The Taxing Point
I paid my taxes on Friday since it was the 15th but I filed for an extension instead of putting all the paperwork through on time. This year my excuse was that TurboTax has a terrible installation utility for updating the forms and it went into a useless cycle every time I tried to install the update forcing me to reboot, install, reboot, restart, reinstall and it always failed and asked for another reboot. So I wasn’t comfortable filing my taxes with the outdated software and forms and neither was the TurboTax robotic advisor. The TurboTax advisor actually didn’t even want me to file for an extension. It kept warning me that the extension form was out of date and then spent a long time attempting to fax it and refusing to heed my command to send via my standard printer. When I called Jeremy in to provide IT support he noted that somehow my default printer driver had been set to fax. My guess is that TurboTax rebooting had something to do with it. We then proceeded to protect our wireless network to reduce the freeloading bandwidth grabbers on our network. I don’t mind freeloaders but when my connection starts to slow down I have to do something to make sure I get my $70 per month of DSL value.
Then I went to mail the forms while walking Leelin. I tried mailboxes etc. first because they have a good dog policy and often leave biscuits on the counter. As I passed by the H&R Block office I could see a woman accountant whose job it was to do people’s taxes or to assign them to open agents press her face up against the glass to marvel at Leelin’s tremendous cuteness. It would have been fun to stop in to say hi but given that I was working with their competitor, the TurboTax robot with forms that don’t update correctly I didn’t exactly feel like they would find me welcome. They might find Leelin to be a good way to break-up a hectic tax day. Nobody was in Mailboxes Etc. This was a great disappointment to me since I was expecting the big tax season to drive throngs of panicking citizens to the counters.
When I asked if they would do certified return receipt mail to make sure I could prove I sent George Bush and Mitt Romney their tithes the man recommended that I go to the post office. So Leelin and I checked out of that establishment and moved onwards to the Brookline post office at Coolidge Corner. The first thing that I noticed at the door was a clear sign explaining that I could go inside but if Leelin wasn’t going to aid me because I was handicapped he was going to have to wait outside while I went in. We had a brief conversation about this and Leelin let me know that he would prefer to be inside the post office than outside. So I went inside and looked at the enormous line backed-up from the counter in the front wrapped all the way around to the automated stamp vending machines in the back.
So I grabbed the return receipt stickers and cards and took them home to fill them out in the convenience of my own living quarters where Leelin was welcome to sniff my feet and distract me by instigating games of fetch with puppy safe stuffed animals. I bicycled back to the post office with the certified stuff in hand. When I arrived the line was even further bloated with tax payers from all walks of life. But there were tons of other people in the line who clearly weren’t tax payers at all. These people were holding boxes that they were mailing to far off places like Venezuela that the postal officers would need to open because they wouldn’t know how to properly answer their customs questions like “what is inside?”. The answer “catalogs” that then changed to “books”, potentially a translation problem resulted in a long hold-up as the postal officer at the counter used her special scissors to remove the carefully applied packaging tape to open the packages.
Meanwhile I just stood in line waiting and watching all of these crazy people who had decided that tax day was the perfect time to send a Christmas present to another continent. I was tempted to let them know that there would be no line if they went down the street to Mailboxes Etc. and it would probably cost the same to ship through them plus they don’t have a stick up their butt about customs forms. So after about thirty five minutes in line I came to the front of the line and was cut by a woman hysterical because she had “lost money” in the stamp machine at the back of the line. So my assigned postal worker told her in no uncertain terms that if she found the stamps in the corner at the bottom where they fall from the machine into the bottom that she would go postal on her through a violent fit that the service is famous for.
I looked around for any automatic weapons and upon seeing none proceeded to the other attendant. We had a chuckle about how many idiots were mailing packages on tax day while the postal worker was yelling at the woman who had lost money because she had found the stamps at the bottom of the vending machine where she had expected them to be. I got the hell out of there on my bike and biked to my car to drive into Burlington.
Later in the day I had a meeting with an MIT person in charge of working with alumni to acquire large gifts. We had our meeting inside the Stata Center. I had been running around all day and never had time to get myself any lunch. The result was that I was starving as we met so I bought myself a sandwich. I probably looked like an idiot trying to wolf down the sandwich while talking about all the things that the school could do to help build alumni good will. I pushed the school to do a better job of integrating functional social networking into their alumni relations strategy, to focus people on the context they remember MIT in through their ILGs and courses, and to keep working hard to get VMS to drive new and successful ventures in the community. I was a little high on having listened to disk two of The Tipping Point in the car driving back and forth to Burlington and had learned about how Sesame Street had used improvements in context to drive kids to watch and learn through the television show. I don’t know if I had any impact and I can tell that the best case scenario for the MIT gift folks would be to get a few million bucks from me once I make my hundred million. I’d do it too if I got the support I needed to be successful. There is no real cost to paying for success once you have it and MIT is taking a lot of risk by investing in lots of programs to try to help graduates succeed in ventures.
So I’ve been all anxious so far today because it appears that the downloads from our web site are slowly driving downwards as our main traffic driving agents become more cluttered. I am counting on those links to generate those 100 million bucks for MIT. Maybe they can help drive some of the traffic? It’s their million if they can help. I did find an interesting site by looking through my logs. The site is called stumbleupon. Someone had stumbled upon Viapoint and had linked to it in the process. That drove 40 new users to come to the site. The benefit of social book-marking tools is that they provide the potential to use the Internet to accelerate the word of mouth about a new product or service. So one idea I had was to chat and promote the software within the connectors and mavens using the social bookmarking services and forums for existing related software that we will integrate with going forwards. These would potentially work well if I believe the ideas from The Tipping Point.