• Categories

  • Wayback Machine

  • My Defunct Podcast

    The Bungee Line was an audio podcast for web developers, covering web API's, software development, and the creation of richly interactive web applications.

    podcast feed  Main Feed

My Republican Debate Rundown


  • Romney – Oh, snore!
  • Bachman – Crazy.
  • Paul – What’s this “Constitution” thing he keeps harping on about, and why does he think it’s relevant?
  • Cain – If was running under “Herman”…
  • Gingrich – 1994…only now his head seems bigger.
  • Parry – See Bachman, subtract scientific literacy. (Yes, he’s in deficit…and I’d like to buy a vowel.)
  • Huntsman – Inviable. As he steadily earns my respect, his chances diminish.
  • Santorum – Ew! Why, Google? Why?!

 

Hey, Sealy: You Suck!


You know that old line of jokes about The Mattress Police, the people who check whether a mattress still has its law tags attached? If you live in the U.S., then you probably do. After all, it was a joke in the 1985 movie Fletch, an author uses it for his registered domain name, and there are t-shirts,  a punk band, and countless other links riffing on the concept. The whole joke is based on the absurd notion that someone checks such an obscure thing. Of course, the tags also state that the tags can be removed by the consumer, so it’s just a joke. Right?

Not according to Sealy. They use those tags as a way to weasel out of their warranty. Wow. Sealy just screwed me out of $1000+.

In Spring of 2007, I bought a California King Sealy mattress. The mattress has turned out to be an epic fail. Within 3 years it began to cave in, and now it has sunken in deep enough to cause me a lot of back pain. However, Sealy will not honor their 10 year warranty because I removed the “law tags.”

Although the warranty states that you must have these, the tags merely state that they may only be removed by the consumer. They don’t mention that removing the tags can void your warranty. Talk about your fine-print technicality.

Sealy uses cheap technicalities to get out of serving customers. That really sucks, Sealy. You suck, Sealy.

I post this rant because I hope that some small number of people will see this and avoid Sealy when purchasing a Sealy sleep set.

I’ll take it down should Sealy ever decide that their brand matters enough to honor the warranty that helped their authorized retailer sell me their shoddy Shy Blossom mattress.

Other Suckful Rants on Sealy

A Different View of Iran. Thanks, NPR


I have never considered blogging about something I heard on National Public Radio. However, it affected me today in a way that warrants comment.

Just before arriving to work, NPR aired a story about Iranian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian. My respect to the journalists and editors who assembled the piece. In a very short piece, they shared not only Shajarian’s wonderful voice but insight into the heart of the Iranian people. It broadened my perspective.

Is this the liberal media that Fox News warns us as destroying our country?

Some Contact Juggling


It’s been a while since I did an update. I read Gordon Bell’s Total Recall last weekend. It motivated me to start organizing my media. That unearthed a video of me juggling at the Park Silly Sunday Market. Here it is.

Foursquare & Gowalla: Heralding The Age of Ubiquitous Loyalty?


Two habit-forming, game-like mobile apps are competing to gain user base. Their names are Foursquare and Gowalla. Each has fairly similar “game play” involving GPS-related check-ins at points-of-interest–bars, restaurants, parks, plazas and so forth, most of which were originally entered by the users. By checking into a site, friends with whom you have connected can see where you have checked in and come join you.

So, big deal, you might say, yet another “social” application. Yes, at first blush, these apps may seem trivial, even pointless. I assure you, they are not. These apps reveal a lucrative future, and one or both may strike start-up gold.

Welcome to Carmel, Mr. Eastwood
Both apps involve jacking into the brain’s psychological payout hooks: rewards, achievements, status–the very same hooks so expertly employed by computer game creators to make gameplay as addictive as possible. Level up, baby. You’re getting somewhere.

But of the two apps, Foursquare was first to establish special status for being the most frequent visitor to a site. That person becomes established as the “Mayor” for that site. The name is dumb, but the concept is golden.

A few savvy restaurants and bars picked up on this status and started offering discounts to whomever currently holds the mayorship. In other words, Foursquare has stumbled into a simple loyalty program that pits customer against customer.

Prediction: Very soon, Gowalla will introduce something similar to Foursquare’s “Mayor” status recognition (maybe with a better name).

Hey, Make Me Feel Special
Over ten years ago, savant marketer Seth Godin delivered a manifesto. Permission Marketing explained how the Internet was permanently changing how businesses market to their constituents. Highlighting the intersection of frequent flyer-style points programs, video game achievement levels, and quid pro quo relationships between customers and companies, Godin declared the imminent diminish or demise of “interruption marketing.” The future of marketing was about membership, exclusivity, recognition, and personal connection between companies and their constituents.

Huge, specialized companies like airlines can establish rewards programs or communities and recognize their MVP’s. But many businesses struggle to create similar programs that are adequate. It’s an old saw that regulars are the mainstay of restaurants and many retail business types. But how do you acquire them? How do you keep them? Points programs are tough to create, manage and run. Their implementation is out of reach. The costs are too high. The nuances require too much attention. And for consumers, how many bar-coded loyalty cards do you really want to carry?

That means that there is opportunity for innovation. Bigtime.

Prediction: Either Gowalla or Foursquare will introduce an “Owner’s Circle” concept, allowing businesses to claim their sites, and then to recognize not simply “the mayor,” but top tens or hundreds of customers with special favors for their loyalty. This will be how Foursquare/Gowalla suddenly become economically relevant.

The Last Foot
The term “last foot” comes from NAVTEQ’s Marc Naddel, who I met during my time at Alcatel-Lucent. GPS solves what NAVTEQ calls the “last mile” problem. You know someone was close. But GPS is imprecise. How do you know that someone who checked into a location didn’t simply claim they were there, when they merely walked by? Especially since GPS is pretty much useless indoors.

This is where Foursquare or Gowalla will need to go beyond GPS. Bar codes may be a solid way to get the job done. A phone can display a bar code, and many businesses have bar code readers. But Near-field Communication (NFC),  a passive RFID technology currently available in a very limited number of mobile phones, would be much  better. NFC works at a range from 4 to 10 centimeters, so it can be used to verify not just that you were close, but that you were really there.

Prediction: Loyalty programs will drive adoption of NFC technology in the United States. First in the form of too many NFC loyalty cards, but soon after, they will converge one ID card, which will swiftly get replaced by NFC in mobile phones.

Bridging the Interim Gap

USB NFC Reader

Low cost NFC readers like this one work with NFC phones and passive RFID tags.

If a company like Gowalla or Foursquare made a play into loyalty programs, they could consolidate the proliferation of numerous bar-code loyalty cards into a single Foursquare or Gowalla NFC card.  This would accommodate the interim from multiple loyalty cards to using your NFC-equipped mobile phones (which are too few today). With USB readers available for under $40, NFC is low-enough cost for even the smallest companies to adopt if they want to run a simple loyalty program. The only shortcoming right now is that no one is considering the tiniest businesses as a prime target.

Prediction: Even if it’s not NFC, it will be among the small business space–retailers and restaurants–that a democratization of loyalty programs will come about–because small companies want a solution, and won’t care so much that they don’t “own” the identities.

Conclusion
Gowalla and Foursquare are not piddly little social apps. They’re seeming simplicity belies a sophisticated understanding of software psychology, which will reveal itself rapidly–quite possibly faster than most observers can follow. At least one of these companies will prevail through loyalty–helping location-based businesses better connect to their customers. When that happens, demand will rapidly push sophistication beyond the constraints of GPS. Finally, the businesses who jump into this will prevail over those that don’t, or those that do but use it poorly (such as for spamming).

Related Reading

Microsoft: Still Breathtakingly Evil (a rant)


Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.
— A. Guthrie

With the age of the netbook upon us, I can finally retire Heidi’s decrepit Dell laptop and get her a system that works perfectly for her needs. I found a sweet little Lenovo S10-2 that met her top requirements perfectly: It’s pink, and it has cute little flowers on it.

Knowing that I will be the person to support it, I read the spec carefully. Everything looks to be in order, but it comes with Windows 7 “Starter” thing. Uh oh. I’ve seen ominous naming like this before.

But how bad could Microsoft be? Surely in this age of increasing Linux love (Ubuntu Netbook Remix!) and Apple’s rapidly approaching eclipse of Microsoft’s market cap, pressure from above and below has squeezed the folks in Redmond enough to understand that how they do business has its costs, right? Nope.

SindowsOn Amazon, reviewers of this netbook reveal that some evil genius at Microsoft crippled this “Starter” edition. You can’t even change the wallpaper. Further research revealed Starter to have a numerous other You-Can’ts. They apparently changed the original idiotic 3-app-limit, an idea for which its originator should be publicly cannibalized.

Surely, they limited the OS to economize on disk space, right? Nope. They have this “Windows Anytime Upgrade” thing that allows you to instantly unlock all the capabilities that don’t work in starter. The bits are all there on your disk…you just can’t use them! Microsoft’s entire fat ass operating system is using up disk space so that they can sell you stuff, and that stuff is standard capabilities we expect from a computer operating system.

Where have we seen such temerity before? Credit card companies, who bury their terms and conditions deep in multiple pages of fine print, knowing that most people won’t read the fine print, and have little hope of understanding it. Mobile carrier, that refused to provide us with a simple display to show you how many minutes remaining each month. Or, Internet providers re-defining “unlimited” bandwidth as, well, limited.

Is comparing Microsoft to industries that have instilled self doubt in Satan himself (“Maybe I’m just not that good at this Prince of Darkness stuff,” he says, sweeping one of his scarlet hooves across the floor) perhaps going to far? Nope.

GoGo the No-Go: Chasing the Margins of the Wired World


SpectrumDNA’s CEO Jim Bannister, a local to Park City, wrote this weekend about GoGo’s craptastic in-flight Internet service. I started a reply on his blog post, then chose to post here instead:

Jim:

GoGo indeed seems to cling to a vestigial 90’s ISP business model, but there also seems to be a predatory element to them. GoGo’s ilk creep into telecosmic margins and attempt to wring out as much money as they can before they get eschewed by rising connectivity expectations and price commoditization. Then off they ooze to the next frontier where the wired business traveler still might encounter no-Net desperation.

Airports are now falling fast. Salt Lake International Airport finally provides free Wi-Fi–a big relief from BoingBoing (another WordWord ISP). Who knows what drove the switch, but it is definitely better for business travelers. Perhaps this is why Singapore started offering free wi-fi about 10 years ago (for your passport, they even lent out wi-fi PC-card adapters). As it gets easier to send that last-minute email from the airport, the plane is the new frontier, and sometimes may seem worth $12.95/shot, shoddy though it may be.

History shows us that these high-price leaders may even make their ouster inevitable. Hotel rooms, once charging as much as $25/day, are no longer a happy hunting ground for these businesses. More and more, chains are including Internet rather than tacking it on as an extra. Travelers like me factor this cost into selecting a room.

As with big banks, creditors, and mobile carriers, people begrudge these ISP’s for their bleed-’em-when-there’s-no-other-option overcharging, and their poor service. Not a single tear gets shed when the site of their latest exploits dries up. Soon enough, big airlines will differentiate their service with Wi-Fi as part of their frequent flyer programs, and gone goes the GoGo.

–Ted