Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category
Following my previous post on Velocity videos, I had some private email conversations with good folks at O’Reilly, and a really nice in-person exchange with a top-level person as well. I was surprised to hear them encourage me to publish my videos online freely!
I still believe that nothing substitutes for the experience of attending an O’Reilly conference in-person, but I’ll also be the first to admit that my talks are usually more conceptual and academic than practical, and designed to start a conversation rather than to tell you the Truth According To Baron. Thus, I think they’re worth sharing more widely.
O’Reilly alleviated my concerns about “killing the golden goose,” but I like one person’s take on the cost of O’Reilly’s conferences. “You think education is expensive? Try ignorance.”
I’ll post some of my past talks soon for your enjoyment.
One of the most valuable life skills you can ever develop is to overcome the urge to stay within your comfort zone. If you stay where you’re familiar and feel safe, two things might happen:
- You might find out that it’s not safe after all. Bad things can happen where you feel at home just as well as out of the familar.
- Nothing good will happen. You might skate through life without even living it.
Last week at Velocity I responded to an invitation from O’Reilly to join a lunch with Per Scholas. I didn’t know much about Per Scholas, but I’ve learned to say yes to invitations from O’Reilly. The night before, I watched an inspiring talk during Ignite, from the founder of Per Scholas.
Impressed, I began to really look forward to spending some time with the Per Scholas folks the next day at lunch. The idea was pretty simple: people who were working through the Per Scholas training would pair up one-for-one (as I understand it) with people like myself — technologists, entrepreneurs, hackers, makers, people with perhaps something to share.
I sat down at a table in the designated area, leaving lots of room beside me for people to join. None of the Per Scholas students was there yet. I chatted idly with two other people at the table. Soon one of the Per Scholas staff members sat down with us. I asked her a series of questions for ten minutes or so. She explained that she helped people with basic life and work skills, coaching and mentoring even after they leave the intensive study program.
Still no students had joined us. Suddenly I looked over at another table and saw that it had filled entirely with Per Scholas students, shoulder to shoulder.
“Basic life skill number 1 is to build your network and learn from unfamiliar people,” I remarked to the staffer next to me. “They are missing an opportunity to mingle with us.”
“Yes,” she answered. “They are.”
And then you could (metaphorically) hear the crickets chirping. I finished my lunch and left.
I won’t brag about myself, but I can say that the other people at that table were damn sure worth getting to know. As for me, I considered it a complete waste of my time; I’d chosen it over a conversation I really wanted to attend elsewhere. There’s another blog post in here somewhere — this isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of experience.
Per Scholas students aren’t paying anything (financially) for their training. Are they getting what they’re paying for? You bet they are. Like all of us, they will get out of it exactly what they put into it.
Get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t, the worst thing in the world happens to you: nothing.
I’ve booked rooms through hotels.com a few times, and they always send me followup emails asking me to rate the stay and so forth. In my view this is commercial/marketing email, not transactional, and I should be able to opt out of it. I don’t want to get the emails and I don’t want to rate the hotels, in part because I don’t believe in the validity of such ratings/reviews (reference, reference). But there’s no unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email, and there’s no setting in their website to opt out of it.
So I sent them a request:
Why can’t I opt out of your leave-a-review emails after staying at a hotel? I am sure this is a gray area, but in my mind it’s a marketing email, not a transactional email, because it’s not required for you to fulfill an order or similar. Please include an unsubscribe link in these emails and please include a setting in the account preferences as well.
Thank you for contacting Hotels.com Customer Support regarding your request to unsubscribed from the leave-a-review emails after a completed stay.
We are sorry to hear about the inconvenience.
We regret to inform you that we were unable to unsubscribe your email address from guest reviews emails. Please be advised that we are requesting for reviews for us to have a useful source of feedback for a property to gauge performance in key areas such as service, cleanliness, and overall guest satisfaction.
We appreciate your business and we look forward to assisting you in the future.
Hotels.com Customer Support Specialist
I think Hotels.com needs to take an objective look at what they’re doing. What’s the real outcome of their policy? I believe they’re working at odds with their stated intentions:
- I’m pretty sure one could quickly find lots of studies and statistics to show that the reviews they receive will be badly skewed towards the negative — probably so skewed that any statistician would reject them out of hand.
- If people don’t want to leave reviews, they won’t leave reviews, period. No matter how many emails you send them. I can delete the email; I’m not forced to act on it.
- I resent having to delete an email I don’t want to get, and emails like this should be optional. It isn’t as if allowing an opt-out would decrease the chance of getting feedback. People who like to leave reviews will not opt-out. Anyone who opts out isn’t going to leave feedback anyway.
- They’re pissing off at least some customers (okay, at least one). Curmudgeonly people like myself are in fact likely to stop using Hotels.com altogether, thus reducing the possible audience from which to get feedback.
I really think this topic is common sense, but if common sense is in short supply, perhaps some valuable lessons about how to run a business and how to provide customer support can be gleaned upon deep inspection. I won’t even rant about the fake apology and fake appreciation of my business.
I’m going to reply to them and send the URL of this blog post.