Entries Tagged as 'Business'

Klout’s Re-Scoring Had Other Things In Mind

Image representing Klout as depicted in CrunchBase So if you haven’t heard about the re-scoring, Klout re-did their algorithm. And everyone for the most part got pushed down a few notches. And that created a huge backlash from social media people that used it for a method of distinguishing how they were doing at their jobs. However, I believe there are other things that no one is talking about that went on with the re-scoring.

For the most part, it was documented that this created a truer scoring scenario and it was no different than PageRank. But, this is actually not the case, and I believe there were business practices involved with how Klout sells their marketing. Case and point, before the re-scoring, the Windows Phone giveaway required a location and a score of 55 in technology (I barely broke 54 at the time, but wasn’t located in New York). However, after the re-scoring, I was only a 49. But the scores for that Klout Perk didn’t change which makes me believe that they were trying to filter and handpick more “top” influencers.

Due to that case alone, that shows me that there was a business/marketing scenario that came to be from the normalizing of the general populace score since the marketing limits were not normalized to the same scale. More than meets the eye, I’m afraid. What’s even more fascinating is that no one from Klout has actually mentioned or even replied to that comment which makes me believe that I’ve hit on something. Regardless, if everyone’s score was normalized downward, then it really shouldn’t matter whether or not you were a 74 and now a 54. Sounds to me like they scaled it on a bell curve though.

And one more thing. Klout did in the comments compare Pagerank with their re-normalizing. Pagerank however doesn’t discuss how they do it, or what not. People make a lot of guesswork to piece it together. On the other hand, Klout openly displays their ranking system which makes it somewhat different. I agree that all ranking and scoring systems depend on multiple variables, but don’t compare yourself with something like Pagerank when you’re really not quite the same.

What Netflix Needs To Do To Progress Further

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

I have both supported, and spoke highly of Netflix.  I’ve also ripped them to shreds when I found their business decisions to be absolutely horrible, and pulled my money as an investor when it started to do things that was not along this side of visionary.  So with the latest announcement of canning the split business scenario, I thought… maybe they’re finally understanding again.  Regardless, Reed Hastings is on the right track although his means to the end was not exactly the best of methods.   So this is what I propose that he starts doing if he’s indeed still pushing for settling on Netflix being a streaming business.

  1. Re-position internal organizations
    Internally, you’ll start splitting your company into two divisions.  One is DVD, one is streaming.  Both would have online teams that work together, but ultimately your sales, metrics, and growth will be separated out.   Timeline? 1-2 years.  I have yet to participate in a major company-wide re-organization that has never taken at least 12-18 months.
  2. Customer service needs to get back on par
    Netflix as a company took their reputation and basically threw it out the window.  That’s a lot of reputation when you consider that it was chucked in three months and the company has been around since 1997.   Get back to doing what you were doing best, which was handling customer service well and providing for those that bring you revenue.   Don’t forget that while people are just means to end, your company is also in the service business.  So service.
  3. Transparency
    I am still amazed that there are people out there that don’t understand that the best online businesses are the ones that have such deep linked inner-workings that have absolutely no ties to what the customer interacts with and how it’s done.  Amazon is a great example of this.  From a consumer standpoint, their website is a shopping area and 2-days later, a product arrives.  But the amount of logistics that went into making all of that happen behind the scenes?  Vast.  AND really none of the consumer’s business.  The fact is that all of this and expansions is made possible because of transparency.  With the Qwikster model, there was absolutely no transparency, and you took a brand and threw it out the window.  Once a business operates in a transparent function, it makes changing the consumer end very simple.  You could sell the online division, or dvd rental without batting an eye since the buyers can see that it can both operate seamlessly or by itself.  That makes your company all the more attractive.
  4. Improve Online UX
    So far, Netflix keeps changing up their UX, but their applications lag behind sometimes and they don’t really improve.  For example, they took away the DVD queues on the iPad app, but that’s something that I want to have access to when I use your “services”.  Which is what I pay for.   I don’t just pay for half of it so don’t just show me half.   That sort of interfacing is an important aspect of both how the consumer feels about your services and how easy it is to work.
  5. Improve streaming
    With more and more content, the price increase obviously is going back into the system. But, I have still yet to see a way to choose different language tracks in foreign films.  I also have yet to see DVD previews and all sorts of other things that could be on a streaming service.  This needs to improve if you wish people to take your streaming business model seriously.
  6. Quit thinking your customers are complete idiots
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the last three months should be a complete eye-opener.  You treated your customers as complete dolts, and then expected them to understand the business and why it was needed.  Then you followed up the bad scenario with another completely terrible scenario.  What may be a good business decision still has to be sold to the shareholders just like any other political message.  Note that the best politicians are great salesmen.   That’s because they can sell you a dream that in reality is a piece of rock.  In the same manner, you need to sell your business models instead of just throwing it out and letting the pieces land where they may.
Customers of services and products do their talking with their feet.  And at the end of the day, especially in bad economics, realize that your product or service is an entertainment expense, not a necessity.   This in itself is a consideration of how you set up and execute the business.   When you’re finished with understanding that (of which I’m not sure what happened in the last three months that you forgot when you remembered the last decade), you’ll be able to continue down the same road that you’ve been trying to go down.  Only then, will you have all the pieces in place to pull off what you were trying to accomplish here in 2011.
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The Difference Between Right and Legal

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin... I hate to say it, but I’m somewhat amused by the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement. A lot of people are angry because government bailed out big businesses to prevent economic disaster on a national and even global scale. Yet, some taxpayers are miffed (and rightfully so) that there was even a need to do this. I agree with that sentiment.

Here’s the difference though. The whole movement doesn’t make any bit of sense to me. Wall Street has nothing to do with it. Investors, traders, and shareholders all take advantage of the system as best as possible. You always push the envelope of the law, right up to the edge. If you go over, then you end up like Martha Stewart or someone else that tried to make gains by overstepping regulations. But the problem doesn’t lie in Wall Street or the businesses that were bailed out. The problem actually lies in government who both bailed them out and didn’t actually fix the problems when doing so. In my opinion, the solution should have been the easiest reward and punishment type of scenario. You bait companies into those that wanted or needed help to replace their management (whom inadvertently created the problem) and change the entire structure with the money. Instead of just paying for it.

Let’s also not forget that much of the problem actually comes from the deregulation of the markets, again a problem caused by politicians, and not business. It’s the same story with the whole jobs issue. No one is bothering to dangle the whole string with carrot and instead they’re just throwing out the carrot and hoping that it does something. If I were a business, I’d take the contracts, use the same employees, and say, “Hey! Thanks for filling up my coffers!” And who wouldn’t. Same with the tax cuts. To actually move job growth, you have to force a percentage of workers back in by tying the money incentives to actual hiring.

Thus, I chuckled when some people wanted to argue with me on how Wall Street was the reason behind it all. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. Capitalism and political play has been in play before I was born, and will be way after I die. There will always be people always pushing the envelope to the edge of legality. But the people that hurt us are those that change the laws to support more general bad behavior. The more generic and vague a regulation is, and the worst the enforcement, the more it allows for bad apples to exploit it. It’s the same as any situation. Most people will always choose the easier way to achieve the end if it’s open to them. And who wouldn’t? It’s legal.

Open Letter to Netflix: Why I Sold Netflix and Support Them No Longer As a Shareholder

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun... So as of opening bell, I’ll probably no longer be a shareholder of Netflix.   It’s been a good run, but in my opinion, Reed Hastings has finally gone off the deep end when it comes to leading his company.  It’s one thing to make one mistake.  But to follow it up with an entirely different one is complete corporate suicide.

Let’s first preface this with the fact that I’ve been supporting the business since June of 2003. Yes, I have had my hands in this awesome business due to the fact that they just knew what the hell the customer wanted and provided it. And it rocked. Asian films, anime, you name it, they had it. And their customer service was completely and utterly awesome. The first time they had credited me for something that I didn’t even expect to happen. And this continued on for years whenever THEY made a mistake. This is how you run a company.

Then the price hike came. There have been others, but older customers always got grandfathered in under their old plan. Not with this hike though. No, this one had no explanation, no reasoning, just… hey, we’re going to up the price because we feel that streaming is just as good as DVD distribution. I’ll say that using their streaming, it’s as good as 2003 Netflix but not as good as current, especially the new releases. Regardless, the price was the same for streaming as it was for DVDs. Big mistake number one.

So Sunday night, Reed Hastings committed big mistake number two. He wrote all of this apologetic stuff that no one really cares about since their stock price tumbled due to subscriber loss and he stopped short of making amends for the price hike. Everything he said was true, as far as the reasoning for the price hikes, but he didn’t do what every other customer service driven company does. He didn’t appease the customers. Instead, he split the company in two so that Qwikster will be the DVD distribution (owned by Netflix still) and Netflix will concentrate on streaming only.

The key screw up here? CUSTOMER usability. If you’re getting into a streaming only business, that’s fine. But one key thing about user experience in the Internet world is interoperability behind the scenes. Believe me, I deal with it every day with my own accounting software company. The key to everything is always the fact that the customer should NEVER… EVER… have to sign into multiple items, or have to do a two stop shop, just because you think it’s a brilliant move. Everything should be integrated on the forefront and the operations behind the scenes are split into two entities. I don’t care how you do it, via API, or not, but two different billings and sites will kill you if people looked to your integrated area for use before. Operationally, I can understand the split. But what has been reported is that it’s going to be two different sites.

I’m sorry, buddy, but that was the last straw. Currently I’m looking to see if that invested money can be put to good use in Coinstar owned Redbox. Maybe some other internet IPO will come along and we’ll take a look at that. But as a long time customer, and supporter, the moves being made are going to placate your company for months to come. You said that you “slid into arrogance based upon past success” but finally saw the light. I hate to break it to you but the rest of your email reminded me of my mother when I was a child whom told me what I wanted to hear and said that I had a choice in the matter, but at the very end, threw in an argument that completely contradicted the entire hour of time she had spent. So, you’re not really thinking about us, are you? You’re thinking about how you can get us, and Wall Street off your back about all of this. And I’m telling you that customer service and Wall Street go hand in hand. Oh well, maybe you’ll see the light. Maybe you’ll understand finally that there were a number of things at play that propelled Netflix into stardom and kept it there. It wasn’t the streaming idea, nor DVD releases. It was the fact that you guys did it seamlessly and had awesome service. Put those two things in any business, and they’ll still be rock solid. Anyhow, if you ever want to change things up, just look me up.

Why Mergers Rarely Create Jobs

WASHINGTON - MAY 11:  AT&T President and CEO R... It’s interesting that sometimes you read about politicians trying to sell a sales pitch that is completely false. In this case, five Democrats are pushing the President to push the AT&T merger through without any regards to the DOJ’s decision, and the FCC’s decision. What’s more is that in their letter, something blatantly jumps out.

Job creation.

I have never seen full-time jobs created for a merger. Granted, there are many jobs that are contracted out. These are usually the same jobs that are let go and then contracted back out for the transition period. There is never an actual merger that doesn’t require some heads being chopped. Just look at Sprint and Nextel. Sprint themselves did a study on this, and having been with one of the vendors that was severely hurt by the backlash of the merger, I can say from personal experience that Sprint knows what they’re talking about. What’s worse is that one of the Representatives find themselves at the top of the list…. from my state. Rep. Heath Shuler (D, NC) is one of the leads on the letter above, trying to point out how many jobs it would create.

Has he not seen that the the Wells Fargo buy out of Wachovia meant that Wachovia laid off people along with temp jobs being created for the transition? Does he not know about the 2,000 jobs that are about to be lost due to the Duke Power and Progress Energy merger?

Sometimes, you have to wonder whether people actually do their homework when serving SIGs. If you’re going to push for someone that isn’t hiding their money trail very well, it’s probably a good idea to not be affiliated with them. In this regards, every party that has been rooting for AT&T has actually had cash donations to their causes.

Outside of antitrust, and monopoly ruling, I believe that AT&T chose the worst possible time to try to pull off this merger. When times were better, it would have probably been a no-brainer for the government to push it through unless they had some severe antitrust issues. But in the state of bad economics when unemployment numbers are even skewed lower than the reality (contractors, and P/T people are not counted in those figures), and people are hurting, they try to roll themselves back into Ma Bell of which was the original antitrust suit that broke them up. The irony.

Why Google Image Search Will Ruin Bing

Google released some new technology just recently, from voice search to its image search. I would imagine that the voice search is using NLP (natural language processing) since the way a person searches via speech is completely different than from typing in keywords. It’s basically the next evolution of synchronizing normal human behavior with technology. Almost a transhumanism push if you will.

The Google image Search though is what is interesting. When Google purchased Riya, I had thought that this was what was going to happen with the next evolution of image search. I mean, let’s be honest, that’s what’s interesting. If you gave the web, a person’s face, and it came back with possible hits of where that person might have been or what not based on facial recognition or identification, then this makes it completely like an “Eden of the East” search. Which is what I had thought Bing was going to be when it came out.

Let’s be honest. No one knew what Bing was going to be about at the opening except for those crazy commercials and everyone thought it was cool. At first. So did I. But once I figured out that it wasn’t anything new, and they put up a pretty picture but didn’t use their technologies from Photosynth or any of the cool image projects in Microsoft Labs, they ruined themselves. They had the algorithms to make Bing into something special and they’ve been playing catch up since.

While this is true, I still believe Microsoft could in fact become a substantial player if they started to think in this type of scenario. There are a lot of amazing products out there that they’re missing out on because they’re not thinking about applications on other mediums. And that’s where the battles are won.

Regardless, image search has been one upped by Google for now. The question remains, can they stay on top, or will other competition finally figure out what to do to take Google on.

Error -18 Fix for Android

I’m not definite that this is the end all be all solution for this, but with the new Market push came some issues that happened on my Droid.

It didn’t happen all right at once, so I assume it was some new SDK updates.  In any case, several of my apps wouldn’t update and would give a “general error -18” whenever they did try to update.

Annoyed, I went to the web for an answer but couldn’t find one.  People ran into the issue but no one had a solution.  Which baffled me.   Then I woke up from a tiring night of work and it hit me.  All the apps that were having an issue were on my SD card.

Could it be as simple as that?  So I moved the apps back onto the phone, hit update and voila!  No error.

So the error happens when the app is partially on the SD card.  To work around it, you have to move it back onto the phone and update.

Definitely something that Google needs to fix on Android but it’s good to finally have all my apps updated.

Ping? No Thanks

Ping Screen shot 2010-09-01 at 9.32.17 PM
Image by swanksalot via Flickr

Amusing. TechCrunch released an article about how Ping isn’t as social as Apple made it out to be. What’s even more funny is that I don’t see this going anywhere just like Genius didn’t go anywhere.

First, let me throw it out there. When I find new music, I don’t know the name of the song, or what it is. I just hear something while browsing a website, Youtube, or even listening to the radio. You know what Apple needs to do? Buy Shazam. Take that technology and load it in instead of relying on my friends. Truthfully, what my friends like in music could have absolutely no relevance in what I like. I like opera, but I can guarantee you that my wife doesn’t really care for it. But would we be in the same circle of friends? Sure. That’s a failure in itself for recommendations.

Second, I decided to give Ping a shot, even though during the Apple announcement, I was already arguing with people about how Apple could make things nice, but they don’t exactly understand the Internet trends. Let me put it into perspective. Myspace is probably one of the ugliest social networks ever. I said it back when it started, and it still is to date. But yet, the young kids that made it popular is what attracted bands and other musicians to it. That’s also why MySpace still lives… due to those relationships. If Apple wants to attack that head-on, they need to allow every single band lay claim to their pages and have followers able to already follow the band without the claim.

For example, I was testing out Ping, thinking, hey… this might not be half bad. Let me add one of my all-time favorite bands: My Chemical Romance. Now I’ve purchased their albums from iTunes before, so I know they exist on there (unlike some of the jrock/jpop/crock/cpop artists), but lo-and-behold, I can’t follow them. No MCR follow means that Ping fails in my book. I mean, the recommendations based on my genres that I selected gave me Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Coldplay. All artists that are tied to Apple. What about Daft Punk? What about Gorillaz? If you’re building social, you have to think social.

Personally, I think that Ping is a great idea, but the execution was absolutely sloppy on Apple’s part. If you’re going to build a social network for musicians, figure out what the strengths of social networks are and build around that. Don’t tie it directly to your iTunes store. The difference between customers and users might be a credit card number, but the difference between a social network and a store is a world apart.

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Android Market Comments Need Moderation

Android Market
Image via Wikipedia

Google needs to step up to the plate when it comes to moderating Android Market comments.  Overall, the ratings system is pretty typical.  If you like a product, you rate it high, if you dislike you rate it low.  There’s some trolls when it comes to ratings, but it’s actually not all that bad for the most part.  The good stuff still tends to float to the top.

But lately, there’s been a rash of really annoying 5-star comments that I mark as spam all the time and keep seeing everywhere.   Subscription services are going around and posting comments everywhere and basically saying how it’s this website has all of the apps for a monthly subscription and it’s cheaper, and all that.  Extremely annoying when you’re trying to read about whether or not an app works or not and what problems they might encounter.

Think of the commenting system as a user review board.   I mean, overall, the goal is to be like Amazon’s product reviews where people tend to use these days as a secondary source of “real people-real reviews” type of place outside of reading Consumer Reports.   Since Android Market doesn’t have a Consumer Reports, you’ll just have to settle for trial and error, and user reviews.  Unfortunately, on a mobile interface, spam type comments not only take up space, but it throws the review off.   Especially these types of subscription services.

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Thoughts on Skype Mobile for Android

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

This is funny as hell. I mean seriously. Does this guy even understand how power works? Less trips to the charger? WOW. Okay… a little lesson on how telecom radios work folks. It’s a really easy concept actually. A base station is usually located somewhere between one to two miles away. Ideally. Sometimes farther, sometimes closer. But the amount of power it takes to generate a signal that far is a lot more power on the forward channel than any WiFi signal. Ever.

So buying into the whole … Verizon is the best 3G network so we’re making use of their network thing is total marketing mumbo jumbo. I would know, considering I’ve worked on the infrastructure. What’s funny is that someone at Verizon made this call on banning WiFi which I have no clue about because from a telecom business perspective it makes absolutely no sense. Probably a sales guy that didn’t do his bean counting correctly.

So if you have a Verizon smart phone, you have to pay for a line and a data package. You don’t have a choice in this matter. And more than likely you use it for way more things than Skype. Believe me, the last thing I consider use for my data package for is voip. So why would you ban voip? Because some brilliant guy somewhere thought that it would decrease sales in lines, without actually thinking through who actually uses Android phones.

Here’s food for thought. The point of Skype is voip, but RF spectrum is actually expensive to run. Why not allow people to do their voip on WiFi but still pay for their data packages? You’re basically allowing more spectrum available for both actual data and voice use (depending on how the channels are configured). It’s the most optimal use of your current network from a business perspective and network perspective. Again, something else I’d know since I spent over ten years optimizing network traffic and analyzing KPIs.

It seems that Skype couldn’t break their full client in to Verizon and they didn’t know the telecom lingo to actually sell it. What’s amusing is that it makes them look bad in throwing the Skype Lite out since it really doesn’t help with those of us that run SkypeIn numbers or allow us to conduct business the way Google Voice does. Oh right, Verizon isn’t afraid of Google Voice which makes connections over the voice lines? That’s more traffic taken up for no reason when it doesn’t have to be routed as such.

All in all, both of Skype and Verizon Wireless need to revisit how their technologies work and why one thing is superseded by another when they’re two different things. I get the whole Verizon wants to make money and are afraid that they would lose subs. But come on… are you serious? Releasing a product that half par is worse than not releasing one at all. It just makes both ends look terrible from a public relations perspective and becomes a marketing nightmare. In the end, you’d spend more money trying to fight the non-existent problem instead of just letting the thing through.

Right now? I can say that as a telecom veteran, I have to say that this application might as well have been left in beta. In fact, the beta was better since it didn’t disable the wifi. That’s a little sad. There’s nothing great about the final Android version and continues to win subpar remarks because of bad decision made on both ends.

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