Monday, May 31, 2010

TED Talks

I recently posted links to a few of my favourite TED talks, and I have a few more, if I could remember what they were! That is why I'm sharing them as I am too lazy to sign up at and use their favourite feature. At least this way you can also see what I like easily.

I'll post more as they randomly come up, they got some really good stuff there!

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on

One of my favourite TED Talks:

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on

One of my favourite TED Talks:

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on

Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Video on

One of my favourite TED Talks:

Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory | Video on

more related info for research:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kobo Origins: A Great Community Manager Story + Classic Big Corp. Sucks Story (Don't they always go together?)

So I recently posted the Super Early Review of the Kobo, but I left out the story of how huge of an ordeal it was to get one!

Last Friday I won a contest hosted by the wonderful people at Red Canary! Around noon I DM'd them on twitter to get the details of how I could obtain my new prize! I must have thought for some reason that Trevor Stafford was some sort of Super Octopus to still be able to run as the Red Canary community manager in addition to his already numerous community manager roles and twitter accounts (not to mention he moved to Waterloo from Toronto)...

Turns out it was someone else in Toronto (so it couldn't be as convenient as going to the AC to pick it up!), a wonderful person by the name of Heather Holmes. She worked with me back and forth via twitter, email and phone to try and get me my Kobo as soon as possible as she realized shipping it to me might take awhile. I told her I was close to Chapters Waterloo and so she called to buy one over the phone so I could pick it up in the store. Unfortunately, it turns out you can't buy stuff over the phone with your credit card! #FAIL! Ridiculousness to the max aside, we were running out of options as I didn't want to wait for shipping or drive to Toronto (and Heather didn't want me to wait either!). The next solution was to just send me gift cards online, or e-certificates. So she goes and buys those online for me, told me I'd get 4 as she couldn't just state one price (again, go Chapters, woo!). An hour later I still didn't have them so I followed up to let her know the status, and she called them to find out what was going on. She remained incredibly helpful through the whole experience and went above and beyond what I expected! She calls Chapters and they say it should arrive in the next 6 hours! She's flabbergasted, and I'm shocked as well, but not surprised. You'd think sending an electronic gift certificate would be instant these days, you know with the technology and speed of light thing that most sites take advantage of, but no, not with Chapters, sorry! She apologized and kept in contact with me many times to help get me that Kobo, and I appreciated the dedication!

Nothing arrived that night (I checked my email a lot too!) and now it was the weekend meaning the Chapters monkeys weren't at work. Long weekend too mind you, luckily I was occupied anyways! Heather emailed me Tuesday morning bright and early saying they'd be in by Wednesday morning at the latest and was quite embarrassed for Chapters, and I can't blame her! luckily I got them by 11am, all 4 of em. I did go to research the comments on buyers of e-certificates and most the comments were over a year old, but they were all extremely negative saying it took weeks to get them and ruined everyone's plans, how could they possibly take that long?

So I open my emails to figure out how to use them and it turns out I can only use them to buy from online! I can't use them at a store and they are non-refundable! I also cannot buy online and just pick up from store stock. Great, so now I still have to order the device. I go to order the black one and I get free premium 2-4 day shipping, but it says next to the device (3-5 weeks). Hmm, which will it be? Turns out it was still 3 -5 weeks, and the 2 - 4 day shipping is on top of that, what a fucking pile of shit! Glad I didn't have to pay for premium shipping! Guaranteed arrival date was July 5th, and the current day was May 25th! I was leaving for Kenora on July 6th so if I missed delivery I would have probably missed the 5 day holding period too at the depot! I told Heather about the situation and she was blown away by all of this! She was on the phone with Chapters in a heartbeat and got me some more info. Apparently you can cancel within 50 minutes of ordering online, and then you can actually transfer your e-balance on to a gift card to use in a store! So I call customer service and luckily get in on first ring, no wait time, and had a great person to talk to who asked my story, was very understanding and helped me through the whole thing. She canceled my order with only a minute to go, was a close call, and she asked if I got the order email right as I got it too so I thought I was too late. Here's a funny detail I forgot, as soon as I bought the Kobo online I got an email confirming a purchase, but saying I will get the actual order number and details in 6 hours, so I was kind of flying blind when I called, could only give my email address!

So I finally have the money on my gift card that I luckily had found in my wallet, lest I would have had to go out and buy one, then go home to transfer it, then come back. Heather is excited that it worked and gives me the phone number of my local Chapters to call and make sure they are in stock before I go over there. The online stock said 2 so I wasn't going to call, but I called anyways for some reason as I did have that number conveniently in front of me, and I'm glad I did as I discovered that there was an online stock error! The woman on the phone at Chapters gives her condolences after I tell my whole tale of how I'm trying to get this device that I won and then she goes on and explains to me why it's such a great device and why I'd love it, which I appreciate as it seems the employees are passionate about the thing, but I didn't need to hear it as I was already getting one for sure! Turns out every store in KWC+G were sold out and no one knew when they were shipping or if their store would actually get any more units. They said it would actually be faster to order online as they are still building and shipping them and those people get priority over the stores. Great! I'm back at the July 5th if I still even get that date :S They said call each morning though to double check. So I'm looking all over Southern Ontario and these things are hard to find! I could probably get one if I drove an hour and back, but I didn't want to do that! I look back online and turns out the shipping is 1-2 weeks with a white unit versus 3-5 with the black. So I decided to just keep calling around and maybe taking a trip out somewhere on the weekend to go buy one and do something else at the same time.

The next morning I call all the KWC locations again, leaving Waterloo last, and my luck they actually said they had one white Kobo in stock! I reserved it and went to pick it up. I asked if they got a new shipment in and the cashier said no. I asked why there were none yesterday and how they got this magical one unit; she said someone ordered it to the store, it arrived, but they canceled their order! What luck!!!

So I got a white one, but I think I'm ok with it as it might be cooler in the sun, looks less like an iPad, and I think it would be easier on the eyes then the black one.

Heather was finally able to give the real congrats after that long journey and she was so incredibly helpful the whole way, a very dedicated person who went above and beyond to keep me happy. I can't really complain about the situation as it was a free gift and I tried to keep a humourous take on the whole thing with Heather along the way, giving her an easy out that I could just wait if I had to, but she stuck with it and was invested.

To make a long story short, Chapters has a few (to say the least) user experience issues to deal with (Heather mentioned she'd attempt to follow up personally with their UX team), but I must admit that the Chapters phone support was very good (Heather said her person was very helpful too). The staff I spoke to when calling the stores were also very helpful and took the time to explain how it all worked (manufacturing, shipping, ordering to store, etc.) and to give me the best options for getting a Kobo. The Kobos are selling like Wii-Fits (the new age proverbial hot-cakes) and are damn hard to get!

I have to say that Heather is a great successor to Trevor as the Community Manager for Red Canary and has not only met, but exceeded my expectations of what a good community manager does.

From one community manager to another: Thanks!

Kobo Super Early Review

Just wanted to post a quick update (who am I kidding, you know this thing is gonna be long when I write...) that I now own a Kobo, what an interesting device! It's not what you would expect from a regular handheld device and the technology of e-ink seems almost alien.

First off, it seems slow, not the response time of new shiny toys you are used to, but I don't know if that's because it's weak, it wants to preserve battery, or it's really this magical e-ink stuff that's taking the most time. When you see screens change, it is literally like watching someone redraw something new with an etch-a-sketch while the old stuff starts to be "shaken" away. I mean it's more instant than that, but for lines of text that's how it feels. It kind of flashes black on screen/page turns, but I figure that is a mechanism to help erase the old e-ink or something, but I imagine I'll get used to it.

I haven't really started reading anything much on it yet as I need to find a good book that I want to read, something to enthrall me and bring me back, more so than just the feel of a new toy in my hands. It's kind of like what I feel when I get a laptop, so excited to get it, then I open it up and start using it and it's just another computer like the rest, and I don't really have anything special I need to do with it or differently, so I just end up returning it.

The most crazy thing I must say is that this e-ink is semi-permanent yet doesn't "burn in". It just flies in the face of everything I'm used to, turning off a screen means it doesn't display anything, and leaving something on either means wasted energy/battery or burn-in. This "e-ink" can stay on the screen with no charge or power consumption (I think?). Let me explain it, I pull it out of the box, I see something written on the screen telling me to plug it in to install the app and charge it, so then I peel off the plastic screen cover and I'm confused as the label I just read didn't come with the plastic! Was there a second layer of plastic on the screen with those instructions? There didn't appear to be! This thing was just shipped, but god knows how long it was sitting around with no juice in the battery, or how long it could be sitting around in a stock room (in the far future where it's not selling like wii-fits). I notice that when I turn the thing off, it writes something to the screen like "Kobo: press power to read some more". It's really cool, but so goddamn weird because it makes me think it's still on! I turned it off and on again without realizing it as when you read a book and power down it puts the cover of the book on the screen and says in small at the bottom press power to continue reading. I thought I just pushed menu by accident, but no I did turn it off, then on again in my confusion. Pretty damn cool.

I was a little surprised on how it had no (real) instruction book and no instructions bundled with the desktop app, it was almost one of those explore the simple UI and you'll figure it out yourself kind of things, which confuses me as I imagine most of the people buying these things are somewhat tech illiterate. I mean sure they are buying new e-book readers, but these things are priced to sell and I imagine there is a mass population of older people out there who want a new convenience of reading but aren't necessarily tech savvy people. Suffice to say I actually had to google for the manual and view it myself to figure out how to use all the functions without having to experiment too much and miss out on key tricks. I was surprised to find that the manual wasn't even that friendly a read, and it was 42 pages which made me say whoa, that's big, but it turned out only the first 16.5 pages were real content, the rest was all legal mumbo-jumbo! Why would you package it all in one PDF in this day in age? More than half the content of the PDF was garbage to 99.9% of people reading, so put in a place people will look if they need to!

The reader is a little slow to browse/page through the library, but it gives you time to read what titles are on each page, and the hundred books that come with it seem like a good choice, my girlfriend was so pumped to see a lot of them. My time is limited enough though that I'd rather stick to reading things I want to read versus the bundled which may be good and I might enjoy, but that I have no time or will for. The review on that experience will come when it is experienced.

I did try uploading a PDF, it wasn't obvious how and was one of the reasons I got the Manual. When exploring the device on my computer I noticed there were no special folders listed (just adobe app & install crap), but apparently just drag and dropping files into root will do the trick. This particular PDF didn't fit the screen well any way, landscape or portrait. It will fit, but man is the text tiny, even for my hawk eyes. Making it bigger and readable means scrolling both horizontally and vertically and it doesn't work that well, would rather just read on computer or paper, and when you get to the end of a scroll it automatically moves to next page, so you have to be careful. 4 Steps the Epiphany will have to be read on my PC, oh well!

Apparently I can bluetooth sync my Kobo to work with phone and PC I think so I can read on any device anywhere and keep em synced up, probably won't try it though, doesn't make sense for my use case.

When in landscape mode, you'd think the menus and d-pad would change orientation as well, but they don't, which is too bad, but firmware updates could fix that.

Anyways it seems light enough with a soft quilted back thingy, I imagine it'll be nice to read, but still haven't given it the try it deserves yet, so I'll let you know how comfortable it is compared to a real book when I get the feel for it.

Also taking suggestions for good business/startup/entrepreneurship books!