Archive for September, 2011

Facebook It Is A-Changin

1

I’ve been using Facebook’s new Timeline for almost a week, and within about a day I quickly decided that I like it. It’s a fun and interesting way to present Profile information. (Now, if only they’d do something else with the News Feed, which has turned into an ugly, cluttered mess.) And no, you do not have to pay to get Timeline.

But there are other changes, and you’ll want to know about them, too. Here are a few to keep in mind:

And in related news:

Spotify
now requires you to log in with Facebook.

But if (like me) you have lousy taste in music and want to hide that, you can.

Fire Drill

2

Fire Alarm
My building is having a fire drill this afternoon, sometime between noon and 5. We don’t know exactly when our floor will go; that way, we’re not all in the lobby when the alarm goes off–we’re actually doing normal things.

Except that as one of my suites “wardens,” I’m hyper-aware that it could happen at any moment. Or not. So basically I’m just sitting around, waiting for a fire drill.

That’s not productive. No one is benefiting from this, not even me.

So, what’s your fire drill? And what else could you be doing right now?

Photo by Night Owl City, via Flickr.

Facebook: Timeline or Time Warp?

3

Remember when profiles were “too boxy”? Well, the new Timeline kind of looks like it’s taking us back there.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v67PFmVvqDs&w=560&h=315]

The first thing you see is startlingly new: the “Cover.” It’s a large photo that stretches across the screen, overwhelming your existing profile photo (which is still there, just smaller).

Following that, you see a quick bullet-point summary of your personal info, along with photo arrays of your friends, photos, and pages you’ve “liked.” Below that, running down the center of the page, is an actual timeline–just like the one in history books–except that in this case, the boxes of information off to each side are about you, and not about the Hundred Years War or the Qing Dynasty. On the right is a shortcut to years and months (mine shows decades for recent years and then, oddly, “1974″–but I can’t figure out why, because nothing appears when I click on that year). And it scrolls on and on and on. And on. PCWorld has an article that provides more explanation of the structure; take a look.

My immediate thought is that it looks like a lot of blog templates I’ve rejected over the years–for being too boxy. The timeline down the center isn’t very obvious, and it took me a couple of looks to figure out how this thing is organized.

But I do think it’s interesting, and if Facebook is going to change, then I’d rather it changed in ways that are interesting. This is a very different way to display information than the previous versions of profiles, and I think it’ll take a bit of time to get used to. But it has the potential to be fun.

It also has the potential to be alarming. I think an awful lot of us are going to re-encounter things we posted long ago, and that we thought were buried and gone (which of course they weren’t, because here they are). But the plus side of that is that it may provide an opportunity to edit your profile in a substantive way. (Josh Catone suggests that this may be generational, and that younger users, who grew up with Facebook, may see it as an opportunity to fill in blanks.)

There are other changes beyond the look of the profile, and Mashable does a good job of introducing them.

Want to try out Timeline ahead of time? Mashable tells you how to do that, too.

Netflix: How Not to Communicate with Customers, Part 2

3

Bye Bye Netflix
In July, Netflix changed their service dramatically. Lots of people were unhappy, both with the change, and with how it was communicated.

Three months later, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings posted an apology on the company’s blog. He also sent a condensed version of that apology to every Netflix customer (well, I got one–I assume everyone else did, too). In it, he says:

But now I see that given the huge changes we have been recently making, I should have personally given a full justification to our members of why we are separating DVD and streaming, and charging for both. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why:

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD, plus lots of TV series. We want to advertise the breadth of our incredible DVD offering so that as many people as possible know it still exists, and it is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection on DVD. DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We feel we need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolve, without having to maintain compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

Nowhere in this passage, or elsewhere in the apology, does he mention something crucial: the way they’ve been handling streaming has been wrong, and the reorganization is designed to let them keep that part of the business going. Bill Gurley does a great job of explaining how the laws regarding distribution rights for DVDs and streaming video are different.

And I think it’s worth noting that it took three months for them to figure this out. Three months and the loss of what I hear is a million customers–not to mention dwindling stock prices. All that, and an apology that doesn’t really explain the cause of the change (or indicate that they now realize that their method provided very little notice to existing customers).

The response I’ve seen has been overwhelmingly negative, which is not what you usually hope for with an apology.

Photo by ozcast, via Flickr.

3 Thoughts on Facebook’s Latest Redesign

2


My first thought:
Ugh.

My second thought: What am I looking at?

My third thought: So, is this what makes me take the plunge and switch entirely to Google+?

Not yet, and an awful lot of people are in the same boat. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into our Facebook profiles and connections. The thought of recreating a network is daunting.

But that’s right now. After all, look at MySpace.

How Much Privacy Do You Have?

0

You are here

What does privacy mean in an age where so many of us share everything in public? If you don’t want everyone to know everything, here are a few things to take a look at:

Geolocating and photos

First, check your camera. As this Webroot post explains, newer cameras include geolocation info in the metadata. If you don’t want people to know where you are, turn that feature off. And if you’ve got a smartphone, for these purposes I’m including that in the category “camera.”

Privacy settings

You’ve probably seen your Facebook friends (including me, if you’re friends with me) post status updates about changes to privacy settings. Go look at them again and make sure that what you share is going only to those people you want to see it. In the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see “Account” with a drop-down arrow. Select “Account Settings” and then go through each of the categories on the left to make sure that you’ve properly limited access to your account. Remember to remove apps you’re not using. Then go back to that drop-down menu and select “Privacy Settings.” If it seems like you’re repeating yourself, that’s okay–it’s good to be thorough. Do this on other sites you use, too. The organization may be a little different, but the overall issue is constant.

Search

One of the circles on Google+ is “Public.” I think it might behoove Google to come up with another label for that circle, because any time you choose “Public” rather than “Friends” or “Acquaintances” or “People who also have lhasa apsos” (or whatever circle names you’ve invented), that post is going to wind up searchable via Google’s main page. What happens in Google+ may not stay in Google+, so don’t select “Public” unless you’re okay with the whole world seeing it. Because they just might.

Your whereabouts

Geolocation games and services like foursquare and SCVNGR can be a lot of fun, but pay attention to who knows where you are. It’s not that hard to track someone’s movements throughout the day. When that’s not just a pattern but real-time, it’s worth thinking about how much of that you really want to share, and with whom. Remember that kid in junior high who you thought was your friend, but turned out to be the jerk who stole things out of your backpack? Chances are good that many of us still have one of those friends–we just haven’t realized it yet. And do you know everyone they know? It’s not paranoid to keep in mind that you don’t actually know everything about everyone–so why does everyone need to know everything about you?

Start with the idea that it’s possible for people to find you and your words and photos. And then consider how much you want to hand to them directly. It’s a personal choice–just make an informed one.

Photo by Quasimondo, via Flickr.

Verizon Wireless and Twitter Success

0

EnV

I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer for seven years. For most of that time (maybe all of it), I’ve had LG phones. They work well, and I really like the way they organize contacts so that I don’t have to scroll through every single number a person has.

When I started texting, I realized that I wanted a full-keyboard phone, and at my next “upgrade” I bought the LG EnV. I love this phone (see above for someone else’s picture of it). It’s compact, the keyboard is easy to use, and the screen, while small, is pretty clear. The downside is that getting to the camera functions is a little cumbersome, but I don’t use the camera on this phone that much anyhow.

But it was starting to get a little bedraggled, and it seemed like the battery wasn’t holding a charge for as long as it used to. And then Verizon Wireless started calling me about upgrading.

So I got the LG Cosmos Touch. And pretty much from Day One, I hated it. This is the LG Cosmos with a touch screen, and wow, is that one annoying touch screen. It was unresponsive, except for when it was hyper reactive. I never knew when it was ringing–I keep my phone on vibrate, and for the first time, I could neither hear nor feel it when it would go off in a bag I was holding. And it kept pushing things at me–buy this app, link to this site, use this function. That’s not what I want when I unlock my phone so I can make a call. I want to make a call, for crying out loud.

It probably won’t come as a big surprise that when I lost the phone, I wasn’t terribly sad about it. No, I just went to my nearest Verizon store to scope out replacements. And that’s when I realized that not only would I have to pay full price (because I’d already gotten my two-year upgrade with the hated Cosmos Touch), but the cheapest phone I could buy was the regular Cosmos. The sales rep said that the push marketing was “probably” because of the touch screen, and that shouldn’t be a problem with this one. Of course, he also said that the cheapest thing for me to do would be to add another line to the account, when a really basic round of division told me that doing that would be more than twice as expensive as replacing the phone.

So I snarked a bit on Twitter and went back to work. On the way home, I found that Verizon Wireless had found my tweet–which didn’t even contain a hashtag (so, nice searching, @VZWSupport!) and responded. An exchange or two later, and I had my solution: I charged and reactivated the EnV.

And now I like my phone again. I even know when I get a call or text. Imagine that!

Photo by tjshirey, via Flickr.

Yahoo! and Corporate Communications

2

Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! was fired yesterday. The first widespread notice was an e-mail she sent to employees, which according to the New York Times read:

I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.

For starters, no one wants to be fired over the phone. Maybe it was the only feasible way, depending on where the parties were at the time, but it’s hardly ideal.

As The Consumerist points out, Bartz was hired to turn Yahoo! and its share price around, and that hasn’t happened. So the firing wasn’t necessarily shocking. Then, Yahoo! sent out its own message, in a press release that included the following paragraph:

Roy Bostock, Chairman of the Yahoo! Board, said, “The Board sees enormous growth opportunities on which Yahoo! can capitalize, and our primary objective is to leverage the Company’s leadership and current business assets and platforms to execute against these opportunities. We have talented teams and tremendous resources behind them and intend to return the Company to a path of robust growth and industry-leading innovation. We are committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo! on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders.”

Does Roy Bostock really talk like that? I’m not sure anyone does–not when they’re actually trying to say something, that is. This reads more like someone trying to avoid saying anything. I think David Meerman Scott gets it right when he says, “Yahoo! missed an opportunity to communicate like humans and deliver some real information.”

A press release shouldn’t be in code. Tell people what they need to know in a way they can easily understand. We’re all busy. Show that you respect that. What have you got to lose?

Season’s Greetings?

0

Apparently it’s Christmas at Costco, Halloween at Toys R Us, and fall at Starbucks. Although since we’re predicted to have highs in the low to mid-100s this week, it’s hard for me to get behind any of these concepts.

At what point is it NOT worthwhile to extend a seasonal promotion?

Go to Top