Thursday, February 28, 2008

A MyFax Leap Year

I was reading about leap years on Wikipedia and I realized that February 29 could be the world’s most famous bug fix.

Okay I’ll start at the beginning and so we’re all in the same place. Before the Gregorian Calendar (what we use now) there was the Julian calendar, think of this as Version 1.0. Before that there were a couple of Beta tests like the Roman calendar, but the Julian was really the first full release. It was okay, it helped people plan lunch dates and setup a workout schedule but it had this huge flaw which caused an ever expanding gap to grow between it, the civil calendar and the seasons. So Pope Gregory called in new developer Aloysius Lilius to revamp the program.

This new version was designed with the goal of keeping the vernal equinox on or close to March 21. Aloysius set to work on his specifications and his calculations were almost perfect. Things were going great. A media blitz was planned, the Pope was already conducting interviews on how this new calendar was going to change every person’s life on a day to day basis, people were clearing spots on their desks, and flipping a head to see if their birthdays fell on a weekend. It was a done deal, except for one small thing.

No matter how he ran the numbers, Aloysius could not reconcile the fact that the solar year was about 6 hours longer than the 365 day magic number he had come up with. This wouldn’t cause problems right away but it would down the road as those 6 hours added up. The fix? Add an additional day once every four years to correct the drift. Sure it was a little cumbersome but it fixed the problem. It’s interesting that the Gregorian calendar was released in 1582 but the first leap year wasn’t until 1600. Makes you wonder if it was in place when the calendar was unveiled to the public. So what do you think? Did I prove my theory, February 29 – the ultimate bug fix?

Of course, you may just be wondering what any of this has to do with MyFax… Don’t worry, I have a connection. The Julian calendar was serving an important purpose, just like the traditional fax machine, but it had problems that kept piling up and becoming more of an issue as time went by. A better, more practical solution that fit the needs of the people, like the Gregorian calendar, had to be developed. It’s just like the fax machine, when it was first introduced it served it’s purpose, but as privacy concerns and the mobile workforce became more predominant the problems associated with it become more and more predominant until the tool itself becomes more of a hindrance than a solution. Aloysius cut ten days off the Julian calendar, revised the calculations, and added Feb 29 and created a calendar system we still use today. Online fax solves the problems of mobility and privacy and modernized a technology that was no longer working for the people who needed to use it and to top it off it saves you a ton of money. Seems like a pretty clear connection to me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MyFax Take Me Away!

I just realized this is the third time in a row I’ve posted on a Tuesday. Of course now that I’ve noticed I’m wondering if it’s just a coincidence or if there’s some sort of underlying reason why this has happened? Is it my work schedule and Tuesday is the best day to write? Am I in a more creative place on Tuesdays? Do I have some sort of internal 7 day clock? I was born on a Tuesday, I wonder if that has anything to do with it?
Something to think about…

Anyway, moving on to what I actually meant to talk about, MyFax is going on the road and I get to go with it! Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Orlando for a week to exhibit at a conference.

I’m not sure how I’m going to react when I step off the plane and there is no snow. I’m sure some people reading this are not going to be able to relate, but this winter has been out of control here. We actually just ranked in as the 9th snowiest winter in 70 years and the way the forecast is looking I wouldn’t be surprised if we move up to 8th or even 7th before it’s over, if it’s ever over. To give you an idea, last year we didn’t have snow until the end of January. This year it started in November and it just keeps coming. It’s to the point where I’ve contemplated moving into my cubicle until spring, and if the selection in the vending machine were better, this would have all ready happened.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to a few days of not having to wear 3 layers of clothing and a hiatus from shoveling, but I’ll admit part of me is worried when I get back I’m going to have to wrestle a polar bear before tunneling my way to my front door.

One more thing, we’ve added an RSS to this blog, just slide your eyes over to the right and you’ll see an orange RSS button. If you click it and subscribe you’ll be notified whenever I write a new post, this way you won’t have to keep checking and being disappointed if there is nothing new. If you were thinking you’d just come back on Tuesdays, I should warn you, now that I know about my subconscious pattern I’m going to make sure to break it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Work at MyFax and I'm Real

If you’ve ever taken a test drive, downloaded collateral that requires an email address, registered for a webinar, or started the registration process at you have probably received an email from me. In response, I get on average 2 emails a day asking me if I'm a real person. This works out to about 10 a week (I don't work weekends) or approximately 400 a year. That’s 400 times a year that my being is called into question.

Coming up with this number has lead to a slew of questions. First, I wonder if it is some how damaging to my psyche to have my existence constantly challenged. Like Tinkerbell, does every doubt make me a little less real? Am I going to need everyone to clap and repeat "I believe in Marketing Communication Specialists" so I don't fade away all together? How would I even go about setting that up in my weakened state? Tink had Peter, maybe I should line up someone in Sales to help me out?

Continuing down this path, I became curious as to how often the average non-marketing person is asked this question. I took a little poll here at the office and the most frequent answer I received was a strange look followed by "never". Mmm, maybe I should have provided some background instead of just “Do people ask if you’re real a lot”? It’s possible my data is flawed.

My research does show this issue seems to be relegated to email. I've never left a voice mail for someone, had them phone me back, and begin the conversation (or message) with "Hi, I'm not sure if you're a real person, but you left me a voicemail". Is there something about email itself that makes people less likely to believe in you? (Sounds like a separate project, if anyone would like to look into it I’d love to hear what you find out.)

Here’s where it becomes really bizarre. Every single time I reply to these emails I find myself re-reading what I’ve written trying to make sure I in no way sound like an auto reply. This is no easy feat, with personalization so rampant it's easy to merge people's names, companies, even problems into an automated message. And these are business emails so I can't be too casual, I can't make spelling mistakes, or jokes to make my reply more realistic. So now I’m not just replying to an email asking if I’m real, I’m agonizing over my response trying to make sure what I write actually proves my reality. That’s a lot of pressure!

I was going to write about the flip side of this issue and look at why people email me when they have doubts about my being real. Are they optimists? Dreamers? Bored? On some level trying to prove their own existence? But I’m going to have to save that until next time because this has left me in need of a reality check, so I’m going to look at my credit card bill. That will prove I’m real.

BTW 3 weeks left in the messy office contest! You could win $10,000.00!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Messy MyFax Confession

I have a confession to make. I'm addicted to the Messy Office Contest submissions. I'm not talking about a small addiction where I check them once a day, smile and move onto something else. No, I mean really addicted, like "considering getting a sponsor" addicted.

Have you seen these? (If not, you can view the weekly winners here and all of the submissions at the MyFax Messy Office Facebook Group). I know that some of them are probably staged in hopes of a better chance at winning the $10,000, but I'm sure some of them are real or at least pretty close and that's where my addiction comes in.

I'm a bit of a neat freak, (translation: "outrageous control issues and mild OCD") and the thought that there are actually places like those in the pictures and videos we have received, and people actually spend time in them, has me both horrified and fascinated at once. It's like driving by an accident, or watching that operation show on TV.

And I can't stop myself, I have an alert set up so that I know the instant anyone posts to us. I know it's not good for me, I know I should bow out of the judging. I literally get itchy looking at some of them, I stare at the pictures trying to figure out ways to clean them up. Yesterday I was halfway through an email to one of our weekly winners, asking her "if I could stop by and just straighten up a little", when I realized what I was doing.

It's not just my work that's suffering, I've been going home and doing extra cleaning at my place, hoping to create some sort of "tidy balance" in the world. Now do you see why I say I need a sponsor?

I can't be the only person like this can I? If you're reading this and can relate, make me feel better with one of your own neat freak issues. Of course, if you're one of the "others" and don't have a problem working in chaos, you should take a picture or video of your own mess and send it over to torture me. Here's a link to the entry form.

Only three weeks left to submit, not sure if I'll be relieved or sad to see it end...