Monday, March 31, 2008

Where, Why, Wi-Fi?

David Brooks, the Granite Geek himself, notified me of this a couple weeks ago. In its review of the status of wi-fi hotspots around the country, Wired magazine somehow gave Portsmouth a miss completely, despite the fact that we've had free municipal wireless Internet available in downtown Market Square since 2003. I did some digging and found that even MuniWireless, who had covered our expansion plans mere months ago, also did not have us listed. I've written both, hoping they will correct their errors of omission. MuniWireless has now fixed theirs as you can see here; I'm wondering now if that's where Wired got their erroneous info.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Baseball fans need DirecTV... to work

The fallout from yesterday's DirecTV debacle continues to, well, fall. Like SkyLab.

A Google News search shows well over 120 news items on the subject, with the AP picking up the story late yesterday afternoon. The Portsmouth Herald did a nice story on it today: DirecTV Fails Sox Fans in Opener on page 1. And notably, Seth Mnookin, author of the excellent book Feeding the Monster, blogged about his consternation: DirecTV, How Do I Hate Thee? Let me count the ways.

Meanwhile, the PR geniuses at DirecTV are taking a hide-and-see approach to their problem. They haven't fessed up to what exactly happened, and that lack of transparency gives one pause. In the Boston Herald's piece Viewers Strike Out as DirecTV Goes on DL, the company "wouldn’t say how many customers missed the game, how many complained (we’re guessing many) and what exactly went wrong."

In this piece on, you can see the company taking the word obtuse to new levels.

BTW, I find it interesting to note that DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) launched a new bird over the Pacific on the 20th, and that the company CEO sold 25,000 shares of stock on Monday.

Further adding to the company's problems, if you look at the blog postings and comments, far too many customers reported that the customer service people working the phones were not helpful and "rude."

Finally, they are being coy about how they might compensate subscribers for the "inconvenience." Note: My bill says it cost $23 for NESN this month. Ahem.

For counterpoint on how to handle a technical glitch that impacts the customer experience, NetFlix confessed to me today that they had a delay in their shipping (which I didn't even notice) and proactively took 10% off my next bill, with me having to do absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Boston, we have a problem.

What was supposed to be an unique television event -- the live broadcast by dawn's early light of the Red Sox season opener from Tokyo -- became a debacle for DirecTV this morning when a widespread outage affected thousands of unhappy customers, including this one. I got up at 6AM to find the screen "searching for signal" on both NESN and ESPN2.

After resetting the box, testing other channels, and, yes, making sure we paid our bill, a call to customer service yielded 15 minutes of bad hold music, followed by a terse response from a harried customer service rep: "It is a known issue. We are working on it." Super.

While trying to tune the game in on AM radio (is it just my imagination, or is AM radio reception worse these days?), we went poking around the Internet for news of the problem. We found the news had reached the Boston Globe's live game blogger, who posted news of the outage between game updates. These in-game blog entries typically never get comments, but within minutes, there were a dozen. A half hour later, 30 more "me-toos." Now, 218 comments from angry fans have piled up. The Globe's Erik Wilbur has also blogged on it, garnering 30 comments. Even ESPN's Buster Onley complained about it on-air, and he blogged it, too.

This is a PR nightmare for DirecTV.

Meanwhile, to their credit, the company hosts user forums on their web site. This is smart business on their part, allowing users to compare notes and troubleshoot without going off-site and without tying up technical support lines. But as you can see for yourself here, they're now hosting well over 100 company-hostile postings.

As of 11AM, with the game all over but the shouting, the problem was not resolved on my TV. Now, instead of getting a black screen with "searching for signal," you see a placard "No need to call us. We are aware this TV station is temporarily unavailable. We'll have this channel back as soon as possible. Sorry for the interruption."

DirecTV to Face the Wrath of Red Sox Nation

What's interesting now is how the satellite TV giant handles the fallout. To a die-hard fan, there is nothing they can do to fix it, because they can't give us back the experience we missed. The game will be re-aired at 2:30PM today, IF the technical difficulties are resolved. I've set my DVR to record it, but the content of the game is far less important than missing the event. I listened to the game on the radio; I know what happened, and I can read countless news accounts of the game's events. But the opportunity to watch it happen, live, is gone.

DirecTV's modus operandi is usually to issue partial credits in the event of an outage. But judging from the level of vitriol in some of these blog commentsI doubt that will be enough. Get the Blue Screen of Death enough times and you decide it's time for a Mac. A dissatisfied consumer's only recourse in this situation is simply to take their business elsewhere. (Umm, that's 1-800-COMCAST for those of you keeping score at home. Or 1-888-GET-FIOS to see if Verizon's new TV service is available in your area.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baseball is back! And so is Jordan's... Kinda, Sorta.

When the Boston Red Sox take the field in Japan tonight -- yep, that'll be 6AM Eastern Standard Time here -- it'll mark the beginning of the 2008 baseball season! With it, we'll also see the return of one of most clever promotional campaigns in recent memory by Jordan's Furniture. Last year's "Monster Deal" meant that when Jon Papelbon whiffed the final batter, 24,000+ happy furniture shoppers received rebates for the purchases they made in the spring, making the Sox victory just that much more sweet.

To be eligible for free sofas and mattresses in this year's promo, you'll need to make a purchase between March 25 and April 27. But this year, they're being "stingier," as the Boston Globe puts it, requiring not only that the Sox repeat their World Series championship performance of 2007, but also that they sweep their World Series opponent in 4 straight games. Now, granted, they did sweep the Cardinals in 2004, and they did sweep the Rockies last year, but this is one tall order for the local nine! No doubt the insurance company that underwrote last year's promotion (at a cost north of $20 million) is behind this rule tightening... Spoil sports!

Last year's promotion generated truckloads of free positive publicity for Jordan's, and it solidified the company's association with the uber-popular Boston Red Sox. It was, in short, a marketing home run. But this year's event will struggle to recapture the magic, not only because the promo seems, well, played, but because the odds are so long. To me, this one looks like it'll die on the warning track.

Meanwhile, the Sox traveling road show is a grand slam by Major League Baseball. The Oakland A's are on record that they feel like the hapless Washington Generals in this battle of baseball globetrotters, and there's now no doubt that Red Sox Nation extends far into the Far East. That Japanese expatriate Daisake Matsuzaka is pitching the opener is that much more of an attraction, so set your alarm, chill your beer (hey, it's after 5PM in Tokyo, remember), and enjoy the game. And if you're feeling lucky, you might shoot your laptop over to Jordan's web site and do a little shopping... It might pay off come October.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Port City Web on the Move

Good to hear that Port City Web is returning to the fold of downtown Portsmouth, AKA the eCoast epicenter. (Actually, right next door to the Portsmouth Chamber!)

According to PCW's latest press release, that's not all that's new. New HQ digs... New services... New spin-off businesses... New hardware... Nice new web site, too! Boy Erik, no moss grows on you!

Media, take notice: Businesses news doesn't have to be all gloom-and-doom!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best of the Best

About this time every year for nearly a decade, I looked forward to the NH Internet Awards. But now, it's RIP NHIA.

The powers that be (i.e., McLean Communications -- NH Magazine, NH Business Review, etc.) have shifted their efforts to a more general business recognition program. Personally, this makes me a little sad, like when Interface Tech News ceased to be. Hell, I still remember the NEWD Awards, which drew 1000 young, eager, hip, web-type-folks people to the Avalon for the awards on my birthday in 2000. Man, what a party! But I digress. Or regress.

Now, there's no NH-only recognition program for web designers; if you're in that biz, you'll have to compete in regionally, nationally, and internationally, and as small fish in a larger pond, it's a lot harder to make a splash. Your best shot is the MITX Interactive Awards (formerly MIMC Awards) in Boston.

Hmmm... Or if you're based in Maine, looks like the MESDA "Geeks in Black" Technology Awards are still going. Good for them!

So anyway, now NH Business Review is doing "The BOB Awards" where BOB = "Best of Business." The inaugural event is scheduled Wednesday, March 19. Maybe you'll get a 'Bobbie' if you win? Like, a little golden guy shaped like a British policeman?

FYI, here's the rest of NHBR's recognition programs.

Meanwhile, NH Magazine is doing their annual "Best of NH" poll. Restaurateurs, take notice: With categories from "best fries" to "best wine list," you're bound to find a space in which your house specialty can compete. When I vote, I'm always torn between the pride of having my favorite pizza place honored, and the fear that my favorite pizza place will be discovered, if you follow my reasoning.

It's never to early to put Mass High Tech's awards into your calendar. They're now taking nominations for Tech All-Stars 2008 (deadline August 22) and TechCitizenship (Sept 26). Don't forget they're always taking nominations for "The Pitch," where you can put your start-up company in the running to be spotlighted on page 3 with your pitch for funding.

More immediately, NH High Tech Council's Entrepreneur of the Year deadline is April 15.

And MITX is taking applications for their competitive Technology Awards until March 28. The competition features 9 different categories, hitting on business intelligence, marketing, social media, even gaming and virtual reality technologies. Good stuff!

Friday, March 07, 2008

I-Brew, U-Brew, We all e-Brew!

Mmm-hmmm, I do love a good eBrew. As one patron said, "Ever notice whenever the economy goes in the tank, the eBrew is always rockin?!" Ain't it the truth! If you missed the eBrew last night, here's my brief debriefing.

News from the eCoast Wi-Fi front: Fear not, progress is quietly being made. My sources say Cisco and the city are working on siting the access points. Of course, the topography of the town is tricky, and then there are the permissions to deal with. There's at least one WAP sited and successfully testing now; hopefully, we'll have more in place for spring. Good to see eCoast Wi-Fi co-founding fathers Erik (Port City Web) and Dave (BayRing) in attendance last night, too.

Was happy to hear from the guys at Savvy Software that business is still strong. I have long said the SavvyCM product was great; the market just needed to be educated on the idea that web sites should and can be updated regularly and easily. The more people understand the power and the value of a truly user-friendly CMS, the better Savvy does, and it seems the idea is reaching its tipping point.

SilverOven was represented; I can't recall the last time that happened, if it ever has. Welcome aboard, guys!

Speaking of Flywire, it was awesome to see Jody LaRue again. He's now chief creative at VisionaryFX, who do some pretty awesome 3D work.

And old pal Steve Long (Webricators) was holding court with a demo of his odometer widget, a clever little app that measures distances on your online map.

Hatchling was in full force, as per usual. They've got a new president, Mr. Mark Samber, and continue to win awards left and right. While Mark with a k runs OPS, Marc with a c (founder & CEO) can focus on the vision. This will prove to be a potent combination, mark my words!

Good talks with the TeBuMi contingent
from Newburyport, too. TeBuMi is shorthand for TEchnical BUsiness MIxer, BTW. Peter, I'm hoping to make one of your shindigs someday soon!

Thanks to Tim, our bartender for the evening, who took good care of us right up til 7:59. And to Paul McAskill (The Compass Points) for sponsoring.

Oh, and don't forget to join the e-Coast group on Facebook!

Foster's: Australian for Lay-Offs, Mate?

A short while back I wrote on the curious decision by Fosters to switch to being
amorning paper. Today, I saw this news about layoffs. Mere coincidence? Or is
there a connection? Anyway, I wish both the laid-off and the still-employed the
best of luck during this difficult transition period.

Monday, March 03, 2008

In the Waiting Room at the Car Dealership

Thumbing through the February BusinessNH magazine in the waiting room at SeacoastVW... Which has no wi-fi, BTW, although they do have an Ethernet hook-up for you, if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, the magazine cover "The New Tech Wave" caught my eye with the promise of spotlighting some hot new high-tech companies in the state. And there is actually one that looked interesting. Netrocity Design & Information Systems in MancheVegas "creates specialized news filters that collect thousands of news items -- including blogs, news feeds, e-mail news alerts, and subscription-based sites -- and turns them into event radar maps that show trends and patterns in less than a minute."

Not surprisingly, this sort of thing would have interesting applications, and a presidential primary campaign (Mitt Romney's) seems to be a perfect fit. Check out the sample here.

The profile states that subscriptions start at $880 per year, and that Netrocity won SwaNH's "Rookie of the Year" award last year. Whether Netro is a Joe Charboneau-type (a rookie flameout) or a Cal Ripken-type rookie remains to be seen, but the tech is intriguing.
Page 45... An ad reminds us of NHHTC Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Deadline April 15. Hmmm... Isn't that also a deadline for something else?

Further flipping, I notice my friends at SilverTech have won another web design award - a Gold from American Design Awards - for its Life is Good site. Congrats guys!

Inside back cover is a big ad that looks to be inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey promoting an event presented by the magazine. New Hampshire: 2018 will be at the Center of NH on March 11. Old friend Ross Gittell will be one of four featured speakers. $35 a head. If you go, let me know!