Looking back @ 2007

2007 Has been an interesting year for me on many levels – I thought it’d be fun to step back and take a quick look at the year I’ve had…

In Business…
Professionally it’s been an exciting year as Clay Tablet grew and continued to gain traction. When I left the office for the Christmas break we had a full head of steam, interesting conversations with even more interesting companies were happening on an almost daily occurrence. I can’t wait to pick it up again on Wednesday and keep the train moving forward.

I’m not one for a big prediction list but I’d be fairly confident suggesting that 2008 is going to be a big year for the language industry. It’s been close to four years now since the initial spark of an idea, that later became CTT, was hatched. In the first few years we all had a distinct impression we were treading water, waiting for the wave.

None of us can express what but something in the market changed in the last few months and I’m excited to see how 2008 unfolds. I think John Yunker nailed some aspects of the change in his post “The End of Translation as We Know It” – every show or conversation I come away from I’m left in almost perpetual “wow” mode as I hear some of the things that are in the works – technology is taking over, not to replace humans, but augment and improve the skilled resources that keep the language industry moving.

In Life…

Had:

  • 1 more kid – we welcomed Kai into the world on October 21.

Organized:

Created:

  • 149 Blog Posts – On average one every 2.5 days… not bad.
  • 150 (Avg.) Subscribers
  • 203 Photo Blog Posts at my Photo Blog “Found in Focus
  • 3146 Photos uploaded to Flickr
  • 10000+ photos taken (8300 since July)

All in all it’s amounted to one of the most fun and exciting years in a long time. Hopefully I can build on it for 2008…

Best wishes to all of you for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Thanks for reading!

Ryan

BTW: I’m on Twitter now – http://twitter.com/ryancoleman – If you’re using it too feel free to add me and I’ll follow you back…

Freebies, Disclosure, and Monetizing the Blog…

The other day Joey deVilla (a.k.a. “Accordion Guy“) added to the ongoing saga of the free Ferraris w/Vista that Microsoft gave bloggers around Christmas (the Acer, not the car). Microsoft’s intial stance was basically “Do what you think is right” when the bloggers were finished reviewing them ( Suggestions were: keep it, use it for a contest or send it back) – after the initial uproar they changed it to “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t keep it”.

Seems the traditional media finally clued into the story a week or so ago as a columnist from the Sun (should I have put quotes around “Media”?) took him (and bloggers in general I would say) to task for accepting the machines or other perks that are being offered to them occasionally – his suggestion was that the traditional media would never accept such “bribes”.

It’s about trust
At the end of the day the whole debate is quite silly. I think what traditional media forgets is blogging is still much more a personal medium then editorial. The bloggers I read are people I know, know of, or am turned on to by other bloggers/people I TRUST.

Yes, there’s the Splogs etc. out there, and some people are going to generate the PayPerPost crap but at the end of the day consumers need to take some responsibility and consider the source. If it’s just some random blog that I encounter randomly via searching I’ll hunt around for additional sources before coming to a conclusion on something – “I read it on the Internets so it must be true” just doesn’t make the cut.

It’s about Disclosure
I think the key point where this debate hinges on is disclosure. Certainly both bloggers and traditional media share the same obligation to disclose certain facts or events that people should be aware of which may or may not have influenced their opinion.

I think in the bloggers realm that’s more than enough. A “just so you know Microsoft gave me this kick ass system with their new OS on it to review” is more then enough to inform a reader that they need to decide whether or not they trust the source or to keep on moving.

From what I’ve seen there wasn’t any pressure (maybe a “it’d be nice if you could…” but nothing forceful) to post anything, positive or negative, about the system or it’s OS. Personally I trust Joey and will take his review(s) at face value.

Also with a freebie there’s little value attached to it. Yes, the system is worth about $2K, but it wasn’t something Joey decided on – so he has no feelings of having to justify his “purchase” or decision.

It’s Not About Monetizng the Blog
Last but not least I thought it might be good to lay out my own “policy” here on the blog.

Ads – yes I’ve got ads scattered around the page. Right now there’s blogkits, text link ads and adsense powered ads placed here and there – why? Truth is I like to experiment and learn about the different systems/economies that are at work. At current click through rates I may get a check from Google sometime in 2025.

Amazon – yep have the affiliate links too. Again part of it is to just play with the system and part of it is that it allows me to easily grab images of book/DVD covers etc. when I post something that requires them.

In both cases I have no interest in optimizing the blog to increase click-throughs etc. – Like most people I won’t say no to the extra buck or two but the reality is I’ve got no intention about trying to play professional blogger etc. And if you’ve read for a while it’s probably pretty clear I’m not topically driven by what has the highest bounty on click throughs.

Free Stuff – Shortly after this story started I encountered a video blog post (EDITED: Here it is – it was Loren Feldman @ 1938 Media) where he outlined the ridiculousness of the situation and made his disclosure statement which was basically (paraphrasing here) “If you want to send me stuff fine. If it’s something I’m interested in I’ll use it and I may or may not blog about it, if I do blog about it I’ll be honest so make sure whatever you’re sending me is good”.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable policy to me – like most I’d never say no to free stuff but as you can probably tell by my disgruntled consumer posts I’m not the kind to pull punches. So on the notion of disclosure/review policy I think I’ll simply end with a “What he said” – if you make something that you think is up my alley I’m happy to try it / play with it but I’ll also be honest about it. Perks / Free Stuff & enough money for half a can of Coke all all just side effects of blogging, none of them are primary motives (at least for me).

Disclosure: “Free beer won’t guarantee a better review but it certainly might cause me to forget some of the negatives” – I’ll be sure to disclose if free beer was involved in the process of reviewing.

2006 Online Christmas Shopping Experience Roundup

This is the first year I’ve tried to proactively do as much of my Christmas shopping online as possible. In the end I managed to order roughly 90% of the gifts I needed to get online.

I ended up ordering from six vendors and with the exception of Apple ITunes everything was ordered on the same day (December 10th).

Here’s a summary of the results:

  • Toys R Us
    This was the second time we’ve ordered stuff from Toys R Us – It was the first package to arrive out of any of the orders. Ordered Saturday and arrived on Wednesday. Toys R Us doesn’t have any sort of free shipping offer but some items are marked as having free shipping (Seemingly arbitrary). The most puzzling thing was how the items were packaged when they arrived. We ordered two items and they came shipped in separate boxes even though both would have easily fit in the bigger of the two boxes. Seemed like a whole lot of waste to me.

    Hits: Quick Shipping, Reasonable Shipping Costs
    Misses: Wasteful Packaging, Arbitrary Shipping Pricing (Why no blanket policy?)

    Overall: HIT

  • Amazon.ca
    I’ve ordered a lot from Amazon over the years so their performance wasn’t surprising at all. Regardless of timing their items consistently arrive on time, and their shipping discount policy is straight forward. The most frustrating issue this time was actually dealing with the site. For example: we were trying to order a cookbook for one person, it turns out though that most cookbooks aren’t readily available. Not a big deal but there was no obvious way to filter those items out. In general Amazon needs a filter for “Show me only what you can ship right now”, especially though as you get closer to Xmas.

    The other Amazon head scratcher is their Free Shipping policy of arbitrarily delaying the Super Saving shipping orders 1-3 days. At the end of the day I don’t see the point of holding the orders. At least in the Toronto area we’re right on top of a distribution point. I got the “Your order has been shipped” email Wednesday night and the package beat me in to work on Thursday morning. 6 books packed in one dense tiny little box exactly as ordered.

    Hits: Free shipping, Quick Shipping despite arbitrary delay, Efficiently packed
    Misses: Arbitrary Shipping Delay, Lack of search filtering slowed order process

    Overall: HIT

  • Obadiah Parker
    I encountered this band after seeing their lead signers amazing cover of “Hey Ya” on Youtube. After poking around I found their MySpace page, and finally their main homepage. Their site only had pricing for shipping to the US but they provided an email address to inquire about International shipping. I fired off an inquiry and within a couple of hours I had a response, pricing, and the order placed via PayPal.

    Unfortunately this package missed getting here in time for Christmas by a day – but it was there waiting in the mailbox the first day we had mail delivery after the holiday. When I ordered the discs I was somewhat skeptical that they would arrive on time so it wasn’t a huge disappointment. Given the time of year and the fact they’re a one person “shop” I can cut them some slack. The album is great, Highly recommend everyone check them out.

    Hits: Fast response (even on a weekend), Good Value
    Misses: Missed Christmas by a Day

    Overall: Neutral

  • FutureShop.ca
    I first tried Futueshop.ca to order an iPod accessory for my cousin. Faced with the option of paying for shipping or free, in-store pickup I figured I’d give the pickup option a try. A few hours later I got an email back from Future Shop telling me that they couldn’t fill my order in store.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post I thought it smelled a bit fishy, the email came through right before the store opened for that day even though the site said the store had them in stock. It reeked of “It’s two weeks before Christmas, we’re busy and can’t be bothered”. Understandable to a point but here’s the kicker – they hadn’t just delayed my order, they cancelled it. At that point I would have continued and just either a)picked a different store or b) paid the $2 to have it shipped to me, but I couldn’t do that – they had automatically CANCELED the order. To change my shipping option I had to recreate the whole order. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Hits: None
    Misses: Can’t change delivery method, Automatic canceling of Order

    Overall: MISS

  • Bestbuy.ca
    Knowing their both owned by the same people I hesitated using the Best Buy site as an alternative to Futureshop.ca but I figured at least my original order would still show as a lost sale on the Future Shop site. Rebuilt my order, selected shipping and I thought I was done.

    The next day I get an email telling me they were unable to process my order until I called them from the phone number on my credit card company’s records. I was at work at the time and couldn’t call from there. What drives me nuts about this is that they don’t give you any warning that this step would be required – like the Future Shop process of automatically canceling an order – this is just a stupid design flaw that they could resolve if someone spent five minutes thinking about customer experience. I’m not even sure why they have this step (especially on low cost items) – every other site manages to use address verification etc. – I just canceled the order and moved on to my next idea.

    Another lowspot is the new AJAX’y catalog they’ve put into both sites (Futureshop.ca & Bestbuy.ca are powered by the same CMS). You can now browse through the catalog you can dynamically filter your search etc. but there’s no state! If you click through a product to view it’s detail screen it loses all your filtering etc, so when you click on the back button to find something else you need to start over from nothing again. This one drove me right up the wall.

    Hits: –
    Misses: Frustrating UI, Suprise Extra Order Step

    Overall: MISS

  • Apple iTunes Store
    With the Future Shop/Best Buy frustration I had blown a few days and it was getting closer to Xmas so I wasn’t so sure anything could be shipped on time.

    I figured I’d be able to buy my cousin some credit at iTunes for my cousin and after all, it was an purely virtual store I shouldn’t have to have something shipped to me right?

    Right?

    Of course not. The purely virtual iTunes store only allows you to order Gift Cards in physical form and only in either $20 or $50 form. Throughout the process the site is also promoting that you have to order a certain amount before you get free shipping. Then I finally get to the order confirmation screen and it tells me shipp
    ing is free on Gift cards. The site was also telling me over and over that I was a couple days too late for guaranteed shipping before Xmas – but then, on the same confirmation screen it told me to expect the cards between December 19-22.

    Both were odd mixed message that had it not been getting to crunch time would probably have sent me elsewhere for another gift idea.

    As of today the cards still have not arrived.

    Hits: –
    Miss: Confusing messages re: shipping costs & timing, Missed Christmas by a long shot – missing New year’s too

    Overall: HUGE MISS

In Summary:
Overall the three misses were all in the name of getting the same present. Amazon.ca and Toys R Us I wouldn’t hesitate the order from again, they met or exceeded my expectations and have every other time I’ve ordered from them. 8 of 10 gifts arrived quickly, as ordered. 1 was understandably late and 1 was a total disaster.

At the end of the day I spent no time in crowded malls, gave up one afternoon “shopping”
and got almost everything I needed. I’d rate this year as a success.

Overall: HIT