Friday Grab Bag

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Given that its after six on a Friday night and I’m pretty much shot from a very busy week, I’m going to skip my typical longish post and just go with my usual mail-it-in Friday option: the random thoughts grab bag.

  1. One of the questions we’re increasingly being asked in the conversations we’re having around blogging and the business of blogging is around ROI, as in “what’s the ROI of blogging?” To me, this is the wrong question to ask. Setting aside my natural distaste for such exercises, given my experiences in generating ROI/NPV estimations in my SI past that were best described as “projections,” I think the question falsely assumes that blogging will share similar values from industry to industry. While I think the benefits of transparency are generally universal, the implications of blogging for a car dealership from…say…a cancer researcher are likely to be quite different. Rather than try to explain this, however, I now just ask the questioner what they believe the ROI of their email system to be.
  2. Also on the topic of ROI and monetizing content, services etc is the way I’m increasingly viewing customer segmentation. Basically, I believe that any given business will have three types of customers: those that will pay you, those that might pay you, and those that will never pay you. Without over generalizing, I think that far, far too many businesses focus an unnecessary amount of attention on the latter category, when they should be focused a.) on the folks that actually pay them, and b.) moving folks from the second category into the first. Open source seems like a logical expression of this; I was surprised to hear in a few recent calls that some open source firms are still hearing the question how will you make money if it’s free? Open source to me is a business model that recognizes that you can build a business off of the people that will pay you, you can grow it with the people that might pay you, and even the people that will never pay you can help you market.
  3. Someone asked me a few days ago why I thought conversational marketing was so effective, and I used this analogy with them: when you were a kid, do you remember interacting with an adult who spoke to you as if you were a peer, rather than assuming that your age inevitably meant stupidity? I don’t know about you, but I ran across a few of those and they won my respect immediately. Conversational marketing’s the same deal: show me some respect and you’re more likely to win mine in return.
  4. Have you ever noticed how so many vendors act as if they’ve got Senator McCarthy after them so enthusiastic are their avowals of how much they love competition, then turn around and do nothing but try to make competition as difficult as possible? I’ve never quite understood the tech industry’s somewhat curious fascination with such rhetoric, because to me it seems to be nothing but counterproductive. It’s even more curious when you consider that competition, aside from being good for customers, is usually good for vendors as well because it forces them to innovate, to push forward, to not stagnate. I think much of it is fueled by Wall St who demands unceasing and unrelenting growth – always difficult once a certain size is reached – but I think the tech industry in general loves competition a lot less than they profess to. As my colleague wisely put it, “be more competitive by being less competitive.”
  5. While I’ve got nothing but love for United for getting me not only on an earlier flight yesterday but a direct one (bless you folks), I have to say that the flying experience with them is poor to quite poor these days. The leg room is such that a person over six feet such as myself simply has nowhere to put their legs should the person in front of them wish to recline, there’s only shared TV’s showing a single movie (the odds that I’m going to want to watch the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants are slim and none and slim just walked out the door), and the boarding process takes forever because they have so many frequent fliers that board early and clog up the plane. I’m not as against keeping these guys afloat with government subsidies as some people, but it’s easy to see why lower cost carriers like JetBlue are eating their lunch.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’ve got another busy week coming up, spending Tuesday in Raleigh/Durham and Wednesday in Chicago, so I’ll keep you posted on my details here. I’m also planning to be back in Boston on or around the 30th, in California late in October. Busy, we are.

One last note for our Denver readers: I’ll be sending a note to a few of you this weekend proposing a few different dates/times for the long awaited Denver General Tech Meetup. Look for that in your inboxes.

Anyway, enjoy your weekends.


  1. with as much as you've been flying lately, aren't you Premier/Exec yet? That would put you in E+ seats, which are tolerable.

    I've been fairly balanced between AA and UA this year. UA has consistently outperformed AA in my opinion, though I have status on both of 'em. The United Express planes are nicer than the AEagle ones, UA has had food on more flights in first class, and they do seem to be willing to help more than in the past. If only the Premier Exec desk would handle "contract" ticket changes, as AA's Platinum desk does.

  2. hey Ed, no status on United yet b/c i fly them very infrequently. my status on American has lapsed despite several hundred thousand remaining miles, so i'm totally unimportant in the eyes of airlines. i've converted to pretty much JetBlue/Frontier full time now, simply because the conditions are more comfortable.

    as for AA v UA, can't really comment there. i know you've had some good experiences with UA, but to me it's simple: their planes are old, and their configuration is for much shorter seats. they are simply too short for someone over 6 feet tall. AA's "more room throughout coach" has actually paid dividends for me on the occasions when i can't get an extra row seat – but on United i actually can't select an exit row seat b/c those are Economy Plus seats and cost more.

    at the end of the day, it's the legroom that matters most for me. the little things, like food, don't really bother me one way or another.

    the boarding process with both UA and AA now is absurd as well; on my flight out here, fully half the plane was status, so getting everyone on was a nightmare. i'd rather just board normally, by rows, because you end up getting off quicker.

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