Tag - fail

Very odd: Outlook @ Facebook

Occasionally when I’m writing a story for VentureBeat, I’ll email Facebook PR, asking them for comment. Today when I did so, I got a bit of a surprise.

You always get the automated email first:

The real answer will come later, when a Facebook PR rep has a chance to look at your question, and decides if it’s worthy of response.

For some odd reason, I decided to click on the NewsRoom link you can see above. This is always a waste of time, because nothing really new is up there – certainly not a statement about anything that is current, topical, and just happening now.

But I clicked, and oddly enough, this is where I came to:

Not the newsroom, that’s for sure. This is a log-in page for the Outlook web app for Microsoft Exchange. And note: thefacebook.com.

Very, very odd!

Getting MobileMe errors on your Mac? Complete your move to iCloud – here's how

I’ve been getting odd errors in iPhoto lately – MobileMe alerts saying they didn’t recognize my password. Something like: “MobileMe didn’t recognize the stored password for …”

That’s fairly odd, since I’ve been using Apple’s new iCloud service for months, and haven’t knowingly used any part of the old MobileMe service for months, if not years. Finally I got annoyed enough to check it out (it usually takes more than a few alerts to stir me up enough to do something about it) and fix the situation. If you’re getting similar warnings, here’s what to do …

Complete your move to iCloud
You probably are already using iCloud, but you may not have completed the move. That’s because there’s still a MobileMe preference pan in your System Preferences (who knew) that may still be active. Or, at least be trying to be active:

MobileMe is deprecated (fancy for cancelled) so that’s the cause of your errors. But that handy little Move to iCloud button at the bottom of the screen is your savior. Click that, and you’re solving your problem.

Now you’re cooking with gas
When you click that button, you’re going to be taken to an online interface to move all your MobileMe data over to iCloud. If you’re like me and barely used MobileMe for anything at all, it’s a fast and simple process.

When finished, you’ll see something like this:

Sign in (and check “keep me signed in” if you wish) and you’re all set. Cloudy goodishness is yours for free (well at least 5 gigabytes of it).

Simple, easy, and no more Mobile Me error messages!

Massive Google local search fail

When you’re searching on a mobile device, and you enter the letters B-A-R, you are probably not looking for the Bureau of Automotive Repair in California. You are even less likely to be searching for the meaning and significance of bars on Wikipedia:

Most likely, you’re looking for a place to meet some people, grab a drink, have a snack, watch a game.

Google should know that …

Skype & iPhone: pls get along

[ updated with a solution below ]

The iPhone is great in most areas, but notifications is conspicuously not one of them. It’s one of the things Apple’s trying to fix in iOS5.

This is not particularly useful, especially when you have multiple apps trying to get your attention:

But what’s worse is when I have all notifications turned off … and Skype is STILL sending me notifications ….

And maybe even worse is when Skype doesn’t even show up in the list of apps that can send or not send notifications, which you see when you turn notifications on, and customize settings per app:

Not very impressive!


It got fairly annoying … 28 and more notifications …

Eventually I solved it by just logging out of Skype. Problem solved.

But it sucks if you’re Skype … your communication software is so annoying that someone has to get out of it just to stop it from taking over their mobile device.

Google Maps thinks Oregon is in the midwest

My wife and I are planning a road trip. We’re gonna head south from Vancouver, hit Seattle, Portland, and Crater Lake. Then we’ll go to San Francisco and finally Yosemite.

This is a LOT easier than it used to be, given online tools like Google Maps, Kayak, Travelocity, and TripAdvisor. But not when they don’t work.

Google Maps has had some serious issues over the past week.

First, it has the odd idea that Lincoln City, Oregon, is actually Lincoln, Nebraska:

Then Google Maps is quite sure that Seaside, Oregon, is South Dakota:

It takes some real skill to do this. Even more impressive, on the weekend Google Maps told us that Portland was on the east coast of the US. Transporting an entire city across the width of a continent may seem like a major feat, but Google never broke a sweat. Unfortunately, I didn’t immortalize that creative mapping in a screenshot.

We actually had to – can you believe it – use MapQuest.

Wow, how 1997.

Twitter: the details matter

What makes an amazing product amazing?

Usually, there’s a few significant things it does really well. And just as usually, amazing products have amazing finish: there are few if any rough edges.

So while it’s good news that Jack Dorsey is back at Twitter, supposedly running product full-time … he’s got a lot to do.

Incredibly simple, trivial, and obvious case in point:

How hard can it be to see if only one person has re-tweeted, versus multiple people? And to have the right spelling/grammar in either case?

That’s right – not hard.

But it does take one thing: attention to detail.

Twitter: how to fix the Quick Bar

The Twitter Quick Bar, as seen in Marco Arment's post.

Like any other company, Twitter wants to make money. Like most other companies that live off user-generated content, advertising is one of the methods they’re working on.

The Twitter Quick Bar is an attempt to insert an ad stream into users’ tweet streams. Unfortunately, it’s a massive fail – check out Marco Arment’s blog for an excellent overview and explanation.

It’s all about context
The problem is not that users are angry about advertising (or, at least, that isn’t the main problem). The problem is the complete lack of context. And that’s a problem due to the inherent nature of Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate in contextual media. You follow people with interests you care about. When they tweet – presumably about things you care about – you get messages that you want and expect to see.

Disastrously decontextualized
The Quick Bar is decontextualized. It’s about something that someone else cares about … someone who has paid a stack of dollars to Twitter to shove under your nose. As such, it’s the opposite of permission marketing. To use Seth Godin’s language, it’s interruption marketing.

The Twitter Quick Bar is the Charlie Sheen of UI design. A catastrophic meltdown no one saw coming.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

(This is clueless and tone-deaf for Twitter … a company that should get this stuff. One can only assume that co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure from an active, day-to-day role in the company has had a negative effect.)

But easy to fix
The simple solution for Twitter: segment your users by interest and attention. Then, instead of selling advertisers a shotgun of promoted tweets or hashtags, sell a sniper rifle of specific interests.

Now, your promoted tweets and hashtags are more relevant to your users.

And now, your users are less upset.

Simple, no?

(But maybe not quite as easy.)

Credible backstory: a pre-requisite for marketing

Never start marketing without a credible backstory.

By which I mean: you can’t sell your product to me without selling yourself to me … and you can’t sell yourself to anyone if you don’t have your ducks in a row.

Case in point:

I was just followed by “weightcoachlisa” on Twitter.

This is a marketing occasion. By following me, she’s has created an outbound message to me, announcing her existence and the fact that she’s following me. This creates an opportunity (for her) to be considered (by me) as a candidate for mutual friending. In other words, will I follow weightcoachlisa?

To make that call, I first check out her profile.

  • A decent number of tweets … so not a complete newbie
  • Lots of followers … might be worthwhile
  • Lots of following, in fact more than followers … so probably an aggressive follower, a social media climber, and maybe not worthwhile
  • Tweets are all quotes … this is an automated account, possibly
  • Nice profile pic … looks good, but could it be a fake? Is it too good?

Some good, some bad. The backstory’s not good enough yet for me to follow. But there is a link to a website. Checking out the website might give me more information … if it’s a good website with a decent amount of content … fine, I’ll probably follow her.

Unfortunately, this is what you come to:

This is not a good thing …

  • Lots of errors
  • Only 3 pieces of content
  • No real and apparent link to the supposed person behind “weightcoachlisa”

Conclusion: this is a fake spam account, and I’ll ignore the follow.

Note: I might be wrong. It might be a real account, and there might be a real person behind “weightcoachlisa.” And it might be the case that by not following her I’m missing out on some good tips.

But the backstory sucks. And therefore it’s not credible. And therefore the risk is higher than the reward.


. . .
. . .

By the way, this is me on Twitter. Is my backstory credible?

Google Maps: massive mini-map usability fail

You’ve see the mini-maps on a thousand websites, right? The one on the corporate website that’s going to give you a clue where the offices are?

Like this:

This is great, helpful and good … it gives you a sense of where the business is, it doesn’t intrude too much into the page, it looks neat, tidy, and modern.

The problem?

When you actually decide you want to go there – and you need to see some more detail – where do you click to get a big map? It’s not clear … although the terms of use and how to report a problem are fairly obvious.

In fact, you have to click in this little tiny rectangle:

No, not on the Google logo, which would make some degree of sense. Not in any drop-down menu (although that may be coming at some point). Nor just a single click on the map itself.

Rather, a click on the tiny “powered by” link.

Fairly non-obvious, I would think.

How NOT to do an email newsletter

If you’re currently sending email newsletters to a list of subscribers, or considering doing so, there are plenty of resources out there offering great tips on how to do it well, such as this excellent guide.

Here’s a real basic tip … don’t make it look like this:

I’m in the software business, and a lot of our focus is educational technology (not incidentally, that’s where my masters is, too). Since I need to keep up on edtech news, as well as general education news, I subscribe to a number of email newsletters, including this one from EducationNews.org.

But few are as badly designed as this one.

The colors are uninspiring, even muddy. The titles (which also serve as links) are anything but highlighted – they’re lowlighted. And the blurbs about each article are obviously automated – often serving as very unreliable clues as to the actual content and worth of the article.

The result is no shock: I click on links from this newsletter least of any that I get … and I probably won’t be subscribed to this one much longer.

WestJet: Massive customer service fail

WestJet is having HUGE issues right now with a reservations system conversion … which means that it has been extremely hard to book a flight with them for at least 3 days.

I just posted this to their customer feedback form:

  1. I cannot book online because I’m doing a round-trip to Calgary on the same day, and the site does not give me options to leave from Abbotsford in the AM and return from CGY in the PM.
  2. I had to make separate 1-way reservations to do the above.
  3. I have to re-login every other page.
  4. The site said it would cancel my reservation if I did not call in within 1 hour – I guess you’re having some issues. I spent over an hour on hold yesterday trying to call in. No answer!
  5. This morning I’m calling – on hold now for 15 minutes. No telling me how many are on hold, how many agents, what order I’m in, or anything like that. Horrible user experience!
  6. And, on your site, my reservations now say “canceled.”

To put it mildly, I am not a happy camper. This is a textbook lesson in how NOT to serve clients.

For the flights I’m trying to book, WestJet is the most convenient. But too much more of this and the convenience of the flights will be vastly outweighed by the inconvenience of doing business with a company that can’t book business!

How to fail fast on Twitter: an easy-to-follow one-step recipe!

At last … the information you’ve always wanted: how to get un-followed on Twitter.

If you use Twitter, you’re familiar with the following scenario: someone follows you, and you find out via email, or some other software you’re using for the purpose (unless you’re automating Twitter, which is usually a bad thing in itself, but we’ll deal with that another day).

You take a look at the user’s stats, and if he or she has a decent number of tweets in relation to following and following numbers, you consider following back. You also check to see if the user is following way more people than are following him or her … because that’s usually a sign of someone trying to game Twitter to develop a big megaphone without putting any significant energy into earning that megaphone.

Sometimes when you’ve done this step, and even noticed that the user’s tweets are potentially of interest to you, you notice something else. Like this, for example:


I followed this user, then read a few more of his tweets. Lo and behold … multiple repeat Tweets.

This is a sign of a user with one or more problems:

  • Boring
    This person does not have a lot to say … but like the boring person at the party that you can’t detach yourself from, insists on saying it over and over.

  • Lazy
    This person probably actually has a lot to say, but is too busy or otherwise occupied to put appropriate attention on Twitter. So she is putting her account on autopilot and just repeating the same thing over and over again without the bother of having to think up (or experience) new things to communicate. This is the broken record (remember those round spinning black things) that keeps on keeps on keeps on keeps on …

  • Forgetful
    This person just says the same thing over and over again … like the old sales guy who has chatted up (sorry, networked) so promiscuously and with so little emotional investment that he forgets who he has told his stories to, and keeps repeating the sames ones to you every time you meet.

  • Rude
    This person doesn’t care about the signal to noise ratio, and doesn’t care what any one individual might think of his or her behavior. It’s all about the mass to this person, and to get to mass attention, they’re repeating everything twice or a hundred times, like old-fashioned advertising spewing out mindlessly and repetitively to an essentially unknown audience.

As soon as I saw all the repeat tweets, I un-followed this user. The funny thing here is that I’m actually interested in some of the topics he’s covering. But his behavior smells like spam.

Moral of the story? Old methods may not work in new media.

#Fail: why social media marketing campaigns fail

I’ve previously posted on how to measure the success (or failure) of a social media marketing campaign. But why do social media campaigns fail?

This is an apocryphal quote – and I can’t find the source – but I’ve heard Alexandra Samuel talk about the default state of a social media marketing campaign being “fail” … mostly because it ain’t easy.

But why?

I recently read a great list by Darren Houle at Communicopia. In brief, he lists 5 reasons for social media marketing failure:

  1. Lack of organizational buy-in to company culture
  2. Lack of organizational tie-in to company goals
  3. Short-term objectives
  4. Lack of planning for the inevitable sticky situations that will arise
  5. Quitting after the first failure … “we tried that, it didn’t work”

The reality is the same one facing those who want to get rich quick, become famous quick, become an instant expert, or go from 90-pound weakling to 240-pound Schwarzenegger: it does occasionally happen, but only fools plan on it.

Social media marketing campaigns that are successful over the long term arise out of a company culture, mission, and vision that is conducive to openness, creativity, responsiveness, humor, and change. This takes time. This takes effort. It’s not as easy has hiring an SEO firm and writing a check.

The biggest clue
Successful social media marketing campaigns aren’t campaigns at all. What do I mean?

I’m simply saying that they’re not episodic, they’re not short-term, and they’re not something that you can pick and one day and throw away another day … like a magazine ad or a TV spot.

Successful social media marketing, like all great marketing, tells a story that draws in an authentic way on the larger, longer story of a company or organization. It’s a chapter in a book, an act in a play. There was one before, there’ll be one after.

The biggest question – as in all marketing – becomes: is your organization’s story worth listening to?