December 12, 2012
We’ve noted an interesting stance by Toshiba, a company on track to become the new Sharp or Sony. The Australian blog Future Proof complains about “Toshiba Laptop Service Manuals and the Sorry State of Copyright Law.” It seems that Future Proof blogger Tim proudly maintains a section wherein he freely shares as many laptop service manuals as he can get his hands on. Toshiba, though, has now told him to keep his virtual mitts off their copyrighted material. Tim is unhappy about the move.
The piece shares Toshiba’s reasons for issuing the cease-and-desist, then refutes each in turn. Safety? You’ve got to be kidding me, says Tim. Proprietary information? Well, other manufacturers do not share Toshiba’s concern, so how secret can this stuff be? Manuals are only for authorized service providers, Toshiba insists. Tim can’t argue with the truth of that one, but considers is unreasonably restrictive. The manuals are copyrighted, they say. Well, yes, that’s rather the issue, isn’t it? The post opines:
“As the original author of their laptop repair manuals, Toshiba owns the copyright on them and has the legal right to control their dissemination. They have not followed in the footsteps of other companies and made the decision to disseminate them to the public for open use. They are, in fact, tightly limiting access to their manuals only to their authorised repairers, and as such locking its customers out from information they could use to service or repair their laptops on their own.”
I have a certain amount of sympathy for a company that may be trying to protect its authorized service providers. However, since other players in the field, like Dell, HP, and Lenovo are more willing to allow open access to their information, Toshiba looks like the outlier here. Will pressure from consumers stirred up by Future Proof make any difference?
Cynthia Murrell, December 12, 2012
October 30, 2012
InMagic has taken a step forward with a recent promise to its customers. On the company’s blog, General Manager and CTO Phil Green posts, “Back to the Future: a Pledge to Keep our Customers Self-Sufficient.” This vow to boost ease-of-use is an attitude we like to see.
One of InMagic’s primary commitments, says Green, has always been to provide software that can be easily used and customized by even the non-technical among us. As the Web grew in scale and complexity, however, that goal became more of a challenge for the company’s DB/TextWorks WebPublisher solution. Clients using that software to build and maintain their Web sites have often found it difficult to modify their sites without the help of a skilled Web developer.
InMagic now has the solution. Green recalls a client who urgently needed two things for their custom DB/Text WebPublisher-based website. First, they wanted the ability to make changes to their site without tapping an expensive consultant. The customer also wanted to stick with InMagic’s DB/TextWorks to build and maintain their database. Green writes:
“We were thrilled to be able to offer our new solution, Presto for DB/Text. The DB/TextWorks connector in Presto for DB/Text enables the client to build and maintain their textbase in DB/TextWorks while publishing the content in Presto. And the connector easily accommodates their textbase of more than 100,000 records. In addition, the Presto configuration layer enables the client to easily make changes to the website without technical support. In fact, the client is so comfortable with the product that they’re handling the majority of development of their new website themselves, with only limited configuration and building help from us.”
Green goes on to mention another client, one who successfully used Presto to rebuild their intranet site and to integrate with SharePoint. Specialized InMagic Web parts installed into SharePoint made Presto content available in the customer’s new SharePoint-based intranet.
Formed almost thirty years ago, InMagic is located in Woburn, MA . The company builds information management tools that, they say, are known for low cost of ownership, flexibility, ease-of-use, and rapid deployment. Some prominent customers include NASA, the esteemed Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and corporate powerhouse Owens Corning.
Cynthia Murrell, October 30, 2012
October 11, 2012
Digimind, a competitive intelligence software provider, has a lot to offer in the field of information management and analysis. This is why when we stumbled upon this, “Q&A With Yann Guilain, Customer Care Director At Digimind” we thought it could be useful to our readers looking for some best practices in customer experience.
Despite having to juggle a variety of different elements and challenges in order to keep customers happy, Guilian’s ten years of experience in the field have provided him with some best practices concerning how to make a project successful.
“I have so much to say on this point! If I could only keep one single point, I’d have to say that the most important is “hunt down added value”. What I mean by this is that you have to focus a maximum of effort into deliverables, CI watches, subjects, analysis that will bring added value to key decision makers. Everything about the way we organise a CI project, all our efforts can then be focused on this objective, once it has been well-identified. At the end of the day, there’s only one question that counts: “What’s it for?”
Digimind has built its reputation by instilling trust in its customers. By investing in predictive analytics tools and other search solutions, businesses can gain valuable insights from their data and better serve the needs of their clients.
Jasmine Ashton, October 11, 2012
October 4, 2012
Open-source technology is heralded by developers for the innovation and the free tools that are available. This is a way for developers to access the technology they need without the highly inflated costs, except when the tools actually are not free.
I came across “When ‘Free’ Isn’t: Developer Accuses Tool Vendor of Extorting Customer” recently on Ars Technica, which informs us of Appcelerator’s Titanium mobile developer tools which were the center of a big complaint and quite a lot of controversy. It seems an aggressive salesperson misled users to believe the technology was free and is now being accused of “extortionate fees” and contacting a developer’s client in order to attain those fees.
The article gives us some insight from Appcelerator:
“‘Rarely does this happen that we get such confusion and noise (about the licensing),’ Appcelerator Vice President of Products Jonathan Rende said in an interview with Ars. ‘We acknowledge there’s some confusion on our licensing. We hear the feedback loud and clear. We’re going to make sure the message is very clear as we approach customers in the future. Our developer community is super important to us, and we want to do right by them.’”
The “confusion” lies in the blending of open-source software development kit and a proprietary integrated development tool. We view this as an open-source bear trap and are unsure where this lies in the realm of ethical use of open-source software. Hopefully this does not become a trend.
Andrea Hayden, October 04, 2012
August 21, 2012
I read “Social Research Key Findings”. The write up summarizes research which has consumed “most of the year.” Read the original article. Judge for yourself. Is social media applied to sentiment, prediction, customer support, and the other buzzwords associated with the phrase “social media” ready for prime time. My view is that as “the end of search” approaches, vendors are scrambling to find marketing Velcro which will lead to new customers and repeat business.
The write up points out that the research was sponsored by some social media luminaries who, it appears, wanted to know what makes customers’ hearts go pitter patter. There is an interesting but almost illegible graph which runs down the survey respondents’ perception of “hindrances” to social analytics and its assorted children.
The graphed data are based on respondents’ selection of True or False. The scale is wonky, running from 0 to 250, and I am not sure if these data represent individual choices, a subset, or a normalized output. I whipped out my trusty magnifying glass and learned the following from the graph:
The respondents were roughly evenly split on True and False votes for this statement: “Not sure which business can leverage.” The respondents were in the same kettle of fish with regard to “Legal Issues, Security issues, the benefits, and fear of negative impacts.
It sure looked to me as if the majority of respondents agreed that their information technology departments were not a hindrance to social media. Company culture also seems not to be a particular barrier.
The article explains the key findings with nine observations. Let me highlight four findings which I found interesting. You will need to consult the original article to get the full payload from the research.
Allegedly the research supports the statement: “It’s still an early market.” My view is that the dismal performance of Facebook’s initial public offering indicates that social fatigue has set in. Social research is not silver bullet. Customers still want to talk to an informed human. Predictive analytics still cannot pick winners in horse races. Sentiment analysis does little more than flag email with inflammatory language. The ClearForest warranty process works, but it is expensive and depended on rules. Rules were expensive to maintain. In large systems with dynamic content, the fancy math helps but it does not deliver results commensurate with the marketers’ promises. Big surprise? Nope.
A second finding is encapsulated in the statement: “It should not be surprising that video and picture sharing are among the top social media.” The only problem is that understanding the content of videos and pictures is a tough computational problem. Pump through a day of YouTube content and you have a system which is expensive to build, maintain, and scale. In short, words are a very difficult problem. Words have not yet been cracked. The social audio and video is an even more difficult problem. Opportunities? Yes. Solutions for a cash strapped enterprise? Not yet, gentle reader.
A third finding is summarized in this way: “Marketing and service have more uses for social media than does sales, so far.” My interpretation: Pumping out big bucks to analyze social media does not generate revenue. My view is that social research boils down to tracking what individuals do. Even with large amounts of data, the social researchers are not able to hook the data, their analyses, and their services to generating revenue for the licensees. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in my opinion, remain juicy prospects. The tire company or the waste disposal business may not buy or even sit through a webinar.
The final finding which caught my attention was “Content is king.” I don’t know what this means. The article explains:
Ranking the three major social media for usefulness, Twitter is first followed by Facebook and then LinkedIn. Interestingly, corporate blogs and product/service blogs are rated higher than the top three services indicating that people want specific content and they are not put off by content size or the time it might take to read or view it. So the three popular social tools might help get the conversation started but successful companies will quickly discover that they need more content for follow up. Our CRM Idol experience this year confirms this point: we are seeing a larger-than-normal number of vendors focused on content creation, tracking, and management.
If this makes sense to you, then get out your purchase order form. The sponsors are ready to rumble.
Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2012
Sponsored by Augmentext
July 17, 2012
An important customer service message involving bypassing technology to appease your customers was revealed by UserVoice early this week.
UserVoice, a company which focuses on listening to your market through simple engagement tools, recently posted an article titled, “Sorry, but Your Customers Don’t Care if You’re Sorry.”
With technology becoming so engrained in everyday business, sometimes that technology reveals itself to be slightly finicky. Systems can be inflexible and unable to accomplish certain tasks which may seem quite ordinary, such as leaving a side off of an order or doing partial refunds. However, this does not mean that your business can afford to lose the human side of everyday transactions. The article asserts:
“Guess what: your customer doesn’t care how your system works. No, really. They don’t care one bit. They want what they want, and if you can’t deliver it, they’ll find someone who CAN do it.
Take the time to help your customers, even if it means circumventing your system. Walk the 3 feet to talk to the chef. Send someone a check if your system can’t do refunds. Give someone another game if it turns out your games only work on PC.”
Using common sense in these sorts of simple transactions, which may include bypassing the “system,” will result in happier customers in the long run.
Andrea Hayden, July 17, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
May 27, 2012
We’ve discovered what we think is a fascinating marketing angle for mnoGoSoftware: the company charges almost $1,000 for a basic desktop search system and then charges for email support. Hmph. But the really interesting point is this statement on the support page:
“We reserve a right to have 20 business days off within a calendar year, for vacation (usually not more than 10 business days off per quarter). During days offs support service won’t be available.
Support users will be notified about upcoming days off two weeks prior to anticipated service interruption lasting more than three days.
“Monthly support users will have their contracts automatically extended to cover any and all days off taken during the support month.”
The company must be doing something right, though, because the site names several awards it has won and lists over 230 Web sites that use its Web search software. They also offer versions for use with Windows and Unix.
Cynthia Murrell, May 27, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
March 30, 2012
Stochastic Technologies’ Stavros Korokithakis has some very harsh words for Google’s AppEngine in “Going from Loving AppEngine to Hating it in 9 Days.” Is the Google shifting its enterprise focus?
Stochastic’s service Dead Man’s Switch got a huge publicity boost from its recent Yahoo article, which drove thousands of new visitors to the site. Preparing for just such a surge, the company turned months ago to Google’s AppEngine to manage potential customers. At first, AppEngine worked just fine. The hassle-free deployments while rewriting and the free tier were just what the company needed at that stage.
Soon after the Yahoo piece, Stochastic knew they had to move from the free quota to a billable status. There was a huge penalty, though, for one small mistake: Korokithakis entered the wrong credit card number. No problem, just disable the billing and re-enable it with the correct information, right? Wrong. Billing could not be re-enabled for another week.
Things only got worse from there. Korokithakis attempted to change settings from Google Wallet, but all he could do was cancel the payment. He then found that, while he was trying to correct his credit card information, the AppEngine Mail API had reached its daily 100-recipient email limit. The limit would not be removed until the first charge cleared, which would take a week. The write up laments:
At this point, we had five thousand users waiting for their activation emails, and a lot of them were emailing us, asking what’s wrong and how they could log in. You can imagine our frustration when we couldn’t really help them, because there was no way to send email from the app! After trying for several days to contact Google, the AppEngine team, and the AppEngine support desk, we were at our wits’ end. Of all the tens of thousands of visitors that had come in with the Yahoo! article, only 100 managed to actually register and try out the site. The rest of the visitors were locked out, and there was nothing we could do.
Between sluggish payment processing and a bug in the Mail API, it actually took nine days before the Stochastic team could send emails and register users. The company undoubtedly lost many potential customers to the delay. In the meantime, to add charges to injury, the AppEngine task queue kept retrying to send the emails and ran up high instance fees.
It is no wonder that Stochastic is advising us all to stay away from Google’s AppEngine. Our experiences with Google have been positive. Perhaps this is an outlier’s experience?
Cynthia Murrell, March 30, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com
March 22, 2012
Here’s an interesting observation, or will be if this really does become a trend: Digital Trends asks, “Why Are Companies Defecting from Google Maps?” Writer Geoff Duncan notes that both Foursquare and Apple are reducing their usage of Google Maps. Two withdrawals, however, do not necessarily mean more are on the way. If more do follow, we will know that Duncan was on to something.
The article supplies a brief history of mapping and route-planning services, a field in which Google came from behind players like MapQuest to dominate the market. It helped that Google was giving away the service for free, and even helping third parties use it on their sites. That is Google’s usual path to domination, after all.
There is, however, a reason other companies have not followed Google’s lead in this direction: the mapping and routing process calls for a lot of man-hours, even in the digital age. Last autumn, even Google introduced a paid version. Duncan writes:
“Google first announced plans to begin monetizing Google Maps nearly a year ago, including a requirement that any new services forward display advertising in Google Maps along to their end users, so Google could start generating advertising revenue from the service. The hammer truly dropped in October 2011, when Google finally revealed pricing for Google Maps services. Lightweight usage was still free — subject to terms of service, of course. However, significant load volumes would begin to incur charges: basically, services and applications that generated more 25,000 map loads per day would be charged $40 to $10 for every additional 1,000 map loads. For folks using styled maps — the most intensive and customized option — the initial threshold is 2,500 maps per day.”
That’s a lot of maps, and the vast majority of sites using the service would remain un-charged. For behemoths like Foursquare and Apple, however, it seems that it may have made the difference; the trial period ended shortly before these companies (mostly) jumped ship. Only time will tell whether other Google users will follow their lead.
Stephen E. Arnold, March 22, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com <http://www.pandia.com/enterprise-search>
March 19, 2012
You must read “Google Enterprise chief Girouard Heads to Startup Upstart.com.” I wondered if a simple executive shuffle many months after a de facto demotion was news. Apparently the poobahs and “real” journalists find a Xoogler worthy of a headline. I have a different view about Google and the enterprise. I write about Google’s latest adventures in my Enterprise Technology Management column, published in the UK, each month.
Google pumped quite a bit of time, effort, money, and Google mouse pads into its enterprise initiative. In the salad days, Google could not learn enough about the companies dominating the enterprise search space. As I researched my Google monographs, I was picking up from interview subjects anecdotal information about the paucity of knowledge Googlers had about what enterprise procurement teams required.
In one memorable, yet still confidential interaction, Google allegedly informed a procurement manager that Google disagreed with a requirement. Now, if that were true, that is something one hears about a kindergarten teacher scolding a recalcitrant five year old. Well, that may have been a fantasy, but there were enough rumblings about a lack of customer support, a “fluid” approach to partners, and a belief that whatever Google professionals did was the “one true path.” I never confused Google and Buddha, but for some pundits, Google was going to revolutionize the enterprise. Search was just the pointy end of the spear. The problem, of course, is that organizations are not Googley. In fact, Googley-type actions make some top dogs uncomfortable.
Based on my research, which I shifted to the back burner, I learned:
- Google was unable to put on an IBM type suit. The Googley stuff opened doors, but the old Wendy’s hamburger ad sums up what happened after the mouse pads and sparkle pins were distributed: “Where’s the beef?”
- The products and services were not industrial strength and ready for prime time. The notion of an endless beta and taxi meter pricing, no matter how “interesting”, communicated a lack of commitment.
- The enterprise market likes the idea of paying money to be able to talk to a person who in most cases semi-cares about a problem. AT&T makes tons of dough making clients pay four times an engineer’s salary to get a human on the phone any time. Google delegated support down to partners. Won’t work. A Fortune 100 company wants to call Google, not send an email.
- Pricing. If you are not sure what the ballpark cost for indexing 100 million documents using a search appliance, ensuring 24×7 uptime, and backing up—navigate to www.gsaadvantage.com and look up the price of a Google Search Appliance. Now figure out how much it will cost to process an additional one million documents. How’s that price grab you?
When Larry Page assumed control of the company, I wrote about the wizards who were reporting directly to him. The head of the enterprise unit was not one of those folks. My conclusion: game over.
Like AOL, the notion of having a Google person on staff is darned appealing to some, but as the AOL experience makes clear, a Xoogler is not a sure fire money maker.
Here’s the quote I jotted down from the GigaOM story:
Still, market share and revenue may never have been Google’s goal. By offering a lower-cost option to the Office/Exchange tandem, Google forced the market leader to respond, and that may have been the point all along.
Baloney. Google expected to have big outfits roll over and wag their tail. The US government did not roll over. Most big IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle customers did not roll over. More important, the new wave of enterprise service and solutions providers did not roll over. Why? A lack of focus and a dependence on online advertising, legal hassles, privacy chatter, and a failure to deliver competitive products and services made the enterprise initiative a tough sell. Betas may be great for market tests. For the enterprise, a beta may be a hindrance.
Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2012
Sponsored by Pandia.com