Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good for Google

I am all for taking a stand.

I am all for saying that sometimes it is totally OK to be political and a businessperson at the same time.

I am all for deciding where your boundaries are, and living with the consequences.

That's why I applaud Google for taking a public stand on California's Proposition 8. This is the proposition that would deny the right to marry that has recently been established here in California for same-sex partnerships.

Some of my friends and colleagues have taken advantage of this new right.

And those who would steal away their joy and ask them to cede the same rights my husband and I have are going to fail this time. I feel confident.

So, I stand with Google in taking a stand against Proposition 8.

How about you?

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Me and the bad pitches: Or why bloggers get peeved by marketers

Lately I've been a bad pitch magnet. I send most of them right along to Susan Getgood, because she writes about them at Marketing Roadmaps.

Some of them would be bad no matter who they were sent to...the pitches for "female plumbing" solutions and sites where you can share stories about smelly baby things. I'm not even kidding. Even you folks who are parents...do you really want to focus on the smells??

Some of them were just really badly targeted to me. Beyond the smelly stories site pitch, I got a breathless, excited pitch from someone I didn't know about a book signing the next day in New York accompanied only by an author name...no book titles, no links, now way for me to figure out who this person was, let alone if I was interested in seeing him sign books. Found out later he's quite a prominent children's book author. But other than getting my geography and parental status wrong, yeah everything was spot on.

Sometimes the pitches are actually quite targeted, but the problem is this: I don't exist to market for you. You are not paying me to market for you, nor are you suggesting advertising on my blog. You want me to turn my blog into a little word-of-mouth machine for you, but you are offering me very little in return. What you're peddling better be incredibly fascinating, or my motivation is incredibly low.

Case in point: I write a sorely neglected theatre blog. I got an email from a PR person about the national tour of Tony-winning musical Spring Awakening, which is currently playing my home region. Now, I saw SA in NYC and loved it, LOVED it. But I'm pretty busy, and I wasn't planning on seeing it while it was in town.

PR person tells me that the cast is blogging about the Tour, some text, some video, and isn't that revolutionary and cool, and I should write all about it. Just let her know if I have any questions. Oh, and she hopes I'll get a chance to see the show while it's in town.

Well, lots of theatres launch social media sites or blogs or the like, but few keep them up. Back when I started blogs for local theatre companies here in the Bay Area it was indeed news that they were even doing it. But nearly 5 years later? The very existence of their blog is not news.

It did make me think, though, that I wouldn't mind seeing it again and reviewing it and getting a little link love form their sites and blogs myself, so I replied like this:

"Thanks for the links, I'll check them out. Is the producer offering media passes to bloggers? I saw the show in NY, so don't know if I need to see it again here, but would be happy to review if given media passes."

And guess what: no answer whatsoever. Not even to say "That's not my department", which was likely true.

So, sure, they'd love me to give them a bit of free publicity. My sorely neglected blog is good enough for that (a link is a link is a link, I suppose). But it's not good enough for the price of one ticket. The tickets I can promise you they hand out to any "traditional" journalist like candy, without guarantee of any review either, let alone a good one.

A friend of mine saw it and said the house was far from sold out. That's too bad, because the show is truly brilliant. But I would have to say the approach taken by their social media PR team exemplifies the kind of approach that bloggers are increasingly rejecting outright. Left to my own devices my fandom might have driven me to write about the show organically. But a clumsy PR approach put me off of doing that, so not only did they not get the positive bump they were hoping for, they squelched a potential organic positive mention. Two strikes.

Remember: It's not all about you. Most of us don't actually need you. We do this mostly for love and passion and for our readers. When we monetize we're getting a lot more savvy about placing appropriate value on what we do. There really does have to be something in it for us to talk about you. Yes, an absolutely great idea to blog about is something in it for me. But here's the third strike: you have a way different view of what is awesome for me to write about that I do. Just bear that in mind when you're telling me how amazing your product or service or new article or newly launched online site, blog or community is. I'll be the judge of whether it's amazing for my blog and my readers, have no fear.

I don't fool myself that I'm offering new advice above, but I hope a few examples...and demonstrating how even something properly targeted can go awry...are always helpful.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Customer service, where are you? Two of my favorite apps are screwing with my head, and no one cares.


Technology...can't live with it, can't run over it with your car. Particularly if it's software.

Lately two of my favorite and most-used apps are screwing with my head, and repeated emails to their customer service department have resulted in exactly NO response. Now, with one of the apps it's kind of understandable...it's an old legacy app that probably has one guy who works on it every third Sunday from midnight to 2AM.

But the other app? Major, popular, very much still alive app.

App #1: iBlog
iBlog is the desktop app behind my personal blog. It's a desktop app, which carries with it its own risks. I got this app as a freebie when I sigend up for .Mac back in 2003, and it's not exactly a currently maintained piece of software. Recently I went to go find my own archived post about September 11th, one I've republished every year on September 11 since 2004. And when I went to my archives I notice that my archives stop at 2006. Where is 2007? Where is 2008? Who knows. When did this problem start? Who knows. All the posts still exist, because I can google and find them, but there is no way to navigate to them, and I am pissed.

Emailed customer support on 09/11 and 09/13.

No response. No surprise. Hitting forums is next, but so tedious.

App #2: NetNewsWire
See now, this is owned by NewsGator now, and they are a big kahuna in the RSS reader world. This is not some abandoned app. And please note I said NetNewsWire" not "NetNewsWire Lite." I paid for the license all so I could try to synch between by desktop and laptop. That synching has never really worked very well, but OK, it's no tragedy. What is the tragedy is that the last couple of times I actually exited and then re-opened the app, it gives me a message that my "trial demo" is set to expire, um, today.

And when I try to re-enter my license key, which I still have, it's asking me for a username/password, which I'm pretty sure I did not have to have back when I bought this app. So, now I am avoiding closing this app for fear I won't get it back.

Emailed customer support on 09/10 and 09/13.

No response. Big surprise. And totally unacceptable.

Sigh and double sigh.

I'll say it again: Technology...can't live with it, can't run over it with your car. Particularly if it's software.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

This Month's Silicon Veggie: Don't judge a book by its cover

This month's Silicon Veggie column is about a restaurant whose decor was a bit tired, a bit uninspiring, and therefore gave me a feeling I would have a bad experience. Or at least a bland one.

They proved me wrong, which of course goes to show you can't judge a book but its cover.

But shouldn't your cover not give people the impression they'd be better of staying away to begin with?

Sure, renovations cost money, and particularly for we small business owners spending money can be tough. But frankly, it wouldn't have cost this restaurant a penny to just remove the dusty granny curtains they had, and it owuld have made a huge difference.

So, what's your cover, and what does it say about you? If you're online, I suppose your cover is your web site. And if you're not taking advantage of the kind of tools that exist now that allow you to make your web site more dynamic, more personalized and more conversatonal...then I'd say you're going to have the same bias to overcome that the restaurant in my review did.

So there!


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Boo, hiss, no Chrome for Mac

I don't know why, but recent reports about Google's new browser, Chrome, got me weirdly excited. It may be because I've never found a browser I totally love. I'm on a Mac, and I do use Safari 90% of the time. Firefox doesn't seem to handle the amount of tabs and windows I like to have open (or at least it didn't back when i finally gave up on it as my regular browser.) Camino was unstable back when I gave up on it. Flock was unstable back when I gave up on it. And I just never motivated myself to give the Firefoxes, Caminos and Flocks of the world new chances as they released new versions. I send my entire working day in my browser. Crashing is anathema to me.

Now, I'm no humongous fan of Google Docs, so it surprised me to find myself anxiously wanting to try Chrome. But I was.

But I can't.

Because once again Google de-prioritizes Mac users. I signed up to be notified when they decide they care about me, but that early excitement? Faded. Gone. Browser ennui is likely to set back in as quickly as it left, and Google will have missed their window of opportunity to get me to willingly go for change.


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