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My Phone Doesn’t Need a Haircut

“I just need a haircut,” I said to the lady.  “Sure, what’s your phone number?” she replied, fingers ready at her keyboard.  “I’m not in your system, I just need a…”  She interrupted.  “Ok, just tell me your e-mail address and I’ll get you in here and then you’ll show up on the waiting list.”

“I don’t want to give you my e-mail address.  I just want a haircut.”

She looked stunned, and a little hurt.   “We don’t give it out to anyone.  We just need you in the system.”

“I don’t want to give you my e-mail address.  Can’t I just come in here and get a haircut?  I’m going to pay cash.”

Even more stunned.  “If we don’t have you in our system, how do you get your hair cut?

Now it was my turn to be stunned.  “With a scissors?”

Lately, it seems that every retail chain, franchise barber shop, gas station or fast food joint now gives me a chance to be part of their own program.  Sure, there are some benefits to be had, but are we really at the point where program membership is expected for everyday purchases?

These “loyalty” programs are theoretically an exchange of value: I give them access to my personal data for demographic data and future targeted marketing, and they provide me some value in terms of discounts, early access to specials, or some enhanced level of service.

In the case of the haircut, the “enhanced service” consists of keeping track of which clipper to use and whatever other notes are relevant.  So, maybe it saves me 10 seconds of conversation (provided I want the same thing every time), while I’m already a captive audience.  As my industrial engineering friends would say, it’s all internal motion.

Typically, during the ensuing 20 minutes of haircut captivity, the associate will continue to sell me on the benefits of the program.  I will explain, in my best “grumpy old man” tone, that I’m just tired of being in everyone’s system.  The news reports data breaches every week, and IT policies are only as durable as CIO job tenure.  That’s usually enough to make them drop the subject.

Yesterday I stood in a long line of holiday shoppers, only to have the sales associate start my own checkout process with an attempt to find my loyalty number.  With a growing line behind me, he automatically  proceeded to the “new member sign-up” process on his screen.  I had to tell him twice that I didn’t want to sign up.  By that time, I was a grumpy old man.

This is another case of technology improvements making us worse as people.  Even as these programs enhance their customer engagement experience for those who opt-in,  they are not valuable in the eyes of all customers.  Associates  should still expect (and respect) customers who prefer anonymity.

In other words, retail associates: don’t be offended if I don’t want to give you my contact information to buy a pack of gum.  I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m sure there is a whole generation of Millennials that will be just perfect for you!


Impersonal Devices

Do people get so suckered by the moniker “personal device” that they believe playing videos, music or games with the volume up, in small public places, is somehow not audible to those around them?

Airplanes, waiting rooms, and basically any other public space where annoyances already abound are now also subject to the child, or worse, adult, who has yet to grasp the dynamics of sound waves and nearby ears.  Hey look, that Candy isn’t going to Crush itself, but I know for a fact that the volume setting is optional.

Really, these folks are today’s version of those folks from yesteryear:


The personal device space has advanced so far in such a short period of time, cramming more and more functionality, speed and sophistication into smaller and smaller devices.  But what is hasn’t done is crammed more and more courtesy into the same old people.

I’d like the makers of personal devices to turn their innovation towards something of significant societal value: making their owners better participants in society.  While we are still probably years away from building a reliable “scowl detection” algorithm in every device, at least we could all be equipped with a universal kill switch that mutes the speaker volume on every device around us.  Détente would take it from there.

Phase II would advance the tech to detecting the sound of heartbeats in close proximity.  If those heartbeats start to all rise at once, it would, in order:

  1. Kill the speaker on the device
  2. Detect whether the user has been in a long-running phone conversation and kill that next
  3. Realize there’s something even worse happening and call 9-1-1.  It could put them on speaker.

Sure, users might bemoan the loss of their inalienable Right to Annoy, but the gains in the Right to Not Have Your Device Thrown into the River would likely make them soon forget.

And yes, this applies to YOU, lady who chose the closest bench in the whole empty park to sit and listen to your Calypso music…

Hey, just to let you know, we’re still not helping you.

My first two posts to this blog concerned unwanted and/or useless information pushed to me.

Keeping with this theme, I now turn my attention to another nefarious information push, one that I’m sure we’ve all experienced.

I’m on hold. Music is playing – categorized somewhere in the range of “this music is nothing I would ever buy” to “if there were no long-term consequences, I would rip my own ears off right now.”  Time to multi-task!  I put my phone on speaker, set it down, and start about my next e-mail, or making my lunch, or finding that one youtube video with the cat who does Sudoku. Oh, hey, the music stopped already, great! I’ll just…

“We’re sorry, but all of our operators are STILL helping other customers. Please stay on the line.”

And back to the music. Oh, false alarm I guess. Back to the multi-tasking – wait, already?

“We’re sorry, but all of our operators are STILL helping other customers. Please stay on the line.”

Why do they keep disrupting my multi-tasking to tell me that nothing has changed???  Operators are STILL busy. I already knew that, based on the way they weren’t helping me yet.  It’s disruptive – you can’t help but listen when the music stops, and useless – I have no action to take, no change to note, nothing.  And in the worst cases, I’m reminded thus every 10 seconds or so.

Just one more battle-front in the war on useless alerts. I’ll think of some more as soon as I get off hold.

Worst. Alert. Ever.

LinkedIn is making me want to be a bad friend.

As a guy just starting a new job of my own (after a mere 23-year run at my original employer), I was very moved by the many notes of congratulations and “likes” my update garnered on LinkedIn, aka Facebook for Grownups. Similarly, I have a new-found joy in seeing my other friends and former colleagues announce new opportunities they have found. How exciting to be starting something new, and to share the news with your professional and personal networks! What a nice feeling when those close to you care enough to write even a one-word note of congratulations, or just give you the old thumbs up!

But now I want to stop doing that – I want to stop congratulating my friends on their updates. The reason? My daily linkedIn alerts are quickly getting cluttered up with what I can only consider to be the Worst. Update. Ever.

“2 people also congratulated Hyram Quickly on the new job.”

Really? You sent me an e-mail and flagged an alert on my home page to tell me THAT? With all the really important things going on in the world, this is “alert-worthy” in your view? What the heck do I care who else congratulated my friend?

I never opted in for this type of alert. (Actually, who would?) In my view of software development, there’s a word for “Alerts” that are neither actionable nor informative: bugs. LinkedIn, please clean it up.

You’re making me want to be a bad friend and appear to ignore my friends’ good news. Or even worse, you’re exposing me as an actual bad friend who sees good news but won’t take the time to communicate my congratulations in a more personal way. In either way, LinkedIn, I don’t need YOUR help in being a bad friend!

You know what would be a really good alert? If someone announced a new job, and NO ONE has congratulated them yet! “Luke Atme has a new job and no one has congratulated him — get on it!” Informative AND actionable, that’s worth an alert.

Spam is dumb

Someone please explain this to me.  I get spam e-mails, as I’m sure we all do.  I have spam blockers, I add every sender to my blocked senders list, and yet still about a dozen per day sneak through.

The majority of them?  Offers to sell me contact lists.  C-levels, executives, BUYERS BUYERS BUYERS!  You name the application, the industry, the technology, the shoe-size, WE HAVE LISTS OF BUYERS!

The only problem is, I’m not in sales.  I never have been.  No title on my resume, my linkedin profile (the only social media I heavily use), or anything I’ve ever claimed about my career puts me in a role where I would want to buy sales leads.

“No big deal,” you say.  “That’s the nature of spam – they send it to a million people hoping to get any takers.”  But that’s the dumb part.  Don’t you lose all credibility peddling a “list of interested people,” when you yourself can’t create a “list of interested people” to target?  How am I to believe any of these people on your list  are any more interested in my message than I am in yours?

“Chill,” you say.  “It’s just spam.  That’s why we have filters.”  Fair enough, and you are a very good imaginary conversationalist for pointing that out.  However, the thought strikes me that someone is buying these lists, or they would not be arriving by the dozens every day.  Someone is keeping these purveyors of people’s particulars in business.

So I’d like to know – is it you?  Who is buying these lists?  Who is putting any faith in them?  If you are buying them, are they effective for you?  Does it makes sense to have what appears to be an entire industry peddling these lists mercilessly?

Alternatively, if you know the secret buzzwords to insert in an online profile to get rid of these or any other types of spam, feel free to share those as well!