Removing the mandatory “is”.

As long as I’ve used Facebook I’ve been bothered by the fact that your status must start with the word "is". While "is" may occasionally be appropriate, as in "Larry is watching tv", I may also want to use a different, and perhaps less passive verb.

Shouldn’t I be allowed to do that? Why can’t I create my own status line?

I guess I’m not alone, because there is now a Facebook group called "Campaign to lose the mandatory ‘is’ from status updates." Ah, the power of the internet to bring people together for a common cause when they are frustrated.

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Do not call.

It’s 10 am on Saturday morning and I’ve already received my first telemarketing call from a company that wanted to sell me new windows. My answer was a polite "I’m not interested."

Honestly, how many people get a call like that and think to themselves to make a spot decision to replace their windows? Though I’m sure that people with that problem already might be pushed over the edge.

If only Canada, like most other countries, had some form of "Do Not Call" registry so I wouldn’t be bothered by these people. The only reason I bothered to answer the phone this morning is so it wouldn’t wake up every one else.

I do not appreciate being bothered by telemarketers at any time.

Update: I’ve now had two telemarketing calls before 10:30 am.

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Why “pay by usage” for bandwidth doesn’t work.

Techdirt sums up why the "pay by usage" bandwidth model is bad:

However, the bigger problem is the transaction costs it introduces for users. Suddenly, internet surfers really need to see any particular website or service as being worthwhile. Just the act of making them debate whether or not it’s worthwhile to pay up to do something represents a mental transaction cost that will slow down adoption of new services. Furthermore, as bandwidth has increased, many of the newer innovative services have come about to make use of that bandwidth — which only drives further investment in more bandwidth, driving more innovative uses. It’s a virtuous circle. Yet, by metering broadband connections, slowing down adoption of these new services, you slow down the innovation and hold people back from trying out or even creating new, innovative and useful services that would require more bandwidth. It’s a recipe for slowing innovation online.

Just think of who benefits if a "pay per use" model is introduced. The phone companies make a lot more money/ For now anyway, until people just stop using high-bandwidth applications.

And Hollywood and the record companies would be incredibly happy because people would just find it too costly to download anything. No more digital distribution. But wait – CD sales would still be declining with no other revenue to make up for it.

No more YouTube. No more Joost. No more new innovation. So no need for more bandwidth.And pretty soon, when people stop using all those bandwidth-intensive applications, their "pay per use" cost will probably less than they pay for flat-rate pricing now.

Law of unintended consequences, right?

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Just like in the movies.

Well the funny movies anyway:

A 17-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in the leg while standing in line at a McDonald’s restaurant and now he faces an illegal weapons charge.

The boy was fiddling with the .25-caliber pistol tucked in his waistband when it fired, wounding him in the upper thigh shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday, city police Sgt. William Gorman said.

Try explaining that one to your friends.

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Getting caught is a powerful motivator.

Were it not for Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor, people might not know that the Canadian government was holding closed door discussions on eliminating citizens’ right to privacy on the internet:

Public Safety Canada and Industry Canada have quietly launched a semi-public consultation on one element of lawful access. The new consultation, which concludes on September 25th, asks for comments on the provision of customer name and address information by telecommunications companies to law enforcement. The consultation has not been posted on the Internet and I was asked not to post it online.

Now that they’ve been caught, they have decided to open the discussions up:

The Public Safety and Industry Departments have been conducting a limited consultation, which was scheduled to end Sept. 25, on potential changes that would make it easier for police to get customers’ personal information from Internet providers without a court order or other legal justification. Those invited to participate in the consultation process received a letter, and no information was made publicly available on any government Web site.

Now, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day’s office said it has decided to post information on the department’s Web site and lengthen the consultation process by at least a few weeks to allow the public, as well as privacy and civil liberties groups, to have a say.

It concerns me more than a bit that the government clearly intending to change privacy laws without bothering to consult anyone who actually cared about privacy. I know that it is incredibly naive to even say this, but don’t these people work for us? Why is it that as soon as someone gets into power, they forget that basic fact?

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Which is more believable? Good or bad?

Seth Godin mentions a company that claims to be able to purge bad stuff about your company from Google:

Jeff points us to Done, an SEO firm that claims it can quash bad reviews from showing up in Google. Sort of a reverse SEO play, they offer to take angry customer rants or riffs on sites like Consumer Reports and make them less likely to show up in a Google search. MSNBC reports that they point to success with companies like WebLoyalty.com. (Typical search here). Marketers love this story. They love the idea that SEO could be done in reverse and that unfair and unjust besmirchments can be made to disappear.

He points out the fallacy behind this story – people will just write more negative stuff – and notes that the best plan of course is to strive to do the right thing: The real answer is simple: be transparent, do good work, answer your legitimate critics in the same forum or through your actions.

That led me to wonder though. Which do you find more believable? A positive comment or a negative one?

Do we assume that a negative comment must be sincere and accurate because the writer must have used the product and found it lacking?

Do we assume that a positive comment must have been created by some corporate shill?

Just how do we determine the validity of a particular review if we haven’t used the product and don’t know the author?

And as a company, do you want it to be know that you hired the services of a company like this, rather than making an honest attempt to fix the problem?

Just because a bad review no longer shows up in Google, does that mean that the conversation is over?

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Organized. Or not.

I live my life in front of a laptop. Most of the time. I also carry a notebook when I write, because I often like to write first drafts in longhand on paper. I also carry a little Moleskine notebook that I can put in my pocket so that I can jot down ideas and things I want to remember.

So when I leave the house I have to gather a few things. If I just take the laptop, then it is less convenient to jot things down, though it is possible. It’s also possible to write on the laptop; it just feels strangely more limiting than paper.

This works for me most of the time but I can’t help but feel that there may be a more elegant solution.

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Nobody buys features.

Among other positions I’ve held, I’ve been a Product Manager for more that a few years. I often see people suggest that the Product Manager is a lot like the CEO. Yes, a good Product Manager is concerned with the same kind of things – customer satisfaction, revenue, profitability, and time to market come to mind – as the CEO.

But then in the very same article I see comments about getting features into the product and delivered on time.

Here’s the thing. Nobody buys features.

Oh sure, in the sales cycle the customer may say "If only your software sorted by word length, we would buy it." Don’t rush out and add the feature, because they still won’t be buying.

You’ve just encountered an objection, and it isn’t the real one. In truth, they may not like the salesperson, or they don’t like your company, or their CEO plays golf with your competitor.

And don’t drop your price. That isn’t the problem either, even if they say it is.

In short, the customer either believes that your solution can potentially remove their pain, or they don’t. If they believe, then they also know you’ll get around to adding all of those little features, and the price won’t be such an issue because they see the benefits clearly. If they don’t believe, you’re pretty much out of the game, regardless of what you promise and for how little.

Take a look at all of the software you use right now, whether it was freeware or you paid for it. As a simple test ask yourself, are there any features that those products don’t have that would make you stop using them or switch to something else.

I’ll bet that you chose that software because it solved a problem reasonably well, not because it had every feature you wanted. And while there may be some nice-to-have features, you probably will suffer along with the software. All of your customers think pretty much the same way.

Wanna be more like the CEO? Worry less about features and concentrate more on making sure you solve your customer’s problem really well. Deliver when you say you will. Encapsulate the value and the benefits of your product so that your sales force can make customers believe, and so that they can sell more faster.

After all, CEOs tend much more to be former salespeople than former product managers.

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Is Facebook over?

The college student demographic is a powerful one. They have cash to spend and their purchases are primarily driven by word of mouth from their friends. Facebook was an ideal mechanism to share their lives with their friends, and a great channel for word of mouth. And the high attention that demographic gave to Facebook made it a very valuable property.

But when Facebook becomes inundated with adults – like your mom and dad – then it begins to lose favor with that younger demographic. And kids certainly don’t want to be on the same network as their parents. What could be further from cool? Do you really want your parents to see what you and your friends are doing on Facebook? And mom and dad, would you have enjoyed your parents reading your diary twenty years ago?

Those adults aren’t driven to shop and make purchases in the same way either. Instead of using Facebook as a way to communicate with friends, they subscribe to the sudden explosion of Facebook applications to send BoozeMail, or to send werewolf, vampire, or zombie invitations. My Facebook page is awash in pointless notifications; time wasters that don’t drive communications or commerce.

So what do college students think about Facebook now? Focus groups at Columbia Records [Times Select, from New York Times Magazine] produced comments like this:

They told us that MySpace is over, it’s just not cool anymore; Facebook is still cool, but that might not last much longer; and the biggest thing in their life is word of mouth. That’s how they hear about music, bands, everything.”

As Geoff Moore would say, Facebook is now seeing the late adopters, a sure sign of a mature product. Does that mean that Facebook is almost over?

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