8/26/2014

Top 10 ways to fire the client from hell


Clients are the lifeblood of any business. Without them, your venture simply doesn’t exist. On the other hand, some clients are so bad that your business, not to mention your personal sanity, is better off without them. So what do you do when you have a client that pushes you to the brink? You fire them! That’s right, you fire them! I have fired a few clients in my career and although it’s not fun or easy to do, it’s necessary.

Here’s how to give 10 of the worst offenders the pink slip without burning bridges:

1. THE BARGAIN SHOPPER:

As a general rule, the client who pays the least will expect the most. The words “I need this done cheap” should strike fear in your heart, not because of profit margins, but because this client will nickel-and-dime you within an inch of your life for extra work, support and other nuisances that were not in the original scope.

How to get out: This one’s simple: Raise your rates, if only for this particular client. The bargain shopper will move on to the next firm that offers a better price, as he’s concerned only with the bottom line, not the value of your work.

2. THE CLIENT WHO CAN’T MAKE DEADLINES:

This client wants you to have his project as your top priority, because he’s on a tight schedule and needs to get something produced right away. You agree, assuming that you’ll have all of the information you need to get it done quickly. Unfortunately, your client drops off the face of the earth, ignoring your requests for approvals and other correspondence, until your previously agreed upon due date comes and goes. At this point, you’re both blaming each other for the project’s delay, and it’s not pretty.

How to get out: Establish the fact that you are not able to meet deadlines, unless your client is able to meet theirs. Instead of setting a concrete date, make it contingent upon receipt of information, such as a certain number of days from the signed approval date. Don’t accept any future work from this client, as his habits are not likely to change. Instead, tell him that you’re experiencing a high volume of work and offer to refer him to another firm.

3. THE CLIENT WITH A NOT-SO-SMALL PROJECT:

You get a call out of the blue from a new customer who wants you to complete a small, simple project. He thinks it should be easy and uncomplicated, so he’s only willing to pay a small fee. You agree that this is fair, until you realize the client is going to make this small project a major pain with endless changes and additions that were not a part of the original budget.

How to get out: If you agreed to do a certain amount of work for a particular price, deliver it and do a good job. But if this client pushes boundaries, clearly inform them that extra work will cost extra money. If they refuse to respect your rules, invoice them for any unpaid work and stop the project in its tracks. Give them what you’ve produced up to the point where you severed ties, but only if they’ve paid for it.

4. THE ONE WHO’S NEVER SATISFIED:

Even if you come in under budget and over deliver, this client just isn’t happy with your work. He may have something in his mind that he just can’t communicate to you, and when you don’t deliver this idea that lives in his head, he’s disappointed.

How to get out: Ask the client to clearly describe or sketch what he’s looking for, or even send you an example. He may want a product that looks like his friend’s, but he’s afraid to say so. If you’re already done with the project and you’ve done a great job, don’t sweat it. Make it clear to the client, citing any agreements that you’ve made, that you stuck to the scope of the project and delivered exactly what he asked for. You don’t want to have him bad-mouth you or stiff you on an invoice. Consider offering to do additional work on this project if he can provide more clarity on his desires. If he would like to hire you again in the future, you may want to tell him that your business has gone in a different direction....more via 

How much difference is there between MP3, CD and 24-bit audio?


Debates rage over whether hi-res music is a gimmick. Three Guardian writers put four music formats – and their ears – to the test.

Why are we still listening to over-compressed music through low-quality headphones when advances in bandwidth, storage capacity and speakers (not to mention headphones) means we could be listening to high-quality uncompressed audio all the time?

Neil Young’s Pono player has spurred a renewed interest in high resolution audio – music that promises to bring the high-fidelity experience of vinyl to the digital age.

The premise is simple: high-resolution music sounds better than the highly compressed MP3 and even the CD, which preceded it as the most favoured form of digital audio for the best part of 30 years. The failures of higher-quality music formats such as Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD-Audio, and the continued absence of “24-bit audio” - which should give far higher resolution to sound than the 16-bit audio used on a CD - suggests that high-resolution music faces many challenges.

Briefly: CD audio is digitally sampled at 44kHz, which sampling theory says can capture any frequency up to 22kHz - the upper limit of human hearing. The volume levels are then quantised into 16-bit quantities, which can represent 65,536 discrete values for the loudness. 24-bit audio is often sampled at 96kHz or 192kHz; those 24 bits can represent 16.7m discrete loudness values. By contrast MP3s are compressed by an algorithm that throws away parts of the sound that long laborious testing determined could not actually be heard. (Pub quiz fact: the song used as the comparator for each attempt at the algorithm was Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner.)

But the key question for hi-res audio is: can listeners can actually hear the difference?

To attempt to answer that question, the Guardian recruited Linn Records, purveyors of high-resolution music since 2007 and a recording label with access to the original files recorded by artists, bands and orchestras....more via 

8/25/2014

The Stories That Bind Us


Families may want to create a mission statement similar to the ones many companies use to identify their core values.

I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August, and we were struggling with assorted crises. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.

“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”

But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

It turns out to be an astonishingly good time to ask that question. The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.

Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.

The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers...more via  

Done shivering? Now try the rice bucket challenge


Needs are different and water is too scarce to dump over your head—so the pay-it-forward donation trend gets a twist in India.

India has come up with a localized version of the chilling ice bucket challenge—the charity stunt that has gone viral on social media. The ALS ice bucket challenge involved participants posting videos of them having freezing water poured over them. The aim is to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called Lou Gerhig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease.

A Hyderabad-based journalist believes that it is a bit senseless to copy the stunt in India, a country where clean water is a luxury for many. Instead, she has come up with the rice bucket challenge, where people are encouraged to cook or donate a bowl or bag of rice to a poor person. They then take a picture of themselves and post it on Facebook and nominate friends to take up the cause.

“The idea of dunking oneself in icy cold water, shrieking in horror and then uploading the bizarre video felt preposterous. I wanted to just do something local, meaningful without wasting anything.” says 38-year old Manju Latha Kalanidhi. “So rice replaced water here.”

The idea has hit all the right notes on social media. Its Facebook page, created yesterday, has already amassed nearly 7,000 fans in less than 24 hours.

“Response has been staggering,” says Manju. “You can donate to any needy person—a poor kid, a vegetable seller, your maid, driver, watchman, orphanage etc.”
She began charity and rice bucket challenge last week by donating to a a daily labourer who sells idlis/dosas in a small stall run from his bicycle. Manju says she chose rice for donation because it rhymes with “ice” and is an integral part of South Indian diet. The challenge doesn’t produce spectacular videos like the ice bucket challenge, but if it catches on, many hungry stomachs will be fed....more via 

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