Why I blog about background images and not about server upgrades

My last entry showed some background images that I politely took from the Department of Public Information and cropped and gently edited for use on the Cisco IP phones. These are not available (except as noted) on Penn State IP phones; they’re just some ideas I had and loaded on our test system to demo to my colleagues.

I would like our phone users to have these background images. What’s more, I would like phone users to have the option to buy, for an additional $60-100, a color-display version of their two-line or six-line Cisco phone. It doesn’t do any magic tricks; it’s just colorful. (That’s not entirely true; there are some under-the-hood improvements, but definitely nothing magical.)

In light of significant server upgrades that I’m working on now, why would I waste my time playing with and promoting background images and color phones?

Let me start off with a word of self-defense: I’m not wasting time. I am just not focused enough to be able to work on server upgrades for months on end without engaging myself in some other more creative work. Server upgrades are boring, and we are trying to not be creative with these; instead, we want to follow the vendor’s rulebook to avoid headaches later. I think this is a reasonable course of action. It’s also the reason I haven’t blogged much about the server upgrades. Want to know what we’re doing? Details on www.cisco.com.

At the last two committee meetings with PSU VoIP technical collaborators (“VoIP Tech”) I gave a show-and-tell of background images and the 7965 color IP phone. Response from the team was not positive. Reasons focused on internal issues of inventory management, firmware tracking, and philosophical disagreements concerning our vendor and the future of the IP phone….

No sour grapes yet; I want a less-technical opinion on whether these are good ideas or not. Marketing folks might see these in a different light. So might end users, who don’t care about our internal issues. I think our end users would like us to offer them more products, more creative and interesting products. We are all humans and like shiny things. We watch color TV. 1080i-High-Definition-80-inch-diagonal color TV. We don’t want the Model T. We go for the fast, good-looking car, if we can afford it.

Some–actually a majority–of the users don’t care what phone sits on their desks. They will be satisfied or unsatisfied based on certain simple factors. Others, perhaps executives with expensive office furniture or athletics coaches who decorate their offices with fifty years worth of trophies, will want a colorful lion shrine to appear on their phone when they’re not busy recruiting the next dean or football star. Or any phone user just wants a change of scenery. I’m talking about minor things that can please the customer–all while in the background, we tech nerds work to make the system capable, available, reliable, redundant, and all other service-oriented goals.

So the answer to “why” is that I think the end users will like it. And that should be enough reason to write about such things here on a blog and promote them internally as service & feature offerings. I think more focus needs to be given, while fully maintaining the infrastructure, to end-user experience. We keep telling ourselves that we’re not a utility company. Therefore, let’s get past the utilitarian.