02/11/2011

How’s this for a creative idea: someone came up with an iPhone app that allows Catholics to confess their sins. Why trudge all the way down to church to sit in the booth and tell all to your priest, when you can do it right on your phone?

The Vatican promptly came out with their position on the whole thing. A spokesman said:

It is essential to understand that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor. It cannot be replaced by a computer application. I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstance is it possible to confess by iPhone.

So much for that million-dollar idea…

02/11/2011

Today’s annoying new buzzword is “ask”. For some reason, several agencies I work with have started using that in place of “question” or perhaps “task”. For example, here’s part of an email:

We also have a few other asks for this page…

… blah blah blah …

Again, with both of these asks, it would be great if we can customize them somehow on our end…

At first I thought it was a typo and they really did mean “task” but a couple of different people in different companies have done it. Hmm.

02/09/2011

At the end of last year I wrote a check to the state of Colorado for $1.93. This was a payment for unemployment insurance which I’m required to carry as an employer. A few weeks after that, I received my check back with a note saying if I owe less than $5 for any of my unemployment payments, there’s no need to pay them. Okay, no big deal– I just saved two bucks.

Today I received a letter from the state demanding payment for that $1.93 plus 3 cents in interest which had accumulated since the due date. The letter included lots of scary language about collections and legal action. Hoo boy!

I called the unemployment office and spoke with a nice guy with Jack, who laughed along with me and told me the problem was the computer sends the collection letters, but it’s humans who send back checks which are too small. Apparently the computers and the humans are locked in some kind of eternal struggle down at the office or something. He promised he’d take care of it, so all’s well that ends well.

Two questions come to mind:

1) Perhaps this is a clever way for the state to make some additional revenue. Refuse to accept checks from businesses, and then bill them for the amount they’d already paid, plus interest. Three cents may not seem like much, but multiplied by a hundred thousand businesses across the state and you’re talking some real money.

2) What if I’d paid this $1.96 bill? Wouldn’t a human see my check and bounce it back to me because it was less than $5? Then in a few weeks a computer would notice the discrepancy and send another notice– this time for perhaps $2.00. And just because the computer was miffed, it would probably also contact a lawyer and start proceedings against me.

I was almost tempted to send in the check just to find out. Almost.

02/07/2011

Woo hoo, I finally got Mac OS X running as a virtual machine on my Linux desktop!

I hardly ever use my ancient Mini anyway, and it’s so much more convenient to be able to boot this puppy from any computer in the house and use it right inside Linux. Now I can truly be cool like Thom and Craig, those Mac fanboys.

02/07/2011

Seth Godin says this in his column today:

If you define “best customer” as the customer who pays you the most, then I guess it’s not surprising that the reflex instinct is to charge them more. After all, they’re happy to pay. But what if you define “best customer” as the person who brings you new customers through frequent referrals, and who sticks with you through thick and thin? That customer, I think, is worth far more than what she might pay you in any one transaction. In fact, if you think of that customer as your best marketer instead, it might change everything.

I received an email this morning from one of my clients, who had just opened an invoice for our services last month. In it, I’d billed in fractional hours as I normally do. She said:

You are so good to us, you could have easily charged us for a full hour– we would understand.  Your honesty is refreshing.

I explained that I only bill for the time we actually spend on projects. She replied:

Please know that if you change your mind we are open to pay you more for your time working on our stuff.  We know it can be time consuming and a pain.  We really appreciate all your great work for us all these years.

So yeah, it’s not about the dollars, or about the opportunity I have here to say, “Hmm, I could round up to the full hour and make a little more on the deal.” It’s about the fact that I have a loyal client who I enjoy working with, and who I know will always say great things about my company to her friends and business associates.

That’s one of many reasons I think my company has been successful.

02/05/2011

Inkjet printers suck. Or, rather, the evil machinations of the ink manufacturers suck. No two printers use the same cartridge, and when one cartridge is deemed empty, you often have to replace the others as well. Oh, and “empty” doesn’t actually mean it’s out of ink— it means the printer has counted the number of pages you’ve printed (regardless of how much color was used) and determined that it’s time to gouge you again. Suck suck suck.

I think The Oatmeal describes it best:

But every now and then I actually need color, so I’m looking for a printer and found an interesting sidebar on Amazon:

Wow, if this magic little box can really scan at 19,200 dots per inch, it means I could scan a single postage stamp (assuming it’s one inch square) in 8-bit color and end up with an uncompressed image of 1.1 GB! Heaven help me if I need to scan a full sheet of paper– that would require a little over 100 GB. Good thing I bought a 2 TB hard drive a few weeks ago; now I can store 20 of these high-resolution scans!

Sheesh.

02/04/2011

I enjoy Seth Godin’s musings, and today’s was particularly good:

“We can’t please everyone; in fact, we’re not even going to try.”

Or perhaps:

“Pleasing everyone with our work is impossible. It wastes the time of our best customers and annoys our staff. Forgive us for focusing on those we’re trying to delight.”

The math here is simple. As soon as you work hard to please everyone, you have no choice but to sand off the edges, pleasing some people less in order to please others a bit more. And it drives you crazy at the same time.

I wonder how to best fit this into my business. I always do my best to please all of my clients, no matter how big or small they are. Although that generally keeps them happy, I agree with Seth that it means I’m sacrificing a little bit of my time that could be spent pleasing the big clients. And I don’t necessarily mean “big” in terms of money or clout, but rather “big” in their importance to my business.

Hmm.