On to the next sale.

Kathy Sierra thinks that the marketing department should be creating the user manuals for products as well as the marketing literature:

Why do so many companies treat potential users so much better than existing users? Think about it. The brochure is a thing of beauty, while the user manual is a thing of boredom. The brochure gets the big budget while the manual gets the big index. What if we stopped making the docs we give away for free SO much nicer than the ones the user paid for? What if instead of seducing potential users to buy, we seduced existing users to learn?

But that assumes that companies care about the customer once they’ve made the sale, and frankly a lot of times that just isn’t the case. Cell phone companies are a perfect example. They want to get you to sign up for a two- or three-year locked in agreement, after which they don’t give a damn about you. All the special offers go to new customers, while existing customers get nothing.

Enterprise software companies are perfect examples too. They are focused on the big sale, promising whatever it takes to close the deal, even though those promises may never be delivered upon.

So before you can follow Kathy’s line of thought you first have to understand is your company actually cares about the customer, or just the potential customer.

When you get right down to it, extended warranties are a symptom of this as well. Rather than build a product that will work and last well at a slightly higher price, manufacturers cheap out on the product, and retailers make a few extra bucks selling an insurance policy – but only to the new customer. Existing customers aren’t eligible.

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Snow Crash.

I read voraciously, so fast in fact that I quickly run out of books by my favorite authors. Imagine reading a full novel in every flight; having to carry two for a round trip. So having temporarily run out of other new stuff, I’m re-reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, which I first read 10 years ago. I’m not normally a science fiction fan, but it’s an entertaining read.

Then Snow Crash seemed to be a visionary view of what the internet might become, especially with new technologies like VRML. But today it seems more a precursor to Second Life. It’s impressive that we can create a virtual world, create an economy, and build in it whatever we want.

Yet in the novel, while the Metaverse is a spectacular place, it is the real world that has fallen apart. Are we creating incredible fantasy worlds at the expense of real life?

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The fastest way to kill business travel.

"On board, they’d have to sedate me."

Tom Byrum, a frequent business traveler, on the possibility of not being allowed to take along a laptop computer and other equipment while flying (from page 2 of today’s New York Times Sunday Business section and here)

I travel with two laptops currently, one Powerbook and one Sony Vaio. I need both of those laptops wherever I go, as do most people who carry the things. Since airlines cannot promise with any guarantee of certainty that my checked baggage will arrive when I do – airlines lost 10,000 bags per day in 2005 – there is simply no way that I can check my laptops and be assured of having them when I arrive at my destination. Not having the laptops would mean my trip was complete waste of time, and the chance of losing the laptops would be too much for me to risk. This is likely the same for most business travelers.

The fastest way to kill business travel would be to force flyers to check their laptops, because the risk of potential loss of both productivity and possibly equipment would be too great to take the chance. The cost of flight and the travel time would be a complete waste if I was unable to work when I got there.

On the other hand, this kind of thing is always great for videoconferencing and technologies like Skype.


Up is down. Black is white.

And global warming is causing the glaciers to grow:

Researchers at Newcastle University looked at temperature trends in the western Himalaya over the past century.

They found warmer winters and cooler summers, combined with more snow and rainfall, could be causing some mountain glaciers to increase in size.

It seems that there must always be some natural impending doom scenario or humans just aren’t happy. When I was a kid scientists were fearful of the coming ice age. Twenty five years later it is global warming, apparently cause by humans.

In fact, so desperate to ensure us of the supposed future destruction of the planet, global warming advocates point to everything as proof of global warming. Even that ice age is now interpreted as a precursor of global warming, as are every possible type of weather even anywhere, regardless of the situation. Every heat wave is further proof. And up until now, a cold snap was ignored, but that will probably also now be considered further proof.

Yet anyone who dares to question this is merely shouted down as ignorant, or a shill for energy companies.

The earth’s climate is changing to by sure, but this may is likely a cyclic situation. The earth adapts far better than humans ever will. The earth will be just fine, though I can’t say the same for the people on it.

My personal belief is that the next impending natural doom scenario is the death of common sense and the loss of rational thought.

Tip of the hat to small dead animals.


Don’t download this song.

No sooner do I mention Weird Al Yankovic than he releases a new song – Don’t Download This Song – a humorous jab at the RIAA and their attempt to criminalize the sharing of music.

If only there was some for of micropayment so that you could pay the artist directly for their music and cut out the record companies.

You can also get his parody of James Blunt’s song You’re Beautiful, entitled You’re Pitiful, here. Unfortunately Atlantic Records, Blunt’s record company, isn’t going to let Weird Al put the song on an album. Fortuntately thanks to the internet you can at least download it.

Tip of the hat to Digital Copyright Canada.


Giving it away.

Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, is still concerned that illegal downloading is eating away at record sales, and is concerned for musicians:

And musicians have long considered their music to be like a pension plan, because music retains its value, Mr. Henderson said. Artists can expect to receive revenue from their music for years after they record it – from other bands that cover it, when it appears on soundtracks or when it’s being used as a ring tone on a cellular phone.

"I cannot believe the future of music is giving it away."

But discussion of Weird Al Yankovic’s record contract suggests that the move to digital downloads is a bad deal for musicians:

If your deal with your record company is like The Alman Brothers, then you’re getting something like $315.50 for those same 1,000 songs (83.3 CDs worth). That works out to $0.31 cents per song, instead of the $0.045 on a digital download.

The digital download nets the artist a fraction of what the physical CD gets them. So the record company gets more than they did before, with virtually no manufacturing, inventory, and distribution costs, while the artist gets less.

So Mr. Henderson is fine with the artists virtually giving music away, just not the record companies.


Snakes On A Plane is so over.

I’ve been hearing about Snakes On A Plane for months now, so overhyped on the internet that it has become a parody of itself. But a couple of weeks ago it became all too clear the I live in the rarefied atmosphere of that echo chamber that Rick Segal is always talking about.

At a cottage with several friends and relatives I happened to mention SOAP, and the only ones who knew about it were my son and my friend Matt, who like me is a dysfunctional frequent internet addict user. So I explained the story to everyone, and they found it amusing.

But all the hype didn’t translate into ticket sales because we all went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest instead. So I guess the lesson is that a well-written and entertaining story wins out over a collection of cliches everytime. And you really shouldn’t give people what they say they want.


The death of the record store.

Tower Records, a chain I’ve frequented for years, has declared bankruptcy, and there isn’t much hope for their brick and mortar stores.

While you can certain purchase anything you want online at places like Amazon.com, there was something very satisfying about browsing the bins, and flipping through the albums. Actually holding the record in your hand was so much different from clicking a checkbox online.


The cigarette is mighter that the sword.

I’m not a smoker – never have been – but I’ve watched in amazement lately as the rights of smokers are increasingly encroached upon, for any number of reasons. Smoking, which is still legal and from which a great deal of tax revenue is derived, is increasingly lionized to the point where those who do smoke pretty much have nowhere to do so.

It was strange enough when the province of Ontario, Canada, outlawed smoking completely in the workplace, meaning that long distance truckers could no longer smoke in the cabs of their trucks. But now a complaint to the British mdia regulator has led to the removal of scenes in the cartoon "Tom and Jerry" that glorify smoking:

In the first, “Texas Tom”, the hapless cat Tom tries to impress a feline female by rolling a cigarette, lighting it and smoking it with one hand. In the second, “Tennis Chumps”, Tom’s opponent in a match smokes a large cigar.

“The licensee has … proposed editing any scenes or references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation,” Ofcom said, adding that “Texas Tom” was one such example.

So attacking each other with axes and machetes won’t encourage imitation, but smoking a cigarette will.