Of JetBlue and tennis rackets

WARNING: This post is going to complain about ponder a business practice that doesn’t make sense to me. Didn’t think my bitching would ever extend to aviation luggage policies but here we are.

On my trip to Puerto Rico, I planned to bring tennis rackets so I could play some tennis. I’ve got a bag that carries three rackets and I figured I’d bring that as one of my carry on items for my JetBlue flight to San Juan.

Last time I flew over water, though, I was instructed that my tennis rackets constituted a potentially deadly weapon and I had to check them at a cost of $200 (damn you, Qantas!). Because of that, I figured I’d better check with the folks at JetBlue to see whether bringing my rackets on board was kosher. Because I was too lazy to call, I used Twitter:

To which they responded:

The Twitter people at JetBlue, very thoughtfully, sent me this tweet to follow up:

If you click on the link to the section about rackets, it reads:

A tennis racket may be carried on the aircraft and counts as one carry-on item.

Easy enough, eh? But there was a problem. I wanted to bring more than one racket, so that at least one friend could play. The lit says I can only bring one. So, I inquired:

To which JetBlue responded:

?!

If the size of the bag is the same… then what does it matter how many rackets are in the bag? One is OK but three will cause the next 9/11? Maybe I wasn’t clear enough about the bag size being the same regardless of the number of rackets. But I think, from the lit, that my interpretation is right. I’ll wrap this up by saying that the service was excellent on JetBlue, the pilot did extremely well to overcome some crazy-ass turbulence as we were leaving Boston and that I never even got around to playing tennis in San Juan.

So yes, while the main point of this story may be that I’m an idiot who spent time asking about bringing accessories only to never use them on the trip, I still can’t see how this policy make sense. Not mad or anything. Just bemused.

Also, H/T to Hubspot for teaching me how to embed tweets, which really isn’t very hard, but I still needed the help.

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Only Chris Wallace can go to China

Had some time to flip around the TV channels when I got home yesterday and came across this, which I can’t figure out how to embed, so I’m linking.

Can’t imagine Ryan getting questioning of this type on Meet the Press or any other bobblehead show. Especially note how Wallace questions the amount of revenue Ryan’s plane will raise and how it continues to cut taxes for the wealthy. Wallace does even better to repeatedly question Ryan about which deductions he’s going to excise, pretty much aping the main question that progressives on the Intertoobz have been wondering.

Obviously, the interview suffers from all the usual things that make cable TV interviews stupid and unenlightening, but on a very graded curve, I’d give the interview a B+ and Wallace an A-.

Social Media Strategery

Interesting post from Jay Baer about social media, strategy and how all that fits into a business plan. Here’s the beginning of the post, which, like all stuff I link, is worth reading in full:

I don’t have a problem with Guy Kawasaki. I enjoy his books. His track record in business is substantial. We have friends in common. But on the subject of social media strategy, we disagree in every possible way.

Last month, Guy was interviewed (that happens a lot) in Inc. Magazine about social media, as was asked whether entrepreneurs should hire a consultant and develop a social media strategy. To which he replied:

“No. Just dive in…It’s very difficult to create goals and strategies for something like Google+ or Facebook or Twitter if you’re not familiar with Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.”

I reject everything about this sentiment, but perhaps most vehemently the notion that you should have a strategy for Google + or Facebook or Twitter per se. There is no such thing as a Twitter strategy. Or a Facebook strategy. Or a Google + strategy. Participation in these (or other) social outposts are tactics used in service of a social media strategy, which in turn is in service of a marketing (and sometimes customer service/retention) strategy, which is one element of an overall business strategy.

The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media. Never forget that.

Emphasis in the original. In terms of learning how to best use a medium and interact with people, I agree, to some degree, with what Guy Kawasaki is saying. I don’t dispute Jay’s overall point about having a strategy. I think that makes lots of sense. Where I think Guy’s argument is much more defensible, and in some respect I’d agree with it, is with regard to social media usage.

For any medium (Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc) there’s no blueprint that guarantees you success, no matter how you define success and measure it. There are a lot of great places that can point you in the right direction and analyze content creation and curation (when’s the best time to blog, what’s the best ratio of tweets to RTs to interactive questions, how often should you share content on Facebook, what’s the best balance between topical and whimsical content, etc) but all of that is no more than a reference. In terms of trying to discover what works best on an individual basis, I think Guy is right that the best (and really only) way to do that is to get out and test the water.

For my part, I think a consultant can help with that and be a valuable soundboard, especially if that consultant has experience working with similar organizations. But at the end of the day, even if that consultant has extensive experience, that’s no guarantee of success. So, I think that jumping in and experimenting is a good thing to do.

Of course, I’m strictly speaking about answering tactical questions that are unique to every business’ social media plan. I’m not saying that there aren’t any universal underlying threads because I think there are. How the platforms fit into your overall strategy, how you’re going to define success, the expected time frame of that success, those are all examples of questions that make sense to answer. And with regard to those questions, and other similar ones, I think Jay’s post makes a pretty persuasive case.

Tech Journalism?

Quick item for today: read this, a good article from Nieman Lab. Has some good stats about mobile media consumption the news biz. Also, I think the idea of tech giant (Google, Amazon, maybe even Apple) purchasing a legacy news organization is really interesting. Seems like it’d be dumb as rocks from a business perspective but who knows.

Also, if you missed this from Brendan Nyhan over at CJR on the Etch a Sketch flap that’s been setting the “news” world on fire, read it. Best take I’ve seen yet.

Business evolves

Blogging has been light because my computer is broken again, this time for realz. Gotta get a new one. That machine lasted me about four years, though, even if you subtract the month when it was broken. It had a good run. Anyhow, onwards.

Via Todd Defren’s Twittertoobz account, I found my way to this article by Joshua Gans about Google in the Hahvahd Business Review. I’ve been reading a fair amount of late about Google’s struggle with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and the rest of the growing companies that keep information proprietary and how that messes with Google.

Here’s Gans on how things changed:

But. But. Google was supposed to be different, folks. And what do you know? Like every start-up before it, it has matured and started to morph into a larger, more bureaucratic organization, concerned with threats and working to protect the core revenues. It was supposed to be different but, in fact, it is the same old story.

[snip]

It would be nice to argue that the answer is for Google to go back to the old, bottom-up Google model. At some level, it should try to preserve that culture, but it’s really hard to do. My point here is that the “this time it’s gonna be different” mentality that start-ups believe they are founding is wishful thinking. Eventually, a threat comes along that requires a coordinated response. Sometimes that response works — think about Microsoft and its long history of these things — and sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. It is difficult to say what will happen for Google, but a good dose of self-doubt that they are somehow above it all is a good place to start.

Entire article is well worth reading in full. It only takes a few minutes.

Gans nicely sums up my (inexperienced, uninformed) take on this stuff. It was easy for Google have that iconoclastic, almost post-business attitude when the design of the entire Internet meshed with their interests and business model. It’s a lot less easy to have that affable, laid-back attitude now that Facebook and the rest of the proprietary information organizations are threatening Google’s turf and, by extension, their profits.

There comes a point in time for every company, I think, when expanding in size and profits is no longer easy. The market changes, a competitor rises, whatever. The point is, when that time comes, all businesses will do the same thing: adjust to the new environment in an attempt to keep and eventually grow their share of the market. I think that’s what Google has been going through and will continue to go through as Facebook gets stronger and diversifies. In that sense, yeah, Google is growing up, or at least becoming more common. Even when the environment changes, the obligation to the shareholders doesn’t. And that means whatever change will best fulfill that obligation will go through, regardless of whether it means being “evil” or anything else.

And, as Gans does so well to point out at the end of the article, this was always going to happen. It happens to every company. It’s only a matter of time before it happens to Facebook, too.

Getting Better

I find this sort of change the kind I can believe in very encouraging. Apparently, folks at teh Google are tweaking their algorithm to penalize people who try to craft the best SEO without actually having valuable content to back that up:

This algorithm update is working to level the playing field for sites without as many resources to dedicate to SEO. Matt explained the changes as “trying to make the algorithm more adaptive,” or being more understanding of sites that have good content even if it isn’t search engine optimized like many marketers have learned to do. The sites that will be penalized are those that “throw too many keywords on the page, exchange way too many links, whatever they’re doing to go beyond what a normal person would expect.

We’ve heard a lot of stuff in class about the value of keywords, searchable content, the value of sub-heads and on and on. All of the stuff that makes your site SEO-friendly. I’m not going to say that I ignore that stuff, because I’m aware of it, but only to a degree.

Good content is what’s remarkable. I’m never had any intention of changing my content to include the optimal percentage of keywords or the quantitatively best number of subheads or whatever. I believe that content created by me (and lots of other smart people) can stand out on its own. I’m better off trying to do that than making every eighth word the same thing so that a search engine will like my writing more. Seems like Google’s adjustment is moving in my direction and in the direction of people who focus more on their work than a formula. I think that’s a good thing.

Obvious caveat: None of this is to say that SEO isn’t important or relevant or worthwhile and all that. It is. But I don’t think SEO, with respect to content, is the most important thing or ever has been or ever will be.