Archive for the ‘It’s a trap!’ Category

Tue 16 Jun 2009 7:16 am   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, Media, Technology

Confirmed: Twitter users like reading about Twitter

This post at work will easily be the most popular thing I write all week:
PDNPulse: Iran Protest Photos Key To Twitter Coverage

Why will it be a hit? Because it’s about Twitter. Certainly not because it’s a good story. (I mean, it’s not awful.) As soon as you write about Twitter, people on Twitter forward the story around, and you’ve instantly got a substantial audience. It’s lightning fast, instant attention. Highly rewarding, highly addictive.

There’s a strong temptation to write about Twitter every day, because readers like it, it’s easy traffic and it actually feels important. It’s a trap! The medium is not the message. As is the case in Iran, what’s important is what people are saying, not what medium they’re choosing to say it in.

Previous posts about Twitter:
Twitter kills Patrick Swayze. Will it kill again?
URGENT! Don’t ask why, just panic!

Mon 18 May 2009 8:20 am   //   Posted in: It's a trap!

Permission granted to ignore your customers

If I sauntered into a Sears and shouted, “If you don’t lower your prices on housewares, I’m leaving!,” would Sears lower its prices? No.

If I came back with 30 friends and staged a protest inside the Sears, would we be arrested? Probably.

Why, then, should listen to customers who whine about the high cost of books for the Kindle? The individual customer doesn’t set the price, the market does.

You might think the Internet is breeding this great new wave of consumer rights, where customers have a dialogue with companies, and everyone is better for it. The problem is the feedback loops on the Internet tend to ignore complex problems, and amplify simple whining.

Facebook keeps making changes in response to customer complains from mass mobs of customers who barely know what they’re talking about. And Facebook is a free service—a gift! When all you have to do is click “yes” to protest something, it’s easy to transform a bunch of ambivalent users into a scary, angry mob a million strong. Flickr users figured out how absurd this is a few years ago, and set up jokey groups demanding that Flickr hand out free donuts.

Where is the example of an online mob identifying and solving a real problem? (Food safety and factory working conditions are real problems; the design of a juice carton or the tastefulness of some company’s advertising are not.) I can’t think of one.

The dialogues between customers and companies must get more sophisticated. Otherwise everybody is going to waste time fighting unwinnable battles.

Fri 1 May 2009 7:16 am   //   Posted in: In the news, It's a trap!

How can we exploit this scary disease?

I was reading The Daily News online this morning and saw this advertisement:

Let’s break down this ad pitch: “Have you self-diagonsed yourself or your kids with a rare but scary disease? We can help get you cheap drugs from another country.”

I wonder what gets more clicks, this or Canadian Viagra?

Wed 18 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, No right to be good, Over!

Best and worst chain stores in Manhattan

Best: Recently I went to Bed Bath & Beyond on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. Apparently, the staff there is trained to personally say hi to each customer. Every employee I walked past – whether stocking the shelves or moving carts around – looked up, made eye contact, said “Hi,” and then went back to work. It wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t annoying, it was just friendly. There are other signs this is a well-managed store. It’s enormous and very busy, yet somehow always clean and orderly. I shop there because it has a whole section of inexpensive pharmacy products, including the best price around on razor blades (which are free to grab off the shelf, not locked in a glass case like at CVS, et al). It even has a section of reasonably priced organic groceries. This store has no right to be good, and is anyway. It overturns the conventional wisdom that big box stores fail in Manhattan.

Worst: Years ago, during my first-ever visit to New York City, my friends and I walked to Macy’s Herald Square, rode about 11 flights of escalators, and rode them back down. “The World’s Largest Store” functions adequately as a tourist attraction, but as a place to buy stuff, it’s a debacle. Its floorplan is chaotic, its pricing is erratic, and its salespeople are surly. Macy’s is constantly mailing me 25%-off coupons that seem like good deals, but have fine print so complicated you need the help of an accountant to understand all the exclusions. Twice now I’ve walked out of the store in mid-purchase because a coupon wouldn’t scan, and a sales-clerk blamed it on my failure to be functionally literate. (Am I the first person to think “Menswear” means “men’s clothes”?) And no, I don’t want to save ten percent with a Macy’s card! Macy’s? Over! Happily, in this city I have lots of other options.

Wed 29 Oct 2008 5:07 pm   //   Posted in: It's a trap!, Music

Wilco are the good guys

I am on the e-mail newsletter list for the band Wilco. Today I got a message that included this “CONSUMER ALERT”:

“Without consulting us, the DVD company (not WB/Nonesuch) that released “I am trying to break your heart” is about to issue a Blu-Ray Edition which, no surprise, costs considerably more (nearly 2x) than the standard DVD. We’re unsure as to the rationale for the release, given that the film was shot in beautiful grainy B&W and has a stereo-only audio track… there is, in our opinion, not much to be gained by spending the extra cash. It’s your money… and in this case you should probably hang onto it.”

Sat 11 Oct 2008 10:33 am   //   Posted in: It's a trap!

When I win the lottery, I’ll become a sports fan

I had a good conversation with my friend Mike a few weeks ago. Mike asked why I, of all people, didn’t have an iPhone. I told him it was because I am wary of anything with a subscription fee attached to it. Because of the data plan, an iPhone would essentially double my monthly phone bill. It’s not a thing you buy once – it’s a thing you keep paying for forever. What do I look like, a sucker?

For the same reason, I don’t have cable. Mike also doesn’t have cable. He observed that the the only reason the two of us can survive without cable is that we don’t care about sports.

He’s right – If I were a sports fan, I wouldn’t futz around. Of course I’d pony up for all the digital ESPN channels. But that’s not all. I’d need a flat-panel big screen, surround sound speakers, a couple of foam fingers, jerseys, jackets, decals, a custom license plate frame, a wind sock, a flag, a life-size cardboard cutout of the coach, massive amounts of Doritos and Yuengling, a salsa dish that plays the fight song, season tickets, and a class A Winnebago with painted in the team colors. Let’s go $tate!

Fri 26 Sep 2008 6:39 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times, It's a trap!, TV commericals

Did this TV commercial sink the economy?

(Direct link.)

Mon 15 Sep 2008 7:17 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, It's a trap!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

So this is what they’ve been doing with our 401(k) money. Raise your hand if you regret ticking the “moderately aggressive” box.

Wed 27 Aug 2008 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: It's a trap!

We have hijacked your baby

Presenting the weirdest spam message ever:

Subject: We have hijacked your baby

From: “cornellis xinghao”
Date: Wed, August 27, 2008 5:06 am

Hey We have hijacked your baby but you must pay once to us $50 000. The details we will send later…

We has attached photo of your fume


Let’s break this down. First, I have no baby. Second, hijacked? Could “baby” refer to a vehicle, as in, “Let’s get this baby in the air!” or “Let’s go captain, we’re sailing this baby to Panama!”? Third, there’s that intriguing use of the word fume. Can you take a photo of something that is, by definition, a vapor?

Until I solve this riddle, guess what attachment I’m not opening?

Mon 9 Jun 2008 9:28 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink, It's a trap!

Pay the same and get less

Here’s a link to the Wall Street Journal story about how bars and restaurants are ripping off beer drinkers: A Pint-Size Problem. As Nancy Keates reports:

“Beer prices at bars and restaurants have risen over the past few months, as prices of hops and barley have skyrocketed and retail business has slowed alongside the economy.

“Some restaurants have replaced 16-ounce pint glasses with 14 ouncers — a type of glassware one bartender called a ‘falsie.’

“And customers are complaining that bartenders are increasingly putting less than 16 ounces of beer in a pint glass, filling up the extra space with foam.”

To me, the most surprising part of this story is the outrage from beer fans the reporter quoted. Some people will actually send back a beer if they don’t think they got enough in the glass. I find the idea of getting ripped off to be, well, part of what a bar is all about. Why do we pack into some crowded dive to pay $5 for a bottle of Amstel Light, then tip even the most inattentive bartender 20 percent for uncapping it? I dunno. Because that’s the social order of things?