Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Slow Summer? Good Time for a Backup...

As we approach the middle of summer, it seems like many are heading off on vacations now that school's out and the summer is in full swing. One of the best ways to have that piece of mind while on vacation? Be sure that everything is backed up before you leave.

The fine folks over at iphonejd.com had a sponsored article today about the Drobo (their sponsor this month). Although a sponsored post, it serves as a good reminder of the importance of a good back up system and, in this case, a system that allows for expansion and can grow as you grow over time.

With that backup in place, head off on your vacation and enjoy your leisure time knowing your information is being safely backed up.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Traveling Tech: What to Take on Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times Personal Tech column had an article on the tech that Brian Chen would take on vacation with him. His criteria:

My personal packing starts with devices that are compact and lightweight. The price tag should not exceed $500, and if my smartphone can capably perform a task, I don't bother with something that does the same thing.

Some of his items came from or are reviewed on one of my favorite websites, The Wirecutter. Going on vacation with an iPad Mini, a Roku stick, and a GPS car mount seems like a bit of overkill, but that's just my personal style of travel. However, the Anker wall charger with 4 ports for charging would definitely come in handy for all the family tech devices that seem to overpopulate our travel bags these days.

I did like Mr. Chen's suggestion of a sous vide cooker, something that I had never considered to take on vacation with me. But, based on his review and the product he mentioned, it may have to find a place into the bag the next time the clan ventures out for a trip.

It feels like these days we are packing less clothing and more technology with each trip...


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Reading: Love is the Killer App (Tim Sanders)

I've been working my way through some of the backlog of books in my ever growing queue in the corner of my office and Love is the Killer App came to the top this week. It's an older book (2002) with some interestingly dated networking advice and references. At the same time, the principles and suggestions can still be applied to today's business environment.

Sanders focuses on the idea of a "love business" and defines it as
the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners.
The intangibles we possess are our knowledge, network and compassion, which serve as the cornerstones to his approach. An important part of the message to bring forward to today revolves around the importance of building your personal brand and creating an experience for those you interact with. Sanders was ahead of the curve on this point as after the book was published, the media inundated us with stories of how Steve Jobs led Apple had focused on the importance of creating a brand experience as it grew its retail business.

In order to become the "lovecat" that Sanders describes, there are three steps

  • Increase your knowledge
  • Expand your network
  • Share your compassion

There's obviously a lot more in the book (that I wouldn't want to give away for free on a blog), and for $.01 plus shipping, it's definitely worth a read during these warm summer months.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Microsoft Purchases LinkedIn

It's hard to go more than a couple sites deep on the internet in the last week without hitting some story about Microsoft buying LinkedIn. (If you need another one to read, try this one).

As with any acquisition of a company, there are a host of issues to be hammered out. In the case of a company this large, it's going to be a lot of public speculation, my favorite being the price of "26.2" and whether it is some sort of ode to a marathon that someone recently ran. 

I'm waiting to see how that conspiracy theory shakes out... 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Latest Round of the Net Neutrality Fight

This week brought the latest decision in the ongoing fight over "net neutrality" when the D.C. Circuit's Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC has the authority to treat internet service providers as "utilities" akin to telephone companies. This allows the FCC to regulate the ISP's as they currently do with telephone providers. One of the biggest issues is the FCC's ability to stop the ISP's from blocking or slowing down access to certain websites or content and from creating "fast lanes" to certain internet websites.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said
After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the Commission's ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections - both on fixed and mobile networks - that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.
Unfortunately, this fight is far from over as AT&T announced they would be seeking review of this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will choose to hear the case.

As this debate goes on, the net neutrality debate continues to center around whether our internet access is a "luxury" or a utility (like our phone system) and how it should be treated going forward.





Monday, June 6, 2016

I Want to Hire a "Super Lawyer"

This morning's consultation was an interesting (and eye opening) referendum on those lists of lawyers who are supposedly the best (but really just purchased their listing so they could have the magazine in their waiting room). I'm not even the only one discussing this one today, Attorney At Work also had a column on the attorney side of spending money on the lists.

While the Attorney at Work piece focused on the attorney side of signing up and paying to be on these lists, I had the pleasure of sitting across from a nice young lady who had paid more than $15,000 to a "Super Lawyer" to represent her. It seemed like money well spent because he had a nice office, had a nice secretary (who the client spoke to almost exclusively because the attorney was never available) and she got monthly bills that she paid because she assumed her case was moving forward.

The case was moving forward, but without much being done by her attorney. In fact, the case had been sent out for arbitration, a fact that the client didn't know until she received a notice about it. When she called to talk to her attorney, he was once again unavailable to talk to her. So the client decided to swing by the attorney's office to schedule a time to prepare for the arbitration. When she arrived at the office, her attorney was not there and the secretary was not at her usual desk.

After more calls and emails, she found out that her "Super Lawyer" has been suspended from the practice of law, his "secretary" is really a virtual receptionist and her file is nowhere to be found. The client was aghast that on the website, the lawyer is still listed and there is no indication of his true situation.

While I am a firm believer in technology and using its advantages and various assets to effectively and efficiently manage a law practice, the plight of this client really demonstrated the dark side that still exists.

So that brought her to my office, where I'm not a "Super Lawyer", but I am an active member of the bar who can help her with her arbitration. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Changes to Payday Loans are (Possibly) Coming...

On Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed new rules that would change access to payday loans and restrict some of the processes used by payday lenders. Some of these changes would include requiring lenders to consider a borrower's ability to repay the loan by checking their income, financial obligations and borrowing history. In addition, the proposals would limit the ways the lenders can seek repayment and the number of loans that can be made in succession to a borrower.

One of the problems that the CFPB can't address is the interest rate on the loans, which is controlled by the individual states and many of the payday loans can have interest rates of nearly 400%. This is one of the most appalling provisions in many payday loans that many people don't consider or realize. In addition to the abominable interest rate, many loans require the borrower to pay a fee of 15% of the amount they borrow. All of these fees add up very quickly for someone who just needs a short infusion of cash.

The proposed rules would also require the lenders to give the borrower written notice before utilizing collection practices for loan repayment.

All of these changes will be fought aggressively by the lobbyists and other interested parties who make significant profits on these payday loans to individuals who are often the most vulnerable to these lenders. The CFPB can't affect the state-based interest rates, but is at least aiming to restrict access where it can.

A copy of the CFPB's highlights in .pdf format can be found here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Online Shareholder Meetings

Yesterday, the New York Times had an article on Intel's annual shareholder meeting, which was held virtually this year. Steven Davidoff Solomon's position is that these online meetings, while technologically feasible these days, are a bad idea because they remove the ability for the company to "bond" with their shareholders.

The list of companies cited by Mr. Solomon included Intel, GoPro, SeaWorld Entertainment, PayPal, Fitbit and Yelp, who have all held virtual meetings. The advantages to the virtual meetings tend to be cost-related as the companies do not have to pay for location expenses like travel, food and other overhead related expenses. Also, the virtual meeting method allows for shareholders who can not physically attend the meeting to be included.

Using the virtual meeting, companies can also control the actions of shareholders, including protests, questions and proposals that would often arise in person at the annual meetings. By having these items submitted in advance of the meeting, the board of directors is able to plan a response in advance and have it vetted by legal counsel and other interested parties before addressing the shareholders.

While the virtual meeting may be on the rise, the article also points to the in-person shareholder meetings of Berkshire Hathaway and Disney as examples of annual meetings that are "fun" for the shareholders, which demonstrates the importance of the personal interaction with shareholders.

Comparing the companies in the article to the companies that I represents, it seems that many of my clients use the virtual meeting as well, simply because they are smaller companies with fewer shareholders and they are often spread across the country (and sometimes the world). The company's budget is better served by utilizing the virtual meeting method to get their business done. Many of the companies have shareholders who are friends and family, given the opportunity to invest as the business got off the ground, and that familiarity allows for personal interaction, even when done virtually for the annual meeting.