E-commerce  Comments Off on Zappoed
Dec 242012

So apparently a customer server agent at Zappo’s spent ten hours on the phone with a customer a few weeks ago. This is just another new standard being set for online customer service, and it joins the ranks of other innovative new standards like endless no-questions-asked returns for any reason and free shipping and free return shipping. If you want to sell shit on the Internet these days, you’d better be prepared to bring your A Game.

Except, wait, what?

Borrow a healthy dose of Web 2.0 skepticism from Jaron Lannier’s pragmatic 21st Century paranoia, apply it to ecommerce, and one starts to wonder if this is improved customer service in the same way Wal-Mart greeters are improved customer service. Perhaps someone spending ten hours on the phone with Zappos doesn’t say as much about Zappos customer service as it does about the state of customers, and I don’t know that that’s something to brag about.

Gangkonfigurator Style

 Bikes, E-commerce  Comments Off on Gangkonfigurator Style
Dec 192012

I had some technical difficulties yesterday. Computer was fine, but I technically needed more than four hours of sleep. So no post. Literally tens of people may have been surprised to see Monday’s sad post still lingering around. So it goes.

A fourth potential bike project has been added to my list, which I think means I now have a fourth full-time job or something. Unfortunately, dreaming up bikes doesn’t even make the top three when it comes to “things people pay me to do.” Actually, if you count the almost $15 that Google owes me from my Canootervalve ad hosting empire, designed bikes and suspension systems doesn’t even make the top four. It is what people who aren’t getting paid refer to as “a labor of love.”

Anyway, wildly successful profit center or not, I have to backburner Canootervalve for my own sanity to focus free time on doing bike stuff instead of writing about doing bike stuff. I’ll still post all updates on any of the projects here first, but fact is I started this blog to help keep my sanity after leaving my old company unless less than ideal circumstances. I’ve managed to keep it cranking out updates on shit other than what I ate for dinner despite accumulating a pretty alarming number of obligations, so the sanity-preservation play now moves to increasing sleep, decreasing posts.

One thing on my mind, though, is becoming a bike company. I don’t know that this is a bridge I’ll ever have to cross, but assuming the Project Danzig prototype doesn’t wallow around like a drunken duck, having at least some rough idea of a Second Act seems like a good idea. Consumer direct makes a lot of sense, but I like bike dealers. Hmm.

For some site design work I’m doing, I had occasion to visit Koba and check out their bike konfigurator. I’ve always thought configurators were pretty cool. I even built a superhalfass one a long time ago, but one thing about Koba stood out: I’m definitely going to refer to parts groups as “gangs.” As in the new SRAM XX1 Gang. In fact, if I end up involved in a bike company, maybe we’ll just write the whole site in German, so we can use words like “Konfigurator,” too. That word just looks right with a “k” up front. Very death metal.


Combination bike company and death metal band?

More sleep is clearly needed here.

Patriot Games

 Swine  Comments Off on Patriot Games
Dec 172012

I don’t have words for the murders that took place in Connecticut this past Friday, but thinking about anything else seems impossible and inappropriate. My boys are the same age as the victims. One of them still believes in his own invincibility. The other believes anything can be figured out, provided you think about it enough. Like most parents, I’ve found it difficult not to imagine those beliefs being taken from them. If I’m not careful, I can see what small courage each boy has so far managed to find within himself being asked to face that moment, that endless quiet. I would like very much not to be able to think about that.

By Monday morning, though, we’re well on our way to “understanding” the killer, as if the likes of CNN has ever brought us a breakthrough in the origins of good and evil. The reality is that there is no collective human reaction to this, because this isn’t the business of humanity. While these tragedies necessarily bring people together, it’s only because individually there is no way to process this, no language to speak it. There’s more humanity in a book left open on the floor of a little girl’s room than in all of us left living today.

It’s natural to want to do something.

We could get rid of guns, or at least the kind clearly preferred by people interested in killing other people. That Red Dawn fantasy about having to rise up against an invasion from another country? You don’t own the country anyway, Cletus. Wealthy people do, and they only let you live here because your lives aren’t significant enough to bother them. Besides, your country was already invaded. They came through Wal-Mart, and we surrendered without a fight.

Still more effectively, as many of the best voices during this tragedy have argued, we could put more effort into diagnosing and treating the mentally ill. I would submit to you that we have, here in the 21st Century, the most powerful tool for this work already at our disposal each and every day.

I’m referring, of course, to Twitter.

We can’t predict the next tragic event, but we can do a better job of monitoring the unstable. Deadspin shows us how easy it is to gather a quick list of the emotionally unstable.

The thing about this post is that it seems like I started out serious and then made a joke. I didn’t. If we really wanted to find the mentally unstable, hashtags would help. The media seems infatuated with full-grown human monster-style “Evil,” when it seems to me evil usually begins in things like venomous self-centered, hate-filled, inarticulate spew. Where it goes from there depends on a lot of things, but it doesn’t change the fact that these people need help.

Big Engines

 Bikes, E-commerce, Gadgets  Comments Off on Big Engines
Dec 132012

The blur of today included a whole lot of marketing, signing off on some pretty interesting frame samples, IT development, and dinner with a manager at one of our distributors. In actuality, he’s considerably more than that, though. This particular manager also happens to be one of the smartest and best guys I know in the bike business. One of the advantages to my current work is that it’s pretty broad. We could be discussing purchase of a simple quantity of bike products one minute, a completely original concept for a business the next, and both are things we’re actually going to do. This guy’s a good fit for discussions like that.

Anyway, one reoccurring theme to the dinner–and the day in general–was authenticity. We’re a unique company with particular goals for customer service, fulfillment and IT, and one of the things that matters to us a great deal is content.

Yes, that same crap that’s all over the Internet. Content.

Both this distributor and my company happen to be big believers in content creation. I’d just read this article by Steve Rubel that drives the point home. Retailer or manufacturer, we’re all in the content business now. When Rubel suggests your company “adopt a newsroom mentality,” I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s always gone back to that authenticity. Content creators have a story to tell.

Assuming the year 2013 happens at all (Mayan calendar ending and all), we’re going to see two key things:

  • the beginning of the 650b revolution
  • the rise of companies with Something to Say

Good content–unique content–matters, now more than ever. When I look at what’s distinguished that manager’s company, and what I hope distinguishes our companies, it’s content. Not just high-res images and lots of product copy, but personality that comes through the business. I left dinner tonight motivated to get back to telling stories about all the companies I represent, which is really what good marketing does.

Lots of stories to tell in 2013.

Tri Bike

 Bikes  Comments Off on Tri Bike
Dec 122012

This is how all triathletes look to me.

Should have a Danzig update soon, and maybe some news of other projects.

The Shot Across the Bowels

 E-commerce, Gadgets  Comments Off on The Shot Across the Bowels
Dec 112012

A lot of truly hairy shit went down yesterday in my life as a Bicyclentrepreneur or whatever, and frankly I’m still processing it all–and will be for a long time. It’s a small world after all, is all. A really weird-ass small world. All over for now, though. My basic sense of how the world works has almost returned to normal. Maybe some day I’ll be able to write about it here. This shit’s supposed to be cathartic and stuff, right?

But it wasn’t just my own little personal yesterday that was all jacked up. Both Facebook and Google were down today. Down as in non-functional.

I don’t know about you, but I was damn near ready to start throwing bricks through store windows and grabbing shit for the coming Mayan end times when I couldn’t access my Google docs this morning–until I realized everything worth looting pretty much required Google or Facebook. D’oh!

Let’s hope this day goes a little smoother, with fewer surprises all around, and way fewer pictures of self-immolating robots. Yesterday was all kinds of wrong.

Getting Real Amish

 Swine  Comments Off on Getting Real Amish
Dec 102012

When last I checked, the Amish considered photos a bit of a problem. Photos were an manifestation of worldly vanity that went against their rigorous adherence to humility.

I’ll admit be being slightly puzzled, then, at the Discovery Channel’s new series, Amish Mafia.

Yes, “Amish Mafia.”

Based on the previews, it would appear that there’s little humility on display in the show, which I guess isn’t unexpected. Having potentially exhausted viewers with the kind of professional narcissists that crave publicity and tend to be the only real export America has left, Reality TV sort of had nowhere else to turn but those who’d normally prefer to be left alone.

And so we have another Amish reality TV show. (Yes, another.)

It sort of makes sense, though, doesn’t it? The current emphasis on “getting real” all leads to this, the 21st Century soul-cleansing that is watching people who live without electricity behaving badly on your iPad.

Every now and again, don’t you get just the slightly feeling that the single most accurate documentation for this whole century is South Park?

Personally, I’m just looking forward the more educational programming from learning channels like Discovery. Somewhere right now there’s a TV executive with an 11:00am lunch meeting to listen to a pitch for Nun Cat Fight who’s trying to figure out if he can also make the high noon meeting for Buddhist Hit Men.


 Bikes, E-commerce, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Disruption
Dec 072012

As weeks go, I’d just as soon forget this last one ever happened.

This is true for any number of reasons, not the least of which is losing Dave Brubeck. Personally, though, this past week reaffirmed my suspicions that I’m officially working my ass into the ground again–a bit of a known problem for me. Also, it confirmed that I’m a disruptive motherfucker.

I’d like to think I’ve passed into the acceptance phase of life wherein I quietly realize shit’s always going to annoy the hell out of me and that the majority of men are content to lead lives of what used to be quiet desperation, but these days turns out to be pretty loud, shrill and annoying desperation.

I’d like to think that, but apparently, I can’t. I don’t like leaving things alone.

If there’s a productive outlet for this sort of thing, it’s making things that are different. Companies, bicycles, whatever. But I can think of a lot of unproductive outlets that’d be a hell of a lot more fun. For better or more likely worse, I’m pretty sure I’m operating in 5/4 time, but I promise it’s not just to be complicated. It’s because it sounds better to me.