Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I've been listening to Pandora for almost 2 years now (I don't know exactly how long, but I remember finding holiday music last year, and had the feeling that I'd already been listening for a while.
I've built, managed and run several web companies in the past, and have certainly spent my fair share of time working with creative types and programmers. One of the biggest challenges is to meld in the users perspective (the person who ultimately is going to use the website you are building). This isn't as easy as it seems, as you have to contend with the opinions of the artist designing the site, the programmer who has to build from the artwork and specifications given, and then the opinions of the customer who is paying you to build the website (and many times the 'owner' is not within the demographic of the final user) all of whom have very differing opinions on how different elements come together.
This isn't more apparent anywhere on the site than in the 'error checking'. It's a very small detail in the big scheme of all the tasks that you have to do in order to design, build and ultimately launch as website; but I think it's THE most critical piece. I truly believe that most of our success in business comes from how we handle mistakes, not in our overall day to day operations. Generally, we are in business each day, because our basic business premise is sound, or at least we are part of an industry that is. I have heard numerous times since I started my first company in early 2001 that most small businesses fail in their first 1 year, and then again at 3, 5 and 7 years (I really should look that up - maybe it's urban legend). What I think gets us through those critical moments in business that determines whether we survive to the next anniversay, is how we handle those adverse moments, and in the web industry (or on a website in general) this is when the website fails. Something goes wrong, the server goes down, your connection to the network fails, or there is just a failure in the programming logic. What your website does at a moment like this determines whether the customers that are on the site or trying to get to the site decide whether you are a flake, or that an honest mistake happened and you deserve the benefit of the doubt. You see this come to the forefront with the really useful message (on a poorly thought out site) or something like "A 404 error hass occurred, please contact the system administrator" or something even worse that is just a bunch of code that means nothing without a PhD in Computer Science from CalTech. This can also come through a poorly thought out piece of creative, as we saw with Motrin recently. The great companies anticipate the fact that things happen and put forethought on how to handle these situations. Pandora is definitely my favorite champion of this well thought out strategy. You can see from the image on the right that even when something goes wrong, they have a well thought out appology for the inconvenience, and throw in a bit of humor. I really appreciate that. It makes me even more loyal than I already am (as long as it doesn't happen too often), and when I talk about it online within my Social Media communities (like twitter) - I immediately get contacted by someone at Pandora that is paying attention and they check in with me to make sure everything is ok.. amazing.
There are definitely some other companies that I'm starting to see this happen with, and it seems to be a strategy, because it's showing up in more than one area, so it's not just one rogue employee who gets it. Twitter themselves do a nice job. Many folks are familiar with the 'fail whale' when something goes down at twitter, and they are very active in responding. The folks at Social media aggregator Ping.fm have had their share of problems, and have backup communications (other than twitter) to try and get the word out when something goes wrong. Traditioanlly I'm not a big fan of the Cable industry, but I'm hearing good things about @comcastcares on Twitter that they are really reaching out and trying to differentiate themselves and find new ways to handle customer service.
Pandora is definitely my high marker, and I judge the others on my experience there, as they've really worked to have a multichannel approach to both the proactive and reactive. I hope more folks from my industry take notice of this trend, and take it to heart as a way to conduct business.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Holiday shopping guide
The decisions you make with your hard-earned money this year will have more impact than ever before. So put your money where your mouth is.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
2. Don't buy gift cards. It's lazy and sort of dumb.
3. Don't buy from big brands or big stores that don't care about you, or that act in ways you don't applaud. There are very smart alternatives in almost every category.
4. When in doubt, buy digital items. Even better, give a donation and make many people happy.
5. Realize that when you're going to buy from Amazon, buying from a lens with a red ribbon on top will earn significant money for charity with no effort on your part.
Hugs are an underrated substitute.
Well, today is definitely the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday around our house. My wife is having the local MOM's club over for their potluck (I'm not sure I'm completely safe in my home office with all those kids running around), and we're starting to pull out extra tables and chairs for our festivities on Thursday, and for us - our primary day is Friday.
We have our primary day as Friday because my wife has a very large family (7 brothers and sisters) - the youngest who is 20, so many already have spouses and children. They have 'other halves' with families as well, so about 8 years ago, instead of having the headache of negotiating each year as to which side of the family got Thursday, or having to eat two meals in one day, my wife and I started hosting Thanksgiving on Friday. In our town (Riverside, CA) we are fortunate enough to have a large 'Mission' style hotel called the "Mission Inn" which is about 80 years old and is well known for hosting many US Presidents looking to escape to the West Coast during the 20's and 30's. During the holidays, it gets all decked out, and the local Main Street which is adjacent is closed down, and ice rinks are setup, carriages tour you thru the locally decorated neighborhoods; it's quite the spectacle. So, as I was saying, we eat on Friday and then head down to the Mission Inn, which has their official City lighting ceremony around 6pm. The Mayor and Santa Clause turn out, there are caroling groups, the ice rink is open, and there are lots of vendors with cider, hot chocolate, and the entire holiday season really gets an official send off. It's really nice to have the 5 block walk down to the festivities and then to walk around with the kids. The little ones (in the years where there are little ones) really like to meet Santa. The older folks drag us over to the Convention center where there is a Christmas tree decorating contest (yuck) - sometimes I get out of that one, and sometimes not.
The holidays are definitely my favorite time of year. There can be an air of stress and distress, but I try to keep in mind the 'spirit' of the holiday and that it's about family and especially the memories we're making for the kids, and that seems to help me keep it all in perspective. Try to enjoy every moment, you won't regret it.
Happy Holidays everyone.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I read a great blog post by Seth Godin today called The You Show, and it reminded me of a Mad Men episode, which I think was from the first season, where they coined the old Ad Agency adage about 'the day you land an account is also the first day towards losing the account'. This really does seem to be painfully true in so many client/agency relationships, and it's sad. It's like dating the wrong person, and as so many of us do at least once, even marrying the wrong person. We pretend to be someone we are not to impress them, and are able to hold together that persona for a while, but eventually our true nature comes thru. Not to say this is solely the Agency's fault, as the clients can be more than willing to make us think things about them that aren't true either.
Why is this? We are both in business to make a profit (unless you are a nonprofit and then you are there to serve a cause). Either way, we all complain we don't have enough time in the day to get everything done. We all need more space, more staff and more money. So why do we waste time attracting the wrong people/clients/vendors to ourselves?
I really try not to do this. I've always found that when I'm myself, I may not be relevant to every meeting or every RFP or every person I meet, B UT THAT IS OKAY. After 13 years or so of doing this, I really do know myself well enough that I know when I'm taking a bad meeting, yet, a couple times a year I'll do it and sometimes it can screw me up for months if I really chose a dosey.
Thanks for the reminder Seth! I made one of these this past year and it's still shaking itself out. Hopefully that will keep me honest with myself, my clients and my current and future friends for a couple years, as I always enjoy it when I listen to that 'still small voice' that guides me thru those decisions.
There is a great firm out of
He said that there are 3 primary steps , which really follow the same pattern of any media campaign:
- Determine what to measure
- Take advantage of existing tools
- Track how social networking impacts other channels
He summarized my feelings really well in a way I’d felt like I was having trouble getting thru to business owners or marketing executives who wanted a ‘MySpace’ page that was going to fix all their sales problems. Evan said:
“Social networking is more than just a profile page on Facebook. The power of the consumer's voice can be harnessed in multiple ways, to serve many goals. The information can be incredibly valuable to judge the value of content, track user opinion, and propagate a brand message.
But in order to demonstrate success, the savvy brand marketer will create a thorough metrics campaign to measure the effort. The first key step is to identify what success means, and then understand how it can be tracked successfully.
Take advantage of the tools provided by the networks that are out there, see how the brand is fairing, and what can be done to get involved with the conversation. Try to track how the social networking campaign impacts other channels. Even if the numbers are not rock solid, there can be definite trends.”
Take the time to read the full article. iMedia is always a great resource, and I depend on it a lot to help keep me up to date on new thoughts and strategies.
What else can we do as digita
Friday, November 21, 2008
On the other side of that coin is Twitter. It appears to be an accepted fact that Twitter goes down, and everyone is very aware of their 'borrowing' server space wherever they can get it, to the point where we are all discussing their downtime mascot with the recent change to the Twitterpillar. Why is it okay for Twitter to be down, but no MySpace or for that matter an ecommerce site, or CNN.com for that matter? Are we rooting for this up and comer with out any monetization plan because they seem to be breaking new ground, and that gives them some underdog status that we instinctively pardon? I like the idea that we give the new guy/underdog a break, it might show that our society is somewhat understanding that the guy that is out there trying something new deserves a break now and then. I wouldn't count on this lasting forever, we are a fickle group, and soon, Twitter will become ingrained and no longer the excitinng new kid, and we'll demand our Twitter 24/7 without fail, much like our dialtone. There are already competitors to Twitter, and much like Friendster, early adoption and success can still be lost by a mistep at the wrong moment.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
That brings me on to the 'ears' issue. I call it 'ears' because it reminds me of those old vietnam war movies where they always have some nutty soldier lopping off the ears of his enemy as a collection of his conquests. I'm wondering about the thousands of people that some folks follow (and the correlation to the thousands that follow them). Are people just following others so they'll get followed? Is that the etiquite that is being established? Is that okay - or is it false pretense and doesn't really follow the pretense of relevancey that we all talk about so much in search. It seems like search is the reason we do the #xxxx and the overall purpose of blogging and micro-blogging.. right? Relevant information. Are these the shadow server and white font games of early SEO. I'd hope we learned something from those early endeavors.
I don't necesarrily have all the answers, and just because it's a good ideology that we only follow people we are really going to/ or are interested in reading (can you really read the tweets of 1487 people that you follow?) or is it just a branding tool, and the game is played by following everyone, hoping that they will follow you, and you will then have the biggest numbers, and therefore 'win'?
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
There is no way I'm putting my contacts in, and my eyes are liking the glasses so much today. I'm supposed to be training for the LA Marathon (Feb 16, 2009 - www.lamarathon.com ) and as soon as I heard the wind at 6:30 I went back to bed. So now I feel crappy because I didn't run and just don't have time to go out now (samantha is sleeping).
On a good note, the stock market is way up (maybe the physical wind change, and the market are in sync today.. weird, huh?)
I hope the day starts to even out, as I'd love to get that 11 mile run in today. My younger son, Jordan is running it as well (actually I'm running it to do it with him, and he's only 12!).