Sunday, October 12, 2014

Boy Scout Camp Staff Reunion - Goin' WAY Back

I love reunions.  Class reunions, Radio Station reunions and now I was recently invited back to a Camp Staff reunion this past Saturday at Camp Ingawanis in Waverly.  I looked forward to it, but didn't know what to expect as I was only on camp staff for 1 year in 1986.  I was on Cub Scout Day Camp staff for many years and enjoyed that, but felt I wanted to try camp staff at least one time before I started full time in radio, so I was a "Camp Commissioner" at both Marble Rock and Wavery.

Camp Staff - 1986
(I'm the 3rd one in from the left)

The reunion was set for 4pm at the Council Ring (main campfire site) at Camp Ingawanis and I arrived about 4:15pm.  When I walked in, I was saddened to see that there had been a Jamboree reunion at 1pm which would have been neat to go to as I was at the 1981 National Jamboree in Fort AP Hill Virginia.

Nevertheless, I strolled in.....and I knew 6 people, 5 of which I liked....if you know what I mean. There were probably 40 of us there, all broken into groups of people who knew each other.  I stayed in a group that knew me and here's how the conversation went...

1.  I see you on Facebook a lot.
2.  I see you still like the Yankees
3.  How's business?
4.  Who are you again?

Like I said, it was neat going back, but wish I would have known more people.  Since serving on staff in 1986, that was a few years ago and as I told Gary Stattler, "Wow....everyone looks old."  A few more grey hairs, a few more tall tails and those damn hills got higher for me.

In 1986 I was a camp commissioner, which I enjoyed.  Here's a photo of me entertaining some kids from Hampton when they came out to see me on visitor's night.

Camp Commissioner - Visitor's Night 1986
Jennifer & Travis Peters

If they have another one, I will more than likely attend.  It was good to see Eric Branson, Gary Stattler, Robert Hagerty, Chad Hagerty and Bill Winder -- even though Bill really had no idea who I was.  I'd certainly like to attend a Woodbadge reunion and Jamboree reunion as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Three Weeks - Three Social Media Events

Besides being "The Computer Guy," I like to dabble in Social Media.  I do this for several reasons, MAINLY to build my own business through Social Media, BUT, to guide others.  I've been asked many times, "Pat, why don't you start your own social media business??"  My answer has always been similar to the presentation from Jason Falls "There's no fresh broccoli."

Every idea that's ever been thought of has been done.  Now Facebook is controlling Fan Pages by giving them a massive beat down UNLESS you pay to play.   I can only imagine that others will follow suit.  Sure, hire me and I'll help you....but I won't do it FOR you.

On 9/9/14, 9/17/14 and 9/25-9/26 I have been at three social media events in three weeks.  Let me give you a QUICK synopses of each one.  My rating scale of 1-10 is my opinion....your mileage may vary.

9/9/14 - Creating The 'Buzz' In Social Media -  Sara Broers at Social Connections, LLC was the organizer of this event in Mason City and it went off well.  I happened to be the lead-off speaker, which is fun and enjoyable, as I can sit back and listen to everyone else.  There could have been a bigger crowd.  Rural Iowa NEEDS these conferences and Sara has a good handle on it.  

Between the four afternoon speakers, I thought that Katy Flint hit the home run of the day.  Armed with 2 phones, she gave a 45 minute presentation (well, 40 minutes, because she spent the first 5 minutes telling people it was hard to follow me) that went VERY well.  She presented the iphone and it's features, the Android phone and it's benefits and something that needs to be stressed more, cell phone courtesy.
Katy Flint

I appreciate Sara asking me to speak at this event.  I think the event was a 7 on the day, as a bigger crowd would have spurred more audience participation and livened up the group.  This will happen, just give it time.

9/17/14 - The Social Media Rockstar Event - The event was put on by Sarah Kuglin and her staff at Redwood Valley Tech Solutions in Willmar, MN.  This was my second year attending and aside from lunch and a highly technical and slightly un-organized Facebook presentation, I think it was a solid 8 in my ratings.  The room was full with a lot of new faces, which is always a good sign, but the energy was a bit lower than the Rock N Roll enthusiasm of last year's event.  Yeah, I don't know why?

Several speakers were re-runs which made me nervous about going, however, Jason Falls and Lee Odden hit the mark by providing new and exciting content.   Jason Falls, a Bourbon swigging, no bullshit, Kentucky country boy never disappoints with his humor and his down to earth, warm-fuzzy presentations.  No one would ever come away from one of his presentations by saying, "I didn't get that."  Lee provided new insights on Blogging that made me come away with the "Yeah, I can do that" type of thinking.  The rest of the speakers were spot on as well, aside from the two guys talking about Facebook at the end of the day, when people's heads were full anyway.  

Rockstars Sarah & Pat

One thing that stuck with me was that when I was eating some pizza with some of the speakers the night before, one said, "I wonder when she'll (Sarah) will move this to Minneapolis??"  I told him, "People in RURAL Minnesota NEED this.  If this was in Minneapolis, it would be just something else to go to downtown, parking would be a bitch and no one would really show up.  Put this in a rural setting and the people who need this will show up."  I feel bad that a speaker was put out by driving 2 hours.  I drove 4 hours and I paid for a ticket.  He was there last year, so I didn't hear him speak....I heard him last year.

With a few new speakers, I will probably go again next year, as it will be back at Jackpot Junction, from what I have heard, but there will have to be a few new speakers.

9/25 - 9/26/14 - Social Brand Forum 2014 - This was the biggest risk of the three conferences.  The lineup was a powerhouse of Social Media Celebs.  Chris Brogan was the keynote of the day on Friday, while Thursday was a great day in itself with a more rehearsed Jason Falls and many others. Nick Westergaard and his staff (and children) of Brand Driven Digital lined this up and it was very good.  I had dealings with Nick at another conference once and left early in disgust because I didn't care for the subject say the least and so I was very critical of anything that he would ever do again.  I heard him present at EntreFest and he promoted his event there as well.  Like I said, the lineup was stellar, so I knew it wouldn't be one guy talking the whole time for 7 hours straight.

Highlights -- Chris Brogan of course, Jason Falls, Kerry Gorgone, Amy Schmittauer and John Jantsch who actually filled my brain with so much info, it nearly shut off.  Excellent topics!

With Chris Brogan

Things I didn't understand or really wrap my head around -- The Live podcast, the presentation from Hubspot with bad sound and poor graphics and what I thought was going to be a funny and enlightening presentation from Matt Ridings turned into something else that only participants who were there would understand.  I'll leave it at that.

I also couldn't understand why as many people as I talked to got free tickets.  I heard 5 men joking, "I'd like to meet someone here who actually paid for a ticket!"  When I pointed out that I did, they laughed and walked away -- so much for earlybird entries.  Granted, I got $100 off and 2 free books.   The Marriott was nice as it always is, but add on the $10 per day internet charge and $8 a day parking fee, I left with a $340 motel bill, plus meals.

As far as the conference, this was a solid 9.  I can live with things I don't understand, if it's outweighed by speakers who relate to me, make me feel worth being there and listen to me if I have a question -- and they all did.  Unless I get a free ticket next year, I doubt I will go back next year, but who knows -- this could be an every other year thing, depending on the line up.  Most everyone there was raving about the content, including me.  I met a lot of  "Social Media Managers."

Anyway, I have rambled long enough and I appreciate the time and effort the 3 events put into making theirs great!  I am told I'm a tough customer, but I AM the customer.  I'm a self employed one man show....there's no one back home to fix computers when I'm at these conferences, so I have to choose wisely and I think I did!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

We're Gonna Win Twins -- We're Gonna Score!

As many of you know, I'm a Yankee baseball fan through and through.  However, little do people know that since August 15th, 2008, I bet I haven't watched one full baseball game of any team out there.  You see, my Dad who was the ultimate Yankee Fan died that day and a lot of that love for baseball died with him.  The last game we watched together was the 2008 Yankee Old Timers' Game and he cried through most of it.  It broke my heart.

SO, fast forward to about 3 weeks ago when we were hard-pressed to come up with a birthday gift for our nephew Luke.  He turned 10 and I suggested to Becky that I just take the kid to a Twins game. Becky, stunned, said, "Oh, ok, but you know he's a child and you really don't care for kids."  I told Becky that I thought Luke had matured a bit and he didn't annoy me as much as he used to.  For the record, kids who are well behaved don't annoy me that much, but like most things, one bad apple spoils the bunch.
Not bad seats!

Naturally, I think Luke's mom & dad were a bit stunned on the $50 per seat tickets I got, but if I'm going to invest time in going, I want to see, hear and feel what is going on.  Upper deck to me is a waste of money if you want to see a game.  SO, if he never gets this close again, he can say he was right near the action for this game (Sept 19, 2014) in Minnesota.

I miscalculated the drive, so we got to the night game (7:10pm) at 4:30pm, so we were pretty much first in line at our gate.  The Twins' staff were VERY helpful on telling where to go and giving us direction, even with my Yankee hat on.  Looking back, I can't remember wearing  a baseball cap since working weekend shifts at KLMJ, so it had been 14 years.  (More stats in a bit)  Luke is just so excited and I'm even smiling a bit about it.  The drive wasn't bad and the parking was a snap.

We get our good seats and I tell Luke to go behind the Indians' dugout, say HI to everyone and they would give him a ball.  I don't think he believed me, but on the 2nd attempt, he came back with a ball and he was VERY excited.  I put the ball in my back pocket after Luke dropped it and it rolled down 6 rows.  We ate and it sprinkled a bit, but it wasn't too bad.

Luke and his glove waiting for a ball.

My heart swelled with pride and I got tears in my eyes as the Twins honored an 86 year old POW who got to raise the flag during the National Anthem.  His hands trembling, he saluted the flag just like he would have done in his 20s.  What an emotional time.  The Twins did a great thing.  (More about that later.)
Top Notch Tribute!

Luke watched the game, asked a few questions, and it went into extra innings.  He was very excited when the Twins won the game with a bases loaded single in the bottom of the 10th.

Now for some statistics:

Excellent experience, excellent staff, great section manager who took pride in his work, excellent facilities, and fan engagement with Twitter, Instagram and the MLB App.

My stats:
I am hard pressed to remember the last ballgame I went to, but I think it was taking my Dad to the Royals game in KC and we had press passes in 1996.  I also went to a Cubs game and had press passes to a game at the Metrodome in the late 80's and met Billy Martin and the "good" Yankees.

My Grandpa was a Twins fan and a Harmon Killebrew fan.  If  the Twins won, it was because of Harmon.  If the Twins lost, it was because the "sonsabitches" wouldn't take Harmon's advice on this or that or the other team pitched him outside so he couldn't hit the "goddamned" ball.  Yeah, dyed in the wool Killebrew fan.

The first game I ever went to was when I was 9 and Dad took me to a Twins/A's Double Header at the Old Met.  Great time.  Luke was 10 and this was his 2nd game ever.

Again, hats off to the Twins for the nice time.  I think I will have to contact their Social Media Manager to do an interview with them sometime and post it.

I'll be back.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dan -- Had You Met Him, You Would Have Liked Him

Meet Dan.... I met Dan once, but I felt like I'd known him for years because he was Kerry's boyfriend and she talked about Dan all the time!! Kerry runs Afford A Geek Computer Repair and Solutions in Humboldt. One night about a year and a half ago, Kerry, Dan & I met for supper in Humboldt at Pasquale's Pizza and we talked about computer repair. Dan was just getting into helping Kerry and I was explaining the finer points of working with home customers. I was going to take Dan under my wing and help him out on some calls and then I was going to take everything up to Goldfield and Dan & Kerry would do everything from Goldfield back to Humboldt. That was the plan. It was a good plan and a fun plan -- as they were fun people. Dan seemed tired that night and drank coffee with his pizza to stay awake. That was the last time I saw Dan.

A month or so later, I got a call from Kerry that Dan was sick and had Leukemia. He was in bad shape in Ames. I drove down, met with Kerry and gave her my prayers to Dan. They transferred him to Iowa City....did all sorts of things and they got him to be CANCER FREE through a bone marrow transplant!
Then about 3 weeks ago, Dan was tired -- probably was having coffee with his pizza again and they went back to Iowa City and their worst nightmares had been realized, the cancer had come back....with a vengeance. Dan was in trouble, Kerry had been by his side and her computer business had taken a backseat to his health issues.

I got the word today from Kerry that Dan passed away this afternoon.

What I wouldn't give to have a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza with him and talk about the finer points of dealing with home customers. My heart hurts for Kerry and their families. They truly lost a gem in Dan.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

EntreFEST 2014 - A Wrap Up

Once again, for the 7th straight year, I attended EntreFEST.  This conference is a valuable tool for people who are both new and established entrepreneurs and I have always supported their efforts.  Yes, last year was a bit shaky for me.  I wasn't thrilled with  a couple of things and I was hoping they would work themselves out this year.
They did.
I arrived at around 6:30pm on Wednesday and needed no introduction as I think  my reputation got there ahead of me.  I needed no "sign in ticket" as I was recognized when I walked in the door.  This is a nice feeling and no matter if you've been there 7 years or 2 years, it's nice to be called by name.  One thing that I wasn't thrilled about was that this event was held in 4 different buildings.  The Sheraton, The Hotel Vetro, The Iowa City Public Library and the Englert Theater.  They were actually closer than they looked on the map, but if a person had mobility issues, the theater might as well have been on the moon. 
I checked in to the Sheraton and was told my room was poolside.  UGH, a fate worse than death.  I told them that I'd really wish they could switch rooms and they did.  This hotel was fantastic...and I let them know that MULTIPLE TIMES!  More on that later.
I then switched things over from Facebook to that's where all the cool kids play.  ;-)
Shortly after arrival, they had a reception and drinks and a DJ. (An improvement from Tech Brew the year before.)  I was approached by a gal (I think her name was Rachel) who evidentially was in charge of monitoring my good (or bad) mood and told me that she read every Tweet I had from 2013.  Wow.  She wanted to know how I was doing at that time.  I told her that my ears were bleeding from that "Gawd Awful" music that the DJ was playing.  I'm sure he thought he was good, but as you could see by the disbursement of people in the room, no one was standing near him because you couldn't talk over the music very well.  She then brought over another guy from Decorah and we went back and forth about why EntreFEST always needed to be in Iowa City.  He hung his hat on the fact that they had 500 people signed up.  I never saw 500 people, but maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.  Sure, it's hard to argue with numbers, but I met a number of "students" who got in for half price and very few who had been there for more than 3 years.
I remember a famous quote by a famous Iowa businessman, Bill Krause of Hampton.  "I'd rather serve 1 customer a 1000 times than a 1000 customers once."  Remember, it costs more to get a new customer than to keep a current one....yeah, they forgot that.
The keynote speakers were all fantastic, from the first to the last.  Lydia Brown says that we need more women entrepreneurs in the state.  We rank 51st...and they are counting Washington DC.  We also learned how whiskey is now a go to when it comes for new business.  It was great to hear from both Scott Bush from Templeton Rye and Nate Kaeding formerly of the San Diego Chargers who are whiskey guys and great entrepreneurs.
The breakout classes were also good.  Last year I was pretty tough on Josh from a Social Media Company called Sculpt regarding his presentation.  I have to admit, he hit a homerun this year.  As a matter of fact, he featured my business, The Computer Guy, on his slides and I was humbled and grateful.  He didn't have to do that, and as much of a jerk as I was, he shouldn't have even given me the time of day.   I think I was a squeaky wheel...but I appreciated the grease.
One nice thing that was a topic this year was the amount of legal advice/help that was offered.  From what I could tell, there were 4 different breakout sessions with lawyers, PLUS there was an exhibit booth with a lawyer in it.  We overlook this as small business people, until it's too late.  I'm glad they had this as a resource.
I went to a nice presentation about Co-Working spaces.  Former Sheffield native Mark Nolte was one of the presenters.  A LONG time ago, Mark and I worked at KWGG radio together.  Now he does work for the Iowa City Economic Development and I'm very proud to have known his family. 
Another session I went to was from Nick Westergaard.  Nick had a conference in Des Moines once that I was less than thrilled with.  In fact, I walked out about 3/4 of the way through it.  However, being the nice guy that I am, I wanted to give Nick another shot.  Anyone can have a bad day and I'll take the heat and blame myself for that bad day.  He did a great job on the topic of being a Scrappy Marketer.  I learned a few tips and think that I will go to his 2 day conference in Coralville later this he won't be the only one speaking for 8 hours straight. 
The conference was broken down into 5 areas or "tracks" depending on your need and stage of business.  70 classes, over 100 speakers and it was very polished.  It was a good comeback from last year in Cedar Rapids, but I will doubt it will beat the conferences in Des Moines or Dubuque -- those were my favorites.  I guess I met so many more "life long" friends.  I met people here this year, but doubt they will be back again, as from what I can tell it will be in Iowa City again and it will be about getting new people, not retaining the people who'd been there before.  There were 2 of us from Hampton there, Brook Boehmler, the mayor of Hampton and also the JPEC director at NIACC.  This is a sad reflection, because I know so many more people who NEEDED to be here...and it wasn't about the cost.  I think I only collected 4 or 5 business cards and those were from people who I honestly wanted to connect with down the road.
I didn't go to the Dream Big, Grow Here event as I still have a bad taste in my mouth about it and decided to meet a friend for supper downtown instead.  I was pulling for Tony Halsted from Rudd, but he finished in 2nd place.  The winner of it has a daycare and she will put the money to good use.  I heard everyone did a fine job.
Friday morning the conference breakfast was at 7am and speaker at 8am....yeah, that's what I thought too.  So I checked out and ran my bags down to the car.  The hotel "comped" my parking pass, a savings of $23 and when I went to pay for my breakfast at the hotel restaurant, that was also free, a savings of $13.  Like I said, a great place!  I was a bit late for the morning keynote, but from what I could tell, I wasn't the only one.
I realize that maybe I can be an ass.  I use the work "maybe" loosely, but I want this conference to be the best it can be for all of us who attend.  We are ALL in this together as entrepreneurs.  I want us all to take what we learn here and be able to use it, not just say, "Oh, well, the theory was great, now what?"  I want Chamber Directors and other businesses in our communities to scratch their heads going, "OH, what did we miss out on?"  A powerful conference can do that.  This one did that for a lot of people!  I came back with several good ideas, that's for sure.
All in all, I'd give it an 8 out of 10.  The emcee wasn't as annoying, however lunch on Friday failed miserably as we had to scavenge for our own lunch with "like minded" businesses.  That could have been done in the hotel with assigned tables as they were all numbered anyway.  I actually connect better when I'm at a table and we are eating and sharing ideas.  I like sitting with strangers as it gives me a chance to make new friends.  I do feel bad the events on the Ped Mall got rained out.
Top 5 things that I would fix....and this will seem like a broken record from last year:
1.  Change the Date to not conflict with GRADUATION WEEKEND in Iowa City.  This created a room shortage and a lot of other issues.  April seems to be a good month, just after the 15tth.
2.  Give a discount to Chamber Directors, Development Directors and Main Street Directors.  The numbers seem artificially boosted by a college student discount and those kids won't be there next year anyway.  At least when I get back to town, my Chamber Director won't think I'm completely nuts.
3.  Please, move it out of Iowa City.  Rotate the thing back to Des Moines, Waterloo or Decorah -- cough, cough, cough. 
4.  Solicit to PAST EntreFEST attendees.  I got a nice discount (thanks!) because I had attended for the 7th time but there are only 2 of us left.  I think there was 1 person there with 6 years, and it isn't much better for 4 or 5 years either.  Again, it costs more to get  a new customer than it does an existing one.  Use that logic instead of the "cell phone company logic" I told them they were using.
5. Bring back the live interviews and video and make part of it "real time."  I miss that.  I miss "The Brand Chef" and others who made this conference pop in real time.
Again, a LOT was done right this year and I tip my hat to the people who put this on, it's no easy feat.  There aren't a lot of conferences lately of this magnitude and it's not priced out of anyone's budget.  I look forward to EntreFest 2015.....and don't change it to "Fest 2015" -- It's still about the Entrepreneur!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black Friday -- Buyer Beware!

I want to give you some tips for Black Friday. A day where low prices trump quality. On Saturday, I went to a home to fix an Element TV purchased on Black Friday - 2012. This reminded me of several other issues I have with Black Friday.

Several years ago, in an effort to boost sales of Windows Vista, Staples had a $250 laptop. It ran terrible with only 1GB of RAM in it for Windows Vista. Good news for me, I did a ton of memory upgrades.

Target had a "deal" on Polaroid TVs. They were stacked on pallets. I watched the news as early morning shoppers fought over these TV as they hit the ground. When they broke, they had one unit inside to fix, BUT the warehouse got all of the parts messed up. I went to one business 3 times where the wrong part was there every time. I watched has he ripped the TV from the wall and threw it into the dumpster out in back of his bar. Yup, another Black Friday deal.

Samsung sold TVs that required the tech to re-solder capacitors to the TV. Unacceptable. I refused to do those.

Be aware that some models are "experiments" and really just not ready for prime time. Several years ago they had a TV that wasn't really ready to be released and it only came with a 90 day warranty. You guessed it....on day 91, that's when the problems started.

Last year, HyVee sold Toshiba TVs. They gave them away or sold them through a payroll deduction to their employees. I fixed a lot of those in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Another Black Friday episode.

SO, what do you do????

1. Get the TV home and open it up and use it. Be sure you are clear on the return policy as most are 30 days. NOW, the last several years, Black Friday was on the 26th or 27th...... Christmas Eve/Day is the 24th and 25th. This would be MORE than 30 days. There's nothing more disappointing than a present that doesn't work on Christmas morning AND you can't return it because the 30 days has elapsed.

2. Find out how long the warranty is and buy more. If you pay by credit card, your card company MAY have an extended warranty provision. Get it.

3. Register your TV online right away as they all have websites.

4. IF you have problems, call in right away and get it logged and find out when the the repair will happen. If this is your 2nd or 3rd repair, CALMLY tell them you have had enough and want a new TV.

5. SAVE THE BOX!!! If a TV will be replaced, a common loophole is "oh, we can't do anything if you don't have the box."

6. Be nice to the guy (me) who comes to do the warranty repair. It's not their fault it broke, they didn't build the TV, they didn't call in the issue, so if the wrong parts are sent, it's not their fault. Please take the TV off of the wall if you want it fixed. TV warranty repair people cannot take the TV off of any wall if it is above 5 feet. Also, have a comforter on a table, so the TV can be fixed on a flat padded surface. The repair should take no longer than an hour. If it's longer than an hour, be prepared to have chocolate chip cookies on hand. (Ha, just kidding!)

The choice is yours, but don't just be tempted by price alone.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The "Microsoft" Hoax (With Video)

I've been doing computer repair work for the better of 17 years as The Computer Guy and nothing upsets me more than people who write viruses and do malicious things to unsuspecting people.  Viruses went from being able to just open another person's CD Rom drive from a remote computer to scaring people and demanding ransom money.  This latest hoax, telemarketing to people (mostly older folks) telling them that their computer is messed up is beyond low.
Here's how it starts out.  The phone rings with a blocked or spoofed number and a person with a very thick foreign accent proclaims to be from Microsoft or Windows or some other outfit and they tell you that your computer is spewing viruses all over the Internet and they need to "check it out" as this is the only way it can be fixed.
I have seen what they have done from other techs who have done screenshots of the actions they take.  They use some "program" that shows bogus errors on your screen to convince you that they need to fix your computer AND charge you around $199 to do so.  They will take this payment as a DEBIT, so you have no recourse to get your money back.
As luck would have it, they called me.  This is the 3rd time they have and I happened to have my FlipCam in the car and decided to capture the conversation on that.  Naturally, play dumb to get them to give me more info, but after a while I bust them out and get hung up on.  The last time, I did this, they lost their foreign accent and really gave me every four-letter word they knew.
Click below to watch what I did -- all from my vehicle.

Enjoy the video!  Remember, don't trust the phone scammers.  I have the same remote tools as they do and I can FIX your issues, not create more of them.
For more tips, tricks and advice -- please become a FAN on Facebook.