If We Ran OPM, We Would Improve USAJOBS By Doing the Following:

For (all? many? most?) people looking for a Federal job, they will have to use the site usajobs  The federal hiring process is usually considered to be annoying because of the KSA process but that’s getting better so now it’s easier.  Still there are some annoying things with using USAJOBS which should really be fixed.  Here are some I wanted to point out:

Change the info in the Expand option

Especially when it comes to the IT Specialist position, you really have to go through each one to see what you are or aren’t qualified for.  The “Expand” option should be changed to list out the first so many characters of the Duties and Qualificaitons.  That would immediately weed out what is or isn’t needed.  

Link directly to the Status Candidate position

I have no idea why on the page of a job listing, if there’s another listing (usually? all the time?) for a status candidate position, the announcement number is given like here:

Now you have to go and search for this announcement:


But it’s not that straightforward because this has to be searched in the ALL JOBS category so on the next results screen you will have to redo the search selecting all jobs.  Or sometimes the announcement doesn’t work (guessing the reason for the screen I got right below) so you’ll have to manually search on the job title, agency in the ALL JOBS section and then try to find it.  It’s annoying.

Allow sort by Location

Ok, so I want to see Nationwide jobs for something so I’ll leave the location blank but I should still be able to sort on order of closest to me

Location based e-mail search not working?

And finally, this one’s a little on the personal side- help me figure out why my New York jobs e-mail summary doesn’t actually show New York jobs – yet when I then click on “View all opportunities” link on the e-mail, it properly shows me New York jobs?

If we ran an airport (like Frankfurt’s for example), we would be more like Singapore’s Changi Airport

My vacation to Bali, Malaysia, and Singapore (from the U.S.) began on 2/24.   I went from BWI to JFK to Frankfurt Airport to Singapore’s Changi Airport and finally to whatever Airport is in Bali.  So far, of all the airports, Singapore’s Changi has been the most amazing.  The biggest thing for me were the free internet computer stations everywhere – you could login for 15 minutes at a time.  Ideally, I would have liked the ability to just wirelessly jump on for free but this wasn’t that bad an option. Plus, I think I even saw some stations where you could connect your phone via an ethernet cable (Something I had forgotten to bring with me) and jump online from there too via your device. 

There were other cool things about this airport.  There was this locker thing where you could leave your phone in to charge and take the key with you.  There were a bunch of technology showcase areas with 3D demonstrations, 3D gaming, etc.  They had these really cool looking recycling areas which stood out too.


If we ran a bank, we wouldn’t charge overdraft fees period

I got excited with the whole overdraft law that happened last year – until I learned (at least at Capital One) that the overdraft opt out only applies to daily “debit” purchases.  This is something I never do, I only use my bank card as credit to pay for purchases. Also paying by check can get you overdraft fees too.  So basically, the overdraft law has done nothing for me and I’m sure that’s the case for many others.  If customers still aren’t protected, what’s the point of this law?

If we ran the Washington Post, we’d make subscribing to us less annoying

You would think that in a time when newspapers are in trouble a newspaper company would do everything they could do to get and keep subscribers.  Why that’s not the case at the Washington Post is beyond me.

As long as I can remember we’ve had a subscription to the Washington Post in my house and it is one of the things my dad cannot live without (if he could, the bs I dealt with would have been the end of this tradition).  There’s something annoying the Washington Post does (as do most subscription businesses I notice) where they give you a nice promotion rate but don’t make it easy to opt out automatically when the promotion runs out.  We were paying $1-something a week for a good part of 2010 and then from mid November to Early Feb, they were delivering at their $5-something rate.  For the past few years, I call after I notice this, and they adjust the price they charged post-promotion back down to a promotion rate again since I’ll be subscribing to them again.  This time, while they agreed to give me a promotion rate for the next 6 months, they wouldn’t lower the full price $5-something rate they had been charging me.

If I was able, I’d fight some more but a) my dad wants the service to resume right away b) dealing with Washington Post subscriptions is incredibly annoying.

1) they close at 5pm on weekdays so you better be prepared to spend your working hours on the phone with them
2) the website doesn’t work (at least for me) – I was stuck on the login screen:

I was trying to get in to make the payment, this meant I had to work with phone.  They didn’t do check over the phone (I didn’t have my credit card on me) so I had to mail checks to Richmond to make payment.
3) I was given the wrong amount due – I called back in AFTER I mailed a check in to confirm something and was told the amount that was due did not include the tax.  Luckily, after waiting on hold for the phone rep to escalate to her supervisor, I was told they would issue the credit
4) And this is the kicker – I have to call back in after 7-10 days to see if they got the payment and ask them to resume the subscription.  It won’t automatically start when they get the payment. They’ll take the money, pay for the amount that was due and sit on the amount I paid for the next 6 months of service – until I manually call back and ask them to start.

You’re lucky you’re so deeply ingrained into my dad’s daily ritual Washington Post, otherwise you would have lost yet another subscriber.

If We Ran a Company With Sensitive Branding We Would Learn From Tata

Tata logo from the Financial TimesBack in December, I read a great case study in the Financial Times on Tata and how the branding is used within its companies.  Some use the tata name and logo, others don’t (like Taj Hotels).  This isn’t that big a deal, according to the article, what is most important is if the values are being incorporated into all the companies.

But there is a lot to Tata’s decisions to rebrand or not when it comes to their foreign acquisitions.  Tata has to consider their Indian identity and what their fellow Indians think, and also what the foreign consumers of the company they are acquiring might think.  So there are times when rebranding is appropriate, like with Corus, and times when it is not, like with Tetley. 

Great lessons to consider for a company that has a strong identity with a group of people.


If we ran a vision insurance provider, we wouldn’t have this authorization nonsense

I’m not a fan of vision insurance.  My take on it always has been that you have to be pretty calculated to figure out if it’s worth it to get.  It’s one thing to have something that protects against catastrophes (home, car, health, etc), but for something like vision – where the max amount of money you’ll spend is so limited, it’s just not worth the headache.

But, I just found out my wife had signed up for it because it was a really minimum amount extra so I might as well use it.  But, unfortunately, for me (and I assume many others) it’s not that easy. 

I called UHC Vision (formerly Spectera) to find out about what I could do with the insurance only to find out I couldn’t do anything because there were two authorizations which were pulled.  The vision insurance told me that I had to call the two eye care providers I had visited last year and have them let go of the authorization.  Why the insurance company itself couldn’t do anything is beyond me.

So I called the first place and they (of course) said they couldn’t find anything open for me and told me to call the vision insurance provider back and ask if they could call to the place.  I called the second one and I’m on hold there right now.

If we ran Facebook Ads, we’d be clearer on our coupons

I was issued a @facebookads coupon code for $50 on 12/7 that expired on 12/22/2010.  I had tried their ads last summer so I guess that’s why they targeted me.  I emailed them that day about an issue uploading a picture and they  replied on 12/9 with the instructions.  By 12/14/2010 the ad was made (and approved) and I asked the follow up question about how to use the ad coupon – and in the message, included screenshots which showed when the ad was going to run.  Later that day, facebook ads support replied on how to use the coupon.

I set the ad to run from 12/27 (the day after Christmas) to give myself sometime to get a baseline of what kind of activity my site was getting BEFORE the ad ran.

On January 3rd I got an e-mail saying I was charged for the Facebook ad.  It was only $8.34 (the lifetime budget of my ad was $50)

I sent them a message about this and they replied the ad had to finish running by the coupon expiration date.  This is something I don’t feel is fair because it wasn’t spelled out clearly on the ad.  It should have said something  more meaningful than just “expiration date.”

We’ve been going back and forth on e-mails since then but seems they don’t feel they’re in the wrong.  I’ve stopped the campaign now and I’m not sure yet if another charge has occurred.

If we ran law enforcement, speed cameras wouldn’t be used to make money

Police Officers checking out a speed camera setup in Laurel, MD

I was happy to see a letter from Nate Hammond of Laurel Maryland complaining to The Gazette (our local newspaper that covers Laurel, MD) about the placement of a new speed camera in laurel being at the bottom of a hill.  I was hoping to see a response back to the page with the letter ( Speed cameras aid city, not students ) but have not seen anything appear yet.  This is something that warrants a response. 

Oh, and this complaint falls  under a broader category of feeling that in many cases, speeding is used to just make money. 

If We Ran anything, we would focus on flaws and rehearse everything like Steve Jobs

Great write-up in the December 23rd Financial Times on Steve Jobs titled: Silicon Valley visionary who put Apple on top By Richard Waters and Joseph Menn

It was a very good article on everyone’s favorite Tech leader.  My favorite takeaways were on how he was fixated on flaws such as the example given of an icon.  And the other was on how he rehearsed every line in his presentations.

If we ran a transportation department, we wouldn’t ticket ALL traffic camera violations

I came up with an idea today while reading a fairly recent Dr. Gridlock article in the Washington Post about speed cameras.  One of the reasons they are hated (at least by me) is that there is no real way out of them.  Once the flash goes off, your fate is sealed.  Sure you can take it to court, but from what I’ve experienced at least, nothing happened, the fine stayed and I had a court fee on top.  Compare this to the traditional methods of getting a ticket where you take it to court and either the judge reduces or takes off the penalty, or you could get lucky and the cop doesn’t show.  And you’re off the hook and the world sleeps fine at night.

This is because while speeding is technically a crime, I (along with many) don’t really consider it one and it should not be lumped in with them.  The goal is prevention to avoid a real tragedy, I get that.  But just because mistakes happen (more often w/ speeding than red light violations) doesn’t mean you should be nailed everytime.

I’ve been thinking what if there was a chance that even if you saw that traffic camera flash go off, you wouldn’t get the ticket.  Perhaps it could just be purely random.  Perhaps it could be based on an algorithm based on the owner of the vehicle (and assumed driver at the time) and that there were things that could be done to help your chances of getting off.  I think the desired effect of the camera would still happen without the penalty every time.