Why buying Palm isn’t going to help HP

About a month ago, HP agreed to buy Palm, primarily for the company’s mobile operating system webOS, which is replacing Windows 7 on the company’s touted forthcoming tablet.  A sexy mobile OS is great and all, but my recent interactions suggest a deeper problem for HP that it has to fix.

At NLTV, every year I find myself with a chunk of money in my budget I need to  spend before the end of the fiscal year and, come July, the money vanishes. I get to buy cool, big-ticket items like new high-definition video cameras.

This year, I was in the market for a new, powerful workstation that could handle high-def video editing in Creative Suite 5: a $1,500 Nvida graphics card, high-end Intel i7 processor, lots of disk space and memory. I expected to spend $5,000 or $6,000. I figured I’d look at HPs, since I’ve been happy with my new HP  laptop as well as the system and service I got when I needed a workstation to run a live-video-switching operation on.

Since I need a pretty specific configuration, I figured I get in touch, let the sales folks know what I needed and let them tell me what was possible. So I went looking for a phone number.  I work for a local government, I headed to the government section of the website. It was a few clicks deep, but I found a number for the switch board. I called it and pushed a few buttons to move along. HP’s system transfered me — the phone starting ringing as it sent me elsewhere — and then it hung up.

Strike one.

I called back, went through the same phone tree and was transfered me again. This time it didn’t hang up. So there’s that. But I did get to enter into a conversation with a gentleman who tried to determine where I was calling from (they had an old address for the city) so he could direct me to my sales rep. This conversation took 12 minutes; my phone timed it.

Strike two.

And at the end, he said he couldn’t give me a direct number to my rep, but I could call a different switch board and ask for her by name. Then he transfered me. To her voice mail.

I left a message and got a call back a few hours later when I was out of the office.

She had gotten my message and, gosh, wasn’t the Iowa rep anymore. And, gosh, she could only quote on servers and networking. So I had to call a different person, whose information, including a long phone extension that I couldn’t keep up with, she rattled off quickly and just once.

That would be strike three.

And this is HP’s sales department. I have a hard time imagining service would be smoother.

So I won’t be buying an HP, and I imagine there will be others similarly dissuaded.

Facebook isn’t free

Just a few points that I wanted to make in response to the conversation I was having with Dave Schwartz on Twitter about Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policy and the growing complaints about it that doesn’t quite fit in 140 characters:

  • Facebook isn’t “free” for users. It doesn’t cost them money (unless they’re buying gifts or game credits or whatever), but the cost of entry is data. The more data you put in, presumably the more you can get out. Tell Facebook where you went to high school and reconnect will former classmates. Tell Facebook who your family and friends are and be fed their updates and feel connected. Tell Facebook what your interests are and possibly gain new friends.
  • Facebook has the right to control its own product and set its terms of service in any way that is legal.
  • Users have every right to complain and still use the service. Just like if you wish the service on your AT&T iPhone was better.
  • Facebook isn’t one-size-fits all and offers different privacy settings for that reason. Some users will be willing to give up more information than others. I live pretty publicly online. I use my real name everywhere. My phone number isn’t hard to find. I don’t have creepy people in my past that I don’t want finding that information. The equation will be different for different people. Individuals need to make that calculation on their own.
  • Decide the tradeoffs aren’t worth it? Users have the right to leave if they feel the bargain is no longer fair. Users have the right to delete data. (Does Facebook honor this right?)

I don’t think Dave and I are far off. I think we both believe users have to be smart about what they’re feeding Facebook. But it’s also important to recognize that there are people feeding Facebook a ton of data and not really thinking about it. The (loud and growing) complaints are good for them, too, so that they have reason to think about what the cost of Facebook is to them.

Twitter, Blackbird Pie and permanence

Twitter released a small, simple app called Blackbird Pie that, when Twitter isn’t painfully slow and blogged down, should make it easy to embed a tweet in a blog post. It creates little bit of static HTML code that you can plop in a page. Like so:

This is a tweet that I will later delete to see if the Blackbird Pie version stays up or goes away.less than a minute ago via web

But what if I delete the tweet? I think it will stay there, since I see the tweet’s text in the code. But thought I’d check. Also, one could, I guess, make a fake tweet pretty easily. (Not that it’s hard now.) Like so:

For lunch I ate an entire cow. Except its tail.less than a minute ago via web

Helpful? Maybe.

Clearly this takes on too much of my own CSS styling.

Update II:
There was clearly an issue with the code that Blackbird Pie was spitting out that has since been fixed. See:

This is a tweet that I will later delete to see if the Blackbird Pie version stays up or goes away.less than a minute ago via web

Later Robin Sloan suggested why is wasn’t exactly working the bestest, adding

So I just want to add a stronger caveat here. First of all: I think we’ll drop the royal “we” on Twitter Media from now on—it’s confusing. To be clear, this is just @robinsloan here, pitching a little hack of mine. Please regard it as such, even though it lives on this fancy domain. Seeing people call it a “feature” is making me cringe, because I know what kind of care goes into real Twitter features! This is not one of those.

Let me underscore the point: in the course of writing this blog, I coded up a simple script that I found helpful, so I decided to share it with you. It’s a prototype. It’s really rough. It doesn’t even work in a lot of places! But that’s what we mean by “experiment,” right? And, as part of the Twitter Media team, I couldn’t credibly ask producers and developers at media companies to experiment and prototype if I wasn’t doing the same thing myself.

And yes, I know it doesn’t work on Tumblr.

Update III:
I see now that WordPress was trying to “help me out.” Stop it.

One afternoon in Cupertino

Steven P. Jobs: Those fuckers are out to kill us, Phil.

Philip W. Schiller: I know, Steve, I know. Android keeps gaining, and OS 4 is just catching up to those assholes.

SPJ: And, really, how long can our magical revolution last before there’s a tablet that the Windows-box-buying slobs champion as open? And the new phone is a few months away. And still on AT&T.

PWS: I’ve been thinking about ordering an Incredible. At least until I can tote around an iPhone HD without the stupid-ass 3GS camouflage case.

SPJ: Goddammit, Phil, you wouldn’t.

PWS: I’m fuckin’ with you, Steve, but I’ve got an idea.

SPJ: Lay it on me.

PWS: Say one of those guys working on the new phone takes a prototype off campus. And he loses it.

SPJ: We yell and yell and yell and yell and then can his ass.

PWS: No, Steve, I’m saying what if we actually have him do that? Lose the phone on purpose.

SPJ: Are you fuckin’ insane?! I’d eat your fucking liver.

PWS: Listen: some dickhead would find the phone, figure out what he’s got and turn around and blab to someone, probably a place like the Wall Street Journal or The New York  Times or whatever. If he tries to return the phone, we just ignore him until he goes away. Then BAM! Plausible deniability! We own the news cycle again!

SPJ: Nobody’d believe a bullshit story like that.

PWS: We’d kill any hope those assholes in Redmond would get any press for their stupid pinky phones.

SPJ: …

PWS: We’d get another hit off the old hype pipe.

SPJ: Phil, you’re a genius!

PWS: You really mean that, Steve?

SPJ: No. It’s the dumbest goddamn idea I’ve ever heard.

PWS: Well it beats all these random fuckin’ e-mails you’ve be sending to customers.

I want a better Twitter client for Android

Since I bought my Droid last November, I’ve used a bunch of different Twitter clients. I have yet to find one I’m really happy with. I know development is hard, and it seems whiny to complain publicly. My hope is that the developers will read this and incorporate some of my suggestions. Or someone else will build a new app that I will fall in love with. I’ve paid for Twitter clients before and I’ll pay for them again.

Let me start with the clients I’ve used, sort of in the order I used them, and my disappointments with each:


I was constantly running into bugs. At first it was random crashes that would lose all the information and settings I had added and changed. When I stopped using it, direct message threading was broken so that it would only show me the most recent thread of all my conversations. I want to tweet, not deal with bugs.


A simple app that I used briefly. I stopped using it because if I hadn’t checked my Twitter steam for a while (you know, like I was working or eating or sleeping), there was no easy way to jump to the top of the stream so it took forever to get to the top, especially since I had to wait several seconds for the app to update the stream every few scrolls.


The most recent version was a big update from the first. It doesn’t hold features ransom until you pay (Want bit.ly support? Buy the pro version!1), but it take at least two taps to open a link, or favorite something or whatever. Otherwise, better than the rest.


I asked on Aardvark about new Twitter clients and the developer of jibjib asked me to try it out. It includes no images, including avatars are icons suggesting what a button does. Couldn’t keep using it.


This is the newest one and the one I’m using now. Like Seesmic, it has the same too-much-tapping problem. Say I want to favorite something, which I do often for things I find funny or that have a link I want to check out later (since Pinboard saves these links for me). That take three taps: one to select the tweet and get the menu, one to select “more,”  and a third to actually star it. It’s also missing an easy way to follow a conversation between users. Nor can I view anyone’s followers in the app and it doesn’t give me a way to get to Twitter.com to see that information.

So I want a better Twitter app. I want it to do these things:

  1. Just works. No bugs.
  2. Easy favorite-ing. I want to be able to tap a star right in the tweet without having to go through menus.
  3. Easy link following. I want to be able to follow a link without extra taps.
  4. Conversations. Twitter makes it hard enough to follow conversations between and among users without the app defeating the few tools Twitter gives us. Incorporating conversations can be as simple as letting me easily follow the “in reply to” link that Twitter generates for @replies or something better, like a built-in Bettween.
  5. A “jump to top” button. I need to be able to skip to now in my timeline.
  6. Native/new-style retweeting that confirms before posting. I hate when jerks mangle my perfectly crafted 140-character masterpieces so they can slap “RT @bergus” in front, so I use native retweets on the rare occasions I retweet. I also hate it when I accidentally retweet something and there is no easy way to undo it.
  7. Link shortening. Does it suck that we have to shorten links in Twitter? Yup. But I want at least bit.ly support that I can tie to my bit.ly account. Even better would be something I can tie to an install of yoURLs.
  8. Access to profiles and follower, following and user lists. I like to look at profiles. I like to look at lists. I use my own lists to make my Twitter stream manageable. My lists need to be viewable in the app. I’d prefer profiles and other lists be in-app, too, but I’m flexible. I should be able to follow and unfollow easily, too.
  9. Notifications that take me to the new mentions/direct messages. Never occurred to me that a notification of a new mention wouldn’t take me to the new mention or direct message, but that isn’t the case with Touiteur for some reason.
  10. Saved searches. Because I search for the same things over and over.
  11. Sync with Twitter. Everything I do in the app should be synced with Twitter: lists, searches, etc.
  12. Twitter login via OAuth. So I don’t have to type my username and password into your sleazy app. Touiteur does this. Nothing else does, as far as I can tell.
  13. Drafts. I don’t work on Twitter jokes enough to need something as heavy duty as the iPhone’s Birdhouse app, but I would like to save a tweet while I double check a fact, URL or something else.
  14. Doesn’t make me mess with setting only used for multiple accounts. I use one Twitter account. Don’t make me select my Twitter account from a list that contains … my one Twitter account.

That’s it. I don’t need widgets. I don’t need multi-account support. I don’t need geolocation (but it you’re going to include anything like that, please include geolocation as metadata instead of as a link2). I don’t need plug-ins.

So, who’s going to build this?

1 This is actually the case with Touiteur. And while I understand the developer’s need to get paid, withholding basic features in the free version isn’t the way to do it. 

2 Seesmic will figure out your location and this stick in into a tweet, either as an address or a link to a map, but not as metadata that doesn’t suck up those precious characters. 

RSS cloud and me

WordPress just added support on its hosted blogs (all 7.5 million of them) for a new Dave Winer project called RSS Cloud. It is system for RSS, which allows users to subscribe to content and is also the hidden backbone for services such as Twitter, that updates compatible readers in real time.

Essentially, this is an open-protocol that could move real-time conversation away from Twitter, or at least give it some competition. Read Write Web understands and explains the whole thing better than I do.

Dave is obviously pretty jazzed: “It’s pretty amazing. I feel about the same way as I felt when the NY Times RSS feeds came online in 2002.

Anyway, I just added a new plug-in that makes my WordPress install cloud-enabled. Cool.