Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

This cracks me up.  I have been getting a ton of spam comments from the .ru TLD, and it always begins with either:

Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

Or

Interesting CMS. What software do you use?

Or some variant of the above.  C’mon, guys, if you are going to try and trick me, you got to do better than that. At this point, I am almost insulted at this feeble attempt.  But that’s not really what I wanted to write about.

Tonight I’m sort of reflective. So much as happened since I last posted. Certainly some of it is good, some of it is exciting, and some of it has certainly been a challenge.  I spent the last 30 minutes trying to find a Youtube vid that represents my mood, but unfortunately, I think the risk of misunderstanding is too high, so therefore, I refrain.

I usually post about technology or funny things, but so much has been queuing up, it’s hard for me to decide where to begin.

  • I am still madly in love with my T-Mobile G1, the Google/Android based phone.  I saw that Google had an Éclair delivered to their office: Each release of the Android OS has been named after pastries: Cupcake, Donut… Éclair is rumored to be Android 2.0…
  • I actually had my first Corny Keg experience with my homebrew in anticipation of our neighborhood Oktoberfest.  Pics and vids to follow, (it’s this weekend).
  • I’ve been rehabbing a rental house in my spare (but limited) time.
  • I’ve been learning Python, (but had to use Perl in a recent pinch).
  • More and more people are asking me for help with Trixbox and Cisco SIP phones.
  • I’ve been to HP HQ in Houston, TX for an executive briefing; I was blown away and met some really cool people.
  • I am meeting with Cisco regarding their UCS offering.
  • I’ve been meeting with Microsoft (and attend the ‘Technical Decision Makers Launch’ of Window 7, Server 2008, and Exchange 2008.
  • I am planning on attending the VMWare Users group event in Atlanta on November 5th, 2009.  Maybe I’ll see ya, there?
  • I’ve been enjoying Google Wave! (Sorry, I haven’t been able to send out invites, yet… so don’t ask!)
  • I have a new WinCE based GPS that I am hacking, (oh yeah, I forgot about this, but it’s a big ‘un!).

So I’ve been busy, but it’s been good. Any of the above items could be a separate blog post.

I’ve been really impressed with Google Wave.  It ain’t perfect yet, but I see the potential of it.  I might even go as far to say that it could be Email 2.0 but I probably need to elaborate on that.  Along the same note, I wonder if Twitter is the new USENET.  <- If you don’t get that, don’t worry about it. But if you want my highly entertaining, hand waving monologue on this, let’s meet for a beer!

Samsung BD-P1590 is a big stinkeroni

apologies

Look, I feel really bad about this.  I usually don’t complain about product on my blog, but this has really gotten me worked up. I’ll also provide a quick review.

the good

Our old, progressive scan DVD player gave up the ghost a couple of months ago.  I have been lobbying for a Sony PS3 but haven’t been able to get “executive approval” for the purchase, so when Costco had a deal on the Samsung BD-P1590, we got the green light to pick it up.  At first glance, it has some nice features:

  • Pandora support
  • Youtube
  • Blockbuster
  • Netflix
Don't buy it.

Don't buy it.

My Dad has the Samsung 2550 and it was pretty cool.  We liked the Pandora and Netflix integration so at this price, it looked pretty good.

the bad

We bought the unit, brought it home, and I began hooking it up.  First off, it doesn’t have COAX out.  It’s either standard RCA jacks or TOSlink out.  I had to rewire the Xbox.

But once I got it hooked up, the first thing it wanted to do was upgrade the firmware.  A guy we talked to at Costco said he upgraded the day before and he said it was good.  Once it rebooted, I popped in my Pink Floyd concert DVD and it looked great, (I don’t have any Blu-ray, yet).

pink_floyd_pulse

Then we signed up for Pandora and Netflix.  Pandora sounded great!  It was tickling my subwoofer and sounded really good.  Then we ate dinner and I heard the unit beep and it powered off.  I guess it shuts down if it is idle.

Then, when you hit the power button, the display says “LOAD” and that’s it. I can open and close the tray but nothing else.  I tried the various ways I’ve found to “reset” the unit, and none of them worked.

I found an “offical” forum over at CNET:

Samsung 2009 Blu-ray Player Firmware Update Available Now

by blu-ray chic Samsung staff – 9/3/09 10:06 AM

All, 
Firmware has been posted today for 09 models. (other models to follow, please be patient).
I’m in the process of updating my players and will share the results when I’m through. However, please feel free to use this thread to report any issues with your upgrades, findings, thoughts, etc…
When you post your info, please be sure to let us know how you upgraded (USB, CD, Network) and any pertinent details. 

IMPORTANT: Please note the launch of our new website. The download center is currently not showing f/w details such as what’s been corrected or worse, what file type is which. 
If you have a network connection, this is the easiest way to update. Simply turn the power on and wait a moment before you receive a notification for the new firmware. 
If you choose to use CD or USB updates, the first one listed is the USB update. The second which ends in ISO is the disc update. These updates need to be installed only once, not twice like the first update. However, if you’ve never updated your player, you may need to install the update twice. Again, please share your findings with us all. Thanks for your participation! 

What should these upgrades address?

A/V sync issues
Title compatibility 
NTP should be defaulted to on after reset or power failure
Error msg “your Netflix Keys have been hacked”
And finally – to provide Blockbuster and YouTube support.. (crossing fingers that I haven’t spoken too soon)

As soon as I get the final details I’ll let ya’ll know.

Best of luck to you all! ;)

And according to the thread, I am not the only one with a bricked unit.  Again, I am one not to bitch, but this was OUT OF THE box and we got to enjoy for less than 15 minutes.  Seriously, I will spend more time in the car taking it back then the amount of time we got to use it.

the rub

And here’s the rub.  If I was to exchange it at Costco, ANY replacement Samsung BD-P1590 I get is probably subject to the same fate.  I did nothing special or weird to my unit.

If you were me, what would you do?

inconceivable, yes… impossible, no.

please stop the voices

I’ve posted before about innovation and creativity.  Recent events have brought this back into my daily thoughts and how I continue to try and define myself.  Those are mere details that I don’t want to get into, however I do have some things to share.

you’re not helping

On Twitter, someone tweeted about this incredible post (apologies to you; I can’t find the original tweet):

The Makers of Things

In the late 1800s, the Brooklyn Bridge was built with no power tools, no heavy machinery, and only a basic, evolving understanding of how to make steel. It’s not these facts, but the stories surrounding the facts that inspire me when I take a good, long stare at a suspension bridge. But first…

Rands has quite a following.  I had not seen his blog before but you can bet I’ll be following it.   To me, the message is that despite the impossible, don’t stop trying.  Sure, I over simplified it, but that’s okay.  It’s such a great post, any summation I do would not do the post justice.  Just go read it.

realizations

However, it does help slam some things I’ve been juggling into perspective.  I don’t have or know all the answers, but I am not afraid to try new things and take some lumps, (or teeth marks on my skull) for something I believe in.  Change is scary.  New ideas can seem silly.  The wrong motivation can really crush the spirit.

In preparation of this post, I was trying to come up with a catchy title so I looked up innovation in the thesaurus:

Main Entry: innovation
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: change, novelty
Synonyms: addition, alteration, contraption, cutting edge*, departure, deviation, introduction, last word*, latest thing*, leading edge*, modernism, modernization, modification, mutation, newness, notion, permutation, shift, variation, vicissitude, wrinkle*
Antonyms: custom, habit, old, old hat, rut, tradition

Naturally, the synonyms are all familiar to me, but what was interesting was seeing them in this context.  The synonyms that speak to me are:

  • addition
  • alteration
  • departure
  • deviation
  • introduction
  • leading edge
  • modernism
  • modernization
  • modification
  • mutation
  • newness
  • shift

nuggets

The element that all these words have in common, is “change.”  Could the essential nugget of wisdom of innovation boil down to one thing?  Change?  Yeah, I think it does.

I’m conflicted.  I like to think of myself as an “Agent of Change” but I sure feel like a jerk saying that.   And there are probably people out there who think I’m a jerk for saying it, but the truth is, I do like change.

what about the risk?

But what about risk?  I’m not afraid of the risk of a change or a new idea, what I am shy about, is the risk of exposing myself.  For the most part, I feel like I am confident in who I am, but it’s one thing to pitch my ideas to higher ups or more experienced people in my arena.  It’s a personal risk, for sure, but also it’s pulling back the kimono a bit, right?  It’s exposing myself to someone who could squash my spirit or worse.  So it is risk? Or fear? Or both?

What holds me back?  What holds you back?

Alright, I feel like I am rambling a bit.  I think I went down the rabbit hole.  Anyways, where was I…

Back to innovation.  Whatever word you pick to use to describe it, I’m okay.

twitter: signal to noise

laying it out

I feel like I am sort of going out on a limb here since I really don’t want to cheese anyone off.  First, I am very thankful for all my Twitter followers.    Secondly, for the most part, they provide me with some great stuff.

But…

I have noticed a substantial increase of  self proclaimed “Internet Marketeers” who are all following +20k people and have +20k followers.  There’s a couple of problems with this.  First, I haven’t heard of them. Second, there is ALWAYS some vague reference to “financial freedom” that makes me think that they’re either recent graduates of a Internet marketing seminar or they are some other bandwagon jumper.  Third, their icon or avatar is just a little creepy.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they are probably really nice people, who really believe they are helping people, but for the most part, they seem to really only re-tweet what others are saying.

And therein in lies the delimma.

One of the things I really enjoy about Twitter is the original thought.  If I look through my stream, I see more re-tweets than I do see original tweets.  I guess there isn’t really anything wrong with it, but that’s just something I’d rather not see.  I don’t want to hear about “Twitter marketing secrets” but I would rather hear about something funny your four-year-old did. 

me <=> you

I want to relate to you.  I want to get to know you for who you are.  I want to make you smile.

And that’s it.  Well, okay.  I would like you to help me find a new job the next time I need one.  😉

see me for who I am; how can I help?

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this post. I wanted to have something clever but not sound cliché, so I decided to start writing can see it something came up.

It’s always funny where inspiration comes from. It can hit you when you least expect it. It can be that little glow of an ember that could ignite into something wonderful, but only if you give it those first few flames of air. I’ve posted in the past about some really great TV shows on the BBC. I don’t watch BBC America often but every once in a while I’ll find something that I get a kick out of. I’m sure you’ve also heard how the BBC comes up with a great show and here in the U.S. they’ll try to copy it and just don’t do it right. There are plenty of examples; Who’s Line is it Anyways?, Coupling, Weakest Link, Who Wants to be Millionaire, The Office, and I am sure there are others.

We just started watching “Last Restaurant Standing.” We had three episodes on Tivo from last season. It’s really an interesting show. Surely you are aware of “Top Chef.” Top Chef on its own accord is pretty cool, but “Last Restaurant Standing” is sort of like ‘multi-dimensional chess” in comparison. The premise is that one of England’s most predominate chef and restaurateur, Raymond Blanc, is looking to partner with a couple to open a restaurant. Nine couples are given a restaurant to run, (none of them have any experience running a restaurant), and are given direction from the chef. The winner of the weekly change is given immunity and the rest of the couples face some sort of elimination challenge. The winning couple is split up and offers help to the remaining competing teams.

The last two episodes were around identifying and strengthing the restaurants’ brand.  Last week, each couple was given simple directions to “develop a brand” and then set up.  It was interesting to see how each couple went about what they each thought what was “their” brand and how to establish it.  Most of them floundered, most of them had a really hard time with this excersice.  And with this, I found myself relating.

The next episode they were given more clarification on what or how to identify their brand;

What excites you? What is your passion? What do you believe in?  That is your brand, and that is what you must do.  You must make other people, your customers understand and identify with your brand!

I’ve heard it before, this is nothing new.  But the difference here was seeing the people in the hot seat and how they reacted to this.  It was like they were too close to it to realize it.  Each contestant had that moment where they said, “Oh! I get it!”

It was at this time, I had a realization.  No, I didn’t realize what my brand was.  I think I have a good handle on that, (don’t get me wrong, it did take some time to get there).  What I realized was that manybe I wasn’t doing enough to promote what my brand was.   Some of the contestants had really clever and innovative ideas on how to promote their brands.  I would have not thought of them, but what I did find myself having, and this was like getting hit with a ton of bricks, was the permission to try really different things.  I’m talking about stepping out of my comfort zone.

One thing is clear, is that you have to have a personal brand. I saw something on a new blog I started reading, Wirelessjobs.com.  It referred to the 95% rule.  Whenever you are at a networking event, see and hear what 95% of the people are doing.    Then, do the opposite.  If you are in the 5% minority, you are sure to get noticed.

savvy shopper part II when trying to find a job

Back in February, I posted about “being a savvy shopper” when it comes to finding a job. I posted a list of domain names that are sending out boiler plate emails with enticing job offers. I have to admit I got a kick out of that list and I began to keep a running list of domains with the intention of updating the list over time. Then in the beginning of March, I updated the list to 17 entries.

I am happy to report… what, no not happy, perhaps amused that the list has grown even larger. And I began to keep track of the subjects of these emails. What made me think about this was I saw a Tweet from someone yesterday:

Seriously. How many times do I have to tell you? DO NOT MAKE ME LOG INTO YOUR STUPID SITE TO STOP RECEIVING YOUR STUPID EMAILS!

I can relate to their frustration. If I didn’t ask for your emails, *I* shouldn’t have to do the extra work to unsub myself from them. You deserve to be “Marked As Spam” in my opinion. Banished to the Spam Folder, never to be seen again. As always, I am worried that if you “click here to remove yourself” of “login to change your email preferences” really does nothing more than to confirm that your email address is valid and someone is reading it.

I could go on and on but would rather out the people trying to scam your email address with bogus job offers.

The domains:

acareerwithjobsourcegroup.com
career800openings.com
careersatjobsourcenow.com
careerupgradeservice.com
careerswithusajobsite.com
connectionjobsource.com
employmentswift.com
fast-openingcareers.com
fast-tracked-careers.com
findjobfastnow.com
findyourcareerusacareers.com
findyoursolutionsathiringchannel.com
findajobatusajobsite.com
firstjobservice.com
head-start-jobs.com
ideacareer-service.com
ideaemployment.com
jobfast-now.com
job-fast-now.com
jobsatusasite.com
jobsicareersource.com
jobsourcesitenow.com
jobconnection-source.com
nationalhiring-solutions.com
opendoor-careers.com
quick-jobnow.com
searchathiringonline.com
searchfastjobs.com
strategic-job-source.com
thebesthiringsolutions.com
us-careersite.us.com

The enticing subjects:

A new Engineer opportunity with Triad Manufacturing
A new IT & Sciences Staff Evaluator opportunity is available
A new Network Administration Lead opportunity is available
A prominent company is currently hiring a Software Architect
A Telephony/Infrastructure Consultant job with IBM is available
Bausch & Lomb is looking to hire a Senior Programmer
Interested in being a Computer Science Staff Liaison?
Interested in a Senior Programmer job with Bausch & Lomb?
There is a Lead Software Developer position you might qualify for!
Wachovia is looking to hire a Technical Implementer
Work as a Manager of Events
Work as an IT & Sciences HR Coordinator

I only wish I collected the Subjects from the get go. If you happen to find this post because you are googling the domains, I hope this helps you and you don’t give away your contact information.

running with a time limit sux

I don’t mean a time limit, like in a competitive environment. I mean like “Okay, I got 30 minutes before my son’s tutor is done and I have to get back!”

I’ve been a serious, steady runner since 1994 when I was working in a family owned running shoe shop during my college years. It was great. Then when I got my first job in an office, I ran on my lunch break (yes, our office did have a shower). So I got used to running, or at least being out of the office for one hour every day. I ate at my desk or in my office. I did this for years and have seen the Atlanta area change over time with some really big changes!

Since I’ve been out of the office, I haven’t run as much as I would have liked. I am trying to change that and I am trying to get out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Today was one of those days. I got done with an interview at a local recruiter and was able to get back home in time to get my son off to see his tutor at the library. I donned my running attire and we took off. I planned on doing 3o minutes, and as you might know from my previous posts, I am big on running with a HRM (heart rate monitor).

So, I am out beating the street and feel the overwhelming pressure of the 30 minute ceiling. I worry about being late and my son getting done with the tutor and him worried that I am not there. I actually planned it so if I did run 30 minutes, I’d be back 15 minutes before he would have been done as a buffer.

I started to think at how this sort of limit is much more stressful than say, trying to run three miles in 30 minutes, or even running a competitive race. I began to think back at how I used to feel when I had to get back to get ready for a meeting or a phone call. I felt the same way. When I am running in a race or trying to beat a specific pace, I am really trying to beat myself or improve my time. I have no illusions that I am going to win a price in my age class so I am out there for myself. But today, I was running to beat the clock because others are counting on me.

When I run, it’s my form of mediation. It’s my therapy. It heals my soul. I think about my muscles and how they’ve been conditioned for running for over 10 years. I think of them as a worn in, efficient system. If you have ever seen a steam boat engine, you might know what I am talking about. When I run, it’s when I have my “A-ha!!!!!!” or my “Eureka!!!” moments.

But not today, since I was so consumed with getting back within 30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong… I did have a great run as the weather, although chilly, was beautiful, and I did have a couple of minutes of deep thought, but it was missing the calming, introspective spice I was so looking forward to.

My therapist says, “Awareness is more than half the battle” and she’s right, of course. Having this awareness, I guess, is sort of an “A-ha!!” moment, just maybe not the one I was hoping for.

responsible email marketing… for real estate professionals

I felt compelled to write this post since I have been getting SO much SPAM from real estate agents and brokers here in Georgia.

A long time ago, I used to work in the Abuse department at a large ISP, so maybe I am a little over sensitive about this, but then again, maybe the advice I am about impart can really help someone trying to do a legitimate email campaign.

I am a licensed real estate agent, and a member of the Dekalb Board of Realtors. Somewhere, someone sold their list of members to “advertisers.” I have two email addresses that I have used for real estate and either the Board of Realtors or the MLS service I subscribe to sold the list of members.

I used to take a great offensive to all the SPAM I got to my email addresses; flyers, listings, etc, that I used for my real estate endeavors. My sister-in-law is my broker and she said, “That’s just the way it is.” So I didn’t give it much thought, beyond making the email as SPAM.

But then I started to think about it, and as usual, that’s the problem.

I run my own mail server and I was getting tired of the SPAM that was coming into it that were “real estate flyers.” so I decided to explicitly put these jokers in a blacklist. I’ll name the domains I am blocking here:

# Real Estate Spam
amillinois.com 554 Spam not tolerated here
sellflyer.com 554 Spam not tolerated here
amgeorgia.com 554 Spam not tolerated here
sendflyerstation.com 554 Spam not tolerated here

I am running postfix so if you are familiar with it, this is the structure of the blocklist.

So, the majority of SPAM I am getting is from these domains. If you go to each domain’s website, you will see that they do not appear to be legitimate websites. Either the main page is not set up or requires a username/password to view the root documents. Legitimate emailers don’t have anything to hide.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault the agents sending this out. Rather I blame the so-called emailers for this. It is clear, that the real estate agents that employ these bozos are either inexperienced in email marketing or lured in by there prices. I have NO DOUBT that these agents are good people with the best intentions and that these so-called email marketeers are misguiding them.

These email marketeers do include a list to unsubscribe from, but bases on their unaccessable websites, I simply don’t trust them. I am worried that if I click on the link to unsubscribe, I am only confirming my email address for more spam. I think of these guys as fly-by-night and it makes me nervous.

So by being “internet-savvy” and a real estate professional, I offer these suggestions to be an effective and Internet friendly email marketeers:

  • DO NOT let someone send emails out on your behalf. Make the effort and do it for yourself so you completely understand how the whole process works.
  • Do your homework. If you are thinking of working with an email marketeer, make sure they are on the up-n-up. A quick Google search can give you a lot of info. Be sure to check Google Groups to see if the outfit you want to work with is in the net-abuse group. If they are, move on.
  • Just because people are a member of an MLS listing service or a Realtor Board, they may not want to see your listings for a 2BR/1BA condo on the other side of town. Doesn’t it make sense that a real estate professional will already have access to the MLS listing service? Why send them SPAM?
  • Do your homework, part II. Make sure the email marketeer is legit. By offering an unsubscribe list, will that user be really unsubscribed? Or will that user just verify their email address for more Viagra and Xanax SPAM.
  • Be smart about who you are sending emails to. Are you simply just blasting your email to everyone? If you have a listing on the NW side of town, how about just blast your listing (via email) to those agents only in the NW? Does your email marketeer allow you to send to a subset of customers based on location if known?

My gut tells me that everyone is fed up with this and simply marking this sort of email as SPAM, and thus it just sort of disappears into their SPAM folder. But how effective is that? Are your readers just marking your emails as SPAM? That’s bad, right? Does your email marketeer have some way for you to gauge the return on investment for your email campaign? If not, you need to find someone who does.

With Craigslist, a free service, how can you determine how effective your email campaign is? Craigslist is FREE and people GO there to view the postings. As an effective real estate agent, you might want to post to Craiglist AND do an email campaign. How do you do it?

I think you have to use a legitmate email marketeer that gives you the tools that you need to measure your potential success, and allows you to be a good internet citizen.

I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting the MailChimp guys and i was floored by their technology, but also the length they went to, to make sure their clients are good Internet citizens. I like these guys and their tech is top notch. At my son’s school, they use Constant Contact as the email method of communication. While I really like the MailChimp guys, my personal experience says that both of these providers are on the up and up.

If you are really in the dark about this, contact me and I’d be happy to consult for you. At the very least, I can point you in the right direction towards getting the best ROI on your LEGITIMATE email campaign. Just don’t buy into these emails that claim a massive amount of coverage. The best you’ll do is have your email address added to the clients’ SPAM rules.

There is no question that an email campaign can be effective, but if you take the extra steps I mentioned here, you be ahead of 80% of the competition.

With more and more buyers going online to research, the client is going to be more and more Internet savvy. Any agent that can “speak their language” and embrace the future will be ahead of those agents who are trying to catch up.

what’s your inspiration

I’ve written in the past about things that get my creativity going. I think in my last example, I went on about Mel Brook’s History of the World, Part I. What a great movie. There are other movies that just knock my socks off. Young Frankenstein is an other example of a super creative movie. I’ll admit, I love anything that has well done, double entendre. I even like it more when I say something that is double entendre, and half the people get it, and the other half have blank looks on their faces. Hilarious… Okay, I’ll get my mind out of the gutter.

Innovation and creativity are funny things. For me, I find it can be a balancing act. There have been times in my life when I feel like I am on fire and I am really being innovative and rocking. Then, something happens, and it feels like a punch in gut and I get “thinkers block” and I am paralyzed. In the past, this paralyzed feeling has in some cases lasted years. For example, I used to try to work on my Mom’s house when I lived there. Nothing would work and I felt like a worthless handy man. I eventually gave up trying to do things around the house. Years later, I realized my shortcomings as a handyman were really lack of experience (naturally) and the builder took a lot of shortcuts. When my wife and I bought our first home (which was built in 1947), something clicked and I became the handyman that I always wanted to be.

When I was in high school and in college, I worked on my own cars. Then something happened and I became an inept mechanic and I felt like I had no business under the hood. When I had my old Mercedes diesel, (I still wish I had that car), something happened and I was back under the hood changing glow plugs and brake pads. Now, with our modern cars, (a Volvo and VW Eurovan), I am back to changing brakes pads and rotors and saving thousands of dollars in dealer repair costs and offering to help others with their cars.

Sure, part of it is confidence, but I don’t think that’s just it. I remember when I read “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the only thing I remember is how the author said something along the lines of “I have a motorcycle, it makes sense to me to understand how it works and to learn how to work on it” and he said one of his friends just let the repair shop deal with the problems.

Part of it, is also just being willing to try it… figure it out… make it work. I’m lucky. My wife tolerates my experiments. I heard her tell the kids one day, “Don’t worry, Daddy can fix it. Daddy can fix anything.” Wow, not only was that a boost in my confidence, but it showed me that my family thinks I can fix anything! I felt like a Super-fix-it-man!

I’ll give you another example how this translates into my life. If you have kids and pets, you probably already know the value of a carpet shampooer. I’m not talking the professional kind you rent, rather the consumer grade ones. We’ve had one for about six years. The hose, that allows you to use the hand attachments broke where the handle tilts back. We can easily afford a new shampooer but otherwise the unit still works really well for cleaning the carpets. The other night I was out for a run and it happened to be trash night in our neighborhood. Someone was throwing out a newer version of the shampooer we have. My first thought was, “Cool, maybe I can use that hose…” and I went and gave the discarded shampooer the once over. As I titled the handle back, I saw that the hose ripped in the exact same place so I wasn’t interested.

My point with all of this, is that… well I don’t know. I guess since my family thinks I can fix anything, I feel like I can.

Back to the creativity and innovation thoughts… The other night, I was watching TV with the kids. I was really tired of cartoons so I was trying to find something we could watch, (deep sea creatures and sharks are always a big hit with the kids). In a rare occurrence, we tuned to catch the very beginning of the Pink Panther movie. I grew up with these movies and remember seeing them in the movie theater in Chicago with my Grandma. I forgot how clever and creative the beginning segments are. I’ve always like the Pink Panther cartoons. He’s very expressive and can make you laugh without saying a word. So the opening credits were great. The kids loved it. It made me think where I got my sense of humor from.

Over at Chris Brogan’s blog, he’s got a neat post about the “Bucket Meme” and it was something I was going to write about here, but my time is already short this morning so I’ll have to get it in the next post.

a kiss of death for Mio?

Notice, I said “a kiss of death,” not “the kiss of death.”

Mio really screwed up. They made enemies for life.

If you’ve been coming here to learn about my Mio c310x and hacking it, you’ve probably either seen here or on some of the forums that Mio has been promising a map update for some time. First Mio said it would be Q1, then spring, then June, then July.

People were speculating the updates should be free or minimal in cost. Other’s said, “Hey, you got a great GPS unit for ~$150 – $200; why would you expect an update for free?” Either way, they release the map update on July 16th, I think. You had two options to get the update:

  • Find a copy at your local Circuit City for $14.95 + tax
  • Buy directly from Mio for $14.95 + $9.95 shipping and handling.

Both options are reasonable. But I’m a cheap sonuvabitch and would have gladly waited until I could find a copy locally. Many people, however, gladly ordered directly from Mio and paid the $9.95 shipping and handling fee.

Then, everything starts going downhill.

If you view the last 20 pages or so from this thread you can see what happened and continues to happen:

This reads a lesson in “How to turn off customers for life.” I’ll save you from reading the entire thread and give you the highlights:

  • Order page had many problems:
    • couldn’t handle the initial load
    • one of the domain names referred to in the “order confirmation” letter hadn’t even been registered yet; people were worried they were being phished.
    • emails to Mio bounced, again inflaming security concerns
  • Customer service is giving conflicting answers (if you can get through). Many reported getting busy signals when trying to call in, (seriously what company gives busies in this day and age?).
  • Of those folks that ordered early most got their order after four weeks, many still haven’t gotten it despite paying almost $10 for shipping.
  • Email inquiries go unanswered.

There were some people who had reported problems with the actual upgrade, but you are always going to have some hardware issues. And thankfully these people that have had problems are getting more help from the forums than the actual company.

Most people are pissed off since they feel like they paid a premium for shipping at a steep $10 when USPS Priority mail is around $4 and would have been delivered in three days. However, Mio in its wisdom shipping these DVD’s via Media Mail (from USPS):

Media Mail® service is a cost efficient way to mail books, sound recordings, recorded video tapes, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail can not contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books. The maximum Lose Weight Exercise for Media Mail is 70 lbs.

The USPS website doesn’t say how long shipping something Media Mail will take. But I will say I have had books shipped this method. It’s really, really, cheap and the book took about three weeks coming from California. So the perception from the customer is “Hey, I spent $10 extra to receive my update, yet Mio sent it the cheapest, longest way possible.”

In my line of work, I’ve learned long ago that honesty is the best policy when dealing with customers. So when people call into Mio to get an update, cancel their order (since they can get it at Circuit City now), they get the run around, different answers depending on whom they talk to. They feel like they are being lied to.

The problem with the website flaking out lends the impression that Mio just doesn’t have their act together.

Now, I think the old saying, “You can have it cheap, good, or fast but not all three” is applicable here. At least the update is cheap, but it certainly wasn’t fast and seeing how Mio is treating the customers over this, I wouldn’t say it was good, either.

I can see how something like this happened. Someone there thought all of this sounded good to ship the DVD’s via Media Mail, saying the company money but not realizing how long it would take to get them in peoples hands. The customer service reps are more or less left holding the bag and are having to deal with angry customers and they might be trying to do their best in trying to appease them, but it isn’t a coordinated effort and not all the reps are telling the same story. So you got angry customers, public forums on the Internet, folks screaming to the BBB and it begins to all slide downhill.

One time, something similar happened at work. There was a major mailing that was going out to a specific group of customers. It was some software and manuals. The list of contcts was in an Excel spreadsheet and was >5,000. The spreadsheet had columns for name, house number, street, city, state, zip, etc., Someone tried to sort the column for house number, but DID NOT expand the sort to include the street name. So the house numbers got sorts but not the street name so ALL the addresses got horribly borked. The mailing went out USPS Priority and ALL came back. There were mail bins upon mail bins of return packages. And these were printed materials with a custom letter for each recipient. It all had to be redone. What a mess. That’s the sort of mistake you never make twice, (unless you are truly a dumbass), and since I just heard about it, I am always careful when I sort my spreadsheets.

So, what does this mean for Mio? Because they haven’t come out and addressed or even acknowledged the customers’ frustration, they’ve made enemies for life. Or at least people who will never ever buy another Mio product again. I can’t say I blame them. Mio has some really slick GPS products but people would rather buy from a company that they feel like supports them. They had a golden opportunity to turn these customers into die-hard fans. The promise was good; a reasonably priced upgrade and everyone was willing to pay for it. They were even excited about it and were willing to forget about the long delays. Now they feel like they’ve been kicked in the teeth and some of those folks that were willing to pay for a legitimate upgrade will upgrade their units by “other means” without paying for it. They’ll be force underground.

What Mio should have done? They should have came out and said they made a mistake. They should have refunded everyone who paid the extra money for shipping or at least offered to credit anyone who called in. The call center reps should have been prepared with an official statement from the management saying yeah, they made a mistake and for your trouble we’ll refund your shipping costs. They should stop sending upgrade DVD’s via bulk Media Mail and either send it via normal or Priority USPS.

Something similar happened with TigerDirect a while ago. Tiger Direct did some sneaking things with customers long ago; if you ordered from them they also signed you for some long distance promotion, people have had problems with their rebates, etc. Personally, I have never ordered from them. But if you visit any of the “hot deal” forums, people are quick to turn away whenever a deal comes up from TigerDirect. They still have a damaged image from something that happened years ago. Based on their history and their perception, some people choose to stay away, even if it is a legitimate hot deal. I’m included in that boat. I simply choose not to do business with them.   I don’t have a particular axe to grind with TD, by the way.

  • Tiger Direct Sucks.org
  • RipOff Alert I
  • RipOff Alert II

Is this the fate of Mio? Potentially. I think they have a chance to pull it out, but that window of opportunity is getting smaller as time goes on. Will I still do business with Mio? Yeah, I probably would. I believe in their technology and being in an industry that deals with customers myself, I can sort of understand what happened. I hope they do what is right.

This really won’t kill the company as I said they have great products.  But they blew a chance to develop die hard fanatics who would always talk up their products and claim to be loyal customers.