How to create a difficult “user interface”

You can Havidol!

Are you suffering from Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD)? Some people actually think they are…and now there’s new treatment – Havidol!

Great spoof on a fake drug and condition, dreamed up by Australian artist Justine Cooper.

The website promoting Havidol is well-done and almost convincing. I enjoyed doing something similar with some colleagues a few years back, with Tranquel, a theobromine-based treatment for lots of mood disorders. But my favorite fake drug of all time is Delinqua, a product a few of us came up with for chronic tardiness.

Delighting customers

This blog isn’t really about customer service. But I can’t resist linking to this post, since it comes from a company that clearly believes in operating with a “customer first” set of principles. I especially enjoyed #3, about Lands End.

Also, the author has a great sense of humor, witnessed by this self-description at the end of the post (italics mine):

About the Author: I’m your host, Joel Spolsky, a software developer in New York City. Since 2000, I’ve been writing about software development, management, business, and the Internet on this site. For my day job, I run Fog Creek Software, makers of FogBugz – the smart bug tracking software with the stupid name, and Fog Creek Copilot – the easiest way to provide remote tech support over the Internet, with nothing to install or configure.

Hat tip: Seth Godin

How not to write a press release

I saw this company news release/overview in the most recent edition of PharmaVoice (a publication which I like, by the way), and almost gagged. Clearly, this was written in Modern Geek, and the wording used is solely intended to confuse, obfuscate, and impress with indecipherable buzzwords.

I’m not impressed. And no matter how many times I read this missive, I’ll never understand what in the world Blue Spoon Consulting is trying to offer here.

Here, if you can navigate through it while retaining synaptic sanity, is the wording:


Blue Spoon Consulting has released a marketing ecosystem-based solution for pharmaceutical sales effectiveness. The new design links the context, content, and process of the virtual and physical domains of pharmaceutical sales into a dynamic business system with a dense configuration of activities and knowledge.

Available for download through the Blue Spoon Consulting website, the ecosystem platform for pharmaceutical sales tightens the fit between sampling management, longitudinal prescribing data, publication planning, publicity, salesforce automation, patient advocacy groups, on-demand and service-oriented software, medical science liaisons, health information technology, care management initiatives, outcomes studies, and branded content flows around a customer.

Linking the output and feedback from these previously unrelated or underused elements into a new pattern of organization offers a new scenario for value creation. The center of gravity resides in a living business system that absorbs complexity and one that competitors are unable to replicate. Its economic value is based on measuring increasing returns over time.

Delivery and acquisition of marketing communications and information technology services are judged on their positional value within the ecosystem and their ability to conduct and contribute to system performance. “High degrees of contextual change in the external environment — information becoming liquid, existing everywhere in real time, a whole world of specialized assets and knowledge that make possible any operational vision — is opening a new arena for creativity and strategic logic,” says John G. Singer, principal at Blue Spoon Consulting.


Un-believable. “Positional value within the ecosystem” “information becoming liquid” “The center of gravity resides in a living business system that absorbs complexity” “dense configuration of activities and knowledge”  Only one person in the world can even remotely hope to understand this “ecosystem-based solution”, and that is John G. Singer himself. Maybe this system has value after all, but the value proposition, if it exists, will need to be translated from Geek to English!

Samuel Adams – a glass above?

When I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh, admire the brilliance – or whip out a credit card and buy.

Can’t do the latter yet, it’s not available until March.

I guess I’ll give them full credit for trying to advance the image of craft beer by creating special highbrow glassware – if you’re going to try to make beer more like wine, why not imitate the vessels of consumption?

Just please don’t cork the bottles.

For many years I have enjoyed and recommended Sam Adams – they are creative, high-quality, and their beers are almost universally great. Sam on draft is particularly wonderful. Coincidentally, just this morning I picked up a new offering – a six-pack called “Longshot,” featuring 3 different beers crafted by homebrewers who entered a contest to create their own brews good enough to be packaged as a Sam Adams special offering. Haven’t tried them yet, but the guy in charge at the liquor store couldn’t say enough good things about the Ale. What a great way for Sam Adams to create further “engagement” with its audience – these guys know how to make new marketing rules! (update – the Ale was fabulous! – I love dark, strong brews and this one had a rich caramel-y flavor. Good stuff!)

Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

Picking bad apples

Very interesting article out of the University of Washington, on the outsized negative influence of “bad apples” in the work environment.

Here’s an excerpt:

William Felps, a doctoral student at the UW Business School and the study’s lead author, was inspired to investigate how workplace conflict and citizenship can be affected by one’s co-workers after his wife experienced the “bad apple” phenomenon.

Felps’ wife was unhappy at work and characterized the environment as cold and unfriendly. Then, she said, a funny thing happened. One of her co-workers who was particularly caustic and was always making fun of other people at the office came down with an illness that caused him to be away for several days.

“And when he was gone, my wife said that the atmosphere of the office changed dramatically,” Felps said. “People started helping each other, playing classical music on their radios, and going out for drinks after work. But when he returned to the office, things returned to the unpleasant way they were. She hadn’t noticed this employee as being a very important person in the office before he came down with this illness but, upon observing the social atmosphere when he was gone, she came to believe that he had a profound and negative impact. He truly was the “bad apple” that spoiled the barrel.” It’s worth clicking on the link above and reading then entire article.

A Winning Enterprise

Quietly, steadily, they’ve ascended to the #1 spot among car rental companies in North America. They’re privately-held, profitable, and they develop people.

It’s not a secret why – Enterprise is founded on solid principles.

Here is what they believe and practice regarding customer service (also here). I have a profound respect for companies such as Enterprise that have well-thought-out principles, and a pro-active approach to selective hiring and great training.

I’ve rented from Enterprise on an irregular basis (not as much need for rental cars right now), and ALWAYS found it to be a pleasant experience. These folks walk the talk. They treat their employees as their future leaders, and deliberately and consciously build bench strength from the ground up. If I was an employer looking for a pool of talent for new hires, I think I’d walk in front of an Enterprise outlet with a sandwich board.

Hat tip: John Moore, BrandAutopsy

How not to succeed in a call to action

I was working out on an elliptical machine a few days back, and saw an ad the defied comprehension. DirecTV was advertising for new employees – they showed clips of lots of happy DirectTVites in their various roles, and then had a call for action to go to their website to apply for jobs.

OK, so far so good. Then the announcer, voicing over an array of screen shots, was explaining the 4-step series of menus on the website in order to find the spot where you apply! HELLLLOOOO! You’re running this 60-second ad, and then walking through a series of very particular mouse clicks to show people how to act?? Are you kidding me – someone is supposed to REMEMBER all that?

If you’re going to drive people to a website through some kind of promotional campaign, put a link directly on the home page! “We-re hiring! – did you see our ad on TV? Apply HERE!”

Perhaps the company should be renamed InDirectTV!