Archive for the ‘Day Job Stuff’ Category

The PubCon Twitter song. Apparently, this songwriter takes requests!

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

By somewhat popular request (OK: two people), I’m capturing the Twitter song here in my songwriting blog.

I’ve been trying to do better about keeping the content of this blog related to Honey Bowtie Music, meaning Karsten’s and my writing, our pitching & publishing, and our life at our home office & studio, so I wasn’t planning on doing any kind of post PubCon follow-up here, but hey! this is relevant to songwriting. It’s some of the only writing I did while I was in Las Vegas, so it counts.

The story is: on Wednesday afternoon, I was taking a break in my hotel room, watching the #pubcon search feed in Tweetdeck burn up while everyone chatted about the “5 bloggers and a microphone” session, when I noticed that Kate Morris tweeted:

#pubcon someone needs to write a country song about losing love for twitter!

Fearing that there might not be too many other songwriters in the PubCon crowd, I felt it my duty to respond to the call.

@katemorris Just for you: “A hundred forty letters / And spaces in between / Isn’t near enough room / To say what you really mean” #pubcon

@katemorris 2nd verse: “It’s getting kind of silly / How everyone I meet / Instead of asking if I blog / Now asks me if I tweet” #pubcon

@katemorris I’ll let the rest be crowdsourced. It’s more the Nashville songwriting style to collaborate anyway. :) #pubcon

Only the rest never ended up crowdsourced, since everyone was caught up in what was going on the session. I mean, how wrong is that? Paying attention to the panelists instead of Twitter?

So if you attended PubCon and you end up here after searching for blog posts about it, here’s your chance: take a swing at writing additional verses in the comments. This is not limited to PubCon attendees either. My Nashville buddies, long-time net-friends, and songwriting colleagues are all encouraged to play along. I’ll update the post with the song’s progression, and it will be ready for performance by March in Austin.

Everyone who comments with additional verses gets songwriting credit. As we say in Nashvegas, “add a word, get a third.”

So who’s up for some cowriting?

Raven’o'lantern

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008


Raven’o'lantern

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

Sweet carving job on a pumpkin at Sitening HQ.

Amazon redesigns My Account page

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Amazon.com - Your Account.png
Amazon has been doing some tinkering again, this time to their Account page. This set of tweaks was long overdue. They didn’t change the functionality of the page; just its organization and readability. But I noticed, as I hit my account this morning for the first time in a while, that it made a big difference in the confidence I felt approaching the page that I was about to find what I was looking for.

Big results like that out of organizational changes are priceless. Studies I’ve done in the past have suggested that if the customer feels that she can easily find what she’s looking for in her account page or section, she’s more likely to visit that page more often with minor questions. But if that page or section is difficult to navigate, she will avoid it, will use customer support channels more frequently, and will generally feel less confident in the site as a service. Clearly this has tremendous implications to customer lifetime value, so from an ROI standpoint, the Amazon account page is probably well justified.

But I haven’t even told you my favorite part of the redesign, yet. It’s on the FAQ page they put together to explain where everything is and why they did it. In answer to the question “How did you decide on this design?” they provide this answer:

We consulted the foremost experts in the field: our customers.

Well played, Amazon. This customer appreciates the effort.

see also:
Amazon site redesign
Amazon email mishap - “please fill in”
Amazon cart “saved for later” items gone?
Update from Amazon.com

But it wouldn’t be speeding if everyone else would just go faster!

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I hate to copy the post outright but it’s so short, and the whole quote is just hilarious. Because it’s so true.

From Seth’s Blog: “Trying to convince a CEO of anything is a little like trying to convince a cop not to give you a ticket. It’s possible, but rarely worth the effort, given the odds.”

And how.

Believe it or not, it gets better. In the linked interview, he goes on to say:

Instead, just do it. Go fast, get where you’re going. The odds of getting stopped are small, the price of the ticket is small and if you’re doing the right thing in the first place, it’s worth it.

The only quibble I have is that the “price of the ticket” may not be all that small; it could well cost a great deal. I can vouch for that. But I certainly agree that if you’re doing the right thing, it’s worth trying to get where you’re going anyway. One of my favorite quotes is from Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker:

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.

There’s nothing wrong with sobriety, responsibility, or caution; in their place, they make a great deal of sense. But they’re no guarantee of success, and they certainly aren’t associated with many of the great long-term success stories. They’re good tools to have at one’s disposal in times of difficulty, but should not be the default position. Otherwise, what fun is anything?

It’s official: Sitening took me on.

Friday, October 24th, 2008

From the Sitening blog:

Sitening LLC, a bright, growing web marketing agency has hired Internet veteran Kate O’Neill as Managing Director.

Sure, sure, I’m excited about “the focus we’re going to be able to apply” and joining “such a talented group of web professionals.” Whatever. The real reason this rocks is this:

Dude. Coffee goes high tech. I like it.

Reducing eco-impact in the daily commute

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I want to reduce my gas consumption and my carbon footprint. But little by little, I’m getting talked out of my bike commuting plans. Several people in the past few weeks have expressed concern over the lack of shoulder in several places on the road I’d be riding along with the speed of traffic on the road, particularly relative to a (slow) cyclist.

I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that, dammit, they’re probably right.

So now I’m left wondering what I want to do about my commute. Besides commuting by bike, I’ve decided to catalog the options I’m weighing, and see if anyone has any other suggestions:

  • I was willing to trade off lots of time (a daily three hours of bike commuting vs. 50 minutes on average by car on the highway) in order to get to zero, so I should be willing to make the same or similar concessions if I can lower my ecological impact. For example, if I were to buy a hybrid car, it would mean shuffling around some financial plans to accommodate it, but that should be no less inconvenient, in some ways, than the bike commute would have been.

    On the other hand, I was actually looking forward to the quiet time on the bike, whereas I’m not so eager to spend ~$20K on a new car. On the third hand, I do rather like being alive and don’t want to risk life and limb just to be stubborn about being a zero-carbon commuter.

  • Carpooling is a possibility. Unfortunately, no one I work with lives in my neighborhood, so there are no obvious arrangements. A few of my neighbors work in the same suburb I do, so I could pursue sharing rides with them if we can compromise on work hours. And some of my coworkers live on the east side of town, which is easy enough to get to. We’ve tried a few times to have Karsten drop me off at a designated meeting spot, like a gas station en route to the highway, and that’s been reasonably successful, but all of the carpool options do require conforming to a work schedule that may or may not suit my day-to-day needs. On the other hand, bike commuting would have been even more restrictive, since my choice would be to ride during daylight hours, and that means much shorter workdays than I’m used to. Not at all a bad thing, but a big adjustment either way.
  • Another option, albeit one I have less direct control over, is to try to work out a telecommute arrangement with my employer. I have experience with successfully introducing this arrangement in other workplaces, and there is sort of a precedent for it here — we have associates in remote locations already, so it’s not as if we don’t know how to get our jobs done when we’re not face-to-face. But this doesn’t seem like an easy sell and it probably wouldn’t be an immediate change, even if all parties agreed on the terms of a telecommute arrangement.
  • Finally, so as not to ignore obvious options, I could always quit my current job and find work closer to home (or freelance and work from home full-time). But I like what I’m doing, so I’m not ready to explore that option — especially not before I’ve explored the telecommute option.
  • I suppose another obvious option that should be stated is to move closer to work. This, however, is simply not going to happen. Karsten and I love our house and our neighborhood; our remaining happy in Nashville is heavily contingent on feeling as if we’re in a charming urban oasis in a sea of strange Southern suburban sameness. It’s one thing to work in the suburbs — exurbs, even — but living there would make me go postal.

    Other than that, I’m out of ideas. Anyone out there have any novel approaches for reducing ecological impact on the daily work commute?

  • Look here, youngun. I’m a danged EXPERT, and I say…

    Monday, August 4th, 2008

    My first article in Circulation Management’s “Monday Morning Expert” column is now up on their web site:

    Circulation Management Magazine - kate artice.png

    Can’t believe anyone believes a word I say with a promo picture like that. :)

    Six Easy Ways to Get Started in Behavioral Targeting

    Monday, July 28th, 2008

    I got email this morning from an editor at Circulation Management asking for clarification on some of the points from the presentation at the Circulation Management show in Chicago a few weeks ago, and since I was writing up some thoughts for her, I thought I’d put them here, too. Enjoy!

    Behavioral Targeting: Six Easy Ways to Get Started

    1. Read your reports for meaningful segments

      Chances are, you’re already collecting data that, when analyzed and applied, could optimize customers’ experience as well as your revenues. Most analytics platforms can tell you about new vs. returning visitors, and can usually further break the latter group down into first-time buyers vs. repeat customers. Chances are also pretty good that each of these groups is behaving somewhat to very differently on your site, and if you don’t figure out what works best for each, you’re leaving money on the table.

      chart up and to right.png

    2. Traditional direct response tactics still work

      Behavioral targeting and marketing approaches are heavily borrowed from the domain of direct response. Meaningful segments, appealing offers, and consistent remarketing are all part of a well-rounded practice.

    3. Focus on your easy-to-segment audiences

      Sometimes you can spot a useful segment, but actually breaking it out for targeting purposes may be trickier than you expect. (Geotargeting falls into this category for many sites). Unless you’re a black belt behavioral marketer and there’s nowhere else to turn for optimization, you probably have lower-hanging opportunities to pursue. Think in terms of both providing the biggest returns and taking on the least daunting setup to find the hidden treasure on your site.

    4. Start wide and optimize campaigns

      It’s likely that you can realize substantial gains in your success metrics by thinking at a high level about audience characteristics, and then monitoring more granular groupings for meaningful patterns. Most of the groupings you follow in any given campaign won’t perform in a way that bears statistically significant differences to your control group, but the ones that stand out can always be segments in a future campaign.

    5. Match message with media and audience

      The beauty of online marketing is the wealth of data and control you can exercise over context. The content you display on your site and in your ad networks can be adjusted based on any number of factors. Look for opportunities to tighten your message and your call to action based on context.

    6. Test, test, test

      The key lesson in all of this is: it depends. It depends on your audience, it depends on your site, it depends on the time of day, the time of week, the time of year, and so on. The only way you’ll know what works for any given audience for any given situation is to test it. And test it, and test it again. Invest in a testing platform and process that provides you with the flexibility and the visibility to act quickly and learn quickly, and it will pay for itself many times over.

    Quick, what does this remind you of?

    Saturday, July 12th, 2008

    Seen this?

    searchmonkey.png

    It’s Yahoo’s SearchMonkey program. Hmm. “Searchmonkey.” That’s kind of cute… and very familiar! Where have I heard that before?

    Oh yeah! Here:

    searchmonkey-me.png

    I’m not bitter, though. They can have it. What with Yahoo’s current difficulties, it’ll probably do them about as much good as it did me.

    How was I to know when I got dressed this morning?

    Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

    This afternoon as my coworker Duane and I were meeting downtown with the ad agency working on our new logo, a storm started kicking up outside. It was just beginning to rain as we got up to leave, and the wind was fierce. I, of course, was wearing a billowy skirt that hit just above the knee. That is, when the wind isn’t gusting — in the wind, it hits just above the shoulder.

    Yes, my friends, I walked out of the agency’s office pulling a double-Marilyn — trying to keep my skirt from flying up both in front and in back — and failing miserably. The assistant creative director was gallantly walking me and Duane to my car, trying to cover me with his umbrella and remain chivalrous and composed while I nearly laughed myself into hysterics trying to keep my skirt below my thighs.

    I’ve been laughing about it all the rest of the afternoon. But as soon as I got home, I changed into safe, reliable pajama pants.

    Oy.

    Kiss and make up, kiss of death, or how about just vamping for the camera.

    Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

    You know all those articles I’ve been linking about Maghound? Well, in case it wasn’t obvious, it’s an initiative I’m keeping my eye on. Time Inc. is launching this online magazine service in late Q3, and oh by the way, Time Inc. happens to be an investor in an online magazine service called Magazines.com, too, so… I guess that’s a little weird, right?

    Anyway, last week at this conference I was speaking at, I got chatting with Dave Ventresca, president of Maghound. We’d met once before and were having a nice enough conversation, and then… someone approached us with a camera.

    Quick: what’s the best thing to do when someone wants to take what they think will be a caption-worthy photo?

    Why, make it MORE caption-worthy, of course.

    daveventresca-me-kiss.jpg

    Your caption suggestions welcome here.

    Update from Amazon.com

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

    I got an email response from Amazon customer service:

    Thank you for writing to us at Amazon.com.

    I’m sorry for the trouble you had with your shopping cart.

    I’ve reported the problem, and our technical team is working on taking care of it right now.

    Often these errors are corrected after only a short time, so please try again after two or three days.

    I understand that this might be causing you lot of inconvenience. Please understand that we are doing our best to resolve this problem, but technical glitches cannot be predicted and at times it is unmanageable.

    Thanks for your patience while we fix this problem and thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.

    [...]

    Best regards,

    Muzeeb
    Amazon.com Customer Service

    A wordle of my own

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

    I’ve seen some cool wordles, but it wasn’t until a friend posted one she created using a recent research paper that I got inspired to create one of my own. This wordle uses my “manifesto,” which was a 37-page, 6,889-word document outlining a proposed strategy for how we at Magazines.com interact with our customers to optimize lifetime value.

    No surprise that “email” and “customers” are the prominent words for a visualization of a document describing, essentially, how best to communicate with our customers.

    Amazon cart “saved for later” items gone?

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been using that “save for later” feature in my Amazon cart for years, and I frequently go back days or weeks later and purchase items I’ve set aside. One of the best reasons to do it that way is that Amazon provides messaging in the cart when an item’s price changes, whether it increases or decreases. So it’s a great way to check in on what items are on sale and go ahead and pick them up. But today when I logged in, my cart appeared to be empty.

    I sent Amazon customer service an email about it, but I’m curious: does anyone else out there use that feature, and if so, is your cart empty too?

    What gives? That’s a pretty jarring experience for me as a ridiculously loyal Amazon customer. If they’ve done away with it for whatever reason, I’m going to have to rethink my loyalty to their site.

    Edit: See my update.

    Customer experience done right (yes, even though it’s late)

    Monday, June 30th, 2008

    Yes, they screwed up by announcing they would take away the Profiles feature. But then, when it became clear that customers were upset with the announcement — and by upset, I mean ready to cancel their accounts — Netflix retracted their decision, and sent one of the best apology emails I’ve seen.

    keeping Netflix Profiles.png

    We Are Keeping Netflix Profiles

    Dear Kate,

    You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

    We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

    -Your friends at Netflix

    Short and sweet, and to the point. “You spoke, and we listened.” That’s the essence of managing customer experience, even when it happens a little after it could have. Well done, Netflix.

    Yawn.

    Sunday, June 29th, 2008

    I had stress dreams all night about work. Not just work, but, um, well, strategic issues that influence the future of the company.

    Maybe I already need another vacation?

    links for 2008-06-28

    Saturday, June 28th, 2008

    Letter from a jilted lover

    Thursday, June 26th, 2008

    My colleague pointed me to a letter a friend of his wrote to American Airlines, “breaking up” with them.

    Dear American Airlines,

    I don’t think we should see each other any more.

    I know that’s hard to hear. But you’re not the same airline I met a few years ago. You’ve changed. And not for the better. Sure, you say you love me… that you’ll take care of me… that I am “Elite” in your eyes… but those words just seem empty now. I need you to show me that your love is genuine.

    There’s more. Lots more. And it’s brilliant. Check it out.

    A little nerve-wracking, sure

    Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

    Circulation Training – Fulfillment, E-Mail, Newsstand, Behavioral Marketing, Audit Rules, Database Marketing_1214166699805.png

     
     

    I’m in Chicago to speak at a pretty big conference, and my co-presenter is a guy I’ve never met, and our topic is one I know a thing or two about but have never spoken on before. We still haven’t finished writing the content of the presentation. Our session is three days away, and he doesn’t get into town until late the afternoon before.

    And yet I’m strangely relaxed today. I’m either completely delusional, or I know what I’m doing enough to feel like we’re going to pull this off anyway.

    Or maybe a little of both.

    Please don’t cry

    Thursday, June 19th, 2008


    Please don’t cry

    Originally uploaded by Kate O’
    My coworker Andy told me a sad story about a coyote killing a cat, and then left me a little chin-up note to counteract it. This place is nutty.

    Because really, how often will I get to say something like this?

    Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

    My work day today consisted of almost 6 hours of driving, an hour and a half of meetings, and two hours of watching a minor league baseball game. (Our team won.)

    Hiring! Spread the word far and wide.

    Thursday, June 5th, 2008

    Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell your cat! But be warned: this position reports to me, and it is well known that I am a hard-bitten meany-head.

    Customer Experience Specialist

    We know you’re out there: an excellent problem-solver, equal parts tech-savvy and marketing-minded, great attitude, maybe just a little too smart for your own good… and frustrated because there aren’t a whole lot of e-commerce jobs around Nashville. We understand – you haven’t had a lot of professional web experience. Sure you’ve built your own web site and you set up your own Wordpress blog, complete with every cool plugin you could find, and you know your way around Photoshop enough to have done your own graphics. You know a little something about usability, and you find yourself analyzing web sites and know how they could improve. But what employer would consider that relevant experience?

    We feel your pain. And we have just the job for you.

    (more…)

    After Quicken?

    Sunday, May 4th, 2008

    Web-forward people, particularly iPhone users, what’s the next thing after Quicken? Mint? Wesabe? Quicken online? I’ve tried all of these, and I have some complaints about each. Quicken no longer affords me the convenience it used to before I had an iPhone, when I used Pocket Quicken on my Treo to record expenses as I transacted them and could sync them up back at my laptop whenever. Now I have a stack of receipts piling up and no motivation to do anything with them, but I miss the granular visibility I used to have into my finances when that system was working well for me.

    So what now?

    My staff is the best

    Thursday, April 24th, 2008


    My staff is the best

    Originally uploaded by Kate O’

    Edited to add: Oops. Must have misformatted my email to flickr-blog this photo, because I had notes with it and they didn’t make it. Oh well. What I was saying was that this was on my monitor when I came back to my desk after a particularly difficult day.

    Tree-friendly reads for Earth Day

    Thursday, April 17th, 2008

    We’ve just launched a promotion on Magazines.com that spotlights titles printed on recycled or sustainably harvested paper. Earth Day wasn’t originally on our seasonal marketing calendar (silly oversight) so we pulled this together on very short notice, and I’m proud of us for making the effort.

    http://www.magazines.com/ncom/mag/main/earth_day