SayMedia (Typepad) Unethical Billing Practice

In the same way that AOL screwed thousands of their customers by double-billing until they got caught, made it extraordinarily difficult to leave the service, and did this so often with practicesso egregious that almost every state in the union had its attorney general go after the company until they settled.

SayMedia, parent company of the blogging service Typepad (they acquired Six Apart this fall) among other things, has been billing for services not rendered.

After a few months of a painful migration from Typepad to WordPress—made all the more difficult by the Typepad practice of obscuring the image pathname as well as changing their permalink structure three times from 2004-2009 when I was with them—I posted about my joyful transition to a platform (WordPress) that had a pulse and some passion behind it. I cancelled my Typepad Pro service that month (June of 2009).

Now I discover today (from doing tax prep last night) that Typepad not only billed me LAST November (2009) for $149.50—probably because I was doing a blog for Scholastic Administrator running on Typepad and had logged in to Typepad in order to post to it and they must’ve matched the email and assumed I was logging in to the cancelled account—and now I found out that they billed me AGAIN for a yearly $149.50 for a year of pro service this November!

This is no accident. It is clearly intentional and, I’m guessing based on my past experiences in businesses going down the shitter like Six Apart is, that they’re sneakily and quietly billing everyone they can, hoping that some percentage will slip through the cracks.

Why do I say that? BECAUSE THEY ALSO HAVE BEEN BILLING MY WIFE WHOSE BLOG WAS *ALSO* SHUT DOWN IN JUNE OF LAST YEAR.

Typepad charges a year in advance. They just posted a credit for one charge and I’ve contacted them about additional credits for June-December of 2009 (a pro-rated amount) as well as this full year (since they charged me in November of 2009 for Dec ’09 to Dec ’10).

While using Typepad and seeing the acceleration in social media use, I was always stunned by how hidden from view Ben and Mena Trott were (the founders of Six Apart). They barely blogged, were reluctant to engage with customers or the press, and were clearly way over their head.

My interactions with former CEO Barak Berkowitz to the current one Chris Alden, as well as the former “evangelist” for them Anil Dash, my impression always one of them willing to initially engage but then they’d go strangely radio silent….in a very atypical way. I’ve worked with dozens of startups and with (and at) large software companies and the passive-aggressiveness, shyness, and what seemed like childlike timidity was one of the other reasons I abandoned Typepad. My gut told me they couldn’t possibly be successful with those attitudes, their business practices and what certainly came across as complete indifference to customers paying them money.

I’ll be one of the first ones to stand up and cheer when Six Apart goes out of business and/or shuts down Typepad (like they did Vox) because so many people have abandoned the service.

“They’re Here…”

In the 1982 film Poltergeist, the little girl in the family becomes aware of the “TV people”, spirits manifesting themselves within the television. The first sign something was up is when the Dad falls asleep, the TV turns to white noise, and the youngest daughter hears the spirits talking and comes downstairs, places her hands on the TV saying, “They’re here!

No one in the family knows what’s coming and that the little girl has invited in the spirits and things turn ugly fast (by the way, if you haven’t seen it, rent it this Halloween and watch it with all the lights off).

We all know “they’re here” (services that analyze and aggregate what we’re doing online) but it’s happening so slowly, so stealthily and so seamlessly that most of us aren’t really aware of what’s coming.

I can talk until I’m blue in the face with clients about the power of “The Big Three“: Predictive analytics; location awareness; and presence awareness. These three are enabling all the major companies to perform precision targeting of ads by understanding our likely behavior and response to an ad, determining where we are located at that moment, and whether we’re online. The last one, by the way, will matter more as smartphones and mobile devices allow always-on apps to run in the background so marketers can deliver ads in real-time wherever we are at the moment.

You probably already know this but if you don’t, The Big Three are already here and living among us. And every smart app developer and online company are using them in some fashion! Is this a good thing or is it evil? Read More

SixApart Lost Its Way

VideoEgg is acquiring SixApart, maker of Movable Type and the hosted service TypePad. Normally I wouldn’t care about a small time buy like this one, if it wasn’t for the fact that TypePad was where I started blogging in 2004.

The TypePad hosted service was the best out there in 2004. Great features, good themes, and a rock solid infrastructure. But in most ways they didn’t keep pace with the capabilities of WordPress, the emergence of microblogging platforms like Tumblr and Posterous, and I know I often hammered on them to add features and even got engaged in emails with CEO Chris Alden, who promised many new things that never materialized. As an aside, Alden’s joining SixApart was announced by co-founder Mena Trott in this blog post—her most recent—from three years ago.

The original iPod

In my view, SixApart lost their way. TypePad was the service as blogging was exploding and they rested on their laurels and didn’t do much while others were innovating all around them. I got so fed up I exported all my content in 2009 and, with great effort to fix their goofy attempts to keep people from migrating away, did so with great delight since I was finally on a platform (WordPress) that gave me great flexibility (and yes, I see the irony with yesterday’s post).

As an analogy, imagine if Apple had introduced the first iPod and then didn’t make any material changes for several years. Or, like Alden pointed out to me many times when he mentioned how many wonderful things they’d introduced, it was if Apple added a bunch of features to an iPod that no one cared about (“Look at our new Notes functionality! Now you can listen to music and twirl your click wheel to select letters and type notes!“).

The other thing that always bugged me about SixApart was how opaque they were when they were in the business of transparency (i.e., blogging). When they had service outages they never talked to their customers publicly. When the heat got turned up they appeared to hide from view. Alden, the chief evangelist Anil Dash, Mena Trott (with whom I talked at Web 2.0 Summit) and others with whom I interacted over the years would initially engage and then shut down and go radio silent.

This behavior was polar opposite from other interactions I’ve had with companies whose leadership embrace and appreciate a customer trying to help and suggest ways to make their product better. SixApart folks always seemed to take customer feedback as a personal affront and go in to defensive mode instantly vs. seeing it as an opportunity to improve.

It’s no wonder they failed.

Posting from my iPad


There is no question that the iPad packs a lot of promise in to its small form factor. Already I’ve done liveblogging with it on another site I run (here at Minnov8: http://minnov8.com/mhta2010/) but doing serious blogging on the iPad is still an exercise in frustration. I’m writing this post in Blogpress Pro on my iPad using an Apple Bluetooth keyboard (since long-form text editing isn’t a joy with the built-in keyboard!).

DEALKILLER #1: NO HYPERLINKING or TEXT EDITING
Notice that I had to type out the hyperlink instead of using the app “Blogpress” for the iPad? It’s because it — and the WordPress app now optimized for iPad — are unable to enable easy entering of hyperlinks. Huh? Aren’t hyperlinks “Web 101” and something at its most basic core? Yep.

I’ve interacted with a guy named from the WordPress team who developed the iPhone version and modified it for the iPad. Seems like a great guy (Chris Boyd @chrisboyddotnet on Twitter) and says both image editing (in Blogpress but missing in WordPress for anything but posting at the bottom of a post) and hyperlinking is being taken in to consideration.

Add to that no bolding, italics or other uses (though I might experiment to see if adding HTML code might do the trick like bolding these words)

DEALKILLER #2: NO REMOTE SAVING/LIMITED FEATURES
The other frustration is an inability to remotely save posts (so I can do a workaround by firing up Safari and finish editing within the web interface). Remote saving would fix that.

Blogpress Pro was $2.99 and is what I’m using to write this post. Of course, I can’t add a thumbnail (used on my homepage) or any custom fields nor can I hyperlink. I’m taking a risk by seeing if the image I placed within this post looks good or not (used Photogene on the iPad to modify it) and then I’ll turn to my main MacPro to add the thumbnail and so on.

DEALKILLER #3: NO HTTPS
When I’m on-the-go and need to access my WordPress backends I *always* login with https in order to ensure my username/password combo isn’t flying through a coffee shop’s Wifi connection exposed for snagging by some unscrupulous packet sniffer running on a geeks laptop.

It’s this sort of productivity stuff that is somewhat missing from the iPad *or* it takes a bunch of new steps most of us don’t yet know. With text editors for coders/developers out and coming out, easy ways to access remote servers (e.g., Box.net, iDisk for MobileMe, lots of built-in FTP capability in apps) I can see that it will become second nature to use our iPad’s for content creation at some point, but it’s just not yet there.

UPDATE: Blogpress posted via Twitter to THE WRONG ACCOUNT (my Minno8 one) because it can only manage ONE Twitter account. It also scheduled the post when I submitted Publish to my blog with a time FOUR HOURS AND 27 MINUTES after I published it. So not only does Blogpress have serious limitations, it has serious bugs.

Be VERY Careful Using Social Media

After being the recipient of tweets, email, comments under blog posts, and other online communications that miss-the-mark, I’m constantly struck by how often I take things the wrong way and end up calling someone to ensure I didn’t misconstrue what they were intending to say and to gain a better understanding of the point they were trying to get across.

This sort of miscommunication is becoming more problematic…not less…especially as real-time communications occur with services like Twitter. Add to that a limit in the number of characters these services allow us to use and you can see how challenging it is to convey any kind of deep meaning using real-time communications.

My son had an assignment for English class that had the following thought provoking table showing how easy it is to make a statement and have it come across COMPLETELY WRONG depending upon the emphasis of one specific word within that statement. You’ve probably seen this sort of stuff before, but it never hurts to be reminded how ONE WORD can completely change the context of your communication.

Think about this the next time you’re ready to click “send” on that tweet.

WHAT I SAIDWHAT I MEANT
I didn’t say she stole my moneySomeone else said it
I didn’t say she stole my moneyI didn’t say it
I didn’t say she stole my moneyI only implied it
I didn’t say she stole my moneyI said someone did, not necessarily her
I didn’t say she stole my money
I considered it borrowed, even though she didn’t ask
I didn’t say she stole my moneyOnly that she stole money
I didn’t say she stole my moneyShe stole stuff which cost me money to replace

Make HD Videos w/Apple’s Keynote

Being an effective communicator in today’s more virtual world means you must master the tools to do so whether it’s effectively using your webcam or having noise-free conversations via Skype.

Today we are, as Matt Mullenweg of WordPress and Dries Buytaert of Drupal have pointed out, media producers as well as consumers. They have publicly stated that anyone who hopes to be effective online today (both as individuals and as organizations) must recognize that we’re all in the media business and must use the tools available to us (and video is the most obvious way) to deliver higher value communications than we’ve ever done before.

To that end, I love seeking new tools and exploring new uses for the ones I own. I’ve put together some examples in the overview called “How to Use Apple’s Keynote to Make HD Videos” about using Apple’s Keynote (available in their iWork ’09 suite) and it will hopefully help you see how you too can create and deliver HD quality videos that better tell your product story, message or any video communication you need to post online.

Creating HD videos is an especially interesting use of Keynote since most video sites now enable you to upload and deliver HD quality videos (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, VideoPress for WordPress) and HD quality is a great way to deliver product promos, your presentations or even creating intro slides for an HD video you’re creating in some other program.

Before you continue to the page that outlines how to deliver these HD videos using Keynote, take a peek below at one example of a video I did for our business and know that these types of video ads are MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE in selling products than a static product photo or a gallery below a static photo AND RESULTS IN HIGHER SALES (by 15-25% for us). It gives potential purchasers of our products a solid inside look at the $400 report and enables them to do so in 1.5 minutes which is a much better use of our website visitor’s time than expecting them to read dozens of paragraphs.

Here’s one video to start with but again, look at this page to see more videos as well as the “How to Use Apple’s Keynote” section:

Your Perfect Social Media Input Device?

If you haven’t been paying attention to the continued improvements in handheld cameras, let’s just say that what’s being released in the handheld space is pretty amazing and you should pay attention if you’re involved in the ‘internets’ as a participant in any way and especially if you’re a social media user.

Back in April of 2007, I shot this SD video of the incredible ‘maker’, author, showman, and good guy, Bill Gurstelle, as he wow’ed the geeks at Minnebar with his potato bazooka. It was recorded with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50 handheld camera which I’d purchased in the Fall of 2006 and, as you can see, it’s pretty good quality video, the sound is decent, and it does take great photos:

But now Nikon has announced their Coolpix S8000, a 14.2 megapixel, 10x optical zoom, 720p HD video, very low light (down to 3200 ISO), 4-way image stabilization, all for the great price of $299.95! That’s $100 less than I paid for that Panasonic over three years ago (which, I’m well aware, is ancient history in technology).

Though I’d always prefer to have my single device that can do everything (in my case, a 3GS iPhone) there are too many compromises with mobile devices and the low video and image quality disturbs me. The lack of “glass” on a mobile device lets in a lot less light and having the iPhone default to compressing both videos and photos before uploading means that most of the stuff sent to blogs, websites and social media spots look like crap.

So I’ve been thinking… Read More

Is Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 Competition for Apple’s iPad?

The accelerating category of tablet computers — targeted directly at the always-0n, always-connected mobile masses involved in cloud computing, social media and seeking devices to make life easier and more efficient — isn’t limited to the Apple iPad. Though I knew a bit about the Lenovo IdeaPad U1 from CES coverage, poking around this morning I uncovered this video by Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, from the CES show that gives the best overview of this device that I’ve seen yet (and no, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s boooooring tablet/slate presentation at CES didn’t do much more than one could see by looking at pretty pictures).

This lack of my awareness (since I pay close attention to this stuff) is perhaps as telling as any other marketing analysis I’ve read recently, about the impact Steve Jobs made on introducing the iPad. I am surprised I didn’t see this video earlier since I’m a huge Revision3 fanboi and watch a lot of their shows and coverage. In any event, this is worth the couple of minutes to watch:

Sir, Yes Sir! Thank You for Thinking *For* Me Sir!

drillsergeant

One of the dangers in being a “thought leader” or “influencer” in blogs or social media is this: others might actually believe you’re an expert and take what you say on faith, as gospel, or as their duty. On the flip side, those of us who follow so-called thought leaders make some assumptions that they’re experts or at least more plugged in than we are so they must know something we don’t (and too many people are influenced by them automatically). I’ve been seeing this happen too often in the group-think that occurs in the blogosphere and this sort of mass persuasion (or “mass meme’ing” as my friend Bill calls it) is now moving even faster with the real-time internet (e.g., Twitter).

In my several decades on this earth I’ve learned the power of propaganda, seen the unfortunate downsides to “spin” and group-think, and have been made well aware of the persuasion, motivation and psychological manipulation techniques most people with an agenda employ.

Having an agenda and trying to persuade or motivate is not inherently evil or good, it just is-what-it-is. Humans are driven by all sorts of intrinsic motivations that go well beyond Maslow’s baseline on his hierarchy of needs. In my view, Maslow was stating a pyramid of needs that was far too happy-assed and missed many human motivators like a hunger for celebrity, power or control by an individual or organization, the continual nation-based struggle for resources, or a need to be dominant.

Think about all of this the next time you read something (especially a blog post or tweet), listen to a political speech, are asked to do something by your boss, or watch a TV show or movie about a big topic. What are the writer/tweeter/producers motivations? Who is funding it and/or what is their agenda? What are the creators of it trying to get you to do, to think and what action do they want you to take?