Pssst, it’s almost time for WebInno44 . . .

A new year and a host of new companies hoping to make it big at WebInno. Things kick off on January 12th with WebInno44. As usual, the festivities will begin at 6:30 at the Royal Sonnesta in comfortable Kendall Square. Here’s my preview of the companies that will be on hand.

Main Dishes

Flyp – Get Multiple Numbers on your Smartphone – There’s not much to see on the Flyp site yet, just the ability to request an invite and a link to a video about the service—which I watched. Basically, Flyp lets you set up multiple phone numbers on a single device, just like their tag line says. They offer a number of reasons you might want to do this – separate numbers for friends or work or creeps you don’t really want to hear from. I guess that makes sense. It does seem like this is something you could do on your own, with Google Voice or Skype. Of course that means having multiple accounts to manage, with different passwords, prompts, etc.

Speaking of which, it is really annoying that every phone I use – home (yeah, I still have one, much to my chagrin), cell and office – uses different keys to skip or delete or save a message; and every company I call uses some different variation of # or * or 0 to bypass voice prompts. Can’t there be a standard? What’s the value or benefit of every carrier or company using their own proprietary approach. Annoying. If Flyp helps deal with that I’m a believer.

Rocketboard – On its face Rocketboard seems like something that’s been done. Essentially it allows you to broadcast (or record) the contents of a whiteboard in real time. One might imagine being able to do this with a Webcam or smartphone and the truth is you can. In fact, Rocketboard uses your smartphone to capture the content on your whiteboard.

If you’re wondering, “why would I need this if I have a phone,” Rocketboard appears to have a couple of nice bells and whistles that take it beyond those more rudimentary approaches. Here are a few of them:

  • By drawing triangles on the corners of the board, Rocketboard is able to recognize the dimensions of the board and correct for the angle and aspect ratio. That means a viewer, instead of seeing a skewed view gets a nice clean rectangle.
  • Rocketboard is smart enough to omit the person working on the whiteboard from the video. It does this by recommending that the person step away from the board from time-to-time to allow the system to capture the changes.
  • It is able to capture still images of the board. Again, this may seem basic but Rocketboard appears to make it really easy. By blocking the camera on your phone for a moment it takes a photo.

All of the files can be made available to those participating in the meeting in real time or as a video to be watched after the fact. It is kind of cool but I’m not sure if it’s the sine qua non of cool office stuff. Maybe Monday will prove me wrong.

Upward Labs – Upward Labs makes it “easy for brands to create and manage their own brand ambassador programs.” I don’t think anyone would argue with the premise here. Brands clearly love it when customers are willing to give them positive word of mouth or social media buzz. In fact, brands have been working with partners like BzzAgent since 2001. I’m not 100 percent sure how what Upward does differs from BzzAgent. Perhaps it’s less expensive, easier to use, fundamentally better? That would be my first question to the folks at Upward Labs and hopefully I’ll have a chance to ask it on Monday night.


Side Dishes

Allclasses – Find the best online classes, or search locally – People are mad about MOOCs these days, and with good reason. You can learn so much from so many sources. Whether you’re just curious about something or are actively studying, there’s content or courseware out there somewhere. Allclasses is a terrific clearinghouse of pretty much any online course you can imagine from MIT Open Courseware to Udemy to Linda Online to a million others.

What’s even cooler is that you can find local in-person classes as well. I searched for photography and got a list of more than 3,000 classes. Overwhelming, right? It would be if Allclasses didn’t have some great filtering tools. You can sort results by online or in-person only, price, provide, category, start time and more. It’s all pretty slick and makes Allclasses feel like the top of the class for WebInno44.

BriefMe – What the World is Reading Now – I’m going to be a little snide here, but it’s because I like the idea of BriefMe. First of all, BriefMe is a news aggregator. There are plenty of them out there but this one is based on what people are posting or tweeting about all over the world. Now a bone – BriefMe claims to be the first news-ranking app “powered by people. Instead of relying on the judgment of an editorial team, our editor is an algorithm . . .” Let me just clear something up for everyone: editorial teams are made up of people, algorithms are not.

A news service that delivers “the most popular news articles” is going to miss out on less popular, but possibly more important news. The fact that Kim Kardashian’s butt broke the Internet was a popular story but not necessarily a very important one. Boko Haram’s attacks in Nigeria is important news but not necessarily popular. This is why there are editorial teams in the first place, to help identify and ensure coverage of important topics rather than just fun and popular ones.

Of course I am saying this without actually having tried the BriefMe app. I have signed up for it though and hope to have a chance to check it out.

Connections – Craft Reliable Relationships – That’s a pretty expansive claim for an app to make. What exactly is a reliable relationship? A friend that keeps their word; one that shows up on time? It seems like that’s something the other person is responsible for, how is an app meant to alter someone else’s behavior to make them more reliable? Connections isn’t that ambitious. It basically allows you to annotate and tag your contacts. That’s cool. But not that cool.

HomeBinder – A Homeowner’s Best Friend – Now this is something I can get my head around. I am a homeowner and if there’s one thing my wife and I have learned it that it’s a pain in the butt. Just the other day, it was 9 degrees out and we woke up to a furnace that wasn’t working. Nice. Fortunately, when we opened it up to figure out what was wrong there was a big red “reset” button. I pushed it and the problem was solved. Not everything is so simple and HomeBinder seems like a solid way to manage all of the headaches of homeownership.

The site allows you to set up binders for each home you own (or presumably manage I guess). Binders can include all kinds of useful information – the contractors you use, the rooms in your house, the paints on your walls, your appliances and more. That’s pretty cool. My wife is really good about keeping records of everything but sometimes finding this or that receipt or document is a challenge. HomeBinder would make the process much easier.

HomeBinder features both a free (intended for renters) and paid version ($49 per year and targeted at homeowners). The paid version has a number of additional features, including the ability to upload photos, receive recall notifications and tax reports. Pretty neat. The one thing I don’t see on the site is any mention of an app but the mobile site seems pretty nice. A big thumbs up for HomeBinder.

Legal Hero – Law Done Better – Not only am I a homeowner, but I am also someone who has had to employ the services of a lawyer on a somewhat regular basis. Years ago Wendy and I needed to write our wills and we used some software or Website that I can’t even recall anymore. Years later, when kids, special needs and more serious death planning (not that it will happen any time soon I hope) our legal needs became more complex. Legal Hero seems sit somewhere between DIY and going all in.

Basically, Legal Hero is a marketplace to connect people with legal needs with a network of lawyers. The site says participating attorneys have an average of 15 years experience and that almost all of them have attended at top 100 law school. Lawyers are able to register on the site by applying to be a part of the network. Once accepted, a lawyer will opt into the types of projects they want to work on. At that point, people like me will reach out looking for help solving a legal issue.

Now Legal Hero isn’t actually designed to help write wills or stuff like that. The site has a number of projects you can select from, most of which are related to business needs. The projects include things like starting a business, managing a team and protecting your brand. The site walks you though some simple steps to understand exactly what you need. For example, if you say you’re looking for help protecting your brand, you get additional options: trademark registration, copyright registration and confidentiality agreements. Selecting one of these branches you further to get to the specific service you’re looking for. In the case of confidentiality agreements, to have one prepared will cost you $375, which includes a consultation and customized agreement.

At this point it’s time to select your lawyer, which is done based on your location. I decided not to take this step because I don’t want to get emails but it made sense to me. As with almost any industry, the marketplace model here makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how Legal Hero evolves.

JessMeetKen – Meet Great Guys Other Women Have Recommended – Hmmmm. Maybe there are situations where marketplaces don’t work. JMK is targeted to women. The idea is that if you know a guy but you’re attached or he’s not right in some way you can add him to the site and women can check him out and ask you for the skinny. I can see how this might be a good idea, you get the lowdown on someone that looks like they might be a fit, but I wonder how guys will feel about being on the site?

Skit! – My kids love making absurd videos with and about their friends, fandoms and interests. They spend a fair amount of time looking for tools to use, gathering their content and editing things together. I love it. Most of what they make makes zero sense but they’re having fun and learning skills. Skit! is an attempt to make that process easier. I guess that’s cool but part of me likes it that what they’re doing isn’t easy. I like it that it takes time and effort to come up with something. Like I said, most of it makes no sense but they made it. Skit seems to take some of the effort out of the equation and that might not be a good thing. If I had more time today I’d make a skit, sadly I don’t. Maybe tomorrow.

SplitNGo – Benefits for Restaurants – This is a neat little payment system for restaurants. When the meal is over, people pull out their phone to view their bill. They can either settle up via the phone or with a card or cash. If they pay with SplitNGo their account is cleared and the waiter notified so they can swing by to say “thanks.” The app promises to solve “guests #1 problem,” and the site explains that waiting can turn an excellent experience into a poor one. That’s true, but to be honest, the wait that’s really annoying is long before the bill comes: waiting for drinks, waiting for orders to be taken and food to be delivered are all more annoying than waiting to pay. But that’s just me.

Weft – Tracking and Control System – For the second time in recent WebInno history we have a hardware product. This one is pretty cool. Weft devices are small and are meant to be affixed to cargo so it can be tracked and monitored. Not only does Weft let you see where an item is but it also lets you know the conditions it is traveling though by monitoring things like temperature, humidity, etc. Cool.

Weft integrates with all your favorite ERP and CRM systems, which means all the data collected by Weft is automatically at your fingertips when and where you need it. That’s also pretty cool. Finally (as if everything else wasn’t enough!), Weft is able to look at real time and historical data for all shipments being tracked by the platform. Magically, Weft can use this information to identify problems and bottlenecks so shippers can update their planned routes and schedules to keep performance in tip-top shape. Weft actually makes me wish I had a few containers to ship.

Whovoo – When you want to be absolutely, positively private and secret – OK, let me just say that there is NOTHING in this digital world of ours that is positively private and secret. That being said, Whovoo is trying to make sharing a little safer. I’m not really clear on who this is intended for. If I want to send a picture of my dog I’m not that worried about who sees it. The cute look and feel of the app (which I have not tried since I am on Android) makes it seem kind of for kids, but the FAQ make it clear it’s only for people over 13.

Once I started looking at the FAQ I got a little more confused. For example, one question asks: “Does Whovoo store my private photos and messages on its servers?” The answer is “no.” A few questions later we see, “Where are Whoots [their term for an encrypted photo and message inside a Whovoo envelope] physically stored?” As it turns out, these are stored on Whoot’s servers until they expire. That seems to contradict the first answer. There’s a bit of nuance in that your stuff isn’t stored “unencrypted” but it is nevertheless stored on their servers.

There’s a ton of interesting stuff happening in the messaging space these days and Whovoo might be a neat addition to the mix. I’ll wait to see but won’t hold my breath.


So that’s it from me. There’s a ton of neat looking companies lined up for this edition of WebInno and I’m looking forward to checking them out. Hope to see you there!

Avoiding “Jackie Paper” Syndrome

As the app space has matured, marketers have become savvier about the cost of acquiring loyal customers. There’s one notable exception: those marketers who are targeting tweens and teens. This group is apparently happy to be in constant customer acquisition mode, forever welcoming new customers through the front door while watching them exit through the back. This is Jackie Paper syndrome.

For those of you unfamiliar with Jackie Paper, I suggest you listen to Puff the Magic Dragon. In the song, “painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.” That’s what happens every day as hard-won customers age out of services and move on. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem to make sense. Sure, there are some products that are designed for people of certain ages (baby food, Depends, etc.) but apps and social platforms don’t need to be among them, do they?

While COPPA does draw a bright line between teens and not quite teens, it seems silly for companies catering to young people not to have a plan for carrying those customers forward into their teen years and beyond. This is a classic example of Jackie Paper syndrome. Once good money has been invested in attracting young consumers, why not create a path forward to maintain those relationships?

This seems to be a sensible approach but one rarely taken. As digital platforms and services become ubiquitous for young and old alike, creating services that comply with COPPA and are open to everyone seems like a pretty obvious idea. What stands in the way of this happening? It isn’t the technology or the ways the technology is used. In the end, it seems to boil down to the odd belief that experiences designed for tweens and teens have no place in the adult world.

How absurd.

While not many adults or older teens are going to sign up for sites or services that are clearly designed for young teens, kids who want to get involved with social are in a quandary. They can either a) stick to kids-only services or b) lie about their ages. If they take the first approach they’re going to find themselves segregated in the magical land of Honah Lee (another Puff the Magic Dragon reference FYI) that they’ll soon outgrow. If they choose the second approach they’ll find themselves trying to reconcile reality with the fiction the created when they were underage.

Is there a problem with finding yourself in an age-specific realm? Not necessarily. The biggest issue is attempting to transpose that persona once the post-COPPA world becomes a reality. All of the content and connections crafted as a tween fall by the wayside once the COPPA barrier is breached. The result is inconvenience as a new service needs to be identified and a new identity established.

Perhaps this isn’t that big a deal. Perhaps kids under 13 welcome the opportunity to reinvent themselves when they cross the magical threshold into their teen years. Perhaps all of the content and all of those connections lose their meaning overnight. Perhaps, but probably not. Marketers need to rethink their relationships with the tween and early teen set.

There’s nothing to prevent the creation of a social app that’s open to everyone. Such an app – one that provided all of the capabilities that consumers have come to expect from a social platform – could be crafted in a way that is age-agnostic. Taking this approach would allow marketers to treat their relationships with tweens and teens as extensible rather than temporary.

This approach would also allow young people to preserve and expand their online identities from the present into the future. Does this mean all members should be treated identically regardless of their age? Not at all. The fact is people of different ages have different expectations around privacy and the social experience, but those differences can be expressed in a single app rather than discreet ones based on age.

Given the cost of acquiring a customer, and the growing focus on customer lifetime value, falling prey to Jackie Paper syndrome seems a shame. It will also lead to marketers’ tears – like Puff’s green scales – falling like rain.

This post originally appeared on MediaPost Engage:Teens.

WebInno43 – It’s Almost Here!

With just hours to go, I’m running out of time to share my take on the eight companies presenting at WebInno43. As usual, the event will be at the Royal Sonnesta in Kendall Square. Things kick off at 6:00PM. You can register here for an event you’re bound to enjoy.

As usual, the evening will be include main dish companies that present to the group, as well as side dish companies that will be demoing their technology. There’s a good mix.

Main Dish Companies

Dunwello. Give and receive reviews of professional experiences you have with others. Hmmm, there’s something about that description that’s confusing. I understand how I might give a review of a professional experience I’ve had but I’m not sure how I might receive a review of a professional experience I’ve had. I suppose if I were talking to myself but I don’t think that’s what Dunwello is all about.

The real idea here seems to be about rating and being rated for a service. I say, “seems” because I wasn’t actually able to do that. While I was able to register I wasn’t actually able to look anyone up. That is until I logged out of the system. Then I was able to search for and see comments. It seems like a problem that will be ironed out at some point.

The sample feedback provided on the site gives a sense of the tone they’re hoping to achieve. The posts are brief and have a personal feel. I like them and the idea and was a bit surprised that others aren’t doing this already. Maybe they are and I missed it?

Knockey. No Installation Keyless Entry System. This site is super thin on details. Here’s all it says:

No installation keyless entry
Knockey is a patent – pending keyless entry system. Securely control and share access to your home without installing anything.

That’s it. It’s pretty self-explanatory but I still had a lot of questions, like “How does it work?”. It sounds cool, that for sure, like magic. So I can unlock my house – or let someone else unlock my house – from my phone? I’ll be honest, I don’t really carry a lot of keys. Just my car key. Oh, and I have a garage door opener in my car – that’s how I get into my house. If I don’t have my car I know there’s a key stashed somewhere. If I’m in a total bind there’s a window or two I could break. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Geez, I hope Knockey works, it could save me a bundle in glass replacement costs. Please! Knockey! Tell me your secret! I promise I won’t tell. Just let me get into my house!

Villy. Find the Best Neighborhoods and Hotels for You in X. I remember years ago, Wendy and I were living in San Francisco and we decided to spend a long weekend in Monterey. This was years ago and the Web wasn’t really a thing just yet. We looked up hotels, saw photos on rudimentary sites and booked one that sounder pretty good. When we arrived we found the place was a dump. It was right on Route One and was dark, dank and stinky. We were able to cancel our stay and moved on to greener pastures. I’d say we were pretty lucky.

Imagine how much it would have sucked if that was it. If we had no choice but to stay. That kind of thing happens all the time but thankfully Villy is there to help. The site asks a few simple questions – what activities are you interested in, who you’re traveling with and how much you want to spend per night. It then spits out suggestions that seemed pretty good to me.

It isn’t just a list of hotels though; it starts with the neighborhood and then tells you how well it ranks in terms of the things you said were important. For me it recommended Marais /Beaubourg /Notre Dame de Paris based on the concentrations of restaurants, bars, museums and finally shopping. It then suggested a hotel in the neighborhood based on my price range.

The site has all kinds of tools for planning – and sharing – vacation ideas. I think it’s pretty slick and I can only wish it had been around 20 years ago so I might have avoided trouble in Monterey. It’s a cool site and definitely my favorite of the main dish companies.

Side Dish Companies

BioBright. Open Source Tools for Laboratories and Medical Devices. When I saw the name I assumed the company was involved with some kind of bioluminescence. No such luck. Instead the company creates and hardware and software for data collection and visualization. The company sounds pretty dry (“Without a seamless way to monitor the context of an experiment, biomedical experimentation is cumbersome, and scientists’ minds are too often clogged with procedural details rather than profound insights.”) but what they are working on is pretty serious and important. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll turn heads at WebInno but for the right audience this is pretty cool stuff.

Certus. Secure, password-free log-in. There’s no doubt that security is a big deal for every kind of site you can think of. I’m used to trying to remember what my passwords on a regular basis. Frankly, I’ve resorted to either writing them down or relying on formulas that let me remember them easily. (Things like the first three digits of my childhood phone number, the first initial of all my dogs’ names and the month and year I created the password.) Certus thinks they can go one better by using a person’s smartphone to enable multifactor authentication.

I’ve worked with clients in the multifactor authentication space in the past and agree that the combination of something you have and something you know if pretty strong. I sure wish Certus could make the case in clearer language. For them to describe how their technology works it takes five steps and more than 200 words. A picture (and not the one that’s there now) could go a long way toward making their case. I hope they’ll figure out how to tell their story so people get it quickly and get on board.

Elsen Trading. I visited the site the other day and found the company was doing algorithmic trading. At least that’s what I remember. When I went back to the site just now to write about it I found something pretty cryptic:

Welcome to nginx!
If you see this page, the nginx web server is successfully installed and working. Further configuration is required.
For online documentation and support please refer to
Commercial support is available at
Thank you for using nginx.

I’m assuming that message isn’t meant for people like me. Let’s get it together Elsen, people want to know what you’re all about!

Experfy. Data. Analytics. BI. Basically Experfy is a clearinghouse designed to help organizations find qualified data scientists, and for data scientists to showcase their abilities. It seems cool. Since I’m not a data scientist all I could feel was bummed out that I wasn’t a data scientist because some of the jobs and projects on the site seem pretty damn interesting.

LifeGuides. Save time, money, and stress by learning from those who have been there, done that. Somewhat reminiscent of Villy, LifeGuides extends the idea to every facet of your life. The basic idea is for people who have done something to share what they have learned with others curious about following that path. The site has only a handful of guides at this point and few of them caught my attention. I found the images associated with each guide to be bizarre. For example, the guide for “A career in consumer packaged goods” was represented by a bucolic waterfall, while “Interacting with your first boss” and “starting a career in healthcare in the US” were both adorned with an expanse of pine forest overlooking a lake and distant mountains.

These strange pairings made me feel as though I was being treated to a mysterious visual haiku. I never understood what they meant and that search for meaning distracted me from the actual service of the site. When I did manager to get beyond that I felt like this was trying to replicate the informational interview but in an overgeneralized way. The fact how you interact with your first boss is going to depend on who they are, who you are, what type of organization you’re working in, what your plans are for your position in that organization and a ton of other things that are going to be situational. It’s tough to try to make all of that information general. Check it out but I don’t see this as a replacement for actually talking to someone in person, over email or though social channels.

That’s it for me. I hope you found some of this helpful. The event should be good and you should come and check it out.

WebInno 42, Can You Believe It?

WebInno42 is coming up on Monday, June 16th at the Royal Sonesta in Kendall Square. Hard to believe these events have been going on – and getting stronger – for such a long time. It’s evidence of Boston’s great entrepreneurial community and a testament to David Beisel’s commitment to helping that community thrive. I’ve been attending WebInno since 2006 and it’s always one of my favorite events. Here’s the line-up for this month’s event and what I think of each of the main dish and side dish companies.

Main Dishes

Bedrock Data, Easily Integrate Your Business Data – Often the companies that demo at WebInno provide consumer-facing technology. Bedrock doesn’t. This is technology designed to allow businesses to better manage and synchronize their data. The website describes the company as a data management platform, and I guess technically it is; but it isn’t a DMP in the ad tech sense.

The basic idea here is that most organizations have a ton of data (from what I can tell, Bedrock is primarily designed to tap into customer data from CRM systems) and a bunch of apps (and here the focus from Bedrock is heavily tilted toward marketing, though they also support finance, customer support and ecommerce systems). It’s tough as nails to make sure you’re always working with the most current data in every situation and that’s the problem Bedrock solves.

Here’s how it works: you identify your data source (typically a CRM system) and the application you want it to synchronize with. You need to tell the system which data source would win in a conflict, which fields you want to synchronize and get it started. The system will, within minutes, update both systems and will keep them current moving forward. Change in your marketing system will be reflected in your CRM system and vise versa. It seems like a useful, if not especially, eye-popping offering.

Bridj, Better Transit. For Everyone. – Bridj is essentially privatized mass transit. The company currently has two routes, one between Coolidge Corner and Kendall Square and the other from Coolidge Corner to downtown Boston, with more on the way. Bridj has shuttles (featuring leather seats and Wi-Fi) to move people between their single start points and end points. This means no stops, which means much faster travel times than are available from public transportation. The service is currently free during its “beta” period (which started yesterday) and has just one departure time per route at this point.

As I read about Bridj it brought to mind the private shuttles that have received so much (negative) attention in the Bay Area. In that case, employers in the Valley provide the shuttles as a free service. Bridj is a little different because it is theoretically available to anyone who a) needs to get between one of the company’s start and end points and b) can afford a pass (which the company says is just a little more than a T fare). That’s what makes it private-public instead of purely private as is the case of the shuttles in SF.

Still, it does create a tiered transit system that will create distinctions between people based on location and disposable income. One could argue we already have that to the extent that some people can afford to drive or take taxis or use the Pike vs. surface roads. It will be interesting to see how Boston responds to the idea. It raises several questions for me:

Will it result in fewer cars on the road? It might, but going from Coolidge Corner, it’s more likely to result in lower ridership for the MBTA. That seems like a double-edge sword: easier commutes for those who can take advantage of Bridj but less operating revenue for the MBTA.

To what extent will Bridj tax the transportation infrastructure and how will it pay for whatever impact it has? With two routes at this point, it seems unlikely Bridj will have any measurable impact (if anything, taking cars off the road may have a positive impact). As more routes are added that could change, though it does seem unlikely.

Will Bridj serve every community? The company says they use big data to determine their routes. I’m sure that’s true – to an extent – but it’s hard for me to believe that Coolidge Corner is the point of origin for the greatest number of commuters into either downtown or Kendall Square. Will Bridj share the data used to determine its routes? Will the company look beyond Brookline, to some of the outer suburbs or other neighborhoods to help take cars off the road or shorten longer public transit commutes? The MBTA reports a travel time from Coolidge to Kendall as being 30 minutes and costing $2.50, from Ashmont the trip takes 45 minutes and costs $4.50 and from Natick (where I live) the trip takes almost an hour and costs $9.75. Only time and transparency will tell.

Squadle, The Smart Way to Manage Your Business. – Before going on about Squadle, can we all just agree that the name is really terrible? I can’t decide which it makes me think of more a) a group bathroom experience or b) a new Pokemon. Either way, it doesn’t make me think about managing a business.

That aside, what is Squadle all about? (OK, seriously, I can barely bring myself to type that word.) It’s actually pretty cool. Think of it as a silent taskmaster in the cloud. Designed for restaurants (and food trucks!), Squadle consists of two elements: the Squadle Hub, which is a “ruggedized” Google tablet, and the Squadle HQ which is essentially an analytics dashboard.

The Hub allows daily tasks and lists to be shared with employees and provides them a way to keep track of what they are meant to be doing. The HQ gives managers a way to see how well their operation is performing. It’s all wireless, apparently easy to set up and get into the field and is simple enough that even Beavis and Butthead could probably use it.

It’s interesting to see how mobile technology is making its way into more and more industries. The fact that Squadle links employees’ in-store activities with a management dashboard seems pretty cool.

Side Dishes

Animatron – HTML5 is pretty cool. It’s allowing publishers to create assets that can work online and on mobile devices. Creating those assets, now how do you do that exactly? Hell if I know, I haven’t used HTML in years. Animatron is here to help. I signed up and tried fooling around with it and it seemed pretty cool to me. I didn’t have the time (day jobs!) to do much though. It’s certainly worth checking out and giving a spin.

AppBlade, Deploy, manage and configure with ease. – As AppBlade points out, mobile devices have changed everything – including how we work. As businesses rely on apps to help their employees get things done, they’ve faced the challenge of getting purpose-build apps into the field, managing them, keeping them up-to-date, etc. That’s the problem AppBlade is designed to solve. It’s not a problem I face so I can’t really say that much about the company.

Kidnosh, Eat out. Eat well. With kids. – As a father I appreciate the challenge of finding places to eat with my kids. They’re in their teens now but that hasn’t made things any easier. When they were young, oh man, what a pain. Kidnosh is designed to make it easier for adults to find restaurants that are kid-friendly. That’s cool. I looked at a few listings and it all seemed good to me. What wasn’t so good was the apparent absence of an app. The worst – and I mean worst – thing is being out with hungry kids and trying to find a place to eat. Maybe these guys should check out Animatron?

RocketBoard), Stream your ordinary whiteboard to anyone anywhere. – There’s not much to say about RocketBoard. They were Teamboard. At the moment the site is nothing more than a field to enter your email address to get early access when it’s available. Watch this space I guess.

Zylo Media, Advertising that people choose to interact with! – For reasons that are beyond me, I’ve ended up working primarily with advertising technology clients for the past three or four years. It’s an exciting space with lots of players, all different layers of technology and issues that transcend product (things like privacy and big data). Does that mean I choose to interact with advertising? No, not really. Sometimes I do and I’m the most impressed when I find myself engaging with ads without even realizing it at first. There’s a real art to making that happen.

Zylo develops casual games that help reinforce brands and provide consumers with offers and rewards for playing. The company captures user names, contact information and demographic details. According to Zylo, the typical player will consider 50 offers before accepting one. What does that mean? It means the customer has played about 200 games and been exposed to more than 2000 ad impressions over the course of an hour. To me that seems like a lot of impressions in a short time but if Zylo says it works, who am I do judge?

Well there you have it, my preview of WebInno42. Bridj is the most interesting one, not necessarily because of what they’re offering but because of the questions it raises. I’m looking forward to th

Right Enough

What day was it that we lost the ability to cook at home? It was probably at least a month. Easily a month, probably six or eight weeks. The process of getting the stove replaced and delivered and installed was a pain but such is life. Here is how the story ended.

On Friday Sears called to say the installation would happen on Saturday. Wendy and I were (and are) dealing with much bigger issues than the stove, so while happy I was disappointed not to be able to join her for something else. During the agreed upon window a white van arrived bearing two installers. They went to work and soon discovered a problem.

Somehow, this new stove was a fraction of an inch wider than the original one. They identified the problem as being our granite counter. They explained I’d need to cut the counter if I wanted to get the stove in and did I know anyone who could cut granite. As it happens I do so I called my friend Marcos. He agree to come over but in the meantime I told the installers to get it all set up and I’d take care of sliding it in later.

They did as much as they could do and went on their way. Soon Marcos arrived and we looked at the stove and looked at the space it was meant to fill. We looked at it this way and that. Soon I saw (or thought I saw) that by raising it a bit more and pushing it to one side we’d be able to get it in the gap. We went over to Home Depot to get some items to help with the task.

Together we raised the stove and started to slide it in. It still wouldn’t fit. I saw the problem. Our cabinets were slightly off – closer together at the bottom than the top. This was a relic of yet another frustration (I shake my fist at Almir!). Marcos is very clever. He looked at the stove and looked at the space it was meant to fill. He looked at it this way and that. Soon he saw a solution.

We’d need, he explained, to detach the countertop from one of the cabinets, move the cabinet ever so slightly, push the stove into place, push the cabinet back into place and finally reattach the countertop. Wendy and I had an engagement that night so we agreed we’d take care of this the next day.

The next day got busy. We didn’t return home until later in the afternoon. We couldn’t reach Marcos so Wendy and I set to work. It was a pain in the butt but we managed to detach the countertop, move the cabinet, level the stove, push the stove into place and put things more or less as they were.

There’s still work to be done, but at least we have a working stove. It was way more trouble than it should have been but what can you do? Sears was less helpful than I wanted them to be but in the end they did as much as they probably could – particularly Carlos, our case manager. I think this weekend, circumstances permitting, we will revisit the meal we had planned all those weeks ago. Wish me luck.

Sears Fail: Day Two

To call today day two is a little unfair. The fact is this has been a slow-moving fail, the full extent of which was only discovered yesterday.

Let us travel back to explore a few of the telltale signs . . .

The early stages of this particular fail weren’t wholly Sears’ fault. Purchasing what was at the time a fairly new technology (the induction stove) was a risk. The stove had trouble from the beginning and every time it did Sears would come out, investigate, order a part and replace it. This went on for almost three years. The part in question, a board of some sort, was replaced again and again. You would think at some point a pattern would be recognized and someone would consider the cause of the problem rather than the symptom. Eventually, when the symptoms became so frequent the patient was declared dead.

So, with authorization from Sears to replace the stove (which included delivery, installation and haul away), Wendy and I went shopping.

I’m not going to go into the back-and-forth between the sales associates but rather will fast forward to the week of April 19th. Our new stove was to have been delivered on the 25th and boy were we excited! Early in the week, however, we got a call from Sears saying a mistake had been made and the delivery had to be pushed back to the 30th. Not ideal but what can you do?

We were surprised to get a call from Sears on the 23rd telling use to get ready for our delivery on the 25th. Cool, we thought, Sears is coming through! On the 24th we got an email confirming a delivery the next day and then a call that night saying our delivery would be arriving between 12:45 and 2:45. Awesome!

On the 25th at 1:00 a big delivery truck appeared in front of our house. Wendy and I were giddy. I went out to greet the deliverymen and to move my car so they’d be able to get the stove into the house. One of the deliverymen hopped down from the truck. He asked if I was expecting a delivery and I said yes. He checked his clipboard and told me he had a wire for me.

A wire? A wire AND a stove, I said.

No, just a wire today – and did I know what kind of wire I needed?

See stoves don’t come with wires because there are all different kinds of plugs so when you order a stove you get a wire as well. And just because the stove wasn’t available didn’t mean the wire had to wait. Not knowing much about stoves I confessed I didn’t know what wire I needed but that I hoped there was some detail in the order that would help solve this puzzle. Rather than leave things to chance, the deliveryman came in to check. We pulled the stove out and he ID’ed the plug and went to his truck to get the wire. I signed for it and took his Sears satisfaction survey, not wholly satisfied.

Yesterday was the new BIG DAY. The same email/phone protocol let us know our new stove would be delivered between 9:15 and 11:15. Just before 8:30 I got a call from Sears saying they’d be delivering the stove in the next 45 minutes. I let Wendy know so her sister would be ready to greet the delivery. Cool!

When I got into the office there was an IM showing the stove in the middle of the kitchen. Great, I thought, they’re installing it! Then at 9:30 Wendy called me. The stove wasn’t installed. It was just left in the middle of the kitchen floor. She asked me to call Sears and get it fixed. I tried calling the store.

Going through the voice prompts I ended up speaking with a woman from delivery I guess. She explained that delivery doesn’t do installations and that no installation had been ordered for this appliance. I was confused. I knew we’d discussed installation. I knew they replacement of the original stove included installation. What happened? She didn’t know. She couldn’t help. She said we’d be hearing from someone within 24 hours to schedule an installation. So the plan was simply to have the stove in the middle of the kitchen for some indeterminate period of time? Maddening.

I attempted to call the store again. Impatient with the voice prompts I zeroed out and got a live person. She was helpful. She tried to reach the manager of the store. He was out. The assistant manager wasn’t in either. She offered to pass me to corporate. I accepted. It turns out that when someone at Sears redid the order they neglected to include the installation. Can it be fixed quickly? Not today. Maybe by Saturday.

Almost two hours later I’d spoken to no fewer than four people and still didn’t have a solution. Apparently there are no electricians in the greater Boston area able to install a stove. The associate who sold us the stove called twice to say he’d been calling and calling and waiting on hold to try to find out what happened and how soon it could be fixed. Saturday again seemed like the earliest it could be done. I was frustrated.

I wrote a blog post. I tweeted it. Within minutes @searscares contacted me. Please DM us your contact info and a case manager will be in touch. I sent my contact info. They confirmed receiving it and said a case manager would be contacting me as soon as one was free.

At the end of the day I went home. There was the stove in the middle of the floor. It sure looked good but when it comes to stoves, looks aren’t everything. I posted a photo of it to Twitter. Sears contacted me again to say they’d shared my tweets with customer care. I thought they’d done that four hours ago. Oh well.

This morning I still hadn’t heard from Sears. I tweeted that it had been 18 hours since they said they’d be in touch. As I write this they tweeted me to say that out of respect they don’t call between 8pm and 8am. That’s nice. Another sign of respect – as small one – would have been to install the stove. Or not to leave a stove in the middle of a customer’s kitchen. In fact, I would be willing to live with a call at 8:15 – or even 8:30! – in exchange for my stove being installed.

I was told that Carlos M. will be in touch with me within the hour. Perhaps surprisingly, within the hour I received a call. Carlos was apologetic and helpful. He confirmed a few details and said he would follow up and a few things and would be back in touch within the hour (a usefully ambiguous unit of time).

That was two hours ago . . .

Sears Fail

Read on for a sad and stupid tale of woe! Read on for a catalog of incompetence! Read on for an example of temper being set aside! Read on for a glowing example of Sears Fail . . .

In 2011 we redid our kitchen. As part of the project we replaced a number of appliances, including our stove. Our existing stove was an old electric range that came with the house. We toyed with bringing gas up to the kitchen but decided on induction. It heats up fast like gas but is crazily cool to the touch. There weren’t many models out at the time and we settled on an Electrolux, which we purchased at Sears.

Quickly the immaturity of the technology became evident. A variety of circuit boards needed replacing on a regular basis. Eventually the oven stopped working and then the whole unit died. Thankfully for use, there were more than four parts replacements in less than 12 months and Sears agreed to replace the unit.

We went to our local Sears store. We again considered gas, thought about electric but decided to stick with induction. We ordered the stove on April 18th. It was to be delivered on April 25th. Because the original stove had been deemed a “lemon,” the replacement would include the removal of the old stove and the delivery and installation of the new one.

There was confusion among the sales associates. One put together the order – including installation – but a colleague said since this was a simple slide-in unit the delivery people would be able to install it. It seemed reasonable at the time.

A few days later we got a phone call. An error had been made with the order and the stove would now arrive on April 30th. Not ideal but such is life. On April 30th the delivery truck arrived. The old stove was removed and the new one brought into the kitchen. The deliverymen couldn’t do the install. No installation had been ordered, they explained, and left with the stove sitting in the middle of the floor.

For more than two hours I was on the phone with Sears trying to figure out what had happened and find out how it would be fixed. The earliest installation, I was told, was May 3rd – four days away. This wasn’t acceptable. I spoke with a number of people at Sears, none of whom could provide any explanation for what had happened or accelerate the installation date.

How did it happen that no provisions were made for installation? Was the assumption that we’d simply have the stove in the middle of the floor indefinitely? Is it really possible that there is no one capable of installing this stove in fewer than four days?

All of these things seem impossible to me. What I have seen is a series of errors, one compounding another, until we are left with the current situation: a functionless cube sitting in the middle of our kitchen awaiting installation. This is unacceptable. The offer of a $50 gift card, while thoughtful, doesn’t make up for the many meals we have been unable to make at home. Rarely have I seen such incompetence, such a failure to perform or such a lackadaisical attitude toward a customer’s concerns.

At a time of stress for our family we have few options. The stove is there. The installation is pending. Meals are going uncooked. It’s safe to say we won’t be shopping at Sears any time soon and will be actively discouraging others.