Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Twitter encourages public direct messages

One of the earlier conventions to emerge among Twitter-ers is the use of @username to reply publicly to a particular user.

The folks at Twitter (smart people that they are) noticed this practice very early on, and have made it an official part of the lingo, even going so far as to devote a help page to describe the use of @username.

At least three features have been rolled out to the Twitter web interface (two unveiled only this week) to take advantage of this @username convention, making it obvious that Twitter as a site encourages the use of public direct messages.

These three features are (in order of appearance):

  • the "In Reply To" hyperlink
  • hyperlinked @usernames in tweet texts
  • the Replies tab on the Twitter home page
"In Reply To" Hyperlinks

The "In reply to" hyperlink is well documented in the @username Twitter help page.

Twitter assumes that your @username message is a response to the most recent tweet from a friend, so it provides a handy little hyperlink to your friend's latest tweet at the end of your own message.

In the example below, you can see the hyperlink at the end of the tweet that reads "in reply to JasonCalacanis."



Twitter has noticed that Dave addressed his message to Jason, and provided a link to Jason's most recent tweet for our convenience.

The feature works well for the most part, although I must say I've had some perplexing moments following the "In reply to" link.

Since Twitter does not appear to analyze the text of our messages, there are instances when the "in reply to" link points to the wrong tweet. This mis-linking usually occurs when I reply to Twitter-ers who post frequently or when I've been offline for a while and I'm responding to a much older tweet. By the time my @username message is sent, my friend has already posted newer tweets, and the "in reply to" hyperlink points to the newer (and off-topic) tweet instead.

Hyperlinked @usernames in tweet texts

One of the newer features rolled out this week on the Twitter web interface is the use of hyperlinks in tweets that contain @usernames.

This is also illustrated in the tweet sent by Dave Winer (which I'm including again below for reader convenience). Note how "jasoncalacanis" is hyperlinked in the text of the tweet after the @ sign. Clicking on that link will take you to Jason's Twitter profile page, where you can see his replies.



Replies tab on the Twitter Home Page

The third and perhaps most powerful Twitter web feature that builds on the @username convention is the new Replies Tab that's found on each Twitter user's homepage. This new tab was introduced within the last 24 hours.



On the Replies Tab, you will find all public direct messages addressed to you, conveniently collected in one convenient location.

Folks who have had to rely on Twittersearch, Twitterment, or Twitterverse to find such messages will certainly rejoice once they see this feature. I'm sure Jason Calacanis in particular will be happy, if these two tweets are any indication.

Reducing the Imbalance in Twitter


Within minutes of noticing the Replies Tab, Twitter user Cathleen Rittereiser sent this tweet, which IMHO shows just how powerful this latest feature is:



Her tweet immediately brought to mind my earlier frustration with one-sided conversations in Twitter, as well as Dave Winer's subsequent observation that there is an imbalance in Twitter.

It is immediately apparent that the new Replies Tab significantly reduces this imbalance, since anyone can now pretty much reach a non-follower, provided the latter makes the effort to regularly check their Replies page.

It will be interesting to see what impact this new feature will have on the still-evolving Twitter community and culture.

---

Update: After posting this, I thought of checking the Twitter Blog for news, and unsurprisingly, Biz has updates on the @username feature.

Update 2: I hope the Replies page will soon have its own RSS feed. It would be perfect for people who are not inclined to visit the Twitter website on a regular basis.

Update 3: Replies page now has RSS.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Social Media Podcasting's Rising Tide

If you listen to podcasts that focus on social media, you'll very quickly notice the way podcasters tend to mention (and even endorse) other podcasts that talk about social media and new media topics.

Examples of such podcasters include Bryan Person, C.C. Chapman, Mitch Joel, Joseph Jaffe, and Christopher Penn, just to name a few.

At first, I found this practice rather puzzling. I remember wondering -- why would any podcaster go through the trouble of mentioning these other podcasts, especially since they talk about the same topics? Surely they must realize that all these other podcasts are competing for the limited time and attention of the same group of listeners? It's practically equivalent to advertising for your competitors!

The behavior is so counter-intuitive to what I would expect any self-preserving person would do, so naturally my mind wouldn't let go of the puzzle.

After mulling it over a couple of days, the only explanation I can think of is that people who behave this way are effectively choosing to put the community ahead of themselves. They endorse their peers because they subscribe to the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, i.e., there's a tacit belief that what's good for the podcasting community in general will also be good for each individual podcaster.

I love the very idea of it because it runs counter to crab mentality.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Twittering from Facebook

When Twitter and Facebook announced their new collaboration on the Facebook Apps platform yesterday, my curiosity naturally got the better of me, and I went and signed up for a Facebook account the first chance I got.

[ I know, I know. I'm one of the few people left on the planet who got to it way too late! ]

It didn't take much effort to figure out how to install the Twitter application in my Facebook account since everything was just a matter of clicking on options and following prompts. Before long, I was posting my first Facebook-originating tweet.

While the installation process was easy and painless, I noticed there were times when I needed to force the browser to perform a page refresh for the Twitter App page to load completely. I can't tell at this point whether it's a problem with the site or with my internet connection. Either way, I consider it a minor thing at this point, since a page refresh gets around the problem.

As of this writing, a total of 2,349 other Facebook users have already installed the application (click on the image above right for a better look).

Coming Soon: Better Integration

It appears for the moment that tweets entered from outside of Facebook are not yet automatically reflected in the Facebook Twitter App.

Requests from the user community to add that capability have not gone unheard, so I expect we'll see tighter integration soon.


Since I'm more a Twitter user than a Facebook user (at least for now), I look forward to the day when my tweets are automatically propagated to my Facebook Twitter app (similar to the setup that I have with Jaiku).

It would be even better if my tweets also update my Facebook Status at the same time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another SpeedTest

Wow! SkyDSL's speedtest results are exceeding my expectations today.

I hope they keep the international link this fast. It's a far cry from the state this connection was in just a few days ago.

Quezon City
Download: 733 kbps. Upload: 497 kbps


Singapore
Download: 571 kbps. Upload: 187 kbps


New York
Download: 758 kbps. Upload: 493 kbps


Los Angeles
Download: 746 kbps. Upload: 491 kbps


London
Download: 406 kbps. Upload: 265 kbps

Monday, May 21, 2007

What's in a name?

I've been following Molly E. Holzschlag for a while and was struck by a recent entry on her blog entitled How Private Are You?

I haven't figured out the answer to that question yet, but I'd like to think that privacy isn't dead for me, at least not yet.

* * *

A few months ago, I asked an old acquaintance whether or not he had a blog, and his response was a firm "No," adding that he had been burned early on by being way too public with his life.

Personally, I think it's a shame since he's an interesting chap with thought-provoking insights about tech matters. But I do understand why he's now more careful with his online presence.

* * *

Frankly, I'm content right now to participate in various online conversations in the blogosphere with nothing more than my tacky little M-logo as my avatar.

I may not have a full name publicly linked to that logo, but that little image gives me a consistent identity. That identity in turn allows me to comment and post my thoughts and opinions without worrying about any of it reflecting on my employer or my family. That's a good feeling.

I suppose some folks will contend that blogging this way means I don't own my own words; I'm not enlightened enough to know whether or not that's true. But since I'm blogging for myself right now, I won't lose any sleep over this particular question.

Either way, I'm glad that my real-life friends who know about this blog are kind enough to let me do things this way.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Irene Au on User Experience

Listened to a talk delivered by Irene Au during Adaptive Path's Managing Experience (MX) Week in Feb 2007. I found the 45 minute podcast via IT Conversations.

I wanted to document the insights in a more readily accessible form, so I figured I might as well blog it.

Below are the quotes which really struck me because I think they are actually applicable even in areas outside of user experience management [minutes into the podcast]:

  • On collaboration. We don't want to risk having people operate in functional silos with all these hand-offs, because that's where you might lose the opportunity to innovate. [10:35]
  • On hiring. I often advocate for hiring T-shaped people; people who have deep expertise in one or more areas, but have broad interests and skills in related areas. [10.45]
  • On the "brand" of your team. Do fewer things really well, because ultimately it's the brand of the User Experience team. Do we want to be known as a "shop" where we service requests, or do we want to be known as a really high-end strategic asset to the company? The only way we can really get to the latter is to choose very carefully what kind of projects we engage in. [12:12]
  • On juggling projects and priorities. I do kind of see it as managing a financial portfolio, in that we want a percentage of projects that are near-term, practical, we're launching projects. Another part of the portfolio ought to be infrastructure, central efforts like style guides and design patterns. And another part that's more kinda blue-sky R&D, because it's important for the User Experience team to initiate projects and not just take orders and requests that the engineering or product management organizations are coming up with. [13:48]
  • On communication. Speak the right language to the right people. At Adaptive Path, it was speaking the language of finance to the people who write the checks. At Google, it's speaking the language of engineering: "Imagine a graph with a billion nodes, and you can write algorithms against that..." [17:04, Jeffrey Veen]
  • On meetings. The method or skill that we would all benefit the most from is Meeting Facilitation. If we did nothing but just learn how to better facilitate meetings, we would excel. [26:18, Peter]
  • On centralized vs. decentralized. Early in a company's life, it's better for user experience teams to be centrally organized and managed. The community is smaller than engineering and product management; it's cross-functional and requires expertise and talent from different areas, so it helps to have a centralized group where people can share best practices and communicate, to hone their methods and standards over time, so teams can stop reinventing the wheel and move to higher-end activities. But at the same time, user experience is often most effective when it's integrated with the product teams. You can overcome that when you're a centralized group by matrixing into the product areas, so you can get relationship building with the product teams and have deep expertise within a domain and still have ties back to a user experience community. [27:45]
  • On Google's centralization. Sergei will advocate -- we should be building features and not products. I think this is a reflection of the anti-silo thinking that is advocated there, where it's really not necessarily products that we're building, but it's experiences that are integrated that we should be building. When you have a company that thinks that way, it doesn't necessarily make sense to decentralize the user experience team. [30:58]
  • On creating Yahoo's Style Guide. There are three components to that. (1) Universal look and feel. When we built the style guide, we advocated for building consistency without uniformity. How do you message Yahoo as one company but not necessarily make the products uniform with each other? (2) Design pattern library. This was more around best practices for interaction design so we can stop reinventing the wheel. How many different ways can you invent a way to do pagination or editing a table? Let's come up with the best way and get past that, and if people want to iterate and innovate off of that, we can do that and feed it back into the pattern library. (3) The UI Code Library, which has now become the YUI library, which is available on the Yahoo developer network. It's a way to consistently implement those components, widgets, and modules, so that we can design not only more efficiently, but also create a more coherent experience across the network. [33:41]
  • Styling multiple products. It's important to find the elements that communicate everything as one family, but not necessarily make everything consistent for the sake of being consistent. [44:38]
A quick Google search also led me to Irene Au's Twitter account. Unfortunately, her updates are private.

Updated to add:
Jeffrey Veen also has a transcript of an earlier interview (Feb 2007) with Irene Au on his blog. Turns out he's been working on the new Google Analytics, which I was just checking out earlier today (talk about timing)! Jeff also has a Twitter account, in case you feel like following.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Brand Loyalty, Revisited

I made a list of brands that I love vs. brands that I use but don't love in September 2006.

When I revisited my 8-month old brand list tonight, I was surprised to realize that a few things have changed.

Brands I love

Here's my updated list of favorites:

  • Google. Still #1 on my list. I honestly cannot think of a single day when I'm online and do not use a Google service. What's interesting is that aside from searching, checking my Gmail, and blogging, my use over the past 8 months has expanded to now include reading my feeds, participating in groups, displaying online ads, collaborating on documents, chatting with friends, and monitoring my use of the web. If I were in the least bit paranoid, I'd really be worried about how much information Google has collected about me.
  • Twitter. Following at a very close second is Twitter. I started using the service 8 months ago, and have steadily grown to love it. A day hardly goes by now when I don't post something. Twitter is so firmly entrenched in my life that I feel withdrawal symptoms when it has its occasional hiccups. My loyalty to the brand also makes me more patient when Twitter has problems. By association, TwitBin and TreoTwit are also fairly high up on my list of favorites.
  • Firefox. Now #3 (previously #2) on my list. I'm also thrilled that my online banking sites have redesigned and now support Firefox (which they didn't just 8 short months ago). I now only use Internet Explorer when I am on someone else's computer and they don't have Firefox installed.
  • iPod. A new addition to this list is my iPod Nano especially when used with iTunes. I cannot express enough the enjoyment I derive from listening to a daily stream of podcasts and music, reassured by the thought that I'm no longer wearing out my laptop's hard disk.
  • Highrise. This contact management web application has been particularly helpful over the past couple of months, as the number of new people I meet has grown significantly.
  • 30boxes. Twitter was what got me into 30boxes, but it's their mobile version that keeps me coming back. The mobile version is also the reason why I stopped using Google Calendar.
  • Dictionary.com. Still a favorite. I spend so much time writing every day, so this site is indispensable.
  • Fortune Magazine. Every issue strengthens my attachment to this magazine. I expect to continue being a Fortune subscriber for the foreseeable future.
Brands I use but don't love

There are a lot of other services that I use regularly, but my feelings toward these brands are colored or tempered by other factors.
  • Flickr. I was puzzled to realize tonight that my attachment to Flickr has waned somewhat. This is a real surprise because I used to encourage friends to sign up. I'm an "old skool" user and I've renewed my Flickr pro account a couple of times. Yet my loyalty has waned enough over the past eight months that just earlier this week, I seriously started checking out SmugMug. I attribute this change of heart to two things: (1) Yahoo bought Flickr, which irrationally "taints" the brand somewhat in my eyes; and (2) I have been following SmugMug's Don MacAskill on Twitter and really enjoy his blog posts.
  • LinkedIn. It's an interesting site, but I don't feel particularly compelled to check or update it regularly.
  • Yahoogroups. It's useful, and I am glad it's there, but it's a constant battle to keep groups on track and limit the presence of trolls. Perhaps that has unfairly colored my brand perception.
  • Friendster. Dropping ever lower and lower on my list of sites to visit.
Brands I've since dropped
  • Bloglines. Used to be my favorite RSS reader, but now Google Reader has taken its place.
Sites of interests, which at the moment can still go either way, include: del.icio.us, ma.gnolia, MyBlogLog, Feedburner, Digg, and Technorati.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on NCR #31

Just finished listening to Episode 31 of the New Comm Road podcast, which is hosted by Bryan Person.

The podcast "explores how new media tools are changing communication in business, in the media, and in our everyday lives" -- so naturally I find it interesting. I subscribe to it via iTunes.

In Episode 31, Bryan and guest Doug Haslam discuss a roadmap for Managing a Blogger Relations Campaign, and I agree completely with the five main points in the roadmap.

I also have a few thoughts to tack on, and rather than posting an incredibly long comment on the New Comm Road blog, I figured I might as well write a blog post.

* * *

The first of five points in the roadmap is: Identify the goal(s) of the campaign before you start it.

That statement may seem obvious, but I think it's really worth stating because not everyone begins with the end in mind. What I'd like to add is the notion that we should identify not just the goal(s) of the campaign, but also figure out how we will measure how successful we are in achieving the goal(s).

For example, if the original goal is to "raise awareness," we should take the extra time to think through just what that statement means. How many people have to become aware before we can say we've achieved our goal? How do we measure that awareness? How do we know they became aware because of the campaign?

I know from personal experience that it can be a real struggle to wrestle with a high-level objective and pin it down into something concrete and measurable, but the extra thinking effort is valuable because:

  1. We may realize a need to add metrics collection to our campaign process; or
  2. We may actually come to the realization that we have to change or re-frame our goal because there's no way to realistically measure our progress against it.
The idea is now old and overused, but there's still truth in that old saying that goals should be SMART.

* * *

The second comment that I'd like to make is related to the Tools of the Trade section of the podcast where Doug talked about the sites that he uses in his line of work.

I think it's worth pointing out that aside from using new media tools to look for blogs and bloggers, any blogger relations campaign should also be using new media tools to make it easier for bloggers to talk about the product, item, event, or company.

This point is illustrated perfectly in a recent book review by Tech PR Consultant, Drew Benvie. In his blog post, he says:
Now, I write about PR, so the first thing I noticed was how well the review process had been put together for a social media audience.

I was sent some YouTube footage (the book has its own channel on http://www.youtube.com/lifeisapitch), pics of the book, and shots of the authors. All as links. Very blog friendly! The website for the book's really thorough too, so I had plenty to sift through before the book even arrived.
The key point: when pitching Bloggers, by all means use the new media tools that they already know, to make it easy for them to talk about your product or event or company. There is enough evidence, after all, to suggest that convenience wins.

It also makes you seem more like "one of us" instead of "one of them" when you show yourself to be new media / social media aware, so your pitch will feel a lot less like a cold call.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Crawling

Like Rom yesterday, I'm wondering if there's something wrong with BayanTel's international link today.

My Speedtest results for sites outside the country have been disheartening.

Quezon City
Download: 599 kbps. Upload: 387 kbps


Singapore
Download: 29 kbps. Upload: 69 kbps


New York, USA
Download: 34 kbps. Upload: 136 kbps


San Jose, CA, USA
Download: 93 kbps. Upload: 224 kbps


London, UK
Download: 30 kbps. Upload: 10 kbps

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Firewall

As usual, I am pathetically behind on my movie watching, so it's only tonight that I got to watch Harrison Ford's 2006 movie Firewall on HBO.

If you like Harrison Ford and his movies from the 90s (think Air Force One, The Fugitive, and the Jack Ryan movies) then you will enjoy this one.

What I found even more enjoyable, strangely enough, was surfing the 'net after watching the film and reading the movie reviews of real-world Information Security professionals on CSO Online.com. haha!

Frankly, I didn't even know a website like CSO Online existed, so thanks to this movie, I've found another whole new site to explore. Have now added their podcasts and RSS news feed to my ever-growing list of subscriptions.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Timely

Twitter's recent move to a new SMS provider in the UK appears to have fulfilled one of the items on my Twitter Wishlist. Yayness!

Aside from getting the Australians back into the SMS loop, it appears that incoming SMS messages from Twitter now arrive on my phone with the correct timestamp.

Caveat: It's possible that the SMS timestamp has been correct for some time already and I'm only just now noticing it. Can't say for sure exactly. Either way, I'm thrilled to bits!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Case Closed

I'm pleased beyond words to report that my phone is back up and working! Woohoohoo!

[Note: Unlike my first three entries on this topic, this entry includes a second-hand account since I wasn't at home when the repair was done.]

A service crew from BayanTel arrived on the morning of May 9 (Wed) and in hardly no time at all discovered that one of the PLDT phone cables leading into our house's cable conduit was disconnected. Apparently, that happened by accident when the first crew came to install the DSL line. All they had to do today was reconnect that wire to our conduit and our phone service was restored -- all without affecting the DSL service too.

When I think of how easily the problem was fixed, I can only shake my head and wonder why it had to take 11 days and be so emotionally upsetting for me to get someone out here and fix the darned thing.

I'm also wondering if it will be worth my while to write the head of customer service to tell her about my experience, and enclose links to the related entries on this blog so they can review their customer service setup in light of my experience.

Will they be upset to learn that this story played out in such a public forum? Will they appreciate getting the feedback and re-examine their processes? Or will they not care at all and consider it a waste of time to look into this, now that the case is closed?

It might be worth writing them just to find out what will happen. ;-)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blogging's Raison d'ĂȘtre

Jarrod Trainque, an internet marketing specialist based in Massachusetts, asked an interesting question today on his personal blog:

In a sea of decentralized online services, what should the long-term purpose of a “personal blog” be?
  • Does it end up being a catch-all for anything that doesn’t already have a home elsewhere?
  • Should it function as a “portal,” aggregating other services?
  • Could it be a place for editorial content and longer “essays” (instead of the sometimes typical 1-2 paragraph blog post)?
  • Most importantly, what’ll happen to the future of blogs as specialized online services are introduced?
His question resonates with me because I also maintain a personal blog here, and have no illusions about turning it into a specialized or topic-centric site (although I must admit that I lately talk about Twitter so much that this sometimes feels like a satellite of the Twitter Fan Wiki. Hah!).

My use of specialized sites has not reduced my blogging

Like Jarrod, I also use specialized sites for different things: there's Twitter for random thoughts, Flickr for my photos, and del.icio.us plus Furl for my bookmarks. Google Reader also acts as my link blog.

But despite my almost daily use of all these specialized sites, I've actually been blogging more in the past few months than I ever have before (I created my first blog in 2003).

On the contrary, Twitter makes me think more, so I blog more

I actually think that Twitter has turned me into a more consistent blogger -- an experience that is certainly not shared by everyone. It's my theory that consistent Twitter usage has put me into a more 'meta' state of mind. By this, I mean that instead of just simply 'doing things', I now spend more time 'thinking about what I'm doing.'

Simply put, I'm in a more reflective state of mind these days because using Twitter forces me to stop and think. And when I'm more inclined to reflect, I find more topics to blog about.

It also helps that I blog for myself

I'm firmly on the "blogging for myself" (vs. blogging for my audience) side of the fence. While I appreciate it when people come and read, I'm a lot less interested in site stats, and definitely driven a lot more by the simple satisfaction of verbalizing my thoughts.

Therefore, I don't feel a need to censor myself when it comes to expressing an idea, and I don't worry about whether or not site visitors will be 'turned off' by a sudden change in topic. I just write whatever comes to mind (as my tagline says), and I feel no pressure about making any of this very insightful, life-altering, or illuminating. As long as it satisfies a need for me to express my thoughts, I write. If it means that the wheat-to-chaff ratio on this blog is lower than most, that is something I'm willing to live with.

Personal blogs are online journals

To close, I think personal blogs will continue to exist for as long as the people who write them continue to benefit from the act of writing.

Personal blogging is just one more modern manifestation of the instinctive and basic human need to record our lives, a need that has existed for centuries -- as evidenced by all the paper-based journals that our ancestors have left behind.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Saga Continues

Well, it's official. I'm now royally ticked off at SkyDSL.

I've had no dial tone now for 10 days, thanks to the shoddy installation work of the guys who came and laid cables for my new DSL subscription.

After 4 phone calls and 2 emails from me, they finally sent a SkyDSL technician to my house last Saturday. He agreed that they had messed up and that linemen will be asked to come and check the line, because they had tapped into our PLDT phone cables when they should have just installed new lines to start with.

I made a point of asking him if there's anything I need to do to make sure this happens and he said no since the trouble ticket is still open.

Well, it's been three days since that technician's visit, and nothing has happened. So I was once again forced to call them, which I did just now.

The customer service representative I talked to told me that my trouble ticket is already tagged as Closed on their system, and that according to the notes there, the customer was advised to have an electrician check the wiring.

Man, I lost my temper! I told her that I was the customer, and that the technician they sent didn't tell me any such thing. In fact the technician who came on Saturday even said that the line installers may come the next day to perform the repair.

The CSR tried once again to explain to me that they are only responsible for the DSL and that since the DSL is working fine, they have no problem to solve. She said a different group is in charge of phone-related problems, to which my reply to her was -- this doesn't help me since I don't have a BayanTel phone.

Bottomline, I have fallen through the large gaping crack that's in their customer service setup. SkyDSL subscribers with working DSL service but screwed-up non-BayanTel phone lines have no one to turn to. I am literally in no man's land.

Thoroughly exasperated, I told the CSR that if she can't help me, she should at least give me the name and number of someone I can call to get this fixed. She put me on hold for a moment to consult someone, then came back saying she would create a new trouble ticket, with "special instructions" indicating that the drop line should be checked and that a new cable should be installed. She assured me that the service crew would arrive tomorrow.

All throughout, my confidence in the customer service process has really been eroded.

If this still doesn't work out, I think I will be forced to cancel my SkyDSL within the 14-day grace period and get my full refund, because I don't want them to make a single cent from me if this is the service that I can expect from them in the future.

* * *

Stepping back from the situation a little, I think it's a real shame that the BayanTel customer service representatives are so focused on triage that they don't actually listen to what you're saying anymore.

Here I am, using their company's service for the first time, and yet they don't go out of their way to give me stellar customer support, when they should know full well that this is one of the areas where they can truly distinguish themselves from PLDT.

Heck, that's the reason why I didn't even bother applying for PLDT's DSL service even though I already have a PLDT phone line -- most of the online forums and blogs that I read during my search for a new ISP have raved about the great customer service at BayanTel as loudly as they complain about the poor customer service of PLDT.

If it were not for that feedback, I would have just applied for a PLDT MyDSL account straight away, especially since the installation fee would be cheaper. As it is, I shelled out an additional P1999 just to have this BayanTel line installed, so having them screw up the installation when I paid good money for them to do it just really gets my goat.

I'm a brand-new customer who still has the option to walk away with my money back. It's at this critical time that you really want to keep the customer happy. Why is that not obvious enough to them?

Updated: See also Case Closed.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Try TwitBin

Just installed TwitBin on my home PC.

It's a Firefox extension that adds a narrow panel on the left side of your browser so you can view and post messages to Twitter.



I've only had limited use of the extension for now, so my feedback is probably way too superficial at this point. But here goes:

Last Updated: May 8, 2007 at 9.10pm

Stuff I Liked

  • User name and Password. I especially like the fact that TwitBin doesn't store your user id or password on their own servers (or, at least I think they don't).
  • Shortened Links. I really appreciate the abbreviated links. They make for a much better use of space.
  • Adjustable Width. I like keeping the TwitBin panel really narrow, so I'm glad I had the option to adjust the width.
  • Character Countdown. TwitBin now has a character countdown so you know when you're almost at 140 characters. It also stops you from entering more characters when you've hit 140, so there's no danger of going over [added May 8]
  • Open in new Tab. I'm so used to right-clicking on links and opening them as new tabs on my current browser window. I'd like to be able to do that in TwitBin too. The updated TwitBin opens links only in the active tab in Firefox v2.0. Not exactly a new tab, but this is a good step in the right direction. [added May 8]
Stuff I'd Like to See
  • Position Preference. I'd actually prefer having TwitBin run down the right side of my browser window, instead of the left. I consider the left side "prime real estate" and would rather reserve that for whatever site I'm visiting.
  • Image Suppression. I'd like an option that lets me completely suppress the display of avatars. Considering the limited (narrow) space, and the fact that avatar sizes are scaled down anyway in TwitBin, I'd rather use all that space for tweets.
  • Direct Messages. I'd like to view direct messages, or at least get a notification that a new direct message has come in.
Overall, I definitely like. Kudos to the folks at infinimedia for coming up with this baby.

* * *

Addendum: If you're like me, you may have some trouble figuring out how to launch TwitBin for the first time, after you install the extension and restart Firefox.



You'll find that a new TwitBin icon has been added to your Firefox Navigation toolbar, inserted discreetly just before the URL field. Clicking on the icon toggles the TwitBin extension on and off.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Busted Phone Line: Update

The background story for this entry is here.

The gist: I lost the dial tone on one of my phone lines on Apr 28, when my DSL provider came to install cables for my new DSL subscription. DSL was up and running by Apr 29, but as of this entry, my phone service has not yet been restored.

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My first two phone calls to the SkyDSL customer service hotline (411-2000) on the morning and the afternoon of April 29 were met with noncommittal responses ("we'll make a note of it, ma'am") from the customer service representatives. As a brand-new SkyDSL customer, though, I was willing to take their word at face value and wait for a resolution.

However, when days passed and there was no indication that the problem would be fixed, I called the CS hotline again around 1:00am on May 2.

This time, the customer service representative I spoke to (Darwin) understood me right away when I explained the situation, and agreed that it was likely the fault of the installation guys that my phone line no longer works.

He advised me to write a letter of complaint via email and address it to [csdip AT bayantel DOT com.ph], making sure to include an explanation of the work that the installation guys did. Half an hour later, I sent the email as instructed.

By close of business on May 3, I had not yet received a reply, so I forwarded a copy of the original email again to the same email address.

When no email reply came by 5.30pm on May 4, I called the hotline again to follow up. Although it was a bit frustrating, I explained the situation all over again to the CSR (her name was Arlene), including all the calls that I had made, as well as the email that I had sent to CSDIP two days earlier.

Arlene put me on hold and checked with the folks at CSDIP. After a few minutes, she came back on the line to tell me that she will be creating a trouble ticket for my problem, so that a technician can come to my house to troubleshoot. She gave me the trouble ticket number over the phone, so I can refer to it in future communications.

I tell ya... for the first time since this problem came up 6 days ago, I finally felt that someone was actually listening to me. I immediately felt better because at least there was hope that my problem would be fixed.

When I got home from work a few hours later, I did my routine e-mail check and found a reply from CSDIP.

They said the magic words as far as I'm concerned: "We apologize for the delayed response" and "Thank you very much for bearing with us." By golly, I really appreciated that too.

So while this story does not yet have a happy ending, I must say (from the point of view of a customer) that Arlene has helped to restore my confidence in BayanTel's customer service. The apologetic tone in the email from CSDIP's Marlo Austria coming a few hours later was icing on the cake.

Together, they helped move me from "disgruntled customer" to "patient customer".

Now all that needs to be done to make me a "happy customer" is to have someone actually show up at my house to restore my phone service.

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See also: The Saga Continues

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Smart Mobile Eye

Interesting use of 3G technology from Smart: Smart Mobile Eye.

A new and innovative video call in 3G device that functions as a security camera. It allows you to keep an eye on just about anything from anywhere. It's so easy to use! No need for special wiring or installation, now everything you hold valuable is just a video call away! Simply video call the Mobile Eye to see, hear and even communicate with loved ones from the other end.
Wonder how many people will sign up within the first six months.