Monthly Archives: August 2015

Idiotic Injecting

No one that I know enjoys going to the doctor and getting an injection. Whether it’s as simple as a flu shot or something more complex such as a regimen of allergy shots, it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience. 

Today’s topic is an injection of another sort, but the experience isn’t enjoyable either. It turns out that AT&T has jumped on the “no free lunch” bandwagon with respect to offering wireless hotspots to its customers. A Stanford computer scientist and lawyer was travelling and discovered that the AT&T hotspot to which he had connected was serving ads over web pages he was accessing. When he went to Stanford’s home page, for instance (a page that has zero ads on it), he saw a pop-up ad for jewelry and AT&T itself, and the ads persisted for several seconds until he could close them.

He discovered that the ISP was tampering with HTTP traffic – that’s what serves web pages. It is using a service from a third party to inject the ads and to monetize the traffic. AT&T is far from the first “free” service to do this – Comcast and Marriott are just two others. But as the professor wrote:

AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free wifi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user’s browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user’s web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service. And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don’t plan for extra scripts and layout elements.

In other words, while you might have accepted that as your ISP the folks at AT&T will see and record everything that you’re doing, you might be concerned about an outside company doing so.  Moreover, as a publisher, your beautiful content environment is now sullied by ads from which you derive zero revenue.

If you’re on an AT&T hotspot, you’re already an AT&T customer.  I don’t believe you can log on if you’re not and you’re probably paying them handsomely each month (I know I am).  This sort of nickel and diming might help revenues (I wonder how much in the scheme of things) but it doesn’t help with customer satisfaction. That’s a point from which any business can learn.  Idiotic injection from my perspective.  Yours?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

Speed Kills

I was reading a sports business newsletter this morning and I came across a quote that prompted a business thought. The speaker – a host on ESPN – was reflecting on the demands placed on journalists these days. What she had to say about the need to be fast was this:

The whole Wells Report is like 400 pages. I don’t have time to read 400 pages, but I have to go on the air to say something about these 400 pages. I may have read a good third of it. That’s where we are right now. The whole need to produce an opinion has overshadowed the need to produce reporting. When I was growing up, people were watching the news and expecting unfiltered, objective news. Now, if it isn’t about clicks, it is about drawing attention to yourself and making your opinion stand out and that is difficult.

The Wells report, for those of you not following the story, was an independent review of the deflating of footballs by the New England Patriots during a playoff game last season. I think what she had to say applies to any of us in business and it’s instructive.

We get so much information on a continual basis. Inevitably, some higher up asks about what’s going on and there is a rush to judgement. Many of us feel the need to produce an opinion even though we don’t feel as if we’ve had the time to adequately analyze and reflect on the information we’re getting. That’s dangerous and, in my book, often counterproductive.

We all have opinions – just check your Facebook feed and you’ll see dozens.  I think we all like to believe that we base them on facts, but that same feed will show us that many times that’s just not so.  When that request for information is made, the person asking is generally not seeking your opinion.  They want a cogent analysis of factual material.  The problem is that we’ve all become accustomed to getting the answers fast.  After all, in a world where much of the learning of humankind is at your fingertips and is just a search query away, our sense of patience has all but disappeared.  The quote’s reference to “unfiltered, objective news” applies to the expectations we have in business.  Unfortunately, so too does the emphasis on speed and the need to place yourself front and center.

Like you, I get asked for quick answers.  I’ll often give one along with a disclaimer that it’s an informed opinion but not necessarily reflective of all of the facts and request the opportunity to come back with a more informed answer.  If I know the person asking is going to take immediate action on my answer, I might even ask for a brief delay before I respond so I can gather up some more objective information.  How do you handle it?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Becoming A Steakhouse

It’s Foodie Friday, and my mind is turning to steak. While I enjoy grilling steaks as much as the next person, most of our efforts here at Rancho Deluxe can’t compare to the product put out by a good steakhouse. It got me thinking about why that is, and it turns out there are some really good business points one can take away.

Steak at Peter Luger's

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first I attributed the biggest difference to the meat itself. After all, high-end steak places serve nothing but prime meat, and generally, it’s been aged. As with any business, NOTHING can take the place of top-shelf raw materials. You can’t make a great product out of inferior ingredients. So on a special occasion, I splurged on an aged piece of Prime porterhouse thinking I now had the ability to replicate that great steak at home. While it was very good, it was definitely NOT the same.

Then there is the cooking method. Top steak places might use a broiler that is heated to 1,000 degrees or more. While I do have a high-end broiler in my oven, I don’t think it gets quite that hot. A charcoal grill can get quite hot using lump (not briquette) charcoal, but it’s a different experience than most steakhouses. Still, it came close in terms of providing enough heat to do the job.

So now I had the equivalent ingredients and a similar cooking tool but it just wasn’t the same. Putting aside that I was doing the cooking and not just being served, I realized that there was one more huge difference: practice. Steakhouses cook 1,000 steaks a week or more. If I do 24 in a year it’s a lot. But it’s a good business point.

There is no substitute for practice, and the more times we do things – presentations, analyses, whatever – the better we become at them. That’s noticeable to the recipient.  Having great raw materials – that includes people – and a great methodology coupled with the right tools to do the job and a LOT of practice can produce a great steak.  That formula’s also capable of producing greatness in your business if you’ll let it.  Will you?

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud