely to spend like they did before, further dragging down other businesses. Various trade agreements were pushed through saying that manufacturing jobs will be lost, but other good paying jobs will replace them. This hasn't happened on a large scale yet, maybe it still will.

Your former employees might have been a big consumer of your product and now they're less likely to be in your customer base. G.M. employees have bought a lot of G.M. cars and trucks (albeit often at a discount) but when the work is moved offshore, how many of the new workers are likely to buy the more expensive vehicles that the former G.M. workers bought? Chances are that the new employees won't be paid enough to really buy your premium products. There is something to be said for companies where the employees buy and use what they produce. Maybe it was an urban legend, but I heard that their were such good incentives for Mercedes employees that the workers didn't know if they were working on their own car, which gave them more incentive to produce a better quality product and take pride in what the produce.

How will your customers be effected and what are they likely to think? If you're operating a customer facing call center that is being offshored, how is this likely to be received? I've read stories about these things being moved back to the country of origin. What is often forgotten is that the people answering the phones might be the image of your company to your customers, it might be there only experience with people of your company. Bad experiences drive customers away like nothing else. Sometimes the various accents within our own countries are hard enough to understand when you're native, let alone when the people in the call center aren't native speakers. How receptive are your customers likely to be to this? I've seen that there is sometimes extensive cultural and language training to help these employees do the job, so this is not to say that it can't work but should be thought about.

There is also more and more pressure on governments to put pressure on businesses not to offshore. If you're selling something to various governments there is a greater chance that there will be provisions to require various aspects of the product you're providing to be "produced/serviced" within that country or continent. As time goes on, your company could take a bad public relations hit for offshoring. There could be a public backlash, with boycotts and so on. You might find yourself having to move some or all of the work back. Keeping jobs in your local economy could be a PR card that you can play to your advantage.

One of the lures of offshore locations is that there are less regulations to deal with. Many of the offshore locations are happy to get factories and work created in their countries but they're not really ready to deal with the by-products of this work. Many offshoring locations don't have environmental regulations to the extent of that the more developed countries have in place. While this might seem like a true benefit that you don't have to deal with the same waste disposal regulations as back home, but the waste now becomes a problem for the offshore country that probably doesn't have the money and experience to deal with it. Who is to say that there won't be litigation later on to make you pay for clean up costs or for lawsuits from people claiming injury from your waste? I imagine that if you think about it, you don't really want to pollute these offshore locations (or any other location).

Much of the work now being offshored is totally new and businesses are taking big risks in areas that they don't know if it can really successfully be offshored. A lot of I.T. companies are making offshoring such a big part of their business plans and they're taking huge risks in areas that they don't know if offshoring can even work. They're moving work areas where the potential employees might have learned about the subject in school but they're certainly not experienced with the complexities of doing the work and some things, try as you might, can not be offshored, there will still need to have a certain proximity to the work that needs to be preformed. Not all data center work can be done remotely, some local support is still needed.

My competitors are doing it, so I have to do the same. When you move in the off-shore direction you're also taking your business in the "commodity pricing" direction. When businesses get caught in the "cheapest" price mode, it is hard to win. Someone can always come along and beat your price, it is a hard war to win. There is a great deal of complexity in a lot of businesses that doesn't lend itself to a lot of movement of labor, and all the training, retraining, and reorganizations that are needed don't happen quickly. If your product becomes a commodity, then your customers can buy from anyone, why should they buy for you? While it is not always possible, focusing on a quality product and a good reputation is a better route for the long run. The big mega deals are rare (if not already dead), so finding niches and going after smaller clients is probably a better direction. The big mega deals are more often than not, smaller and smaller with companies wanting to spread their risk over multiple suppliers, so the "big prise" is not so big.

Focus more on the long run. Many companies are so focused on this quarter that they're not willing to take the hard decisions that might not yield results in a quarter or two. The Big Three are a good example there, they put so much focus on SUVs when gas was cheap, looking at the longer term picture you knew that gas wouldn't stay cheap. Restucturing and Offshoring are so often about seeing quick returns, saving money, and not about having a solid company that will be around for your kids or grandkids to run (if they're able and qualified that is).

Cultural differences can not be overlooked. I've had a lot of experience with one country in particular and it is very hard to find people there that are able to show the drive needed to get the job done. They are very good at doing "exactly" as they're told, but they're not comfortable "thinking outside of the box" when problems arise. It is also very hard for them to admit when they don't understand something and ask the proper questions. After a longer period of time, some of the traits that you're looking for in employees are likely to appear, but you can't expect them to be there day one.

It is your business, livelihood, reputation, and legacy that is at stake. Is offshoring a direction that you really want to take your company, going back to my earlier question about the reason that you want to offshore. If you don't see the results you're expecting, the stakes can be pretty high and they might not be fixable. It is time to be a leader, if offshoring isn't a strategic part of your company's future, then take a stand.

Are you ready for the infrastructure problems that you're likely to face? In many of the emerging enconomies the infrasture is not in place to support your company. Are you willing to help build the infrastructure that you need via taxes and so on?

There is an element of policitcal instability in offshoring. When you look at all conflicts going on in the world, almost every area that you might think about going has its problems. India has problems with Pakistan that have recently raised their head again. China is a Communist country that has more recently welcomed more and more of the market economy, but they're still a Communist country. Are you willing to let your company fall prey to all the political struggles that you probably don't understand.

The idealist in me would like to see all parts of the world raised out of their proverty with everyone able to earn a living wage and be able to support their families. Offshoring does not usually lift the people of the country where the work is being done out of poverty. We've all heard stories about "slave labor", do you want one of those stories to come back an haunt your company? The argument is often made that some money is better than none, but so often people take jobs that pay "something" because it is what they can get. If you truly want to lift the opressed people of the world out of poverty that is very admireable, but this is generally not a goal of Offshoring.

The days of company and employee loyalty appear to be a thing of the past. Businesses have grown too big and become to corporate and the feeling of family that existed in the past is more or less dead. So many corporations are so far flung and widespread that many employees don't really even know their managers. The Japanese used to offer "lifetime employment", an alien concept to many corporate types today. It used to be that the company looked after its employees and the employees looked after the company both felt a sense of responsibility for each other, both were proud of each other. All the redundancies that we see today in favor of Offshoring, see how far we have come. You can debate corporate responsibility if you like, but shouldn't companies find that being responsible and a good citizen yields long term benefits that outweigh the costs today?

Offshoring can work. Many companies have seen some success in Offshoring. I don't wish to indicate that it can't ever work. One area where companies should probably give some thought to this is where you have the goal of being in close proximity to a key client, so it might make sense to set operations so that you can better support your client. As stated earlier, if you're really trying to break into a market, you'll probably want to perform some sort of work there. Company sales are often helped by having a local presence (being more than just a sales force and marketing unit). If you're providing a quality product and a good employer, you can be accepted and welcomed by the local community.

Offshoring is a passionate topic, but I've tried to show some of the things that are often not considered enough when companies are deciding if they should take the plunge or not. Offshoring can work, but you do need to consider a lot more than the difference in labor costs. Do you have anything to say about Offshoring? Civilized discussion is welcome.

Photo Credit: people 5 courtesy of erwinbacik

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26th Edition of The Productivity And GTD Blog Carnival

Welcome to the January 26, 2009 edition of the Carnival of Productivity And GTD. This is the first edition of the Carnival of Prodcutivity And GTD. I hope that you enjoy this edition. If you have any comments or there is anything that you might like to see in the next or a future edition, please be sure to leave a comment.


Kevin Fleming presents How To Schedule Your DirecTV DVR From Your Computer or Mobile Phone posted at Satellite TV Guru


Silicon Valley Blogger presents 10 Ways To Organize and Simplify Your Finances posted at The Digerati Life


Broderick Allen presents Personal Development for Smart People posted at

Broderick Allen - Personal Growth and Enjoying Life's Journey.

Broderick Allen presents Suspend Disbelief posted at

Broderick Allen - Personal Growth and Enjoying Life's Journey.

Broderick Allen presents Persistence posted at

Broderick Allen - Personal Growth and Enjoying Life's Journey.

Marcus Smith presents

3 Quick Ways to Dramatically Enhance Your Creativity posted at

Ted Reimers presents How to Improve your Typing Speed posted at


Shamelle presents Ways To Regain The Hours Television Steals From You posted at Enhance Life.


Praveen presents Don't Be A Seminar Junkie posted at My Simple Trading System.

Heather Johnson
presents Can China Avoid a Post-Olympic Economic Downturn? posted at Currency

Fiona King presents 101 Ways to Live More Spiritually and Purposefully, Everyday posted at Christian Colleges.

Heather Johnson presents 50 Free Online Tools to Discover Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Hidden Talents posted at Best Universities.

Fiona King presents 100 Free iPhone Apps That Will Make You Smarter posted at Online Best

And From Us...

Systems Overload presents GTD Lists. Use some of this GTD plus lists to stay focused on your next action or what you need to remember to do in frequently occuring contexts.

That concludes the first edition of The Carnival of Productivity And GTD. The next edition is currently planned for March 2nd. I hope that you've enjoyed this edition. For the next issue I'd love to hear how you have made GTD your own. What are you using to keep track of your to Read articles on the web? How are you staying on track with your Weekly Reviews? What tools are you using to stay productive? You can Submit your blog article to the next edition of the carnival of productivity and gtd using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Photo credit: Tools courtesy of TouTouke

Saturday, January 24, 2009

GTD Lists

One of the pillars of David Allen's GTD (Getting Things Done) is making use of contextual specific lists such as "@ grocery store","calls", and "errands". By having lists ready for routine situations that you find yourself in, you can make better use of those situations and get more done.

By having your lists for the situations that you find yourself in often, you're able to plan ahead using your "smarter self" for those times when your thoughts are scattered and unfocused. So besides deciding on what you want to do, you'll want to have a look at common situations that you find yourself in where you could utilize a list. Here are some of the lists that you might find useful.

@grocery store- This is the remember the milk list. How many times have you forgotten something that you needed to buy at the store

@read- These can be books, articles, and other things that you've wanted to read.

@errands- These are the places that you need to go and what need to do there or to buy there. Do you need to pick up some paint at Home Depot?

@emails- Are there some email that you need to write? If you can collect group some together then you can get into an email zone and crank them out.

@agendas- Have you ran into someone and wanted to talk to them about something but couldn't remember what? This would be a list with people like your boss, family members, friends, and so on and as you think of things that you want to talk about with each person you can note it.

@calls- If you have a group of calls that you can make when you have a little time, then you can make use of that time that you feel like talking. This can be handy if you're off at a meeting and have a little spare time, or maybe at the airport (provided the noise level is manageable!)

@next action- This is a core principle of GTD, but knowing what your next action is for your various projects, you can continue to progress them.

@computer- These are tasks that you need to do at your computer. This is particularly relevant if you spend a lot of time away from your pc or laptop.

@waiting- These are the tasks that you've delegated and/or need something from someone.

@music- Is there a CD that you wanted to buy or maybe a band that you wanted to check out?

@movies/video- If you go to video store, you might have a particular video in mind, but maybe there are some movies that you've wanted to see for a while, if you have your list you can be sure to pick up something from your list, when the movie you were looking for is checked out. I finally got around to watching the Godfather Trilogy over Christmas.

@road- If you travel a lot, you might find that it is harder to work on the road, these are things that you might wish to do instead of channel surfing in your hotel room.

@line- We spend a lot of time in lines or waiting (i.e those doctor visits), why not make use of some of this time?

@social networks- Have you ever been at one of the social networks and wanted to do something but found yourself drawn away from what you intended to do? By having some definite items in mind you can accomplish something in the time that you spend there.

@cleaning/organizing- By knowing what you need to clean, you're not as likely to forget to do it. Maybe you've been wanting to organise your stuff in the garage (or maybe just get rid of some of it!)

These lists can get you started, but you'll want to think about the situations that you often find yourself in to maximise your list. And remember that you don't want your lists to become too many and unmanageable. Are there any other lists that you're keeping, I'd love to hear about them, why share them in the comment section?

Some Other Posts That You Might Like...

Photo credit: notepad courtesy of ilco

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dan Carlin- Common Sense

I recently did a post about sources for finding podcasts, on Podcast Alley (mentioned there), I found Common Sense from Dan Carlin and I've been listening for about a year or so. Common Sense is usually one of the top ten podcasts at Podcast Alley (along with Dan's other podcast Hardcore History). I thought that this was a good topic for my spotlight on the web series.

As the show's introduction often states, Dan Carlin is a member of the new media. In Common Sense he looks at current political issues from a non-partisan view point and trys to make sense of the issues. He is a big proponent of adding another major political party that could hold its own with the Democrats and Republicans or at least giving the American people more "real" choices.

The Gordian Knot is one of his popular analogies, the legend goes that in Gordium, the person that untied this knot would be king, many tried to untie the knot, Alexander the Great attempted to untie it but failing to find the ends he took his sword and cut it open. The analogy is often used to refer to unsolveable problems and dealing with them in different "thinking outside of the box" ways. Dan is very big on America's founding fathers, the constitution, and the balances of powers between the three branches of the Federal government, and believes that the press should play a key role in keeping the three branches of government honest and effective. He has a forum that often has interesting discussions between people from all ends of the political spectrum.

In The Black Dog, his most recent episode (at the time of writing, anyways), he discusses that Congress has become subservient to the President (a topic that he mentions from time to time) and he wonders if President Obama will "give back" some of the power that President Bush took for the executive branch. He also does an interview with Oregon Congressman Peter Defazio.

In The Sampson Suicide Pact, Dan examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offers a different solution.

In Evasive Action, Dan suggests that competent cabinet picks might not just do the trick for Obama, that he needs to make more picks that truly change-oriented, if change is really wanted.

In Permanent Division, Dan points out that America has become more and more divided and wonders if we'll be able to repair the partisan divide that only widdened during the past presidential campaign.

In Confronting the Hydra, America's budgetary 3-headed Hydra (military spending, social security, and medicare/medicade) is one of Dan's topics in this episode. Also, Dan channels Presidents Lincoln and Eisenhower in talking about unity.

All of his earlier shows are available for download and many can be bought on one dvd. There are many great episodes there but one that also stands out is episode 15 Waterboarding the Bureaucracy (actually number 115, I believe) where he talks about torture, asks if American is really ready for a "true" democracy in Pakistan, and muses about reviewing what the C.I.A. has been up to.

If you're into politics or just want to have a wider understanding of some of the issues, Common Sense is worth listening too, so why not give him a listen. If you like the show, consider subscribing so that you don't miss and episode.

Some Other Posts That You Might Enjoy...

Photo credit: Balance courtesy of darktaco

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19th Edition of The Family Life Blog Carnival

Welcome to the January 19, 2009 edition of The Family Life Blog Carnival. This is the first edition of this blog carnival. I was overwhelmed by the number of entries. Those entries that I didn't get a chance to review will be considered for the next edition. The next edition of The Family Life Blog Carnival is planned for February 16th. I hope that you all enjoy this edition. If you have any comments or suggestions about what you'd like to see in the next edition, feel free to leave a comment.

KCLau presents Redefine Retirement: Lifestyle Design of the New Rich posted at KCLau's Money Tips, saying, "About retirement, mini-retirement versus deferred retirement, income relativity and how to earn the income you want in the shortest time"

Matthew Paulson presents Throw a Great Kids Party on a Budget posted at American Consumer News.

DebbieDragon presents 11 Tips for a Successful Home-Based Business posted at Empowering Mom.

Travel Advocate presents Disney Announces Military Travel Promotion for 2009 posted at The Travel Advocate.

Destroy Debt presents Debt Got You Down? Turn That Frown Around posted at Debbie's Debt Advice.

Deposit Accounts presents Top 10 Free Online Money Management Tools posted at The Money Blog.

KCLau presents Best of KCLau’s Money Tips 2008 posted at KCLau's Money Tips, saying, "A run down of the best KCLau’s Money Tips 2008"

Fiona King presents 101 Ways to Live More Spiritually and Purposefully, Everyday posted at Christian Colleges.

Matthew Paulson presents Teach Values While Shopping for Your Kids Clothes posted at American Consumer News.

Travel Advocate presents Airline Travel Scoring Flying Deals posted at The Travel Advocate.

Debt Free Destiny presents Save Time and Money: Plan Your Meals in Advance posted at Debt Free Destiny.

Trisha Wagner presents What I've Learned About Working From Home posted at Empowering Mom.

Kiddie & Family Activities

Kevin presents A Family Solution to Childhood Obesity posted at More4kids Childrens Health.

Emma presents Hey there, little baby, swimming in the deep blue sea (part 2) posted at Baby-Log.

The Happy Redneck presents Winterizing Your Pop-Up Camper posted at Should You Marry Her?, saying, "Pop up campers are a nice compromise between the discomfort and bother of tent camping while retaining the feel of"roughing it"."

Money & Finance

Becca Glouzstein presents How to teach your kids about abundance while living frugally posted at Inspiration for Mothers . Com.

Concerning Kids presents Some Thoughts On Affordable Child Health Insurance posted at Concerning Kids.

Jacquelyn presents Simple Ways to Teach Your Child the Value of Money posted at - Wise Parenting Guide, saying, "Teaching your children the value of money is the parent's responsibilities through parental guidance and example."

Jill presents Grocery Savings Tips | posted at Jill.

Livingalmostlarge presents Stay at home - loss of potential income posted at LivingAlmostLarge.

The Investor presents Stanford researchers prove you can spend 20% less on gifts for the same result posted at, saying, "Your hunch that expensive gifts aren't worth the money has been confirmed by Stanford researchers. Here's 3 reasons why you're better off buying smaller, more thoughtful gifts."

Joe Manausa presents January 2009 Housing Market Trends | Tallahassee Real Estate Blog posted at Tallahassee Real Estate Blog, saying, "The continuation of the three-year-old bear market in real estate has brought many people forward to comment on the condition of the real estate market. It seems for everybody with an opinion, there are an equal number of theories about where the housing market is going. So, not to be left out of the crowd……. I thought I would chime in with an (updated) opinion of my own."

The Shark Investor presents How To Live The Life Of Your Dreams (Visual Guide) posted at The Shark Investor, saying, "A visual guide to living rich and happy life"

Concerning Kids presents The Top Child Vitamins Available Today - A Helpful List posted at Concerning Kids.

Barry presents Keeping A Change Jar At Home posted at Associate Money.

Brian McKay presents Roth IRA vs Tradtional IRA posted at, saying, "Which IRA is best for me?
Choosing the right IRA depends on your financial circumstances, your adjusted gross income and your age."

FIRE Getters presents Advantages of Online Banking posted at FIRE Finance.

David presents Misperceptions About Getting Out Of Debt posted at Personal Finance Ology, saying, "The road to financial independence begins by avoiding the money traps that get us into trouble in the first place."

Raymond presents Best CD Rates For High Yield Certificate Of Deposits posted at Money Blue Book.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents YNAB (You Need A Budget) Personal Budget Software Is 10% Off posted at The Digerati Life, saying, "Budgeting is the first step to having control over the household's finances. I review a popular budgeting tool for managing family budgets."

Livingalmostlarge presents From rags to riches posted at LivingAlmostLarge, saying, "to give hope to single moms out there..."


Pamela Parker presents Guardians for your Kids - the Technical Info posted at Legacy.

Cary Anderson presents Campground Safety posted at Should You Marry Her?, saying, "Camping is a blast, don't let failure to adhere to basic safety procedures spoil the fun."

Woman Divorce Support presents Divorce Advice for Women: Help with Support and Recovery at Woman Divorce Support posted at Divorce Advice, saying, "Help for divorcees."

Gary R. presents Racing An Airstream posted at Camping Tips, saying, "Who isn't looking for a good deal these days? While camping and campground fees have always been a great deal, there's a website I just found, that currently has over 1,600 campsites listed that are either free or almost free, meaning $10 or less."

Praveen presents The Anti-Intervention posted at Tao of Simplicity.

Sarah presents Famous Women Poker Player Profile: Lucy Rokach posted at Female Poker Player, saying, "Lucienne (Lucy) Rokach �C one of these top-notch women, is an English poker player from Stoke-on-Trent whose notable achievements include earning over $1.9 million in total poker winnings."

jen from windy ridge presents Dr. Wyatt posted at The Chronicles Of Windy Ridge, saying, "A 5 year old's view of wrinkles"

OurBlogs presents Truthfulness posted at A Guide to Raising Great Kids.

Doug Boude presents My Yoke is Easy and My Burden is Light posted at Doug Boude (rhymes with 'loud').

Woman Tribune presents Feng Shui Your Baby’s Nursery posted at Woman Tribune.

Kevin presents Why Supporting Children's Intuition Is Important to Their Success as Adults posted at More4kids, saying, "Catherine Crawford wrote this article for More4kids on the importance of intuition in children and how to nurture and encourage it."

For the next issue, I'd love to see some articles about...
  • Dealing with parents when their health is failing. What can you do when one or both isn't capable of living on their own but refuses to live with you or in an assisted care facility?
  • How are you encouraging your kids and motivating them to do their homework?
  • If you've discovered learning disabilities in any of your kids, how did you discover it? How do you deal with special needs kids and balance your relationship with your other kids? Are there any resources that you can recommend for parents of kids with disabilities?

That concludes this edition of The Family Life Blog Carnival. Stay tuned for the next edition (planned for February 16th. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the family life using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

Photo credit: Day in the Park courtesy of bjearwicke

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Going Green at the 2009 Detroit Autoshow

Mercedes-Benz S400 BlueHYBRID (english) - More amazing videos are a click away

The 2009 North American International Autoshow is underway. There are a lot more "greener" car offerings this time. If you happen to be in the Motor City between January 17th and 25th you can check them out for yourself. I've attended several of the Detroit shows in the past and always enjoyed seeing the prototypes and the new cars and trucks. I've highlighted the "greener" cars below.

It is encouraging to see so many "greener" cars being offered and there are some other exciting cars as well. I hope that you've enjoyed our stop at the 2009 NAIS.

Friday, January 16, 2009

So You Got an iPod for Christmas

Did you get an iPod or other mp3 type player for Christmas? If you did you might have already put a lot of music on it but there is so much more that you can put on your iPod or mp3 player. Maybe you might want to give podcasts a try.

Wikipedia defines podcasts as "a series of audio or video digital media files which is distributed over the Internet by synicated download, through Web feed, to portable media players and peronsal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from most other digital media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added. Like the term broadcast, podcast can refer either to the series of content itself or to the method by which it is syndicated; the latter is also called podcasting." The variety and number of podcasts that are available out there is absolutely amazing. If you can think up a subject or topic, chances are that someone has done a podcast series or sing episode about it. Podcasts can often be like a radio broadcast with the added advantage that you can listen to it when you want and how you want. You can listen to them in your car, at the gym, going for a walk/run, or however you choose. I've seen podcasts about politics, IT (information technolgy), humor, old time radio classics, music, book dramitisations, and the list goes on and on.

There are several great sites which offer a variety of podcasts that you can choose from. If you've already installed iTunes on your computer, you might not have noticed that they have a lot of podcasts there. I really enjoy Podcast Alley, they have thousands of podcasts and searching is pretty easy. The have a listening of Top Ten podcasts as voted on by their users and at is updated througout the month. If you like NPR (National Public Radio), you might want to have a look at the podcasts directory they have. If you like the BBC, you can check out their podcast directory as well. In addition many companies and traditional print magazines have gotten into podcasting and you can find podcasts at many of these sites as well.

Once you've found a podcast that you'd like to hear you'll want to download it. How this is done will vary from site to site and device to device to device. Some sites will stream the podcasts so if you click on it you'll start to hear the podcast. If downloading options are very clear, you might try right-clicking on the link that looks like it is the podcast. This file will often have an extension ending in ",mp3", this is the most common format, since there are also video podcasts, you'll want to make sure that the format is something that will play on your computer or iPod/mp3 player. If you like the podcast you can ofte "subscribe" to it, which will automatically download new versions of that podcast or notify you when there is a new version. Many sites will allow you to subscribe to their podcast via iTunes. This is a handy feature because everytime you start up iTunes it looks to see if there are any new podcasts from your subscriptions.

There are a lot of people that are doing podcasts for the sheer enjoyment of it and there are a lot of good ones out there but like anything else there are many that aren't so entertaining or enjoyable, so you might want to do some experimenting. Many of the podcasts offered are available to download for free, but the people producing them will often accept donations. Producing podcasts does require work on the part of the podcaster and whoever might help them produce it, in addition to their preparation time, and hosting charges (which can get expensive if a lot of people are downloading their podcasts), so if you like a podcast don't be affraid to donate to the podcaster.

I hope that you'll give the world of podcasts a try, I'm sure that you'll find something that you like. Is there a site that you like to use to find podcasts, feel free to include it in the comments section.

Photo credit: Apple iPod Video courtesy of abbyyy

Friday, January 9, 2009

Announcing New Blog Carnivals

Systems-Overload is pleased to announce that we’ll be hosting three new blog carnivals in 2009. I really enjoyed hosting The Holiday Spirit Blog Carnival and plan to run it again starting in November through shortly before Christmas (look for more on this in future posts) and I was pleased to see what a variety of posts were submitted.

The variety of posts that were submitted to The Holiday Spirit Blog Carnival got me to thinking that hosting some other blog carnivals could be a win-win-win situation. First, it widens the opinions, view, and advice that can be offered by our humble operation. Second, it exposes our readers to other blogs that they might not have otherwise discovered. Third, it gives other bloggers a chance publicize their articles. On a more selfish note, this also allows me the chance to read what other bloggers have to say!

Being a father I’m interested in all kinds of things related to family life. Most families are busy, active, and facing many challenges that are shared by many other families so a recurring blog carnival about family life could be a valuable resource to many of us. We can all learn from each other. We often find that while we think that our problems are unique, the circumstances probably are, but there is enough commonalty to many of our challenges that chances are someone else has already dealt with it before (or at least something closely resembling it). If you’re a blogger with a family maybe you have some tips and tricks for various things related to family life. What are some activities that your family likes to do? What are some things that you do to balance home and work lives? What are some quick healthy meals that you fix and your family enjoys? How have you solved some behavioral problems with your kids? How are you teaching your kids about the value of money and saving? How are you helping your kids plan for their futures? How are helping your kids with their homework? What creative ways are you stretching your family budget? If you’re a new parent or have young children you might be faced with sleeping problems (both for yourself and your kid(s)). If you have teenagers, you might be dealing with rebellious kids or wondering how to keep your kids out of trouble and interested in school. If your own parents are getting older and facing health issues you might be wondering how to deal with issues related to taking care of them or wondering how to deal with issues related to several generations living under the same roof. Single parents raising children face other challenges that might not be understood by households with two parents but certainly understood by other single parents. If you’re a divorced parent that doesn’t have primary custody, you might be wondering how to stay involved in your children’s lives and how to keep a civil relationship with your former spouse. I hope to address many of these concerns with posts at The Family Life Blog Carnival. If you’re interested in submitting an article for this carnival you can do that here. If there are some topics that you’d like to see covered feel free to express this in the comments appearing after that blog carnival edition (or even at the end of this post). I’m currently planning to publish the first edition on January 19, 2009, with one edition planned each month through June so stay tuned here for further details or all currently planned editions are indicated a The Family Life Blog Carnival.

I’ve been interested in being more productive for a few years now. Like many other people I found G.T.D. (Getting Things Done) by David Allen. Reading the book along with some of the blogs that I follow made me interested in writing about productivity and getting things done. Many of us are busily going through our lives and struggling with all that we have to do, so you can understand why GTD and other productivity systems are popular. GTD gives a lot of flexibility into how you use it and has developed an almost cult following and sometimes there are some interesting discussions between GTDers about the “right way” to implement it and practice it. How have you implemented G.T.D.? How do you manage to keep up with your weekly reviews? How do you keep all of your lists updated and current? How do you maintain and track your Next Actions? Has your Some Day/Maybe list become unmanageable? How do you manage to work on your “own” pet projects, when your schedule is swamped? How do you manage to stay focused and productive on the road? How do you work in teams around the globe? How do you manage all your email and all your communications? I hope to tackle some these and other productivity topics at The Carnival of Productivity And GTD. If you’re interested in submitting articles you can do that here. I’m currently planning to publish the first edition on January 26, 2009, with one edition planned each month through June so stay tuned here for further details or all currently planned editions are indicated a Carnival of Productivity And GTD.

We’re all looking for ways to lead better lives. Maybe you want to lead a more frugal lifestyle. Maybe you’ve decided that there is too much clutter in your life and you simply want to simplify your life. Maybe you’re looking for more D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) projects that can save you money. Maybe you’re looking for ways to save money in these trying economic times. Maybe you’re looking for ways to lead a healthier life. I hope that The Better Life Carnival will have articles on these and other associated topics. If you’re interested in submitting articles you can do that here. I’m currently planning to publish the first edition on February 9, 2009, with one edition planned each month through June so stay tuned here for further details or all currently planned editions are indicated a The Better Life Carnival.

So we’re pleased to announce and host The Family Life Blog Carnival, Carnival of Productivity And GTD, and The Better Life Carnival. We look forward to all the great articles that you all will submit and we look forward to sharing them with you all. We hope to help harness the power of community and the internet. If you have any ideas or topics that you’d like to see covered feel free to leave a comment. Stay tuned, feel free to subscribe via email or RSS, and be sure to share articles that you like with friends and favorite us at your various social networks (like Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Digg).

Photo credit: "Global1" courtesy of thanx

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

9 Plus Things I Want to See in 2009

Happy 2009 everyone! A new year always brings the promise of a brand new year, especially if you weren't happy with the way the last year went. It gives us a chance to make changes and even encourages it. I'm not going to make any predictions for the new year, but here are some things that I'd like to see in 2009.

  • More out of the box thinking and solutions. Doing the same old thing will often get you the same old results. Many of our big problems today require looking at things differently and maybe even thinking of some bizarre solutions. Brain storming means that you don't judge ideas while you're coming up with them, only later when it comes time to evaluate them. Remember that most of the world at one time believed that the world was flat.
  • Back to basics. Somethings have become so complicated that few people understand them and if no one truly understands something, how is it supposed to work? Many regulatory agencies have become delinquent in doing their jobs. Many of the financial institutions that became troubled in the last few years weren't doing proper Risk Management. Many athletes and sports teams find success when they return back to the basics and find their way again.
  • A Manhattan Project for Alternative Energy. Dan Carlin suggested in his Common Sense podcast that if we could do a Manhattan Project for alternative energy similar to that done for the atomic bomb with a government and industry focus on the subject that we could solve many of the problems we face. Can you imagine the kind of research and development that could be done if even 10% of the money spent annually on the military by the U.S. was spent on this! If big industry and several large governments were working on this jointly this could be tackled.
  • A replacement for plastic. Plastic is everywhere (I notice tea bags were indivitually packaged in plastic at work the other day) and many people don't realize that it is a petroleum product, meaning that oil is needed in order to produce it. Even if gasoline engines in cars and trucks were replaced with hybrid and so on, there is an amazing amount of plastic used in everything.
  • An end to "the war on" mentality. There has been a war on drugs, more recently the war on terrorism, and a whole host of wars on this and that, the idea of declaring war on various problems doesn't work. In the past wars usually had some way to determine if they were successful or not, they had clear objectives, and they usually had some kind of timeline. Even the Hundred Year War had a beginning and end. You just wonder how long all these "wars on..." will last. The Cold War last more than half a century, how long will the current war on terrorism last?
  • More Bi-partisan efforts by the American government as well as effort by polictical parties in other countries to realize that they need to look after the needs of their people. "Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power." George Orwell in 1984.
  • An end to Management bounuses for getting rid of people or for "off-shoring" work. There is something obscene about management getting huge bonuses when they lay-off or fire thousands of workers or move thousands of jobs off-shore just to save some money.
  • More focus on the long run. Wall Street is so focused on companies quarterly profits that few companies are really looking the long run and aren't therefore willing to take some steps that would be good for their company but might take longer to yield results than a quarter or two.
  • Treat other people the way that you'd like to be treated. Can you imagine if people stopped to think about what they were doing before they did it, what effect it would have on the people that they're doing it too, and if they'd like it if this was done to them.
  • Treat the world with a feeling of stewardship and responsibility. We were all given the chance to live on this world, think about how we're leaving it to our kids and grandkids. We also need to show more respect for the animals living here as well, I'm not saying that we all need to become vegitarians but there is an awful lot of mistreatment of animals (i.e. dog fights)
  • Lastly, more concern for other people. I often think that the daily news has made us calous to the trials and tribulations of others. So often it seems that people want to blame the victims for their misfortune.
Many people have started or will be starting New Year's resolutions. Here are some articles that you might want to check out as you plan or go about your New Year's resolutions.

I hope that the things that I want to see aren't too pie in the sky and that we can move forward on many of them. I also hope that 2009 will be a great year!

Photo credit: Happy New Year courtesy of gabriel77