The Cluttered Personal Home Of Matt Ridings

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"

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What I Do

What I Do

I'm CEO over at SideraWorks, a social business consultancy I founded with Amber Naslund. We help companies deal with the implications of social media on their business.
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What Is Social Business?

What Is Social Business?

You can download our free brief explaining the ins and outs of Social Business here.
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Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagements

I speak all over the world at keynotes and workshops for both public and private events. For more information please use this page.
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SideraWorks MasterClasses

SideraWorks MasterClasses

SideraWorks MasterClasses are full or half-day workshops that are devoted to the key elements of developing a social business.
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Avis Towed My Car

Update: Basically nothing has happened, not a single human conversation. Feel free to follow along over on Facebook 

Update 2: Well, I finally went in search of an actual human (the local manager)…. It didn’t go well. I recorded the conversation, will post it up when I get a chance.

Several months back we switched our rental car business over to Avis from Enterprise. As an Avis First customer I’ve really enjoyed the experience and tell everyone I know about how simple it makes everything.

And up until now things have gone pretty smoothly. There are occasions when they don’t have the car I ordered but they’ve typically made up for it with an equivalent or upgraded option. It’s par for the course. I don’t rent a great deal locally (maybe half a dozen times a year), usually it’s when I’m on the road and arriving at airports, but I recently needed a rental for a month. So I went to their STL airport location, pull into their parking lot and it’s full. So I go and ask the security guard who sits at the gate if this is where I have to park my car if I’m renting one. She says yes and that’ll I’ll just have to wait until something opens up. Luckily that’s not more than 5 minutes and I get a spot right by a stairwell and begin the long walk to grab my rental car. They didn’t have the car I ordered, but they had a new slightly better car available that they gave me instead. It would cost me a few bucks more in gas due to worse gas mileage but no biggie, so I went on my merry way.

Then I get a call saying that while on vacation I received a piece of mail stating that my car has been towed as an ‘abandoned vehicle’. Not the rental car mind you, but *my* car that’s in their parking lot. It’s dated June 16 and says that there’s charges of $350 for the towing and something like $50 a day for every day it’s stored. I get on the phone and start trying to call the local Avis, apparently which is impossible to talk to an actual person as when you get through the littany of options (all of which take you to their main reservations people and not the local office) you have the option to talk to the ‘manager on duty’…which then transfers you to either a) a generic cellphone voicemail or b) a busy signal.

So I figure I’ll call the main numbers and talk with them. I was routed through 8 different people after being put on hold each time, none of whom had any idea why I was talking with them. In other words after a certain amount of time of being put on hold (as the agent attempted to connect me to the local office) it would ring into a brand new person. I was sent to all kind of places, including one that handles impounding (yay!)…except only for *their* cars which have been impounded (not so yay). Virtually all of these people tell me that the lot in which I was parked was ‘probably’ not a long term lot (they couldn’t verify this), that I shouldn’t have parked there, and that they are sure it would be well marked with lots of signs to that effect and that I probably just missed them. Oh…and that I would be responsible for getting my car back…and paying for it.

So now I’m irked, but hey, maybe I did miss some big sign and somehow this is all my fault even though the security guard explicitly told me to park there. So I get in my car, drive there, and videotape entering the parking lot…I drive to where I had parked my car…I drive to the other end of the lot and I ask the security guard if this is where I’m supposed to park if I’m renting a car. She say yes. I make another run up the parking lot looking for signs to inform me that I can’t park there long term. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

So I ask you, what exactly am I supposed to do here? I’m stunned. The towing company doesn’t open until Monday (right now it’s Saturday).

 

The Callous Life

The Callous Life 

I’ve been working out a lot lately and I’ve developed these calluses on my hands that really annoyed me. Every time I’m at the gym I look at the metal grips on these bars and dumbbells with their sadistically designed diamond patterns that dig into your hands and I wonder “why don’t they make these things more comfortable?”.

So I move over to the Nautilus machines instead and use their comfy rubber grips. Invariably however, after a few days of this, I make my way back over to grip the uncomfortable metal that rips open new blisters, makes me curse like a sailor, and generally question my sanity.

I’ve come to understand that I actually love my callused hands. They are constant reminders to me that I’m actually doing something. That I’m willing to take a tough and uncomfortable road because the destination is worth it. I want to reach the end of that road with some scars of adventure, something that leaves a lasting memory that an obstacle was overcome.

I’ve obviously delved far into a metaphor here if you haven’t noticed. Whether it’s business and clients, or my own personal life, I can’t help but believe that coming to ‘grips’ with what makes us uncomfortable by clearly defining the purpose of the destination has tremendous value. That taking the more difficult path on purpose has value.

We all have to have our sensitive skin torn away time and again before we can become inured to a ‘new normal’. It’s how we progress. It’s the tendency to protect ourselves from that process, and its accompanying challenges, that holds us back and makes us and our businesses less than we could be. Less than we deserve to be.

Sometimes we will reach our destination, sometimes we won’t. Sometimes the destination will come into sight and we’ll realize it wasn’t really what we wanted after all. But for gods sake let’s make some lasting memories along the journey, because unlike the destination the journey is the only thing you are guaranteed to achieve.

Happy New Year, Let’s go make some calluses

Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

 

image courtesy: sashamd 

Why I’m Rethinking The Gender Issues In Technology – Treehouses

Minecraft head I have incredibly mixed feelings on this topic of gender issues in technology, always have. I’ve also always been a proponent of getting more girls engaged into the STEM fields early on. Carol Bartz (my old boss) was a big influence on opening my eyes to this all the way back in the 90’s at Autodesk when she was heavily engaged in supporting initiatives to do just that.

That said, I’m also frequently annoyed at many women decrying the sad percentages of women heading up tech companies, or sitting on the board of directors, or speaking at tech conferences…while ignoring some very real rational reasons that those disparities exist. That doesn’t excuse the disparity by the way, some of it is without question due to sexism whether consciously executed or not. I simply believe that voices are more apt to be listened to when presenting a complete picture vs. only a selective slice of reality. And the fact that the loudest voices seem to come from those looking to get speaking gigs, or be hired into a leadership position, well…right or wrong it makes me tune them out as opportunists.

We hear about exclusionary ‘brogrammer’ culture that makes it difficult to break into, we hear about VC’s in The Valley who simply feel more comfortable investing in others who look like them, we hear about how the hours and commitments involved in a startup intimidate both the woman and the hiring party because of their increased obligations in our societal structure. The list is long and varied…and nothing new. So what exactly has me rethinking this issue.

I have a 14 year old son. He is heavily into science and computers. He plays all the typical games, particularly multi-player online games. Do you know how many girls he plays with in these games? Zero. Do you know how many girls he even knows of who play these games? Zero. If you were to ask him or his friends if they’d have an issue playing these games with girls they’d likely say yes. That includes the cool ‘geek girl’ who may be into the same things they are.

The question is ‘why’? Based on the conversations I overhear during gameplay, I have no doubt that these young boys would feel stymied in their ability to act and speak freely. At this age they begin to feel self-conscious around girls, and let’s face it, these young boys like to be crude and silly with one another.

Kids Fantasy Land The games have become their equivalent of the last generations old treehouses, it’s not so much about the game as it is a safe place to meet up and do stupid boy stuff. They may not be posting a sign that says “No girls allowed” but they might as well be.

Girls have their equivalent treehouses, but what worries me is that it used to be that these clubs, cliques, groupings, or whatever you prefer to call them really were equivalent among the sexes. Separate but equal. They were physical spaces that facilitated that need when coming of age to feel that you weren’t alone in your feelings. A place of open sharing.

But texting, instant messaging, and cellphones (the predominant means of communications amongst young girls) are considered simple forms of communication, whereas gaming and the culture around it leads to a focus on learning about your computer hardware so that you can make it faster, or programming and networking so that you can learn cheats or run your own Minecraft server.

My son and his friends silently compete among themselves for gaining that upper hand, which means learning more and more about how and why technology works the way it does. The girls they know *use* technology in their communications, but they don’t crawl beneath the surface of it. Their treehouse doesn’t require it.

The tech itself, and the way it is used as a part of these rituals of growing up, seems to be more divisive than ever when it comes to the sexes, while at the same time it’s not even noticed. And it’s happening at exactly the worst ages. These are the ages where we need to have attracted young girls to these fields if we are to make a real dent in the degrees that women seek and their subsequent mark in those fields.

The different sexes need their treehouses, forcing them into each others certainly isn’t helpful. I’m just extremely concerned that we appear to be exacerbating the problem by the very nature of the treehouse itself, at the worst time possible in these kids growth.

I wish I had a simple answer or recommendation to give right here. I don’t. But I plan on spending some time thinking about it. Perhaps you can make some helpful suggestions in the comments below.

Cheers,

Matt Ridings - @techguerilla

 

images via Nathan Rupert & Doug