Entries Tagged as 'Business'

North Carolina Still Working On Unconstitutional Digital Tax

associates-logo-small._V265885005_ North Carolina is still pushing that digital tax.

But fortunately, there is another win for Amazon, and another state that doesn’t have legislators that have never fought for small businesses or know how Internet businesses work. Apparently the governor of the State of Hawaii has vetoed HB 1405 and the time has passed for the overturning to occur. So Amazon is re-inviting those affiliates back from that state.

Will North Carolina also break free from those luddites that know no bounds to how much they hurt small business? Perhaps. My guess is that we’re actually not reaching through the thick skulls of the state legislation but I could be entirely wrong. So far, I must say that as an independent voter and business owner, I haven’t been impressed with either the state legislation or our governor in several decisions that are NOT in the best interest in the constituents. Perhaps they will surprise me yet and overturn this one. Call me crazy but I actually like to pay income taxes if they didn’t take a portion of the income from my business.

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Facebook Ads May Use Your Picture

Not funny Facebook ad
Image by Titanas via Flickr

So I was reading through my newsfeed on Facebook and lo and behold, there was an old high school friend that showed up in the news feed. He lives in Germany so I don’t get to speak to him as often as I like, so I read his blurb that was showing up in my feed and what do I find? Something that really bugs me from a standpoint of transparency and privacy:

FACEBOOK has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures WITHOUT your permission. Click on SETTINGS up at the top where you see the Log out link. Select Privacy. Then select NEWSFEEDS and WALL. Next select the tab that reads FACEBOOK ADS. There is a drop down box, select NO ONE. Then SAVE your changes. (REPOST to let your friends know!)

Go figure. FB is using your picture with ads and you never knew it? Not very cool. By default, it’s actually on so that your picture could show up in the advertisement to your friends (which means that your friends might think you use XYZ service).

Basically in a more ordered format, here’s how to turn it off:

  1. Go to the Settings drop down and select Privacy Settings.
  2. Select NewsFeeds and Wall
  3. There are two tabs, the right one is Facebook Ads. Select that one.
  4. The drop down box in the middle has either Your Friends (default) or No One as the choices. Select No One.
  5. Save the changes.

What really bothers me here is that by default, we opted into it than not. Usually, you want such things to be opt-ins, not determinations for the users. I don’t believe this is a serious enough offense by FB for them to lose users over, but it definitely forms a trust issue.

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Review: Cold Stone Cupcakes

coldstone_cupcakes I have to say that Cold Stone Creamery has hit on something big. Like seriously needs to go into their repertoire quick.

Currently, they’re promoting a $9.99USD limited time special for six ice cream cupcakes. From left to right, we have Sweet Cream, Cake Batter Delux, and Double Chocolate Devotion.

The technical of these cupcakes are actually pretty simple. It’s a chocolate shell, where the cake goes on the bottom, the ice cream above it, and then topped with frosting and some type of topping. But it truly is something that has a lot of weight on hot sunny afternoons and with the current cupcake craze around the United States, it’s bound to do well.

  • Sweet Cream: yellow cake, fudge & sweet cream ice cream, white frosting, milk and white chocolate curl.
  • Cake Batter Delux: red velvet cake, fudge & cake batter ice cream, pink frosting, rainbow sprinkles.
  • Double Chocolate Devotion: devil’s food cake, fudge & chocolate ice cream, white frosting, Oreo cookie.

Truly pick your poison. If regular cupcakes at bakeries can sell for $3USD a piece, then these things are tremendously under-valued and under-priced. In all truthfulness, I could actually seeing paying up to $5USD for a custom cupcake. Think about it. Most of the ingredients are already set up, so that you can already have shells with cake ready to go, pick your own ice cream, frosting, and topping. It’s a lovely move from a business perspective, and turns long hot summer days into something wonderful.

What’s even better is that there is also the possibility of say hot fudge for colder weather. There’s definitely a lot of maneuvering room for the product manager that is in charge of this one. Currently? You pay about $1.70USD per cupcake, and from what I saw they usually make about two batches a day since they sell out in about half day. I don’t think it’s caught on yet how awesome these things are, but believe me… anyone that touches these will not stop at one.

Chasing Vertical Markets

vertical_markets Interestingly enough, I keep reading about biotechnology in the Business Journal and I’m failing to understand it. It seems that with every popular business trend, the business community in the Triad seems to follow and jive with it without actually wondering about the problems that occur currently and the time for a new industry to take hold.

Everyone understands that money is the number one factor in any sort of industry. To gain traction, you must invest major funds to get anywhere. But if someone else invests more than you, then they probably have an advantage. This is the same with biotechnology. In competing with national business centers with major urban populations, it’s difficult to understand how we’ll ever be on the forefront of biotech. Let me put it this way. Even smaller towns in South Carolina have biotech industrial parks. Don’t ask me why, since I don’t know what the deal is with that one.

Instead, there are plenty of industries leaving the Triad. I got word from a friend recently that in about six months, there will be a headquarter change for a company that has been in the Triad for a long time. No one knows how many jobs are effected, but I can tell you that it’s not going to be pretty when the news comes out. What’s interesting is that there are actual technology (database, programming, etc.) jobs on the line here and I have yet to see any sort of replacement area for these individuals. What next? Where are the technology jobs?

As people are displaced towards larger business centers and our community leadership is blinded by the fact that there are jobs on the line where there are skilled and educated needed, I cannot help but wonder why there hasn’t been any money thrown at technology businesses. When push comes to shove, everyone struggles in a market where you fight to be number one in an industry. But just as a business must segment their target market, a community needs to segment what they target in industry to help revitalize the job arena.

Thus, I propose vertical markets. Why not pick several niche areas and formulate vertical markets within these niche areas? There might be a horizontal market such as biotechnology, but what about being the best at grid software for biotech firms? Or the manufacturing of artificial skin? Perhaps we could even be a leader in small business applications such as online accounting? Either way, I find that the entire push for industry seems rather lost in the noise and we haven’t yet found our pulse to keep the business community going.

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Free Movie Brought To You By Roku

Roku.com-The Little Black Box That Streams Thousands of Films! Roku is now bringing you five dollars in credit if you register your Roku box within the month of July and spend the credit before September 30. I personally think that’s pretty neat, although my issue with my Roku box isn’t so much of the content as much as the interface could use a little work. The Amazon interface is a bit better than Netflix, since I’d love to be able to browse, add, and delete to my queue.

Outside of that, this promotion is brilliant since it gives people a chance to try out the $99 box and get a little something extra. They would actually go a bit further if they actually provided this to those early adopters too, as a gift. Just a thought.

In any case, the below is the email that was sent out to those on the mailing list and the Facebook page:

Wanted to let everyone know about an exciting promotion we’re running in the month of July with our partner, Amazon Video On Demand. July is free movie month!

Roku is pleased to bring you a great deal: a $5 credit towards any purchase or rental on Amazon Video On Demand.

In order to receive your credit, you must register your Roku player on Amazon during the month of July. You’ll have until September 30 to use the credit before it expires.

Don’t have a Roku player yet? No worries! If you buy one now, you’ll receive it in July, just in time to get your free movie rental from Amazon Video On Demand on behalf of Roku.

If you already have your Roku player or expect to receive it soon simply register it now with Amazon Video On Demand and you’ll receive a $5 credit to watch anything you want—from a new release movie to an episode of your favorite TV show.

In order to receive your credit, you must register your Roku player to Amazon during the month of July. You’ll have until September 30 to use it before it expires.

How to register your Roku player

Visit the Amazon Video On Demand page (URL below) to register your Roku player. Follow the simple four-step process using the screenshots they’ve provided.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/video/ontv/rokusteps/ref=atv_roku_register

Register your Roku player today!

Amazon Video On Demand offers more than 40,000 Hollywood hits, classic movies and your favorite TV shows—including hundreds in HD—that you can start watching instantly on your Roku player on any TV.

Enjoy!

Your friends at Roku

A bit of wishful thinking but I’m just waiting for Roku to support Hulu and we’ll be all set.

First Thoughts about Bing.com

bing I have to say that from a technical perspective, I’m pretty disappointed with Microsoft’s Bing.com. A lot of press came out when Microsoft released Bing, and to tell you the truth, the fact that it held even number two for a day was pretty amusing. Mainly because most people didn’t know what it was.

I for one, was actually curious when I saw the tv advertisements and it had a bunch of pretty high contrast pictures. Bing.com? What the heck is that? Decision engine? You realize later on that the entire decision engine thing is sort of a joke. I’m not sure which marketing person came up with that, but Caterina Fake’s Hunch, is way more of a decision engine than Bing ever was. But with all of the imagery, I had thought that Bing finally hit on something that people have been waiting for. Image search on the next level.

Let’s not forget that Google had acquired Riya years back and there was a significant amount of press about that cool image searching. Basically, the thought is that you can give an image and the engine would be able to detect where faces were and perhaps next steps were to detect similarities in facial recognition and say… search out all of my pictures on the web. Now, image processing at this level isn’t something that’s revolutionary but in an indexed web form, it is. According to my father, whom I would say is an expert at image processing, it’s not about whether or not it can be done as much as the processing that comes with it. It takes a lot of power to determine if images are related and if there are matches in facial structures. That’s what I had thought Microsoft had cracked with Bing since that definitely would propel it into another arena, especially with its research into Photosynth.

Unfortunately, like many others, it was a real disappointment. It seemed that Bing.com was just another search and it still didn’t pull as accurately as Google does. While there are some that are touting the greatness of Bing’s moves in search and the gradual growth of market share, I frankly don’t see it. If the results were better or they had focused on something like images, I would definitely consider a switch. Call me a cynic, but I really don’t understand how seeing a picture of the Sydney Opera House today is really going to help me search for anything… for example: web based accounting startups.

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Anti-NC Affiliate Tax Gaining Support #ncaffiliatetax

Internet marketers everywhere are rallying behind the flag of social media. Just take a look at #ncaffiliatetax and see for yourself. I personally have written to Pricey Harrison (Guilford-D) about this and how it hurts small businesses and how it can not only put people’s jobs at risk but also put more strain on the state since if these jobs fail, there would be likelihood of more unemployment that the state would have to take into account.

Actions speak louder than words, and those that are pushing this through tell me that they don’t understand the Internet at all as a business source and how affiliate marketing and internet retail work. With this move by Amazon of notification of their NC affiliates, entire businesses will fail if NCGA pushes forward with this move. And here you thought that they were looking out for the citizens’ best interest…

Search for the rallies online. There are plenty to choose from. Write and call your representatives and tell them that your business is in eminent danger due to these bills. Either way? We have to protect our livelihoods and get those that we have elected into office to hear our cries for help.

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NCGA Unconstitutionally Taxing Scheme Will Hurt Small Businesses

The North Carolina Legislative Building in Ral...
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know what the North Carolina Legislation is doing, but I can tell you that they’ll be hurting small businesses.

Crazy? Not at all. In fact, this morning I had to re-read my email twice and make sure that the email didn’t come from some hoax source trying to just get to respond with my email so they could sell me Cialis or Viagra or something.

This morning, I received an email from Amazon that said:

We regret to inform you that the North Carolina state legislature (the General Assembly) appears ready to enact an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with North Carolina-based Associates.

Hmm. They’re trying to collect taxes from Internet companies… again?!? Come on. It wasn’t but yesterday, I watched how Hong Kong’s civil servants take a voluntarily pay cut to help ease economics and taxes for this year. Yet, here we are in North Carolina, where we’re looking to throw up more laws on things such as taxes on cigarettes, driving mileage, even a text messaging ban while driving to try to make the economics jive. Meanwhile? We are not even enforcing the laws we do have in place such as the tint laws, covers on license plates, and all sorts of other things that could be bringing in revenue for the state.

This isn’t just Amazon mind you. Amazon is only the beginning of the companies that will refuse to do business in this state. There have been others and unfortunately the people that need it the most, the small businesses, are the ones that suffer from this move. Contact your media and state legislation right away. And if your business has anything to do with the Internet, we cannot let things such as this go through.

In the words of Gandalf the Grey, “You Shall Not Pass!”

UPDATE (10:18AM): News & Record’s Mark Binker covers some more details.

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Netflix Customer Service Wows Me Again


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What can I say. Netflixicon continues to wow me with their automated customer service. Now, granted, this could be because I’ve been with them since … well, forever. In any case, it never ceases to amaze me that they just send me extra movies, or gifts (in the form of refunds) because of something that they mishandled or just think that it’s taking too long for the turn-around. In fact, I think this is the first time that their customer service has sent me an extra DVD due to the fact that it would take a bit for it to get here.

Don’t ask me why, but it makes me happy to support a company that actually thinks about the fact that I’m not made of money, and there are little things you can do that can make a person happy with your service. This is one of them. Definitely will have to take a page from their customer service book and apply it in my own accounting software business.

Verizon CSRs Needs Work On Emergency Service

A man passes by a Verizon Wireless store June ...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Verizon seems to have some issues with training their CSRs to respond correctly. Having worked in telecommunications for over a decade, I can say that there are procedures that are enacted in emergency situations that DO NOT require an overdue bill to be paid even though in this situation, unfortunately, it had happened.

In fact, there is specifics to what telecommunications personnel have to abide by when it comes to emergency protocol. Whether or not it’s a CSR training issue or perhaps something that was screwed up in the communications between the emergency personnel and call center, I don’t know. But I found this article to be thrown out there without understanding how the process works.

Unfortunately, my ties with Verizon Wireless from a vendor side has been a long time and they might have changed how it works internally. But it still goes to show that someone out there needs the right training because the procedures are there that overrule any “unpaid bills”.

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