Sweet Home Alabama

Yes, the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic is currently blaring from my neighbor’s back yard and somewhere nearby another group of people are hooting and hollering while detonating fireworks powerful enough to mess with car alarms.

I don’t live in a neighborhood where the houses are right on top of each other, but they’re certainly close enough that you’d think some knucklehead wouldn’t be lighting the whole street up with something in his yard. I don’t wish any harm on the hooligans blowing things up, but I can’t see anything good coming from whatever they’re messing with. At least my homeowner’s insurance is up to date.

Yeah, yeah, I’m old. Be safe if you’re one of the morons out there lighting off fireworks.

33/90

Hard To Spend

Those of you that know me are aware that I’m a big advocate of living on a written budget and saving up for things instead of buying on credit. This has helped me tremendously in the nine months since I bought my house. It’s given me peace of mind to know that I’ll have enough for all of my regular bills and my emergency fund is sitting idly by just in case something happens.

That said, because I now have all of the bills that are associated with a house and the same income as before buying, the rate at which I’m able to save has slowed tremendously.

When I moved in I knew there were certain improvement projects that I could work on right away because they were low or no cost (aside from my own labor). Other things like painting, replacing carpet and such were going to have to wait. Well, now that I’ve actually saved the money I am having a hard time actually spending it.

In the past when I was saving for something it was easy to spend the money because the item or service (or tax, yuck) had a set price or due date. These lesser defined “home improvements” that don’t have to be done this second, or for any specific amount are harder to pull the trigger on.

Have you ever had a hard time going through with spending after you’ve saved for a long time?

32/90

Stark Contrast

Today the Supreme Court released its ruling on the Affordable Care Act. In doing so it unleashed a crapstorm of opinions. It also exposed something pretty interesting about the different social media platforms that I participate in. Aside from people making fun of CNN for misinterpreting the ruling and saying that the law had been struck down when it hadn’t, Twitter erupted with a myriad of views about the affordable care act. There was certainly a liberal bias, but by and large it was a pretty centrist discussion.

Facebook on the other hand was like a crazy right-wing conspiracy theory convention with HUGE comment threads/arguments. There was an abundance of people saying that this was evil, we’re all doomed, why should my tax dollars support this, you name it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the matter and far be it from me to tell someone that they’re wrong, but why do you think that Facebook is more full of opposition? I certainly don’t follow or friend ignorant people, so it’s not that one group is smarter than the other.

What do you think? Why are people with conservative viewpoints more likely to express them privately on Facebook than in public on Twitter?

31/90

Free Gift To The New Fan?

Today one of the companies I follow on Twitter mentioned that they would be giving away a  prize to their Xth fan. Well, that’s great, a new follower gets a prize. What I don’t understand is why this is a good idea.

The only people who theoretically are going to know about the prize are people who already follow the company, and they’re automatically ineligible. Sure it’s a nice perk to the person who just so happened to be that lucky follower, but what does that say to the existing fans? I understand the idea behind rewarding new customers/fans is to attract new ones, but what about rewarding loyalty?

If companies/brands were excellent to their existing customers and not just to new ones the loyalty to those long-time fans would not only make the fans feel good about their engagement/patronage of the company, but it would also make those existing fans tell other people about that awesome experience. Word of mouth is huge. It comes with something that you just can’t buy: trust. If I hear about a company from someone I know and trust, that means more to me than all of the marketing dollars a company could ever spend.

If a company gives good service after the sale, or makes good on a situation that went badly, a person is more likely to remember that interaction than from someone who was just looking to sell them a widget the fastest. We remember when companies treat us well after we’ve already given them our money and aren’t obligated to give them more, and the funny thing is that while we’re not obligated to come back and spend more, we often do, because we want to, not because we have to.

Go ahead, give that widget to the lucky new fan at a randomly selected milestone number, but don’t forget about all of the existing people who followed you to get your counter that high, because they’ll be the ones telling their friends about you so hopefully you can get to the next milestone.

30/90

Podcasts

Today Apple released a new app for iOS called Podcasts. So what? They’ve had podcasts in iTunes for years. What’s the big deal? It has one feature that people who like podcasts have been craving ever since iOS was released: the ability to automatically get updates without syncing.

This is great if, like me, you only sync with your computer once every few days (or, like many people, you never sync). While the ability to automatically get updates and the option to automatically download new episodes is cool, there are two options that I think are missing: the ability to toggle how often the app checks for updates (I presume it’s doing it in the background) and the ability to tell the app only to automatically download episodes when you’re connected to Wifi.

Checking for updates often could not only eat up battery life, but also bandwidth, and downloading podcasts automatically would easily devour the arcane bandwidth caps that wireless providers have in place. As of right now I don’t have the option to automatically download enabled until the “only over wifi” option is created.

Another thing that is purely speculation on my part is that with this new emphasis on podcasts I wonder if it’s the beginning of Apple putting in an infrastructure to unseat cable. Hear me out: now with the ability to subscribe to new podcasts as they appear, why would you need to DVR a show? As soon as it airs just watch it on your chosen device (assuming Apple TV gets something similar, or just use AirPlay). I just watched the entire first episode of The Newsroom (which was superb by the way, do yourself a favor and check it out) and it was delivered to my phone as a podcast.

I realize that HBO probably won’t do that with the rest of the series (as far as I know there’s no legal way to watch their shows online unless you have HBO Go and for that you need to be an HBO subscriber, which is why Game of Thrones is pirated so much, but that’s another conversation), because as of now podcasts are free in iTunes, but I can definitely see Apple monetizing podcasts or “channels” for a reasonable fee (there’s already evidence of this with the “Redeem” button showing up in the iOS 6 beta version of the app that I’ve seen reported elsewhere). It wouldn’t replace live television, but it’d be a step in the right direction and would certainly be a lot more reasonable than buying a show for $3 per episode.

Edit 6/27/2012: Another feature that’s missing that I just realized is the ability to subscribe to podcasts that aren’t on iTunes. You can do it on your desktop, they’ll even sync, so why not on mobile?

So in short, my wish list for a future update is:

  1. The ability to edit the frequency that the app checks for updates*
  2. The ability to tell the app to only download automatically over wifi
  3. The ability to subscribe to podcasts that aren’t on iTunes*

*feature present in desktop version of iTunes

Edit 7/4/2012: I learned that you can subscribe to non-iTunes podcasts by typing in the podcast RSS feed URL into the search bar. Upon searching you will be prompted with an option to subscribe.

29/90