Monday, August 29, 2005

I've switched the "email posts" functionality on the left side of the blog to FeedBlitz. If you're subscribed to the blog via email, you should be getting them from the new service, seamlessly. Some posts on the transition from other folks who also had issues with Bloglet.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I've mentioned Robert Feisee a couple of times in my posts. We're working on getting him a domain name for his blog. It's been nice to see that a Google Search on his name is starting to bring up the blog he's been publishing, and some of the comments that I've made.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Check out Build something cool in 24 hours. How could this apply in your industry?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Extremely interesting ideas on "River of Search". The idea being that you set up the equivalent of "Google News" but focused on your own industry or company. I think there's going to be a lot of interest in this.
Also, until more people figure it out, a potential value add service to provide to clients for small businesses. Hi, Mr. Small Business Owner, I've set up a webpage that will show you news on "shoestores" or "cement mixing" in both blogs and mainstream media.

Unrelated: Arbitrage in Advertising-Related Search.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Two weeks ago I had posted about Independence Air, and my issues with their fare search online. Today, I got an email about their new and improved Fare Finder, that appears to have gone out to all of their IClub members.
New features include:

  • We now list all available (and sold out) flights on multiple days.
  • We show the number of seats left at a certain fare (if there are fewer than 5).
  • And we show you sold out flights so you know that you can try for another day.

    In my quick look at it, I think this dramatically improves the shopping experience. It's great to see how many of the $44 tickets are left, so you know if you're at a point where you need to book quickly. Tabs for adjancent days to your travel, let you see the lowest fares on those days.
    I really like the changes, and even if my email had nothing to do with it, it's something that will really help them win points from frustrated online travel purchasers.

  • Friday, August 19, 2005

    Whoops! I inadvertently put up a blog post yesterday. I had tried blogging in Firefox, and didn't notice a pulldown menu was in the wrong place. I'm wondering what other strange design artifacts cause people issues. I've got a number of programs in my system tool box at the bottom of the screen. Every now and then, when I'm opening ActionOutline, AOL instant messenger will open a handy box in the bottom right, telling me someone has just signed on. If I'm not paying attention, I'll click on it, and continue typing right into an IM box. I'll usually catch it, but you realize you could be sending some bizarre messages if you don't notice it.
    Lifehacker is good for things that DO work the way you'd want them to. If you're really into making things for you, check out Hack A Day.

    Speaking of useful tools, I've been checking out SplashID , which looks like a useful tool for managing passwords. I used to use Catavault, which sadly is no longer around...but definitely need something to manage my proliferation of passwords. Seems like this will do the trick.

    Jeremy Zawodny posted a request for help on picking a steam cleaner.

    One of the responses mentioned the Bissell Spotlifter. I've tried this, being something of an expert on steam cleaning lately. As a tool, it has a very narrow opening...allegedly you have to sprary the solution out the front, and then hold the machine at a 45 degree angle to get the suction going. It's very difficult to tell if you're getting the fluid back off the carpet at that point in time, so you're left to ponder whether the stain is going up.

    Unfortunately, touching the area on the floor covered in whatever substance you don't want to go near, seems to be the way to evaluate if it's working. You also need to apply substantial pressure to feel as if it's working.
    Add to this, the fact that carpet fibers tend to get in it, and gunk up the works. To be fair, it's really easy to pull the brush section out, but your fingers must then untangle the fibers, which are, again, covered in something disgusting you don't want on you.

    The one spot where the Bissell is really helpful, is the sides of stairs. You can actually steam clean a vertical surface, which is close to impossible with any of the full size power steamers.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Chris Baggott has a post on "Email is not an acquisition tool" There's been a heated response from Matt Blumberg, at Return Path.
    I think Chris has a good point. He defines micro-conversion as "The concept of Micro-conversion is to prioritize registration over the sale. Minimally, you need to be constantly testing your landing pages for both Macro and Micro conversions." This is a great point; if you're spending money to get people to your site, at the very least you should set up the possibility of an ongoing dialog, if you don't make a sale.
    I do think that "Email is not an acquisition tool!". I can think of a number of very effective campaigns that do make the sale.

    Brad Feld

    Brad Feld had a great post today... Useful stuff, if you've been running a blog, and want to take stock of all the areas you can gather stats in.
    I've been intrigued by the fact that at this point, more people have opt'd to receive updates via email, than by RSS reader. I'll be curious to see when those two lines cross.

    If you've been curious about social networking, there's what looks to be a good intro from CMO magazine.

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    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Some noteworthy things since last posting:

    Great post by Bobby: If you're interested in what an investment advisor can bring to the table, this really gives you some insight, and provides a differentiator.

    It's a referral economy, according to Scoble.

    Blog spam is becoming a bigger problem, according to Mark Cuban. I've seen this a lot in standard search queries we run to test, and we've been clicking the "ignore blogspot" virtual button very often.

    I'm looking forward to checking out the Feedster 500 list. It's a list of the most "interesting and important" blogs. Good to use if you're just beginning, and want to see what others are doing in the space.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Curious web design experience lately:

    I've generally been very happy with Independence Air. In general, I've found their website to be very effective, and probably the 2nd best-designed website for checking on purchasing flights (behind Southwest). It's light years ahead of USAir, which gives you the impression the hamsters in the back room are very, very tired.

    I recently wanted to book a flight on Independence Air. $89 for the first leg. Finished comparison shopping, came back to book it. $139. For each person, meaning the flight was now $100 more expensive than I thought. My initial thought was I had just bumped up against a price change. I put the purchasing aside for a day. The next day, I happened to get an email about sales. I logged back on. $89. Great, I'll book it. Two minutes later, two tickets? $139/each.

    I finally managed to figure out, and called in to verify, that only one ticket was left at the $89 price. As soon as two were going to be purchased, both would be $139. This raises a couple of questions...beyond whether this was part of a deliberate plot to drive consumers crazy...
    Question #1: If I purchased two tickets, would I get the discounted price on the first...Answer: apparently not, unless I booked one ticket, logged back on, and booked another, while, hopefully, the prices didn't change any further.
    Question #2: If I called in, was there any chance they'd give me the lower price on both tickets, as I was now frustrated, and likely to book on another airline?
    Answer: No. And supervisors wouldn't be able to do anything either. To the credit of the two people who talked to me on the phone, who very clearly did not speak English as their first language, they listened politely, and then told me there was absolutely nothing they could do.
    Question #3: How difficult would it be to program the website so that if there was only one seat left in a particular fare, something more consumer friendly could be done?
    Answer: Probably trickier than I think. If you don't show the low price, what if someone only needs one ticket? Where would you draw the line? People buying two? three?
    Question #4: What is the likelihood sending an email pointing any of this out gets a response?
    Answer: So far, zero. Of course, it's only been three days.
    Question #5: Is this griping going to do anything, when Independence Air has bigger issues?
    Answer: Probably not.

    UPDATE: It took 7 days, and I got a response back. Key excerpt below: It seems clear a human must have looked at the email for at least 3 seconds before sending the form letter. The basic message does seem to be consistent, the fares are what they are, until they're not :)

    "The key thing to remember about our fares is that there are only a certain amount of seats available on the plane for any given price. Once these seats are taken, the fare will move to the next level of the tier. We encourage our customers to book as early as possible in order to obtain the lowest possible fare. Unfortunately if you wait, you may find out that your lower fare has been sold. All of our fares are based on one way travel. "

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    I've been experimenting with some of the newly released features on LinkedIn.
    The main focus of the "upgrade" seems to be that you can now search the entire database of 3.3 million LinkedIn users. You then have a choice; you can use "Introductions"... so if I'm connected to Joe, and Joe knows Mary, I can ask Joe to connect me... But 3 degrees is now the limit, so I can reach anyone Mary knows. I just can't go out a level to 4 degrees. Alternatively, I can now upgrade to a business account, and use an "InMail" to someone I don't know, who I've found. The difference with InMail is that it mainly shows up on your homepage for LinkedIn, and, I'm assuming, you get an email notification, too.
    There are two pricing models, $15/month, which includes 3 InMails, or $50/month, which includes 10. Basically, you're paying $5 for each email you want to send to someone that you or a contact of yours doesn't know.
    It's an intriguing model. For several markets, such as headhunters and VCs, it would definitely be worth the money. It would also be worth the money for key contacts, where 4th degree connections were taking a really long time to get through.
    For folks looking to make additional contacts, it probably increases the incentive to have lots of "mega-connectors" as direct connections, hopefully resulting in bigger 3rd level networks.
    I'm actually more intrigued at the moment by the "Find Services" tab...It's a good way to see who in your network is in the space you're curious about. If I'm interested in DC lawyers, I can find 15 real estate lawyers, many of them with interesting General Counsel titles.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005

    Steve Pavlina has another good post. He recomends Action Outline which seems to be a neat tool for keeping track of all those lists that you need to have handy. I may experiment with it, and have it replace Next Action. Copying 200 items to it, ought to be a good test to see how it works.

    Sean Mountcastle -Business for Geeks - Interesting post on what you should think about; good for any small business...

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    I've been using Next Action by TrimPath a lot lately. It's a to-do list manager based on Getting Things Done. It lets you mannage your actions, in an off-line fashion. It's a very nice adaptation, and is my current favorite program for this sort of thing.
    Both the strongest and weakest point of the program, are that it's stored offline, in an HTML file. Every time you make a change, if you navigate away from the webpage, you'll lose the changes, unless you save the document. If you run Firefox, you can open in a new tab, so you don't use the forward/back buttons to inadvertantly navigate away. I'm usually online, so the ability to use it offline hasn't come in handy yet, but I can see where it would be, at an airport or traveling.
    It would be nice to be able to use it anywhere there's Internet access, if it was hosted somewhere, but at the same time, I think you'd lose some of the utility if you were waiting for more than a millisceond or two to save something.
    I'd highly recommend it as an application to enhance your productivity.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    There are some great competitive monitoring tools that are available today.
    I've set up two separate feeds on
    One for those who have had positive experiences.
    One for those who have had negative experiences.

    I've got searches from BlogPulse and Icerocket saved in an RSS reader. In the course of a few minutes, I can see new postings, and save them to a set of bookmarks that I can share (and that others can contribute too).
    Fun stuff!

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    I've been getting customer service surverys in my email lately from hotels I've stayed in. I've filled out two, from a Westin and a Wyndham, where I indicated I was unhappy with some aspect of the stay (waterlogged carpets, guests threatening to come crashing through the walls, that sort of thing). In both cases, I've gotten phone calls from the hotel, apologizing, and offering to make the next stay much better. It's a nice application of back-end software, and getting the info to the right people. I'm imagining that if I complain about room service, the form gets directed that way, if it's bad billing it goes to the front desk supervisor.

    It does a good job of calming down the customer, or at least keeping them from writing unhappy blog entries... and, if either hotel were in places I was planning on traveling to again, I think I probably would book there, to see if they'd keep the promise of much better accomodations.