Saturday, September 24, 2011

Deal Fatigue

I'm pretty skeptical of Groupon, so I liked this article on Groupon and daily deals in general:

[Groupon's] Competitors are dead or dying… [so] where is the bright side? Nowhere. Consumers are fatigued. They now hate getting a dozen emails every morning offering 10 different Yoga classes at 50% off—over half of Americans have stated they're overwhelmed by the quantity of deals available. 
And that's not all. Running Groupons is all about exposure right? Turns out, it's the wrong kind of exposure: merchants who run Groupons suffer hits to their reputation. And this was the only benefit for businesses—they certainly don't do it for profit. Adding consumer fatigue and merchant wariness, you come up with zero.
Like I keep saying--give me everyday low prices.



Dynamic Email

I have long thought that MS Exchange should make an email more into a dynamic thread...so for instance someone could put in an "I will reply" status--but without having to blast out another email to do it. Would help alleviate Inbox-overload.

Another feature would be "subscribe to this thread" or maybe (depending on how defaults are set up) "unsubsribe to this thread". So if you don't think you are interested, it quits overloading your Inbox. But, by the same token, if you later get interested, then you can go access a thread view of the whole thing.  Sort of like Twitter.

I hate M$. They don't improve anything, unless either a competitor is nipping at their heels, or it is functionality that will make it easy to sell an upgrade. Their karma sucks, I hope they continue their long, slow, Sears-like decline. They have brought it on themselves.

Has NetFlix Lost Its Mind?!

When they say "this storm may pass"--like comparable consumer uprisings against Apple and JetBlue--they are missing a key point. NetFlix has already announced significant revenue impact, due to cancellations from the new pricing. So it is already more than a "passing storm". Now, they are making things even worse. So if (when?) they get more cancellations from the Qwikster side (nothing about this should make a pure NetFlix streaming user care), the impact is that much greater.

This point is also interesting to me:

“People love Netflix,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. “What other media distributor adds two-plus million subscribers each quarter? Only Netflix and only because people are thrilled with it. But once you arouse such passions in people, you have to expect that they’ll be equally passionate when they feel betrayed. And that’s what has happened.”
I do feel somewhat sympathetic to Netflix. I was drawn to them for foremost for their rock-bottom prices. Usually, the innovation in consumer content is like McDonalds--providing much more food, for a little more cost. Too rarely is it focused primarily on driving down current cost (the ARPU mentality at work).

So I feel sympathetic to NetFlix, because I know they have had a hard time attracting more content, and renewing what they have at the current low prices, and I think their prices are still very low. Nevertheless, I like the implied message from consumers--a big, fat middle-finger to higher prices.

And the latest Reed Hastings move with splitting of Qwikster is just dumb. 1+1=3 and 2-1=1.5 is the logic of the M&A Wall Street crowd--not the consumer-focused company.

(See Cringely for a less fault-finding of Netflix different take.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tablet Use Case: Voice-Activated Reader

I like to read a lot. I like to eat a lot. I really like to read when eating, if not eating with a companion(s). But I don't like getting books and magazines and keyboards messy, flipping pages while eating. I am thinking that a voice-activated tablet, with a stand, might be the perfect solution. Instapaper, Read It Later, are you listening?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stay Signed In - NEVER!

Remember in the early days of 802.11 home wireless, how the out-of-box option was no security? Then, finally, the industry came around and made the default behavior the safe behavior--security on? Well websites really, really need to do the same thing. I hate the "stay signed in" option defaulting to yes. Bad for the innocents, and even dangerous for the paranoid--I have overlooked it once or twice.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Found--Size 12.5 Shoes!

My latest discovery for a reason to love Amazon/eCommerce: odd size shoes! Just TRY finding a 12-1/2 EE in a store. Of course the web page let's you pre-filter for your size--no need to get interested in a model, only to find out it isn't available in your size. First time in ages I have had a shoe that fits perfectly.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Payment Systems Must Increase Efficiency


Although it would perhaps be nice not to have to carry a wallet, that’s pretty low on my personal hierarchy of wishes. In general, my personal payments system works just fine. Almost every store I shop in accepts my two preferred means of payment: cash, or bank cards. Thus, as a consumer and technologist, I am only interest in new payment methods if they meet the following two tests:
  1. They take cost out of the system. I don’t want new for the sake of new and cool. The new thing has to be inherently more cost-efficient.
  2. They have to cut costs for consumers. I want lower swipe fees (or maybe “wave fees” would be the more appropriate term ;) ).
#1 is a necessary but not sufficient condition for #2. I am tired of stuff that is new, but more expensive. I am particularly thinking of service charges to ticketing, such as Ticketron. Or having to pay extra to file your taxes electronically.

POSTSCRIPT: If it sounds like I am a skeptic, it because I am. Just saw this article from the current Consumer Reports, which tends to bear out my skepticism (digital wallet's won't save you money).

Idea: "Not to Exceed" Field on Checks

Sometimes my kids will need a check for something at school, and for one reason or another, they don't know the exact amount. The solution, of course, is to make the check out but not fill in an amount. On principle, I dislike giving out any form of the proverbial "blank check". So why can't checks have a "not to exceed" field? 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Micro$soft Outlook email doesn't let you print only a range of pages!

No option to just print pages 1-2, for example. I don't know about you, but I have plenty of endless email trails where I don't want to print the whole thing, only a few pages or a selection. Just another example of how M$ doesn't improve or even fix much of anything, unless:
  1. They have competitors nipping at their heels.
  2. They think it will drive upgrade $.
I hold the brand in contempt, for this attitude.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Another Amazon Attaboy: Frustration-Free Packaging

I know this is hardly a news flash, the frustration-free program is at least a couple of years old, but I hadn't thought about it in a while. I know it has gotten some mixed reviews, but my point is--at least Amazon cares! This is an old problem that gets worse, not better, each year, as clamshell takes over like an invasive species. So, tip of the hat to Amazon, again.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

No, I Do NOT Want Podcasts Added to My Music Collection!!!


Text of email I just sent to Google:
The Google Music app for Android suffers from the same problem ALL music apps do. Namely, it is too aggressive in automatically adding MP3s to your collection. Specifically, for those of us who are aggressive podcast listeners, we probably don't want our podcasts intermingled with our music. I mean, I love This American Life, but I really don't want it to be part of "Favorite Workout Songs", you know? 
A few ways to solve this. At a minimum, have Advanced Settings that allow the user to exclude directories from auto-discovery.