The Idea Dude


Monday, March 29, 2010

New Moon or Eclipse

If you watched the opening scene of New Moon, you'll notice the moon getting smaller and smaller. As my astute daughter pointed out, that's an eclipse, not a new moon.

Frankly, I didn't get the movie. My daughter's a fan like countless thousands of young females like her. She didn't think the movie did the book justice but it didn't stop her enjoying every minute of it.

In retrospect, if I were a news reporter, the headline would go something like, "Suicidal teenager obsesses over 109 year old man who can't commit". In the end she gives up the buff-body of a teenage werewolf for bushy-browed vampire.

Based on the number of fans out there, the sequel is sure to be a hit. I wonder if Shakespeare would have got the same reception for Hamlet if he lived in these modern times.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Delighting your customers

If you look at the reviews for our Email Signature Pro product for the iPhone, a common theme beyond being impressed with the product is that users love our customer service. I'm really proud of that. Sometimes we can't solve the issues due to technical limitations of the iPhone but we really do try to respond in a positive manner. Most times, we answer within a few hours and often we do solve the issues.

People seem genuinely surprised that a) they get an answer, b) they get a response the same day and c) sometimes it's an email dialog because the issue is harder to track down. I guess not all app developers are equal. I mean, if you give something away for free or 99c, how much time can you afford to give support. Something's gotta give. It's tough maintaining that level of support but I always think of me being on the end. It's the least I would expect so it's the least we should do, i.e. respond timeously, professionally and never get into a fight.

So I'm incredibly impressed when I get the same level of service from the Firefox team. I'm testing their new alpha build 3.7 and found a few bugs. Within the same day of logging one of the bugs, I get an email showing activity, it gets re-assigned, cc'ed and finally an email asking for an example because they can't reproduce it. I get around to mocking up a webpage with the problem at 6pm tonight. They respond just before 10pm that it was related to another issue that was fixed today and I should try tomorrow's build.

The fact that they fixed the bug is almost secondary. To know that they were looking at the problem within the same day and then tracked it down to another bug that solves this issue was what was amazing.

I'm left with the feeling, these developers really love their product and proud of it. I doubt I would get the same response for IE or Safari. Firefox has community written all over it.

Next time I find another bug, I'll be sure to post it. Just doing my part for the Firefox community and I have this perception, they really will appreciate the help.

Today, I was the delighted customer!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Change, change, change

No one would disagree that drinking and drinking is hazardous. Nor would they argue that smoking is harmful to your health. And we all know that getting up just 10 minutes earlier will ensure we get to work on time. Nevertheless, despite our highly evolved human intellect and rationality, we continue to do the things we shouldn't do and resist doing the things we should.

I'm reading Dan and Chip Heath's latest book called 'Switch, How to change things when change is hard'. Their metaphor is the rational rider struggling to tame the emotional elephant. Being rational and logical is in fact paralyzing and saps us of our inner strength. Apparently will power is an exhaustible supply. So we need to use the elephant to effect change.

We actually know this when dealing with kids. We get our way by making it fun for them. Lego had the concept of Serious Play. We learn more when we are not aware that we are learning. Somehow, we forget this when practicing the piano, filling our taxes, brushing our teeth, sticking to our diets, taking out the garbage.

I'll have more when I finish the book. Right now, I'm going to tame that elephant.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What are you doing with the rest of your life?

I watched The Bucketlist last night. Two terminally ill people played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman set out to do the things they always dreamed of but never did. Made me wonder why we would wait until we knew we were dying before doing the things we always wanted to do. I guess it our fear of death or eternal optimism that we will live forever helps us push out our goals and dreams. The reality is, we could be hit by a bus tomorrow or live to be hundred.

Not all of us would have the luxury of a rich benefactor. If given 6 months to live, I doubt I would be doing anything different, perhaps frantically reducing my debt. No luxury yaughts or climbing pyramids... just working to reduce my debt.

On a side note, if I could choose one physical character trait when I was born, it would not be to have the voice of Morgan Freeman or George Clooney. They probably would have been even be bigger stars on radio if television was not invented.

Back to my bucketlist...

BTW: George Clooney's Up in the Air was also amazing. What's in your backpack? Watch the movie to find out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The bumps in the road

Simon and Garfunkel (who???) had a classic song, Bridge over Troubled Water. Starts with the line, "When you're weary, feeling small...".

We've all been there, maybe several times a month or even within a week.

So, I'm driving to work this morning, thinking about a dozen things I need to do that can be best described as tedious and unexciting. Happen to drive across a rough stretch of road in need of repair. Riddled with potholes and cracks.

Then came my daily epiphany.

If I drove an exotic Italian sports car and the road was smooth and straight. It would be boring. The best enjoyment would be to take it through hills and valleys, hugging the curves, deftly avoiding the rocks and cracks in the road. That would be interesting.

So would life be, if we thought about all that is thrown at us - as challenges that make our lives interesting and memorable. Without them, life would be boring, we would be boring.

So today, I will embrace the things I care the least about. Treat them as events no matter how small that make my life interesting and not annoying.

I used to write on my whiteboard in my younger days. "Stop and smell the roses". A reminder I was running too fast, heading for a goal and forgetting to savor the moment.

Seems like I had a memory loss.

The bumps in the road may not be your friend but they sure make your drive a lot more interesting.

So the thought of the day is,

When life throws you a curve ball, you can crash and burn or you can hug that curve

Friday, March 12, 2010

The slums of the Internet

I use Google a lot. I mean a whole. It saves me from keeping a notebook with stuff and reference books on my shelf. For that I am truly thankful. But of all the search results I get a day, at least 60% or more are junk. Simply spam pages with little or not information. The sites that do have information are cluttered with links, ads and images. In short, I'm bombarded by a million offers I don't need and another million things I have no interest in.

CNN is perhaps the biggest culprit. I counted 339 links on their homepage. Is it so paranoid that I won't go past page 1 that it feels it needs to offer me 339 opportunities?

Of course, the Internet is simply a mirror of society. The physical world is not much different. Switch on the TV and you're blown away by 4-5 ads every 5 minutes. Ride on the freeway and count the number of billboards and signage on buildings. Look at Niagara falls 100 years ago, look at it today. The problem is in the physical world it costs money to put up the signs and it takes people many hours and days to do that. On the Internet, it costs cents and takes seconds to do the same.

What happened to user experience? Which one is more memorable, that $20 Chinese buffer or the $100 dinner at a cozy French restaurant.

Unfettered digital democracy is the best way to describe it. We are drowning in the very pool of digital opportunities.

It is as the saying goes, "The Best of Times and the Worst of Times". We have to take the good with the bad but the bad is rapidly exceeding all that is good. We've seen democracy go bad in the real world, I'm seeing democracy going bad in the digital world.

Perhaps there is a new term we should coin, "Digital Obesity". Getting fat on the Internet diet of worms.

Can it be different? A few years ago, I took the family to Hilton Head in South Carolina. What struck me the most was the rule that all signage had to conform to the size, height and colors of the local authority. So as we drove past the sign for Walmart, it was wasn't 30 feet high or 20 feet wide. It was a tasteful and light brown, fitting it with the lush greenery alongside the road. So was the every hotel sign along the way. The buildings were hidden between trees. I didn't mind at all, I don't think anyone would.

Could the Internet be the same? With no boundaries, timezones or a governing body, I doubt it. The digital revolution is rapidly and exponentially sliding to the lowest level of free so the only way is to advertise. The irony the number of ads people must endure for the site to make money is grossly disproportionate.

Of course, that is the culture everyone has grown up in, me included. Would I pay $9.99 per month for spam free email? Would I pay Google $9.99 per month for quality search? Of course not, because I, like everyone else, has gotten use to free.

Perhaps, "FREE" is the new dirty word on the Internet.

Anyone for a "greener" Internet, a digital world without pollution?