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    How Himpmunk Can Solve the Google + and Facebook Problem

    August 24th, 2011

    Circles are all the rage with Google Plus but, as any usability person will tell you, they are a pain to manage.  That is why the Groups option in Facebook never got much traction.  You have to be dedicated to keeping the lists current and managing the settings on the pages.  Google tried to address this issue by forcing you to add people to a circle, but it is still a pain and still rather confusing.  Facebook just took another stab at it.

    I say just look at how people currently use social services and make a solution that solves this issue.  Hint: it is not this silly all-in-one view that both Facebook and Google Plus have taken.  The answer is right in from of them and the interfaces solution lies with Hipmunk.

    In Hipmunk you can create several searches in a tabbed view while remaining in the same browser tab.  The searches may be similar, but obviously different as well.  The key is that you have a central place to manage multiple threads, each thread in a unique tab.

    When you look at the social landscape there are clear breaks.  Facebook is for family and friends.  Twitter is for the masses.  LinkedIn is for work.  All are social; all are distinct.  The answer is one interface that blends all of it together in a central place with unique tabs.

    Circles and groups fail because you manage where you share it at the end of the sharing process, right before you click share.  Think about how much easier it would be to share to “Google+Professionals”, “Google+Friends”, “Google+World”.  Sure, have the concept of Circles live within this interface.  Make it so you can share on +Friends and add the +Work circle to the “Share With” list.  Have a Limited Profile list etc.  The point is that by creating an interface that makes is unmistakably clear where you are sharing people can effectively manage their online presence.

    Then bring it all together by having a central stream where the content flows into and make it clear (w/ an icon) where the post was originally shared from (+P, +F, +W or something cool).  Or, maybe you don’t need a central stream.  Maybe that’s what people say they want, but they don’t actually want it.  Maybe the solution is that people naturally silo themselves into distinct groups and providing a central tool that allows them to select the silo they wish to view is the answer.

    Google Plus is so close to this with the mandated Circles concept but still falls short.  Get people to a central place to manage these different aspects of their life first (look at the success of TweetDeck).  Then focus on how people would like to see them integrated, if at all.  Right now I see these companies trying to solve for a problem (a central place for everything) which doesn’t seem to have much demand while they ignore that people want – to separate certain aspects of their life into silos.

    Hipmunk has it right – give us tabs.  One place, many views, and a central place to manage to distinct aspects of my social presence.

    Does that sound like something you’d use?

    This has been a thought from The Cake Scraps.

    Dissecting Jeremy Schoemaker

    January 20th, 2010

    Oh Shoemoney, you are a money making machine.  And while I don’t think you are a prodigy of some kind, it is fun to see you at work.  Let us take a closer look at the e-mail you sent out last week.

    Hi David,

    I can’t tell you how excited I am!

    The number of emails and calls I’ve been getting from people
    telling me how they can’t wait for the ShoeMoney System
    going live on the 26th, has been mind-boggling…

    We’re going to do a LIVE Chat  tomorrow, share more details
    about what’s inside the ShoeMoney System and answer all
    of your questions.
    Trust me, you’re going to be sorry if you miss this one…



    Live Chat with Jeremy Schoemaker
    Thursday January 14, 2pm CT, 3pm EST

    IMPORTANT: We can only support 300 users in the room,
    so please signup now to reserve your spot.


    See you tomorrow!

    ShoeMoney Media Group | 5550 S. 59th St., Ste 21 | Lincoln, NE 68516 | US
    Unsubscribe from future marketing messages from ShoeMoney Media Group

    I think the best way for me to review this is just in a simple list.  Now remember, Jeremy is a testing machine.  The structure of this e-mail is not an accident.  It is the result of many many tests with e-mail, or display advertising, or whatever advertising he does.  It is a highly optimized contact and it shows.  So here are 10 of the things that I picked up on:

    1. Personal greeting: “Hi David”
    2. Build curiosity…what is he excited about
    3. Say that everybody is already doing it, don’t feel left out.
    4. The system going live is “mind-boggling” implies that it is some how extraordinary.
    5. Answer all “your” questions not only personalizes it but shows he’s going to give something to you.
    6. “Special Announcement” which, interestingly, is the whole point of the e-mail so it’s really not so special.  But it sounds nice.
    7. Uses his full name to establish credibility.
    8. Has an arbitrary limit of 300 users.
    9. Have to sign up up so he captures e-mails (in case you pass the info on)
    10. “See you tomorrow” again makes you envision you will be there.

    It is amazing how much optimization and tricks you can put into a single e-mail.  Did you see any others?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Why Free Content Isn’t Free

    November 20th, 2009

    Advertising.  That is the motto of seemingly every business you hear of today.  They will provide a service that is free to the customer and it will be supported by advertising.  Even Twitter said today that they will be launching an advertising business soon.  Fine.  I get it.  There is tons of money to be made with advertising.  Look no more than the post on Shoemoney where Jeremy says that:

    We allocated them a small budget of like 100k for a week and they did incredible.

    A SMALL budget of $100,000 per WEEK.  Yeah, there is money to be made in advertising space on your product/blog.  It is a great idea.  I have ads on this blog to help offset the cost of running it.  Hey, if it works that is great.  And best of all?  The consumer gets the content free.  Right?

    Well, that really all depends on your definition of free.  You get a discount at your local supermarket when you swipe your shopper card.  You earn rewards on your credit or debit card.  You get to use a product and it costs you nothing.  But one must stop for a moment and think about what is really happening.

    Business are generally not in business to be a charity.  Otherwise they would be a charity; that’s how these things work.  So that means that whatever strategy they are employing at the current moment is probably set up so that the company makes money.

    Now of course there are two sides to every coin.  You swipe your shopping card to get a discount.  The company collects the data and learns from it.  They place things near each other to cross sell.  Is this a service – they want to make it easier to shop.  Or is it trickery – you will buy both items even though you only need one item.

    The same is true with credit card loyalty programs.  Of course you get rewards so you are happy, but the company is also collecting data on you buying habits – maybe to send you offers in the mail.  Like the stuffers that come in some bills.  You don’t really think that stuff is all random do you?  (well, it might be, but not if the company is properly leveraging the data)

    And of course the ads for free services.  Even if you never click them, you see them.  They are the billboards of the internet.  You just have to trust that the display advertising works (or test into it).  They are impacting your perception of the brand or at least keeping it top of mind.

    Perhaps these are trade-offs that you willingly make.  Maybe you think you are the exception and don’t see it all.  That may be the case, but there are lots and lots of ever increasingly sophisticated way to trick your brain.  What our brains react to, how they work, what areas are activated when image A is viewed vs. image B.  Really, there are places doing consumer research where they are actively scanning the brain of the volunteer while they participate in the study.

    It is a very interesting, but possibly scary field – for the consumer.  So when you see all of these ad supported things and think it’s just free, consider what you are actually selling to get it.  Yourself.  And as the techniques get increasingly intelligent, the idea of ads everywhere gets increasingly uncomfortable.

    What do you think about all the ads?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Throw Pillows And Business

    June 12th, 2009

    throw_pillowsaaIf you’re like me, you see a bed full of pillows and wonder what the purpose of all of them could possibly be.  After all, if one were to use the bed, all of the pillows would have to be removed and the put back on after the cat nap.  It is very easy to think that the extra pillows have no purpose.  But, I have found that there is a very subtle error in this way of thinking.

    Many things are not designed with practicality in mind.  Yes, the widget has to accomplish the job it was made for, but it also has to look good doing it.  Here again you may argue that as long as it gets the job done, it doesn’t matter; again I have to say that there is an error in that logic.

    The common error between the throw pillows and the widget examples is that it ignores that instant judgment that people make upon viewing the object.  The reality is that many, if not all, people judge a book by its cover.  Knowing that, it is easy to see how this ties into business.

    The experience that people have with your product matters, the story it tells matters.  What is often overlooked is that this extends beyond the product to the company itself.  This includes everything form retail locations to corporate headquarters.  Money has to be spent to preserve the experience and the brand image.

    I have a great example.  Out at Lands’ End headquarters in Wisconsin we have both offices and a distribution center.  View_from_2nd_peninsula_hillOut in the back there is an area where semi trailers are parked that are not being used.  I have not idea how much space, but it can hold a few.  What I noticed on a run the other day is that there is a big grass mound/hill between the offices and this parking area.  It has been there for a long time, but how much did it cost to build it?  I have no idea, but it also makes me wonder, how many people decided to work for Lands’ End, or how many vendors gave a better deal, or how much business has been done because of a great experience on the campus.  An experience that was great, in part, because they saw a beautiful grassy hillside with trees instead of parked semi trailers.

    That is why as much as I wonder why a business would pay for an office in downtown NYC or why people spend what they do on nice suits, or why a company does what might be considered ‘fat cat’ spending on things such as landscaping, art, architecture, and the like…as much as I wonder about all of that and as much as people love to criticize it I think at the end of the day it matters.

    People will argue until they are blue in the face that they would like to just have something that gets the job done and that all that spending is wasteful.  Mostly this is because we want to believe that we are completely rational and don’t make ‘shallow’ decisions.  But as much as we would like to believe this, it is simply not true.

    What do you think about throw pillows?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Did You Leave The Open Flag Up?

    May 28th, 2009


    I enjoy a drive through the countryside every now and then.  There is something that is just relaxing about it.  You just get to cruise along, maybe have the windows down and the music up.  If you are lucky then you have a few hills and turns to keep things exciting.  And if you are in the right spot, at the right time of year, you may even stumble across a home selling whatever happens to be in season.

    Often times these places have handmade signs listing what is being sold and what price it is being sold at.  Perhaps there is also some obnoxious arrow pointing you up the driveway.  And if they really have it together, they may have a flag waving in the wind with the word “OPEN” on it.  That will really get people to stop in…or will it?

    When I see an “OPEN” flag I cannot help but wonder if the place is actually open.  Do they really take it down each day?  What about when I drive by after suppertime and the flag is still displayed?  Should I assume that they are still open for business?  It seems like a good idea to have the flag, but I’m just not sure how genuine most people think it is.  Oddly enough, I think that a cardboard sign will actually help because I know that can’t be left out very long before it falls apart.

    Another idea would be a light.  If I see that there is a light on the flag or sign, then I am more likely to believe that it is in fact open.  All of this is interesting, but it paves the way for a broader issue: credibility.

    A home shop with a cardboard sign or “OPEN” flag has plenty of credibility.  A light that is turned on and off has credibility.  The problem is the open flag always looks the same.  It is always there.  Nothing is ever different.  The owners are not considering what leaving the flag up might do.

    In the current business environment, this is a critical issue.  How credible are your promotions (because everybody is running them)?  Are you running the same thing over and over?  This will work just fine for a short amount of time, but make sure that you have an exit plan.  Even if you take pause for just a week you rebuild credibility.  You rebuild a scarcity factor.

    If the “OPEN” flag isn’t always up, then I know that I had better stop in when it is up because otherwise I may miss my chance.  There is no urgency if there is always a sale.  I can’t stress this enough: Small things, the ‘scraps’ as I like to call them, matter.  Leaving the flag out and the promotions running may be the easy path, but sometimes it pays to take the path less traveled.

    Do you believe “OPEN” flags?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Opportunity Awaits

    March 5th, 2009

    OpportunityWhat do you see when you look at this picture?  Do you see a game of Jenga nearly complete?  Do you see a tower of block about to fall?  Do you see the next block that you would take out and add on top?  It all depends on your perception.

    Many people will just see the picture as a game of Jenga.  Passive.  Just a picture.  That may be true, but what it represents is opportunity.  Yes, there is risk in taking the next block out.  But – as they say in a casino – you cannot win if you don’t play.

    The economy is in an interesting state right now.  Things are a little wobbly.  But the interesting part is that we can change it.  All this is is economics.  As business pull back and cut ad spend that means that if you were to buy what they are leaving behind it will not only cost you less, but you will gain market share.

    This won’t work with all businesses and all products.  Some things just won’t sell with things as they are.  Then go somewhere else.  Wal-Mart is growing.  McDonalds is growing.  Thrift stores are growing.  It is easy to just dismiss these things as obvious.  Resist the temptation.  What they are really doing is providing a service that people are seeking out right now.  Yes, in this case it is value, but it doesn’t have to be.

    Really think about how your business can fit a need for the modern customer.  If Lands’ End had never expanded into apparel, would they still be around?  BMG is canning its mail-order membership.  I just got my “Final Mailing” because they are getting out and moving into a discount model rather than a mail-order model.  (On a side note, did you know that if you forgot to decline the ‘Featured Selection’ you could just write “Return To Sender” on the box and they have to ship it back and don’t charge you!)

    The point is that people still have needs.  Visualize how you can help morph your current business to fit a need.  It may be as simple as shifting your marketing to promote value.  Or if you are doing that maybe you have to highlight the value and some other feature that the product has.

    Winners and losers are being determined as you read this.  Which side is your company on?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Do You Ignore The Clutter

    February 11th, 2009

    An interesting thing happened to me the other day. I was having diner with a friend at a Mexican place and I had a craving for a quesadilla. I scoured the menu for quite a few minutes and came up with nothing.  I sat there thinking to myself “how can a Mexican place not have quesadillas on the menu?  Perhaps they don’t actually eat quesadillas in Mexico and this place is hardcore authentic.”

    Now I have no idea if they actually eat quesadillas in Mexico or not.  Frankly, I am more interested in food that tastes good than if it is placed into the “correct”category.  That said it was still a let down.  I had settled on something else and was ready to order, but I made a comment to my friend about how bummed I was.

    It took him about 10 seconds to locate them and point it out to me.  What, you might ask, was my problem?

    I’m not sure if it is from reading too many blogs, going to too many websites, or just filtering out stuff just because but I missed the whole section.  After looking at it a bit closer I think I figured out why.  It was made to stick out.

    That might sound a bit counter-intuitive at first, but its not.  I skipped it because it had a different background then the rest of the menu.  It was colored to stick out.  But for whatever reason my brain just skipped it.  Near as I can figure, it is just because if the menu was a webpage that is where the advertisement would have been.  Or at least it was blocked off and so my brain just read it as advertisement even if it was in the wrong spot to make sense.  I just ignored the whole section.  Keep in mind that this is while I am activly searching, trying to find something in the menu and I still skipped the whole thing.

    For me it proves how cluttered the world is.  It proves how hard it is to stand out.  It proves that the game has changed.  What used to stand out and draw attention no longer works because people’s brains have been overstimulated with advertisements.  Do you even notice the product placement in moves/shows?  Sometimes it is painfully obvious and you can’t miss them (and then it just looks dumb) and the other times you miss them entirely.  Too much clutter.

    Do you ignore clutter?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Slim-Fast And How Not To Design A Site

    February 6th, 2009

    When looking at a web site process, such as registration, it doesn’t take much testing to figure out that the answer is always less.

    What information should we collect?  Less.  What questions should we ask?  Less.  How many steps should there be in checkout?  Less.  Less.  Less.  You get the idea.  The reason is that each step or bit of information, or whatever is another obstacle that the visitor has to overcome to convert.  Why add things that actually prevent the visitor from taking the desired action?  Because you’re greedy.  That is the only answer.  If you do not have a guest checkout, you’re greedy.  If you force someone to put in their address when signing up for an account to access ‘premium website features’ you’re greedy.  You only need an address to ship.  Don’t be greedy.

    I was looking over a Slim-Fast package and saw this box that lets you “customize your weight loss journey”.  It sounded interesting.  I’m not overly concerned about my current weight, but was curious anyway so when I had a chance I decided to check out the site.

    This custom weight loss plan is on the homepage.  Like dead center on the homepage.  You can’t really miss the red “Register Now” button.

    The Slim-Fast Homepage

    The Slim-Fast Homepage

    At this point, for me personally, I was already a bit hesitant.  I’m thinking to myself, why are they calling it “register” and not “Get Your Plan Now” or at least something that doesn’t sound as impersonal as “register now”.

    Anyway, because I was interested I click through anyway.  Point them.  But look at the ridiculous amount of information (click to enlarge) they demand from the visitor (in this case me):

    Register And Join Our Community

    So here I am, all interested is seeing what Slim-Fast can do for me and this is what they give me.  It is about the worst possible experience I could imagine.  But, I pressed on.  I really wanted to see what this “customized plan” was going to be.  So, like any person who has no interest in giving out tons of information for no reason, I filled in the stuff with a bunch of junk info.

    Boy did they get me.  After I took the time to fill the whole long form out (albeit with bad info) they don’t even give me the plan.  They e-mail it to me.  Well, I didn’t put in an actual e-mail address so it when to some random person.  At that point I just lost interest.  I could not go on.

    So with all of this in mind, what was Slim-Fast looking to gain with all of that information?  Would they mail me crap I didn’t want?  Just e-mail me the coupon.  What could they possible need all that information for?  Invasive marketing was my only thought and that is why I gave them bad information.  I don’t want to be invaded upon any more than I can help.  But the bigger miss here is what they lost.

    Sure, they lost my interest but they lost something much more than that.  They lost my money.  Imagine, here is a customer all set to lose weight.  They not only want to lose weight, they want to lose it with Slim-Fast.  And beyond that, they not only want to lose it with Slim-Fast, but they want a diet plan from Slim-Fast that will – in all likelihood – contain a fair amount of Slim-Fast product.  From snack bars to meal bars to shake powder to a shake-in-a-can.  And then different flavors of all of those things.  This was a free pass for Slim-Fast to sell a lot of product to a customer that wanted to be sold to.

    Instead of taking this easy money, instead of helping me toward my personal weight loss goal – and using Slim-Fast to do it, which I would certainly tell my friends about -, instead of any of that they got a visitor that was just pissed at them.  I wrote them a letter telling them how bad of a site they had and pointed out the huge opportunity they were missing out on.  After several weeks I have not got a response.  This is not how you build your brand.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Give information about your product freely.  Get a customer to engage with your product for free.  If you are a quality product they will be more than happy to give you the rest.

    In fact, this is a perfect opportunity to quote the late founder of Lands’ End – Gary Comer (who was a billionaire – so yes, it works):

    Take care of the customer.  Take care of the employees.  The rest will take care of itself.

    Do you agree?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    IGN Insider FAIL

    December 17th, 2008

    I said I was going to post about this, and true to my word, I will.

    While viewing my credit card statement online I noticed a charge from IGN Insider (no link as a disservice to them) – a service I had signed up for last year to get some info.  Silly me.  Anyway, I did not want to pay for it again.  All the info is out on the internet and is FREE.  Just look for it.  As a side note, that is why I forget that I even had this account.

    Needless to say they were not helpful at all.  In fact, the ‘customer service’ provided very little of that.  Here is a company that just doesn’t get it.  Instead of just giving me back my $20 and sending me on my way they just hid behind their Terms of Service and basically told me to shove off.  Being polite the entire time – normally good but just aggravating when they have no intention of helping you.

    You can find the whole dialogue below.  Each paragraph is a different speaker.  Paragraph breaks in the actual communication have been removed to conserve space.  Let me know what you think.

    Me: I have canceled my account with IGN. It was just charged to my card. There was no e-mail receipt, there was no notification that the payment was coming due. Nothing. I am outraged that IGN, who clearly has a means to contact me, would just charge my card without any verification. That is just poor. Please remove the charge from my account. As it has only been days since the charge there is no reason that this would be a problem. Regards, David

    Them: Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your subscription account. I am sorry for any delays responding to your support request. We do see you have already turned off your auto billing (cancelled) your subscription.It will remain open until the end date described on your cancellation confirmation email. A renewal email was sent to this email address on 11/27/2008. Sorry you missed this email. All of our subscriptions renew automatically, We offer it in our Terms of Service twice during the subscription process and you agree to it while subscribing. We appreciate your email however we do not issue refunds for subscription services except in the case of demonstrated fraud.  Kind Regards, Julie

    Me: I think it is sad that instead of providing customer service you cower behind a ToS. In a world where each individual now has a voice via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media you would think customer service would be paramount for a company like yours. Instead you are content to take your $20 – nothing but a drop in the bucket for you – and let me share my poor experience with the entire internet community. It no longer takes a newspaper to pick up a story, but an individual. Your response, while I’m sure technically correct, completely misses the mark of providing customer service. Given my experience with what you term ‘customer service’ I am sure this will fall on deaf ears to you, but perhaps not to the many that will read of my poor experience. I strongly believe that you are making a poor choice for your company, but at least you have $20 more in the bank. So shortsighted. Also, per your statement that an e-mail was sent, I did not get anything. I checked both my inbox and my spam folder – which has e-mails prior to 11/27 in it – and found nothing. Since I don’t delete anything from my inbox, I just archive it, I am more than a bit skeptical that the e-mail was sent. When I do a search for IGN in my mailbox the only communication prior to me filing this issue was the day that I originally subscribed to IGN insider. Can you verify it went out? Also, why would I not get an e-mail informing me of my payment (the day my card is charged)? Thanks, David

    Them: Hi David, We do appreciate your feedback regarding our refund policy. I can confirm that an email was sent out on 11/27/2008 to We apologize if you missed this email. I”GN/GameSpy Services Annual Renewal Notification It’s been a great year!We hope you’ve been enjoying the past year with us. We’re sending you this email to remind you that your annual subscription is scheduled to renew on December 11, 2008.” During the original purchase it is agreed that the subscription is auto billed. Unfortunately, we do not send out renewal invoices. A renewal notice is sent out. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Kind Regards, Julie

    So in summary they appreciate my feedback but will not do anything to show it.  They tell me that they did send the e-mail and that they are sorry that I missed the e-mail.  So let me make this clear: I don’t delete anything from that e-mail address and I rarely even check it therefore if it is not in my inbox and not in my SPAM folder (which had e-mail prior to the date they claim they sent it) then I did not get it.  Then Julie includes the text of the e-mail they claim to have sent as if it is either a) “verification” or b) “helpful” of which it is neither.  She then states AGAIN that I agreed to it in the original purchase.  I never argue this point.  All I wanted was some notification that it was happening!

    Needless to say I am not very happy with IGN or IGN Insider.  So I ask you, what are your thoughts?  Was I over the top?  Not angry enogh?  Or should I just not care?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Build Your Brand

    December 5th, 2008

    Just watched a video over at one of my favorite, and rather recently discovered, websites and this guy nails it.  There is no barrier to entry in building your own personal brand in today’s world.  It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.  Build your brand over time by branching out and create value.

    Take something as simple as Twitter.  I started Twitter not that long ago and did a post about my thoughts.  I started with almost nothing.  Slowly I have found people that are interesting and followed them.  Some are individuals, some are companies.  Most have a blog or site of some sort that I can read to find out more about them.  Some I started following on Twitter because I read a post that was interesting or enjoyable.

    I must say that it is an odd feeling to develop these friendships over Twitter.  I read what they are up to, some even follow me back.  And now, just like that, we have a faux dialog between us.  We may not be directly taking to each other, but I still know what is going on with them.

    I still take the position that I don’t what my Twitter feed to be inundated with lots of meaningless junk.  I still try and make my updates interesting.  A comment on something I just found, a link, a question posed to people, a quick response to someone else’s question or comment.  These are the things that I find most interesting and, therefore, try to keep my updates in a similar fashion.

    What do you use Twitter most for?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.