Back on the bike

So I turned to my wife around 5:30 today and said, “Let’s go for a bike ride.”

She of course, being the person who rode in the ambulance with me on Memorial Day, 2006, said “NO F$%^&(G WAY!”

So I persisted, pointing out her sad bicycle, gathering dust in the garage. I got her helmet out. Told her she would lead, I would follow. No EPO mind-blowing sprinting, no deathwish maneuvers — she would be on her fat-tired cruiser, and I would be on my Bianchi fixed gear, the Legendary SnotRocket.

I made a wistful face.

She said yes. And off we went, one mile down to the sound, then back, poking into the side streets and down to the harbor at a torrid 6 mph pace. On the last hill, when I saw she was going to dismount and walk it up, I mashed on the pedals, stood in the saddle and cranked to the top like I had last been on a bike yesterday.

The camel’s nose is under the tent. A few more of these and before I know it I’ll be riding a Cervelo Team Soloist.

My iPod, he dead

Nano — purchased the day of the announcement in the spring of 2005. The black sucker that scratched. Totally abused as my primary ergometer tunes device and geek podcaster.

Dead. Not a peep. Time to reinvest in another one. Grrrr. Bad sunspots today. All Churbuckian devices are befukticated. Must be the stupid fast. Keep me away from sharp objects.

Hey Southwest Airlines, knock-knock, anybody home?

A year ago, in a fit of air rage, I blogged about how Southwest Airlines let me down a couple times in Baltimore. Typical blogger rant about bad service, no big deal, right?

Wrong. Southwest never contacted me, and I refuse to follow their caveman rules for not communicating via email, and only during business hours on the phone, or in a written letter. I don’t fly them anymore, can’t recommend them to anyone who asks, but all in all have written them off as a company I don’t really need to do business with.

Here’s where Southwest is screwing up. I lead a team of people who read the blogs and look for expressions of customer sentiment, good or bad, and then try to do something about it. See the post below? The one where I flip out because one of our own products has done me wrong? That’s the sort of post I look for every day.

Well, Southwest, if you are reading this, which I doubt you are, check out the comments on the original post.  51 comments. Some are obvious astroturfs by defensive Southwest employees (yo, Southwest, having your people in Las Vegas pick fights with angry bloggers only makes the situation worse, not better), but a lot are very angry people with lost bags, who hate your seating system, or think your customer service needs to be improved.

I am not waging a war against Southwest. They are what they are: cheap transportation and a bag of 14 peanuts. Nothing more. Nothing less. But, I blogged that post a year ago, on July 12, 2006, and it is still receiving comments from angry passengers today.

Google “Southwest Sucks” — an understandable action on the part of a frustrated customers — and it would appear I have done my job in terms of search engine optimization. My post ranks number three for the words that any marketer dreads:

I’ve considered killing the post simply because I am tired of being reminded of my negative experience everytime some other poor soul shows up here to vent their spleen. I am not hosting an anti-SW blog like the passengers did on Jet Blue after their infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre at JFK. And speaking of Jet Blue, after I blogged to praise them for sending me, proactively, a certificate for something because the in-flight entertainment system failed on a flight (which I was unaware of), I know they read the blog because my server logs told me so.

Southwest, do you have anyone who reads the blogs on your behalf? If so, let’s make a deal. I kill the post if you ask me to. But you have to ask. That’s all. And please ask in email. I don’t accept letters, even if handwritten in your CEO’s blood. And I get to post that you asked. I don’t want a free ticket, lifetime platinum status, a seat in the cockpit, a pedicure. This is, pure and simple, a test of your monitoring capabilities. Give me a sign. Anything. And the original post goes away.

Another Ink-Stained Wretch Makes the Apostasy

Collateral Damage

Constantine von Hoffman, one of the best marketing writers on the planet (CMO Magazine, RIP), a hysterical blogger — see Collateral Damage — and all around fine specimen of the genus journalista frustrata, has hung up the byline and joined Spoke.com as the blogmeister.

His indictment of the trade is sad but telling:

“Being a journalist these days is like playing baseball for the Cubs. Sure sometimes you get a hot streak but you know that no matter how well you do your job you’re playing for an organization that really doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing. I am tired of working at places that are still trying to adjust to the internet era. I’m tired of telling people that paper isn’t the primary means of exchanging information anymore. Print is still an essential and important medium — it’s just not the most important one. You’d think, given the amount of ink and electrons spilled on the topic, that this message would have gotten through. Yet this basic issue is still being debated in many, many corners of my for-now-former profession.”

Congratulations Con!

Democratic design: Yipes Stripes

Design Matters » Blog Archive » Yipes Stripes

David Hill is VP of Design at Lenovo and the company’s first blogger. It’s been a great experience launching the Design Matters blog and getting David’s voice out into the world. Early on David requested a poll so we provided him with one. He quickly learned the best way to earn engagement from his readers was to ask them a question. Do you like wide-screen or 4:3 aspect ration LCDs? Do you use the page-forward/page-back buttons? Earlier this week he posted about an issue that came to our attention in early 2006 when customers complained about the stripes being removed from the front of the two ThinkPad mouse buttons. So David asked (John Bell at Ogilvy’s Digital Influence Mapping project might classify this as an example of customer co-creation) and the crowd replied.

I’ve been long interested in a more formal customer collaboration — something beyond a suggestion box approach — something tangible where the customer could get some true skin in the game. I have looked at Slim Devices as a great case example of how it could be done. The question is what is the right coillaboration infrastructure for getting it done? A straightforward wiki perhaps? Something more iterative, like a threaded bulletin/forum? While David shows the possibilities, I don’t think a WordPress blog with the Democracy plug-in is the solution. There must be something more robust, something used in software development perhaps, or the open source community, which would be easy and sophisticated enough for a layman or a serious human factors engineer to work within.

“Now we are reconsidering this change, perhaps we went too far in simplifying the interior. Although the utility can be argued, the familiarity is also important for a brand so strongly connected to it’s design as ThinkPad.I’d love to get your feedback on this topic. We’ve included a new poll to make this easier.

David Hill”

How to ruin ten days

Go on the “Master Cleanser” lemonade fast and forsake food. This is phase one of a major weight loss program leading up to the CRASH-B sprints in February. I packed on a ton of weight following the bike-crash 14 months ago. Ordinary rowing wasn’t getting it off, and according to my guru and former cycling buddy, Marta, this cleansing fast is a good way to reset one’s approach to food.

So, ten days of lemonade made with fresh lemons, organic grade-b maple syrup, and cayenne pepper … and I am on day 2 …. feeling faint, bitchy. Ought to be a joy. And I’m doing this without a scale — being a believer in feeling fit and getting good numbers on the erg rather than starving myself to some arbitrary weight or Body Mass Index.

Geeking on a Sunday

Migration in progress from my old, EVDO-less X60 ThinkPad to my new X61 tablet. I couldn’t function without the wide area, so rather than invest more dave-hours in a useless migration and configuration I decided to stick with the tablet this time.

The ThinkVantage Technologies System Migration tool worked flawlessly — first time that has ever happened for me in the setup of a new PC — now I am on the IBM ISSI software installed pulling down Lotus Notes and other software essentials. What a nasty, long, drawn-out process. Sometimes I wish I could just pop the trunk and swap the drive, but that isn’t going to work with a tablet. I’d estimate at least eight hours are into this switch over so far.

Greasy calm, greasy luck

The whalers had a term for a ship filled with whale oil — greasy luck — and if you think for a second about the conditions on a fully burdened whaler, a floating platform for rendering or “trying” whale blubber into oil, the smell, the slick deck planks, the lack of showers … you’d consider yourself lucky not to be aboard.
Sailors have a term for calm seas, so calm that the water appear covered with a sheen of oil that flatters the slightest ripple or catspaw — greasy calm. This morning was a greasy calm morning, grey skies, fog, and the prospects of a long tedious race to Popponesset for the annual picnic at the Lloyds, so I skipped it to blog, work through some paperwork, configure a new laptop (legally we are supposed to only refer to them as “notebooks”) and muck around in the garages. Definitely too greasy and too grey a July Saturday to get excited about sailing or the beach, but not foul enough to cocoon in front of the Tour de France individual time trial.

Yesterday’s 1/2-day-burnout-prevention cure worked wonders. It helps that the decision was made to turn off the air conditioning in our North Carolina headquarters at noon on every Friday, in the hope it would drive workaholics out to the golf courses and beaches a little earlier. Some grumble about having to work from home, but yesterday I pulled the plug, fired up the mower, trimmed the grass, and pressed my eldest into sailing the Senior Series with me as crew. There were no regrets about missed mail.
He did pretty good, beating five out of 13 boats and I realized I haven’t lost my touch as far as race starts go, able to now talk someone through the count-down like I was driving a radio controlled boat.