Sunday, January 31, 2010

Clever Marketing for

CBS announced that it was rejecting an ad from that was to be shown on Superbowl Sunday.

I have no opinion if CBS is actually being discriminatory here.  Their excuse is that they are unsure if the company, who I have never heard of before, could actually pay for the 30 second spot which runs for about $2.5 million. This sounds somewhat fishy to me because it seems the owner of is willing to pay cash for the ad.  The wording on the rejection is

"CBS Standards and Practices has reviewed your proposed Super Bowl ad and concluded that the creative is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday,”

Now I've watched the ad.  It really is not that bad so long as you are comfortable with two men kissing which I suppose many people are not.  But seriously, I've seen WAY worse ads featuring heterosexual couples so I find CBS' flimsy excuse pretty bad.  Why not just come out and say, "We don't want to show two homosexual men kissing."  At least they would be being upfront and honest about the whole situation.

But that's not what I'm actually here to write about.  The one winner in this I can assure you is  Seriously, they are getting a ton of free publicity and it is all very positive.   I've been on several sites and there is a lot being written about CBS' rejection.  At the end of it, will probably get more press for their rejection than they would if they had actually been able to run the ad.  And they won't pay a dime!

I'm not saying that did this on purpose but it probably could not worked out better for them.   That actually would be  pretty interesting tactic.  Just make a commercial so racy that it does get rejected.  People are just too curious and in this day and age they will go out of their way to find the commercial online.  I'm pretty sure it is something that Godaddy has been trying and I'm surprised  more companies don't try this.

Karma is a Bitch

When I was at Microsoft, I worked on the billing system for my product.  This was mostly an integration effort with another Microsoft team that specialized in payments.   One of things that I worked on was trying to resolve a lot of the problems that our customers had with giving us money.  For a myriad of reasons, we did not make it very easy for people to hand money to us.  Many of these problems were not ours but that of our partners.  You would think that something as simple as handing someone money would be easy but it is not and our customers would constantly get tripped up just trying to do this one simple thing.

Well, this just bit me in the ass.  I have another website that I use for personal reasons.  Microsoft was handing free domain names and free hosting when I was looking to get it so I signed up with them.  My needs were relatively modest so I was perfectly happy to let them handle it.  Well it is time for renewal and the free offer is up so they want me to start paying for the service.  I have no real issue with this so I tried to log in to figure out how much it would cost me to renew.

Well, I spent at least 15 minutes clicking every possible link but absolutely nowhere can I find information on how much it is going to cost me to renew this domain.  How stupid is that?  All I want is the price.  This is the most basic thing in any sales transaction.  Tell me the friggin' price. But this piece of information is NOWHERE to be found.  For all I know, they could charge me a million dollars to do this renewal.

The saddest part of this is that this is what almost all of Microsoft's online applications use to get paid.  Anyone have any thoughts on why Microsoft can't put a successful online strategy together?  If you can't get billing right, what the hell?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Joined iPhone Nation

iPhoneThis week, I got an iPhone 3Gs.  I actually got it through work, they replaced my Blackjack.  Although I have never felt compelled to get an Iphone, I was still interested in what all the hype was.   The people I know who have one swear by them.  My wife always jokes how I'm addicted to the internet and so the thought of having a device like the iPhone at my fingertips was appealing to me.  It probably was not as appealing to my wife.

A few days in and I have to say that I have mixed feelings.  It definitely is a great device.  It is easy to use and extremely useful.  the App Store is fantastic and you really can find an App that does pretty much whatever you want.   I've mostly used it to keep up to date on my e-mail and to do things like check the traffic or sports scores.  I could do the same thing with the Blackjack but it is easier to do with the iPhone as there are built in apps to go and get that data.

But I'm struggling with the iPhone on several fronts.  The  biggest problems I have come across

  • The battery life is just poor.  If I don't charge it overnight, the thing will be dead by the next morning

  • The network is slow.  Probably more a problem with AT&T but it is still kind of annoying

  • I hate that it doesn't multi-task.

  • Typing things in is a pain in the ass.  I am constantly typing things wrong.  This thing needs a real keyboard.

  • I can't tether it to my laptop without jumping through some hoops

  • The e-mail client my work uses is actually better on the Blackjack.  On the iPhone it doesn't automatically download new messages.

I think Apple hit their target market.  It is a great consumer device.  It is just a bad device for work.  I'm probably happier with this device than the Blackjack but only because it makes my personal life a little better.  Ironically, my wife, who probably won't like me being glued to it while we are out, is now hooked on one of the iPhone games.  She is literally playing it right now and completely ignoring me.

On a similar note, is it just me or is the iPad kind of a disappointment?  Seriously, what problem is this trying to solve?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Charles Schwab Review

Schwab SignI decided to open up an account with Charles Schwab.  After getting married, my wife and I needed to setup a joint account.  We have split our finances for a while now, and marriage has not changed that, but we wanted the convenience of having one joint account.

Setting up the account has not been the best experience.  For whatever reason, Schwab seems to not have come into the 21st century.  It was possible to setup a brokerage account online but it was not possible to set up a checking account online.  This required that I physically print out an application.  I thought I would be able to walk it into a Schwab branch and open an account right away.  There was a branch just down the street so this is what I decided to do.  However, all that did for me was save me some postage.  I guess the branch couldn't setup the bank account either, so they mailed my application to some central location.   They told me they would call me that day to tell me the brokerage account was opened.

No call came that day.  They cashed the check that I used to fund the account and yet still no call.  I called to check what had happened and was told that the account was opened and someone must have just forgotten to call.  OK, no problem.  The next step was to wait for the information on my bank account.  I waited and waited.  I waited two and a half weeks and heard nothing.  So I called again.  It turns out that the person who entered the information failed to enter the apartment number.  So my checks and my bank card seemed to be lost in the mail.  I was told to wait a few more days and it should show up.  The checks did eventually make their way to me, but no card.  I had no means to use an ATM and withdraw any money.

After a few more days, my wife called in.  The first person I spoke to did not seem to fix the missing apartment information.  Customer Support said they fixed the information and the cards would be coming.  A few days passed and my wife's new card did indeed come.  My card did not.  So she called again.  It turns out that for whatever reason, my information was not updated until later and a new card was not sent out at the same time.

So here I am.  It is the end of January and it has been over one month since I started this process.  I still have no bank card from Schwab.  On the plus side, the customer support, in terms of wait time, has been pretty good.  Each time I call, I get connected to a human right away.  But I am disappointed by the fact that I have had to call so many times to find out how good the response time is.  I have not used their services too much as of yet, I've bought no stock through the brokerage account as of yet, because I don't want to move money into the account until I have full access to it, so I can't say too much about the other features of the account.

One last annoying thing.  Setting up money transfers is a real pain in the ass.  Once again, Schwab has not come into the 21st century.  The only way I've been able to fund the account is to "push" the money there.  That is, i go to my other online accounts and setup a transfer from them to Schwab.  Schwab makes it VERY difficult to "pull" money from other institutions.  It is impossible to do this online.

So given all my problems, I can't strongly recommend Schwab.  I really like their customer service but that's about it.  I don't think any of this will cause me to close my account, but I'm somewhat disappointed that things just haven't been smoother.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sorry Gone So Long

I've been quiet over the last several weeks.  I've been wanting to blog but with the holidays I have found it difficult to sit down and focus on what to write.  I really haven't had anything meaningful to say either.

The holiday's came and went.  It was a rather quiet holiday.  I did not have to do too much shopping and work was rather subdued since most of the staff was out.  I try to make some headway with my reviews but somehow found a way to not get very far on those.

That is my challenge for the upcoming week.  I have to get through my employees reviews.  I once again find myself doing way more reviews than I want.  I think it is important to do a good job with them, so I'll get them done right, but I often just wish I could wave a wand and have them done.  The tool my work is using even has something similar to this but I feel it is a cheap way out so I refuse to use it.

I have been EXTREMELY quiet when it comes to my trading activity.  I really just don't know where this rally came from and now have no desire to get in at these levels.  I've waited for the pull back that never came and it looks like i missed out on some really great gains.  Lesson learned but no need to compound my mistake by doing something foolish now.  I'm looking carefully where to invest.  I recently opened up a new brokerage account, separate than my other one, so that my wife and I could invest together.  I opened it up at Schwab, so now I have accounts at most of the major brokerage houses.  I'll give a review of them shortly.

So I'm back.  Hopefully I won't take a hiatus as long as this one again.