iPhone

Changing Brand Opinions of Consumers

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, blog, consumer marketing, iPhone, Mac, marketing, Twitter, viral marketing |

A recent HARO post, a reporter asked the following:

“Looking for experts on consumer behavior or branding strategies or even psychology to discuss how press/consumers develop an opinion about a company and whether/how that opinion can be swayed.”

It got me excited that someone may be looking for new ways to engage with consumers other than the same old shotgun marketing that has been going on. I focused on consumers, as that is my area of expertise.

Here was my response:

Consumers are influenced in their opinions of brands by many factors:

Engagement – a consumer’s actual experience with a brand. This usually but not always refers to their actual use of a brand’s product or service. Sometimes this can manifest itself in their experience with the brand’s customer service.

Marketing – of course marketing, advertising, coupons and the like are a big influencer, or brands wouldn’t spend the money! A fine example is Apple. They developed a product (iPod) that was marketed as hip, cool, and trendy. Their psychographic was not just people who were hip, cool, and trendy, but those who thought they were, and those who wished they were.

PR – this taps into the same channel as above, what people are reading or hearing about a product.

Peers – Peers have replaced celebrity endorsements in the mind of consumers. They’re not going to by a t-shirt because Michael Jordan wears it (much to Hanes’ chagrine), they are going to buy it because their big brother wears it. Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand based on what kind of experience a close contact, friend or family, has had with the brand. This may mean that I’ll buy a CD (or more likely download an mp3) of a new artist because my buddy Roy likes them (he and I have similar, but not identical tastes), or I may decide not to make the purchase because my buddy Steve (whose tastes I can barely stand) recommended them.

Peripheral Peers – while these aren’t close contacts, they are other consumers with a similar psychographic makeup. For example, my wife and I are expecting our first child in February. She did not put a single item on our baby registry without reading every single review on the site of the company through which we’re making a list. Often she would double check the reviews on another site, say a portal like thebump.com, or with our neighbor who has a 6 month old (see Peers). While these influencers have less of an impact, they make it easier to get input from those with the same mindset. I’ve used Twitter recently to get feedback from my Followers on a video camera I’m looking to purchase. This gives me a broad range of honest, yet in-depth feedback. I have to take some with a grain of salt, like the podcast pro who only uses high end Canon products, or the 22 year old that just love, love, LOVES her Flip Mino (mostly because it’s pink I think).

As a side note, I use the term psychographic when discussing groups with similar interests or mindset. A 16 year old boy and a 60 year old woman wouldn’t necessarily be in the same demographic, yet when considering marketing for the New England Patriots, it is important to keep in mind that they belong to the same psychographic: New England Patriots fans. I find that targeting a psychographic is much smarter than targeting a demographic. A psychographic is a qualified lead, while and demographic is a quantity play. When I was 16 I knew many other 16 year olds, they were all very different with very different interests, why would anyone want to market to all of us the same way?

As for your question on whether or how a consumer or PR reps opinions can be swayed, it depends:

What has lead them to form an opinion? If their negative opinion is based on marketing a good Peripheral Peer review would do it. This or a Peer influencer would overcome almost all other types of influencers. My brother-in-law got an iPod that gave him endless trouble. He was totally turned off of Apple products. Yet, after a year of influence based on my own engagement with the brand (iPod, iPhone, Macs and home and work), he changed his mind. He has since bought a new iPod, an iBook and has been begging for an iPhone. Peer input is the strongest influencer, and in it’s absence, Peripheral Peer input. Both are hard to overcome, Peer being the hardest. Only ground breaking marketing and PR can change a negative Peer influence to positive.

I assume that the question pertained to changing a negative opinion to a positive one. That takes alot of work. However, changing a positive opinion to a negative one is pretty easy. All of the influencers I’ve mentioned above can very quickly change a consumer’s opinion about a brand. Recently a viral email was sent around showing images of dead chickens (not killed FOR selling, but long dead) being cleaned for sale to Walmart. I received it from several sources and forwarded it to many more. Regardless of any of the recipients’ past interaction with Walmart, I’d guess that few that saw the email would be very likely to go back to Walmart. PR mistakes, bad press, word of mouth or a bad personal exchange with any brand can very quickly change an opinion.

That being said, customer service goes a long way. I’ve had some trouble with my car and my computers. In each case, my frustration was quickly erased by excellent customer service. In every case, a similar engagement with a brand would have sent me to a competitor, not to mention negative word of mouth. However, thanks to excellent encounters with customer service, I’m an even bigger fan of the brands (signing up for their newsletter, becomming a brand ambassador).

Customer service is going to become a larger part of corporate marketing budgets in the future as products and services (as well as advertising) become more personalized how-the-economy-back-during-the-depression-of-2009-changed-the-world-part-8-marketing), advertising becomes trickier, and more brands are vying for the eye of every consumer.

One of the best low-cost ways to generate positive branding is to find brand ambassadors like myself, those with peripheral or direct peer influence, and take advantage of them. I hear and have experienced being a targeted blogger or Twitter user who is engaged by a brand. The brand would send products, ask for, or pay for reviews, hoping that the blog or Tweets would influence others. This is a demographic approach that doesn’t often work. Many bloggers won’t do it, often their readers will see through it. Rather than finding digital influencers in general, who will at best ineffectively market their product, brands should take the extra time to find those who are already fans, ambassadors or at least interested in their products and services. These are your influencers!

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My Favorite New iPhone App: CameraBag

Posted on November 7, 2008. Filed under: iPhone | Tags: , , , , |

I just downloaded my favorite new iPhone app: CameraBag. Developed by Nevercenter, it adds some ridiculous functionality to your iPhone/iPod camera. I’m an amateur photographer, and have a fun collection of cameras from a plastic Holga to an old Kodak SX 70 to a 1938 Argus, some old Brownies, a 1937 Univex, my boring Sony Cybershot, my wife’s 35mm and my iPhone. Most of the cameras have no film, it’s difficult to get and I don’t really know how to use them and because it is always in my pocket, most of the pictures I take are with my iPhone.

I was excited to see that developers are coming up with interesting plugins that take advantage of the iPhone camera and add steroids to it. The iPhone takes OK pictures, not very high megapixels, terrible in low light, or slow when you need a quick shot, but it’s not horrible for a camera you take everywhere in your back pocket that is also a phone, web browsers, etc. But, I’ve begun to notice some odd glitches either from the software, from moving the camera shile shooting, covering the lens until right before the fake click. These have given me a way to be more artistic with my photographs. Now comes the Nevercenter CameraBag. It basically offers filters for your images. You can pull images from your existing iPhone Photos folder, or take new pictures. It doesn’t offer many preferences:

iPhone CameraBag Preferences

iPhone CameraBag Preferences

It does offer a great list of photo filter options. Several new options have been added to this version of the app, and I’m hoping for more in the future such as saturation, faux depth of field, cropping, zoom, lens options. FOr now though, here are examples of each of the camera options beginning with the original image I took outside my office window:

iPhone CameraBag Original

iPhone CameraBag Original

Here is a comparison of CameraBag’s filters:

iPhone CameraBag Helga (Holga)

iPhone CameraBag Helga (Holga)

I won’t do an example for each camera filter, but for this one, here is an example of a shot I took with my Holga. You’ll see similar saturation, the halo effect and what’s missing, the light leaks. I’m hoping to see this addition in a future version:

Rowboat in Provincetown taken mid-day with Holga.

Rowboat in Provincetown taken mid-day with Holga.

And now, the rest of the filters:

iPhone CameraBag Lolo (Lomo)

iPhone CameraBag Lolo (Lomography)

iPhone CameraBag Cinema

iPhone CameraBag Cinema

iPhone CameraBag Ansel (as in Ansel Adams)

iPhone CameraBag Ansel (as in Ansel Adams)

iPhone CameraBag 1962

iPhone CameraBag 1962

iPhone CameraBag 1974

iPhone CameraBag 1974

iPhone CameraBag Fisheye

iPhone CameraBag Fisheye

iPhone CameraBag Infrared

iPhone CameraBag Infrared

Here are some screenshots of the interface:

iPhone CameraBag Opening Screen

iPhone CameraBag Opening Screen

iPhone CameraBag Camera Menu

iPhone CameraBag Camera Menu

Most of this stuff can be done with some time in Photoshop or with the actual cameras represented, and to all of the camera snobs that say the iPhone is an expensive “toy camera”: duh, it’s not meant to be a replacement for toy cameras, SLRs or a good digital camera. But, when it’s the camera in your pocket, at least it can be fun!

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Mobile Internet World

Posted on October 22, 2008. Filed under: cell phones, iPhone, new media, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , |

I just left Mobile Internet World, braving frigid temps on my way to the Red Line. I would have liked to stay longer but client’s deadlines can’t be ignored. There were many more sessions I would have enjoyed.
The conference is primarily target toward the mobile industries software and hardware manufacturers and developers. Peppered among all the talk of Android’s kernels were a few great sessions about mobile marketing and a few companies showing off goodies. Among them was Intel, showing off the latest sub-laptops. These mini touch and stylus driven machines were pretty impressive. There were some odd user interface and user interaction issues with the touch screens. Sorry guys, the iPhone just set the level soooo high!
I don’t have alot of info on any of them but I do have some fuzzy pictures, thanks to my iPhone’s sub-par camera.
Feel free to forward me manufacturer info if you have it.

ClarionMIND

ClarionMIND @ Mobile Internet World

aigo at Mobile Internet World

aigo at Mobile Internet World

beno at Mobile Internet World

beno at Mobile Internet World

Sharp at Mobile Internet World

Sharp at Mobile Internet World

Fujitsu Lifebook at Mobile Internet World

Fujitsu Lifebook at Mobile Internet World

Compal at Mobile Internet World

Compal at Mobile Internet World

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How Being a Social Network Butterfly Can Help You Land a Job and Improve Your Career

Posted on October 20, 2008. Filed under: blog, BlogSpot, Facebook, Google, Heroes, iPhone, MySpace, Obama, Red Sox, Social Network, Star Trek, Twitter, TypePad, Web 2.0, WordPress | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This article was originally written as a 3-part piece for Talent Zoo. I got enough positive feedback (and found it slowly getting buried beneath new blog posts), that I thought I’d re-post it here in it’s entirety. Since this was written alot has happened with Social Media, social networks and the job market. This has not effected the overall message in the blog post, as a matter of fact, it has made it even more important to get involved in social networks.

It’s no secret that Social Networking is huge. It’s also obvious that it is continuously changing. Friendster gave way to MySpace, which is fighting to retain users that are quickly immigrating to Facebook, all the while; many of us have snuck off to Twitter and FriendFeed. If these are the only sites you know, you only know about 1/10000th of what makes up the social network universe. Don’t feel bad, few can wrap their head around the breadth and depth of SoNets, and no one is omniscient enough to have even heard of most of them.

SoNets are a fact of life and business. If you’re reading this, you’re on Talent Zoo, which means you’re looking for a job or an employee. Businesses can feel free to hire me to consult with them about SoNets and Social Media (SoMe), this one is for the job hunters.

So you’ve got your resume perfect, it gives a brilliant overview of your skills, talent, and experience. You’re already a step ahead of me! You’ve briefed your references so they talk about your strengths and not what you did at the last company outing. If you’re a creative, you’ve got your portfolio book, site, or iPod full of your best work. That should do it right? Not exactly. What happens when your future employer’s HR staff Googles you? They’ll get to know you really well or not. They may find nothing, not a big deal; unless you’re a creative, marketer, advertiser, programmer, you get it. If you’re in the business you’d better be online. ‘Why’ should be obvious, we’ll get to ‘where’ later. Let’s talk about ‘how’.

How you present yourself online, in SoNets or otherwise is as important as how you present yourself in person. Even more so since this may be your first impression to potential employers, and you know what they say about first impressions. This goes not just for job hunters involved in advertising or interactive, but for everyone. Most savvy employers won’t hold your MySpace pictures against you, some may. The Internet is public domain. Everyone can see anything you’ve posted online. So those party pictures, blogs about Star Trek and forum rants are just a click away for anyone who wants them. If you want be treated as a professional, take care to establish a professional persona online. Keep your comments, blogs, etc. professional. This isn’t to say you can’t be yourself online. On the contrary, be as personal and wacky as you want. Just do it with a non- related screen name that you only share with friends. Speaking of which, if you’re on Facebook, get two accounts. One for friends that’s private and one for professionals. Don’t let friends or non-business contacts friend you. You’d be surprised how inappropriate your college buddies or that girl you just met might be on your Wall! (update: soon you’ll be able to use Gathr.me, so you won’t need multiple accounts. Just one account and multiple public pages)

For those thinking, ‘this is such a pain, why bother’, remember that first impression I mentioned? By presenting a skilled and experienced face on social networks, you can get a jump on the competition. By getting involved in professional forums you can position yourself as an eager learner, a helpful pro, even as an expert in your field.

You can get much more from social networks than just a chance to show your mettle. SoNets are a great source of education. Other users can help you solve problems, point you to tutorials and other resources, turn you on to industry news and events, even hook you up with contacts.

“Okay, I get it, give a little, get a little, put my best face forward. But where?” There is no right answer. If I was talking just to 3D artists, I’d suggest niche sites like CGTalk.com. You’ll have to spend a little time Googling to find the best niche networks to get involved with. For SoNets that aren’t so niche, a good place to start is our old friend Facebook. FB has a great many groups, some as random as My Name Is Durwin (of which I am a member of course), or as obvious as Design & Typography. Professional groups aren’t just on Facebook though, MySpace and others have some worth joining. There are a bunch of great sites dedicated to professionals only, chief among them, LinkedIn. If you don’t have an account here, you’re, quite frankly, nuts. Talent Zoo is a great site for job searching. Not only does it offer great articles (feel free to agree below) and job boards, but also gives you a chance to interact with colleagues and potential employers.

If you have a unique interest, alot to say, or ADD (all of which I’m very proud of), consider subscribing to or starting a blog. There is no end to the number of general and niche industry blogs, from technology to job hunting, advertising to life hacking. Got something on your mind? For free you can create as many blogs as you like with sites like WordPress, Blogspot (which somehow became Blogger when I wasn’t looking), to name a few. It’s as easy as using Word. Much more than an online diary, it’s a great way to discuss your ideas and get feedback from readers. If you want to develop a larger social network, consider using Ning to launch a blog that can turn into a fill-fledges, multi-member social network. D.C. Insider Ariana Huffington turned her blog into a multi-author, political blog network worth millions.

Of course, everyone is talking about Twitter now. It has actually become my #2 news source, after CNN and tied with the Huffington Post. I’ve made tremendous contacts and learned an enormous amount of helpful and professional facts, as well as a tremendous amount of inane and personal facts! “Isn’t that where geeks go to talk about their latest podcast and what happened on Heroes?” Of course it is. But it’s much more. There is nowhere that the conversation is more raw and to the point than Twitter. In 140 characters, you’ll get everything from Red Sox plays to the latest on the McCain and Obama campaigns, behind-the-scenes images and commentary from industry events. You’ll also get help with technical problems, employee referrals, heads-up on new products, new sites and new jobs. There is a fun movie on Twitter.com that explains the service. Your best bet would be to begin by following some people whose user name you know (like mine) and see who they’re talking to. Pick the ones having interesting conversations and follow them, then see who they are following. It’s as exponential as it is experiential. Twitter isn’t just for online chat. I’ve met dozens of the people I converse with everyday at industry events. As a matter of fact, that’s how I found out about the event in the first place. Even out-of-town Tweeps come into town; they get treated to a Boston Tweet-up!

Twitter is not a place to join and start begging for jobs, or beating people over the head with your CV. LinkedIn is not the place to start Friending everyone at a company you’ve never worked at in hopes of getting an inside referral. In any social network, just like when visiting a foreign country, get to know the local customs. See how people interact, what they are interested in. You may find it’s not the right place for you. But, don’t worry, there are so many social networks, you’ll very easily find one that suits you whether you are job hunting, trying to change careers, or looking to hire.

If, like me, you find it difficult to focus on several disparate social networks, or find time to run or keep up with a blog, you may want consider microblogs. Twitter us the best known, but Pownce and Jaiku offer similar services. Twitter’s limited 2 140 characters, so u need 2 learn 2 Twitter shorthand + b concise w your comments 2 fit them in2 1 microblog submission. Everyone using these services is restricted to the same limit, but despite, or perhaps because, of this, you can very quickly pick up some gems. Just this evening I learned: of new OpenSource training videos, that Twitterers rather than major media first broke the news about the LA earthquake, and found a colleague in need of traditional and online branding experts to write for her new site. Looks like I’m going to be spending more late nights typing away at the virtual keyboard of my iPhone while watching man-movies on Spike (Jaws 2 finished, I’m on to The World Is Not Enough)! Like any SoNet, there is great deal of irrelevant junk, but, thanks to Twitters newly purchased search engine and third party sites like TwitterPacks, you can search for subjects and people of interest and Follow (subscribe) to that person’s feed. Who knows, you may gain your own Followers. I’m following 170 people ranging from CNN to Digg’s Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble and am being followed by 184. Just remember, even in microblogging, keep it professional or at least make sure you don’t say anything you’ll regret.

Everything I’ve mentioned will work to increase your search engine visibility, your networking possibilities and your name recognition. Kind of like building a brand isn’t it? Brand YOU. Brand “you need a job”, brand “you are an asset”. Use these channels to promote yourself but don’t spread yourself too thin. Some networks are a great place to

just sign up and post your resume and contact info. Some are full of colleagues and friends that will overrun your inbox. Decide which require minimum effort and stay on top of the ones that require more. Above all, make sure you keep your contact info and resume up to date.

There will be a lot to manage at first but you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t worry, relief is on the way. There are a few people, including myself, that are working on ways to aggregate, or bring together many of these social networks into one manageable tool.

Remember:

Don’t mix business with pleasure – keep your private-self jus that, private, and make your professional-self public.

Find the way to interact online that best suits you – join a SoNet, subscribe or start a blog, Twitter away.

Be easy to find, be up to date – Spread yourself around to as many SoNets as possible without spreading yourself too thin.

Always put your best face forward – be professional, don’t say anything you’ll regret.

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BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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No Flash on iPhone? Is this a watered down version of the Internet?

Posted on August 28, 2007. Filed under: iPhone, Web 2.0, Wi-Fi, YouTube | Tags: |

Well, we all know by now that Flash is indeed not included on the iPhone. What’s funny is the claim the “this is not a watered down version of the Internet”:

Now, knowing that Flash has been an important part of Internet communications for 10 years, you’d think, since it is built into Apple’s Safari browser already, it would be included in the iPhone. What’s more, considering that YouTube videos are served using Flash, and there is even an entire commercial touting YouTube on the iPhone, there would be even more reason to include Flash as part of the iPhone’s operating package.

Instead Apple is making YouTube re-encode all of their videos using Apple’s H.264 Quicktime codec to show videos on the iPhone. Granted, that compression codec is gorgeous. But, that means that only a limited amount of YouTube videos are available on the iPhone. You can’t just go to YouTube.com to see them.

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MBTA (the Boston T) technological failure

Posted on August 14, 2007. Filed under: 495, Alewife, ATM, B Line, Beacon Hill, Boston, Cambridge, Charlie Card, Davis Square, DVR, Green Line, Harvard, iPhone, Mac, MBTA, Park Street Station, Red Line, Red Sox, Somerville, The T |

MBTA The T

I love new technology. I have a DVR and an HD TV. I have a high end Mac and an iPhone. I love when others adopt new technology to make things easier and cheaper.

What I hate is when technology fails. What I hate more is when there is no backup plan.

I had an interesting trip today on the T. I work in Somerville’s Davis Square. This is a suburb NW of Boston, part of Greater Boston I believe, just next to Cambridge. Davis Square is primarily known as a yuppy hangout after 6, prior to this populated with mentally unbalanced and often homeless people. Fun area.

Today I took the T into work. I ride the horribly slow B (Green) Live from Brighton to Park St Station under the Boston Common, then hop the Red Line under Beacon Hill, through Cambridge, Harvard Square and on to Davis Square. In all about an hour trip. This lets me catch up on some new music, reading, etc. I also planned to take the same route in reverse to get home. However, having used up some of the cash on my Charlie Card by going to client meetings this week, I found my Card a bit short on funds for the return trip.

Now, a Charlie Card takes a couple of forms. Their is the temporary, non-reusable version made of paper that litter most T stops and trains or the more permenant plastic version that can be refilled. Since I don’t often take the T (driving my Benz is much more fun) I only use the temporary one.

The MBTA smartly filled their stops, at least the official, underground ones, not the street stops, with machines allowing recharging plastic and purchasing paper Charlie Cards. I counted 6 at the Davis Square stop, I may be wrong though. When I arrived and put my card through the reader I found that I had insufficient funds. When using my pass to go to work that morning I found I had only $1 on it. Odd, a one-way trip is $2, you can’t recharge a paper card as far as I could tell. That means The T gets my dollar because the ticket is useless.

Well, I thought, I’ll just buy a new card. I stood in line at on of the ticket vending machines to find it wasn’t accepting credit cards. I got in line at another one, same thing. I went to the machine near entrance gates, didn’t work either. “Then someone said, the machines aren’t taking credit cards.” I didn’t believe him at first, remember what I said about the day time inhabitants of Davis Square? He fit the bill perfectly: grubby jeans, overweight, red t-shirt, scruffy, unshaven face. Not exactly who I picture being an MBTA official. I expect them to be wearing a uniform.

I don’t usually travel with alot of cash. I live in the city, plastic is cheaper. I didn’t have any cash on me that day except a few quarters. So, here I was, 2 cities and a couple dozen subway stops from home and the city’s transit system wasn’t accepting credit cards. It would have been nice if there’d been a sign posted at the entrance. The machines are two levels down and about a block’s worth of walking from the front door to the stop. Luckily all I had to do was walk back to the stairs, climb 2 long flights, and walk another block to find an ATM to get out cash to get a new card, walk all the way back.

So, to my usual 60 minute subway ride, I added about 20 minutes. Add that to the fact that the Red Sox were in town for a game, which meant every tourist inside the 495 belt parked at Alewife and took the train in, and you get a pretty good picture of my ride.

Suggestions:
Leave a magic marker and paper for T employees to notify passengers that the system isn’t working.
Make T employees wear a uniform and bathe.
Open the turnstiles for free access to those you can’t accomodate when your system breaks down.

UPDATE:
This morning the credit card purchase ability of the MBTA at Davis Square Station was still down. Still no signs of warning until you’re 2 levels down:

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Live Earth Not Live on iPhone

Posted on July 7, 2007. Filed under: advertising, Apple, Duran Duran, Flash, Geri Halliwell, iPhone, Live Earth, Microsoft, President Al Gore, Quicktime, YouTube |

Once again my mind is boggled by Apple’s failure to include Flash on the iPhone. I’ll be out and about all day and was hoping to catch some of the Live Earth music festival today. No luck. Whether it’s the sponsors’ (which include Microsoft) fault for using Flash for so many of the more important navigational elements without a non-Flash alternative or iPhone’s failure to include a 10 year old plugin is enough cause for debate. What I’m most shocked by now is that once I was able to navigate to a non-Flash, non-Internet Explorer page that actually broadcast the show, I checked to make sure it wasn’t Flash. To my surprise it was not. It was good old streaming Quicktime. An odd choice for a show sponsored by Microsoft. I guess they know their target audience. So, I copied the address to put on the iPhone. After all, there has been much talk about YouTube re-encoding their videos into the H.264 compression format for Quicktime. I can see those videos on my iPhone so it should be a cinch to watch these videos right? Oh, Snap! I get a broken plugin icon. What the hell?! So the Apple iPhone that is supposed to give you the real Internet, not a watered down version of the Internet, from the company that created Quicktime, can’t play a Quicktime video in their own browser?!
Wow.
This could have been a great publicity tool for Apple. Imagine allowing folks all over the country to take Live Earth with them wherever they go.
“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s not.” they must have said.
I’m not happy. While it seems like Apple put alot of thought into this phone, it’s almost as if a fw dcisions were made by interns while evryone else was on a lunch break.
Shame on Apple for not being able to support even their own products!
They could have even worked it out through YouTube. Did they? Of course not. A search for Live Earth on the built in YouTube widget (since youtube.com doesn’t work due to a, you guessed it, lack of Flsh plugin) reveals ovr a dozen videos, none of which have anything to do with Live Earth except for a promo from President Gore.
Shameful!
By the way, as I write this, I’m in front of my Apple G5 watching the ever beautiful Geri Halliwell introduce Duran Duran, who sounds amazing.

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My First iBlog

Posted on June 30, 2007. Filed under: Apple, blog, Browser incompatibility, iBlog, iPhone, Safari, WordPress |

I’m happy to report that the Apple iPhone is currently living up to it’s promise in my hot little hands. I’m only typing a little slower than usual because I’m only using on hand.
This phone is unbeatable. But it’s 2:45am so you’ll have to wait until morning.
p.s. WordPress needs to fix the image upload feature for Safari. It doesn’t work. Otherwise I’d be able to add a picture to this iblog to show more functionality. Fortunately this is a WordPress issue, not an iPhone issue!

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