Twitter Analytics

Here’s are some cool services for slicing-and-dicing Twitter:

TweetVolume : Enter a keywords and a graph will be built showing the frequency of the keywords. It’s great for seeing how often your company is referred to versus competitors or doing a buzzword trend analysis.

TweetStats : Analyze your Twitter traffic. Apparently I am a Monday morning Twitterer and I share way too many DMs with Kedrosky, or more accurately, we just don’t use email with each other anymore.

Tweet Scan : Real time Twitter search… but it’s slow and doesn’t do anything that search in Thwirl doesn’t do, which is powered by Terraminds.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike… Brian Solis wrote about a great post about this very subject today as well. Brian included #hashtags, which I thought about writing about in my post but decided to hold off while I thought about it some more in the context of my friend Craig Cmehil’s @eventtrack service for tracking tweets while at events and conferences.

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Sticking w/Flock

I’ve been using the Firefox v3 beta for the last couple of weeks to see how it behaved and I’m going back to Flock, which has been revved to version 1.1.

The problem with Firefox on the Mac is twofold. First and foremost, it is still not a well behaved application in terms of memory and CPU utilization and it’s slow, but it also suffers from a really dated UI that gives you little more than what Netscape did 10 years ago. From a product management standpoint, I just don’t know what vision they are attempting to build to.

Flock isn’t perfect, it occasionally does require a force quit and the UI is a little overdone, but the integration of services into the sidebar, like email and social networks, points to their attempt to make the browser something more than just what you use to load web pages.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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I Have Seen The Future and It Works

Broadcasters should be very afraid.

I’ve watched the quality of streaming video increase substantially in recent years and with the advent of exciting new technologies like Silverlight it is not beyond speculation to suggest that with the barriers lowering for new entrants to create and distribute compelling online video content and user experience that we will see an explosion of offerings.

It almost ironic to think that the television industry once thought that 500 channel cable would be their salvation, enabling them to syndicate niche content and offer specialty channels that provided more inventory for advertising, but it’s the proliferation of broadband (often through cable) that may well be the undoing of television as we know it.

(post title courtesy of journalist Lincoln Steffens)

At the MIX conference this afternoon, Perkins Miller of NBC demoed the Silverlight powered video platform for Duncan Riley liveblogging for TechCrunch called it “kickass,” and it deservedly got the largest ovation of the day.

[From Move + Silverlight + NBC Olympics = “Kickass”]


I often write about my experiences on airlines because there are few categories of consumer experiences that inspire such visceral reactions among customers as getting on an airplane. I am also old enough to remember when business travel didn’t suck as bad as it does today; when you could get on an airplane, have a decent meal, get some work done, and not arrive frustrated and resentful at how screwed up American aviation has become.

Just yesterday I had the unique experience of the best and the worst of modern day air travel. I flew United down to San Diego for GSP and wrote about my canceled flight here. In chatting up the gate agent I heard stories about how disgracefully United regularly treats their customers and employees, from canceling flights with mechanical problems rather than dragging out a fresh plane (because today there are no standby aircraft) to deliberately overselling flights and disrupting travel plans by bumping people, including frequent travelers.

The United gate agent expressed empathy but at the same time a degree of indifference that comes from the feeling of being powerless to do anything about it. As this nice gate agent said to me, United’s management simply doesn’t care about the employees or customers and she can think of few jobs where year over year she makes less money. She actually said to me, and I will quote her precisely for emphasis, that “I would be very surprised if Glenn Tilton doesn’t regularly get death threats.”

IMG_0111.JPGAs I was standing there simmering about my canceled 6am flight and being force fitted onto the later flight in a negative legroom middle seat, I saw this computer screen and thought about it for a minute. Customer satisfaction doesn’t begin with employees, it begins with company leadership that values customer satisfaction and this simply hasn’t existed at United in years. Tilton and his upper echelon cronies do everything possible to not interact with customers, certainly not when they are jetting around on United’s fleet of private jets rather than on commercial flights with you and I.

I flew back from San Diego, uneventfully, last night just to turn around on a redeye to NYC. This was my first experience on Virgin America and if first impressions are everything, well they had me at the check in kiosk.

Ironically, while watching CNBC while on my flight I watched an interview with Richard Branson, who went into some detail about how when they were setting up Virgin America they had not only the experience from his other airlines but also a clean sheet of paper to do everything “right”. It shows, but what also rings loud and clear is the focus on the customer.

It’s easy to fixate on the very stylish new planes with the extensive entertainment system in every seat-back, but what makes this airline experience is the people who work the gates and the planes. I am not just referring to their sunny dispositions either, but also on the attention to details like getting the plane pushed back right on time. Not lost on me either is that the planes are configured with a respectable amount of legroom on every seat as opposed to United extortion pricing for “economy plus,” which is just another way of saying pay us more or else.

It is true that redeye flights are less problematic than primetime, but I couldn’t help but think that if I flew United last night I would have been crammed into a 3 class 1990’s vintage 757 with surly flight attendants and my knees shoved up into my chin. My Virgin America ticket was aobut $320, the same far that United charges. If Virgin and JetBlue can deliver affordable and enjoyable long haul flights, why can’t United?

BTW, I had a chuckle when I noticed that the entertainment display is titled, known as Red, is “beta“.

IMG_0112.JPG IMG_0113.JPG

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Maybe They Should Talk to the RIAA

“As network and affiliates, we both have an interest in slowing down the explosive growth of DVRs. This is about combating DVRs. As we developed this at every stage, there was an agreement that however we put this together, disabling the fast-forward function was key.”

[From Techdirt: Dear ABC, You Don’t Compete With TiVo By Making A Product Worse]

I swear you just can’t make stuff up this good. I can se some of the logic that the broadcasters and cable execs are using, which is if you have video on demand built in with these features, then people will overlook what DVRs are providing at additional cost. However, this same logic relies on an assumption that in an environment with easily obtained competitive product that provide a superior feature set, that customers will still sit on their butts and not do anything.

I always find it ironic that large and successful businesses seriously think they can compete by restricting customer choices and benefits. It reminds me of the RIAA’s near decade long fight against downloadable music. Rarely have we seen so much money spent on a technology, DRM, who’s sole role it was to restrict customer behaviors and provide no ancillary benefits. As we sit here today on the verge of the music industry abandoning their failed DRM attempts, the broadcaster and cable industry is poised to start another war on the consumer that will too end in failure.

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Stanford drops tuition for some students

I’ve recently been critical of large higher education institutions for how they haven’t been using their formidable endowments, to expand education opportunities for more students. Harvard and Stanford in particular deserve considerable attention for what they do and don’t do with their multi-billion dollar investment funds, but today I want to point out something that Stanford is doing that is worthy of praise. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend among top tier and very wealthy universities.

In a radical change to its financial aid program, Stanford University will announce today that it will no longer charge tuition to students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year.

[From Stanford drops tuition for some students]

Now It’s Just Blu-Ray

Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders.

[From Toshiba : Press Releases 19 February, 2008]

In December of last year I wrote that high def DVD “is the new laserdisc,” as in a technology innovation that fails to capture market share despite significant technical advantages.

While the jury is still out on this, I think I will ultimately be proven wrong for two reasons.

First and foremost, Toshiba has capitulated as it became increasingly clear that the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray format war was not at a stalemate. With major studios backing Blu-Ray and Wal-Mart throwing their weight behind the standard, it became less of a war and more of a skirmish with one side have vastly superior forces. In the end, I believe it will be recorded that Netflix was the tipping point, as they have an ability to accelerate Blu-Ray distribution by countless orders of magnitude and provide the critical incentive for consumers to upgrade their hardware.

However, while it’s clear that studios want Blu-Ray because of the strong DRM and retailers want it because of the profit margins, it’s not yet clear that consumers want it.

There is no denying that the picture quality is outstanding and with plasmas and LCD displays flying off shelves, one would think that there would be a perfect storm developing. But take a visit to any Best Buy and a different story is being told, one with ample supplies of players and few people browsing the extensive rack of Blu-Ray titles. The price points are still too early adopter and the average consumer doesn’t appreciate the advantages because their high-def capable display is so under-utilized.

It’s not that consumers don’t want high definition, but rather that they aren’t demanding it and if they were we would be seeing a rapidly expanding lineup of channels and content over cable and satellite first, which we aren’t. I’m not big on forecasting timelines, but I do suspect we’ll be well into next Christmas before afterburner on this upgrade cycle is fully lit.

Smoke Filled Back Rooms

The thing that I find mildly offensive about the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray deathmatch is that consumer had very little say in the matter. Ultimately this format war has been decided not by what consumers find most appealing from a quality and cost standpoint, but by Wal-Mart, Netflix and big Hollywood studios.

I really don’t know if there are any advantages to one format over the other, but I would much prefer a marketplace driven approach to arbitrating the issue. While I am tempted to suggest that big box retailers are in effect a market, it would be disingenuous to make that argument given the undisputed fact that retailers care not what is best for customers but what they can make the most money from. If Wal-Mart and Netflix are capable of driving the market to one format over another, why would they care what is best from a consumer standpoint?

First, the movie studios moved decisively into the Blu-Ray camp, then giant American retailers like Wal-Mart followed suit.

[From BBC NEWS | | A blog about technology from BBC News | HD-DVD – They think it’s all over]