The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Saturday
Jul102010

Corporate Amnesia, Accountability And Service

Should you take out your frustration about a business' failure to deliver service on its employees? I was debating this point today, after the umpteenth time of waiting in a four hour window for the Broadstripe cable company to send a repair man to our house in order to receive HD channels consistently using our TiVo DVRs.  My husband, who is Canadian and who hates to make waves, was clearly on the side of cutting the repairman slack today.  But I only saw another singer in the continuing chorus of Broadstripe employees who think they are problem solvers when they are actually key actors in our ongoing nightmare.  Why are my glasses so soot colored? Because each person who comes to our door optimistic that they can do what others before them haven't does so by assuring us they aren't interested in the past, only in the future.

Sure, it's an easy argument to make that the last guy was incompetent, but the history of continued failure to solve problems is something no single employee wants to own. In fact, the last senior executive of our region who told us he wasn't responsible for the past and "only the future" no longer works at the company.  Consequently, our past conversations and credit promises have also evaporated with him. This provided a helpful cue for the musical refrain sung by Jeff, the repairman who showed up today. "I can't tell you what he promised because he doesn't work here any more, I can only look forward at fixing your problems." Company amnesia about our ongoing record of miserable service appears rampant.

Lack of customer memory also has dramatically degraded the company's troubleshooting ability, and that contributes to our long record of service calls. Rather than tracking past work, and using that to narrow the problem set, the care, repair service and network engineering employees each start from ground zero, which further compounds the problem because no one seems to be keeping a big picture view. Over time, we have been told during different service visits that the repair will require the person to remove switches in our wired network closet, remove several of our DVRs from the network, remove and replace the cable card from the TiVo, replace the underground cable to our house, tune the signal at the junction box at our house, and a few more things I can't even remember.

It seems I am in good company, though, because it appears they can't remember much either. Today's supervisor was unable to even find our TiVo cable cards registered with the service system, despite the fact that the repairmen have been to our house more than a handful of times to address our lack of HD service. "I'm surprised you get any service at all," she commented. What then does she think they have been coming to our house to address all those blocks of time we had to be home when they booked an "appointment?"

Real problem solving only emerges from sourcing the collective tribal knowledge a company has about a customer and their service history. When a company has only short term memory, employees can't do their job. But when multiple employees espouse short term memory as their service "opportunity", beware - you are probably not going to really feel well serviced in the long run.

 

Friday
Jul022010

Favorite Tweets Of The Day

RT@saschasegan: More sad, bad tales of KIN: http://bit.ly/dvjrX9 and http://bit.ly/bOcII3” MSFT took the Sidekick down with it. Strange trip.

Hilarious @CraigyFerg "a magazine is like a paper-y blog." They came before there was AOL.

Wednesday
Jun232010

Will Consumers Be Better Than Broadcasters At Programming Online Video?

First published on Technorati June 22, 2010

Most days, the average Internet user curates a flood of content from multiple destinations into a patchwork of information, updates and insights that help them stay connected. It’s a lot of work to hunt, gather, personalize and sample all the content available, and even more if you are part of the growing percentage of consumers interested in watching video. Tubemogul reports Web media brands posted 326 million video streams in the first quarter of this year, which is an increase of more than 300 percent compared to Q1 of 2009, and does not include all the user generated content uploaded to photo and video sharing sites.

“Some times you just want to push play, and see what’s on,” said Blair Harrison, CEO of Frequency, a real time video site that lets you lean back and watch samples of video playing continuously from all over the Internet. “But with so much video coming online each hour, there really is no way for a consumer to get a sample of what’s playing on the web” Harrison contends that consuming video on the web has become a laborious and disjointed experience, forcing people who want to enjoy rich media online to jump from link to link, collecting clips or navigating between embedded players and web pages just to sample video content.

Launched earlier this month by Harrison, the former CEO of IFILM, which sold to Viacom for $49 Million in 2005, Frequency aims to make it easy for anyone to quickly scan and tune into what’s playing online at any time. He brought together a crew of experienced digital media engineers from that company, and built a platform that offers content publishers a promotional engine for long form video clips. Frequency’s tools create a continuous stream of previews, auto-generated in different bitrates, from feeds aggregated by the company’s platform. Users navigate the clips which play like previews of coming attractions, touting the longer version on the publisher’s website.

When consumers enter the Frequency site, there is always something playing. Like a stream of 140 character headlines on Twitter, the Frequency player cycles through fifteen-second clips from across the web, categorized by topic and source. If you want to learn more on a topic, simply pick a tag, and the player pivots to play previews that share that term in common. If you like to follow a particular publisher or collector of videos, you can create a personalized channel that just tunes into their “frequency”, or channel of auto-play clips.

“There are over 200,000 video clips being posted to the web every hour,” said Harrison. “We want to make it simple for anyone to quickly discover and watch what is appealing to them at any particular moment they’re looking to tune in. “

Frequency is a privately funded, early stage video network, and is also client of Waldo Finn, LLC, a business and strategy consulting firm, which employs the author of this post.

Saturday
Jun192010

What Makes The Product Guy Tick?

In my travels around the Twitterverse, I was lucky to meet Jeremy Horn, who has branded himself The Product Guy. Jeremy writes an informative blog about designing products, the people behind them and the trends they represent. His domain runs the gamut from Modular Innovation to User Experience. I've enjoyed reading his posts, and thought you all might enjoy meeting him, too.

You call yourself the “The Product Guy”.  How would you describe what kind of product guy you are?

As “The Product Guy” I work with startups, small and medium sized organizations in Product Strategy, Product Management, User Experience, and Technology Strategy.  I am the kind that understands both the high- and low- level details across all areas of an organization, from Design to Marketing to Technology to Business.  As The Product Guy I enjoy diving into products both on and offline, understanding how they work from as many angles as possible, exploring and sharing how I might do them better.

What do you think makes the difference between a good product and a great product?

There are many good ideas, unique business models, and innovations that are or could be great products.  What’s more important than the idea is the successful execution of that idea to product realization. To that end, what makes the dfference between a good and great product is the product person (team) behind it.

Give us the value proposition of The Product Guy?

The value proposition of The Product Guy lies in the unification of the key disciplines that make companies successful, coalescing product vision, and identifying the right ‘next steps’ in-sync with the long-term product strategies -- whether for a client, or in an article exploring a variety of products and trends. 

Put more succinctly, The Product Guy helps companies figure out the right things to focus on and when to focus on them.

What is the best advice you have given to people just starting out?

FOCUS & ACT

What is the best advice you ever received when you were starting out?

Pick something, one thing, and strive to be the best you can be at it.  In that, I strive to improve and broaden my skills everyday as a creator, innovator and enhancer of products.

Please explain Modular Innovation.

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping products' successes and challenges.

Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating… 

  1. Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
  2. Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  3. Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

The role and presence of relationships within and between people, products and platforms are ever increasing in importance and influence.

The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

Analytical.  I experiment with all of the latest and greatest, but become a permanent user of much less. 

Speaking as that consumer…

What is the first and last app you downloaded for your personal use?

The first was probably a simple Commodore 64 game or BBS software for both playing/using and learning what made it tick.

Most recently I downloaded a Basecamp client for Android phone; but, quickly uninstalled it since I didn’t find it meet my task requirements.

What product is sitting in a “saved shopping cart” to buy soon?

None; if there is ever an e-ink device that supports color, is cost effective, and speedy, that may be among my first next purchases.

What product or service have you bought recently that most disappointed you? 

The majority of the products I use for work are through free services online.  It has been a very long time that I have purchased something (especially after having tried it) that has disappointed me. 

My purchase disappointments tend to be in the realm of overpriced movie tickets and Xbox games (of which I haven’t purchased in quite some time due to lack of anything of particular interest coming across my radar).

What one piece of technology innovation would you say changed your life the most?

The most... Electricity...  Computer.

Much less than that, a recent major positive impact was when I went from my painfully slow, and constrictive Windows Mobile phone to my HTC Hero Android – enabling me to be better connected and more productive.

What product did your family or friends have before you, that you eventually had to buy, too?

There wouldn’t be a purchased product that friends and family had before I did.  However, I arrived later to podcasting than most of my friends and family and have since become an avid listener to many podcasts.

Are you a Mac or PC?

I am whatever the occasion calls for: Mac, PC, Linux

What phone are you carrying now?

HTC Hero (the GSM one)

Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?

Each has their strengths and through each I am able to reach different groups of friends and followers.

Monday
Jun142010

Why Content Creation Innovators Are Content Delivery Conservatives

This post was first published on Jinni.com on June 14, 2010


Last week at the Wall Street Journal’s digital conference, D8, content creators, distributors and the Chairman of the FCC all shared the stage with iconic technology journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, and discussed the changing landscape for media in the post-econalypse, wireless age.

From Steve Jobs declaring the “balkanization” of television by cable providers who give away free digital video recorders, to Julius Genachowski’s realization of the national broadband plan, there were numerous proof points that consumers remain a long way from easily purchasing content once and viewing it anywhere, anytime, on any device. But if you are a tech savvy content creator like Steve Levitan or James Cameron, that’s not all bad, for two reasons: money and quality.

Click here for the rest of the post and to visit Jinni, a partner in Google TV and the Movie Genome Project.

Monday
Jun072010

Favorite Tweets Of The Last Week

After taking a few days to listen to real, flesh and blood humans discuss the future of digital technology, I tackled a backlog of commentary from the Twitterverse. Here are some of the nuggets I found buried in my stream.

Genius! RT@cshirky My next book will be 'Wikipedia Brown', about a boy detective who solves crimes by getting his friends to do all the work.

Consumers with an income of $100,000 or more are among the most likely to use coupons http://bit.ly/blL1At /via @adwise << interesting!

RT @emarketer Case you missed this: How Consumers Balance Openness and Privacy - http://bit.ly/aj0RRI

 

Monday
Jun072010

Impressions From D8

Share my experience at All Things Digital 2010 at Terranea Resort. And see it through multiple device cameras - my iPhone, Nexus One and Canon Powershot all made contributions to this montage of images. With so many ways to point and click, it can make a huge difference which one you grab, since the quality of the zoom, the low-lighting focus and the amount of time it takes to optimize the image can make the difference in capturing a moment...or not. In addition, snaps moved to the web in different ways - through SMS, as email attachments, and through tethered import. You can guess which snap was taken with which device and which route it took. (And, yes, some of the slides are not in chronological order, because this is not meant to be a documentary!)

Thanks, Walt, Kara, and Katie for a great few days.

Sunday
Jun062010

Inside the Design Mind of Ford's CEO Alan Mullaly

At this past week's All Things D conference, Alan Mullaly was asked by his hosts to reveal the page of notes he created in prep for his interview. Mullaly was dynamic, energetic and enthusiastic about the integration of popular consumer technology in cars rolling off the Ford line. His notes show how he organized his thoughts around the key points he wanted to make, which might offer a good template for Mark Zuckerberg to use next time he readies for a session in the hot seat!

Tuesday
Jun012010

Spa for the Mind

At the Terranea in Southern California for D8

Wednesday
May262010

Will Google TV Change The Way We Enjoy the Web?

Article first published as Will Google TV Change The Way You Enjoy The Web? on Technorati

Google’s announcement this week of the launch of its Google TV service comes after several attempts - and slightly different approaches - by Apple and Microsoft to converge online video viewing with broadcast television watching. Although the company identified several partners – Intel, Sony and Logitech - who will be deploying the Google TV service on set top boxes and home entertainment hardware like Blu Ray players and Internet-connected televisions, it remains to be seen how consumers will actually experience the service.

Google’s primary objective will be to monetize the Google TV content through targeted advertising and expansion of its audience for existing online services by making video more discoverable through search. Search has been a key component of online programming guides like Clicker.com and Yahoo TV, that help aggregate television and video content from across the web. However, search behemoth Google is also the owner of You Tube, and has a lot to gain from creating more opportunities for consumers to experience video on new platforms.

How Google will facilitate the way a consumer traverses media from different sources, and the many ad networks those sources represent, is unclear largely because the service will be embedded with other solutions and services on branded game consoles and DVD players, some provided by hardware manufacturers that may have a designed a brand user interface already.

“It's too early to tell how Google TV will be received in the market, and there are many unknowns about the product including price. But Google TV's openness is key,” said Mike Pohl, CEO of Jinni, one of the Google TV partners featured in the announcement. “Developers will create the apps that will make Google TV useful and unique for consumers. Jinni, as an alliance partner, is developing a smart guide for Google TV that will be crucial for seamlessly combining web and TV content."

Clayton Morris of Foxnews.com echoed the questions of many end users who heard the announcement but didn’t yet know what to make of it. He wrote, “Will Google TV allow me to press play on an Internet episode of Lost — or will it force me to watch the broadcast version with more commercials? [Or] does that mean I can simultaneously watch UFO Hunters on The History Channel while searching the Web?”





Monday
May242010

Creativity Can Solve Anything

One of the things to love about Netflix on my TiVo is that when there is nothing in my Now Playing List I feel ike watching, I can investigate Netflix and usually find some independent film or cancelled television program that fits the moment. My recent exploration led me to "Art & Copy", a film by Doug Pray on the ad industry.

For those of you that don't know, the first 13 years of my professional life were spent on the set of commercial productions in Los Angeles - as well as exotic locales like Mexico, Dubuque, Laguna Seca raceway and the Mojave Desert - as a Second Assistant Director and Producer. The people featured in this film were responsible for some of the mini-movies I had the good fortune to work on during that period, and a few of them remain to impact the world of advertising today. Enjoy...

 

Thursday
May202010

Social Media Managers: The Loyal Customer's New Best Friend

In these budget minded days, my husband and I have been trying to use our miles and rewards points whenever possible to fund our leisure travel. We have found for most of our programs there may be fewer flights or rooms available, or longer blackout windows when we can't use rewards. But, with some planning, we can redeem our miles and points for discounted or free rental cars, hotel rooms and flights when we want to take a vacation.

Not every program, though, we participate in is easy to leverage, and my husband's accrued Aeroplan miles from years of Air Canada travel have been consistently difficult to redeem, especially since we live in Seattle, which is not a huge hub for Air Canada or its partners any more. On a recent trip to Los Angeles for a family member's college graduation, we were fortunate to finally be able to use the miles to book three nights at the Sheraton Universal City, a Starwood Group hotel. Often, rooms we are assigned when we book with mileage plans are not the best in the house, but generally I feel "rewarded" for being a loyal customer, even if I have a view of the air conditioning compressor or the parking lot. Often a basket of fruit, a bottle of wine, or a coupon for a free continental breakfast greets us to acknowledge our relationship.

This visit, our stay required four nights, but our miles only could get us three nights. I reserved a fourth night with a credit card. My challenges began when I called Starwood's reservation line to link the two separate reservations so we would not have to check out of the room or change rooms during our stay .I was told that wasn't possible for Starwood to do, because of the fact the Aeroplan reservation was not visible to them.

When we arrived at the hotel on a Sunday night at 8P, there were seven people in line to check in ahead of us. Although the sign at the head of the line indicated it was the Starwood Preferred Guest line there was only one queue for all front desk interactions, and one very busy clerk. Apparently, all guests were Preferred...or not.

I stepped up to the counter after a few minutes of seeing guests who had been in line ahead of us vocalize their frustration at how long it was taking to get checked in, and I asked the concierge if help had been called to expedite our check in process and service other front desk services, like lost keys and late check out requests. While he assured me the Marines had been summoned, my husband hissed at me to get back into line, saying, "Don't piss him off, we'll get a crappy room." I complied, largely because he was talking through gritted teeth, signaling to me he meant business.

When we got to the desk, help finally arrived, too late for our benefit. We asked the clerk if he could link our reward and paid reservations and we got the same negative response as we did when we called. "You will have to check out and then check in again. You will have to give us the credit card at that time." We then asked for a parking pass to enable us to enter and exit the self park garage, and the clerk told us none was required.

After 40 minutes of waiting in line, and after a brief 50 foot walk to our room, my husband began his "I told you so" routine. Our room was probably positioned in the worst location in the hotel, directly adjacent to the hotel lobby, next to the public restroom, looking onto the top floor of a parking lot structure, and 100 yards from the Hollywood Freeway. But that wasn't the half of it. The safe in the closet was on the top shelf, above my head, which meant it was approximately 5'6" above the ground. When I placed something in it, the entire safe slid off the shelf and right towards the bridge of my nose. Holding it entirely in my hands, I saw it would fit into my suitcase - or a thief's - with no trouble.

That thief, by the way, could have had an easy time breaking into the room, because the balcony sliding door was ajar about 6 inches, flooding the room with the sound of freeway traffic. Closing the single pane door wasn't adequate to drown out the trucks and sirens, so we turned on the air conditioner hoping the fan would make it hard to notice.

Within about 2 minutes the air conditioner let out a bang, and continued the same jarring noise to signal startup and shut down through out the night, making for an incredibly restless night's sleep, but clearly distracting us from the tractor trailer rigs barreling by our window.

Being near the lobby meant we were very close to the business center, but despite asking the hotel operator twice how to get an access code to log in to the hotel's wireless, I never got connectivity, free or paid, through my iPad's wifi connection. But I had no trouble hearing all of the conversations from the drunk Lobby Bar parrons who used the Women's Room on the other side of our shower wall.

The first time out of the parking garage, the attendant asked for our parking pass, which, of course, we were told we wouldn't need. And when we returned to the room after the maid had cleaned, the toilet paper holder was broken. My frustration was boiling over and landed in my Twitter stream. As I was preparing to convert from our Aeroplan room to a paid night in this room, my Starwood Preferred Guest identity kicked in, and I was questioning my loyalty in a big way. Just then, my message to the Twitterverse landed on @Starwoodbuzz, who asked me to send a direct message detailing my troubles.

Since the morning of the fourth day, when we were supposed to check out and then check back in, was also the morning of graduation day, we were on a tight schedule. In an effort to save time, I called the front desk, and asked them to convert the room to my credit card. The clerk told me I had to come to the desk. Fearful there would be a long check out line, and another 40 minute wait for service, I persisted in asking for some Gold Preferred Guest service, asking the clerk not to require me to have an unpredictable element in a day that my family needed to go like clockwork. But at this hotel, the Starwood Preferred Guest line doesn't seem to really exist at the front desk, so I was finally escalated to the manager for support.

Fortunately, this is when my experience finally turned. Four days into a rather horrific - albeit free - stay, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether the person monitoring Twitter for @Starwoodbuzz carried influence and pleaded my case, or the manager felt a sense of responsibility for our experience I had not seen up until then, I can't say for sure. But the difference in customer experience when employees who provide service take accountability for how their customer's journey unfolds is remarkable.

To begin with, the manager began by offering to move us, but when we suggested that would be disruptive, she immediately offered to cover our stay. Because of the parking problems, she also took off the parking fees. She said she would immediately send maintenance to the room to repair the safe. This woman was all about solutions and action. She offered to provide us complimentary breakfast the next morning at the hotel restaurant. Since my intent was never to take advantage of the hotel, I didn't want to appear greedy and so I declined the breakfast, graciously thanked her for the handling of our bill, and asked her to hold on sending the safe repair team till we left the hotel for the day shortly thereafter.

When I later returned to Twitter to thank @Starwoodbuzz, I found a message from the Tweep already waiting in my inbox, informing me that several hours before they had indeed contacted the front desk manager to address my concerns.

Monitoring social media for dissatisfied customers gave Starwood the opportunity to quickly repair a damaged customer relationship. As a customer, I felt rebuffed at the front desk, but supported by a faceless, yet responsive online persona who quickly heard my specific concerns and appeared to act to address them. Ultimately, the Twitter monitor was able to help the property manager care for a customer when onsite staff did not.

The challenge in managing a service enterprise is consistent and predictable customer interactions, and the hotel manager was lucky to have a virtual support team to get the train back on the tracks. But clearly, training should have happened to educate or empower the front lines to provide similar solutions, making it unlikely any customer would ever want to insert a disparaging tweet into the online dialogue around the brand.

I recounted this story to a family member, and they asked me if I really would go back to this hotel just because I got a free night to make up for a crummy experience. "If the hotel is bad, why would you go stay there again?" And to me the answer is simple: customer loyalty isn't about never screwing up, it's about how you recover when you do. For the effort that was made, I am certainly willing to give them a second chance to make a different impression.

 

Tuesday
May112010

Getting Comfortable With My iPhone XXL

Part Two in My Technorati Series - First Published May 11, 2010

The current iPhone 3G and 3Gs are just on the edge of being too large to be comfortable devices to use with just one hand. Of course, it is impossible to hold the iPad and use it with just a single set of digits.

The iPad has some challenging ergonomics, defined by the freedictionary.com as "the applied science of equipment design,intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort." It's also not always as intuitive as you might think.

dock keyboardCan I Just Lean Here For A Minute?
If the soft touch and grip-ability were the only reasons you needed a case, then a silicon rubber condom would be enough. But the fact is, the little angle that the Apple case provides makes a huge ergonomic difference when the device is set on any flat surface.

To view videos, or use two hands to type, you have to lean it against something, and the darn thing just slips and slides constantly when propped up. I have a case that converts to a stand for my iPod Touch, and there is no way around it - you need the same thing for an iPad. It's simply not a one handed device, and holding and poking at the keypad is just no fun.

That's An Accelerometer Lock, Not A Mute Button

It seems iPads have a tendency to be confused when it comes to recognizing their orientation. Maybe it is a commitment thing. Apple added a new lock button where the ring mute was on the iPhone. I had not realized mine was engaged, and that resulted in some strange behavior.

I purchased Apple's Pages software, but had not realized the accelerometer lock was there, or that it was engaged. (It was easy to toggle it accidentally because of its proximity to the volume control, and my fingers inadvertently must have engaged it).

When I opened Pages the device launched the program with no application menus visible. The keypad was the only thing besides the Getting Started page I saw. For the life of me, I had no clue how to open or create a new document. Later, a friend showed me the purpose of the lock button, which I had thought was a mute key similar to my iPhone.

Even after the lock was dis-engaged, I found I was opening Pages in landscape mode wanting the largest keypad to type on. Unfortunately, Pages never displays the application menu when the iPad is in landscape mode, whether the accelerometer is locked or not. It never occurred to me that there'd be no way to invoke the menu, only the keypad, when the device was most comfortably positioned in the horizontal layout for typing. It takes a sharp move from horizontal to vertical in order to reveal the difference in the UI.

Skip The Apple DockiLounge ipad dock
This bias towards resting the device in the portrait, or vertical, mode is a flaw in the iPad's design thinking that continues with the dock.

The dock only allows the iPad to rest in the groove in portrait mode, because it must use the connector at the smaller end of the tablet. If you want to keep your iPad on your nightstand sitting in a dock to charge it while falling asleep to movies you will have to watch them play in the wrong aspect ratio.

And don't think you can leave it in landscape mode as a picture frame while giving it the juice, either. It makes for a compelling reason to get the Apple case, which biases towards landscape mode, making it great for typing and watching movies. It also lets you use the charging connector with the USB cable and power adapter.

Monday
May102010

Bonding With My 3G iPad

Part One of My Two Part Series, First Published on Technorati, May 10, 2010

So many reviews have been written about the iPad, it is hard to believe there'd be any unexpected surprises left to discover. But, one of the most delightful things about a new gadget is how you integrate it into your own real life. It is like dating someone new - early on, you don't know how much you're willing to change to discover your soul mate.

It has been a week since I bought my 3G iPad, and most of that time I was on the road, attending the Digital Hollywood conference. I challenged myself to see how much I could rely on just a touchscreen tablet, a real test being the laptop-lugging road warrior that I am, and I left anything resembling a keyboard at home.

Here's what I discovered during some quality time together getting to know each other:

The iPad Increases Your iPhone Battery Life
Yes, you read that correctly. Your iPhone battery life will extend remarkably if you buy an IPad. It is true what you have read that the iPad battery life is amazing. It blows away the iPhone, even with 3G. My iPad lets me do everything I did with my iPhone, and now that I don't do those things any more on the iPhone, my iPhone battery lasts so much longer! It is an unexpected and amazingly cool benefit. I can now make it more than a day on an iPhone charge. And I am using it so much less for web browsing and email and videos and games that I am thinking maybe I should just go back to a great feature phone with a decent camera and a low voice and messaging rate plan.

3G Is Useful, If Everyone Around You Doesn't Have An IPhone
AT&T has provided me with a sluggish and unpredictably unavailable service experience to my iPhone and it is no better with an iPad. I could feel when I was at the airport standing in the security line holding my iPad and waiting to place it in the X-ray tray that I was competing for precious bandwidth with other bored travelers tapping away on their iPhones.

The conference hotel didn't have free wifi, and so having 3G connectivity was good, when it worked. I often saw full bars when web pages were loading and then would time out. I do like that the 3G and Wifi combo keep the device always connected, so if you don't know whether a wifi location has a log in page to join the local network, you can remain continuously connected to receive push notifications and email as you traverse free, paid, and secure wifi networks. That's something my MacBook Air laptop doesn't provide me when I am mobile. Continuous coverage is nirvana.

If You Only Buy One Accessory, Make It This OneiPad case
Throwing the iPad into my carry on without a case was a non-starter for the trip, but the Apple iPad case was sold out in all local stores. Apple previously made a leather case for the iPod, and sold a few handfuls of them for the premium price of $99. It was a beautifully elegant, leather sleeve, but sleeves are not a popular iPod case style, unless you are a tween girl wanting a knit sock to cuddle your treasured Justin Bieber on an iPod Mini you got as a hand-me-down. Thankfully, the company brings their iPad case in at a more affordable price and in a cheaper faux suede that adds some much needed grip-ability to the slick back.

It is hard to believe that the Apple case is so critical to enjoying the iPad,but the fact is that without it, there is no way to balance the device and keep it from sliding off the round edges of your lap, as mine did several times in flight. The fact that the case is sold out everywhere, and has a 3-4 week wait when you order it online from the Apple Store, should tell you something: it's mandatory gear for any iPad user. 



Monday
May102010

For A Day, Ashton Kutcher And I Had the Same Number of Followers

Was it an accidental search for fellow fans of an eighties rock band or the nefarious hacking of a hidden Twitter application command that bankrupted celebrities like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and Perez Hilton (@perezhilton)  of millions of followers today?

According to Gizmodo, a regular Twitter customer in Turkey claims to have accidentally stumbled upon a way to force any Twitter user to follow you. By simply entering the word "accept" with a username - for instance, type [accept oprah] into the Twitter status field - anybody could get themselves followed by people like Oprah, Jack Welch or even Kim Kardashian. The action is similar to adding "RT" before a username to repost a user's status.

The value of a follower is a hotly contested topic in marketing circles these days, and having celebrities follow you is a sign that a fan may have gotten the attention of a star. While the bug was being investigated by Twitter, followers were set to zero, and the notorious celebrity leaders of the Twitter pack had to laugh off their sudden unpopularity.  Wrote @bodhielfman "I have more followers than @aplusk." In addition, marketers who measure the success of their campaigns by fans and followers had to do a day of client-side vamping to manage the fall in metrics that normally would be considered catastrophic by most brands measuring the reputation and reach of their social media spend.

Later in the afternoon, as following counts were returned to users profiles, there was still damage control to be done, since it appeared forced followers were still showing up in users' lists that they hadn't really joined. @ConanOBrien posted the disclaimer, "if it ever says I have been following more than one person, I have been hacked. I'm a completely monogamous Twitterrer - I only follow Sarah Killen."

 

If only Tiger had tweeted instead of sending SMS, he could have said someone just co-opted his account.



Friday
Apr302010

Favorite Tweets of the Day

A weekend reading list o' links, brought to you by the folks I follow on Twitter...

@rcrwirelessnews RCR Special Report: Mobile Marketing's Promise: A Universe of One. Sponsored by Mobile Marketing Association. http://budurl.com/MMASR

@SignificObs Concept? Rocks. Writer? Rocks. Cause? Rocks. Bid on one of the last @SignificObs http://bit.ly/9kOxI5 @girlswritenow (via @R_Nash)

@communiquepr Social Media Contests Have the Power to Drive Massive Awareness & Engagement | http://bit.ly/awaxPh

@mcuban The Bifurcation of Twitter: In case you haven’t noticed, there are now 2 Twitters. The first Twitter operates just... http://bit.ly/aoualk

 

Wednesday
Apr282010

Do You Have An Idea That Can Change The World?

Tony Stark's Innovation Lab

First published on Technorati

In the first Iron Man movie, entrepreneur Tony Stark made a handsome living in weapons manufacturing. After all, war is good business.

But the sequel, which opens May 7, introduces us to a more socially responsible—and apparently socially networked—Tony Stark. The new and improved Stark is looking to reward a fellow visionary who wants to change the world with a complete Audi-sponsored, tech-lover's fantasy experience: driving an R8, flying an amphibious ICON A5 aircraft and wining and dining at some of the top establishments in Los Angeles. Oh, and $15,000 to develop the idea.

Audi's marketing team blurs the line between reality and fantasy by including the fictional Stark character as a judge in this campaign to extend their product placement for the drool-worthy R8 sports car. The contest asks "Do you embody the truth behind the world's progress?" and it is intended to showcase "innovation, adventure, and intelligence worthy of Audi and Tony Stark."

Audi r8

Having a great idea, though won't be enough to get you behind the wheel and living the life of the founder of Stark Industries. You will need friends, and lots of fans. "Participants must rally members of their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social media networks to rate, comment, and discuss their ideas."

You can download the Tony Stark Innovation Challenge Contest Brief which details the guidelines for submissions and the criteria that will be used for rating the videos, and the ideas they represent. Here's a short list of goals the judges want the idea that is highlighted in the winning video to achieve:


  • Make the world a better place by solving a problem or improving an existing solution

  • Articulate and demonstrate expertise of the “better living through technology” philosophy

  • Have a scalability and adoptability to potentially change the way we live

  • Showcase innovation, adventures, and intelligence worthy of Audi and Tony Stark

  • Appeal to the general audience as viewer ratings will help determine top entries


Videos will be accepted starting Wednesday, April 28th through June 9, 2010 here, and finalists will be selected after a public voting period that ends June 13, 2010. There must be someone I know who would let me be the Pepper Potts to their Tony Stark and take me to that Audi Design Center?!?

 

 

 

Tuesday
Apr272010

A Guy Walks Into A Bar...

No, this isn't another story about that prototyped and hyped next gen phone. The guy that walked into the bar was Michael Ohrbach, of Cascadia Capital, an investment bank in Seattle. The bar was the Celtic Swell, and it just happens to be co-owned by Joleen Winther Hughes, whose Hughes Media Law Group sponsors a series of events there to support the local start-up community. 

Ohrbach laid out a series of charts and graphs to show the trends in funding for new business ventures from before the "econolypse" through today, with a compelling case that angel and venture funds are flowing to fewer projects with rigorous business plans, "and not just to inventors with a good idea." He maintains the Internet is still a driver of investment capital, and validated the continuing love affair investors have with consumer technology.

 

Hughes Media Law Presents: Cascadia Capital - Venture Funding In Today's Market from Gearheadgal on Vimeo.

 

Sunday
Apr252010

Favorite Tweets of the Day

RT @DesignerDepot: The Dos and Do Nots of Mobile Applications http://bit.ly/cxyhNs Sez don’t mix mobile app and mobile web

RT @ tonyadam My thoughts on the hot topic - A resume doesn't tell the whole story - http://bit.ly/ci4jIUhttp://ow.ly/1CRtv Well said.

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