Windows 8.1 …. Oh my aching head!

I pick up the phone, listen and immediately bang my head on my desk in sheer frustration.  My dad spilled coffee on his laptop.

laptop coffee

Now most of you are probably saying to yourself – Susan, that’s annoying but certainly not head banging worthy.  Oh but it is. Yes the laptop was only 6 months old which was frustrating … however the bigger issue is that it had good old Windows 7!

My parents are seniors and getting them into the techie world has been a challenge. Do they have all the latest gadgets. No. Can they text?  No.  But they have mastered SKYPE, can do simple things online and they play solitaire… a lot. That is it.

When their old computer died about 6 months ago, I picked up another laptop which was loaded with Windows 8.  I was not familiar with Windows 8 so after several hours of head banging in absolute frustration, the laptop was returned. So I scoured the online stores and eventually found a perfect laptop in clearance … with Windows 7. My parents were thrilled.  I was the hero daughter for returning their beloved solitaire.  And best of all, my head stopped hurting.

Fast forward to the call that has ruined the past 7 days of my life.

After countless hours of searching online, I could not repeat my luck and locate a laptop with Windows 7.  My trusty IT guy took the laptop apart and tried to bring it back to life, but the damage was too extensive.  So Windows 8.1 here we come. After reading things online, I wasn’t as hesitant as I was with Windows 8. The reviews all assured me that it was easier to use. I found endless sites that all gave clear instructions on how to use things.  And I even downloaded instructions on how to make sure solitaire was loaded.  I was confident and set.

Oh how the reviews lied. Yes Windows 8.1 is improved from Windows 8, however it’s still a big pain in the neck to use. If you are using it with a touch screen or on a tablet, it might work well once you get used to it.  But having it loaded on a regular laptop doesn’t make any sense. And trying to teach a dramatically different program to people who aren’t techie anyways – well it’s just really painful. All of the basic tasks that took years for my parents to grasp no longer work the same. It’s been a nightmare. Every time my office phone rings and I see their number come up, I bang my head knowing that I am about to be bombarded with questions that I know I can’t answer.


So for anyone still using Windows 7 and dreading the Windows 8.1 upgrade … I urge you to please don’t drink coffee while using your computer and save yourself from the frustration!

QR codes

As someone who is not necessarily a social media/techie wizard, I was stumped when it was suggested to me that I try using QR codes as a way for our students to complete workshop evaluations on the go.

Having never heard of a QR code, I got rather excited once the basic principal was explained to me and I started to dream big. Instead of killing endless trees with paper evaluations, we could attach each eval to a QR code!  No more remembering to email content after the fact as a link to the presentation slides or key documents could be attached.

However my excitement was soon dashed when I pitched the idea to my co-workers and they said that our students would laugh and we would lose all credibility if we used QR codes! As one co-worker exclaimed “QR codes are so 2009!”.  I hung my head in absolute embarrassment and shame that I was so behind the times.

 RIP QR codes

What is a QR Code?

For those of you, like me, who do not know what a QR code is – they are scanable barcodes that you can attach information to – ie product information, a website, or in my case, a workshop evaluation and key documents.

Are QR Codes being used?

According to all of the many articles that I’ve read (a few are listed below), and my co-workers, QR codes are not being used efficiently by companies, therefore the trend is not gaining traction amongst the general population.

Top Three reasons why QR Codes are not being used

1. QR code readers are not preloaded onto smartphones.  Users have to download and install apps for reading QR codes.

2. Companies don’t want to waste valuable packaging space on a UPC code and a QR code.

3. Companies overuse QR codes and aren’t strategic with their usage.  Who is going to scan a QR code on the side of a bus?

Does anyone else have any experience with QR codes in your work or personal life?  Do you find them useful or are they really ‘so 2009’?

Tips and Tricks to make blogging less painful and more effective

When I saw that blog writing was a large part of this course I cringed.  Writing blogs is one of my least favourite things to do at work, and now I’m tasked with writing not one, but six blogs in my spare time for school.

Recently Jared Lenover, who is master of all things web-related and one of my co-workers, led a training session for my office on how to make blogging less painful and more effective.  I thought I would share with everyone some of Jared’s key points.


Blog Length

Blogs should be short and sweet and to the point! 200 – 300 words is an ideal length.  Any more than this and you could risk losing your reader.

You want to make your blog conversational. 

In the work environment, people use a formal business writing style, however, this is not the most effective writing style for blogging. Bloggers should try to write their posts at a grade 8 level in order to appeal to the majority of readers as well as keeping the tone conversational.  Short and simple sentences are easy to read and understand when someone is skimming something quickly.

Here is a great readability test that you can try.  Simply add your url or cut and copy your text directly into the program and volia, you will get your readability score.

Using Headings and Bullet Points

When reading blogs which do you prefer?  Blogs that are text heavy or blogs that are broken down into smaller bullet points?  Most people prefer reading bullet points as they are easy to scan.  Readers get the information that they are looking for quickly and don’t have to sort through paragraph after paragraph.

Headers are also a simple and easy thing to add to your blogs that will help to make them easier to read.  By glancing quickly at the headings, the reader is able to see what information is contained in your blog.

 Adding interest with images and videos

Using pictures or videos are a great way to help you accent your point as well as break up all the text on a page.  They can add visual interest and help draw a reader in.

Does anyone else have any blogging tips that they would like to share with the group?

What happened to the art of conversation?

It’s 6a.m. on a Sunday morning and I hear a very soft ping coming from my phone.  Is it my alarm?  No … it’s my email.

you've got email


With smart phones, tablets and laptops – we are now to easily accessible to everyone – friends, family and our employer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s gotten to be excessive and I know that I definitely have a bad case of email exhaustion.

Communicating with friends and colleagues used to involve picking up the phone and having a conversation or meeting up for a quick pow wow in the hall or lunch room.  Now the art of actual person to person conversation seems to be dying quickly. 

Email is the main form of communication in most offices. Everyone stays locked in their offices and instead of getting up and walking 10 feet down the hall to ask a simple question, they send yet another email. And then a few minutes go by and ping … you get a response.

I have to admit I’m just as guilty as everyone else. Email is easy. Email is fast.  And with email I always have a record of what was mentioned or promised. However people are completely bombarded with email and it simply is no longer an effective communication tool. The constant stream of email can be overwhelming, difficult to manage and it absolutely is a source of frustration.

Before sending your next email, I urge you to not hit send, and instead go for that little walk down the hall.  Stretch your legs … take a break … and talk to your co-worker.  I’m sure they will appreciate one less email in their inbox. I know I would!

I’m looking forward to taking a few days off.  I’m actually planning on heading out of town a little early on Friday, and I think I might just leave my charger and work emails at home!  I’m sure I will regret it when I return to work on Tuesday and cringe when I see my bursting inbox … but oh to have 3 full days of actual conversation again.  Priceless.


Is your personal social media ready for employer scrutiny?

Over the years, when I was looking for a new job, I would scour the want ads and have a heated debate with myself as to which paper stock I would have my resume printed on.

Today everything has changed.

The art of finding a job has gone completely digital. No more black finger print smudges from flipping through page after page of newspaper classified ads, and no more mailing or faxing in resumes. Companies have embraced technology and now use Workopolis, LinkedIn, Facebook and other forms of social media to find suitable candidates.

This is fantastic …however did you realize that because companies are so social media savy that what you post on your personal social media sites can play a huge role as to whether or not you receive the call for an interview.

Working at the Centre for Business Career Development at the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, I have really become aware of what employers are looking for from a candidate. And in many cases, a candidate’s social media presence has played a role. In our recent recruitment cycle, we’ve had three students removed from different competitions due to inappropriate comments on their social media profiles.

Is this fair? Some will argue that it is their own personal space and what a person does in their free time shouldn’t have an impact on their career. However, companies will argue that if a person is presenting themselves in an inappropriate way online, how they will represent the company?