Monthly Archives: February 2011
I’ll do my best not to treat this the way everyone else does – 5000% of your local dollars go to your neighbors, and all that. Sure, it may be true, and yes, it’s important, but I like to look at things differently. It’s an annoying habit of mine.
There are about a dozen reasons I can think of why buying on price (and to be clear, when I say that I mean making buying decisions COMPLETELY on price) is stupid. But what about the relationship? See, all of the things we value, on some level, that go with a sale can be boiled off to relationship. When you take the relationship out of the equation, everyone gets screwed. It’s really hard to screw over your friends, but it’s really easy to screw over customer #9873324. When people stop becoming people and become numbers… everything falls apart. It’s the reason hold time needs to be measured. It’s the reason, and yes, I’d argue THE reason, why most consumer goods are crap these days. Without the relationship, you have an economy based on short term cycling of stuff – and that means building things just good enough that you’ll buy the new one. It’s gross.
So, what’s my point in this? It’s about trying to bring back the relationship. We can’t all complain about the outsourcing of jobs and expect to pay bottom-barrel prices. We need to pick, and there’s really not a choice there. Our consumerism, in it’s current form, is unsustainable. We need to take a step back, a few decades or so, before the box stores. We need to treat customers as people and get to know them as individuals. This is not impossible in our current state… I did it for a year and a half while working at a box store, and I do it now in a small consulting firm. PEOPLE MATTER. And ya know what? When we remember that people matter, we don’t have to scratch for every cent of profit, because the customer is willing to spend a little more, because you’ve given them value. It works for everyone involved.
If you had a chance to watch the much-publicized episodes of Jeopardy last week, during which a computer competed against two human components, you saw what I consider to be one of the greatest technical achievements of our time. Watson, the name IBM gave to their expensive research project, was held to the same rules as the live people and did very well. How well is not the point of this piece, so I wonâ€™t go into it. What I do want to bring up is how advanced this technology is.
Anyone that used the first generation of speech-to-text computer software, like Dragon, knows how difficult it was to use. You had to adapt your voice and train the software. Even then, it wasnâ€™t very good. These products have gotten much better today, but the new, similar challenge, is the ability to ask a question of a computer and get an answer. Try typing a question into your favorite search engine â€“ youâ€™ll get results. Lots of results, and sometimes contradictory ones. Itâ€™s rare to get the answer you want without having to dig through at least one linked article. Watson wasnâ€™t allowed to supply a bunch of text for Alex Trebek to read through â€“ he had to give a definitive answer. The technology behind that is staggering and took many years to develop.
What does this all mean for humans and technology? For one, I believe that turning Watson into a search engine would be very interesting, if not progress. At the very least, that level of natural-language processing â€“ the ability to take speech and convert it to data â€“ is a major advancement in computer science. Maybe, just maybe, weâ€™ll someday be able to ask a computer a question and get a single, correct answer.
When I think about the subtle digs, the distrust, and the sometimes-blatant accusations I deal with as a purveyor of technology goods and services, I become frustrated. Thinking back over the 10+ years I’ve been at this, I can’t help but notice that the mystique of my job no longer garners me any respect.
I’d heard all of these wonderful things about Squarespace… and I did what I always do with movies – I built it up into something amazing. So, it came to try it out – to see if it would be a better fit for me than WordPress. Nope. Really, not much different from what I could see in the 20 minutes of playing. Sure, it’s powerful… but in ways that don’t seem to matter for me.
I often find that the biggest challenge I have in my business and my career is an overabundance of opportunities. As someone who likes to diversify and capitalize on as many opportunities as possible, this can be positively nerve-racking. There are weeks where the good ideas flow, and the biggest challenge becomes prioritization. I find that a willingness to grow slowly helps, as does a realization that the work will never be “done.”
It’s been months since I’ve posted, and it’s left me with contemplating the purpose of a blog in my life. I had been using it as a repository for weird technical things that happened – a desire to help others and document things for myself. Of course, this thing blew up on me and I was dumb enough to believe I didn’t need a backup. I’ve been satisfying my desire to share via Facebook for the last few years, which is what I had previously done with my blog. Yet, I don’t want to completely abandon and delete it. Just mulling…