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May, 2018:

Leadership – Five management success factors for Virtual Teams

This CIO magazine article share 5 key success factors for managing team members, who are not physically in the same office.

The days of workplaces located in a single office are done. Today’s workforce is distributed — across multiple small offices, embracing work-at-home-employees, and spread across continents — and IT has always been at the forefront of that change, eagerly embracing new communications technologies that make it possible. But we’re only a few years into this shift, and the tools and techniques we’ve used to manage a workforce and forge them into a team when they don’t meet at the water cooler every day are in some ways still in their infancy.

1. Sometimes, you’ve gotta talk it out — At the heart of collaboration is communication, and for everyone I spoke to, it was also at the heart of difficulties they had encountered with managing a virtual team. While there are more tools than ever that allow distributed teams to talk to each other (see sidebar), many of them are text based, and those tend to miss a crucial part of communication. Clear communication is a must, and as a team leader, it’s important to pay attention to make sure misinterpretations are minimized.”

2. Avoid information overload with documentation — “The challenge is that there are a lot of informal meetings and office chit-chat that take place where information is exchanged,” he explained. “A lot of distributed teams miss out on the context of what happened or why a decision was made. Miscommunication cropped up because of these last-minute changes, which are somewhat difficult to manage for distributed teams.”

3. Set the tone — The key was establishing the right balance between keeping the home office in the loop but also letting the remote workers take the wheel on their projects. The tone was set that the team had to take ownership of things like this. This element of the lab was an instrumental aspect to having innovation for solutions from within.”

4. Smaller may be better — Some of the leaders we spoke with have changed the way their businesses were organized to accommodate the reality of distributed teams. The main issue we faced was who was ultimately accountable to the success of the customer.

5. Your attention is needed — Your remote employees need the same degree of attention and emotional care as those working in the cubicle across from yours, and sometimes you have to make concrete choices or create organizational structures to provide remote workers with the kind of attention that arises organically when everyone’s working in the same building.

Leadership – Modern Collaborative tools for Virtual Teams

This CIO magazine article highlights collaborative tools that can link a team members together, who are not physically in the same office.

Anyone managing a distributed workforce is going to end up using a lot of different tools to facilitate collaboration. PhoenixNAP’s Ian McClarty was kind enough to rattle off for us the list of products his company uses.

For communication:

1. Skype for both instant messaging and video conferencing
2. 8×8 for VoIP/phone service
3. Email, using a standard Active Directory across all company locations.

For collaboration:

1. A mostly proprietary queuing system to manage incoming support calls
2. Ubersmith, a ticketing system to manage support contacts
3. Salesforce for CRM

For management and documentation needs:

1. JIRA to manage development projects and bugs
2. Microsoft SharePoint for documentation collaboration and as a document repository
3. SkyPrep for online training

Facebook – Teenage usage drops 20 percent from 2014 user survey

A Pew Research Center study notes that among users ages 13-17, that Facebook usage ranks 4th now, after YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat

Facebook is rapidly losing ground against rival internet platforms in attracting and keeping US teenagers, a survey showed Thursday.  The Pew Research Center report confirms a trend seen in other surveys, showing a sharp drop in Facebook’s share of what had long been a core age segment for the huge social network.

The survey found 51 percent of US teens ages 13 to 17 use Facebook, compared with 85 percent for YouTube, 72 percent for Instagram and 69 percent who are on Snapchat. The landscape has shifted since a 2014-15 Pew survey which found Facebook leading other social networks with 71 percent of the teen segment.

According to the survey, 95 percent of the teens survey said they used a smartphone and 45 percent were online “almost constantly,” with both figures showing increases from prior surveys.  “The social media environment among teens is quite different from what it was just three years ago,” said Pew researcher Monica Anderson, the lead author of the report.

“Back then, teens’ social media use mostly revolved around Facebook. Today, their habits revolve less around a single platform. At the same time we’ve seen this shift, teens are more digitally connected than ever.”  The survey showed a split over the impact of social media on the lives of the teens.

Pew found 31 percent said social media has had a mostly positive impact, with 24 percent describing its effect as mostly negative. The remaining 45 percent said it was neither. Those who reported a positive impact cited the ability to stay connected, find news and people with similar interests.

Leadership – 3 ways to improve executive effectiveness in 2018

The John Maxwell leadership training center shares valuable techniques to help improve executive effectiveness, as follows:

If you’ve been in leadership roles for long, you know that talent alone is never enough. It’s when initiative is put into place around your talent that it begins to expose and exploit your capabilities for everything they are worth.  Take a step back operationally and dive head-on into your relationships. Get to know the people you are leading. Pour your attention and focus into them. Here are three methods:

1. Commit To Making A Difference Immediately — When we start a new executive leadership role, we aren’t hoping it turns into just an average position for a mediocre organization. We want to thrive, lead and succeed. We want to establish ourselves as a primary piece of the puzzle. Someone who drives change, sure, but also someone who is respected for his or her commitment to the end goal. I hope we have commonality around this objective of committing to make a difference in our leadership journey right away.

2. Recognize The Power Of Quitting — You may have grown up in a home much like mine where quitting was not an option. While competitiveness certainly has its place across business and leadership, I argue that you have to give up to go up. Winners stop doing things that are not good for them. Here are five times when quitting counts and can actually be a positive decision:

(a) You quit something you don’t do well to start something you do well.
(b) You quit something you’re not passionate about to do something that fills you with passion.
(c) You quit something that doesn’t make a difference to do things that do make a difference.
(d) You quit something that’s not your dream to do something that is.
(e) You quit negative relationships and align with people who add value to your dream.

3. Evaluate And Eliminate Tired Goals — We all set goals that are, by nature, difficult to achieve. I’m not advocating that you “dream small.” I’m advocating that you “dream smart.” If you haven’t been successful in reaching a goal for the past three years, it’s time to let it go. Not reaching your goal is actually causing you harm because it’s creating a losing mindset that may be influencing other areas of your professional or personal life.  All too often, we become reliant on goals that limit our thinking and our creativity. They hold us captive and restrict us from seeing what’s really possible. Sometimes the challenge isn’t just eliminating these goals from our vision, it’s identifying they are problems in the first place.

Leadership – 8 ways to improve employee training in 2018

The John Maxwell leadership training center shares valuable techniques to help better create a “culture of learning”.  Great organizations are always in an continuous improvement mode. And making employees more knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced are key factors for future success.

So how do you create a culture of learning in your organization? How can you encourage it to be a collaborative environment where learning takes place as an extension of your corporate identity?  While certainly not exhaustive, here are 8 ways you can start creating a culture of learning:

1. Model it. Everything rises and falls on leadership; consequently, leaders must first embody a learning culture if they expect it to happen in the organizations they lead.

2. Keep it fun. Good leaders never forget that people are, well, human. They make sure learning opportunities are engaging, thoughtful, and fun in some way.

3. Recognize learning leaders. Implement opportunities for leaders who embrace a culture of learning to receive recognition. Shine a spotlight on their efforts, remembering that what gets rewarded, gets repeated.

4. Incentivize learning. Offer promotions, perks, or special benefits to those who embrace learning new skills and teaching others. Team members will be more encouraged to share knowledge and information.

5. Give 24/7 access to learning resources. Equip your teams with anytime access by using online platforms to host your learning resources. By making it as easy as possible, you’ll eliminate friction and the opportunity for excuses.

6. Encourage team members to teach. Your teams shouldn’t have to wait for formal training from outside. They can produce their own training content to be used internally. Be sure to promote and reward the team members who produce meaningful and beneficial information.

7. Allow mistakes. A culture of learning will experience mistakes – they’re part of the learning process. This move can demonstrate your company’s commitment to continuous improvement.

8. Allow team members to choose. Empower your employees to learn what they want to learn or create their own projects. Every student is most motivated to learn about something that interests him or her at the time.

Google Chrome – version 67 released

The Born security site is a favorite new resource for key security news & technical info recently discovered .. The release of Chrome 67 is highlighted below in an excellent recap for the new features:  


Google Chrome 67 released

Google Chrome 67 overview

Google Chrome 67 has been announced in the Google Blog on May 29, 2018. Chrome 67.0.3396.62 contains a number of fixes and improvements – a list of changes is available in the change log.  Here are a few things to mention.

  • Site Isolation Trial: Google is trying to extend site isolation in Chrome 67. Site Isolation improves the security of Chrome by blocking (isolating) displayed pages in the browser. This helps to minimize the risks emanating from Spectre.To determine if a problem is caused by site isolation, use chrome://flags#site-isolation-trial-opt-out to disable the feature (see). Google asks you to report any problems specific to the exam. This allows them to be fixed before the site isolation is broadened.
  • AR/VR/Sensor API: mentions a few improvements in AR/VR with the new WebXR Device API. The new Sensor API in Chrome 67 is discussed also within this venturebeat article.
  • Progressive Web Apps: Chrome 67 support Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs can now be opened directly on Windows PCs and the Mac in Chrome. They will open in a new window or tab.

This venturebeat article discussed more new features. Also Bleeping-Computer has a few details about security improvements. The browser should update itself automatically or can be downloaded free of charge from this Google website. Whether the problem with the black boxes during rendering (see following articles) is fixed, I could not test with the portable version yet.

Apple – iOS 11.4 features AirPlay2 and Messages in iCloud

Apple is working on development of iOS 12 & will announce some of the new features soon.  However, iOS 11.4 is now available.  One main feature is AirPlay 2 — which provided multiple room speaker support & more advanced sound capabilities.  The new “Messages in iCloud” capability will feature advanced multiple device synchronization.

iOS 11.4 arrives with AirPlay 2, Messages in iCloud

Apple drops a little software update ahead of next week’s WWDC, and it’s all about HomePod (and your iMessages).  We’re about a week away from seeing what iOS 12 will be like, but in the meantime the latest version of iOS 11 is now available to download. iOS 11.4 is here, bringing two overdue features promised last year: AirPlay 2 and iMessages in iCloud.

AirPlay 2 is all about multiroom audio, and it also brings stereo dual-HomePod music playback to HomePods. AirPlay 2 will also work on Apple TV, and can be controlled with iPhones and iPads.

But another key feature in iOS is the long-expected addition of Messages in iCloud, which syncs across all devices and deletes iMessages across everything, so you won’t get quite as spammed. It also backs up iMessages so that any new device in the account can get old iMessages without restoring a backup.  Messages in iCloud will use end-to-end encryption, and uses cloud storage instead of local storage for message archives and attachments. And it also works with SMS across devices.

Security – Google Chrome 69 warns on non-secure websites

Google’s project Canary will eventually become Chrome version 69, as a major features update.  It will more prominently warn users on any non-secure website where HTTP is used, rather than HTTPS.  Encrypted SSL processing is more secure and Google is advocating webmasters to migrate to HTTPS, as Internet Storm Center shares.  Many other browsers are doing likewise to warn users in an improved manner over the traditional “LOCK” icon.

Back in February, Google announced that sometime in July, with Chrome version 68, all HTTP sites will be marked as “not secure”. This is Google’s initiative to move everything to HTTPS, which is nice – since SSL/TLS certificates can be now obtained for free (see Let’s Encrypt but also be aware that also bad guys can get them for free), there is no more reason not to have your site accessible (only) via HTTPS. Indeed – if you haven’t done so already, make sure that you do this as priority.

Google will again change security indicators, this time with Chrome 70, which is supposed to be released in September.  With this version, HTTP sites will be additionally marked with a red warning sign when a user starts entering data in a form. I like this feature.

Amazon Echo Alexa – How to review and clean up online history

This link shares how to check on & clean up old history for the Alexa intelligent speaker system.  Sometimes background noise is interpreted by the Echo system as a possible command.

Last week a story circulated the web about Alexa recording the personal conversation of a woman and then sending it to a friend of hers. While that was certainly a unique predicament, it can be good to periodically look at what your own Alexa has picked up.  The Verge pointed out today that you can check on what your Alexa does here by going into the Alexa app. When you find things you’d rather not be in her history, you can also delete them on the spot.

KEY PROTECTION FOR ALL USERS — “A good rule of thumb is to avoid saying “Alexa” in general in your home when you don’t want to interact with the device

FBI – VPN Filter malware attack targets Routers and Network Devices Worldwide

A dangerous new malware attack called VPN Filter is circulating and it attacks routers and other networking devices as described below

Summary — The FBI recommends any owner of small office and home office routers power cycle (reboot) the devices. Foreign cyber actors have compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and other networked devices worldwide. The actors used VPNFilter malware to target small office and home office routers. The malware is able to perform multiple functions, including possible information collection, device exploitation, and blocking network traffic.

Technical Details — The size and scope of the infrastructure impacted by VPNFilter malware is significant. The malware targets routers produced by several manufacturers and network-attached storage devices by at least one manufacturer. The initial infection vector for this malware is currently unknown.

Threat — VPNFilter is able to render small office and home office routers inoperable. The malware can potentially also collect information passing through the router. Detection and analysis of the malware’s network activity is complicated by its use of encryption and misattributable networks.

Defense — The FBI recommends any owner of small office and home office routers reboot the devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and aid the potential identification of infected devices. Owners are advised to consider disabling remote management settings on devices and secure with strong passwords and encryption when enabled. Network devices should be upgraded to the latest available versions of firmware