Amazon’s Mayday Sets A New Customer Service Standard

One of the coolest things to come out of Amazon in a long time is not a new set of Kindle Fire tablets, although those are cool, its just upping the hardware specs and lowering the price, which if you ask me is not very innovative. Kind of how I feel about the iPhone 5S & C.

What’s really cool about the new Kindle Fire HDX is the new Mayday service, which calls for immediate video help for your tablet. Not only does the service operate 24/7, tapping the Mayday button give you the option to talk to someone who can help you with your device in a small video window. The rep can hear you, see the screen of the device, control the device and draw on the interface, allowing them to virtually assist you with any questions on usage that you might have. It is actually less of a virtual Genius bar than it is remote video help.

One of the privacy features is that while you can see them, they can’t see you. They can however see the screen of your device, so make sure not to have or bring up any, ahem, inappropriate images (or video, I’d guess) while you are talking to them. (I can see issues if you happen to have something like that on the screen and accidentally hit the Mayday button – oops!).

I think this is a very cool and innovative approach – a great way to finally pull together a bunch of preexisting technologies and present/use them in a simple way. Kind of like what Steve Jobs did with the iPod.

I can see beyond the Kindle Fire tablets though – wouldn’t it be cool if Amazon licensed this technology to other tablets vendors as well, or even to other app developers? Imagine getting stuck on any device or app and being able to call up immediate tech support like this for any app on any device. Now that’s interesting, and not out of the question: imagine AWS for customer service….

Mayday is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is accessed by a dedicated button found right in the tablet’s Quick Settings menu. A tap on that button connects the user with a live support representative in 15 seconds or less, no matter what time or day of the year it is. Once connected, the user can see the support representative in a small window on their screen, and the representative can see whatever app or screen is on the user’s tablet (Amazon was sure to point out to us that while you can see the rep, they can’t see you). Support techs can guide users with visual cues and auditory prompts, and if those fail, they can even control the tablet remotely to resolve the issue.

via Amazon launches Mayday, a virtual Genius Bar for the Kindle Fire HDX | The Verge.

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Reader Comments Rock?!

I don’t know about you but a lot of times I find that I get more insight from the comments people leave on a blog post than I do from the original article itself.

Case in point: I was looking at a blog post a coder did on setting up an S3 instance as a drive on an Ubuntu box – while the original post was pretty informative, the subsequent posters had a lot of good information to impart as well. In fact, they corrected some of the original posters data.

But I find that it works great for editorial as well. In many cases, the most entertaining and informative part of the page is not the post itself, but the discussion which the post generated.

Reminds me of that old comedy routine where someone throws out a topic and says “talk amongst yourselves” – maybe there’s something interesting here. You throw out a topic, with maybe a few words, maybe up to the length of a tweet (160 characters) and then let everyone who is commenting have as much room as as they like.

Sort of a discussion forum where the original post is a tweet. Twitter is a bit like this, but there’s still that 160 character restriction on the replies as well. What if only the original post was limited to 160 characters, but the commentators could comment at will, with as much space as they needed to prove their point?

Might be an interesting weekend project. What do you think?

If reader comments aren’t one of the worst things on the internet, they are probably pretty close, which is why many mainstream media outlets seem to have given up on trying to save them — or have turned them over to Facebook, which amounts to the same thing. Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, however, continues to see them as having a lot more value than most publishers are willing to admit, and is rolling out new comment-filtering features that he says will take the collaborative aspects of Gawker’s Kinja platform to a new level.

via Gawker founder Nick Denton is still trying to reinvent reader comments — and it’s working — Tech News and Analysis.

Facebook: The Good, Bad & Ugly

facebook-like-butonAs one of the 5 sites most people use to experience the internet, Facebook has really strayed from its original purpose. Now, I’m all for a company making money, as a miniscule shareholder I applaud that, but on the flip side, it’s made using Facebook, at least for me, pretty excruciating.

The Bad : The News Feed

I have 402 friends as of this writing. A modest amount I’m thinking, I’ll bet there are plenty more our there with a lot more than me. I find that as a way of letting me know what my friends are doing, its pretty damn useless now. Here are my main issues with the news feed:

  1. It feels like its more full of sponsored posts than actual items from my friends. My wife says it feels like about 20-30% of her feed is sponsored posts, to me it feels like 50%
  2. I can’t tell you how many times I open up the app on my iPad and see something interesting immediately from one of my friends, for about a split second. It then immediately updates and I lose that post, having to dig and dig through a tons of other updates and attempt to find it again
  3. Some of my friends are really prolific – others not so much. I seem to get so much more from the prolific friends than anyone else. Please, Facebook, implement some algo which allows me to tone down some people and amplify others. I know I can mute people but with all of the smarts back there, you’d think they’d be able to at least do one thing: put anything from your significant other (as indicated by you being in a relationship with) front and center. I can’t remember the number of times my wife asked me “did you see that thing I sent you on Facebook?” and I missed it because of all the other junk
  4. IMHO, the news feed is the core of FB. It needs to be awesome. And at the moment, it isn’t

The Good : Chat

I’ve used the messaging on FB very effectively. My wife uses it to keep in touch with her friends from all over. That’s one thing that works very well.

The Ugly : Ads

OK, so like I said, I can’t fault them on trying to make money but the ads are terribly targeted: I get ads for single things even though I plainly state that I’m married, plus I get all sorts of ads for games (which I never play) so I can’t imagine why they think I might start. I understand that some of this is the advertiser picking an audience, but still, FB needs to have some overrides in place in order to continue to provide me with RELEVANT ads. I’m sure that they could improve both their click through rate, their revenues and make their customers and users much, much happier if they targeted better. Its not like its impossible, Google has been doing much better than this for a while, and they know way less about me than FB does. Please, FB, leverage all of that great data to give me ads that I can’t help but click on, not reams and reams of irrelevant crap.

Got your own story of Facebook love, hate or indifference? Let me know below…

Google Vs. Death

This is great – I’ve always been very interested in life extension – I heard Aubrey deGrey speak once on how we actually get to immortality and I thought that it was a fantastic concept and totally doable, as long as we can get push the envelope on medicine in all ways. His thesis is that is we can extend the average lifespan by 20 years, then within that 20 year extension we can figure out how to extend it another 20 years, and so on and so on – almost in a Moore’s Law kind of way, become immortal.

Of course, this involves quite a few things that many people might find unsettling, like genetic manipulation, cloning, growing replacement body parts, stem cell research etc. It’s always been my contention that we should see if we can actually accomplish something before we decide we don’t want to do it – unlike some others who would prefer to have endless dialog on the ethics or morality of improving humanity and the human condition in any way possible before we even know that its possible.

Since we’ve successfully grown and eaten a completely synthetic $300,000 hamburger, how far away really are we from growing a new liver when ours quits, or growing new limbs when we lose them, or performing genetic manipulation in utero (or even earlier) in order to eliminate disease and disorders, or even improve immune systems? Sure, there is always some danger of introducing genetic factors for preferences in looks and gender, but isn’t curing some of humanity’s worst scourges worth at least investigating the possibilities?

In person, it can be a little hard to hear Larry Page. That’s because he has nerve damage in both vocal cords: one was paralyzed about 14 years ago, the other left with limited movement after a cold last summer. This rare condition doesn’t slow him down, though it has made his voice raspy and faint. You have to listen carefully. But it’s generally worth it.

via Calico: Google’s New Project to Solve Death |

Too Rapid Gadget Cycles Can Be A Bit…Annoying


I broke down and bought a Kindle Paperwhite for just reading about 6 months ago and I found out today that a new Paperwhite is on the horizon, of course had I known that there would be a upgrade within a few months then I may have waited, opting to read stuff on my iPad or Galaxy S4 in the meantime.

All this new product coming out every year is great, but if you happen to hit it in mid cycle, it gets annoying as you figure that if you didn’t grab it immediately when it first came out, or at least within a month or two, you feel like you missed the cycle.

It’s a bit like hitting all of the green lights in a row. Once you are in an upgrade cycle its hard to get off. Currently the cycles are about a year long, a standard supposedly set by Apple, but my guess is that as tech gets better, cycle time will keep increasing and increasing until the average consumer won’t know when to get on.

For example, the Samsung Gear smart watch is barely out the door when they’ve already announced (or leaked) that the next iteration, which of course will be WAY better, is due early next year.

Some of my fellow techies are feeling the same. A few folks are skipping the iPhone 5S or 5C upgrade, saying that its not enough of an improvement to warrant the hassle of an upgrade. Others are looking to jump over to Android.

Maybe hardware manufacturers should take a page from the auto industry and put everything on a common yearly cycle. We know, more or less, when the next years models are about to come in. How about if all of the major vendors just adjusted their release cycle so that all of their next years products hit the market in say the previous September? I can see it now “Check out the new 2014 model iPhone, Galaxy S, LG Optimus, HTC One or Kindle Paperwhite just in time for holiday giving!” It would probably alleviate some confusion and make people feel less inclined that they missed the boat when jumping into a “new model”


Thoughts On The New Yahoo! Logo


Back when I used to work at Yahoo!, we used to have all hands meetings on a regular basis – we’d all pile into the huge cafeteria on campus and there’d usually be all sorts of goodies – one time when Krispy Kreme first came to the Bay Area, we had boxes and boxes of sweet deliciousness delivered, other times it was pizza, beer, popcorn. Those days were pretty fun, even if sometimes the news wasn’t so good, we all felt like we were part of one big family.

My most memorable moment: we were all sitting down and watching the stage, I think it was right after Terry or Jerry had said their piece, and I seem to recall someone rolling up to the mic in a wheelchair. The crowd completely hushed, wondering what it was all about. She started talking about being diagnosed with a disease (I can’t recall which one but it was fairly rare) and feeling incredibly alone and sad. But then she went on Yahoo! Groups and found a group which was focused on the victims of this particular disease. She never felt alone again – they found support with each other via this group – some of them even moved closer to each other based on the connections that they made via this group. I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the house as  she told this story – and I’m sure that for most of the people there, that was the proudest that they ever felt about the company that they worked for.

My colleague leaned over to me and said “this is what Yahoo! should be all about” and I said “yep, connecting people”. This is what the internet should be about – amplifying the voice of the user so that they can be heard.

When I look at the new logo – do we see that passion? Do we see the heart and soul of an internet company which has touched so many lives? Does what you see now represent all of what Yahoo! has to offer? Doubt if even superlogo can do that. Tall order, huh.

I like it. It’s modern, its clean (i remember using tiny versions on powerpoint decks and the serifs making it look muddy – lets hope that this cleanliness starts to infect design all over Yahoo!), its practical (I can see it work in all sorts of resolutions and formats). Plus there are all sorts or subtleties that are cool – the larger Y and O almost connoting a dual loudspeaker. In another light, it has a slight reference to a fish – maybe a goldfish cracker coming up against a fishing line (the exclamation mark). I think that loudspeaker connotation is cool – you can say that it represents an amplifier – that Yahoo! amplifies the voice of the people – the voice of their users.

loudspeakersYahoo! has always been most powerful when it amplifies that voice – the voice of the user (Yahoo! Answers, Groups, Tumblr – anywhere where regular folks get a voice), the voice of the long tail. Maybe if Yahoo! can focus on the long tail again and be that amplifier, that would a be powerful value proposition.