Sunday, July 30, 2006

Treasure Hunting

I'll admit that I love contests, game shows, puzzles and any other form of semi-intellectual test that might result in winning some sort of prize. Today's adventure is the NBC show "Treasure Hunters".

Over the course of several weeks, real people on real teams are running all over the planet trying to solve clues and determine where to go next to find a series of clues. When they have all the clues, they're supposed to be able to figure out where to go to win a treasure chest of cash/gold/dubloon or some other similar reward. And, to make things more interesting for those of us "at home", NBC has added an online component where they've been offering a contest to also win a cash prize.

Now, the online puzzles are sometimes fun, sometimes a bit challenging (because there aren't that many instructions/directions or other clues). But overall, it's not extremely difficult... and if you do this long enough, you should be able to answer a question they ask at the end of every week's clue.

I didn't realize until today, however, that there are folks blogging with the exact step-by-step instructions of how to "solve" each clue. And I just don't get it. If you were trying to win $250,000, and the entrance "fee" is based on your ability to solve the weekly puzzles, would YOU tell other people how to solve them?

Mind boggling. More so than the puzzles themselves.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Comparisons are tricky

When people don't understand what I'm trying to tell them in a negotiation, I often resort to the use of an analogy. The idea is that if I can't gain understanding on the actual words, let's shoot for understanding on the concepts. Once we get to that point, we'll go back to the language and work out the details.

These types of comparisons can become quite difficult and quite involved, especially when you're dealing with discussions on technologies that are new or not fully realized yet. But yesterday, I realized that comparisons, even at a very fundamental level, can be just as sticky.

Guy Kawasaki, the original Mac Evangelist, has become an incredible business person. He's well known, well respected, and like many others, writes a blog where he usually discusses various business topics. The other day, he linked to the TED conference presentations that are available for online viewing. Admitedly, these are some of the world's brightest people talking about many of the world's most pressing problems.

Guy's post, however, was specifically about one of the presenters, whom he compared to Steve Jobs in terms of presentation abilities. Now, I don't know Steve. Guy, however, does. Personally. So, when I read that headline and the article, I went back to the TED page to view this presenter (whom I hadn't gotten to quite yet), because Steve's pretty good.

And to be fair, I was impressed by her passion and said so in a comment on Guy's blog - but her presentation style left much to be desired. The other commentors also were split about how they felt. Some had similar feelings as I did, some agreed with Guy. I finally realized the danger of comparison (and was reminded of the danger of having serious conversations in an online format) while reading the comments again this morning to see what had been posted overnight.

One person, Splashman, stated: "I must again point out that Guy's comparison of Majora to Steve is unqualified. That means he didn't say, "Majora is better in a couple of areas." He didn't say, "Majora would be better than Steve if she had the same support and 20 years' practice." The title of his post is "As good as Steve Jobs." And nothing in the body of the post gives the impression that he is qualifying the comparison."

So, it wasn't so much that the comparison was made, but the weight given to the comparison by the original author as well as by the reader of the comparison. Had it been me making the comparison, would readers have reacted in the same way? I don't think so. Since I don't know Steve. Since I wasn't at TED. Since I'm not Guy.

I personally went to listen to the presentation because Guy said it was good. In my opinion, it wasn't, regardless of whether the topic was relevant, important and the speaker was passionate. My opinion of Guy's opinion won't be tarnished because of this difference. But I can see where it could happen that some people would decrease the level of credence they give to Guy based on this difference.

The lesson here is that while analogies or other comparisons are good, negative weighted opinions can block understanding at best, and at worst, sway things in an opposite direction than what was desired. I gave Guy's opinion the benefit of the doubt I had about the presenter because I trusted his opinion. The fact that I now disagree with his opinion could have caused me to discount other opinions he holds or shares. If this was a negotiation, this becomes a trust issue - which is never a good problem to have.

So I'll continue to read Guy's blog. If for no other reason than the fact that my respect for Guy isn't based on his opinions, it's based on his actions... and the fact that someone says something that I personally disagree with doesn't mean that I discount their opinion (even if I think it's wrong ).

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Today was the day that we finally got rid of all of the duplicate, triplicate or other items that we had but no longer had use for.

It's been a long time coming, actually, and Tina's been more in favor of the sale and getting the stuff out of our garage. But I agree that having boxes and boxes of unused stuff just sitting around made no sense. So with some advertisements placed in online and in the local paper... and some free signs obtained at Office Max (in fact, check your local Office Max now to see if they still have Avery signs for free - 1 per customer per visit)... and a lot of effort to sort and tag our stuff... we were ready for our first YardSale(TM).

I guess I'm not really clear on the YardSale(TM) rules. We were pretty clear that the sale was going to run from 8am-noon. It said so in the ads. It said so on the signs. We got up at 6am. Almost immediately, we were outside, moving the cars, getting stuff moved to the lawn and out of the garage.

It wasn't more than 30 minutes later that the first car came slowly crusing by, scouting the situation. And about 4 minutes after that, we had our first buyer. She went poking around and we weren't event getting the stuff out fast enough. We simply couldn't believe it! I wonder if these are the same people that show up to a Wal-Mart hours before the store opens (those that aren't already open 24 hours/day, I suppose) when a new toy is being released. I dunno.

The next thing I don't understand is about pricing. Now, I'm no stranger to negotiation... and I'm no stranger to wanting to save a buck (see the previous post, for example). But who negotiates over a DOLLAR? Yes, that's right... a SINGLE DOLLAR. And not just a dollar, but over fifty cents. And over twenty-five cents. And over the smallest amounts of money for decent stuff!

I couldn't believe this, either. I was so stunned that in many cases, I simply accepted the buyers offer simply because in my head, I didn't see $.50 as a huge decrease in price. And it would only hit me later that I was cutting 50% off the price... and not just taking fifty cents off a thousand-dollar transaction. It was totally surreal at times. So I started just calling for Tina every time people wanted to know if we'd accept a lower price.

But, as Tina just reminded me, this wasn't about ME, it was about the buyer. They come to these sales just looking for a bargain... and they're determined to get one, too. Maybe, if this is the only place where they can find a "deal", this is how they can feel better about things. Again, I dunno'. The simple question on this is whether people are just looking to save money off the listed price or whether they actually are looking for cheap stuff. In other words, if we priced things higher, would they have settled for the price WE wanted and not on a bargain-basement price? I suggest to the next person having a YardSale(TM) that they price things closer to retail... you can always lower your price later. :)

Late in the morning, we were talking with a neighbor who very succinctly stated that some people are simply addicted to the YardSale(TM). And I suppose she might be right. Because at the very end of the sale hours, right about 11:55a, we had our last customer arrive. Driving up in a nice vehicle and looking like any other average 40-something male, this gentleman proceeded to review EVERYTHING we still had out on the lawn.

I don't mean to say that he just perused. He was ACTIVELY looking for something. Anything. Everything. And about 30 minutes later, as he was leaving with a light fixture, several pieces of women's clothing, shirts, shoes and a picture frame, did I get the courage to ask him what he was going to do with all of his purchases. Now, understand that I hadn't asked anyone else this type of invasive question. But I was really curious and it just got the best of me.

His response? He was taking these items to a consignment store for resale. Wow. I simply hadn't considered that people would buy stuff from us to resell it later somewhere else. Well... I guess everyone wants to make money and this was his way. Far be it from me to slam it. I just don't understand. Add it to the list, I guess.

Friday, July 21, 2006

While I love Apple...

... I'm really kinda' sad about a recent experience I had with getting a repair on my PowerBook.

I own a Titanium G4 PowerBook - initially released in 2000/2001 and I purchased it brand new, directly from Apple.

I've used it every day since then and have had virtually no problems with it. In fact, I like to boast that I've very rarely even had to reboot the machine (which is a credit to the stability of the operating system) except when new software so demanded. I even frequently don't even close the lid, preferring to just leave it open overnight so that e-mail is waiting for me when I get up in the morning.

But just the other day, I needed to close the lid. And as I did, using an even amount of pressure (not forcing anything or feeling any feedback that anything wasn't 100% "right"), the right-side hinge simply snapped. It looked like this:

Holy crap! I almost started crying. Tina just looked at me and started to comfort me. But then I got pissed. Why did the hinge snap? How did this happen? Why didn't I feel any feedback or resistance? The portion of the hinge that was still attached to the base was frozen in place. It's like the hinge seized up mid-close, and I simply pulled it beyond it's means.

OK. I took a deep breath. The machine still worked... the screen still worked... it was just a broken hinge. Apple, I was SURE, would cover this even though the machine was out of warranty. You could tell, just by looking at the machine, that it was in pristine condition - well maintained by someone who took VERY good care of their equipment. I knew, based on past history with AppleCare that I would need to send the laptop into their facility for support. I figured, however, that I could start at our local Apple Retail Store to see if they could at least handle many of the details.

I scheduled time at the store using the online scheduler - really slick, actually. And after only waiting for a few minutes after I got there, a Mac Genius was ready to listen to my problem. It didn't take much listening, however, for him to understand the problem. But after a conference or two outside of my earshot, he "regrets to inform me that there was nothing that Apple could do as this was out of warranty."

WHAT? I've got a GREAT machine... in almost PERFECT condition. It wasn't dropped, hit, mistreated or otherwise abused to cause the hinge to snap. For what other reason than a manufacturing or design defect could this have happened? The Mac Genius wasn't sure about that, only that he couldn't actually help me.

What he offered to do was to type my problem into their system so that when/if I called AppleCare's 800#, they would have a case number and would be able to read about the problem from someone who actually saw the machine firsthand. He was actually kind enough to include a comment that the machine WAS in perfect condition. But again, there was nothing they could do because there was no longer a valid warranty.

OK. I figured I could call the 800# and get to someone who had the power to make an exception. I called. No luck. I called again and asked for someone a bit higher. Still no luck. In fact, they told me that they had NO RECORD of these types of problems with this model PowerBook but that the repair would run me about $700!

At this point, I went online. It didn't take me long to find And in about 30 seconds, my eyes settled on the link that led me here. (Yes, that's where I got the picture used above.)

I couldn't believe it! Not only was this a KNOWN problem, Apple would also have to know about it because they, at some point, MAKE THE FRIGGIN' HINGE used by powerbookresq to fix other Powerbooks! Not to mention the fact that PBresQ fixes this problem for $269, including shipping. WAY less than what Apple would charge to fix a problem that should NEVER have happened!

Now, I need to fully disclose that I absolutely love the company and love the products. This experience, while frustrating and possibly not very cool, won't change any of that. And I'm guessing that Apple knows this, too, if by no other means than my purchase history. But I would have hoped that this would increase the probability of a little rule bending to fix a problem with a product that they made and wasn't caused by me.

About two weeks ago, I found this little blog, After Apple. As you can see from this article, Adam clearly details Apple's intimate knowledge of the problem I had: "The PowerBook Titanium was the king of the road, until you opened it the 333rd time and the hinge decided it was time to move on in life."

So now I am doubly sad... first that my PB sputtered and second that its creator knew it would and didn't care.


But I forked over the money to PBResQ. They fixed my baby up and I was back using it in no time. According to them, the glue used by Apple during the manufacturing process isn't that great. So they use an epoxy that should outlast the rest of machine. So far, so good. Thanks, PowerbookResQ!