Friday, December 24, 2010

Here's To A Great 2011!

I thought it was time to update my blog; can't seem to find the time these days, so taking advantage of my Christmas time off. I get two weeks, which is one advantage of working at a school!

My main prediction for 2011 is that the term "social media" will not appear in so many job titles as the last two years. Anyone who hires a communications or PR guy/gal these days should take it as a given that an element of social media will be involved in the overall strategy -- so why feel the need to mention it? Of course, as every VP of Social Media Guruness out there knows, it's just a tool to be used, not bet the farm on. Right?

Geo-location apps -- something I haven't really been exploring too much up to now -- will really start to hit the mainstream next year. I am not just talking about Foursquare or Facebook Places ... more niche services that will know where you are, what you like and offer goods and services (maybe with a bit of Groupon thrown in for good measure) as you wander about in your daily life.

Actually, me and a friend were having lunch yesterday and discussing ideas around this for a start-up, so might be interesting to get something going in 2011. Greenscroll has been a great learning experience in how to get something off the ground. That is a non-profit, so it's time to maybe start something that will earn a little $$$ as the next step on my Internet journey.

I also have plans to write a second book. It will be a collection of short stories, with a surprising twist. I will definitely self-publish it myself on Lulu, having such a positive experience of using that service for Beer and Bagels for Breakfast after the rights reverted back to me last year. If Lulu had been around in 1999 when that book was first published, I would have definitely done it myself then.

So, here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Give GoodFoot Delivery A Chance

On Thursday, my friend Jon Gauthier invited me to the Gala Party and Fundraiser for his year-old start-up, GoodFoot Delivery. It was an impressive turnout of around 100 people taking part in bidding on cool items, buying tickets for a 50/50 draw and silent auction. The event raised around $23,000.

From the website: "GoodFoot provides a personalized point-to-point delivery service on foot or via public transit as well as employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities."

It gives people -- who may have faced some challenges in life -- the chance to earn a respectable living, and for that I wholly support it. There are too many lazy asses out there who feel the world owes them a living, and the GoodFoot team are putting them to shame.

You can read more about their story in the Toronto Star.

So, please consider GoodFoot next time you have a package that needs sending ... they really deliver!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pigeons Don't Break News

Back in medieval times, my ancestors would win battles, write a note about the victory, strap it to the leg of a carrier pigeon and thereby let their cousins miles away know the news.

Please note: the pigeon DID NOT break the news; the person did.

Bring that forward to today; Twitter does not break news. People do!

So, I agreed with Mark Evans at last night's event -- the "Future Of Media" roundtable hosted by Digital Journal -- when he alluded to the fact that we should all get off the "Twitter is better than sliced bread" bandwagon, and see it for what it is: a tool for communication.

The panel consisted of Elmer Sotto, Head of Growth for Facebook Canada; Anjali Kapoor, Managing Editor of the Globe and Mail Digital; David Skok, Senior Producer of Online Content for Global News; Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile; and Mark Evans, a digital marketing and social media strategist.

The moderator did a good job of keeping the conversation going, but I would have liked to have heard more about the participants' predictions of where things are going, rather than what they have all done so far. It was about the future, after all.

Anjali Kapoor commented [and please correct me if wrong, AK] that if a journalism grad comes equipped with the ability to use multimedia platforms, analytics skills and a knowledge of Google Maps, they have more chance of getting work. I ask: what about the ability to actually get the facts right, have decent grammar skills and know how to spell? Again, we should not lose sight of the fact that all these shiny new channels, mediums and outlets are just convenient ways of imparting the news to a target audience.

At one of the process is a human being, and at the other end of the process is another human being. It's simple. The media of today -- and the future -- still needs to be trained in finding out what is going on, where, why, when and with who. Not trying to be first to squash all that into 140 characters or less just to "be first."

Like someone else said last night (David Skok, I think): "Bill Cosby has died five times already on Twitter."

The media of the future will have increasing opportunities to reach their audience in various and fantastic (read: unimaginable right now) ways. They will break the news, not the tools they use.

Side note: Some of my friends I think you should connect with for their smarts: JP Fozo, Jon Gauthier and Karim Kanji.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Selling Some Domain Names

I am selling some generic domain names that are great for banks, insurance companies, brokers and other financial institutions. They should provide some good SEO, PPC options and should help the potential buyer get better exposure via search engines. They are:

Contact me at johncarson AT gmail DOT com if interested in buying them. Thanks!

Friday, April 2, 2010

On A Personal Note

It's been a busy few weeks for me.

On the day job front, we launched our first-ever online Annual Report 2008-2009 at the school; 15 days from start to finish. I was the project manager, and had the support of an excellent team of people.

On a personal note, Karim Kanji was also kind enough to ask me "5 Questions ..." for his Techvibes blog. (Met him at PodCamp Toronto 2010, nice guy.)

And, to round off on the start-up front, Mashable finally featured Greenscroll. That's great exposure for us! (Candice Batista also interviewed some Greenscroll team members for her new upcoming TV show.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beer And Bagels For Breakfast 2010

For various periods between 1989-1994 I lived on a kibbutz in Israel; spent a total of two years there, loved it, had the best time of my life.

So good, in fact, that in 1997 I founded Kibbutz Volunteer to help other young travellers experience what I did. I also wrote a book called Beer and Bagels for Breakfast that was published in 1999.

Even though it was well received in the kibbutz volunteer community, I felt it wasn't promoted sufficiently by my publisher. C'est la vie.

Well, I got some good news a few weeks ago -- the rights had reverted back to me, and with the advances in self-publishing since 1999, I was able to now produce my own quality copy via Lulu and sell and promote it myself.

Check it out. It's not Shakespeare ... but everyone has a book in them, and this is mine!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

PodCamp 2010 = Very Cool

I just got back from PodCamp Toronto 2010; made a ton of new contacts, met some old friends and generally had a good time.

Some cool, smart people of note whose presentations I watched, or just hung out with in the halls:

Donna Marie Antoniadis, Karim Kanji, Treena Grevatt, Evelyn Hannon, Jodi Echakowitz.

And, on the Greenscroll front, reconnected with Zell Artan, a very connected lady that we'll be partnering with on an exciting project. More to come on that soon ...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Very Detailed Post On Why Europcar Customer Service Is Terrible, And Why You Should Rent Cars With A Company That Gives A Damn About Its Brand

On December 21 I headed off on a Christmas trip to Scotland with my in-laws and sister-in-law; my wife was on a separate flight. To cut a long story short, because of the bad weather, delays, lost baggage and a flight diversion from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, we eventually got off the bus at Aberdeen Airport 24 hours later. Frazzled, tired and totally spent.

Last item on the momentous trip: collect a car from Europcar. So, the desk is short staffed, and I get a long story about an employee not turning up for work. Europcar, first mistake. That is not my problem, and I do not want to know what goes on behind the scenes at your company. You have my money, please give me a smile and provide the car. Thank you.

Thus, because of the lack of staff, there is no one to meet us in the rental car park to show us where our car is. My father-in-law and I hunt around in the dark, scraping the snow off cars so we can spot the licence plate and identify our car. Twenty minutes later of stumbling around and ... there it is! No ice scraper or defroster provided -- why would we need that in a Scottish winter, Europcar? Silly me! I wait another 20 minutes for the heater to melt the ice off the windscreen, collect the rest of my family and off we jolly well go.

For the next few days, I realize that the car is not safe = it does not grip the road, we slide around the country lanes and the windscreen washer does not work properly. Time to take it back and request a safer car. Off we trot back to Aberdeen Airport.

Now, I am not silly. I have rented cars before and I KNOW that you have to return it with a full tank of fuel. I ask the lady at the counter: “So, do you need me to fill up the tank?” Reply: “No, that’s not necessary.”

I check a second time; they have my credit card and I do not want to be dinged once I get back to Canada. “Are you sure that I shouldn’t fill it before I exchange it?” Reply: “No, it should be OK.”

Last check. “Are you sure that I don’t have to fill it before I return it?” Reply: “No, it’s OK.”

Three times. Great. I’m covered. They feel bad, and in the spirit of good customer service, Europcar is writing off the half tank of fuel for my trouble. The world is good again.

At the end of the trip, I return the second car -- with a full tank of fuel -- and head home.

You know what’s coming, dear reader. Credit card bill comes in. What’s that extra charge I spy? Oh, it’s 48 pounds (around $82.) FOR FUEL! FOR HALF A TANK?

So, I phone the Europcar customer service department, and are told that the extortionate rate is part fuel cost, and part fees for making an employee go to the trouble of filling up the tank. There is a fuel station exactly 60 seconds’ drive from Aberdeen Airport. There is no justification for bumping up the cost of the fuel in the first place, and then overcharging me for a Europcar employee to drive one minute up the road to fill up.

So, I get an e-mail reply on January 14 from Europcar to my complaint. Read this part: Some of our branches have private refuelling facilities and, unfortunately, Petrol Company’s [note to Europcar, please make sure your customer service reps can spell, looks more professional] charge relatively more to fill small storage tanks. Alternatively, where we do not have private refuelling facilities, an agent of ours has to take the vehicle to be refilled at the nearest filling station [which is one minute away, what a chore]. In both instances, and in order for us to cover our staffing, administrative and investment costs [what investment costs?], a refuelling service fee is added to the cost of the fuel itself, and forms part of the refuelling charge.

Regarding the weather and the Snow conditions [snow doesn’t have a capital ‘s’ last time I checked, Europcar], we advise that the driver should take care when driving in such conditions and adhere to weather warnings and road conditions. [Gee, thanks for the condescending advice, Europcar! I’ve only bloody been driving for 23 years in all conditions! I’ll make sure to slow down when I have my family in the car around the wintry Scottish lanes!!]

Guess what? I am not happy with that response, so I send an e-mail back on January 17 asking for the contact details of Europcar’s head office so I can pursue the matter further. No reply.

Time to track down a real human and try my luck. The lucky winner is Karin Weibel, listed on the website as Europcar International – Corporate Communications. Surely she understands about making sure the company’s brand is protected, might help out a customer who is very frustrated with the service he’s getting ... at least, gulp, REPLY to the e-mail I send her on January 18? Nope. Tumbleweeds blowing in the wind.

So, in the meantime, I’m trying to get some help via social media channels; maybe someone from Europcar is listening to their customers there?

Here’s my first request via Twitter. Second request. Third request.

So, it’s now January 26, exactly 12 days after this sorry saga started. Obviously I am resigned to not getting a reply -- let alone $82 -- back that I feel is an unjust charge on their behalf. This is not about the money; it’s about a very large company that, after five attempts to get some sort of reply, is still silent.

Well, Europcar, I hope that $82 gets you some satisfaction. As much as writing this very public blog post got me.

Oh, and by the way, it took me an hour to compose this, so you owe me $100 for my PR services.

Update: February 5, 2010
Still no response, so mailed a copy of this post to the CEO.

Update: April 3, 2010
I found the e-mail address of Mark Cotterill, UK Managing Director, so just sent an e-mail, and a link to this blog post, inviting him to explain how he plans to repair his company's customer service.

Update: April 8, 2010
Dawn Sharpe, Quality and Client Liaison Manager, Europcar UK Group, e-mailed me with an apology and an offer to refund my money for the fuel.

So, I'm obviously happy with that result ... but a bit disappointed it took three months and a blog post to get a response. Is this a social media customer service case study? You decide.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy 2010! And Please Get Back To People, People

Well, it's been about a month since I last posted, so time to get back into the groove. I was in Scotland over Christmas, and doing some Greenscroll stuff. We bought our first 12 RECs which was exciting, as it means we have officially greened some of our supporters' websites, so it's great to be off and running.

I read some bloggers' predictions for what will be hot in 2010, and most say mobile or location-based apps. Can't say I disagree, but one thing I think we'll see more of is self-professed social media "experts" finally disappearing as potential clients realize that they can't produce one case study of work they've actually done. Great! Let's call some people out, and make them put up or shut up.

On that note, my eyes were opened at various times in 2009 by the amount of people who profess to be in social media ... actually run companies on that claim ... and yet can't be bothered to answer e-mails, respond and follow up as promised behind the scenes. How effing social is that?! I'm holding back here, but will be keeping an eye on them for the future.