By Mandy Aguilar
Memo to all: Multitasking is now required in business. Our computers multitask, our phones multitask, and so, just to keep up with the pace of the tech world today, we better become multitasking super humans. This trend did not happen overnight; but, swiftly in the span of my career, I have seen the change. I never cared for agendas or calendars before. I still remember the days when people carried their leatherbound FranklinCovey agenda into meetings, with all kinds of dividers and inserts for their calendar, notes and to-do lists. The inner free spirit still left in me those days always felt a bit apprehensive of these agenda-carrying drones — what?
Can’t they remember simple appointment? Eventually, I too felt the need to find tools to help me keep up with the many tasks thrown my way. As we all know, Father Time keeps on ticking and he caught up with me too. “Time waits for no one, and it won’t wait for me,” said the famous 20th century philosophers, Jagger and Richards (heck they’re still around, so maybe now they need to be called famous 21st century philosophers?) So for several years now, I had to drone out and start using the tools of the trade; I just couldn’t hack it with the leatherbound alternatives, so I went with digital tools.
Multitasking sounds stressful; and it can be. Surprisingly, I have found that the digital calendar, agendas and to-do tools available today can actually help manage the workload and hopefully reduce stress. In a perverse way, it can even turn it into a powerful motivator. This is especially true of apps that manage to-do lists. I have become a convert and try to list most of the important things I need to do regularly. I never ever kept up with my to-dos when I used to jot them down with good old paper and pen; however, the dawn of to-do apps have turned my efficiency way up and my stress levels way down.
This is the first to-do app that made me drink the Kool-Aid. Like all great apps, this one is free and works all on PC, Mac and mobile platforms. It syncs on the cloud, behind the scenes so that your lists are available on all your computers and phones. There is even a Web-based version of your lists available to you on any computer.
The app creators encourage you to create multiple lists to track your to-dos, but to speed up the flow of work, you enter all your to-dos into the “inbox” list and later move them around to their appropriate destination. For example, say you have a list for work, one for things to do at home and one for pending items for your son’s tennis team. You remembered that you had to write a column for a magazine, and at the same time you remembered that you had to order tennis balls from Amazon for the upcoming tournament. You simply enter both of these items in the Wunderlist inbox and later, when you have time, you move them to the respective lists. I have found this to be the most likable aspect of this app. As soon as I remember something, I just jot it down and later, when I’m organizing my inbox, I redistribute the to-dos accordingly, just like I would with email.
The app is full of features to help you work better. It easily allows you to print or email your to-do lists. You can set up reminders that will alert you both on your phone and computer; this makes it one of the most powerful reminder tools out there. You can also add sub-tasks, notes and links to your to-dos, which makes this a great tool for project management and research. Finally, you can share your lists with other Wunderlist users; this is a smooth feature that allows all collaborators to work on the same list and keep it synced and up to date at all times.
When apps are free, you tend to try more than one. That’s how I recently got into a new app called Any.Do, available for Android and iOS devices. This app also syncs on the cloud and keeps you organized and up to date on all your devices at once. The app has an extremely appealing aesthetic design that makes it very pleasing to use. It has a dictation feature that works like magic; you remember something and just dictate it on the app, and it will turn it into written to-dos. You can add reminders very easily to stay on track.
Just recently they updated the app and added what they call an “Any.Do Moment.” This is an automatic daily routine that, in an almost Zen-like fashion (with Zen soundtrack to set mood), makes you go through all you pending to-dos and organize your day by resetting priorities and due dates with just a few taps of the screen. Once you’re done, your to-dos will be updated and resorted, and your memory will be boosted to keep track of the things you need to do. The flow of work on this feature is just perfect. I have yet to see any other productivity apps adjust to day to day work flow like this one. The reward of using the app far outweighs its learning curve!
So now I’m using both, Any.Do and Wunderlist, regularly. With not preset agenda, I seem to have migrated to Any.Do for my daily, more immediate to-dos, and kept Wunderlist for items that are a bit more long-term, require more research or involve collaboration with my peers. I know that it may sound like too much work, but these two apps really work in unison for me, and perhaps they can do the same for you to.
What I value most about using to-do apps is that I have found a way to jot down things right when I remember them. We’ve all been there: you are in a meeting or driving your car, suddenly you remember something you had to do, but you forget to write it down then and there. Soon your brain fizzles and that thing you had to do is filed away in the never-to-remember lobe in the back of your brain. By writing down my to-dos more frequently, I seem to remember more, therefore keeping better to-dos. Without a doubt, this has helped me manage my time more efficiently, thus allowing me more time to play and goof off. Could it be that this simple change in the way I work has allowed me to actually work less?
This holiday season, the crowd-funding website for creative projects, Kickstarter, made me take the trek from San Juan to the southern city Ponce in Puerto Rico, just to look at a tree. This is a trek I’ve made hundreds of times, on a mountain highway that connects the capital of Puerto Rico, with the southern side of the island. Back when I was a kid, we used to make the same trek as a family with mom and dad in the front seats of our Fiat 124 station wagon — no riders in the back seats. No sir, no fun-loving kid would be caught on one of those for a road trip! Kids back then rode, more like laid down, all the way in the back of the station wagon with pillows, blankets and snacks; like a picnic on wheels. No seatbelt, no rear-facing car seat, no restraints whatsoever. Kids were free to jump and roam the station wagon’s cargo area, with the rear glass door open.
To pass the time there was nothing better to do than look out the window (try convincing your kids, holding an iPad today, that looking out the window is fun!)
Crossing the island from north to south is still mesmerizing today. Puerto Rico gets a lot more rain in the north than the south. All of our lush, tropical rainforest scenery is located in the north, with a very clear boundary halfway through the Island, where the climate changes and the topography goes from lush green to grassy browns. This highway slices right through that boundary. The first beacon of the drier south is a grassy hill with only one tree on its top — a lonely mango tree.
I’ve always felt a connection with that tree, due to the many hours spent on the back of the family’s station wagon. This tree is so present on that mountain that no one can escape its calling; as you drive by it, your eyes can’t help but look up to it. The years went on, I became the dad and moved to the front seats with my kids now riding, fully restrained by their seat belts, right behind me. Over the years, I have made a big deal about the tree with my kids as we drive by it and now the tree has connected with them as well.
On a late Sunday this past December, we decided to go on a trip just to see the tree. It was the first time ever we all went just to look at the tree. Furthermore, we did it at night. It was a special occasion, for you see, just for a few shorts weeks this December the lonely mango tree got a lot of attention. Sometime during autumn, I saw a tweet about a group of volunteers who wanted to decorate the lonely tree with lights to turn it into a Christmas tree. Only in Puerto Rico: a mango Christmas tree! To fund their project, they turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.
Independent film makers, writers, software and product developers, entrepreneurs and many others have turned to Kickstarter to find the money needed to turn their ideas, into real products. The funding comes from site visitors like you and me. If you like a project, you can become a sponsor with a pledge, but your pledge will not be executed until the project raises it’s target funding amount.
This all-or-nothing approach has made Kickstarter a very successful platform, as project designers either make their goals quickly or find little support from the start. The statistics on the projects that get funded and come to fruition are impressive. And all of this gets done on an honor system; your pledge won’t be charged until the projects raise enough pledges. The proponents are in no way mandated to actually deliver the product, nor does Kickstarter force them to produce anything. It’s up to each pledger to determine the validity of the project, and the contribution is given with no strings attached and no expectation of a return on investment.
According to the site, since its launch in 2009 “over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.” This is how the volunteers in Puerto Rico were able to raise the funds needed to buy solar lights and the mounting equipment needed to turn that Mango tree into a Christmas tree. For more information about their adventure visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/LightItUpArbolSolitario.
This idea of crowd-funding a project is so powerful it begs the question, “How can we use this tool to drive innovation in our own industry”? A quick search of the Kickstarter website shows not one single project for the auto parts industry. Clearly, the creative slant Kickstarter looks for does not lend itself as an incubator of ideas for auto parts innovators; but, the crowd-sourced funding model does. We all have challenges in our businesses that are screaming for a tech solution. You have to wonder, what if there was a website where we could tap into our industry’s collective brain trust and look for new ideas to advance our business tech know-how? Ironically, the Kickstarter name would have fit us to a “T.”
By: Mandy Aguilar
as Published on Counterman Magazine
If we ask a bunch of techies today how many of them remember Prodigy, what do you think the answer will be? How about CompuServe? How many will remember both of these were companies that provided dial-up internet access to business and consumers. Heck for that matter, how many will even know what a dial-up was? The answer will probably be a big “I dunno”! You see these companies, just established in 1995, once reigned supreme over all things internet, but their hold on that title was short lived; one of many victims of the new tech world order’s vertiginous speed of change. DSL and Cable modems ushered the age of broadband in our lives and dial-up, just as quickly, went the way of the Dodo.
New users are coming up and teaching our kids about technology is a new requisite parents and teachers have had to add to their repertoire; a tough challenge indeed as often times the roles can be reversed and the kids can actually do the teaching. Even the Cub Scouts have implemented technology teaching into their curriculum. My son has been a Cub Scout for a few years and is now a Webelos getting ready this semester to cross the bridge to Scout. His Den has been working on getting their Communicator Pin, one of their requirements that focuses on varied forms of communications, including the internet. I was asked to give the kids a talk about technology and I have to tell you the experience was magnificent. I have been a speaker at many industry forums and enjoy the challenge of delivering a presentation in front of hundreds of peers; but, somehow talking to these 10 year old Webelos gave me butterflies the size of pterodactyls!
As it usually happens with most presentations, you start talking, then the nerves calm down, the audience start to engage you, a nice flow of knowledge give-and-take ensues thus transforming the whole experience into one that is very rewarding. We spoke about searching the internet, sending email, social media sites and how to deal and avoid Cyberbulling (I bet none of you guys that were Boy Scouts ever had to deal with that one!). Along with the kids, many of their parents attended the presentation as well. At one point, we were talking about the beginning of the internet and spoke about dial-ups. The kids were beyond skeptical – “What, what -you had to dial a phone number to connect your computer to the internet?” Out of all things, this woke the parents up from their Mandy-induced stupor and got them taking about their experiences using dial-up services; turns out they hung on to their nostalgic recollection of dial-up like Charles Foster Kane hung to “Rosebud”.
My presentation got derailed; the parents took over it! One Dad spoke about how slow his dial-up was. Another lamented how her parents got on her case about their phone line being busy for hours while she played on the internet using his dial-up connection. Then at one point, someone started imitating the sound dial-up modems made when attempting a connection; this caught on and soon all the parents sounded like 56K modems in a cacophony of failed web connections to the past. We were all laughing like kids (including the kids). Never doubt humor as the best tool for any presentation. If you want to go down memory lane along with us visit www.dialupsound.com for a laugh.
In little more than a decade, we have gone from dialing phone numbers on a land-line at home so that we could connect our PC to the web at speeds of 56K, to carrying a smartphone in our pocket that’s hundreds of times more powerful than any PC we ever had plus the darn thing is always connected to the internet using cellular data networks where speed is now measured in hundreds of Megabits.
This is the speed of change and its affecting our lives all over. Newspapers, travel agencies, retail stores have all felt firsthand the impact of this new reality- we are connected to the internet at fast speeds able to access large amount of data all the time. In the auto parts industry the changes are hitting us just as fast; customers want fast, reliable access to real data to compare prices and availability and make decisions about their business in real time. Markets are just that much more efficient and we must be able to compete in those markets at the current speed of transaction. The Boy Scouts are clearly prepping for it - are you?
Several brain development experts claim that learning a second language during childhood has a huge positive effect on intellectual growth and provides greater flexibility in thinking. As a person raised with a bilingual education and as a parent raising two bilingual kids, I could not agree more.
The future opportunities my kids could have will be twice as many, as long as they are fluent in more than one language. Hopefully, this will help them open many doors to other cultures and give them the understanding to further appreciate people from countries and customs other that their own.
In my own career, I have been blessed by my knowledge of English and Spanish, allowing me to find business opportunities in countries across the globe. I have engaged several business contacts in Latin America and I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that not all “Spanish” is the same. There are incredible differences in idioms and the meaning of many words do change from country to country, even more so when we are naming auto parts across the continent.
The way we call a strut in Puerto Rico has a completely different meaning in Mexico; Struts are sometimes called “legs” in Mexico. I have learned countless variations, all in Spanish, on names for auto parts components. The literal translation for a CV axle into Spanish could mean “arrow” in one country and “shaft” in another. By far the most ridiculously funny occurrence of this translation phenomenon was when I visited Guatemala recently and I used the Puerto Rican-Spanish name for ball bearings which literally translated to “Boxes of Testicles” in Guatemala! Rest assured, I got a big laugh and no orders. And although my manhood might have been hurt a little, thankfully no actual testicles were harmed during this laugh-out-loud episode.
These peculiarities are no different in English as tech terms change from American English to British English. A “vise” clamping tool in America is known as a “vice” tool in England; I can see “vice tool” could really be interpreted as something complete different here in the States. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these names that change meaning across the Atlantic: truck and lorries, TVs and tellys, tires and tyres.
Translating is a funny business, getting the words and not the idioms is usually a funny or fatal mistake. There is indeed a lot that can and does gets lost; to this even the famous poet Robert Frost can attest with his quote, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” Believe it or not, I hate to translate. I find it a tedious labor and get too anxious trying to find a universal meaning that will play well to as many readers as possible. By the same token, when I run into a great translation, I usually enjoy it as much as an original work.
Regrettably, English to Spanish translations in our industry leave a lot to be desired. Be it marketing or training materials, they are often not well translated and that’s a shame. Many translations seem to be missing the required degree of professionalism and are riddled with mistakes, grammatical errors, missed meanings or too many regionalisms. An even more prevalent disaster is the written use of “Spanglish,” a pidgin language that has become very prevalent among people that speak both English and Spanish, which in its oral form has become quasi-acceptable at times, but it should never, never, never be used on a brochure or website promoting your company’s product and services.
One group that seems to have a great handle on translation are the folks at WHI Solutions. Their software platforms are translated to both Spanish and French and they are spot on. Perhaps the rest of the industry can follow suit soon and I think they must to keep up with the market changes. Hispanic businesses are growing in the States and consumers won’t tolerate bad translations when they are out there selecting their auto parts. In the transportation and warehousing industries alone, Hispanic-owned businesses are projecting a 60.6 percent increase over the past 10 years according to HispanicBusiness.com.
This brings us to the app of the month I want to share with you: Google Translate. This is yet another free service from the folks at Google that translates text and web pages from and into many languages and it’s available at www.translate.google.com. Their English to Spanish conduits and vice versa are amazingly accurate; very close to spoken language including idioms and not some breakdown of words in fragments. I have heard from friends that are fluent in French and Italian that the translations to those languages are also very good.
Please forgive the stunt I am about to do to prove this point. I wrote this paragraph that you are reading now in Spanish and let Google Translate convert it to English. While writing it, Google Translate was correcting spelling errors in Spanish and offered alternatives to me to write better. All this in real time. In the end I just did a copy and paste, and here is the final result - “¡Muy Bueno, Google!”
In the new global economy we are all exposed to foreign languages at work more frequently. I urge you to take a Google Translate test drive and have fun with it. By the way, try the name for some auto parts — you’ll be amazed at how accurate their system is; if I only used it before my big boxes of testicles gaffe in Guatemala!
I want more emails! Actually, the situation is much, much worse: I need more emails. I know, I know, you probably think I’m suffering from some acute tech dementia; but, truth be told, I’m still not getting all the emails I must have. According to my Google Account Activity monthly usage report service (which anyone with a Gmail account can subscribe to for free by logging in to your Google account settings), I’m getting and sending more than 500 emails a month; so is not like I’m off the grid or something. If anything, I’m too connected.
In spite of my commitment to email, in the end, it is nothing more than good, old correspondence and by its very nature it “takes two to Tango.” So here’s the rub: there are still lots of our collaborators, suppliers and customers that simply won’t engage us via email. I’m talking about that one, great old-school customer who won’t even get an email address. To this day, he still dials you up to call in an order on the phone. Or, the employee who is your go-to guy or gal when it comes to handling a big problem but can’t report back to you because they just don’t do email.
When we deconstruct the issue down to its core, the very nature of email is writing and its lowest common denominator is grammar. In the new world order of Internet connectivity, grammar has become vital to represent ourselves professionally when we connect to each other online. Bad grammar is just bad for business and as such, without mastering it, you probably don’t feel comfortable communicating with others utilizing the written word, be it email or otherwise. On the Internet, the written word is all you have to show your professionalism; can you really afford to have grammatical errors on your company’s Web page?
When preparing a resume you typically scour through it several times to ensure you purge it of any grammatical errors, but how can an employer be certain that the prospective candidate has good grammar? There are job functions within several companies where writing is essential and as such, grammar testing is standard operating procedure to gain employment. Could we do the same in the auto parts industry? Not all of our jobs call for good grammar, but could we get a better employee if we screen for candidates that know the difference between there, their and they’re?
Recently, Karl Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, a company in the business of writing online repair manuals, wrote an article for the Harvard Business review where he declared, “I won’t hire people who use poor grammar.” The article has gotten a ton of comments, both positive and negative as a reaction to his radical position. I was intrigued by his observation that, “people who make fewer mistakes on grammar tests also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.”
It’s a tough position to assimilate, but Mr. iFixit might be onto something. No doubt, the argument can be made that grammar is not essential for all job functions within our industry and in no way can it be a litmus test for intelligence, work ethics, likability and dedication; but is hard not to believe that a person who pays attention to good grammar will probably be much more detailed-oriented and less prone to make mistakes. Furthermore, a person with bad grammar will probably not be the one to write the most emails.
This brings me back to my desire to receive more emails. For me, email is a primary tool to manage my business. Our company is spread out through the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico, with customers and vendors all over the world. For years, many of my collaborators have become prone to using email as a way to accelerate communications and keep a record of them across the long distances that divide us. Email has brought me closer to my collaborators. And this is my problem today: there are still many important collaborators who simply won’t email me. Could it be because of poor grammar? I’m beginning to think this is the main issue and not some deep-founded tech-aversion to email and technology as I used to think.
There is probably little I can do with a customer who won’t email me; in the end you do what all good salespeople do — adapt to your customer’s needs. But how about with vendors and prospective employees? Could we go as far as Wiens proposes? His position, in the extreme, will not be good for our business; but, is certainly something that will be of the utmost relevance as the written language becomes the essential tool for communications be it on Facebook, your company’s blog, a Web page, text message or email.
As published on Counterman Magazine
You see, I get my kicks from buying not the latest, but the one right-before-the-latest model. For me is not the iPhone 4S, but the 4. Not the TiVo Premiere, but the TiVo XL. Not the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Dock, but the Bose Sound Dock for iPod. I usually just wait a bit and buy these once super-hot gadgets on the Web for far less than they once were priced. Where do I find these deals? I do lurk over at daily deal online sites like woot.com, yugster.com and midnightbox.com. These guys have come up with a fun way to get amazing deals out there in a tight, 24-hour window. It seems like a lot of pressure to be able to hock your wares in just one day, but such is the power of e-commerce, that these vendors have turned things around and actually created a “you snooze — you lose” strategy online that drives actual buyers every day on their sites to transact business.
So, there I was, happy to own my not-so-new gadgets and along comes the newest iPad. I admit that I’ve succumbed to its allure like sailors plunge into the deep ocean, mesmerized by mermaids’ songs. Ahoy, me mateys!
It’s my first iPad and it shows — this thing seems to be attached to my hand. A decent trade-off of this up-to-date acquisition, is that it looks like I have all but abandoned my laptops behind in the office as the iPad can indeed replace them. So, at least moving forward, my all-too-classic business backpack — loaded with heavy computers, chargers, mice, extra batteries, laser pointers, USB drives and extension cords — is no longer racking airline miles along with me on my business trips. Yes, my dear readers, this is my first column written on an iPad, and let me tell you it was a breeze to write. It’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday, I just woke up, grabbed the iPad and keyed the darn thing away quickly. Actually, loved the virtual keyboard and having the words pop right at you keeps you concentrating on the writing. Before I knew it, I was up to 1,000 words!
So, come along and share with me the joy of new tech and let me show you some of the apps I have been using on my new iPad.
I have been a fan of the Action Method notebook for some time. They are part of a whole system of organizational tools by a company called Behance (www.actionmethod.com). Their approach is fairly intuitive but complex and more in tune with delegating tasks to groups. I’m not that detailed about my organizational skills; however, their notebooks struck a chord with me a while back and I have been using them in the real world for a while. It’s really a simple idea: a notebook with a to-do list attached to the right margin of every page. The idea is that as you write notes at a meeting, class or presentation you can identify key items that need action and jog those on the right margin as a list of to-do to tackle. Like all organizational systems, if you adhere to their protocol you are in for a reward; in this case, you get your notes with a to-do list ready to go.
I was searching for a hi-tech notes apps for my new iPad and recognized the Action Method notes app immediately in the app store. This app really captures all that is good about this note-taking system. Now, on their app, the to-do list you walk away with is interactive and searchable. Furthermore, it is super easy to share with others and backup is a breeze. The icing on the cake is that the notes and to-do list are created in a beautiful, easy-to-read format that can be emailed to others with one click. The email recipients will receive a great follow-up tool after the meeting and you will get a pat on the back for having been the one that championed the note-taking task at the meeting.
As a teenager way back when, I started working with my family in their car dealer business. I had no idea what margin was. Sadly, some 30 years later, we all seem to forget at times that sticking to your guns is key in managing margin in all businesses. Nowadays, we all use sophisticated systems to ensure margin calculations and implementation in our companies, but, the basic understanding of margin calculation must remain forefront in all of our new employees.
Early in my career someone gave me this chart to calculate margin:
To get 10%: x 1.11
To get 25%: x 1.33
To get 30%: x 1.43
I regret I can’t remember who gave me this huge nugget of knowledge as it became a mantra of sorts in those early days to ensure I made money for my employers. In turn, I have shared this chart with countless others ever since. It’s a simply way to show newcomers how to calculate actual margin from cost and hopefully how not to give it away.
That’s exactly what iMargin does, but in hi-tech electronic format. Furthermore it can calculate it not only from cost, but from sell price, margin percentage or margin dollars. It’s like a simple calculator, but just for margin.
This summer, a customer asked if he could visit our warehouse with his teenage son who was working at their jobber store during the summer to learn more about the auto parts business. The conversation with father and son eventually got around to margin (the customer was showing his kid a valuable lesson on how to hammer a vendor — in this case, me!) and I turned on the iPad attached to my hand and showed the kid and the father the iMargin app. In the end, the father liked it more than the kid did and left the warehouse with the app already downloaded to his iPhone.
This app brings back one of the simple joys of managing your business — set the right price. It’s more of an educational tool than management tool, but I get the feeling most of us will probably get a nice kick out if. Download for just 99 cents and leave us a message on Counterman.com with your thoughts, won’t you please?
By Mandy Aguilar
I figure that not that many of us in the auto parts industry wondered how the recent announcement on Independence Day this year that the Higgs Boson, which had been theorized into existence decades before, was possibly, finally found. The realm of particle physics was abuzz with news of this discovery out of the CERN Labs in Geneva. The elusive Higgs Boson particle or the so called “God Particle” seems to exist after all. I did not know it at the time, but we had already benefited by the science involved in its search.
I was fascinated by the multitude of science news headlines that flashed across the Web that day announcing its discovery. It motivated me to set out on a personal journey of understanding, to at least in a rudimentary manner, master the Higgs Boson for the benefit of my readers. I figured, Who better to help my friends and colleagues in the auto parts industry understand this complex subject than me, the techy-science guy? Well, I’m here today ready to tell you that, on particle physics, I’m not your guy and we might all need to go back to college and really bone up on a physics degree to barely grasp the complexity of this elusive particle.
The more I read about it, the deeper into confusion my brain plummeted. Once my scientific method approach fell down the tubes, I figured at least could find a shortcut with some “Higgs Boson for Dummies” guide on the Web to help me understand it once and for all. I did find plenty of YouTube videos with all kinds of analogies that honestly were as confusing as the scientific explanations I pored over for days before. The one analogy that finally derailed my pseudo-scientific endeavor was one where they spoke about a “fish in the water.” An allegedly over-simplified tale, where the water molecules are the Higgs Boson, Quarks are the fish, and the Protons are the scales — far out man! Now you see what I mean about this stuff being so confusing.
So, here we are none the wiser about the darn particle. As I was getting ready to scratch the whole idea for this column, I saw a great video blog about a computer scientist who worked with the team at CERN 10 years before the Large Hadron Collider was built. This scientist proposed to create the tools that led to the creation of the World Wide Web (you know, the www in front of the web address) as we know it today. He proposed this in order to store, dissect and share the gigantic amounts of data their particle physics scientific research was going to produce. The Large Hadron Collider is the contraption built at CERN used to discover the Higgs Boson; an underground ring of 17 miles in diameter inside which particles zoom by at the speed of light and collide head-to-head recreating millions of mini-Big Bangs in a lab like the big one when our universe was created. The CERN scientists have continuously analyzed these collisions for years and one of the ejected materials recently found was finally the elusive Higgs Boson. Eureka!
The scientists back then knew that to analyze this data they needed to break out of the data silos they all had at the time since their computers were not “connected” to each other. By creating a connected platform they were able to augment the data-crunching capacity and to get as many scientists on the same page as possible. Just like the space race brought us advances on new technologies like scratchproof glass, cordless tools and dry ice cream in a bag; the search for the Higgs Boson has advanced all of humanity by connecting our world on the web. Following a proposal by the scientist, a British fellow named Timothy Berners-Lee, they came up with the two revolutionary concepts: the Web browser and hypertext language.
Now these are things we all get and understand; we used them daily! In essence, these are the tools that created the World Wide Web as we know it today. Browsers like Microsoft Explorer, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari are the windows we use to travel on the Web and Hypertext or HTML is nothing less than the language used to create links on the Web; you know, the often highlighted blue text and hot links we all click on while browsing the Web.
Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, yes my Lords, he is a bona fide Knight of the British Monarchy (or TimBL as his friends on the Web know him) is indeed a cool fellow who is going to go down in history right next to Gutenberg and Marconi. He created the language for all our computers, tablets and smartphones to do a handshake that is so smooth, we hardly ever even think about the science, ingenuity and research that was needed it to make it so easy for us to connect an iPhone to an online parts catalog to search for a clutch on the fly over the Web.
Just a few weeks ago, millions of us Earthlings had the opportunity to meet TimBL firsthand during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London. Remember him? No, he was the centerpiece of the segment called “Frankie and June say … thanks Tim” which highlighted British popular culture. This was the section were they retold the old age story of boy meets girl with a tech slant (and a killer classic British rock soundtrack that pumped me full of memories). It was a fitting ceremony for TimBL and in the spirit of sharing that have characterized the WWW from its inception, good old Sir Tim used his Twitter account to share live a simple message to all of us: “This is for everyone.” That message was seen by a TV audience that peaked at more than 26 million viewers.
Sometimes science works in mysterious ways. I was delighted to learn more about TimBL, hypertext and browsers, even though I’m still like the proverbial fish out of water understanding the Higgs Boson. All the more reason to abandon my particle physicists’ dreams and refocus my energy on selling more auto parts using the World Wide Web, Jolly Good, Old Mate.
Mandy Aguilar is a regional vice president for Jacksonville, Fla.-based The Parts House. Visit his blog atwww.mandyaguilar.com.