Stop Whining, Marissa Mayer is right

I agree with Mayer. Stop whining. The media is quick to jump on the band wagon and proclaim Mayer is heading backwards in time. Not true.

  1. Not allowing working from home full time is not the same as inflexible work arrangement
  2. Nothing can substitute for in person communications (read up on Sherry Turkle's work)
  3. Would you rather never see your adult children in person? No more family gatherings for life? I don't think so.
  4. People who claim working from home is more productive is missing the point. Personal productivity is a very narrow measurement of success.
  5. Virtual team has to be built from in person connections

I am all for flexible workplace. Having to work with many different people in different stages of their lives, this is what I do:

  1. allow for flexible work time, but require core time block when everyone is in the office, say 10-3 M-Th
  2. allow people to start the day early and leave early -- great for parents who need to pick up their young children, and start the day late and work late, for the stereotypical techie
  3. allow for a comfortable work place, access to food/drinks/support services and R&R spaces (a given in tech companies)
  4. allow for short Friday's as long as work is done M-Th

Most importantly, stop whining. If you are unwilling to get dressed, commute into the office to work with your peers just because you feel like you work better at home? What else are you unwilling to do?

Why I ditched Skitch and Evernote a long time ago

Today the internet is flooded with "we hate Skitch 2.o" sentiment. I hate to tell you, but I ditched both Skitch and Everynote a long time before today. Some background. I loved Skitch. But soon, Skitch gettings to be buggy and would crash on me often. It got to the point where I had to stop using it because I need a reliable way to share images at work. This was just around the time Evernote bought Skitch.

I was a very early Evernote adopter. I work on multiple machines and being able to automagically sync notes across them is priceless. But slowly I am annoyed by the subtle differences in the evernote clients across platforms. By all account Evernote is now a very mature platform but they still have problem deciding whether to support text formatting on all platforms. So I gave up.

I use Yojimbo for all my notes now. I am waiting for a read/write iPad and iPhone client, and that is a problem, but the Yojimbo guys know software and I trust them to get all the features right. Their notes organization support is very good which is what I need, and I use dropbox for general file syncing across platforms.

So why is Skitch and Evernote so bad? and Dropbox and Yojimbo so much better? Because fundamentally Dropbox and Yojimbo are run by techies -- programmers that put actual functionality first and business model second. They use their own products and will not make it not usable. My guess is product development team now drives Skitch and Evernote, and while "aligning their products with their strategic business model", short changing their actual user base.

Note: Yojimbo is an Apple platforms only product. If you use Windows, stick with Evernote.

Power of Social Media in Marketing

Three different personal encounter with social media this week reaffirms how powerful social media can be in marketing and brand building:

Twitter for Customer Support

I use Rackspace to host all our web servers for ourselves and our customers. I was playing with their iPad app one afternoon and found a problem. It is not a mission critical error, so I wrote a tweet to them, something like "Hey @rackspace your iPad app is crashing". Within minutes they tweeted me back, asking me to email them with specifics. Soon they both emailed and tweeted me back with a solution. I was happy. Then to top it off they offer to send me a t-shirt! Honestly I would have been very happy just with the speedy response via twitter.

Twitter for Pre Sale Support

I was looking to buy a small messenger bag from Rickshaw Bags as a gift. I wanted to know if a Kindle Touch would fit in their mini zero bag. The dimensions given on their websites are too close. So I tweeted a question to @rickshawbags. Within minutes they answered, via twitter. I placed the order. During the check out process they asked me for my twitter handle.

Twitter for Post Sales Support

This evening, Rickshaw Bags tweeted out to me, with a little custom poem, a pictures of the bags that I ordered, before they are handed off to FedEx. I know they do the picture thing with their customers, but the emotional impact was far greater, positively, than I expected. Remember the Rickshaw Bags are custom made with hand pick color combinations. So seeing the pictures before they ship is a wonderful way to build the customer relationship. These are the first bags I bought from them. If the bags themselves are as good as they are suppose to be, they have hooked me for good.


This level of customer interaction does require someone monitoring the company twitter stream. But I believe it is sure worth it. What a differentiator and relationship builder.

Amazon order delivered in four hours?

Yes. (just less than) four hours. I ordered a Klean Kanteen insulated bottle on at 11:20 am Monday morning. I selected one day shipping because I have Amazon Prime. So for $3.99 I get the bottle tomorrow, I thought. At 3pm, which is 3 hours and 40 minutes later, my door bell rings and it is the delivery guy from their delivery service. Bottle delivered. Less than four hours. How is this possible? It is a combination of inventory management system, and they must have a fulfillment center right here in Massachusetts. But even then, someone has to pick up the bottle, boxed it, call the courier service, pick up the box, and delivery down to my loft, all within four hours.

Amazing, Amazon.

South End Boston Sports Club dumber than a dumbell

What happened at the South End BSC (Boston Sports Club) blew my mind. Let me tell you the story first, then give you my analysis. The Story

I teach private tai chi classes. One of my student is a member of this BSC. When the weather is not nice, we do our weekly class there. I belong to a different club already, so I do not have a great reason to join this one, as my student is either paying the guest fee, or we take advantage of sometimes a "free guest" day to do our class at the gym.

However I do live and work blocks away from this gym. So I decided to save my student some money, and also get a secondary gym that I can use, and join this club today.

After our class I sat down with the manager at the gym and about to sign up for a membership with an annual commitment worth $828 to them. Instead the manager very successfully annoyed my student/friend and me. I am not joining, and I think my friend, who has two memberships (husband and wife) at the gym is thinking about leaving.

Why? As my friend was listening to the membership cost, she realized that she has an older plan which is more expensive and has less feature. She of course ask the manager if she could switch to the new plan. The manager said "sure, but there is a $59 upgrade fee. "Surely you must be joking" we said, plus this member just gotten you a new member. The manager was less than helpful at the situation. She told my friend to take it or leave it.

That is not all. I knew there was a "one time joining fee" for the membership, of $58, which is pretty common for healthclub to get some additional revenues. I asked the manager if she would waive it. I would expect there is a 50/50 chance of her doing something, or offering something to "sweaten the deal". Instead she said "no" pretty straight out. When I explained that it is cheaper actually for us to pay the occassional guest fee so she is going to loose a membership sale because of this, she told me"well it is your choice".

So we both walked out. It is not the money that is the issue. It is the way the manager responded to both situation. Even if the manager was a little bit more apologetic about my friend's situation, or offer a token gestures to my new members, maybe a coupon for a class (which I probably will never use), I would have joined. Instead she gave us a pretty definite "I don't care" message.

For me, a healthclub a service oriented business. Sending a "we do not care" message is just plain dumb.