Archive for the ‘Mobile Devices’ Category


The digital safe haven

January 4, 2011

I have spent considerable time and thought over the past few months examining my relationship with technology, media, and the Internet. This was driven in a large part by my frustration with the highly variable personal ROI I seem to get from being a “power user” all the time. Fundamentally, I have begun to seriously question just how much engagement is reasonable for someone trying to live a normal and happy life.

One of the most important insights I had (and I am not unique in this) was the need to create a “digital safe haven” for myself. There needs to be a time/place that is largely disconnected from the constant stream of news, email, social chatter, online shopping, picture sharing, blog reading (and writing), etc. This sounds easy, but really takes some effort and dedication. The desire to disconnect may be strong, but the allure of connecting is a very powerful counter-force.

My digital safe haven is my bedroom at night. Since I am currently sitting in the bedroom writing this post (much warmer here than my desk downstairs!) the “at night” modifier is important. Once the evening comes, my devices are banned from the bedroom. No phone, no laptop, no iPad. My Kindle is allowed, since that satisfies my desire to spend time reading. What I have done is stopped the endless inbound chatter from these devices that pulls my limited attention in far too many directions all day long. Once I head to bed, I also stop paying attention to the devices in the rest of the house. No more getting up to check the email at 2:00 AM or see what is happening on Facebook. No more waking up and checking my email before I even roll out of bed and stretch.

Radical? No. But, amazingly satisfying for me. I feel as if I have gained back some control of my time and my ability to focus through the creation of this safe haven. I have also determined that I am no less productive because of it (and may even be more productive).

My lovely wife respects my digital safe haven, but has decided not to follow suit. I respect that and just ignore her devices beeping and blinking on her side of the room.

I believe that there are larger implications for the creation of the digital safe haven. As we are all subject to the endless ubiquity of the digital stream, the ability to step outside and take a breather will become ever more important. What will companies do to support the desires of the individual to be “left alone” for a while? Will Facebook give me a way to specify an away period and then be able to efficiently catch-up when I return? Will my co-workers respect email responses that take longer than 15 minutes, even at 2:00 AM?

The opportunity here is two-fold. First, individuals need to have ways to regain their space and not be distracted. Second, businesses need to start thinking about ways to respect this shift and empower their customers instead of punishing them for missing the endless river of content that keeps flowing by.


Mobile post

August 3, 2009

Well, having made part 1 of the switch to an iPhone, I am now going to try a little blog post. The specifics of having a multipart move from my WinMo device to the iPhone is a story for another time. In the meantime I have the nifty little WordPress app and am giving this a go!

I am really amazed when I see people write massive amounts of content on their mobile device. I find the cognitive load of using the virtual keyboard just big enough that I really don’t feel like my other thoughts are as good as they can be when I am on a physical keyboard. I think I am just too deeply entrenched in my thoughtful writing occuring on the luxury of a big keyboard.

But, I am constantly pushing my boundaries.


Mobile dilemma

May 26, 2007

I am convinced that the greatest force of evil on the planet may be the mobile phone carriers. It just seems that they exist to confuse us, obfuscate truth, and keep us locked into onerous contracts. They make us waste endless time trying to parse the details of their plans and when we finally do they change it all again.

There is a good reason they are among the largest advertisers in the US. They keep our brains filled with their ads and they stoke our base desires.

And, I plunge into the relationship willingly and somehow welcome the abuse.

Can you hear me now?


The death of a customer

April 13, 2006

(I sent this email to my Cingular representative today) 


If a customer receives great service they might tell two friends. If they have bad service they will tell everyone they know.

Sometime in the past six months or so I came to the realization that I was in an abusive relationship with a vendor and had to find a way out. That vendor was Cingular and now you want me to pay for the privilege of leaving you behind and getting on with my life. Well, shame on you Cingular, shame on you.

Months ago I tried to get help from Cingular with my phone service. I tried to get you to do something as simple as meet your own request to switch from “blue” to “orange” (as if any reasonable customer should have to speak in YOUR lingo and understand the issues that surround your merger).  I spent over ten hours total attempting to have you solve a simple problem. Ten hours of my time when I could have been doing productive work for my employer (who is also your customer and your partner) or ten hours when I could have been spending time with my family and friends. But, it was ten hours spent talking to an endless succession of well-meaning, if clueless, customer service representatives. I wanted a simple problem solved so I would feel good about the service you provided. However, it was ten hours that left me feeling sick and disgusted and powerless.

In the past I might have suffered a bit and then told everyone I know. Well, I did more than tell everyone I know, I told thousands of people through my blog. You can read it here — — and this entry is the most visited entry I have ever posted. Why? Because I get people coming to my blog every single day searching on terms like “Cingular customer service sucks,” “bad customer service,” “Cingular sucks”. These are the words used by people searching the internet. These are thousands of people. Through the power of the Internet I was able to tell them all. I suggest you read it for some background (I don’t really feel like recounting the experience again here). If that particular blog posting does not depress and embarrass you, try this one:, or perhaps this search: .

I am proud to be an employee of Microsoft, and if my company treated a customer the way Cingular treated me, I would hang my head in shame. I would also work to fix it. I would work tirelessly to fix it. My customers mean that much to me. Your customers suffer.

Back to the abusive relationship. After that set of incidents with Cingular, and a few sporadic calls to try and get you to stop sending me an bill for $0 each month for an account you created and I never used, I just let it go. But, I didn’t really let it go. It kept gnawing at me. It kept making me feel as if I had been taken by a cheap con artist on the street and was too embarrassed to report it to the police. Finally, I had to do something.

I decided to try Verizon and see how they would treat me. I took baby steps, first just getting a phone and new number there. That took all of five minutes on their website. But then I got a bill from Verizon with a mistake. I called them, my hands practically shaking with dread over the abuse I would receive (I had been conditioned, like a good lab rat, by Cingular customer service). Well, it took all of five happy minutes for the Verizon CSR to solve my problem. No secret lingo about blue or orange, no switching me from rep to rep, no treating me as if I was an idiot for wanting something from the big wireless carrier. Nope, five pleasant minutes of having my problem solved. Then I called them to inquire about porting my number. That took all of 5 happy minutes. I was free at last. It felt so good I called back a couple of days later and ported my wife’s number as well (yes, there were two numbers on my Cingular account – what was I thinking?).

It was a terrific feeling to be free of the cycle of abuse. It was great to wake up and realize that each month when I got the Cingular bill I was holding my breath, fearful that there would be something wrong and I would have to call customer service was over. I was free.

Of course, you want to charge me $175 for that freedom (and another amount for my wife’s number, but that has yet to appear on the bill. I assume another $175 dollars). Yes, you want $350 for me to leave an abusive relationship. As if the abused spouse is the one that has to pay alimony. Frankly, I am disgusted and will take this issue to the Better Business Bureau, to Cingular executives, to the wireless press, and to every customer service blog on the Internet. $350? You should pay me for the time I spent on the phone. You should pay me for being subject to your rude and inconsiderate and abusive customer service.

Did I mention what I do for a living? I am a marketing person. That means I know how to get lots of attention for the products I market. I am very good at it. Guess I will be spending my own time marketing how Cingular treats its customers. Did I mention I used to work in the wireless industry? That means I have lots of contacts that can route me to the most senior Cingular executives. Did I mention how unhappy I have become over the thought of having to deal with Cingular at all?

Go ahead, send me bills for $350. I will send you a bill for $1000 (I figure my time is worth about $100/hr and I have spent at least ten hours dealing with you.)

Maybe, however, you will do the right thing. Maybe you will tell me I can be free of you without the requisite pound of flesh. I can only hope.

And, I will post this email on my blog as well. The dirty little secrets of your customer service woes are not so secret anymore.

Well, the choice is yours.  Is it time for you to be “raising the bar™” or not?

(Look it up: account XXXXXXXX – if you can find it somewhere in your system at all).


(btw, I happened to find this great entry in Guy Kawasaki's blog today)


Addicted to your shiny outsides

January 8, 2006

I have to admit that getting through the holiday season and then coming back to work to play catch up is a bit of a drag.

My employer, Microsoft, and Palm (remember them?) introduced a new smartphone this past week, the Treo 700w. This had been announced previously as the first time the good folks at Palm would ship a Treo device with something other than the Palm OS. It started shipping on Tuesday.

I had to wait until Friday to get mine.

I love my mobile devices. They are my sweet little precious crack. Now my new precious is nestled gently in my hand, emitting its silent radio waves and slowly egging on the latent cancer cells in my flesh. My precious.

The device is very cool. The Treo has long been seen as one of the top smartphone devices, in tight competition with the fine folks at RIM with their Blackberry. I was a first generation Blackberry user, long before I ever joined Microsoft, and still remember how my soul would twitch each time I felt its insistent vibration on my hip. Waves of unmodulated pleasure would flow through me as I let myself sink into the thumbwheel.

Anyway, I like my new Treo. Microsoft has upped the bar on the competition by delivering the coolest and most integrated mobile OS with a slick piece of hardware. I feel powerful. Shiny precious thing.

I currently have 5 phones. Not using them all at once, mind you. And two different carriers, Mister Smarty Pants. I have no problem. Do you?

Call me, huh? It feels nice when it rings and vibrates. My electronic collar is fur lined.

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In summary

December 29, 2005

Blogs have become the touchstone of much of the conversations I have with people. Our discourse, both online and in person, has become driven by the discourse of others.

Why isn’t there a really good solution to accessing blogs on my mobile device? Actually, why is my mobile device still trapped into feeling like a mobile device? Give me an experience that makes me feel empowered, not that makes me feel burdened.

Flat-panel TV prices are dropping fast. That leaves me with a 6 year old 40″ rear projection TV that I can’t even give away. I just keep lowering the price, but no one wants to buy it when they can buy the latest technology for not much more money. Eventually it will just go to charity if no one buys it.

I am replacing one of the TiVo boxes in my house with a DVR from Comcast. Why? TiVo can’t handle high definition TV, and that is just plain silly. So, the experiment begins with one TV and one DVR. This is a major shift for a dedicated TiVo fan like me.

Next year I want a cool new gadget. Not sure what it is, but I want it now.

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Yes, I laughed out loud.

November 30, 2005

Wait for the punch line in this video.

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