Archives for April 2010

Traveling with just the iPad. Review from week two.

The second week I had my iPad I traveled to San Francisco – for 5 days. I travel light – I can travel for a week with a single backpack. I have not checked luggage in 10+ years.

So what worked?

No WiFi on the plane, even though it was United both ways. Their bitch airlines (err, partnerships) don’t seem to offer it. But I had placed a number of videos on my iPad that me and a coworker were able to view in-flight that made the flight seem shorter that it was (headphone splitter required).

In five days I never even had to consider battery life – the device just worked when I needed it to. I did plug it in when I remembered – but unlike my iPhone I was not “jonesing” for power all the time.

Email with corporate worked wonderfully until I needed to print, sign and fax something – so I thought I have found the iPad’s Achilles’s Heal. Until I realized that in a foreign office I would not have been able to print the document even from my Macbook Pro. Instead I emailed it to someone in the office, got the paperwork done, and moved on. Easier than installing printer drivers on a MacBook. So no issue.

Connectivity. I do not have a 3G iPad – so I relied on WiFi during the entire trip. Guess what – 90% of the time that is available in a city like San Francisco. Or San Antonio. ONLY once was I left without WiFi and that was in a scary little bar in China town that I should not have been in.

I received no attachments I could not view and comment on (sure – I could not edit them). Basically I had email, and Skype, and GTalk (although not all at the same time – hurry up that multi-tasking, Apple)

Bottom line is that I can travel with just my iPad. No Laptop Required. For what I need to do when on the road the iPad just works. And gives me the added pluses of battery life, entertainment, light weight and being instant-on. When I needed it, it was ready.

So if you have an iPad, and are doing a trip – trust the iPad. It is a good replacement for a laptop unless you have to create a ton of content.

Why I don’t like Social Media, but do it for a living.

I’ve had a ton of roles in my life. Neonatal Respiratory Therapist, entrepreneur, Customer Support guy, Software QA Manager, Developer – and now managing both a media team and social media. And trying not to mix the two up.

So why do I hate “Social Media”? Because I hate what we’ve made it seem like – like a light touch, semi support, mostly marketing, lead generation tool.  And by “us” I do not mean my company – I mean most of you/us.

Why do I run our “social media” then, if I don’t like it all that much?

Because if I do not run it, I do not have a voice in it.  I can care, or not.  I can be involved, or not.  But if I do not care and am not involved I have little right to complain.  I like to complain, so I need to be involved to maintain some credibility:)

So I “run” our SM efforts because I want to make sure they have the right focus.  I want to make sure we focus on customers – and not marketing, lead-gen, sales, etc.

I want to do it “right” – or at least what I consider to be right.

To me Social Media is just a new name for “loving customers”.

So I don’t care all that much about “measurement”, or “analytics” or “any of that BS”.

To me I want to know that we are first helping customers.  And that is NOT Social Media.  That is customer support.  Which I really love.  Something Rackspace loves.

I am Rob La Gesse and I work for Rackspace.  My home number is 210-370-3861.  My cell is 210-845-4440.

And I love customers.  Social Media helps me find them. I may run Social Media, but it is really all about support.

We use Social Media to find new ways to talk to customers – and give them new ways to find us. That is pretty much it. So far.  I hope to keep it that way.

Social Media, my ass. Take care of customers.

I planned on writing an internal message to my company, reminding them of some Social Media guidelines.

But as I started writing I thought, “this is not specific to us – and may help others”.

I “manage” Social Media for my company – and that is in quotes because I do not run the various Twitter accounts, or tell people what to say and when. I am more like a guidance counselor, for those that want to listen. I influence what we do in Social Media. I don’t direct or dictate it.

But I do remind people when they cross a line, like using our brands in their Twitter handles – “IBMJake” is probably not a good Twitter name for you, or IBM. Aligning yourself as an advocate of IBM is very different. At Rackspace we encourage people to be passionate about their work – but we discourage mixing the brand into personal social media persona’s.

We have corporate personas, and even a verified account. These are the voices that speak as the company. As much as we encourage Rackers to have a voice, and speak their minds – we want them speaking as them, and not as Rackspace.

There are some mistakes in life you cannot recover from – a lesson I have spent two decades drilling into my children’s heads. You cannot recover from a felony arrest, or a teenage pregnancy – these things will affect your life forever. You may overcome them – but they will slow you down.

Making Social Media mistakes has a similar effect – if not as permanent. Drunk tweets, mistimed tweets, tweeting as the voice of the company when you are not, talking about finances or how your day sucked because your boss was a pain – there are a lot of ways to screw Social Media up.

So it should scare you if you elect to talk about your company, your job, your boss, or your co-workers. I wish it scared more people.

But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to participate in the conversations surrounding your employer – hell – to most of us, our work is about 50% of our lives – if not more.

I started our social media efforts with two simple questions. “Is it hurtful?” and, “Is it helpful?”.

Everything we have built over the last year plus has been based on those key tenants.

We have seen mentions of us on Social Media rise from 400 a month to over 13K/month. Partially because people know we are in those communities. Mostly, I think, because they know we exist to actually help. When people reach out, we reach back. We aren’t mouthpieces – we are ex-customers who love customers. We know the company from many angles. We’ve been customers, been in support roles, we know the systems, and we know how to get stuff done. And we are sponsored by Senior Leadership – so people know we have the ability to actually affect change.

I think we have one of the most perfect infrastructures for Social Media that a company can have. We were already based on a culture of support – Social Media is just an extension of that culture. Everyone here gets that customers are important – and that happy customers bring more customers.

So every time before we respond to a customer, we ask those two questions. “Is it hurtful?” – if so, stop. And, “Is it helpful?” – if not, why do it? If we can’t help, we shut up. It makes us more efficient and the brand more helpful.

And sure, it gets a lot more complicated than that – but it is also as simple as that.

Customers just want to be taken care of – by people they know actually care. If the only people that feel that way in your company are in Social Media, you are in trouble. And if your Social Media team is not focused on that same goal – you are in trouble.

My early experience with the iPad

Since I am reviewing the iPad I am also writing his post on the iPad.

I wl not correct any typos
Or odd formatting errors (like the random carriage return above)

As you canp seethe onscreen keyboard is a challenge
Pbut the devce is amazing.

OK – the above was written using the iPad o-screen keyboard – which either I need to get used to, or it sucks. I thought the iPhone keyboard sucked at first but learned to use it, and expect the same is true of this. Right now I am typing with the (optional) bluetooth keyboard – which I have had for two years so I am used to it.

So what is bad about the iPad?

1) It does not multi-task – so for me it can NEVER replace a notebook unless it adds that capability. I am a multi-tasking fool and need Twitter, numerous IM clients and email and Browser open always.
2) I can’t program it with NewtonScript (yeah – leave me alone – I liked NewtonScript!)
3) I couldn’t afford more than one of them.
4) The docking port is in the wrong place. I would have put it so that when docked I was in wide-screen (so I could watch movies, etc)
5) It is WAY too slippery. I would have preferred a rubberized coating that gave me some grip – you almost HAVE to have a case for this thing – which makes it feel much larger that it really is.

What is great about the iPad? Almost everything else. From reading books, to streaming wide-screen Netflix movies, reading news sites – it is amazingly easy to use. It is amazing easy for even me to spend even more time online (and trust me – that is saying something).

It is so natural to pick it up and read on it – especially for anyone who grew up with books. This feels like a good-sized novel. About 1.5 pounds. But it carries thousands of books.

The battery life is amazing. Apple (kudos to them!) sold me a unit that was 96% charged – so after 10 minutes on the charger I had a full charge. After two hours completely undocked and watching video, reading blogs, etc I still am at 93% power.

Apps built for this device look amazing – and apps that weren’t built for it kinda suck – but I still prefer them on this device than on my iPhone – partially because I can actually SEE this screen 🙂

I’m sure I’ll have more later, but for now this will have to do. TIme to go watch some Netflix on my iPad!

Ah – what an amazing opportunity. One that is embraced.

I am a pain in the ass employee.  You don’t get a title of “chief disruption officer” unless you cause problems.

I DO cause problems.  I question much, raise hell often, and bitch perhaps too often.

It is amazing I still even have a job.

That is part of why I love where I work – I KNOW I am difficult.  But I almost always raise hell for a customer.  So I almost always get a “pass” for being an ass.

And I don’t have any internal agenda except “I want to make customers happy”.

Almost always my company backs me and supports what I am trying to do.  But sometimes (gasp!) I am wrong.

And I love when they call me on that.  Nothing builds a functional group like honest communication does.  Nothing destroys it more quickly than NOT talking.

Confusion and disarray is the worst thing you can have in any company – and it gets worse in a public company,

I appreciate that I have thousands of Rackers all ready to call BS on me.  It keeps all of us honest.

It keeps me honest – and focused on customers.

Are your employees and customers helping keep you honest?  Or do they just not care?

Do YOU care anymore?