Customer Service

Google Calendar and trip scheduling

A bit ago I posted about using Google Calendar in libraries. Many of the same principles apply to the question of how to have online calendars automatically add our trips when we make online reservations or add links to our receipts from online purchases. Imagine how handy it will be to check out from a hardware store online and click a link that will add a summary to your calendar of your purchases.

Even better will be the day when you can make in-store purchases and have the summary easily added to your calendar. Need to know when you bought that new computer (and when it's warranty expires)? Just click a link in your email receipt and away you go. It also is the answer to the calendar feature to kill for and it is available as soon as the travel sites add it.

Dear Sales Support:

What follows is an email I sent earlier today to NEC's Printer Supply Technical Support. I should perhaps explain that I have an NEC 4400N Color Printer that's made a few cross-country journeys with me and has generally been a great color laser printer. It is showing its age and as new catalogs come out I dream of donating it to a worthwhile charity and getting a nice new two-sided laser printer. In the meantime the little $58 part known as the fuser roller cleaner has reached the end of its hard working life. Three weeks ago I ordered a replacement from NEC's Printer Supply Store. You get the gist of what happened from my email to them.

Readers with an eye for detail will note that it refers to pictures that appear here as text. For some inexplicable reason NEC's support line wanted screen shots of my email showing the problem. Whatever... I think text would have been easier to deal with.

I'm perplexed as to why a picture of an email is more useful than the original that was attached to the message I originally sent. None the less, here goes:

AOL goes for second round of name calling

AOL's spokesperson, Nicholas Graham, evidently wasn't satisfied with referring to people raising concerns about AOL's plan to charge for email delivery a like a bar from the original Star Wars movie. Now he's gone on to accuse those wanting a public debate about the risky practice "deliberately confusing".

"There has been a philosophical debate that has been deliberately confused by critics. Their arguments are misguided and erroneous," Graham said. "We're taking these steps at this time because of the confusion that has been created in the marketplace."

Graham's comments come on the heels of news that AOL will allow "not-for-profits" to send free email. Though the news sounds good there are few details about which non-profits will qualify. Plenty of PTA's, community groups, school clubs and civic groups are informal organizations that lack official not-for-profit status at the state or federal level. Will these qualify? Will Graham have a new name for those who ask this question?


First off a bit of a confession. When I wrote that I'd given up on SOHO Organizer I didn't entirely mean it. I continued (and continue for that matter) to hold on to the sliver of hope that some day the company that produces it would see the error in their ways and would come out of the funk. However today, just before making a purchase of a different calendar product to replace Group Organizer I thought I'd check once more. And sure enough, the message that says they really care about getting a converter for old data is still there. Amazingly I still believe it just as much three months later as I did the first time I read it - which is to say not at all.

Maybe Google will soon be releasing a calendar or somebody will point out a great AJAX calendar that also syncs with the Treo650. maybe....

Paying to be a beta tester?

Sometimes one is left to wonder when an idea actually sounded good. One such service is O'Reilly's Rough Cuts. Through this service you can pay to get a book early. It seems though they really are asking customers to pay for the privilege of being editors:

Once you've purchased a Rough Cuts title, you have a chance to shape the final product - you can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors.

There are businesses that have chosen to release beta software under the guise of marketable software and unwittingly turn would-be customers into beta testers. At the very least O'Reilly's program is up front about the fact that you are paying for the chance to edit a book. It's a way of attempting to shift the model from hiring employees or contractors to making customers do more work. With any luck it won't be terribly successful and this post will soon be a relic of some historic experiment.

Another take on outsourcing

This weekend brings the news that San Jose City College will be outsourcing student email accounts. It is a model that I've discussed with colleagues for many months. When institutions have antiquated email systems the pressure will be great to move towards a new model. Details haven't been released so it is unknown if Google is using the same revenue model (advertising) or a customer paid model.

Earlier this year CCSN outsourced its technology department.


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