Category Archives: business

You Can Lead By Being The First Follower

The impact of the first follower

This starts out very silly and fun. By the time it was over, there were tears in my eyes. I hope that you can feel it, too.

Here’s a great analysis of the first follower. I think the version of the video that I’ve posted has more raw emotional impact, but it’s worth watching Derek’s, as well, for his analysis.

It would be easy to watch this, get a chuckle, and forgot about it. That would be a mistake.

The end of an era

I opened my Mindspring account in 1996.  I was later than some, to the Internet party, though way ahead of most.  (I was on Compuserve and Prodigy before Mindspring, but I was even a Usenet user back in the late 70′s and early 80′s.)

But Earthlink blew it.  They lost a customer of 15 years, because they, like every other ISP, telephone, and cellular provider — actually, throw airlines in there, too — out there, doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about their customers.  Sure, they train their offshore support people to be excruciatingly polite as a proxy for real service.  “Thank you so much, Mr. Lee [sic], for tolerating my existence while I look up your account.  Your immense patience serves to remind me that I am not worthy to gaze upon your account history.”

But when it comes to performing real customer service, well, that’s pretty much not going to happen until the day you call to close your account.  I had months of dropped connections, days of multi-hour sessions with Earthlink tech support, countless frustrations with intermittent outages.  The service was just good enough to make the hassle of changing providers unappealing, since I knew I was just going to one of their equally poor competitors.  It took Earthlink about a year to finally send AT&T out to my house to see if there was a problem with the wiring.  Of course, it turned out there was.  They fixed that in ten minutes, and my service has been rock-solid since then.

Too bad that they burned all the good will and patience of a 15-year customer in that time.  I had already called another ISP (I don’t trust them either, so I’m not going to endorse them here.).  Now, I’ve got faster service for the same price.  (Don’t even get me started on the whole sweet-introductory-deal-for-new-subscribers/screw-you-existing-customers scam.)  And, months ago, in preparation for this, I had already transferred all email from leegrey@mindspring.com to other places, so they didn’t have that to hold over my head, though they tried.

So, when I called to cancel, they squirmed and bargained.  They went through all five stages of grief (though they hid their anger well).  They showed me they “cared” only when I was out the door.  The price kept dropping like they were going out of business.  This, despite the fact that three months earlier, I had been quoted a price that they refused to honor.  These companies act like a bad girlfriend with low self-esteem.  They treat you like crap until you tell them you’re leaving; then it’s all back rubs and BJs. Of course, the way they treat you, it’s only right that they have low self-esteem.

So, how big is the era of which this is the end?  On one hand, it’s merely the end of 15 years of leegrey@mindspring.com.  Big deal.  Looked at another way, though, it’s another step towards the end of human decency by American business.  Somewhere along the line, this became the way that these big companies decided they had to treat their customers.  We’re all just batteries in the Matrix.

Frankly, I’m pretty sick of it.

What’s really frustrating is that I’m not one of those “business is evil” liberals.  But sometimes businesses do make it tough to defend them.  I wish they would wise up and see the big picture.

The pain of finding a domain name

I know why Web 2.0 brings with it all the groovy spellings and made up words like Flickr, Friendster, and Facebook (and that’s just the F’s). It’s because the damned cybersquatters have already registered every decent English word and phrase you can imagine.  There’s nothing left for the people who are actually trying to do something.
There is nothing more infuriating than coming up with the perfect domain/product name and finding that it’s unavailable. Worse still is when there is nothing occupying that domain but one of those sleazy Google AdWords pages that add no value to the Internet. I am all for personal freedom and believe in capitalism, but there ought to be a way to shut down these leeches. I have a long list of domains I tried this morning that were unavailable, 95% of which pointed to nothing of value.

What’s always interesting is how adversity builds character and forces you to innovate. As frustrating and disappointing as it was that my “perfect” domain, ultimail.com, was taken and nothing but an AdWords site, I think I came up with something that I like even better. It’s one of those little gems that I might not have stumbled upon, had my first choice not been taken.

I give you Maileable.