Ubiquitous Language

Introduction

Probably one of my favorite side effects of using Eric Evans’ Domain Driven Design book is the concept of Ubiquitous Language.  Basically, it is a requirement for everyone to maintain a clearly defined list of words, along with their definitions, for the “domain” that everyone agrees upon.   And when I say everyone, I mean everyone: the stakeholders of the application itself, the Business Analysts that communicate internally and externally, and the internal developers.   The idea here is so when someone says a specific business word everyone knows what they mean.  The purpose is to help meetings between these critical groups have clear meaning and accomplish goals in a more clear manner.  Having casual conversations can have more meaning.

Taking the time up front to define critical business jargon and processes is a key win to this concept.

Why we need it

People have the tendency to assume that other people in their ‘domain’ or line of business think nearly exactly the same things for the same business jargon or ideas.  And if they are different, somehow people would know to bring it up and both sides stay silent thinking they are talking about the same thing.  However, over the years, I’ve found that to really cause confusion when trying to deliver top software because of those assumptions.  I think this has actually led to a lot of problems with the use of traditional Waterfall Project Management because the software company would deliver what they were used to thinking of the requested items and it wouldn’t match what the customer would expect resulting in changes needed.

Now I know I’m over simplifying this but I hope you get the point.  We simply can’t assume what the other person knows and taking the time up front for clear definitions as you start a project.  Even if that project is visiting something already delivered previously.

Let’s go over an example of how a conversation can go wrong when you don’t have Ubiquitous Language.

A Shift – the idea of a working shift for a person during the course of a day at a workplace.  Seems like a simple idea, but there is so much that can be missed.

What the Software Company assumed of a shift:

  • Start Date and Time
  • End Date and Time
  • Job being worked

What the Client Company Assumed of a shift:

  • Start Date and Time
  • End Date and Time
  • Business Date of the shift as the Business date can be different than the actual date of the shift.
  • Jobs being worked – meaning multiple jobs can be worked in a single shift.
  • Net Worked Hours based on business logic (paid vs. non-paid) and on an employee by employee basis.

And this is a pretty simple example of how we can make simple assumptions and the client is thinking of so many other things that just aren’t spoken about or aren’t recorded for those developers that weren’t part of the discussion.

Sharing the ‘secrets’ of knowledge

With the Shift Example above, we clearly need a way to record these things to make sure we are all talking the same thing.  I’m not going to to advocate one way of recording information over the other, but I do have a few guidelines that I think are helpful when making that decision.

Easy to find for everyone: stakeholders, customers, developers, management, and business analysts all need to be able to find this information easily.

Easy to notify of changes – making sure everyone knows as things change: from definitions to additions and subtractions of words in the list.

Agreed upon between the customer and the delivering company.  Stakeholders and customers along with every department so no one area is surprised by the additions, subtractions, and definitions being used.

Keep it going

Don’t forget that things can change over time and what a word or business model means today can change and we need to be sure that we’re keeping up with those changes.   If we forget to keep those definitions updated we’ll end up with the same problem we had without Ubiquitous Language: failure to communicate effectively.   Take the time to revisit these meanings when making changes or adding new functionality as these are great times to verify these meanings again and keep things fresh in everyone’s minds.

 

Test Driven Development (TDD)

Introduction

TDD, or Test Driven Development, can be a difficult concept for those of us who developed by just hitting the code. Writing something that doesn’t work first? Seems like a bad idea. I’ve changed my mind over the past couple of years using this technique and find myself promoting it to others that have never heard of it or think it is a bad idea.

TDD Wiki

Basics

The basics are these: Write a test that attempts to achieve a specific outcome. Run the test and see it fail. Write code and repeat the test until the test passes.

What does this achieve?

Running these tests and having them achieve some great goals for developers:

  • Minimal Code Change – Allows for a developer to create just enough code to achieve the task they are working on. No more generating a ton of code just to find later you didn’t need most of it and now have a lot of “dead code” which no one likes.
  • Confidence – Gives developers the confidence to refactor with little worry to breaking functionality. You can see that specifically as we changed the logic and implementations of the Dictionary over time as we changed the ‘default’ dictionary type from List\<string\> to Hashset to Trie methods, we knew we weren’t breaking the application because we had good test coverage.
  • Refactoring – While this goes along with the confidence factor we still want to point it out specifically because we want to be able to make changes to the application over time as technologies change, design decisions, and other efforts change.

Integration and Unit Tests

There are two basic types of tests that are generated during development: Integration and Unit Tests.

Unit Test

Unit Tests are the most basic and limited tests that you should write as a developer. Unit Tests are generally limited to a specific class’ method/function/property/field. These are the kinds of tests you should be running over and over as you’re adding code and should be VERY FAST. Like less than 1/2 second per test fast. You should be testing a method of a class to be sure it works as you expect and there should be more than one if things can be varied in their use.

Example: a new Rounding method for your Retailers. Round method takes in a decimal and returns a decimal rounded using business logic. The business has decided to round up at $0.26 instead of the traditional $0.50 (Hey, don’t look at me, it’s the business analyst =) )

  • Test 1 – 0.01 to return 0.00
  • Test 2 – 0.24 to return 0.00
  • Test 3 – 0.25 to return 0.00
  • Test 4 – 0.26 to return 1.00
  • Test 5 – 0.60 to return 1.00
  • Test 6 – 0.99 to return 1.00

It may seem like a lot of tests, but you want to be sure this round method is working correctly. You want to test at the very least the boundaries of the rounding rule itself. You’ll also want to test a few other areas just to give you that confidence that you’ve tested it well and any future changes will make themselves known immediately. Don’t forget to document.

Integration Test

Integrations tests are those kinds of tests that some developers call “Use Cases” where we’re going to test a lot of things at once. Think of them as an actual test that the Business Analyst or a Client wants to achieve. Integration Test:

  • Spin up a Point of Sale
  • Add an employee
  • Have Employee Sign into the Point Of Sale
  • Add items to be sold with known values
  • add taxes that use the new rounding feature
  • Sub-total/Total transaction
  • Check values.

You can see a lot of things are being tested here. So these kinds of tests are larger than what we are working on from day to day and they may fail for a long time but it shouldn’t stop daily builds. If you were to write all these at the beginning of a development cycle you might find that they are starting to pass as the development moves forward. This shows honest progress of the application and eventually these will all pass.

Let’s get started. Have fun!

Cell Phone Etiquette

Have Cell phones led to our loss of person to person etiquette?

I enjoy reading from cnet.net for a variety of reasons. One of which is because they deal with the impacts to Society by technology. After reading Kent German’s Article on “Mind Your Cell phone manners” I had to put in my two cents worth.

Technology gives us a lot of conveniences but they can also impact us negatively against our fellow man. The use of the cell phone has, in my opinion, impacted our person to person etiquette in a disastrous way.

Giving our attention to one person at a time

Why is it that more and more people are trying to make an order at the local “whatever” store and continue to talk on a cell phone? I remember seeing movies where the really rich person was talking down to the working person and acting like they should be grateful for their presence alone. I was always offended by that type of attitude and my friends said they would never treat someone like that if they were rich. However, I see it constantly when they won’t give the simple courtesy of putting the person on their phone “on hold” long enough to give a clear request and wait on a polite response.

When you’re hanging out with your friends and talking about “nothing” while you’re perusing the local racks of clothes you would stop talking about whatever it is long enough to ask the clerk “How much is this?” and wait for a response before continuing your yapping, wouldn’t you? So why should it be different when you’re talking on your cell phone? It shouldn’t is the answer you’re looking for.

You have to give your attention to one person to give them the respect you would want given to you. How would you like it if the person you were talking too wouldn’t look your way or was having a second conversation at the same time? I know I can multitask and listen and type at the same time, but I don’t do it to give a personal interaction with that person. One exception I have is when I’m making notes of the conversation and at least the person I’m talking with is aware of that fact so they give me additional time during our conversation to allow me to take proper notes. I think this gives both people in the conversation an understood permission to divert some of my attention.

Body Language

Giving that personal attention gets you better service and vice verse. If you expect good service shouldn’t you give respect to the person you’re talking? Of course you should. In order to do that you need to get eye contact and “ear contact” so you both know you’re talking to each other. Your body language says a lot to the other person: raised eyebrows, tapping foot, huffing breath, or a smile. They all effect how someone responds to you. The body language you give off when you’re on the phone lets people know you’re not listening to anyone except the person on your phone: not making eye contact, talking to someone else, probably turning your body askew to the person behind the counter. All these physical signs make it hard for a person to be interested in what you’re asking them to perform.

Maybe that venti mocha chocalata half caff decaf with skim milk might end up with whole milk full caffeine with a shot of spit in your drink. Why not? You’re not paying attention to them why should they pay attention any more than you? While I certainly wouldn’t a shot of saliva in my drink no matter how much of a tool someone might be it is only an example of what people are capable of when they deem themselves disrespected.

Use your indoor voice!

While I don’t advocate the use of phones inside an establishment for extended periods, I don’t think it’s realistic to stop usage altogether in a store like it appears is the case in Europe. However, I think that the most important piece of keeping things polite indoors is keeping your voice to a conversational level that you would maintain if that person was there in front of you. There are so many improvements in today’s phones that I know you can talk normally and the person on the other end can hear you just fine. I use a bluetooth earpiece and talk at a normal tone when I’m on the phone and have only had problems with people hearing me when people are talking around me that are facing my earpiece. My answer isn’t to get louder but to find a quieter location to complete my call.

We teach our children what’s right with our actions!

Yes, I went with the parents angle because I feel that parents are responsible for raising their children with proper manners. While adults are also committing the faux paxs of the cell phone usage, we must teach our children proper cell phone etiquette or not complain! What we show our children to be okay is what they take with them into the world as the example of what they consider right. If you don’t tell your children that talking on the phone while making an order is wrong, they won’t think it’s wrong. So you have to change your ways, too!

Here’s a list of simple etiquette that I think are very appropriate for cell phones. Certainly the list could be longer, so feel free to give some feedback.

Times when putting your phone on hold or hanging up to call them back later:

  • your turn at the counter to order food and/or drinks
  • approaching a sales person to ask questions
  • your turn at the check-outwhen at a social event!

Times when you should keep your phone call short:

  • When in the car with other people, and you shouldn’t be the one who started that phone call unless you’re car mates are involved.
  • At the restaurant. If it’s that important, take it somewhere else. You’re eating and no one wants to hear that!
  • When you’re with others. Aren’t the people your with right then deserving of your respect? If not, why are you with them in the first place, go hang with the person that called, they must be more important to you.

Times when your phone should be off or on vibrate:

  • At the movies. Get out of the theatre to answer that call if you feel you absolutely must.
  • During Church. Whether or not you’re bored to tears by the sermon, it’s a no-no!

Overall you want respsect and should give it. Remember the golden rule, “Treat those as you would like to be treated.”

RFID and Big Brother

RFID: Put it on your car like a Government LoJack?

After reading the article:An RFID solution to rush hour headaches? by Amanda Termen, I just had to make comment on it. I did a post to her article but felt it needed a full blog post to properly address this article and it’s overall impacts.


Big Brother Will Invade…

Unfortunately, Big Brother will always
invade any system that has a good intention to it. That’s why he’s called Big Brother. If he didn’t, he’d be called little wuss in the corner. The RFID is a great technology and I can certainly see it being placed inside our yearly tag stickers on our car before we even know it. However, maybe it will change the way taxes are collected and those that cause the most pollution pay the most andthey’ll have stats to back it up. HA HA… I crack myself up! What I see is that everyone will still pay their yearly ad-velorum taxes, tag taxes, and now this NEW tax for actually using the roads. Here in Atlanta, mass transit is a joke. Built and run by an independant corporation which is the business of making money, not running as a
non-profit organization, as it should. Not that they shouldn’t make additional funding to make the system better. I’m talking about CEOs that have a $400K income with a $2Million dollar bonus schedule for being more than normal profitable.

Gov’t Hidden Agenda: track all vehicles and collect that information into a main gov’t database to collect information on how to increase their revenue per year with the following revenue streams:

hidden agenda 1 - by charging the people actually use the roads with a ‘pollution mileage rate’ on top of your ad-velorum and tag tax.

hidden agenda 2 – catch red-light runners for tickets/revenue.

hidden agenda 3 - add “RFID readers” to cop cars to identify the person they just ‘zapped’ with their speed detection device, which uploads the ticket with relavent info to their “speeders” server and automatically e-mails or mails you a ticket and the cop doesn’t even have to chase you anymore, or even be a
cop, just an attachement under bridges or the side of the road. They could actually use your own transponder signal to determine speed!

hidden agenda 4 - use ‘classified/secret’ warrants against the collected information to track your driving habits and “follow you” virtually to help in “tailing” folks without the man-power needs. hidden agenda 5 – I’m not even evil enough to think of them all =)

Big Brother spinsters - the way they’ll sell it to us constituents.

spin 1 - Find stolen cars faster, because they
can be identified by cop cars just driving through “suspected areas”

spin 2 - catch violating probationers, like sexual predators driving too close to children’s parks. (Hey, I’d almost buy into that to protect my son!).

spin 3 - make those that are the “significant polluters” to pay their fair share. (companies won’t like it, but voters may). And to look at removing the initial tag tax (but they won’t) to be replaced by this system.

spin 4 - I don’t work for the whitehouse, so I’m not the best spinster and I’m sure there are more that can be thought up. =)

Conclusion:

Anyway you look at it, the benefits have to outweigh the hidden agendas in order to even contemplate putting
this kind of policy into place. Which, in my opinion isn’t going to happen any time soon.

I LOVE YOU, POLICE DOG…. :-)

I just can’t imagine what the police force would be without police dogs in their ranks. Their usefulness is overwhelming when you watch these police shows where they are needed.

Here’s some wonderful ideas the police have come up with when they entered dogs into the force.

1. In the military, They actually have a non-commissioned officer rank (Corporal) so that if anyone in the military hurts a dog it is actually against a non-commissioned officer. This is a much more serious violation than if the dog was a Private or Specialist. On a Funny note, most dog handlers in the military (at least on my base) were actually outranked by their own dog: now that’s funny. But a solid idea nonetheless.

2. They make bullet-resistant vests for dogs. I think that is a great idea as they put themselves in greater danger and don’t even understand the danger for the most part. Bravo.

3. They train the dogs to where it looks like a game to them. I think it’s seriously funny to see the dogs looking back at their handlers right after taking down a suspect waiting for their treat. One episode I saw today was more humorus because the dog didn’t get his command fast enough and after looking back went back to biting the suspect: damn stupid suspects.

4. I do know that if you kick a dog (not on experience, but the shows) that is considered assault on an officer. More money for the offense.

5. They protect our officers, which we all want to do because they are just trying to do their job and can’t just shoot people like some of us would like to see them do. I’ve seen them not shoot at things that I feel I would’ve emptied my clip.

Bravo to you, the officer and his dog.

New Graffiti Law in Atlanta

Community Wellness or Money Making Scheme?

ISSUE:

I think I have heard it all. I’m watching the news today only to be notified that a new Graffiti Law is now in effect. Oh how I weep for our future.

Essential the news cast went on to explain that if a business has graffiti on the side of it’s building it can be cited for such a defacement. If the graffiti isn’t removed within thirty (30) days of that citation the business owner can be fined one hundred dollars ($100.00) per week or up to six (6) months in jail. If the business owner has authorized graffiti they can keep it by obtaining a sign permit.

While on the outside this may seem like a good idea to keep the “Community wellness” and cleanliness to prevent the look of a downtrodden neighborhood with constant gang tagging and odes to their girlfriends or gang leaders. However, we really need to look at the consequences being held upon the business owner.

Is this fair to the business owner? I say, “Not a chance.”

EXAMPLE:

Let’s go through our most common scenario where a business would have ‘graffiti’ would be placed upon the outside of a business. Most likely it’s because of an underage boy or girl trying to prove themselves by defacing property with graffiti to put up a friend’s name or a gang’s name or maybe just some pretty picture. If I had a brick and mortar business I wouldn’t want some punk painting my place up for their jollies as I don’t want that sort of stuff on my building.

So, now we have graffiti on my building that I didn’t want there so I call the police to report the “crime” and hope that they catch the person to reimburse me for wanting to clean it. Now that I’ve filled out my report, I get a citation from the same police that I filed a report to stating that I need to have this new graffiti removed within thirty (30) days. Okay, I wait a couple of weeks trying to find a good place with some reputation of doing good work and not costing a fortune. As I am trying to run a business, not clean-up man, I just haven’t had the time or possibly the money to get the graffiti removed in time. Maybe I’ve scheduled time with the vendor to have it removed only to be waiting on them because of this new requiring all the graffiti to be removed all over town. Supply and Demand says the price is going to go up and now I have to spend over one hundred dollars ($100.00) to have my brick siding cleaned up. I could pay less for the “paint over” method but that would remove the beauty of my brick building. Now time has passed, and I receive a fine indicating that I haven’t removed the graffiti. Great, now the money I was going to spend on graffiti removal has to go to the city for not removing the graffiti in time. Not only that, but if I don’t have it removed this week, another hundred dollar fine.

You can see how that becomes quite the slippery slope of issues as the city continues to fine those business owners for graffiti that they didn’t put there or want there while the business owners try to schedule and clean up their unwanted graffiti at the business owner’s expense. Now, the local governments have a new source of revenue while the business owners have a new expense category they have to pass on to the consumer. It seems that crime does pay: the government.

Would the reverse be okay? Probably not.

I would like to suggest that the government be just as accountable for their laws as we are. This would suggest that we should have an accountability law for this law. If the business owner files a proper complaint to the police, the police have thirty (30) days to apprehend the person responsible for the graffiti or the business owner can fine the city for the one hundred dollars a week until the graffiti is cleaned up at the city’s expense. We all know how slow the government moves in it’s fight against crime so I’m sure that’s probably good enough for a grand or so of extra income from the city to the business owner.

I’m sure you’re saying, “you know that can’t happen, they are the government. It’s just not practical.” I say, “Screw that.” If you aren’t willing to back up your talk, you shouldn’t be trying to give me a “shake down” with laws that require me to follow while you continue to allow this type of action to continue. If you’re not willing to be accountable, then you shouldn’t be in charge. This country is full of people in charge that aren’t willing to be accountable. If you don’t believe me, then why does Congress get a totally seperate Social Security plan if they say ours is so good. If it’s so good, why don’t they use it? Exactly, because if they were accountable for the success of their programs they’d be willing to use it themselves because it would be good enough.

I know that last point is a little digressing of the main point, but I think you’ll understand my point a little better. It’s not like I don’t think our government is good. I really do think it’s better than most other governments and certainly one of the most powerful. But, I do find that accountability may bring down some of the power, but I think it’s people would follow more patriotically knowing that it’s leaders were more willing to be accountable for their actions.

Something about the RAIN

I don’t know what it is about the rain, but it seems to bring the STUPID out of people.

Here in Atlanta, I’ve been given the opportunity to view an exceptional amount of rain that has caused people to have to deal with wet driving conditions for more than just a little while. It seems that the thin coat of driving intelligence is sitting on the hood of the car waiting for that clorox bleach we call rain to wash it away.

My latest couple of incidents include some interesting reading:

  • Driving through intersection with blinking red lights -I know this seems to be an easy thing to understand: You stop just like a 4-way stop. It’s not that hard, but you may be suprised at how many people just start driving through like they own the road and cause an accident and be upset because you were in THEIR way.
  • Waiting until the last second to hit the brakes -Here’s an idea… slow down earlier. I mean, I’m no physicist, but I do understand the principle of hydroplaneing. Hydroplaneing usually happens when you are going too fast down the road to the point where your vehicle comes up off the road and the tires are actually sitting on top of the water. Conversly, when someone slams on the brakes the same thing can happen as the tires are no longer slicing through the water but skipping across the water reducing the effectiveness of your brakes. Even with anti-lock brakes you still have an increased amount of stopping distance when the road is wet. So please, with enthusiasm, try stopping earlier.
  • Driving without your lights on -We all know the rule: if you turn on your wipers you need to turn on your headlights. It’s simple. Most vehicles are starting to have DRL (Daytime RUnning Lights) that seems to pacify the police officials for the most part, but it doesn’t replace the need to turn on your headlights. Because just because your DRL are on doesn’t mean your taillights are on. It can be a hard thing when the rain is pouring down and you can barely see ahead of you only to see the sudden hit of brake lights that weren’t seen in advance that would have been seen with the taillights on correctly. Again, people just need to think about the rules and follow them.

I know it’s a short list and I’m sure there are hundreds of stupid things that people like to do when it starts to rain, but these are my rants, so put some of your own up on yours.

The Email CC Field, How do you use it?

I’ve been plagued by people failing to understand the use of the CC or Courtesy Copy (sometimes called “Carbon Copy”) Field in emails since people realized they could put things into two different fields. I mean, this is a pretty simple concept to use this field. The Courtesy Copy is basically that: A Courtesy.

Setup:

John – Co-Worker #1

Arthur – Co-Worker #2

 

A Good Example

Your writing an email to John answering a question that he asked earlier in the day. You got part of that answer from Arthur and put it together with your knowledge of the question. As a courtesy, you put your answer to John together and put John’s email address in the TO fied, of course, because that’s who you are sending the information. In addition, you CC Arthur in case you misunderstood what he explained to you. Also, it lets Arthur know keep a copy of that email for future reference to that answer. But the main reason you used the CC field is because Arthur doesn’t need to read it, it’s just information he contributed. He could easily just copy this to his CC Folder in Outlook and not need to read it ever. Who knows, you may need it again to explain it to someone else.

That’s a good way to use your CC Field. Now for a Bad Example.

A Bad Example

Your writing an email to John again, this time you’re talking about several items in a project that he and Arthur are assigned. You include action items that John needs to complete. However, during the writing you decide to mention in the email, “Arthur, Could you follow up with John on step number 13?”. You have already put Arthur in the CC field again because you want the whole team to know what’s going on with your other teammates.

Problem with Bad Example

Problem is, now that you’ve actually asked Arthur to do something, you should’ve moved his name into the TO field. I have received too many emails that were generated through a REPLY TO ALL action where I was in the CC Field only to be asked to do something. However, because I have a rule that automatically moves emails where “I am in the CC Field” to my “CC Folder” I may not see it. Also, I’m simply not going to lower myself to accomodate the ill educated. I think it’s far more effective if you do end up not reading something and have to tell that individual, “I was in the CC Field, so I don’t read Courtesy Copies until the weekend when I have time. Because that’s what it’s there for, not when you are talking directly to me. That’s what the TO Field is for.”

Conclusion:

Can’t we all just get along? Let’s use our email fields properly and our communications can be more effective for it!

The Post Office will ride off into Pony Express Heaven

You read the headline and think, “NO WAY is that going to happen in my lifetime.” And you may be right. However, I feel that the end is more near than most people think for the United States Postal Service. The First Class rates increases are happening at faster rates. History of Postal Rates from the Postal Rate Commission for proof. This can only mean that the amount of money being generated by the mail system is dropping.

Email vs. Snail-Mail

Obviously with the acceptance of email as a form of written communication the USPS has to have suffered serious losses from those “Thinking of you Letters” when an email is just so much faster. Also, with Instant Messaging has probably impacted those numbers as well. While I wouldn’t even consider sending a physical letter to someone saying, “How R U?”, I would now think twice before sending a physical letter to someone just to how their lives have changed over the past few months. Wouldn’t you rather hear from them within hours instead of days as you would have to wait up to 4-5 days before a simple letter would get there, then 4-5 more days to get their response? I wouldn’t think so.

Cost of Online Pay vs. USPS sending bills

Most would argue that businesses would be the ones to keep the USPS alive because of the sheer amount of bills that need to be generated each month that need to be paid going out and coming back. But now with eBill and ePay provided by most major Banks it seems that isn’t a viable option anymore. At the time of this writing Bank of America provides a “free” bill pay services that has many features that are nails in the coffin for the USPS. There are three parts to this service:

  1. eBill Service – emails to Bank from Billing Agency showing up in your Bill section online. They will also be set up to electronically receive your bill payment. The list of participants is continually growing.
  2. ePay Bill Payment Service – Bank pays Electronically if possible, or they send a check by mail themselves. And just because your bill originator is not set up for eBill doesn’t mean they can’t receive payment electronically from your Bank.
  3. Bill Management – Register your regular bills with your bank to “click and pay” them easily. You can even pay your infrequent bills through this same service.

Resulting effects:The Banks are reducing the amount of actual mail having to be sent by both the Bill Originator, through eBill, and the Paying Party, through ePay. Other Banks are doing the same types of services which will continue to reduce the amount of USPS assistance needed in this area. Even the price itself helps your bottom line. When sending 10 bills out a month on average you would have to spend $3.70 ($0.37/stamp) in stamps and $0.28 ($0.0276/envelope when bought in lots of 500) for envelopes. Now this doesn’t include incidentals like pens or printer ink if you print your mailing labels, or the cost of your checks themselves which are based on how “special” of a check you want to use. That’s about $4.00/month that you spend just to pay your 10 bills. If you have more bills then that, and most of us do, that’s more money out of your pocket versus free from BankOfAmerica or Wachovia (which is currently $6.95/month after a 3 month free – with a break even at 17 bills/month).

USPS vs. UPS/FedEx

Reviewing a few charges for sending mail it seems that $0.37 cents is indeed cheap. But how many of us trust the USPS to deliver important mail knowing that it could be lost without repercussions. What I mean by that is the fact that if you send something certified return reciept mail (currently $4.42) for something like a late bill, or some other important piece of mail. Do you realize that if the Post Office losses that mail, they aren’t liable for any loss whatsoever unless you put an additional insurance cost ($100.00 of insurance for $2.20). That insurance brings your package up to $6.62. UPS and FedEx both have an automatic $100.00 insurance upon request without additional cost. UPS charges $7.59 for local delivery while FedEx charges $4.38 for same local delivery which is $2.24 cheaper than USPS. That’s not including the Priority Mail charges or Express Mail Services. This is simply First Class Mail with signature confirmation which FedEx and UPS have signature confirmation as their base service.

Thinking “Greener”

You might think based on my last blog that I’m some kind of Tree Hugger, but I’m not really that extreme. Yes, I hate paper. I hate the print button. I hate printers, but that’s another issue. If you were to think about how many trees we may save by simply paying your bills online, 10 bills a month each year by 3 million people, has to be a lot of trees even if a lot of that is recycled. So, it’s a good thing for the world.

Monopoly Advertising?

Yes, the USPS is still considered a monopoly. No business can touch your mailbox in your front lawn or your PO Box unless they are USMail employees or it is a FEDERAL offense. UPS, FedEx, Airborne Express, MailBoxes Etc can not put mail into your mailbox. They also can’t deliver to PO boxes

Closing Thought

I can see the service of USPS going down as it is already an unreliable, mostly monopoly, over executively staffed company that should be working more like a non-profit company rather than a for-profit since it’s governmentally caressed. With the lack of true leadership, choices for expenditures, and the constant postage increases that will bypass even those of us with only a few bills a month it will be no suprise when the USPS starts slowing down it’s services to only a few times a week, then month, then “going out of business” sales.

Vehicles and their Doors!!

It frustrates me that car manufacturers really lack in serious motivation in upgrading or inventing a new door for the vehicles that we drive. Now here in the Christmas season we pack ourselves into parking lots that aren’t designed for keeping our cars “ding free.” Most of us hate it when we come out of a store and head back to your vehicle only to see a good sized “ding” in your side panel which most likely came from the vehicle next to you. They were probably not realizing how close they were to your vehicle before they “popped” open their door right into yours. Now your stuck with either trying to repair it yourself or just letting it go because you don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars trying to make the paint match again on that color that only the dealership has the ingredients for, which is another Rant of its own.

Troubles with today’s vehicle doors.

I had a Cougar car when I was younger and couldn’t understand why my doors had to be so incredibly long. Parking spaces were small and parking next to a vehicle almost guaranteed that I would have to at least touch the vehicle next to me just to get 6 inches of space at the back where I would have to contort myself to get through. We’ve all had times where the driver would have to get in and then pull the vehicle out just to get the rest of the group into the vehicles because the doors simply wouldn’t open far enough for people to get in.

The Inovation has been here for years.

We see vans and mini-vans that have their sliding rear doors that would hardly ever be able to hit the car next to you. The answer seems simple enough: put a sliding door on the front doors as well. Put that sliding rail at the half way point vertically on the door and have it slide down the side of the hood of the car. Is it that difficult? I wouldn’t think so. Wouldn’t it be nice to be parked next to a vehicle and when that door slides completely out of the way, you would be able to easily exit the vehicle without having to worry about hitting another vehicle with your door.

Reasons “They” will not upgrade doors.

You get that first “ding” and then the next, and next, and so on. Those first few hit you like a ton of bricks while fadding in impact after that. Next thing you know, your car just doesn’t have that luster it once had. The biggest reason, besides needing to wash it this month, are all those dents, scratches, and other “dings” that have just accumulated over the years. Result: you want a new car. Who does that make happy? The Car Manufacturers. Who would introduce the new doors to keep those dings away, keeping you in away from the dealerships longer? The Car Manufacturers. Any questions?

The Greater Good.

From a business perspective I can completely understand why the Car Manufacturers don’t put better doors on vehicles. However, looking from a nation and world that is trying to keep our resources as long as we can I have to question the big businesses motivation of money and start thinking about our resources. The Greater Good would be to upgrade those doors and if your company was first to do it, you’d be the first praised for a “greener” car.