The real social power of the internet.

I was watching an informercial the other day called Shortcuts to Internet Millions and I wrote a post about it. I looked them up on the web and didn’t find too much about them. But thanks to Google my post is now the top hit on the subject and that enabled a number of people to find a common place in the comments section to discuss the subject, enlightening others on issues surrounding the products described in the informercial.

We all see this kind of discussion everyday in blog postings, but it jumped out at me this time as a bunch of people who don’t know each other at all spontaneously jumping in to help others.

Even if I do occasionally find the internet boring, it is that kind of interaction that demonstrates how valuable the internet has become as a way for people to make their voices heard.

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Lies the New York Times tells.

I’ve written a couple of times about the problems I am having with the delivery of a newspaper I don’t want from the company that delivers my New York Times. So I looked at the New York Times page and found this:

HOME OR OFFICE DELIVERY/CUSTOMER CARE

Place orders, temporarily stop service or inquire about billing or service by calling 1-800-NYTIMES or by visiting homedelivery.nytimes.com.

To write Sr. V.P., Circulation, send to:
circulation@nytimes.com.

So I wrote to circulation@nytimes.com explaining my problem.A day and a half later I received this response:

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your communication with The New York Times. In response to your email, we certainly do appologize for any inconvience, however, for better assistance with your questions and concerns, please call the Canadian Customer Service Department at 416-585-5222, once again thank you for contacting the New York Times.

have a great day

Sincerely
xxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxx@pcfcorp.com
Problem Resolution Specialist
New York Times

So the Senior VP of Circulation seems to work at pfccorp.com, otherwise known as Publishers Circulation Fulfillment Inc.So the New York Times lies to me about who I am writing to, immediately giving me the impression that they just don’t care about me, the customer.

And their solution? I should solve the problem by calling – for the fifth time – the company that caused the problem and refuses to rectify the problem.

Boy do I feel special.

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Good question.

David Pogue doesn’t see the point of LinkedIn:

What I don’t understand is: If somebody knows me well enough to e-mail me with an invitation to join, why doesn’t he just e-mail me directly with whatever his problem or offer is?

I use LinkedIn as a kind of address book, keeping me updated with the goings on of people I know and have worked with.But beyond that, I just don’t see the point.

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The internet is kinda boring.

Mark Cuban thinks that the internet is dead and boring:

Every generation has its defining breakthrough. Cars, TV, Radio, Planes,highways, the wheel, the printing press, the list goes on forever. I’m sure in each generation to whom the invention was a breakthrough it may have been heretical to consider those inventions "dead and boring". The reality is that at some point they stop changing. They stop evolving. They become utilities or utilitarian and are taken for granted.

Some of you may not want to admit it, but that’s exactly what the net has become. A utility. It has stopped evolving. Your Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago.

Fred Wilson disagrees:

If it ended with "my Internet experience today is not much different than it was 5 years ago", I’d be nodding my head in agreement. Clearly Mark’s not using the Internet the way I am.

My delicious toolbar records my most visited web services. Typepad, Google Finance, Techmeme, Delicious, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, last.fm, hypemachine, yottamusic. I did not use one of those services 5 years ago. Not one of them!

Those services may be new, but I was using Blogger, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Photos, chat rooms, directories and the like five years ago. These services aren’t that new or novel. YouTube may be new, but video on the web isn’t either.

Mark Evans feels pretty much the same way:

Personally, the Internet and what’s available never ceases to amaze. I spent a good hour last weekend using StumbleUpon, and discovered a whack of great Web sites that immediately went on my del.ici.us account. I also spent some time watching videos, including a bunch of WordPress tutorials – something that was difficult to easily do a couple of years ago.

Yes there is a lot of stuff out there.There are a lot of new TV shows every year too, but rarely is there anything all that different on. And yes we’re doing a lot of stuff with the internet. But the internet has become kind of boring.

I’ve had 5 Mbps service for over five years without an increase. And now if you actually use that unlimited bandwidth you’ve always been promised your service just may get cut off. If we can’t maintain net neutrality the carriers will pick and choose what happens in the future.

I’m waiting to see the next big leap forward.

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Falling CD prices.

As the demand for music on CD falls through the floor, HMV, Canada’s largest music retailer, is reducing prices:

"It’s a slowly dying market," said Curtis Blondin, who works at the HMV store at the Bayshore Shopping Centre.

"CD sales are going down, hardcore. Everyone is downloading now and we’re selling video games and we’re pushing movies," Mr. Blondin said yesterday, after spending most of the day reducing CDs that had been $19.99 to $14.99

They seem to reducing the list price on the CD, as opposed to the sale price. After all, when was the last time you actually paid anything close to $20 for a regular CD. And they are competing with deep discounting companies like Wal-Mart and Future Shop (a division of Best Buy), where we buy our CDs.

I still enjoy getting the physical CD, but the truth is, it just gets ripped right into iTunes and then stored away. The day of physical media is nearly gone. I still miss the cover real estate and liner notes that came with records though. I still remember The Runaways first album (Joan Jett’s first band). Laid flat, the cover depicted a head to toe picture of five very attractive teenage girls, just the kind of thing a teenage boy might enjoy. And their music wasn’t bad either.

I’m sorry that my grandchildren will never know that pleasure.

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They don’t have time for customers.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in customer service. When I feel that I’ve exhausted all the avenues in a customer service problem, I ask for the name of the VP or Director or Customer Care. These are the typical responses:

  • We don’t have one.
  • I don’t know who that is.
  • I can’t give out their name.
  • They don’t have email.

Guess what folks. These are all lies told by $8 an hour customer service people so that the person actually responsible for making sure that customers are satisfied doesn’t actually have to deal with customers.

The other day I mentioned that a newspaper company had started sending me their paper while I was on vacation.In the three irate calls it took to make them stop I told them I NEVER wanted to receive their paper. A couple of days ago they started sending it again.

They only have my address because they deliver my New York Times in Canada, so I thought I’d contact the Times. Surprise! You can’t call the Senior VP of Circulation (who apparently has no name), but you can email them. I emailed them at 9:00 am yesterday with my problem.

I’m still waiting for a response.

The truth is, as long as I pay my bill, these people don’t give a damn about me. They certainly don’t care about any problems I may be having with their service, or how much they inconvenience me. And in the case of The Globe and Mail, they don’t care that I don’t want their paper.

Honestly, if you have someone on your payroll who is supposed to care about customers but won’t take a call from one, then what are you paying them for? Just fire them and save the money. Clearly it won’t make any difference at all.

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The victimization of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart moved into the world of Facebook with their Roommate Style Match, a seemingly decent attempt to provide a service that students can use.

Yet much as every other form of media, it has become a place to bash Wal-Mart in the wall posts section, with the grammar and writing skill of a six year old. For example:

…Plus don’t look at history as a liner progression of progress that’s incredibly stupid things go backwards and forwards...

And of course anyone who dares support Wal-Mart must be a paid shill.

These comments seem to center around the fact that Wal-Mart is not unionized, given that unions have done so much for their members recently.There are also comments about the fact that Wal-Mart products are made in China. Shop much? Every retail company sells products that are made in China.

In becoming incredibly successful in an extremely tight retail market Wal-Mart has managed to lower prices for everybody, and they have made themselves a target. Putting a union in Wal-Mart will do one thing and one thing only – make the union rich.

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The missing statistics.

My friend Mack D. Male wrote that Windows Media Center was Microsoft success story. The post made it to digg, and he commented on that:

Essentially my post demonstrates that Windows Media Center has become very successful. I don’t really attempt to explain the reasons for the success, aside from glossing over the features and that sort of thing. It seems most people think that WMC is only successful because it is installed by default on many new computers. Even if that’s the case, does it matter? I don’t think it does.

I’m going to politely disagree. While Windows Media Center may be a success in terms of units sold, that is basically because Microsoft has the monopoly power to force computer manufacturers to pre-install it. That doesn’t make it a success.

The statistics are interesting:

Back in 2004, Windows eHome Division General Manager Joe Belfiore noted that 27% of Media Center buyers used the machines in their living rooms, 23% used them in bedrooms, and almost 50% used them in dens, studies, or home offices. Some people use their Media Center PC primarily as an everyday computer, others use it strictly as a home entertainment device.

But they neglect to tell you one important thing. How many people actually use it as a media center? How many even have TV tuner cards installed in their PCs? How many have replaced their TiVo with Windows Media Center?

I did find these statistics, but I’m not sure how credible they are:

58 percent of Media Center users watch TV on their PCs, while 27 percent have their Media Center PC connected directly to a TV set.

So some people may have decided to buy a computer with TV functionality instead of a new TV. They may watch DVDs or listen to music on it. I could do that with any PC – in fact I do it with my Macbook. But I’m not sure that constitutes a success for Windows Media Center.

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Your papers please.

Craig Burton mentions a scary proposed rule:

In a series of recent publications in the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security is proposing a comprehensive new system of surveillance and, perhaps more important, control of both domestic and international travelers.

The proposed new rules, which are currently open for public comments, would require that:

  1. All would be international travellers to or from the USA (even US citizens crossing the U.S.-Canada border on foot) would have to have government-issued ID credentials
  2. All would-be passengers on international or domestic flights to, from, over, via, or within the U.S. would have to have both government-issued ID credentials and explicit case-by-case prior permission from the DHS to the airline to allow each passenger to board a plane.

Shades of Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca where people were prepared to kill for the letters of transit.

When I followed the links they didn’t seem to tell the correct story, but this one does:

Conversion of the Advance Passenger Information system (API or APIS) for international ship and plane travel into an advance permission system

The link is a PDF of the response to the proposal by the Identity Project. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen a thing about this in any newspapers.

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