Tag Archives: microsoft

Don’t Surprise Me

You just can’t be too careful these days, can you? It seems that we hear every day about another data breach involving stolen credit card numbers or passwords or anything from your search history to your online shopping list. If you don’t pay much attention to your data security you are definitely, as my Dad used to say, cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

Since I try to make it a habit to practice what I preach, I’m quite careful about security. I use a password manager and I don’t generally store credit card numbers online, preferring to use that password manager to fill in the number as needed. It was quite disturbing, therefore, when my phone buzzed like a tornado was imminent yesterday. It was American Express notifying me of what they thought might be a fraudulent charge at the Microsoft online store. An email arrived simultaneously, telling me about the charge and asking me to click if I had knowledge of it. I didn’t and told them so, which immediately canceled my Amex card (and to their credit, Amex immediately generated a new number and I’ll have a new card today – why I’ve been a member since 1979).

Imagine my surprise this morning when I got an email from Microsoft telling me they “tried to charge your Xbox Live Gold subscription on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, but the charge of $60.59 to American Express was unsuccessful.” Well, no kidding. I told Amex not to pay it because I didn’t know that it was the renewal of something I very much did want to renew. Maybe if Microsoft gave me a little advance notice, which is what many other companies whose products I auto-renew to a credit card do, I wouldn’t have clicked the button that will now result in my having to change credit card numbers on several other things – my cell phone bill, two newspaper subscriptions and several magazines, and a streaming service among them. Every one of them notifies me before charging my card so that I’m expecting the charge. I guess Microsoft hasn’t figured out that when it comes to charges on a credit card people do NOT like to be surprised.

Had Microsoft put on their customer-focused thinking caps, they would have recognized that. Instead, I’m sure someone thought “let’s not give them the chance to cancel and go ahead and charge the auto-renew without telling them ahead of time.” That’s bad customer communication and bad strategy. By keeping the customer’s needs and perspective front and center, we won’t make mistakes like this. Agreed?

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Locking Your Door

There are many homes in the town where I live that aren’t locked up when nobody is home.

English: A candidate icon for Portal:Computer ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in some ways it’s a nice relic of a time and society long gone, I’ve always wondered how people were able to file insurance claims or police reports if they got robbed. After all, they did nothing to protect their privacy other than trusting in the good will of the surrounding community.
Unfortunately, the world out there contains a fair number of evil-doers, and that includes the digital world of the web. Most of us know that, I’m afraid, but I’ve never really been sure how many of us take action to prevent those bad guys from entering our digital homes. Oh sure, maybe we use the pre-installed anti-virus stuff (hopefully with up to the minute virus definitions) but how many people are being proactive about keeping their data doors locked?
The folks from Microsoft released a study yesterday and the answer was surprising, at least to me. You can read the executive summary of and view a slide show about the findings here.  The big ones:

  • Forty-five percent said they feel they have little or no control over the personal information companies gather about them while they are browsing the Web or using online services, such as photo- sharing, travel or gaming.
  • Forty percent said they feel they ”mostly” or “totally understand” how to protect their online privacy.
  • An equal number of people (39 percent) said they are turning to friends and family, as well as privacy statements, as their top source for privacy information.
  • Almost a third of those surveyed (32 percent) said they always consider a company’s privacy reputation, track records, and policies when choosing which websites to visit or services to use.

OK, a lot of people get that they’re being tracked and not always for benign purposes, so surprisingly (to me, at lesast) they’re taking action. When asked what, if any, actions respondents had taken to protect the privacy of their online data, the vast majority (85%) report that they had actively taken steps. The most common action reported was the deletion of cookies that may be used to record and track online behavior.

I think this is good news –  locked doors keep the crime rate in our little digital town down.  Of course, it also means that any of us who want to be invited in to consumers’ cookie caches need to play nice.  That means have a clear privacy policy, explain how and if we’re using the data, and make sure that users read and understand what we’re doing.  Otherwise, we’ll have to break in to steal that information, and I think we all know where that can land us.  Regulatory bodies worldwide are already considering harsh and cumbersome rules and we know that they’ll probably get something wrong.  It’s on the industry to get ahead of this and to behave, encouraging people to take charge – lock their doors – and make it simple to do so.

Are you locking your data door?  Who are you letting in and why?

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints

Why Your Phone Won’t Stay Charged

My phone almost ran out of power the other day.

Angry Birds

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience – a busy day of calling and mail and suddenly you’re getting the red battery indicator, triggering a desperate search for an outlet.  Not fun at all, especially when it doesn’t feel as if you’ve been all that careless about battery use.  Oh sure, you checked Facebook a couple of times and there was the 10 minutes of Angry Birds during a coffee break.  Well, that might be all it took.

According to research conducted by the folks at Microsoft, free mobile apps which use third-party services to display ads drain a lot more battery life.  In fact, they found that up to 75% of an app’s energy use goes to power the advertisements in free, ad-supported apps.  Notice the use of the word “free.”  The paid versions of the apps – the ones without the ads – don’t have the same effect.  It’s not just apps either – some mobile web pages were evaluated along with various browsers and that made a difference as well.

This raises a few questions in my mind.  If people can pay $1 and improve battery life, they’ll probably do so.  What does that do to the installed base of ads in the mobile sphere?  The study is very detailed about where the energy leaks occur, sort of like a report from an insulation installer walking around your house before winter begins (seal this window, you need to weatherstrip the doors).  Why don’t app developers spend more time on this?  Is it because they don’t particularly care?  The researchers recommend developers ask one question – Where is the energy spent inside my app?

The point for us as consumers is that “free” isn’t always better in the grand scheme of things.  More importantly, the point for those who depend on the continued growth of the ad-supported mobile economy is to focus on keeping those phones charged.  People can’t see and click on ads if their phones are dead.  It’s not the other guy’s problem even though they share the responsibility.  Finally, the lesson for all of us in business is to keep the consumer front and center.  Creating apps, web pages, or any other product that make us money and make our customers miserable is short-sighted.

And now I’m off to uninstall a bunch of apps!

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What IE10 Means To You

Microsoft did something that’s causing a ruckus in the digital ad industry.  To me, it’s a logical, consumer-friendly move that is in line with best-practices.  To others, it’s…

English: Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer w...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a step backwards in consumer choice, and we fear it will harm many of the businesses, particularly publishers, that fuel so much of the rich content on the internet.

That quote is from the head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the move in question is to turn on “Do Not Track” in the new version of Internet Explorer.  Another group – the Digital Advertising alliance (the IAB is a founding member) began a campaign earlier this year to inform consumers about interest-based advertising and how to take greater control of their online privacy.  According to the boilerplate in their press releases

These associations and their thousands of members are committed to developing effective self-regulatory solutions to consumer choice in online behavioral advertising.

One last quote:

A default setting that automatically blocks content violates a consumer’s right to choose, and doesn’t factor in the need for digital businesses to innovate and thrive economically.

That’s from the IAB’s official response just in case you think I’m making this up.  However, we’ve finally got to the truth:  this is about commerce and not about consumer choice.

As a digital marketing person I’m certainly aware of the benefits some tracking technologies bring to consumers, who might not even understand that they’re seeing more interesting ads and offers because of it.  However, I also know that most users do not change the default settings on their browsers (ever wonder why those deals to make certain pages the default home or search page are worth so much?).  Apparently, the DAA only supports consumer choice when the default is set to “on”.

This isn’t about blocking ads or blocking content.  It doesn’t block cookies.  It’s a browser setting that sends a message to every website you visit saying you prefer not to be tracked. While that flag is optional for sites and ad nets to obey, it’s gaining momentum with Twitter embracing it.  To me it’s about protecting consumers, even those who don’t know they need it and I don’t buy that defaulting the consumer’s choice to be the way you want it as a business is necessarily the best, or even the right, way.

Unfortunately, the new version of the the latest proposed draft of the Do Not Track specification published Wednesday requires that users must choose to turn on the anti-behavioral tracking feature in their browsers and software.  That means that IE10 will be out of compliance with the standard and, therefore, ad nets and others are free to ignore the browser setting.

I’m always sad when smart people do dumb things such as choosing their businesses over their users.  Let’s see where this leads but I don’t think the conversation is over.  Do you?  Where do you come out on this?

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Less Is More

I attended the local tech meet-up last evening and the topic was being lean.  No, not how to lose weight unless you’re counting the weight of excessive costs.   Or as it said in the event description:

Lean and Agile are two related approaches that use startup mentality and an iterative approach to deliver results and new possibilities. We’ll take an overview of Lean, its opportunities and pitfalls and some broad approaches to adopt Lean thinking for you and your organization.

Great presentation (thanks, Dan), and it stimulated more thinking on yesterday’s topic, Facebook and its new set of features. So at the risk of beating a dead horse… Continue reading

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Whose Brand Is It Anyway

Her’s a question to start the day:  Does a brand belong to the company or to the customer?  Before you give me a knee-jerk reaction, think about it for a second.  Does “New Coke” ring a bell?  The company put out what it believed to be a better product and customers demanded that they restore the product to its former state.  That’s the best example in my mind but I’m sure you can think of others.

The reason I bring it up this morning is a video I watched from Shore Communications in which John Blossom and Peter Propp discuss the Microsoft acquisition of Skype and how it might affect both brands.  I’ve embedded the video below and you might want to spend 10 minutes to watch.  In the interim, here’s my take. Continue reading

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Unfeelings MOMS

Mom out on the town

I read with great interest this piece on a new media buying and planning system developed by Microsoft and Interpublic.  The Media Operations Management System, or MOMS for short, is supposed to it would “re-invent” the way Interpublic agencies and clients plan and buy their media.  As we all know, I’m all in favor of using technology to make our lives easier.  However, I wonder if this is really an advance. Continue reading

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Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud