Father’s Day is a great time to give dad techie gadgets he wouldn’t necessarily buy for himself. Here are some ideas.
1. Last minute gift: an Apple App Store or Android gift card. Who doesn’t need more apps for their mobile device? You can buy prepaid Apple gift cards at most any Target and many supermarkets; if they don’t have the App Store card an iTunes card would work just as well. For Android, Amazon Gift Card – E-mail – Amazon Appstore will work just as well and you can order it for immediate delivery via email. (Unfortunately, Amazon does not seem to have a gift card with a picture of the Android robot on it.)
2. Home Depot gift: a cordless lithium drill/driver set. Every dad has an old cordless drill in a drawer, but the new-generation lithium battery technology is a dramatic step forward. They’re lighter, more powerful and the battery lasts far longer. I have one by Bosch but whatever is on sale will do; take a look and see if you can find a combo set with flashlight, radio and other add-ons that run off the same batteries. This is definitely something dad would never buy for himself but, take it from me, would like to have.
3. Grilling dad gift: temperature monitor for the Weber. The point where dad gets serious about barbecue is when he starts to think about temperature control. Fortunately, there are sturdy aftermarket thermometers like this one which he add in to his existing kettle cooker in a few minutes by drilling a hole, then securing the thermometer with a nut and a washer. If you want to go high tech, my friend Steve would send you to the Thermoworks site where they have all manner of remote doneness sensors, instant read laser thermometers and such.
Sorry for geeking out here, but I just discovered the solution to a longstanding problem and I haven’t seen a complete discussion anywhere else. So here goes…
The problem has to do with WordPress permalinks. A blog post’s permalink is the URL that search engines and directories use to find it on a WordPress blog like the one you’re reading. If a permalink changes for an existing post, the post disappears and searchers get a 404 error which not only is frustrating, but will cost you big time in the search rankings.
So why in the world would you want to change your permalinks in light of this risk? Because most of us made a mistake in the way we set up our permalinks to begin with. There’s a “Permalinks” tab in “Settings” on the WordPress dashboard and radio buttons to choose your structure and the default (as I recall) is to give each post a unique number like:
But instead I thought it was useful to reference the date (at the beginning of Otisregrets, I was using it primarily as a communications tool in my copywriting class so it was important to have everything in chronological order) so I chose this option:
There are two things wrong with that structure. First, it means that every time a search result lists my post it will include the date. And I think most people give more credence to recent posts since an older one may have obsolete information. Second, you may want to republish older posts (like the ones from the early days of a blog, when you had far less readership). You can’t simply cut and paste to create a duplicate post; the search spiders hate this. But if you change the publication date in the WordPress dashboard to create a new post, then all your indexing disappears.
What I wanted to do is change the permalink structure to
which means I can change the publication date (but NOT the title) and the search engines and indexes will still find it, yet it will be on the top page of my blog. And if you look at the urls of my posts now, that’s what I did. Here’s how.
1. Download your .htaccess file, which is in the top level directory of your WordPress blog. (Mine is in www.otismaxwell.com/blog for example.) This is the file which directs spiders and other indexing operations (including your own) as to where to find things on your site. You might not see the file immediately because many ftp applications hide “dot” files by default. I used Filezilla which has a setting under “Server” for “Force showing hidden files”; you want to check this setting and then .htaccess appears.
2. Make the .htaccess file visible on your local machine. This is necessary because neither Mac OS X nor Windows shows these files by default. In Mac it’s a simple matter of opening the Terminal and adding this line:
After you do this, close terminal and restart Finder and voila, all your hidden files are now visible.
3. make a copy of the .htaccess file you downloaded and move it to a safe place on your local computer in case something terrible happens.
4. Open the .htaccess file in a text editor (I used TextEdit) and insert a line under # BEGIN WordPress to specify a 301 redirect. DO NOT MAKE A MISTAKE HERE OR YOUR POSTS WILL DISAPPEAR. Web programmer and SEO expert Joost de Valk has kindly provided a script which will create the correct code for you; read the article then click “generate redirects” and follow the prompts to create your own like of 301 code.
5. Upload the edited .htaccess file to your WordPress directory, replacing the old file, then IMMEDIATELY go to the Permalinks tab on the WordPress dashboard and change the format to:
6. Test it by searching for a couple of your posts in Google or other search engine. The result should resolve to the new title of the post. You did it!
7. It’s a good idea to re-hide hidden files on your local machine so you don’t delete or alter one of these vital files by accident. To do this on Mac, just go into Terminal and enter the same instruction as previously but this time end it with “NO” instead of “YES”:
defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles NO
A couple I know bought a fancy camera before the birth of their first baby. It’s sitting in a drawer somewhere. Turns out that their trusty iPhone does everything they need: they can shoot a pretty good photo, touch it up with Instagram, and shoot it out to their friends immediately.
Instagram is interesting. Dave Kerpen wrote an article about it over on LinkedIn called “And the Future of Social Media Is” and the answer is… not Tumblr, just acquired by Yahoo, but Instagram. His 10 year old daughter and her friends used it to exhaustion on a recent weekend trip, adding insta-apps to expand the conversation as they went. As opposed to Pinterest, which sends lots of traffic to my food blog but seems mainly a scrapbooking application, Instagram really works as a fully functional social network–and it’s a lot easier to shoot and share a picture than to write an update.
One of those apps, Instafollow, allows users to automatically follow or unfollow up to 160 users per hour, up to an ultimate count of 20,000 users, simply by following followers of a user. That’s a lot more power than Twitter and a lot easier to execute. No wonder my own kid, who’s fairly responsible on Facebook, got me in so much trouble on Instagram that I had to delete my account. Snap a picture, slap some text on it, and you’re good to go.
I just put the account back up and already I’ve got new followers and a writing opportunity thanks to Instagram. My username is otismaxwell if you care to meet me over there.
Alas, a schedule conflict will keep me from attending CES this week in Las Vegas. My annual prediction* is that this will be the year of the app-liance: a hardware mashup, possibly centered around a tablet but maybe something completely different, that puts together several apps in order to perform a hopefully useful service such as protecting your home, monitoring your diet or organizing your virtual library.
If I were there I’d arrive in time for ShowStoppers and give these good and awful marketers a probably unappreciated critique. I’d head for the Panasonic booth first thing next morning to see how they’re pushing the edge of the eco-envelope this year. I’d save time for Eureka Avenue and see what the startups are up to. (Hopefully they’ll fare better than Twykin last year.) And of course, I’d take in a buffet or two.
Have fun, be careful, and never draw to an inside straight. Hopefully I’ll see you in 2014.
* See last year’s eerily prophetic prediction here, in the paragraph about LG.
Click on the image to see larger size then click again to read
As a technologically savvy consumer who’s not excited by the current crop of luxury cars, I should be the perfect target for the reimaged Lincoln. Yet the full page ad in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal had me scratching my head. (I haven’t been able to find the full text anywhere online so I’ll shoot it at hopefully high enough resolution that you can read it for yourself.)
As a copywriter, I love long copy ads that succeed and hate long copy ads that make skeptics say “long copy doesn’t work”. This ad, unfortunately, is in the latter camp. Let’s examine why:
1. Lincoln assumes a coziness which is not likely to exist between ad and reader. Sadly, today’s consumer is not enamored with our silken prose and is more likely to turn the page than to read the copy. Witness the headline which, out of all the infinite possibilities, says “Hello. Again.” And a first paragraph that says, “It takes a special type of ego to presume the world needs another luxury car. (In fact, it’s a bit like the kind that interrupts your otherwise meaningful pursuit of current events with a full-page ode to our intentions.)” Lincoln, we could care less about your ego.
2. The ad has a tin ear. Here’s an aspirational statement in the second paragraph: “True trailblazers follow their inner light. You’ve got to be pretty confident to create what has never been done before. It’s true in history, invention, art, you name it. Even automotive design.” Pretty high-minded and soul-stirring.
But here’s their proof point in the very next paragraph: “If the traditional gearshift consumes too much space between the front seats, you break the rules. You break new ground. You place a redesigned push-button shifter next to the steering wheel.” Not only is that a terrible letdown from the aspirational high, it’s not even new. I had such a shifter in my 1963 Rambler.
3. Lincoln steps on his own coat tails in attempting to be all things to all consumers. The brand wants to be “what has never been done” as noted above. But they also want to build on their heritage, as the ad progresses. Past Lincolns are presented as “different… truth be told, not everyone liked them” and the “selfless” (sic) ego of Edsel Ford is brought forward as the kind of pure design fire that burned brightly. (When people think “Edsel” they think of the car, of course, with all its quirks, not the man.)
If you are brand new, then you’ve broken away from any history you have. Instead they’ve chosen to bring up the history, then belittle it or suggest that Lincoln has been misunderstood. I don’t think you can have it both ways. And there is also the television advertising to deal with, presenting the Lincoln as the “car of presidents” (as in presidential limo) which makes it seem like a mainstream choice and not an eccentric outlier. More discontinuity.
Finally, at the end of the ad, we’re told what lies in store for us: “elevating our owner service to be on par with the world’s most exclusive concierges… we’ll treat you as a ‘client,’ not as a customer… simply, our goal is to be everything for a certain few.” Here I know what is happening because I did some work for Lexus in the early 90s, when they were eating Infiniti’s lunch. The two new luxury brands were launched at the same time. Infiniti then, like Lincoln today, came forth with dreamy high-minded metaphors and poetic-sounding prose. Lexus simply said, we’re going to pamper you like you’ve never been pampered before.
So Lincoln is going to be both Infiniti and Lexus in the same body. We’re dreamers and unabashed egoists, but when push comes to serve we’ll open the door for you and give you a free carwash with your oil change. Actually, according to Yahoo! News, the promotional plans include a “date night” in which consumers get a free dinner for two when they take a test drive. Now that might get my attention. As long is it’s not Olive Garden or TGIF Friday.
Here’s a preview of the KISS panel we’re presenting at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas. Come see us next Wednesday, October 17 at 9 am to get the full story!
When you’re selling complex products and services, that often have a high price tag, it’s easy to overcomplicate your marketing message. A copywriter might think, it’s hard to know which of the technical specs is most important so I better include all of them. Or, this buyer will need a lot of information in order to justify the cost. The problem is that ultimately you’re still selling to people. And we can only absorb so much information, especially when we may not have asked for that information in the first place.
The solution is to keep it simple—tell your complicated story in basic human terms that boil down to easily understood story lines and personal benefits. Because even if we’re the chief technology office of a large company, we’re also a human being and we will evaluate rationally but ultimately make an emotional decision.
For example, here are the “Six Universal Buying Motives” as described by Roy Chitwood at Max Sacks International. A powerful appeal may speak to more than one of these emotions. And if you are appealing to none of them you’re going to have a lot harder time making the sale.
1. Desire for gain (usually financial)
2. Fear of loss (again, usually financial)
3. Comfort and convenience
4. Security and protection
5. Pride of ownership
6. Satisfaction of emotion
Now, let’s look at how these might translate into a technology workplace environment:
1. Desire for gain (usually financial)
=career advancement, better performance reviews.
2. Fear of loss (again, usually financial)
=job security, avoidance of unpleasant surprises.
3. Comfort and convenience
=less late hours, fewer angry users/bosses.
4. Security and protection
=systems work as they are supposed to do.
5. Pride of ownership
=taking credit for a new and better solution.
6. Satisfaction of emotion
=elegant systems that make the enterprise work better
The moral: people are still people, even when they’re on the job and deciding which technical products to buy. At the end of the day they want to be praised for their good work, have a comfortable lifestyle because they’ve been promoted, and go home at a reasonable hour instead of having to solve headaches. And you can tell them how your product helps them do this.
There’s lots more KISS (keep it simple) creative on tap from Dawn Wolf, Philip Reynolds and me. Come see us at 9 am on Wednesday, October 17 at the DMA in Las Vegas!
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page
[THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED.] Yesterday I mentioned a problem I was having with the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page. Today I’m taking the extra step of showing the page because this is something I don’t think has a lot of customer service advantage. They’re using the same page whether you are setting up a new online persona OR you have forgotten your password in which case you simply have to choose a new username.
What else could Barclaycard have done? Send an email at the user’s request, with a unique URL that expires after a few hours. That way the account is secure, but the user stays in control of it. This is the nearly universal practice, and it’s interesting to see an exception and mull the pros and cons.
Requiring a new username is particularly onerous for Barclaycard Ring because it’s supposed to be a social networking community. If I change my username, what happens to the badges and contacts I’ve built up under my old username? But I think it’s not a very good practice in general, and this big international bank must be somehow very stretched for programming resources.
While I’m at it, here’s another not-best practice: confirming the new (or old) password by sending out an email that contains exactly that password in unencoded text. Yikes! What if I’m reading my email in Starbucks or an unsecured wireless hotspot at the airport? Even if I’m in the comfort and sanctity of my home, I’m still going to have to delete that email now. The merchant or marketer probably thought they were doing me a favor by sending me a handy reminder. In contrast to Barclaycard, this is one we’ve all seen, probably several times. Don’t do it.
UPDATE July 3: got a call from Meagan in the Barclaycard digital marketing department and she had a little difficulty reproducing the above page on a test account; possibly I had done something like enter the wrong password too many times that caused the system to “clear out my account”. What I should have seen was a reset page with my security image and with her help I was able to get to that. More important, she and I discovered that if, instead of creating a new user name in the screen captured above, I entered my current one (after confirming who I was with the challenge info above) the system would accept it.
The GOOD news was that when I finally got into my account my screen name had not changed at all; must be different from the username the system recognizes. So all my badges, if I had them, would be intact.
Meagan says this is the password reset procedure used for all Barclaycard products but she does understand how it might be a good idea to present it differently (and tell people they can keep their current username if they like) for the Ring cardmembers. Will be interested to see what they come up with.
After an 18 month dalliance with Android, I’m back to the iPhone, now on Verizon. Left the Droid X outside during a Texas thunderstorm, and the Verizon folks were kind enough to upgrade me without a penalty.
I’m happy. All my old apps were waiting for me in iTunes. The GPS problems have gone away. And I’m comfortable back in Steve’s sandbox where rogue apps don’t cause the system to crash.
Just one thing… what the f* is this Siri? Does anybody except new users and my 10 year old actually find it an enjoyable and productive feature? Or to expand the question, if there had never been a Star Trek would the idea of instructing a computer with voice commands, rather than just punching a button, have ever seemed like a good idea?
One thing I did struggle with was the lack of security for my Apple account. By default, a user (such as the above mentioned 10 year old) can enter a wrong password 4 times and then be asked if they want to reset it. The reset link is sent to my primary email account, which of course is accessible on the phone.
The solution is to go to Settings>General>Restrictions>Accounts and then check “Don’t Allow Changes”. I can now enter the wrong password as many times as I like and will never be prompted to reset it.
Rovi "Bridzilla" Ad in today's Ad Age. Thanks to client Bill Smith and his trusty iPhone.
I’m on a panel at this fall’s DMA called “K.I.S.S – Keys to Copy & Content that Generate Results”. My partners in crime are Dawn Wolfe from Autodesk and Philip Reynolds from pharma agency Palio. The idea is to talk about strategies for translating complex products or services into simple and universal human language that sells.
I’m thinking of using this Rovi promo, which appears in today’s Ad Age, as an example. Rovi does the ads that appear within onscreen television guides and other formats where the viewer is actively involved with a remote or other electronic device; viewers aren’t dozing or distracted so this is an attractive option for media buyers, our target audience. A bit complex so we boiled it down to this idea of the bridezilla who is so enamored of her remote that she can’t put it down even in the wedding chapel.
The antonym of this is the ads you’ll find in any issue of Wired or Fast Company for high-performance automobiles or audiovisual equipment. Those ads typically use visual metaphors of power and performance and expect the reader to be awed, not involved.
The session is happening on October 17, so plenty o’ time to noodle on this. If you have any thoughts or examples on this topic, please send them along!
The highlight of my final day at CES 2012 was a visit to Eureka Park, the area at the Venetian dedicated to new products and startup companies. Here are a few items of particular interest.
Cubelets. Designed for kids to learn programming, Cubelets are magnetic blocks that can be snapped together to produce complex reactions. For example, the brightness block determines the available amount of light and turns on the flashlight block, then the distance block tells the driving block to move the whole structure down the table. You can watch a really silly video since my photo didn’t work out well, and you can also preorder an (expensive) prototype kit to ship in March.
Postcard on the Run. An iPhone or Android app that lets you choose a photo, write a message (including your written signature) then mail it as a physical postcard to an address in your address book. I tried it out and the app was going to charge me $1.99 (including a scratch n sniff layer at 50 cents extra) which is not a bad price compared to buying and mailing a postcard from the post office.
Twykin.com. These guys are doing a mashup of bulletin boards, FAQs, Wikipedia type user written articles and using it to develop as a test case the world’s first crowdsourced customer service application. You’ll have to trust me (and I will have to trust them) on this one since their developer was in an accident just before CES but they promised to get back to me and I’ll do a full piece at some point in the near future.
Blippar. Instead of shooting a QR code with your smartphone that takes you to a website, the Blippar app allows you to interact directly with an augmented reality application. The examples shown by this UK company include a ketchup label that allowed you to turn the label into pages you can flip through, and a retail page in which you can order directly from the app.
SurfEasy. This is a USB dongle that fits into a credit card-size carrier. On it are your browser preferences and passcodes with bank-level encryption so you can just plug into a public device and go right to work. There’s no storage on the device, but it comes with 2 GB of cloud storage. It’s a bit pricey at $60, but solves a problem for folks who use public computers in what looks like a complete and well thought-out execution.