April 2008

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Direct Fail

  • 9:11 AM

On two or three occasions I have bought stuff from Digital City in Sydney. Each time they did the usual "you need to give us your address for warranty purposes" bullshit. So yesterday I received three identical mail-outs from said organisation via Australia Post, who were forwarding stuff to me from my old apartment.

How did they manage to send me the same flyer three times on the same day? Well, how about by getting every single instance of my (previous) address wrong in a slightly different way?



  • 11:37 AM

A week or two ago, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington had a problem with his Comcast Internet access, and tore into the company over Twitter, causing the usual minor blog-storm.

Comcast's reaction to this was interesting. They opened a Twitter account to watch for and respond to as many mentions of their company as they could.

At the face of it, this isn't a bad idea. I've got a couple of similar keyword watches on Twitter myself, and have been known score some cheap goodwill points for my employer by following up on the occasional alert. I just can't help thinking that there's something in the big company DNA that is unable to adapt to this kind of public-but-personal service.

Here are some direct quotes from the "comcastcares" Twitter account, all from the last twenty-four hours.

  • "I do hope we will be able to change any negative perception" #
  • "I hope we can change your perception." #
  • "I hope I can change your perception of Comcast!" #
  • "How can we change your perception?" #

When a phrasing like this is (a) so unlike normal speech, and (b) repeated so often, it's pretty clear that it's being used as a matter of policy. Some meeting was had to whiteboard the perfect response that sounds concerned and proactive, but admits absolutely no fault on the part of the carrier.

Which is a problem. When someone complains, they want someone to ask them "What's wrong?" and be in a position to fix it. They don't want to hear that really everything is fine, and it's their perception that's at fault. It's no wonder people sometimes get pissed off by the response.

Joining in the online conversation is a great way to connect to your customers. But only if you're prepared to be human and honest.

See here, here, etc.

152 RUN
73 LOAD "*",8,1

Charles and Donna, lazy Sunday morning, trying to avoid getting up and facing the day:

Donna: Still love me?
Charles: Of course. I'm never going to give you up.
Charles: I'm never going to let you down.
Charles: Never...
Donna: ...
Donna: ...
Donna: You did not just Rickroll me.


  • 8:32 AM

Dear Sir and/or Madam,

I noticed that you decided to "follow" me on Twitter. Not knowing who you were and mindful of the possibility you may be a friend, colleague or net.acquaintance using an obscure handle, I visited your Twitter homepage. On arriving, I discovered you were following a ridiculous number of other people.1 This led me to the understanding that you really only added me to draw my attention to your website/new project/bogus twitter joke-feed/self.

I'm sure you think that this is hip, clever, Web 2.0-style viral marketing, but let us examine the process here. You cause an automated system to send me an email. That email directs me, under false pretenses, to your website, for your personal gain. How is this not, in any reasonable interpretation of matters, spam?

You, sir, are a spammer. I spit on the ground you walk.

Yours in enmity,


Dear Twitter,

Please implement a simple feature whereby users are limited to following 100 people, or three times the number of people following them, whichever is greater. Tell any complainers that they should try to be more interesting.



1 in one case, 34,000. If you were truly following all these people, and they updated only once per day on average, you would be reading a Twitter message every two seconds.

What my eyes see:

A dialog with two buttons at the bottom: Remove Site, and Remove All Sites

What my brain sees:

A dialog with two buttons at the bottom: Cancel and OK