Category Archives: Technology

Comcast/RCN… my beef with telcos – Part 1

Sorry folks, but I need to vent…

I pride myself on being a minimalist, and look to technology to help support this lifestyle (I do not buy physical books anymore, I’ve scanned all my major documents, all my old CDs have been ripped, my photos are in the process of being scanned, etc…).  I’m such a nerd about it that my wife makes fun of me for it (“oh we can’t even buy a travel book” “of course not… we have smart phones…”).  In any case, that’s not the point of this post… In a demonstration of this minimalism, I pride myself for having ditched my land line in 1999, and have never looked back.  However, in 2011 we bought a new house in the city we live in, and unfortunately our wireless carrier has so-so 3G service in our area.  Yes, we could switch to another carrier, but my wife has complained that the voice quality on a smart-phone is simply not the same as a “regular” phone.  So after a long protracted back and forth, I caved in and agreed that we would get a land line.  That’s when my life went to hell (ok, I’m being a bit dramatic).

We currently have Comcast for internet service (no TV, remember that I’m minimalist, and there’s a whole post I could write about how the communication utility – i.e. Heat, Water, Electricity, Communications as the major utilities is just an absolute rip-off), so our first conclusion was to get Comcast voice. GULP… $50 a month for a landline…  After I got over the sticker shock, and explored other opportunities, I went online to set up the account with Comcast.  At first, the process was painless… At first… As I was wrapping up my transaction, I was asked by the application to talk to one of their representative to confirm the transaction (ok…).  This happens to be over a web based chat, and so we began the transaction.

The person on the other end was nice enough, but basically made me repeat the whole transaction (ok?…).  She found that I could get a better price (which I had seen on the website), but then confirmed that I couldn’t (which is what happened to me on the website when I tried to add it to the cart) because I didn’t have the right contract (ok??…).  At this point, I just wanted to wrap up the transaction, so asked how much longer this was going to take.  She then walked me through the order one more time (ok???…), and told me that there would be an additional charge for the installation and that I had to make sure our house did not have an alarm system (ok????….)  to which I responded that I had checked the box for a self installation, and that it really wasn’t their problem if my house has an alarm system.  She then informed me that I had to get a new modem and return the one that I had (luckily there’s a Comcast service center less than 5 minutes from my house).  I agreed (but ok?????….), and asked whether I was going to get a confirmation email of the transaction so that I could prove that I was not just some random passer by there to pick up or steal something from them.  To which she responded. “Thank you, have a good day, and thanks for contacting us”.  OK?????? By then, more than an hour had gone by, and I was well… fuming…

So I went back online, and spoke with a rep in another chat who confirmed that there was no activity on my account (i.e. nothing went through).  I had a few choice words for the rep (not targeted to him, but clearly targeted to the organization for having such a bad customer service experience).  To which he responded that I should call some 800 number, and to which I responded that if they wanted to keep me as a customer, they would want to contact me as, after all, RCN keeps on promising that they can provide better service and a lower cost (incidentally, I checked online RCN in my area gets 2 stars, Comcast gets 1 star – all out of 5).

Fed up with the whole situation, I went to Vonage.  I remembered Vonage from a few years ago when I considered them for my house in Arlington.  Surprise… the process was flawless, the price was better, and the kit was delivered in 4 days.  Now all I need is a phone to plug into our landline.

We need disruption with these telcos.  I know I’m not the first nor the last, but we really need disruption to provide at the very least a basic customer service experience.  The Comcast experience was absurd to say the least.

Backlash on Quantitative Analytics

Hi folks!  Ah June… it’s getting warmer, and Spring is wrapping up.  Looking forward to some summer vacation.

I wanted to take a second to pause and reflect on a conversation that I had recently. By all accounts, I’m a data nerd, an analytics nerd, a map nerd, and a geek too.  But at the same time, I think of myself as someone who is very pragmatic (80/20) and tries to get the best answer with the right level of effort (not necessarily the least).

However I recently was on a global call, where some people were talking about data analytics, and how to (and I paraphrase) infuse the work with more analytics.  Now, I’m the first to promote a facts based approach, and a hypothesis based approach to solving business problems.  However sometimes, the “science” only gets you part of the way, and common sense can get you the rest of way. I am not advocate no quants and all common sense (or vice versa), but am suggesting that we have to have a very balanced approach, and always ensure that we know when one needs to take over.

One of the outcomes that I recently came across in a project situation was specifically that this focus on pure facts, pure analytics, pure mathematical determinism lead to a sub-optimal solution as the analyst focused so much on solving one problem that they fully missed the overall client problem (i.e. local optimization with no global optimization).

It may be just the current pendulum swing, but it seems that this 100% quant based approach can lead to less than desirable results.  What do you think?

Gimmickry…

Hello again, Friends!

I recently came across an eweek.com piece on what’s expected from the iPad 3.  I’ve made a habit not to talk about this kind of stuff, but feel significantly compelled to opine on this particular subject, not because of the topic (the new – rumored iPad 3), but because of the tone of piece, and the nearly juvenile and indecipherable difference between gimmickry and significance to stay relevant.

The piece can be found here:

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Networking/Apple-iPad-3-10-HighPriority-Features-We-Want-in-the-New-Tablet-739540/?kc=EWKNLEDP01252012A

Below I articulate my point of view on each of the items, and why they are irrelevant:

  1. This is effectively a no brainer.  Apple has made strides in creating a more integrated ecosystem, and therefore we’re likely to see this.
  2. This is not really a must have, and is just an attempt to articulate that for the iPad to remain relevant, it needs to have multiple screen size.  Should Apple introduce new (presumably smaller) sizes of the iPad, it will create lesser and lesser differentiation between the platforms, and effectively cannibalizing sales across the platform.  The iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch line, I believe, would overall not be affected as you’ll see a switching from one platform to the next by consumers
  3. 3D, IMHO, is a gimmick (for now).  A gimmick created by the TV set manufacturers to create more relevance for their increasingly irrelevant products.  It’s simply a way for them to boost sales during the recession.
  4. This I agree with.
  5. This is borderline gimmickry.  There’s no real issue with device, and because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  6. I’ll agree with this.
  7. Nice to have – not must have to remain relevant.  Are there problems with the iPad’s existing glass (in terms of break-ability)?
  8. While I would want that, I would still think it may be on the nice-to-have bordering on the must-have.  The only real benefits would be for high-res screen capture (for documents), or for movies.  A lot of app developers would need to redesign their interface to get to it, but that has not prevented Apple before.
  9. Gimmickry.  Basically a claim to turn an iPad into XBOX controller.
  10. NFC.  Yes that would be a good idea, not sure it’s critical.  I also believe that NFC may become obsolete (IMHO) as geofencing, and companies like LevelUp (thelevelup.com) continue to enter the marketplace of mobile payment.

Reviewing these results, I would argue that 1 is almost obvious, 4 and 6 are must have to remain a relevant product, and 8, and 10 are nice to have.  The rest… not sure…

This is not the first thing of the sort that I see on eweek.com, and frankly have found the writing to get less and less compelling (on par for a lot of ZD publications, IMHO).  This particularly piece reads as a child like wish list, not the product of a professional publication.