Yes Kiddies, there was communication before the INTERNET!

June 13, 2018

Ok, my apologies to all those readers who are old enough to remember life before the INTERNET. How did we ever do it? When I’m out and about and see people sitting next to one another and texting, streaming and listening to music non-stop I wonder if everyone has forgotten how to carry on a conversation. So have we progressed in our abilities to communicate with all this communications? There are so many viewpoints to tackle; I’ll just take one today.

InternetI not only remember the days before the Internet, but I was actively involved in the messaging industry that attempted to address the issues of connecting disparate companies around the globe. There was a huge technical problem at the time. Every telecom company operated with their own data format necessitating a data format conversion if any one company could send messages to any other company; thus much of message was intra-company. So there were lots of people using a single provider such as AOL, MCI, etc. and anyone within that company could send messages to each other. Wow, but sending a message to someone not using that carrier was tricky and once accomplished, expensive. There was a service fee to connect. If you had friends among several different carriers, you had to pay this fee for each different one. It would be like paying tolls for using all the different toll roads to reach the homes of friends living in different locales in the metropolitan DC area. This is the best example I can provide to understand how it was back then.

At the time, I was working for the US Government, in the branch called the General Services Administration or GSA for short. I participated in meetings with “standards bodies” both for US standards as well as travelling to Europe for the standards being developed there as well. The goal of both these regional bodies was to foster compliance to a common data format so that all this conversion would be a thing of the past. There was beginning to be some success of standards taking hold when I came into the picture around 1995 timeframe. It was then that I had the idea of asking industry to cooperate even further for a test. Why not move faster towards standards?

At one such standards meeting at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I raised my hand and asked the question “why are companies still using the 1984 standard when there is a 1988 standard?” (since it was already almost 1996!). And the leader of the meeting replied, “Great question, so you can lead the working group to find out!” Although I protested indicating that I was a mere government worker and not a recognized leader of any industry group, I was non-the-less appointed to chairperson of a committee to investigate industry cooperation. I took my new position seriously and without going into all the details, the result was a Challenge to industry which took hold slowly but gathered cooperation as predicted. I had a vision of how I felt it should work, that included the messaging part, a directory to store the names/address data fields and eventually a security component to protect the sender/receiver relationship.

The effort was picked up by the Electronic Messaging Association first in the US and then the European version of this same organization with what I would call great success having 14 countries and over 100 people involved. I have some great stories of both challenges and comradery that occurred over the 18 months that we all worked together to conduct testing with a standards-based data format which different companies would send back and forth. By the time that we were into testing, I moved from my government position to a telecom company – British Telecom that had a local office very close to me. It was lovely that their North American office was only 3 miles away, but I also spent a fair amount of time at their office just outside of London.

The point of this story is that real cooperation was required and real communication. We had many emails, conference calls and meetings all over the US and at different places in Europe. As the leader of the group, I did my best to foster teamwork, give recognition and appreciation and to plan group activities such as special dinners at wonderful local restaurants (with everyone paying their own way, but organizing was more than half the battle when one wants to eat in a lovely place in the outskirts of Brussels).

In the end, we were successful at moving international standards forward, but the Internet made it all a moot point. Like the wind, the Internet came blowing in with little security and me worrying how it would all play out. I was not an initial supporter nor an early adopter, but now I text, stream and play music off my phone like everyone else. I enjoy all the benefits that the Internet has, but I also have had my fair share of the issues that not having good security built in has brought to us all. But for this article, the emphasis is on cooperation and communication.

So when I see families sitting at the dinner table and are all texting and not talking, I smile at myself and mumble – yes, it’s nice that we’re all so interconnected now. But let’s do remember to talk to one another, take our friendships and relationships seriously and cherish the real times that we have together. Even while working to connect our world, my rag tag group of volunteers from the telecom industry would probably tell you that their days on our working group, as hard as they worked, was one of the best in their life. Why? Because of the comradery, the cooperation and the communication!

 


Be Wary of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing!

October 23, 2013

It’s flattering when someone approaches you with friendship. Everyone wants to feel cared for, wanted, and desired, even if it’s as a friend. So when someone new comes into your life with whom you get along and you feel there’s friend potential, it’s natural to brighten at the prospect. But not all friend requests are given without ulterior motives – thus, remember the old adage of

“Be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing!”

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Look closely at friend requests however, since in some cases there’s a hidden agenda. Sometimes, what is offered in friendship comes with a steep price tag – in other words, it’s not offered without strings attached as one would prefer. Growing up, I always tried to make friends with anyone that offered an outstretched hand and in some cases I got burned. You would think that such experience would have made me more cautious, but I guess the desire to have more friends gets the better of me. I do have good judgment in most things; it’s just sometimes I give people too much credit for always doing what I would do – which is the right thing.

Even in the face of adversity, I still say that there is always a reason that people meet; there are always life lessons to be learned and perhaps even more so when challenges are present. So here’s my latest tale of betrayal.

When a new “friend” that I had met at a retreat several months prior called indicating her desire to attend a spiritual conference, she presented the situation as if she couldn’t do it alone. She asked if she could fly into the airport near my home, drive down to the program with me as well as share a room while there. As we’d have to leave first thing in the morning, this arrangement meant that she’d have to fly in the day before, stay at my house and do the reverse on the way home. Thinking that I was establishing a new, budding relationship that had international travel potential, I readily agreed. So I opened my home to her which meant extra cleaning, making dinner, and helping her prepare food to take for the 4 days we would be in attendance. Since I was taking food so as not to have to eat all my meals out, I felt like this was the right thing to do. And, at least initially, she seemed to respect and appreciate my nurturing nature. That is, until we arrived at the hotel after the 4-hour drive, during which was partially in torrents of rain.

As we got out of the car at the hotel, her personality shifted. It was as if she changed from a kind person into a creature that I didn’t know. She began to push back at whatever I tried to do; suddenly I was “pushy”, “impatient”, etc. when I tried to leave the room to drive to the program allowing enough time to park. Although there was a shuttle that could take her from the hotel to the program eight blocks down the street, she insisted upon driving with me, but making me wait on her. Being a life coach was of great help in keeping my cool as I felt like throwing her out the window into the pouring rain. I felt that I had to maintain my sanity as we had 4 days together and this was just the beginning. And so it went. No matter what we were doing, she pushed back which served to distance me as much as possible during the day while at the program. But at night, we were in the room together. She didn’t like the A/C, so insisted upon leaving the sliding door open which made the room warm and quite stuffy making my sleep difficult.

By the fourth day, I was ready to leave her there, but I knew that the universe had put her in my path for a reason; however, I was having trouble figuring out the reason. Then it came to me. There is such a thing as doing too much for someone so that they just don’t appreciate it. There is also being too nice. Apparently, I was just a convenience to her.  I drove and she was sharing with me. I could have told her off, but it would have made out time together even worse. There is no doubt she’s a very needy person who has to be around people who mirror how wonderful she is and when I wasn’t doing that, she became moody. By Sunday, I was sending out energy of “make one false move and I will leave you here”. She got up early, dressed without incident and we were ready to leave by 8 AM without my saying one word to her. I guess she figured if she wanted a ride back with me she had to go back to behaving.

The 4-hour drive home was done in total silence through a tropical storm. It’s true that I had to concentrate but it was also true that I didn’t have words for her either. We finally got back to my house and we both stayed in our respective rooms for the day. I didn’t feel obligated to entertain her. I was really tired after not sleeping for days. When I mentioned that I couldn’t go to exercise in the morning due to when I had to go to the airport to take her, she opted to take a taxi.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when she was finally gone. I cleaned for several days to get her energy out of the house. I also had to change and wash the sheets from the guest room. Although she did thank me as she left, I’ve not gotten a note – but that doesn’t surprise me. All in all, this experience has been a huge lesson. When I do travel, I will not have a roommate. Also, I will be more discerning who I welcome as a friend. Now I will remember the wolves in sheep’s clothing!

  

 

 


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