Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation reading list

I'm going to my cottage today for a week with my family and friends.  I haven't really had a true vacation in a while so I'm looking forward to it.

Picked up a few books at the library and I have about a month's worth of The Economist to catch up on.

The first book is Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  I have been looking forward to reading this one for a while.

The second book is Linchpin by Seth Godin.  I am equally excited to read this one.  I have read most of his other books, love his blog and find that he writes really well (because he likes to be short and to the point).

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Telecommunications Industry is Hurting Us

To be clear: I am not a huge fan of the Canadian wireless industry.  Our service providers treat customers poorly, knowing that we aren't going to get better service elsewhere.  When it comes to price, we pay high prices and there isn't much difference between carriers.

Recently, I starting thinking about how our high prices and terrible service was going to affect our ability to compete in the global wireless industry.  Specifically, I was wondering how this would affect our ability to innovate in the space of mobile applications.

Then I read this interesting article from the CBC about a recent wireless industry study.  Some of the highlights are:

-Our earnings percentage at 46.7% was the highest of 21 developed nations studied.  Average was 38.3.

-Our carriers have the highest average revenue per user in the study (ARPU) at $54.73.   Average ARPU for developed nations was $42.90.

-Canada was last among developed nations in wireless penetration.

-Data represented only 23.9% of the monthly bill versus average in developed world of 31.8%.  You might think this means we have lower rates but the study also found that while carriers have lower per minute revenues, they have higher charges for additional features, which includes data, and this is what contributed to our higher ARPU.

-We posted the third highest minutes of use, but that seems to be because we are one of only a few countries that still charges for incoming calls.

Reviewing this information, I can't help but wonder if we could say that cost is a big reason more Canadian's don't have wireless phones.  There doesn't appear to be any data in the study on this but I don't think it would be a stretch.  I also wonder if high prices are keeping our data usage to a minimum.

I worry about what the effect of all of this will be on Canada's wireless industry.  We used to be highly regarded in the wireless infrastructure business but as the gap between us and the rest of the world in terms of usage increases, I would suggest that it will not help us lead the way in innovation.

More importantly, I wonder about how this will affect our ability to innovate on the application level.  If mobile isn't part of our populations DNA, as it might be in places like Japan, then how can we be expected to lead the way in application development going forward?  If our own citizens aren't consuming mobile data as part of their daily routines, then how are we to grow our industries related to data?

I supposed that one could argue that it doesn't matter where an application is developed because as long as it gets onto devices in the language required, it doesn't matter where it was developed.  But I still can't help but feel that we are increasingly being left behind as the rest of the world charges into the wireless future.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Computers for Communities

I would like to tell you a bit about a new non-profit that I am really excited about being involved with.  It is called Computer for Communities.

In order to understand what C4C does, I'm actually going to lift something about the organization from its own website:

We believe that no one should be left on the wrong side of the digital divide. We believe that through volunteering and skills development individuals will learn about computer technology and thus build the potential of their community. We believe that we can help build the bridge across the digital divide in our National Capital Region.
According to Statistics Canada (2006) Approximately 54,000 households in the National Capital region are without access to a computer. Over 67,000 households are not connected to the Internet. We believe that by offering people opportunities to develop skills and earn a themselves a computer we can narrow this gap.
There were a few things that caused me to gravitate towards this organization over others that I had been looking to volunteer my time with:
1) This is a small but growing organization that is in need of assistance
2) This organization supports open-source software and creative commons licensing of intellectual property.
3) Computers for communities gives volunteers (usually youth) a computer for each 24 hours of volunteer work they perform.
4) This organization has lots of room for growth and is at a stage right now that I believe will be critical to its future.
The reason that I am telling you about C4C is that I hope that it inspires you to learn more about the challenges in your community so that you can start focusing on solutions to those problems and being a part of the movement to provide those solutions.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Apple has a problem

Unless you've been living under a rock, you are probably aware of the fact that there is a lot of chatter out there about Apple's iPhone 4 antenna and how touching it will cause changes in reception.   Now it's coming out that Jobs was warned by an engineer early on.  If you're really interested in the issue, there was a great discussion of the topic on a recent This Week in Tech (TWiT).

The first thing I would like to say about this whole mess is that your business has a problem if your customers say that is a problem.  What this means for brands/companies/people is that you don't get to decide if something is a problem or not.  The longer you let the customer define the problems with your business without addressing them, the harder it is going to be to fix the damage to your brand later.  Worse, these problems begin to be noticed by one of the most important groups of people out there: your prospects.

Apple seems to be reluctant to address this "issue" as a problem.  Jobs even said that people are holding the phone wrong.

To be clear on how I feel about Apple: great products, bad attitude.  I love my 3GS and am anxious to get an iPad and upgrade to and iPhone4 but Apple's attitude is ridiculous.

This is for sure to be one of the big crisis/issue management cases of 2010 and I'm having a blast watching it all unfold.

Sure, they are breaking all sorts of sales records with the product but what do you think all of the chatter is doing to the minds of potential iPhone customers?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do what you say

Mitch Joel wrote a great blog post recently about why more brands don't market products that simply do what they are supposed to do.  I liked it because it said so many things that I have been thinking about recently and so I commented on it.

In fact, it was such a good post that I was even thinking about it last night as I was walking down to Ottawa Bluesfest but in a broader context: what if weren't talking about brands, what if we were talking about people.

If we were forced by some magical law of physics to do everything we said we'd do, how much better of a place would the world be?  If this magical law applied to everyone, then wouldn't that mean that every marketer would have to deliver on the promises they make on behalf of the brands they manage?

Personally, I think integrity is one of the most important qualities a person can have and I wonder why more people don't make this a priority for the brands they manage.  I suppose that some of the reasons why people don't are:
  • They don't care because their job is only a paycheck anyways.
  • The company is not configured to provide integrity.
  • Even if they wanted to act with integrity.
This lead me to look up what integrity means and according to Wikipedia (which is a terrible source but I'll use it anyways) is

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.

Interesting.  The entry goes on to say that in western culture, it has come to mean the opposite of hypocrisy and many of the other secondary meanings we have given it but my point here is that I think it is hard for people to act with integrity because we live in a world that changes and because of that, we are constantly changing.  

I might agree to play in a tennis tournament today because I feel like playing tennis but as the weekend draws closer and I see that the weather is going to be really hot, I might change my mind.  I might be nice to my customers today because I'm in a good mood but tomorrow I will be tired and cranky.  I might think that I am marketing the greatest widget in the world but tomorrow I realize that it's no different than anything else out there.

In the end, I think that both people and the brands they manage need to understand that integrity is important.  Much like trust, it takes a long time to build and only a short time to destroy.  I have always said that you need to live your life in the way you want people to remember you when you're gone.  

The real question then becomes, what do want written on your gravestone?

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