Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Love Pandora: (even when they're wrong)

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

If you are Christmas shopping this weekend

I couldn't have said it better myself - so here is Seth Godin's latest wisdom - I hope people really follow this - it's much more in the spirit of the holiday:

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:

1. Buy handmade items from people you like.

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.

Let the holiday preperations begin

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

How to make your client happy - stop lying

A bit of a rant - thanks for being here for me.

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.

You can get results from Social Network Campaigns

There is a great firm out of Boston by the name of Molecular. I’ve been following their work since I started my first agency in 2001, and probably even before that. They’ve changed their focus a lot over the years, taking advantage of the tools of the web and becoming so much more than a ‘builder of websites’. One of their User Experience analysts, Evan Gerber wrote a great article for iMediaConnection about the steps that need to be taken if we are going to run successful campaigns on Social Media Networks, and if they are going to measure up to the ROI demands of our clients.

He said that there are 3 primary steps , which really follow the same pattern of any media campaign:

  1. Determine what to measure
  2. Take advantage of existing tools
  3. 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 digital professionals to make sure that the newest tactics are palatable to our clients, or more importantly, to their bosses?

Friday, November 21, 2008

social media slowdowns and crowd approval

I've noticed that as LinkedIn has jumped on the application bandwagon (I like some of the new applications I've played with, and will definitely be checking out more and more of them over time), I have noticed a definite slowdown on their website. Sometimes it's been just a slight slowdown to overall page load times, but it's also been as bad as error messages that pages couldn't' be loaded. I think LinkedIn is really getting some traction and making their mark in the Social Networking world, and there is noting that will kill that faster than poor performance, or even more, crashing. I definitely saw this in the early days of MySpace with the 30 somethings who tried to really get active on it. This is completely anecdotal, but it seems that the Gen Y and younger on MySpace don't really feel they have anywhere else to go, so they just put up with the poor performance of MySpace page load times and timeouts, where the older 20 somethings and 30 somethings became quickly fed up with it and moved on to Facebook and other sites that were also competing for their Social Networking time. I'd say that Facebook has been the biggest benefactor of that.

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

Twitter - The New Banners and Ears

It concerns me a little bit, as I get more involved with Twitter, that I'm noticing a trend. The broadcast Twitterer (my own word). Twitter is supposed to be (like the Internet in it's most basic premise) an interactive experience. I've noticed more and more that many folks broadcast out their information on Twitter, some of it very useful and informative, but still mostly one way. I've even noticed that some folks do get the concept that the micro-blogging idea is an interactive activity and they'll ask questions, but never actually acknowledge if you take the time to answer their quesitons. Now maybe they are so innundated with responses that they can't get back to everyone personally (thru an @keithpape or by DM'ing). If this is the case, then kudos to them, but a generic response to all saying 'hey - thanks for all the incredible responses I got - they are so numerous I can't get back to each one of you individually'. Has Twitter just replaced the banner ad as a new way to get your brand in front of a maximum number of people?

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

A good article today on #Mashable on Google Analytics and Sprout for Flash search: http://ping.fm/TvOxd

Sunday, November 16, 2008

fire update: 91 is open again, 241 N is still closed and no trains today again - but no smoke here
Samantha is getting eye teeth - she was up at 6:30 this morning - going to need more coffee
wind and fires are not good for marathon training - i'm way behind on mileage this week

Saturday, November 15, 2008

it's family holiday picture day here at the ranch - fun trying to look holiday when it's 92 degrees!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey Marco! Great discussion today and great call on Cafe Primo!
a couple days in a row traveling to LA and a baby on the mend and that email really stacks up - this is crazy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

it's going to be a HUGE day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

waiting for a meeting; LA public libraries have free wifi! i didn't know they still had libraries.. bad me...
remember that it's about serving, not being self serving
heading out to LA for 3 days of completely unrelated meetings - i'm glad gas is down to $2.50/gal!

Monday, November 10, 2008

new morning up and running - lots of response from weekend endeavors!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

nicole is shopping, the baby is sleeping, i'm reading the paper - nirvana!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

drinking margaritas with friends - this is the weekend
sittin in the backyard watching samantha play - warm and breezy day - perfect.

Friday, November 07, 2008

i'm going to need more coffee than usual today

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

some great victories and losses - time to move forward. The king is dead, long live the king

Monday, November 03, 2008

Keith is in love with the world, and looking forward to the peace and harmony that will magically occur with the arriving of the unicorns tomorrow.
ok - lets get this morning rolling!

Friday, October 31, 2008

had an amazing coffee meeting this morning. What a great start. inspired conversation and new friends. i couldn't ask for more

Thursday, October 30, 2008

learning to be greatful for what I have, and thankful for what i receive
getting back from a great lunch meeting - good conversation on video, digital's future and market opportunity
fired up for a productive day

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

watching Classical Baby with Samantha before her bed time.
returning calls and emails, it's nice to be loved.
answering questions on LinkedIn - thinking i should have taken a picture of samantha covered in wet TP
is cleaning up the bathroom after samantha decided to 'clean' it with a couple rolls of TP soaked in the toilet (anyone have a mop?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

there is nothing that makes me happier when working than talking about the future of internet video
ok, it's tuesday - lets try this again

Monday, October 27, 2008

good morning monday! It's going to be a hot one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

watched my 12 yrd old son compete in his first 10k race this morning - AWESOME!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

wondering if anyone has an extra pass to Digital Hollywood next week - he'd like to go!
thinking that lifting weights with my 18 yr old son wasn't such a smart idea
heading to the gym before going to LA for DCAS
: I'm not liking the wind or the heat

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

this heat can stop any time now.. really
i got my first 'best answer' on linkedin - cool (i'm going for small victories in the current market atmosphere)

Monday, October 20, 2008

is answering internet marketing questions on LinkedIn
going on 6 mile run with Samantha
is digesting his interview this morning - all systems are go.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

is following up on last nights successful networking event at Tech Biz Connection

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

is off to the TechBiz SEM networking event in Irvine
had a great call this morning - glad to know friends are having success

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

has a babysitter tonight, so he and Nicole are going to the Drive-in
is watching samantha while his beautiful wife brings home the bacon
is done running his regular 5 miles - no wind.. yeah!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

ok - so it's really windy in riverside today (i think most of so cal is that way today), and it really sucks.

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!).
is really hating the wind (not good for contacts, running, mondays, attitude..) (there is no smog though)
coffee.. strong coffee

Sunday, October 12, 2008

is looking for more teething pills for samantha (jack d will be a last resort)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

is off to Barstow for the MORE off-road race with the family

Friday, October 10, 2008

is looking for any sign of silverlight banner ads on the web

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

is looking at what is really going on with Silverlight
taking Ryan to school registration

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

back from contentenomics show in LA and catching up with email (need an iPhone)