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Archive for the ‘Communities’ Category

It’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve switched jobs during this time and have been diving into social media. It’s fascinating to view how this space has grown over the last few years. I’m in the process of putting together a strategy for using various social media tools at my company and I thought it might be useful to share it with those just getting started.

Getting started can be very overwhelming. My advise would be to pick a specific area such as Facebook and learn everything you can about it. As you get more comfortable with Facebook, you will begin to see how other social media tools influence it such as Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, etc. Facebook is a great branching out point. The interface is terrible but once you get used to it it’s a very powerful platform.

For help on where to begin, here’s some of my favorite social media postings and articles that I’ve tagged on del.icio.us. This will continue to grow over time.

http://del.icio.us/cwills/social

I would also check out the following Facebook groups:

These are great resources with active communities.

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Engadget has information on their site today about an Intel UMPC device running Linux. If this is an open platform, it has the potential to really change the mobile device game. If Intel embraces and supports the development community and looks the other way like Apple has with the hacker community this device could have huge potential.

Also interesting is how Apple/OS X like the picture of the interface looks on the Engadget site. Hopefully this means good things for the UI.

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Markets are conversations…

On Monday, I began my search for a hosting service to build my family photo site. I currently have a hosting service that I’ve used for the last 5 years but their rates and service are no longer competitive. I need several GB of disk space and their plans top out around 2 GBs. I had recently been reading Business 2.0 and remembered the huge ad that 1&1 hosting always runs in the magazine. I checked out their site and found very reasonable rates for huge amounts of disk space and bandwidth. I decided to email them to make sure the rate plan I had chosen would work with the Gallery2 photo software I wanted to run. I quickly sent 2 emails to their customer support and proceeded to read the Gallery2 forums to see if anyone had problems with 1&1 and Gallery2. It looked like everything was going to work but the process wasn’t very straight forward. To set everying up, 1&1 might need to assist me with some of the installation process. This had me worried but I pressed on since I wasn’t making a decision until I heard from 1&1 customer service.

It’s now Tuesday and I haven’t heard back from 1&1, so I decide to look around at some other hosting services. One problem with searching for a web hosting service is that there are thousands of them and it’s tough trying to separate the fluff from the real deal. In further searching I ended up at a web site called WebHostingTalk.com. This is an excellent forum for discussing all thing web hosting. Based on the feedback on this forum along with customer feedback on some web hosting review sites, it became very clear that 1&1 wasn’t the solution for me. It turns out that their customer service isn’t very good which I was starting to notice by their lack of response to my emails.

It’s now Tuesday afternoon and I’m becoming frustrated by the whole process. Some hosting services appear to be reasonable but turn out to be scams because the prices are based on 24 month contracts…which they don’t tell you upfront…sorry I’m not paying for 24 months of service until I know you can deliver!! Other people complained about slow customer service and slow web page load times…things that can’t be determined until its too late.

Finally, I came across a posting in the “Web Hosting Offers” forum at WebHostingTalk.com. One of the postings was by a company called Cirtex Hosting. I had never heard of them but their offer for 50% off for a year, in addition to reasonable service plans, peeked my interest. I decided to continue reading. What I found was an honest conversation by one individual at Cirtex with several forum members explaining the Cirtex plans and service. Even more important, when people had problems with the service, the Cirtex employee offered honest answers and fix these issues in a reasonable amount of time. Here’s a few examples:

Full Thread

Forum Member: “What’s the file size limit on the basic and standard plans?”

Second Forum Member: “file size limit=0 because you can’t reach their site :)”

Cirtex Employee: “Our main website’s core server Power Supply just got replaced and rebooted thus few minutes downtime, sorry for trouble. Theres no limit on files.”

What no cover up?

And then this exchange on a topic called “bad review on CIRTEXHOSTING.com”:

Full Thread

Forum Member: “I have useing CIRTEXHOSTING.com for a few of my sites, (small site, not much of a traffic) and their up-time is very poor.
It’s toke me time to come and post the message on webhostingtalk.com since I give them a chance, however after one month the up-time is still poor.”

Cirtex Employee: “The server you’re on had experienced some issues this month especially last night past midnight but things are running fine now…”

No hosting services is going to be perfect. For me, it’s how they handle the bad times that’s important. I setup my account with Cirtex on Tuesday and my account was up and running in a few minutes. They even had a one button click which instantly setup Gallery2, perfect. I’m going to give them a few weeks to see how the service is but for now I’m thrilled. Hopefully if all goes well I’ll be converting all my other sites over and saving myself quite a bit of money.

As for the emails I sent to 1&1? I received a response 3 days later. Sorry 1&1 but you’re too late to the conversation…

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Shouldn’t a company’s web site be the first place you look for product support? Why isn’t it? At least for me, I’ve been to enough support sites to know that you are going to find much better information elsewhere on the web.

Yesterday, when I wanted to find out if I can run my D-Link NAS (DNS-323), which is a great product by the way, as a web server, I went straight to the web and found this forum. There is a lot of useful information here that you would never find at the D-Link site. Now I don’t want to pick on D-Link as most companies do the same thing. What I want to show is that companies need to embrace these communities and tie them into their own site. These are some of your best product evangelists. Companies should be looking to these communities to build conversations about their products.

Unfortunately, there seems to be too much fear. Companies fear backlash from people who use the knowledge on these sites to brick their system. I’d argue that there is much more to gain by working with and supporting such communities than there is in possible losses due to a few people who run into problems. There is also the potential for a huge savings in support costs just with the customers who have their questions answered by people you’re not even paying. Plus, if you add a D-Link voice to the community, you can foster a relationship with people which will build respect for your brand and continued success for future products.

If you want to find an example of this, check out DBSTalk.com. The DirecTv HR20 forum has an admin (Earl) who receives first hand knowledge from DirecTv on bug fixes, product updates, and service questions. Earl doesn’t work for DirecTv but the knowledge comes from them with a complete understanding of how it will be used. The value of this is amazing. Not only has it helped with all of the complaints about the product, but I’m sure it has saved the company thousands in service calls. DirecTv is also leveraging this community to beta test releases before it rolls out the final software. Although, there continues to be problems, this lone voice is invaluable to DirecTv. It’s just too bad that that they haven’t jumped into the conversation first hand. Or better yet, linked to DBSTalk.com from their support site.

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