Archive for the ‘Web 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?

Amazon redesigns My Account page

Sunday, October 26th, 2008 - 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

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.

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.

Update from

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

I got an email response from Amazon customer service:

Thank you for writing to us at

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


Best regards,

Muzeeb 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 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.

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?

Tree-friendly reads for Earth Day

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

We’ve just launched a promotion on 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.

Not to brag, but…

Monday, April 14th, 2008

After reading Mike and Jon’s laments about being “off the grid,” I did a little ego-surfing on Google Maps street view, and, hey whaddya know, we’re on it. They must have driven by before our transom and sidelights went in on our doorway, so it looks a little unfinished, but we’re there!


So, um, yeah. That was really important to determine. And now back to work.

We’re in the money!

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

CNN Money, that is.

Omniture put out a press release about some of the success has had using their Test & Target (formerly Offermatica) tool, and it got picked up on CNN Money’s Marketwire.

And look!

“When specifying our testing and optimization goals, we wanted to deliver more personalized content to different types of people who visit our site. We just needed an easy way to do it,” said Kate O’Neill, director of customer experience at “With Omniture we have one platform used by marketers for both testing and targeted content.”


“Everything you think you know and every intuition you have as an online marketer can immediately be tested so you can determine if your marketing is working or not,” said O’Neill. “Omniture Test&Target has brought reliability to our marketing campaigns.”



Also picked up in techrockies:
Omniture Signs

AND in the Huffington Post, complete with a really cheeky video “explaining” what Omniture does.:
Omniture Works Its Mojo For (Luckily, redirects to Whew!)

Amazon email mishap - “please fill in”

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

I’m not one to take glee in others’ misfortunes - schadenfreude just ain’t my style. But there’s something about this email mishap from Amazon in my inbox this morning that just made me giggle, and it’s not the likelihood that someone in Seattle has just lost a job. Maybe it’s the idea that even in a company as big as Amazon, where the job functions are no doubt as specialized as insects in the rainforest, where filling in a few lines of text in an email is probably the bulk of what someone is paid to do on a daily basis, that this kind of thing can still happen. It amazes me.

(In the words of long-lost Brittney, click the image below to embiggen.)


I’ve never been the “play it cool” type anyway

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I’m not even going to pretend for a second that I don’t think this is super-cool:

We found that the page with highest rate of entering and then exiting quickly was our homepage,” says Kate O’Neill, director of customer experience and product development, “And it was happening at such an alarming rate. We needed to find a way to engage people, so we started experimenting.
[...] will continue to test to see how they can personalize and cater to these segments in the future. “In the coming months, we will take yet a closer look at segmentation. We want to be able to give our customers different channels to explore and offer them what they might be looking for in real time. It’s all about customizing the user experience,” says O’Neill.

And I’ve been asked to speak at the Circulation Management conference in Chicago in June.

No lie, this is fun stuff.

Do you (MS) Yahoo!?

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Clearly, Microsoft looking to acquire Yahoo! suggests a direct run at Google. And I’ve heard rumblings from people over the years about various Yahoo! products being superior to their Google counterparts: Y! mail, for instance, lead Gmail in innovations for quite some time before Gmail started catching up again late last year. And I’ve heard only good things about Yahoo!’s User Interface Library, though I personally haven’t spent a lot of time investigating it.

But MS and Yahoo! both have struggled to capture the public’s imagination nearly as much as Google continually does. It looks like a long shot to me. But if I were making the decisions at MS, I would absolutely do it. If nothing else, Yahoo! is a far less hated brand than almost anything Microsoft owns. Heck, that’s got to be worth millions all by itself.

Is there such a thing as Twitter etiquette?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

We got talking about Twitter etiquette at the Geek Breakfast, and I decided I was going to do a post about the emerging dynamics of being polite while micro-blogging.

Jackson seemed to think that was pretty ironic, though, since I’m apparently violating the #1 rule of Twitter etiquette: don’t post daily recaps of your Twitter updates in your blog. Or at least don’t make it the only content you post for a week or more.

In my defense, I said, I’ve been modifying my Twitter updates since I started doing that so that they’d be somewhat more substantive. That got a mumble of support, but the message was clear: daily Twitter summary posts do not make up for real blog content.

OK, so there’s rule number one, and I’m public enemy number one, and now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to number two, shall we?

The ability to track topics is one of Twitter’s most useful features. I track several keywords, and when I find myself reading updates from the same people multiple times, I decide that they must be worth following. I don’t just start following them, though — I send them a direct message letting them know I saw their posts about magazines, say, or songwriting, and am now following them. So far no one has acted like I’m stalking them, and most of the people I contact that way end up following me back.

So rule #2 is: before you follow someone you don’t know, send a message and let him or her know why you’re following them. If nothing else, this will let the other person know what content is most interesting to other people, and that’s always handy to know.

Alright, so there are the first two rules: one of which I’m bad about, and one of which I’m good about. What would you add to the list?

Always make new mistakes

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I have a magnet on my desk with the message “always make new mistakes.” When I saw it at Wild Oats I bought it because, at the time, I was involved in several projects at work that felt like instant replays of projects from my distant and not-too-distant past.

But even now — and in fact, every day — it comes in handy as a reminder that making mistakes can be extremely valuable, just as long as you learn from them.

Last year, I managed the redesign of our web site’s checkout function to allow new customers to pass through without having to register. When we finally launched it to 100% of our audience, it had a glitch that prevented many users from being able to check out at all. In one day, that error cost the company about $17,000.

Luckily, we resolved the issue and re-launched, and the checkout process has been successful, certainly earning back many times what it cost that day. (The CFO jokingly asked me that day if he should just take the $17K out of my paycheck, and I said sure, as long as I get to keep what I bring in, too.)

Today I realized that even while redesigning the checkout, I completely overlooked a similar process on the site that is totally inconsistent with the way we handle checkout and very probably confusing as hell for our users. I mean, of course there are loads of things wrong with our site — we’re working on a complete overhaul, but it will be a gradual process — but the two processes in question are areas that I personally touched last year and attempted to optimize, apparently blind to how unnecessarily different they are.

It’s always tempting to beat myself up at a realization like that, and think what a terrible job I’ve done. But I haven’t done a terrible job — I’ve incrementally improved two important areas of the site, and now the right thing to do is to make them work well together.

I have another desk-top adage in the form of a cardboard sign with an image of Snoopy and, in German (I found it in Germany 15 years ago), “As long as you learn new tricks, no one can call you an old dog.”


Odds and ends: the weekend recovery edition

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

I’m so lame. I never got around to posting on Blog Action Day. But my excuse is that I’ve had a real roller coaster of a week. I went from, well, managing myself on Monday to having two direct reports on Wednesday, and that’s only part of it. So yeah, I really do think activism is important, I just didn’t take the arbitrarily designated day to talk about it. I wish I could link to my activism category, but I’ve been slow with this whole content import and re-tagging thing, so I’ve only gotten around to tagging one of my old posts with it. Oh well. There’s always next year.


On Thursday evening, Karsten and I went to hear Peter Plagens give an art lecture at the Frist with our friends Brad and Jed, and I’m pretty sure we were all creatively inspired. It was awesome. He basically talked about the struggle to embrace the new once you’ve become comfortable and familiar with the not-so-new, but unlike that rather trite-sounding summary, he was articulate and witty and insightful.


Speaking of embracing the new, I spent this morning working on updating the top-level site. I needed to replace a lot of the clunky tables, image-based text styling, and Dreamweaver-generated Javascript from oh-so-long-ago with a more adaptable CSS-based design. I’m not in love with how it looks yet, but it’s definitely a step in the direction I’m trying to go. The idea is to incorporate the blog and the rest of the site a bit more seamlessly, but I’m obviously not there yet.


Karsten is spending the day working (and I’m occasionally collaborating with him) on a project we’ve been trying to get around to finishing for several months now. Between all the chaos of the house renovation, my day job, our flea and rat troubles, sick cats, and vacation, it’s been delayed a bit. So with any luck we’ll have a scratch demo recorded by tomorrow night, even if it’s only a chorus. The artist we’re communicating with about this song has been waiting long enough and we need to get this one wrapped. I’m also trying to round up some other song ideas she might be interested in, so I guess we have next weekend already planned, too.


This vodka and tonic is simply perfect. I am a bartending genius, I tell you.

When a $300 order is a potentially bad thing

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I just had to renew Honey Bowtie’s subscription to Billboard and I did it, of course, on But that’s a $299 order (side note: yes, Billboard is a ridiculously expensive magazine, but it’s such a great way to follow a broad cross-section of the industry), and because I’m running several tests on the site that I don’t want to skew with such a huge order, I had to very carefully step around all the spots on the site that would have tracked me and added my purchase to test results.

I am such a geek.

Notice anything different? Twitter offers up a redesign

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

I’ve noticed several tweets from my followees (I know that’s not really what they’re called — but then again what is Twitter vernacular for “the people you’re following?”) in the last 24 hours about Twitter’s “redesign” so I’ve poked around to draw some conclusion about it myself. From what I can see, there’s not a whole lot to talk about, but what they’ve done makes me wonder what’s coming next.

I can’t help but wonder if Twitter as a company and its users have significantly different visions of what Twitter as a tool is.

When I first noticed the redesign yesterday, I could have sworn they’d removed the Older link at the bottom of the “Recent” tab. Maybe they put it back because of the public outcry. I do think the tweet archive is important on the web — reviewing tweet history is probably the main reason I ever visit — so I’m glad they conceded the point.

twitter-notifications-sidebar.pngI think putting the overall notifications preferences in the sidebar was a good call, but I think it points to a remaining ease-of-use possibility around preferences for individual Twitterers. Flickr has it right with their hover options that let you click to change your contact preferences, and LiveJournal recently got it even more right: you can hover over a LiveJournal member and change your preferences right from the hover menu.

Twitter’s come a long way, but there’s still a sense that they’re lagging behind demand and underperforming based on user expectations. Still, I enjoy the tool and admit to being eager to see what they’re building up to with this redesign. Because they need to be up to something. Maybe they’re feeling safe now because they’ve pulled so far ahead of the other tools in being identified with the concept of micro updates, but there’s no safety for long in web technologies, and they’ll have to keep innovating or they’ll be but a tweet in history.

Are the dashed-off blog posts always the ones that get the most attention?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Ivy seems to think so and I’m starting to believe her.

My Amazon redesign post took me all of two minutes to write, yet is getting read by folks from various corners of the globe. That’s nice and all, but an awful lot of those links lead to my LiveJournal account instead of Bummer! I could have used that link love to build my search presence.

Also, of the folks that did end up on, Site Meter tells me a few have been from Amazon. Nice. Had I known the good folks in Seattle would actually read my feedback, I probably would have been a little more thorough about giving it. Ah well.

Lesson learned for the future: when writing about something that someone is probably emotionally invested in (and projects that people have presumably been working hard on for some time would, yes, fall into that category), remember that people do ego searches and write knowing you’ll be read.

Watch out, Chris Wage!

Monday, September 10th, 2007

I got a message on Flickr a while ago about a picture I took of the Tennessee State Capitol building — that the online guide Schmap may want to use it and would I indicate my approval or not. So I said that’d be fine with me. On Saturday I got confirmation that the picture was indeed included and was now live on the site. From the message on Flickr:

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo has been selected for inclusion in the newly released third edition of our Schmap Nashville Guide: Tennessee State Capitol Building

I do like the sunset colors on the capitol, but I don’t even think it’s a very good photo — it’s only a crappy Treo-quality picture, after all. But I did take the stupid picture, despite what the photo credit shows:


Guess I probably should sort that out. I bet Chris Wage would never let crap like that slip.

Amazon site redesign

Friday, September 7th, 2007

My boss and my coworker stumbled across an Amazon redesign today. Not wanting to be left out, I kept deleting cookies and reloading until I got into their test.

You can read about the changes here.

So far, I think it’s pretty slick. They have an amazing complex information architecture and they managed to simplify it about as well as I can imagine doing. The horizontal features scale up and down pretty well. My only complaint is with the drop-down navigation that relies on hovering over an arrow instead of hovering over the whole nav item — it’s unnecessarily taxing to mouse over such a small target.

Otherwise, I really, really like it. I hope they get the feedback they need quickly so they can roll this out. Nice work, Amazon!

Formulating a hypothesis

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

I just had a lovely lunch with two former co-workers. (Sorta. I worked there for such a short period of time that we barely count as co-workers.) And it got me to thinking.

I think maybe Digital Dog is to the Nashville web industry what Kevin Bacon is to Hollywood.

The analogy only goes so far, because I’ve never heard that Kevin Bacon drives the people that work with him crazy. But just as when you play a “six degrees” game, you can always join movie people through Kevin Bacon, I doubt there’s a web professional in Nashville who’s more than a few degrees away from Digital Dog.

In fact, I think it should be a drinking game. Who’s in?