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The little things matter

I have a hummingbird feeder by my front porch. The recipe is fairly simple 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.  I tried last week to use the most organic plain sugar I could get which was raw sugar from Trader Joe's.  After using the organic sugar I did not have much hummingbird activity. It turns out that the hummingbirds don't love organic sugar they prefer the bleached white Domino Sugar.  After whipping up a small batch with the regular sugar the hummingbirds eagerly came back to the feeder.  

This small change that in my opinion was more natural and better for them turned out to reduce their frequency.   It is interesting because you can often find the same behavior in software usability. Companies will make an update and change something that they perceive as very small and in the users best interest yet customers just do not like it.  Many times, you will not get emails telling you that they are unhappy, they will just reduce usage.  This is why it is important to have a baseline behavior measured.  That way after the change you can see if there is any affect on usage.  I admit that I don't always take a baseline measure before making many changes but the hummingbirds reminded me how important it is.

Sometimes a major update causes major issues

Tonight "Developer Epic Games has announced that Fortnite servers are being shut down due to several issues with game services." 

After after a major update sometimes you can encounter major problems and that seems to be what happened tonight 4 the popular game fortnite.  

The the company has been not only working on solving the problem but doing a very good job with keeping the community up to date through all social channels on their progress.  It is impressive to see how well people are taking the outage and supportive of the company as they work through this.   


All this talk about a paid version of Facebook

There is a lot of talk in the media these days about creating a paid version of Facebook.  Today Facebook makes money from advertisers that would like to target their message to a specific group of people.  In an article on they do a good job of laying our how complicated a major change in the unit economics may effect Facebook.  Not that my opinion matters to Facebook, but what about a revenue share so that each user gets a small piece of the advertising pie?  Facebook would clearly keep the lions share.  It is their platform, their servers, their expertise, their ad management programs, etc... but then each of the 2 billion users would share in the advertising revenue.  Just a thought.

Another day... another breach

Today is just another day when a company announces that they have messed up with our personal data.  Today is Orbitz that had hackers gain access to 880,000 credit cards from customers spanning from January 2016 to December 2017. 

According to the article: "The hackers also likely accessed other data, like names, physical or mailing addresses, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers and the customer’s gender"

What I don't see in all these articles is Victim Compensation.  When customers fly and the airline has a delay they often compensate the affected people.  I have experienced the small ones like when we are waiting to take off and they come around with a free drink or premium snack to bonus miles if the delay is particularly long.  When Experian was hacked the compensation was credit monitoring service, not a good compensation for screwing things up, but it is something.  Something needs to be done for the victims of these hacks.  

Moving to the business side of these issues for a moment.  I wonder WHY the public is not informed on what companies like Orbitz are doing to go after the 'hackers'.  I personally would like to know that Orbitz is mad, very mad about this and what they are doing to fight back.  The article states; "The company also notes that its current site is not affected by this breach and that it brought in third-party experts and a forensic investigation firm, as well as law enforcement, to “eliminate and prevent unauthorized access to the platform." But, there is no mention of going after the data, going after the people that hacked them, it is just trying to stop it from happening again - which I assumed they were doing in the first place. 

Here is the link to the TechCrunch article

HelloFresh - it isn't your fault, but it is your problem.


The old saying in customer service rang true for me recently - It isn't your fault, but it is your problem. My family has been enjoying the home meal service, HelloFresh for months.  We started with Blue Apron.  At first we enjoyed the fancy meals and cooking with ingredients that we had never used before.  After a few shipments from Blue Apron the kids didn't love the menu so we decided to give HelloFresh a try.  Same concept, but different menu.  The first few months were great.  The menu was great, food quality was great.  We began to depend on our Tuesday delivery and would factor two nights of family meals from HelloFresh into our grocery shopping.  

The first problem was two weeks ago.  Tuesday came and no delivery.  Calling customer service resulted in the response that they don't know what happened but it would not happen again.  The thing is, NO attempt to get the delivery made, just an apology and assurance that it will not happen again.  Then, this week the same thing.  NO delivery. 

I called at 7pm to find out what was wrong (the box had normally been delivered around 1pm-2pm).  I was told that the delivery service had until 8pm and their tracking still showed my dinner was out for delivery.  8pm comes no delivery, 9pm no delivery.  At 10pm the shipper (a company called DiCom) says that the package was delivered at 2pm.  IT WAS NOT delivered.  

HelloFresh has a great product, that wasn't the problem.  Their choice of suppliers is what cost them the business.  


Big brands with small insight teams


Last week I attended The Market Research Event in Orlando.  The conference has been one of the largest conferences for Market Researchers.  After sitting through three days of sessions I was struck by how many sessions that included large brands mentioned the size of their teams and just how few team members they were working with.  These are not small companies.  For example I attended sessions with speakers from; Dominos, Roche, IBM, Sephora, Lyft, Coke, Colgate, and many others.  Each one, at some point in their talks about how they addressed a research challenges mentioned the size of their team.  I was surprised at how many global big brands are operating with research teams less than 10 and most with teams of 5 or less.  

Another common theme to all the talks was the adherence to a short cycle methodology.  Many of the presentations talked about Agile and Lean.  Only one from the Garage Group detailed the way they used the build–measure–learn from the Lean methodology but each one had cues to how their internal processes were structured.  Going beyond rapid research methodologies and technologies some clients mentioned their usage of communities and platform data analytics.  

The talk in the hallways and exhibit halls was about shrinking staff and budgets in the research function.  This theme was echoed this morning in Bob Lederer's daily YouTube report.  Bob's story of the day highlights the major players in market research reporting down numbers.  While the numbers may be off a little, they are not off much, many companies are reporting a 5% or less miss of their targets.  In my opinion this is a signal to shifting efforts and not a signal to an industry downturn.    

The future is here now, for some

I am currently reading "WTF What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us" by Tim O'Reilly.   Early on I was struck by the passage; "William Gibson famously observed, “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”".  A big part of my conversations with clients and potential clients is uncovering their perspective.  I ladder the conversations so that I can understand their 'today' and what they want their 'tomorrow' to be.  It helps me to determine if my company is a good fit to help them achieve their goals.  In some conversations they are interested in understanding their data and have only a popular news understanding of machine learning and Ai.  In other cases they are very versed in the nuances of machine learning and artificial intelligence and automation as it relates to their data and business.  The quote from William Gibson helps me to keep perspective that "The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet."

Sometimes you will get crapped on


We are having a very mild fall in New England so yesterday we took some time and the family went apple picking.  When we got to the orchard there were tons of people that had the same idea.  Despite a little concern that the crowds were going to get all the good apples we decided to give it a go.  As we were walking in, I felt a knock on the top of my head, but then it was warm....  yep, a bird shit on me.  Not a little either, but a direct hit on top of my head.  My wife was kind enough to stop laughing long enough to use a napkin and kind of clean most of it out.  It was a nasty way to start, but I was not going to give up.  We hiked to the top and wandering down we found a section that was ripe and ready.  The moral of the story is, sometimes when you start something you might get shit on...  wipe the crap off your head and keep going, the sweet fruit in the end will be worth it.  

When is a Rock not a Rock?

I am reading a great book called 'Turn the Ship around' by L. David Marquet.  I found out about it from an off hand mention by Simon Sinek in an interview he was giving.  

"A little rudder far from the rocks to prevent needing a lot of rudder next to the rocks"  

The idea being that if you adjust your ship earlier to avoid a known problem it will take less effort/work than if you wait till your close.  For a submarine no one debates weather a rock is dangerous for the ship.  In business how can we apply this?  It got me thinking how not all hazards to the business are agreed that they are hazards, sometimes a rock isn't a rock. 

In what ways can we identify the rocks in our business path so that we can apply a little rudder?  How do we unify everyone on the team so that we can all agree that running ashore isn't what we want to happen to our ship?