Monthly Archives: November 2012


Foodie Friday!  Today the topic is substitutes.  No, not the early song by The Who.

Butter and a butter knife

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a thought about the use of different ingredients when the things called for in the recipe aren’t available.  This is a little different from changing up the seasonings – using oregano for basil, for example.  Cooks often do that to vary flavors and that’s an integral part of one’s own cooking style and food profile.  In this case I mean the times when you go to get the unsalted butter and realize all you have is salted or when you decide to use skim milk to lower a dish‘s fat content instead of the whole milk (or heaven forbid CREAM!) the recipe requires.

Substitutions are tricky things. Take the salted butter example.  There is no standard amount of salt in salted butter and the amount of salt can vary quite a bit.  If you’re aware of that and don’t automatically salt your dish as usual you might be OK.  Another thing about it is that the water content in salted butter is higher which, depending on the amount of liquid in the dish can make a difference.  Not a big deal for most dishes but critical in baking.  By the way, this is why I’m not a baker – it’s way too specific!

I could explain the reasons why cream vs. whole milk vs. half and half in recipes will or won’t work but you’re probably wondering at this point what the business point is.  Well, it’s that people are very much like ingredients.  Many managers see tiny differences in staff members – salted vs. unsalted – but fail to consider the broader implications those differences bring.  An unanticipated resignation from a staff member forces a substitution, but thinking that all individuals are replaceable because substitutes with the same basic skill set are available is a fallacy.  Just as an improper substitution can ruin a sauce or a custard, failing to acknowledge and adjust for the differences in the human ingredients can spell disaster.

As managers, we need to be acutely aware of how each small change in our team can precipitate much larger issues.  People are our most important ingredients, and just as great cooks consider every nuance of what goes into a dish we need to examine our people and blend them appropriately.  Feeling as if we can substitute at will is short-sighted and can ruin our business.  Then again, a smart change can make it many times better.  Your choice!

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Until Someone Pokes Their Eye Out

With the holidays almost upon us, it’s getting to be the time when we all watch “A Christmas Story” for the umpteenth time.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a parent, one line that always sticks out is the “you’ll shoot your eye out” phrase since it echoes something I used to hear as a kid. That was more like “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” but the meaning is similar.

There’s a business reason why I’m raising this as well. Many businesses routinely assign inexperienced staff to support their digital efforts. This happens particularly in the social space, where it’s easy to get caught up in the meme of the day. What’s a meme?  You know them – everything from LOLcats to “Mckayla Is Not Impressed” to “Binders Full Of Women.”  Some are short-lived, some endure.  Maybe it’s not that sort of activity but just someone trying to be proactive – there’s interest in something the company is doing, let’s foster it.  In either case, an employee trying to have the business engage with fans can do a great deal of damage, and it’s not just to a business’s reputation.

For example – let’s say your social admin decides to challenge your fans to a contest of some sort.  There are no written rules and one of the losers objects.  Lawsuit waiting to happen.  Let’s say another admin posts an image and encourages fans to do their own version.  Who vetted the theme (was it copyrighted someplace)?  Who approved the materials (do we have a license for the image as well as for any actors/others who are in the image)?  Or maybe you decided to use one of  the Cheezburger Network’s LOLcats sites to create a meme with an eye towards starting something viral. Did anyone make sure the materials you are using are free for commercial use or have been licensed for your specific purpose?

Any time we charge someone with speaking for our brand or our company we should hear the Mom in A Christmas Story.  You really can shoot out a lot more than your eye if you don’t understand the business and legal ramifications that are well beyond understanding the technology.  That’s when it stops being fun and games.  Any thoughts?

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Keeping It To Yourself

We have discussed privacy here on the screed several times. During many of those rants I talked about how companies need to think about their privacy policies (and being transparent about it is a great start) and how those policies will play with the folks whose data the companies are using. My theory is that young people have never really had any privacy (mostly due to hovering parents) and they’re less concerned about the issue than are people of my generation. However, there are netizens of every age who do care, and I suspect that as the “creepy” factor of ads following you around grows due to retargeting, etc., more people will begin to look into what data they’re sharing with the web overlords and how that data is used.

If you care or if you wonder if you should, the folks at Privacy Choice will be of interest to you.  Their research reveals that 20% of sites and apps reserve the right to share personal data freely for commercial purposes. Also, 60% of website privacy policies do not provide any written assurance that users can delete their personal data at the end of the relationship:

The most critical component of a privacy policy governs how a website or app handles personal data, which increasingly includes not only email addresses but also profile and other more intimate personal information gathered through social network integration…Nearly two-thirds of all policies examined (63%) provide assurance that personal data generally will not be shared with other companies, while another 10% promise not to share personal data for “marketing purposes.” However, one in five sites provide no assurance against sharing personal data with other companies.

If you are interested, I urge you to install their Privacyfix tool and the browser extension.  You can check a site’s tracking using this tool.  The results can be eye-opening.  It’s becoming obvious that companies are counting on us to take control if that’s what we want.  What do you think?

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