hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

June 29, 2008

Twitter track hack: Where there's a will, there's a workaround

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Twitter.

Well, I was, until it started being so unreliable. Now, I'm caught with some golden handcuffs. I find myself using Twitter because that's where the people to whom I want to speak tend to reside. And yet, Twitter's ever faltering set of features has me struggling to find ways to workaround its fickle architecture.

But that got me to thinking. Maybe this is my problem to fix. Maybe? I mean, I already have to use tricks to stay on top of Twitter content. Why couldn't I come up with a trick to replace the Twitter functionality that I find truly valuable?

Maybe I can.

Let's take Twitter's track feature. Anyone who spends much time in Twitter eventually happens upon track. It's a really easy way to make sure that you're staying on top of Twitter conversations that are important to you.

Long story short, Twitter track uses the Jabber/XMPP interface to send messages to your IM (instant message) or SMS when a term you're tracking pops up. The beauty and elegance of the solution is that it knows whether your online or not. Online? IM. Offline? SMS.

Elegant.

There's only one problem: Twitter track has been broken for quite some time. And it's showing absolutely no sign of being repaired anytime soon.

But, I've come up with a workaround that's helping me compensate for the lack of track. So I thought I'd share the hack. (I'm a poet.)

So, why now? It's been broken for ages. Well, three things:
  1. Replies were broken for awhile (fixed!) which led me to use Summize pretty actively
  2. I just read an inspirational post from Marshall Kirkpatrick on RSS magic
  3. And a recent post by Corvida on IM Feeds sparked a bit of an epiphany for me
So let's get on with it, shall we?

Faking Twitter track by jumping through some hoops

Let me start out with some caveats.
  • First, this isn't perfect. It doesn't capture everything. But it grabs far more than what you're seeing right now.
  • Second, this isn't as elegant as the Jabber/XMPP thing. If you choose to do both IM and SMS, you're going to get both IM and SMS. It's not an intelligent or elegant means of alerting you. It's a hack.
  • Third, this is some serious hoop jumping, relying on a number of services to function.
  • Fourth, this isn't instantaneous. I've seen anywhere from a few minutes delay to 30-minutes delay.
  • And finally, fifth, if you're tracking your username, you're going to get an echo of the tweets you send.
That said, it's still better than nothing.

So, how do you build a pseudo Twitter track?
  1. Go to Summize (or TweetScan or another preferred Twitter conversation search that provides an RSS feed) and search for the term you want to track.
  2. Look in the left sidebar for the "Feed for this query"
    Summize feeds
  3. Right-click or Control-click to copy the URL of that feed.
Okay. Now, you've got the golden nugget. That RSS feed for the important term you want to track on Twitter. Now, you need to decide: Do I want to be alerted via IM? Do I want to be alerted via SMS? Do I want both?

(Actually, before you do anything else, another thing you might want to do is go ahead and add this feed to your preferred feed reader, too. I mean, just as a fail safe.)

If you want to build a fake Twitter track via IM:
  1. Head on over to IM Feeds (or a similar RSS to IM service)
  2. Add the appropriate account to your IM software
  3. Wait for the instructions to arrive
  4. Send the contact the message "sub [feed URL from Summize]" (or through its prescribed subscribe mechanism)
Congratulations! You now have a half-assed Twitter track solution for IM. Bravo! When that term pops up on Twitter, give it a few minutes for Summize to catch it, then give it a few minutes for IM Feeds to process it, and then you'll get it.

If you want to build a fake Twitter track for SMS:
  1. Head on over to Pingie (or a similar RSS to SMS service)
  2. Enter your particulars and the feed URL from Summize
  3. Verify the account when the message hits your phone
Voila! You now have a half-assed Twitter track solution for SMS. Now we're cooking!

Use both IM and SMS and maybe you'll actually catch all of the messages that Twitter is supposed to be tracking for us. (And, again, add that RSS feed to your feed reader. Better late than never, if you know what I'm saying.)

Wahoo!

Oh, and of course, one last thing.

I know that this post will be outdated, redacted, what have you when Twitter fixes track. And I sincerely hope that Murphy's Law is in full effect so that track will miraculously return as soon as I push "publish" for this post.

Got a better way to do this? Have some more reliable services? Please let me know. Finding it useful? I'd love to hear that too.

And, until it finally gives up the ghost, I'd love to meet you on Twitter.

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Twitter track hack: Where there's a will, there's a workaround

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March 20, 2008

Twitter sanity via RSS feeds

I know. I know. Hypocritical is getting all dusty from lack of use. I apologize.

But I have excuses.

I've been spending a great deal of my time working on Silicon Florist, a blog about under-the-RADAR startups in Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding areas.

But what about the snark? The venting of my bile that used to occur on hypocritical rather regularly? Well that, gentle reader, has been occurring—for the most part—on Twitter, where I found that I can exorcise my demons in 140 characters or less.

If you haven't tried Twitter yet, I would highly recommend you do.

Which brings me to this post's topic.

I got into a discussion today about "influence" and "attention" on Twitter. And while I don't have good answers to those questions, I do have a decent answer to one little tangential question that was asked, "How do you use RSS feeds to manage Twitter?"

Now, I follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter. So sometimes the information can get a little deep. To help me manage the information flow (and to help you if you're interested), I have three simple ways that I use RSS feeds and a feed reader to make Twitter more manageable—and exceedingly valuable. (For more thoughts on using Twitter, I highly recommend Marshall Kirkpatrick's "Twitter is paying my rent.")

Enough lead in, let's get to it.

You've got a feed reader, right? If not, go get one. Google Reader will suffice. And you've got your Twitter account already, right? And you're following me? Oh wait. That last one is appreciated but not required.

So let's dive in.
  1. Add your Twitter "with_friends" feed to your feed reader. (That's the feed that's available off of http://twitter.com/home when you're logged in.) Why add this feed when this is the stream you see all the time? Trust me. You're going to miss stuff once you start following a few folks. And having a backup is going to help.
  2. Choose a few friends who are "must reads" and add each of them to your feed reader. (This would be the feed from something like http://twitter.com/turoczy.) Once the tweets start flying, you'll find that the person who seemed to dominate your Twitter stream in the early days will suddenly seem practically silent. Cut through the clutter by making sure you've got a trail of his or her tweets.
  3. Use a Twitter search engine to capture feeds of important topics, your username, and common misspellings. I use both Tweetscan and Terraminds (if it ever recovers) for my Twitter searching. Both offer RSS feeds. Pick a term, search for it, and snag the RSS feed. For what do I search? Well, I search for my username, for one. Because unless someone uses your @username at the beginning of a tweet, it's never going to appear in your replies. And, I know this may come as a shock, but some people misspell "Turoczy" from time to time. I know. Crazy. So, I also have feeds on "turcozy," just in case. You can use Twitter's track feature for this, as well. But I find having a feed makes it easier to process this info at my convenience. (Okay, I use track too, but the RSS feed is a good backup.)
So those are my three basic ways to use RSS to help manage your Twitter stream and your sanity.

If you're interested in more advanced techniques, just let me know via comments. I'd be happy to highlight some more.

And I look forward to chatting with you on Twitter.

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Twitter sanity via RSS feeds

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February 28, 2008

Starbucks retraining results, my reaction

So, I went back to Starbucks, today. For the first time in a long time. And, yes, you know me. I fell for the hype about the retraining.

And that's why I went back. Because I just had to see.

Took it. Hook, line, and sinker.

And while the cynic in me was really hoping to be able to report an "epic fail" on my first attempt, I have to admit that wasn't the exactly the case. And yet, in some ways, it was.

Now, I have frequented various Starbucks establishments for more than 13 years. I've been a barista (although not at Starbucks). I drink a lot of coffee. And I'm in marketing. Which means I have to drink a lot of coffee. (It's like a prerequisite.)

So the hype about the now infamous "Starbucks retraining" that closed down stores to bring the "partners" back to a common understanding of their roles in the organization? Loved it. Ate it up. Brilliant marketing move.

But it only becomes a brilliant marketing campaign if it actually has a pay off.

So I went back. To the worst offender of the "Starbucks way" in my neighborhood. (Please bear in mind that I have at least--at least--six Starbucks within a mile or so of my house that I could call my "neighborhood Starbucks.")

The service was noticeably better. A revived sense of politeness. A willingness to help. Chatty without being too chatty. Really a nice experience, personally.

But, then there's the thing that I actually came for: the coffee.

Now, I drink the same drink practically every time I go to Starbucks. I mean sure, sometimes I fall for the Cinnamon Dolce Crack Latte or a seasonal Peppermint Mocha. But day-in and day-out, it's a quad Con Panna that will fit the bill.

Okay. I realize that thinking of "tastiness" as one of the benefits of a Con Panna is like thinking of "weight loss" as one of the benefits of meth. I get that. But I've been drinking these things for years and years. All over the country. At Starbucks and otherwise.

I mean, I was drinking them when they were still on the Starbucks menu. So I know what they should taste like. I know what's good and what's bad.

And the one I got today? Still tasted like ass.

Now, it doesn't help that I've had a couple of meetings at Stumptown Coffee, this week. Where I've had the opportunity to have a really, really good quad Con Panna or five.

I mean, that's not really fair. That's like eating your grandma's homemade apple pie for a few days and then expecting a McDonald's apple pie to compare.

It's not fair. It's not fair to expect miracles overnight, either. But then again, I'm not generally rational or fair.

And continuing the McDonald's analogy, at least with McDonald's the apple pie would be the same apple pie, no matter where I bought it. At Starbucks, the consistency is all over the board. A million different flavors of crappy, with some bright spots of tastiness in between.

So service? Great. But coffee? May still be a problem.

So, I've now officially given up. Despite the convenience and the history. I'm done. I mean, I'm an addict, so I'll go if it's the only option. But if I have a choice? I'm done with Starbucks.

You see, there's a reason that I go to coffee shops. And it's not for atmosphere.

There's a reason that I'm willing to play the role of "completely uncool old guy" at Albina Press or Village Coffee or Urban Grind or Stumptown or Ugly Mug.

And that reason is because of the coffee. Good coffee.

And I'm willing to put up with pretty surly service to get it. Because that's why I go there.

If I can get great service and great coffee? Then you've got me.

And Starbucks, in my opinion, still has a ways to go before that happens.

But, please keep working at it, Mr. Schultz. And maybe I'll be back.

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Starbucks retraining results, my reaction

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January 07, 2008

In Marketing? Please read this post.

I know, I know. You're busy.

Running around crazily, all day, trying to get your marketing stuff done.

I understand. I do.

But if you're in marketing. Especially marketing communications. And you're even thinking about approaching social media. Then you need to do yourself a favor read Marshall Kirkpatrick's "Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond."

Required reading, to be sure.

Go. Right now. Scoot.

Oh, and happy new year. Glad to see you're back.

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In Marketing? Please read this post.

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December 05, 2007

Starbucks' and Amazon's respective holiday advertising blitzes

There must be a glut of money and a lack of thought up in Seattle.

I can think of no better reason for the advertising campaigns from two of the Emerald City's most well known entities, Starbucks and Amazon.

Let's take Starbucks first. Because their ads, while annoyingly pervasive, are at least palatable.

Regardless of that, I still have to ask myself "Why? Why does Starbucks choose to spend money on incessant advertising campaigns?"

Are they losing market share? Did they think that people forgot about the super-special holiday drinks? Is it impossible to consider that Starbucks may be ever so slightly approaching a saturation point?

I mean, really.

Get off of my TV and billboards, Starbucks. And work on the quality of your coffee and service at your Portland Garden Home location which has been precipitously slipping over the past few months.

That would be money well spent.

Now, Amazon.

Sigh.

Where to begin?

All right. I'm just going to let you have it.

I'm sorry, Amazon, but your radio advertising campaign? Inane. Inane and practically unavoidable.

With all due respect (to Adam Sandler, not you), who were the ad wizards who came up with this one?

I know someone who's going to be having a very happy holiday: your media buyer.

Amazon, I just don't get it. Were you suddenly gripped by the fear that everyone had forgotten about your site? Did the millions of purchases per day drop a few points?

And perhaps, most importantly, did you seriously think a moronic "Is there really an Amazon?" themed ad campaign was going to having people arriving in droves?

If anything, the current campaign makes me want to avoid shopping on Amazon.

With as much money and talent as you have at your disposal, I think you could probably find someone to write better ad copy. Anyone. Please.

Right now. Before you purchase any additional media. And before your media buyer has a second home in the Bahamas.

Please.

Oy. Happy holidays indeed.

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Starbucks' and Amazon's respective holiday advertising blitzes

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November 06, 2007

Performance reviews whenever, and from whomever, you want

It dawns on me that I have failed to mention one of my little side-projects to the hypocritical reader base. Hypocritical, I may be. Rude? Not usually. So, please allow me to share...

Once, in the not-so-distant past, I went nearly five years without a performance review of any sort.

That's not a typo. Nearly 5 years. More than 1,700 days.

I mean, I got anecdotal feedback. A few pats on the back. Some kind words. Minimal guidance.

But a formal review? Nope.

To put that in context, I basically went from selecting a college to getting my bachelor's degree without receiving a single grade.

And while the organization didn't really see this as a problem, I did. Because I was hoping to actually grow and improve.

Strange, I know.

Without feedback, my perception of self-worth plummeted. My motivation cratered. And, when it was all finally over, I found myself becoming very much the employee I didn't want to be.

Instead of the one that I did.

So, I promised myself that I would figure out some way to help myself retroactively. To give that version of me an out. To prevent someone from suffering through the same problem.

And after much scrapping and scraping, I am happy to announce that we have a very 1.0 version of the product that may help that version of me out of that rut.

We call it Kumquat. It's a simple tool designed to help you get feedback on your performance whenever you think you neeed it.

Quarterly? Weekly? Daily? Yes. Use it to your heart's content.

We're still building out the tool, but there is enough "there there" that we're comfortable letting people behind the curtain or in the backdoor or past the velvet rope or whatever to try Kumquat for their own performance reviews. And we're hoping that you'll critique Kumquat, as well.

So if the idea sounds interesting to you, please give soliciting your own performance reviews a try.

Or if you're just interested in learning more about the concept, please visit hello, kumquat.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled hypocrisy.

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Performance reviews whenever, and from whomever, you want

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November 05, 2007

Periodic table of branding

Useful insomuch as its mere existence is a reminder of how 99.9% of things claiming to be "branding" focus on being pretty, while being, in actuality, relatively useless.


branding definitions
Built by Kolbrener, a branding company

 

Periodic table of branding

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September 19, 2007

Adobe Photoshop logo: You have chosen poorly

Oopie.

File this under "you can't please any of the people any of the time." Or "how not to launch a new identity." Or, to paraphrase the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "You have chosen... poorly."

Looks like the release of the Adobe Photoshop "logo" went over like a lead balloon with the Photoshop community.

Not exactly a sterling example of "using the blog community to your advantage."

Nevermind the confusion between the Photoshop mark and the Photoshop application icon. The mark, itself, is drawing a ton of negative feedback.

Now, I've done a great deal of work around rebranding and brand refreshes, so I've heard it all in terms of how much people hate the work or the look or the identity or the voice. But this trainwreck is especially interesting as many of the users of Photoshop are actually professionals who work on identities for a living.

I haven't seen this kind of vented bile since the exceptionally awful London 2012 Olympic mark was released.

Can't wait to see Brand New's take on this one.

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Adobe Photoshop logo: You have chosen poorly

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September 06, 2007

Apple iPhone rebate: A hypothesis

[Full disclosure: I have been an Apple Macintosh user since the late eighties and I bought an Apple iPhone the day it was released.]

For those of you who know me or for those of you who read hypocritical, you realize there is an evil, evil marketer buried within me. One with whom I have to battle. One I have to keep at bay.

I'm a Darth Vader in the making, if you will. Even if you won't.

So when I see the whole Apple iPhone price-drop-rebate thing? The evil marketer cackles with morbid cacophony.

It's the same kind of cackle that erupts when people say things like "How did Prince get to play the Superbowl halftime show?"

And then, it changes into a sad, sad headshake. Pawns we are. All of us, pawns. P0wned.

Oh, I'm sorry. What Apple iPhone thing?

Well, in case you didn't hear, Apple recently cut the price of the iPhone by $200. And then, all of the early adopters whined. And then Steve Jobs became Mr. Magnanimous and gave us all $100.

Wow. What a heartwarming story.

If only it hadn't been planned from the beginning.

Here's my hypothesis about what really happened:

The Apple rebate? It's all marketing, people. Marketing.

And I'm willing to bet the price-reduction-rebate tango has been part of the product launch plan since day 1. Or at least day 2.

Apple wanted... nay needed to hit a certain number for the financial community. That number was based on the "new" price of the iPhone ($399). That number was not based on the "original" price of the iPhone ($599).

The original price provided Apple with a good deal of float. So that, if they could sell more than they expected, it was all gravy.

They were pocketing $200 above and beyond the required price of the product.

$200.

Because most of us iPhone buyers? We were going to buy it anyway. Price be damned.

But not everyone is as rabid as we.

They were planning to drop the price all along. And they knew people would squawk.

They have to drop the price to make it through the holiday season. No one is going to shell out those kind of funds for gifts. It had to be done. Well, Apple users will. But the general AT&T customer?

So, I guess the point, more correctly, is that Apple didn't need to drop the price. AT&T did.

So, to get more folks, they have to make it appear that they have "substantially lowered the price" of the iPhone.

Mind you, Apple is just moving the iPhone price to the required price now. (And I'm not even going to mention how the new iPod Touch has bolstered Apple's buying and production power, allowing them to make the iPhone at an even cheaper price than they could previously. Let's just ignore that thread for now.)

But they still have $200 extra for every iPhone that has been sold.

So now, as if by script, Steve Jobs comes out and says he's going to give us early adopters a $100 rebate.

They dropped the price, waited patiently for the public outcry that they knew would come, and then provided the gift that they had always planned to give.

Winning hearts and friends.

$200 - $100 = Apple is still $100 up.

What's more? That $100 rebate is a store credit. It's not cash folks. It's a gift certificate.

You know what happens if you don't use a gift certificate, right? The company gets to realize that revenue after a set amount of time.

And if we do use the gift certificate? They get that revenue back and move more product.

And they're still $100 up.

Genius. Marketing genius. Evil, but genius.

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Apple iPhone rebate: A hypothesis

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August 29, 2007

Hulu violates cardinal rule of naming

And there was much rejoicing (inside the the NewsCorp and NBC Universal offices) as the name of the "YouTube killer" was finally announced.

And the name? Hulu.

No, I didn't cough. It's Hulu. Hulu. With one "L." Hulu.

Wow.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, they went and violated the cardinal rule of naming: they told you it was supposed to be "fun."

Um, okay.

In fact, the CEO slathers on the fun and pounds you senseless with sophomoric pedantry as he explains:

"Why Hulu? Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we’re building. Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world’s premier content when, where and how you want it."

Wow. I feel lucky to be alive.

As one commentor said, "Should have stuck with ClownCo."

I couldn't agree more. ClownCo screams fun. But it doesn't rhyme with itself.

In other news, "hulu" is Indonesian for "ass."

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Hulu violates cardinal rule of naming

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