Monday, July 23, 2007

Verizon, Palm, Customer Support and a functioning product

This weekend my hated Treo died an untimely death.

This was Treo #3 in the space of about 8 months.

Treo #1 was fairly DOA, as I never got the Internet connection and email to work reliably.

Treo #2's audio went kaput after a couple of weeks. The phone rang, but no one could hear me, and I could only hear people via a headset.

Treo #3 was always annoying and buggy, but it lasted 7 months. About once a day I had to pop the battery out of the back to reset it, because it froze while trying to load email. And i never met a Bluetooth headset that could keep the Treo's attention. Meaning after a while you could no longer pair the two devices. I went through a couple of headsets before I figured out it was a Treo issue...a known one.

Through all of the above Treo drama, Verizon exhibited excellent customer support. More than anything they were calm, apologetic, responsive, followed through on doing what they said they were going to do.

But the bottom line is that I hate that Treo.

So much so that we all know I bought an iPhone to try it out as a business device.

This last week Palm finally sent out the long waited maintenance upgrade for the Treo, which was supposed to address the Bluetooth problem, among many other things.

A combination of poor documentation and God knows what else had me frittering away hours and ending up with a Treo that was in a constant reboot loop. And when I say "I" I mean my S.O. and I. And when I say my S.O. I mean the guy who was actually a software developer at Palm for 5 or 6 years...and worked on Hot Sync among other things.

But we had no luck, my device was dead.

When I called Verizon on Sunday they were, as ever, polite, attentive, apologetic, resourceful. All those good things. they also admitted that there was a significant handful of people having the same result form trying to load this upgrade.

And they're fedex'ing me a new device today, so I should receive it tomorrow just before I leave for Chicago and BlogHer. they acted swiftly and never questioned my need for fast action, fast replacement.

Yippee. Attempt #4 to get a stable Treo.

Actually, they got my hopes up talking about how the new Blackberry has an app that lets you sync Palm data onto it. Oh, joy! The only thing really tying me to the Treo is my years of Palm data. But, alas, you synch with a functional Treo/Palm...not with the desktop app. So, I'm out of luck.

Here's the question: Can all the great customer service in the world mitigate the worst technology purchase I ever made? Can Verizon avoid having my product disappointment rub off on them?

The Verizon guy made a comment about how they declined carrying the iPhone because Apple wanted to control troubleshooting, and they didn't want to have their service image out of their control.

I said "Do you think the troubles I've had with the Treo don't rub off on you?" Um, no, he didn't think that.

Just as Apple can't avoid having crappy AT&T service and coverage rub off on them, Verizon can't avoid having this crappy product rub off on them.

Why carry crap? Why? It cannot come to any good, I'm telling you!

Is that a totally radical suggestion: That Verizon should stop selling Treos until they get their act together?

And if it is radical, why? Why isn't it the norm that you don't carry products that can't live up to your service reputation?

Sigh. and

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lisa was on KQED, and we're talking civility again

Lisa was on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny (and how did I get it in my head that KQED is only the TV channel, and not, as in the case of this show, a radio channel as well?)

Here is the link to the show description.

And here is a direct link to the mp3 file.

The topic is civility in public discourse.

Oddly enough, for the first time in months, the catalyst for this discussion was not the Kathy Sierra situation, but rather a recent San Francisco supervisors' meeting where a supervisor publicly "accused" or "alleged" (take your pick) that Mayor Gavin Newsome is (or, at the very least, was) a coke-head.

Hey, if it's good enough for the President of the United States... (did I just say that?!)

These basic points never change for me, no matter how many times I have talked about online civility and our community guidelines over the last few months:

1. Ignore the trolls
Trolls want attention and outrage and your spotlight. When you deprive them of it, they tend to go away. But know your rights, and know when certain behavior crosses the boundary into potentially actionable from a legal perspective. There are cyber-stalking laws in over 40 states in the U.S. If in doubt, then the authorities.

2. It's not, however, against the law to be a jerk
There is a difference between being a jerk and libel, abuse and hate speech. You don't, on your own blogging space, have to put up with any of it. But it's a worthwhile exercise to think about where you draw the lines, to make those lines public and clear...and to apply them fairly.

3. It's your blog, you can delete if you want to
But we don't really think we or anyone else should tell you what you have to delete. In other words: a one-size-fits-all blogging (or online) code of conduct is unenforceable and inappropriate. But each site owner or community manager or blogger stating their own policies? That's a beautiful thing. It's not just your right, it's almost a responsibility.

4. There will always be bad apples, and they will never define what any tribe, group or society is about
People have tried to say this is a problem with the blogosphere, or the Internet, but I tend to think this is a problem, a sub-segment in society. I don't find talk radio any more civil. I used to be on my homeowner's association board and didn't find neighbors to be any more civil at certain times. Sometimes the playground isn't any more civil. There are bad apples. Bullies. Criminals. Abusers. These people are in the tiny majority, but they get the majority of the attention.

Yes, I agree that the tools we use everyday online can exacerbate and amplify incivility...the anonymity, the ability to distribute whatever your brand of hate is more widely and more loudly and more economically. Even, probably the ability to find like-minded individuals (which we tout as such a benefit of the web) to support your hateful views and therefore validate them.

But I just don't think the blogosphere, the internet, the media creates the killer, creates the abuser, creates the bully. Even when you've got someone who is mild-mannered offline who vents what seems like an alternate personality online...I believe the internet is that person's outlet for what they already had inside them.

And if you ask me how we fix that? You've gone way beyond my area of expertise...this is a marketing blog.

Who's doing the brilliant thinking about that deeper problem? Anyone know?

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A better description of tonight's panel

OK, here's a better description of our panel tonight, from the guy who will be moderating it.

You know, in case you were dying to know more :)

At least it lists my fellow panelists, which is more interesting than me saying, "with some other folks".

So, check out Mike's post for that, since he's the one who went to the trouble to create it!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'll be speaking in San Jose tomorrow night

Topic? Blogs 101.

Group: Social Media Club Silicon Valley

2450 N. First Street
San Jose, 95131

Thursday, July 12th
6:00 pm PT - 8:00 pm

Details: here or here if you prefer this information layout.

It's free, so no reason not to come check it out. I hear there will be pizza, although I think that means I better bring my own snacks :)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My 5-minute iPhone Review

I was on the phone today with two cool chicks, one from Weblogs Inc and one from Gawker Media (see, we really CAN all get along) and one asked me for my five-minute iPhone review.

Here's what I said:

1. The web browser is just beautiful
It imported all my bookmarks from Safari, and it doesn't display the crap version of the web I get on my Treo (where images don't display and many links don't end up working.) No this is the beautiful web, and it's just fun to use your fingers to scroll around and zoom in and out.

2. I don't believe "intuitive" means immediate, but rather repeatable
I switched to a Mac after a lifetime of PC use, and it was frustrating. If you're familiar with one way of doing things, learning a new way is difficult, no question. Intuitive, to me, doesn't mean that I can find everything quickly the very first time. It does mean that once I find it once, it's pretty easy to find it again. Unlike some apps, OS or gadgets that equally frustrating on the 100th use.

3. YouTube is entirely different on the iPhone because it's all about the art
I don't use YouTube on my computer. The screen is cluttered, nothing about the UI says "Come. Explore." On the iPhone, as each video fills the beautiful screen and you watch it in its entirety without visual distraction, it's different. It also loads way faster and plays with less jitter and stop/start action than on my compputer...don't know why. I like YouTube this way...I guess because I don't care what all you peons have to say about the videos :)

4. The keyboard is surprisingly easy to get used to
I have fingernails, and I find the Treo buttons damn near impossible to use accurately. I can usually get out a phone number in one try, but typing email or txt? I don't. I avoid it. Or, if I have to reply, I get out my stylus, bring up the on-screen keyboard, and tap out my message. Within one minute of using my S.O.'s iPhone I had the hang of the keyboard and was far more accurate than I've ever been with the Treo.

5. Like it or not, we use the phone in our cars here in California, and the iPhone probably isn't so good for that.
Someone desperately needs to develop a voice-dialing or voice-command system for the iPhone. It's a killer app.

6. The phone quality seems fine
No one has noticed anything amiss in my calls. Not to mention that unlike the buggy Treo that can't keep a pairing relationship with a bluetooth headset, the iPhone seems to be just fine being monogamous with my headset.

7. People can complain about the slow edge network all thy want, but...
I dig the way the iPhone seeks, reports and remembers WiFI networks, and nothing could be slower than a Treo that freezes half the time when you're trying to download email anyway.

Did I mention it's pretty?


Friday, July 06, 2007

A few weeks back I blogged about a new initiative that BlogHer was tackling: BlogHers Act.

Since then, a lot has happened:

- The phrase "BlogHers Act" has gone from 0 hits to over 44,000 hits on Google.

- There were literally hundreds of blog posts and comments making suggestions for the single global issue we should tackle for a year, and for the four top issues we should include in our 2008 Voter Manifesto.

- Some neighbors to the North reached out and volunteered to lead a third BlogHers Act project: introducing BlogHers Act Canada!

But, now it's time to take the next step: Vote in the survey.

We've compiled all the suggestions and consolidated them into one big list of potential global activism issues and one big list of '08 election issues.

Tell us what issues you think are most important.
Tell us what issues you would NOT support.
But mostly, tell us!

Right here.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

I decided to keep the iPhone...and the loathsome Treo

I did it. I decided to keep the iPhone for my very own. My precious. (Yeah, I'm SO far from the first to use that reference, I know.)

I started a new low-end account with AT&T with a new number, and am keeping my Treo for business use.

For now anyway.

That is how beautiful the iPhone is. I am going to start a new phone number and service provider relationship just to have it.

The question is whether I'll keep two phones: one entirely for business and one entirely for personal.

Or whether I'll discover the iPhone does indeed get good enough coverage to use in my house and does indeed work as a business tool, even if it doesn't synch to my years of Palm data.

Will I be a 2-phone gal or a 1-phone gal? Either way, I guess now I'm an iPhone gal.

It's preciousssss


This month's Silicon Veggie

What happens when a vegan and a bunch of non-vegans try to discuss Micahel Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" at their book club meeting?

Not much, as it turns out.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

The iPhone: Should I or shouldn't I?

Maybe I'm jaded, but does it seem to anyone else that people have expectations for Apple products that defy reality?

Oh my God, it's not's the downfall of western civilization, no?

When I got my Treo (still the worst technology purchase I ever made) my life sucked for weeks. I'm currently on my third actual device, which still needs to be rebooted by removing the battery almost every day at least once, but at least is better than the first two devices I had. There was some hiccup with outgoing email that took 2 weeks to fix.

I'm not saying that is the standard one should shoot for, but it does remind us that dealing with the big carriers is pretty much miserable most of the time. You only need to search on terms like Cingular sucks (over 13K hits) and Verizon sucks (over 22K hits) to verify that :)

And web surfing and web-based email on the Treo? Useless most of the time. Can't see images, many of the links don't automatically work etc. etc.

So, my S.O. went to an Apple store at 6:30PM on Friday night and was in and out of there with 2 iPhones in 90 minutes. He did have a hiccup activating the phone part, but the rest of the iPhone was actually working just fine while he was waiting. And now it's all set, and it's pretty damn cool.

He bought a second one in case I wanted it. I switched from Cingular to Verizon originally because the coverage in our house from Cingular (now AT&T) is pretty flaky, and my mobile phone is my business phone. He definitely is getting better coverage inside the house than I used to get with my old crappy phone, so it could be worth the risk.

And I loathe my Treo, so no big loss there.

So should I go for it?

I'm a little scared of the coverage issue. I'm a little scared of losing all of my Palm data. And I'm a little reluctant to pay the penalty for canceling my Verizon account early. I am literally 18 months away form the end of my contract date!

Should I just start a new number, maybe just for personal use?


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