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Why aren’t you watching this?

posted in Media on July 10th, 2008

Witness Protection

A fresh start. Isn’t that what many people long for? Just being able to leave everything behind: enemies, ex-partners, problems and start out fresh: a new name, a new job, enough money to get by for the first few months.

The USA Network makes it all possible, with their new summer hit In Plain Sight.

In Plain Sight deals with the professional and personal life of Mary Shannon, a United States marshal who works in the Federal witness protection program. The mix includes a “dysfunctional” family, insanely loyal friends and funny assignments, with the occasional dilemma coming around roughly every episode.

On a side note: while going through my RSS feeds, I discovered this nice picture on Matthew Rosenberg’s blog and looking at how networks have treated good shows lately, I would actually be surprised if In Plain Sight ever made it to a third season.

Hidden Genius

United States marshal’s seem to be hotter than any other kind of law enforcement officers right now: once again, SciFi treats viewers to a new season of Eureka. This time around, however, the season is supposed to last a full twenty one episodes, courtesy of the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild strike - guess that something good came of that after all.

Starting on July 29th, Jack Carter and friends return for another season of witty quotes, difficult relationships and a whole lot of I-want-that-too-gadgetry and of course: the never-ending quest to find the true purpose of The Artifact.

The other side of being a secret agent

James Bond has got it easy. He gets one mission every 18 to 24 months, then does his thing and gets out again, all accompanied by a plethora of gadgets, a stylish car and a few, good-looking women.

Michael Westen, main character of USA Network’s sophomore show Burn Notice leads quite a different life. Burned by his agency over a year ago, during the first season, Westen, tonight, returns to figure out who burned him and for what reason.

Season one focused on the actual burn notice, the mystery surrounding it and ways to get by when you get burned and Westen did everything from body guarding, to P.I. work, to stealing things and blackmailing criminals.

In the end, the season concluded by leaving many things open for interpretation, some of which will hopefully be answered in tonight’s premiere.

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The things that keep you coming back - redux

posted in Marketing on July 10th, 2008

Close to a year ago, I jotted down some thoughts on how companies treat their customers and what makes me come back to them.

Paypal:

First up is Paypal. Most people know Paypal from eBay, some use it in conjunction with Skype, another eBay property and many people downright hate the service. There is a myriad sites available that deal with how sucky Paypal is and how wrong they treat you.

For me, however, Paypal, means ease of use and I am so comfortable with the service that a month ago, I decided to pay a four-digit sum with it and although the payment initially went through, my account was quickly locked down, pending a number of steps, two of which I could complete (change password, fax / email official document stating my name and address) and one which Paypal would have to do: review my transactions.

Up to this date, I have not found out why they locked my account, but to be honest, I am very happy that they did. For one, my usual transactions range in the single to double digit area, hardly ever peaking $50, now, all of a sudden, I transfer a four digit amount of money to someone and that from a country from which my Paypal account has never been used before. I can see how that would trigger a few security checks along the line.

The problem with having your account locked down is that not only does Paypal hold the current transaction, they also change old, already completed transactions from the last couple of days to “pending review”.

One of the payments that was held, was for Namecheap, my preferred supplier for domains and they quickly informed me that their system noticed a “chargeback” and that I had to pay an administrative fee of approximately $60, as well as the money I, technically, owed them (due to the fact that Paypal had reversed the transaction).

After a few mails to Paypal’s customer service, their Dutch division still was not able to assist me and provided me with nothing but canned responses - not the kind of thing that puts your mind at ease when somebody took a four digit amount of money from you and is now keeping it.

Luckily, after some searching on the web though, I found two community managers and sent off my story in email form. Only a couple of hours later, I got a few suggestions from Jason Miner and was also informed that my case was upgraded to the next level.

One of the suggestions included calling the Paypal customer center, which I promptly did. I had to prove that I am indeed who I am, I got apologies aplenty and the issue was very quickly taken care off, in the most professional manner I could even think of.

With my account returned to me and all my transactions unlocked, Namecheap still was not too happy with me as a customer, so I fired off another email to Jason, who ensured me that his team would take care of the issue and lo’ and behold, they did: the next business day, I got an email from Namecheap stating that any issues were resolved and that they were sorry for the inconvenience.

As for my happiness level: Paypal did not only pick up the ball in this, they ensured that everything was solved and assisted me with anything I needed. Yes, technically, that is to be expected, but looking at the state of the current customer service industry, this certainly deserves a mention.

STM Bags:

Back in the beginning of 2005, I got myself a bag from STM, which I love and use to this day. This bag has accompanied me to every conference I have been to, it has met the forces of nature and clumsy waitresses and through all that time, has kept my laptop safe and sound.

On my trip to New York, however, I managed to break one of the plastic clamps that keeps the bag attached to your shoulders. While it was still technically possible to use the bag, I felt that it would be safer (and better looking) to get myself a new strap.

After drafting a quick email to STM Bags North America, outlining my problem and trying to find out the price for one of the straps, a friendly CSR, Yvonne Studebaker, confirmed which strap I had / needed and also asked for my address.

Three days later, USPS delivered a brand new strap to me, for a product that I bought more than three years ago, that was way beyond any warranty and what is more: the broken strap was normal wear and tear.

The commitment STM has shown in this case not only won my heart, it also made sure that STM will keep my business in the future, because if a company can take care of its customers like that, I believe that they deserve my money.

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Why aren’t you listening to this?

posted in Media on May 28th, 2008

Songs with powerful emotions seem to be the new rage around this part of the town and I for one do not mind at all. With the summer coming up at high speed, Colbie Caillat’s album Coco might just be what you are looking for, with a nice collection of touching songs.

Colbie is one of those artists that know how to leverage the 2.0 thing; this resulted in her being the number-one (unsigned) singer in her genre for more than four months - no small feat, that’s for sure.

With her father, Ken Caillat, record producer for, amongst others, Fleetwood Mac and Mirage, she has the right backing that great but unknown artists need in this business to succeed.

And succeed she does, with chart breakers that hit #1 in (very) short time spans in more than one market, Colbie apparently is able to capture the essence of what the audience is looking for, and, in fact, her voice has something so appealing to it, that even Jason Mraz decided to record a track with her.

And that brings me to my next topic: Jason Mraz, too, has just released a new album, called “We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things” and it shows that Mr. A-Z has the guts to try new things, because this album, style-wise, is much unlike his older albums, and I mean that in a positive way.

Coyotes, for example, sounds very much like an extended and improved version to the second part of “Song for a Friend” and if there is one song that kicked butt on previous albums, it certainly was “Song for a Friend”.

Coyotes is not the only track that sounds great though, “Only Human” and “I’m Yours” are Mraz’ way of sharing a lovely stories with his fans, both with that distinctive Mr. A-Z sound.

In closing, I can say that both artists are definitely worth checking out, if not for their recent successes, then for the lyrics they write, lyrics with meaning.

Oh and on a related note: Happy Birthday Colbie :)

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Working with the people you admire

posted in Internships on May 23rd, 2008

Let me tell you a story: a couple of years ago, back when I was still living in Austria, I discovered an application, called Trillian, a multi-network chat application that just worked.

Trillian was (and still is being) designed by Pak-Kei Mak, better known as kid, who, back then, was “just” a student who won a design competition.

Trillian’s design appealed to me; it was new, it was non-standard, it carried the mood factor and it had emoticons that, to this very day, make me smile (or frown, depending on the selected emotion).

Kid, besides being a kick-ass designer, also did some PHP coding on the side and created a script that would index a directory in the same (visual) style as Windows XP, and I loved that, as did Ben.

In fact, we enjoyed the greatness of said script so much that we basically created a clone of the whole indexer, distributed it amongst friends and made a few people happy with it, oh, and Ben and me close contacts of each other, often conversing long hours on the most interesting (or the most ridiculous) topics.

Fast-forward to January 2007, when I was invited to the Trillian Astra Alpha-testing cycle and decided, on a whim, to start a conversation with Kid, after all, this was my chance to talk to one of those that I admire.

One conversation quickly became many, admiration was joined by respect, advice, dare I say: (online) friendship? In any case, we felt that we struck a note with each other and we got along very well, so well, that Kid and I started working together.

At first, our collaborations only included brainstorms on various things, basically toying with ideas and sharing some dreams with each other, up until a point where I asked Kid to step up to the plate and design something for me. His work turned out great (more on that in another post) and we decided to continue our collaboration in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, when my first internship was entering the home lane, I had to make a decision: would I go for the medium or big company with the well-known name and earn a few pesetos but probably do stuff I have been doing the past couple of years, or would I go for the company that is not even a company but much rather an idea.

In my (professional) life, most of my choices have been about doing the thing that I am the most passionate about, I am interested in learning new skills and hone old(er) skills much more than I am in making a big buck (at least, right now) and so I went for the idea that I am passionate about.

From June 3rd, 2008 up until, at least, sometime mid-August 2008, Pak-Kei and me will be on a journey, a journey of exploration. We will be battling against many of the same things that (web) start-ups have to deal with and if bad meets worse on the way and they manage to get along well enough, we might end up with nothing but great experiences.

And in fact, the few people I discussed this with mostly told me, often in very specific terms to drop the idea of makin’ a big buck and just go work for an established company and be done with it.

While I value the input of the people around me, I believe that the following quote sums it up best:

He who tries and fails is wiser (and happier) than he who does not try out of fear of failure

And that is why I am going.

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Intern Report #9 (The Final Countdown)

posted in Internships on May 16th, 2008

Seventeen weeks ago, on January 19th, I started my first ever internship, at a company called XOLO.TV.

My college’s internship period officially did not start for another three weeks, but that did not bother me, I wanted the experience and I was not afraid of investing my free days in order to get that experience.

Now, seventeen weeks later, I have about seven weeks more experience than most of my co-students and am leaving XOLO.TV with a whole treasure-chest filled to the brim with new knowledge, good stories and new contacts.

It is said that all good things must come to an end, no matter if you want them to or not and In a way I am sad that my internship is over, for I will surely miss the guys (and gals) from XOLO.TV.

Without trying to come off as being too emotional, I think it is safe to say that I did not only find (business) contacts at XOLO.TV, but rather friends.

The past months, starting with the, by now, famous, New Year’s Party, Video Vortex, the actual start of my internship, Paaspop and The Next Web 2008 it has been a fun-filled ride for sure.

GabeB, GabeMac, Marc, Paul, Stephan, Tatjana, Walter, Wiendelt - you guys rock and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this internship experience as great as it was.

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