Tag Archives: applications

Taxes and Telecommuting

Surprise! Some states may claim that simply having an employee telecommuting from that state qualifies your business as ‘doing business in that state.’ in the past, a business had to have offices in the state to qualify, but in the Internet age that’s all getting blurred, and in the slow economy, economically weak states are getting more aggressive and creative in discovering new revenues. According to this WSJ post, the only appropriate answer is to have the telecommuter resign and form a consultant service provider relationship with invoices and the like.

I can attest that this is an effective solution, as all of the people who’ve ever worked for Brockmann & Company were contracted in this way. The contractor took on responsibility for taxes and the firm avoided the adminisative burden of payroll, workers compensation, medical and social security tax collection and benefit calculations. Workers knew what they got paid, and the administrators deducted the labor costs from revenues directly.

WiFi in cars, trains, buses and planes

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the chance to travel by limo bus (via the Boston-New York Limoliner) and today by plane where WiFi is complementary. This flight, Delta 1001 from Boston Logan to Atlanta is packed but comes with complementary WiFi from GoGoInternet. In fact this post comes via aircraft WiFi and satellite (I believe).

Slow, but great for lumpy transmissions like this posting process. In fact the most painful part of this process is the fact that I have to turn off the WYSIWYG editor of the content management system, and go with a plain Jane HTML editor since Apple doesn’t support Flash on the iPad. But, other than that annoyance, it’s a pretty solid experience.

I’ve been meaning to write about a Gigaom article I saw about the growing availability of WiFi in modern cars, and the whole trend towards smarter vehicles. Probably in 1995, when I was the Internet evangelist for my employer, I developed the idea that it would make sense to put an IP address on cars. At the time, I limited the promotion of the idea since wireless networks were just migrating to digital service from analog, and the only benefit that I could see was it could become a convenient method for the state to track stolen cars, fugitives and wanted persons associating with known vehicles. It could also be used to record vehicles traveling faster than the posted speed limits, a la the hated photocop technology currently deployed in the Phoenix area. Yuck. Some positives, but many negatives here.

Fortunately, the devices have gotten cheaper, smaller and faster in the last fifteen years, and the apps available include network gaming and entertainment playback of movies and shows. so, a WAN connection to the car, with a distribution WiFi gateway in the car a la mobile phone tethering makes plenty of sense for improving the passenger experience, but what about the driver? What’s in this for her?

Well, I see cool apps being made available such as:

  • navigation
  • traffic management (congestion caused by accident ahead, shall I reroute you?),
  • trip-specific news (“price of gas at the Gilderland rest stop ahead is $3.10 per gallon. It is 15 cents cheaper at Lee rest stop twenty two miles further. At present speed you can make it in eighteen minutes. You have sufficient fuel.”)
  • voice-activated games perhaps about the area surrounding the highway you’re driving on. Route 90 for example drives through New York state passing neat little towns like Amsterdam, Mohawk and other settlements that were made famous when the Erie Canal came through in the early 1800s. The word game could be a contest between the driver and other drivers traveling the same highway, like a kind of Jeopardy or some adaptation of Wheel of Fortune that doesn’t require seeing the word layout.

Getting the driver to participate in non visual activities and services like these few suggested here, can only improve highway safety since it would help them concentrate while driving instead of passively consuming talk radio or the latest pop music. Radio services are better left for the local driver, who is only driving a short local distance and has sufficient changes in road surface, street directions, elevation and other drivers in nearby lanes to keep them fully engaged. Besides, thats who the advertisers are aiming for anyways. The smart car with communications should really a benefit for drivers and passengers in ways that help safety and comfort.

Fashion Industry Shows How Tweets Make an Impact


twitter_logo_sThe fashion industry has hit a vein and it’s full of gold. Leaders such as the fashion giant, Oscar de la Renta has managed to cook up excitement, and intrigue into their new products and have used Twitter to help with the enduser ‘noise’ momentum.  But let us be clear, not by just  giving out raw information, but by cleverly mixing ‘business with pleasure’.

The Wall Street Journal writes about how Erika Bearman (Oscar de la Renta Director of Communications), did not just give raw information about products but would essentially tease her followers (oscarPRgirl), currently numbering over 170,000, and provide some vague personal information that has kept their many potential customers interested. She manages to get over 1,000 new followers each week and like the article mentions, even brings up suggestions from her twitter feed in board meetings.

  • But what can the rest of us learn from Ms. Bearman’s, and Oscar de la Renta’s use of Twitter?
  • Is it that interaction with customers and potential customers, leads to more enthusiasm?
  • Or is it that just more information feeds consumer commitment and ultimately more sales?

The answer is probably a mixture of both, but we have to understand that the internet phenomenon that is Twitter is a lightening rod for consumer interests and passions. 170,000 followers sounds like a lot of fanboys, but knowing that there are 882 x more women in America kinda puts it into perspective. Oscar’s able to tap into the enthusiasm of the opinion leaders of the mass market of the fashion consuming world. These folks are willing to signal their interest in following what’s going on at the brand. This sets in motion the notion of a potential two-way dialog with the people and brands that you admire.

Imagine being able to not only follow what your favs are doing, but your comments on your favorite brand, movie star or athlete’s tweet you may in fact get a response from that brand, star or athlete. It’s this potential that I believe excites people and what should have many companies getting excited about getting into – particularly those involved in particularly personal expressions of one’s personality, character and attitudes.

For consumer brands, Twitter is becoming an invaluable method of direct contact with your most passionate customers, a rare channeled opportunity to influence and be influenced by, that should not be passed up. Of course the connection with the customers is much more personal and laid back than making a support call into a customer service center, it’s the connection at the personal and emotional level that is the foundation of Twitter. It’s what makes Twitter an important tool in the firms communications arsenal for firing up interest on products, the company itself, answering critics and shaping the face or voice of the company, brand, campaign or product.

Research Shows Dogs Help Collaboration


workerdogDoes the presence of a canine make people collaborate more effectively?

This is the question researchers at Central Michigan University studied in an advertising development experiment. A dozen groups of four persons were asked to build a 15-second advertisement. Although everyone was asked to contribute ideas, the groups had to choose one. Half of the groups had a dog present during the brainstorming meetings, while half had no access to an animal.

Effectiveness of collaboration was measured in a survey at the end of the experience. On measures of trust, team cohesion and intimacy, those groups with dogs ranked their interactions with other team members higher than those groups without dogs.

I found The Economist report of this result very interesting. I’ve known that dog-friendly employers also had bean bag chairs, fussball tables, all-you-can-drink soda policies and lots of natural sunlight were stereotypical of west coast Internet companies, or at least of Internet companies, but I didn’t appreciate the effect of dog-friendly policies on employee attitude to teamwork.

Now, if only we could teach Rover to write software, we’d really be making progress!

Employee-Employer Trust and Privacy


cyberslackingThe relationship between employee and employer is a unique one. It is unlike any other relationship in ones life. Since the time of Henry Ford’s great paternalistic employer experiments we’ve come to know that the employer is not like your mother and that there shouldn’t be sentimental attachments or expectations that might prevent the business from progressing in its competitive market.

Customers pay the company, which in turn provides the paycheck that allows your family to eat. However, it is also the place that imposes its agenda on you from 9 to 5, five days a week and sometimes longer. They require you to travel from time to time, pay the travel expenses but don’t compensate you for your absence away from home. The company also supplies your with certain articles for your work, like a company car or laptop or office supplies and even an office with a desk perhaps. For some folks, the lines between personal and company property and the lines between personal and company privacy are not so clear and are even blurred.

With this article in the wsj.com, Monitoring the Monitors, the issue of trust in the relationship comes into play.

Issues of cyberslacking and safeguarding valuable information need to be addressed so that the time and money being spent on the employees on working are actually working.

Obviously, cracking whips and having a no tolerance policy for facebook or gmail are probably a little draconian in these trendy times. Also not caring what employees do at work could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted productivity, spyware attacks, hacker vulnerability and internet security.

There are plenty of keystroke recorders, monitor screenshot recorders, URL blockers, and URL restrictors, but a promising technology to the issue of office productivity is software that controls the bandwidth given to certain sites.

The would mean that you could go to youtube, or check your personal email, but that it would take longer to load allowing higher priority business applications to traverse the network unencumbered. Also, when you went to load a business related site, like brockmann.com, it would load as fast as it can. This kind of technology encourages actually focusing on work-related things, and discourages sites that are not so.

Employees would not be on such a short leash as a total ban and they might still feel like human beings by the time the clock hits 5.