Sunday, March 20, 2011

I need a Telecomms 'broker'

Wasted another half hour of my life yesterday in a Telecom shop waiting for someone to help me; not the first time I've done that either. I gave up in the end because there were 4 other people also queueing - and I needed someone to spend time helping me.

You see it occurs to me that my family spends a significant whack every month on telecommunications and it needs reviewing. It is so hard to do and takes so much time and energy. I just want someone to say this is the best option for you and it will cost $x.

We have 7 cell phones on 3 different networks in my immediate family. Vodafone doesn't get good reception at our home; meaning only from the eastern end of the south-facing couch if you hold you arm up high at a 45 degree angle, the upper bunk in the boys bedroom or standing on the bbq table in the backyard with your left leg tucked up behind your right ear ... not ideal really. Telecom mobile coverage is great.

But Telecom broadband is shite at the beach - terribly slow. I could hand deliver messages to London quicker than Telecom 'max/max' service. Which makes no sense because I switched to Actrix and its bloody fast. I switched because Atrix reset data quotas daily which saves masses of stress because I am no longer have to scream at the children from day 16 in the month until the counter is reset. How can Actrix be so fast over Telecom lines when Telecom's was so bad? It uses the same bloody lines!!

So now we 3 cell phones that need replacing (2 on the old network) and 1 which is out of its contract and simply hideous to use; I can't see the screen outside and fonts are too small for a woman of a certain age.

Oh and no one rings us on the landline now (except the ex-bloke and the bank and I'll happily avoid both of them) so I can't see the point of keeping it - except I need it for Sky. We have Sky digital because its the only way to get TV reception (yes even the free ordinary channels) . If we go with Vodafone we can get cheap Sky .... but no cell reception.

I hate it all ...

So this is what I want:

The 4 kids and I to have 1 phone each, we can all text anyone no matter network they are on, with a generous text allowance, and we can all phone each other too. At least 2 of the phones need data plans for checking emails, facebook, twitter etc I want to have fast broadband at home and either a massive data allowance so we never run out, or 1GB data reset daily (my preference). I want to keep Sky (kids would like MySky). 3 of us need new phones - I'd like a smart phone. And I don't want to spend a month sorting it out or a fortune every month.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making models from text

The purpose of this post is show the steps I went through from text to diagram. Turns out this a useful skill to have!)

Step 1: What data 'fields' do you want to communicate?

The text I was working with was:
  • Council Strategic plans,
  • Library Trust aims,
  • Key activities,
  • Operational plans and activities
  • Key performance indicators.
First step is work out what are the relevant or crucial data 'fields' that will illustrate the point you want to make. Make sure you know what the point you want to make is and remember that less is more so strip it back as far as possible.

I wanted to map Trust activity directly to Council strategy. Council are interested in governance not operations so I eliminated all operational data. This left me with a list of Council Strategic documents and a list of Library Trust aims.

Step 2: Mapping A to B

I 'tweaked' my list of library aims so that I ended up with a clear 1:1 mapping between the two lists. I dropped some Council Strategies which were not supported by Trust aims.

Step 3: Layout

Next play around with the sort of shape that would work for your data. One time I made a model like a lego construction with cyclinders resting on platforms. This was to illustrate distinct 'pillars' (focus areas of activity) that together formed a 'platform' of admin.

In this one I was playing with interweaving, perhaps using Council Strategies as the warp and Trust aims as the weft. Then I thought about library activity reaching out (into the community) from a strong (Council strategic framework) centre. I settled on Trust activities as the focus because it is OUR document. Council strategy is the background or framing.

Step 4: Mock Up
I liked this shape because the circle 'corners' bulge or flex out from a fairly 'prescribed' or focussed set of library aims (straight lines). The useful 'space' in the middle was formed from using square text boxes in triangles.

I use Microsoft Publisher for almost all of my diagrams, but sometimes Google Sketchup. (Actually to be totally honest, I take my pencil drawing and ask my 13 year old son to do it for me.)

Publisher as a format is a bit tricky but its a great creation tool. Think about negative space as well as positive space. Colours and fonts are really important too: some colours will make things pop off the page while other colours will help shapes 'recede'. When you have it all done select all and then save as a jpeg. This means you can insert it as an image in to any document.

Step 5: Finish
Also, jot down the colour 'formula' so you can match it with a colour scheme in your finished report.

Mapping Library Aims to Council Strategies.

Its that time again and the Library Trust is putting together our Statement of Intent for 2011/2012.

The Statement of Intent is a formal document which the Trust, as a Council Controlled Organisation, is required to submit to Council each year. In a nutshell its purpose is to assure Council that public funds are being applied in an appropriate way and being managed responsibly.

I think it is important to map the Library's key activities to Council's strategic direction to make an unequivocal point that Libraries are a key service delivery of arm for Council, helping them to achieve what they set out to do.

I will post the entire SOI here once it has been accepted by Council but I am quite pleased with a model I created this week mapping our key aims to Council strategies.

Fig 1. Te Horowhenua Trust aims mapped to Horowhenua District Council
planning and strategy documents (green).

The time for libraries is now