4-6 hours

Why? Why Microsoft? Why? I need it now – not in 4-6 hours.

Yup, Microsoft Still Sucks

piss-on-microsoftSix years ago, after many years of being a loyal Microsoft customer and a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), I finally had enough and made the switch to Mac. I’ll never forget the moment it all happened either – on the Acela to NY for a big meeting, and my Windows machine crashed (again), and sitting in front of me was a business man using a Mac and he looked blissful. I’ve never looked back. Ever. I’ve truly been a happier person since making the switch. Today, I was reminded why I dislike Microsoft so much.

This weekend I purchased a new iMac 5K. I needed Microsoft Office. That’s where my frustration begins. Finding the latest version of Microsoft Office for Mac – that doesn’t require an Office 365 subscription – is, in and of itself, very frustrating. I accidentally purchased a standalone version of Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. That cost me $424. Eventually I found the right version of Office for Mac, purchased and installed it but I couldn’t download and install it – not yet. Evidently Microsoft needed a few hours to allow me that. During the checkout process, instead of getting a download link and license key, I got this:

“We have received your order and it may take as long as 4-6 hours for us to process it and charge your credit card.”

What? I have to wait 4-6 hours to receive my download link? OK that’s the first thing. Eventually it came through. But given that I purchased the wrong version of Office in the first place, I needed a refund. So I contacted MS support via live chat. Well, they’re systems were down for maintenance so I was told to try back in a few hours. The fun is just beginning.

Fast forward a few hours: I call Microsoft support. After waiting on hold for several minutes, listening to awful smooth jazz and ads for the new Microsoft Windows 10, which apparently “CNN says, ‘Is something to be excited for!'” (What better endorsement for an operating system than CNN, right?) So I got to someone – but… I was disconnected. Not once. Not twice. Three times.

My blood pressure is rising.

Finally I reach someone, he’s pleasant enough. He senses my frustration. He asks for my phone number in case we get disconnected. I’m grateful. He asks me for my order number, my email address, and just when I thought the refund was going to happen – I quite suddenly get transferred to another department. Now I have to start all over again. This time, after clearly expressing my frustration, the woman tells me “not to worry” and that she “will not transfer me.” After providing her with the same information as provided to the other rep, and sitting on hold for a good five minutes, it turns out that the only people who can help me are in the commercial department, but they’re closed right now so I should call back tomorrow. (And what the heck is the “commercial department”?)

My blood pressure has risen.

So that’s where I am now. No where. OK well that’s not totally fair, I do have Microsoft Office for Mac installed on my beautiful, perfect, bullshit-free iMac 5K. Sure I made a mistake and ordered the wrong product, but that has a little something to do with the shitty user experience in their website and the sheer glee I felt when I thought I found the right product. Ultimately the only reason I found the right version of Office for Mac was by Googling and finding someone else’s link to the product. I simply could not find it on my own. And I’m not exactly new to this whole Internets thing.

I know – this blog is a rant. I freely admit that and with no shame. But what the fuck! I have a voice and I want to use it in a time like this. This was a fantastic reminder of how maddening Microsoft is, why I divorced them in the first place, and no matter how much time goes by, the wounds are not only deep and raw, but they still wound me. This was also a wonderful reminder of how pain-free and delightful Apple is. I’ve never had a single experience with a Mac or with Apple that comes anywhere near the pain and frustration Microsoft and Windows cause(s/d) me.

Oh, and the best part? I’m not done yet. I still have yet to receive my refund. To be continued.


Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll bitch all I want. You don’t have to read it.

Got a Bucket List? Take a quick survey.

Bucket-ListI’m conducting a survey about bucket lists (also known as a life list). This is a private research project and all responses will be kept confidential. The survey is very basic and should only take a few minutes. You can even choose to remain completely anonymous if you’d like.

What is a bucket list? According to Mirriam-Webster, a bucket list is “a list of things that someone has not done before but wants to do before dying.” A little macabre perhaps, which is why I prefer the term “life list.” (The idea of a bucket list was popularized in the 2007 Rob Reiner film, The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.)

Many people have bucket lists, some have them documented, and some have gone so far as to start tackling their bucket list one item at a time. No matter where you are on this spectrum I’d love to hear from you, so if you’re willing to answer a few questions please click here. When you’re done, please share it with friends and family. I’m trying to collect as many responses as possible.

Take the survey here.

Where Will SMB Marketing Be in Five Years?

I had the pleasure of attending BIA/Kelsey‘s 2014 Leading in Local SMB Digital Marketing Conference in New Orleans a few weeks ago. This was my first SMB related BIA/Kelsey conference in five years, after going for several years. I also had the pleasure of sitting on the Thought Leaders & Decision Makers panel. My co-panelists were Annette Tonti, SVP at The Search Agency and Eric Owen, CEO at Mono Solutions. The panel was co-moderated by Michael Boland, Chief Analyst and VP Content at BIA/Kelsey, and Charles Laughlin, SVP and Managing Director at BIA/Kelsey. The panel was free-form, vibrant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

There were a few questions posed, all positioned in a “looking five years ahead” context. What struck me most was how aligned the panelists were on our forecasts and no doubt it’ll be interesting to look back at our answers five years from now.

The video (30 min) from the panel is below and here’s Mike Boland’s blog post on the panel on the BIA/Kelsey blog. I’d love to get your thoughts, especially if you feel differently about these topics or our perspectives.

Your Move, Foursquare

Foursquare LogoMost new apps, especially those that are hyped in the media or that scale quickly usually come with some kind of promise that’s intuitively apparent, even if it fails to truly deliver on that promise right away. The early adopters buy-in and stick around for a period of time awaiting for that promise to be fulfilled longer term. Some apps fulfill that promise, others don’t.

The first time I heard of Foursquare was in 2009 while my wife and I were on vacation in California. We were at dinner in San Francisco with friends, Ryan and Devon. Devon was telling a story about how she found someone “checking in” at a venue she wasn’t at, as if it was a horrid violation of some secret code of conduct. I didn’t understand the premise of “checking in” so asked for them to explain this new app to me. While at first I kind of rolled my eyes it wasn’t long after that I was addicted to Foursquare, attempting to catch up to other early adopters.

In those days, when Foursquare was the app du jour, I’d use it to compete with friends near and far for badges, flexing my digital muscles when I’d achieve the Far Far Away badge (a checkin to a venue north of Manhattan’s 59th street), or garnering more airport checkins than other globetrotting friends, interrupting a laugh with a friend over pints in order to check-in at the local pub to protect my hard-earned mayor status (intentionally opting, for optics, for pubs instead of clubs), or feeling like I discovered treasure when I gained access to a free appetizer and bragging about it to my wife. I loved Foursquare. It didn’t do anything for me – didn’t solve any problems, per se, but it was fun. The gamification, the perception it allowed me to create, and the promise it seemed to offer. Eventually Yelp enabled its users to check-in and soon after Facebook started allowing its billions of users to check-in. Many called both moves a theft as if Foursquare had a patent on check-ins, and as if some great sin was committed.

Now, in late 2014, Foursquare seems stuck. By all accounts it’s failed to cross the chasm into the mainstream. I find more of my mainstream friends and family (versus the insiders) checking in on Facebook and Yelp than I do on Foursquare, and even then the very idea of checking-in seems old, fatigued even.

Recently Foursquare bifurcated itself – releasing a new app called Swarm, purely for checkins, and stripping-down and boxing-in the original Foursquare app into a business discovery app. While that strategy has perplexed me and scores of others, launching (or splitting) apps with singular or narrow utilitarian value propositions is the trendy thing right now so who’s to really say Foursquare isn’t onto something here.

The reality for me is that until writing this post I haven’t opened the Foursquare app even once since installing Swarm back in the spring. Swarm is an app I use frequently, for the same narcissistic reasons as ever before. I’m not alone.

So what’s the problem here? Why does Foursquare seem like such a paradox? Why does it seem so stuck? Back in 2010 Robert Scoble said “Foursquare’s value is in two places… 1) serendipity around people, … 2) serendipity around place.” Is that still true today? In March of 2012 it seemed that Foursquare was at its inflection point, as told by TechCrunch anyway. Its now late 2014 and Foursquare seems like its just going in circles, struggling, and arguably flopping. For me though, Foursquare has never been a necessity. Part of the fun of going offline as a consumer is happenstance, serendipity, and true analog discovery. Shopping local businesses or dining out is not a new human activity and it seems like no matter how hard we try in this local and/or hyperlocal industry, digitally curated shopping and consumer recommendations based on a social graph or based on what some algorithm concludes about who I am is full of promise but today they constantly fail to deliver, and often because they’re based on a substantially incomplete dataset (for a host of reasons) and, I believe, because it’s unnatural. Yet at the same time the promise of such a powerful utility, nascent as it is, strikes me as an experience that should make sense. That’s what’s so frustrating here, is it not? It’s analogous to an infomercial pitching a clever kitchen tool. Intuitively you might say to yourself, “well now look at that, isn’t that great! How did I ever slice and dice tomatoes without that thing?” The reality, however, is much different. The product quickly wears off and sits in a drawer, for years, rarely considered. It’s a problem that doesn’t really exist. It’s a novelty. I believe that’s what it boils down to – Foursquare isn’t solving a real problem for me, it’s a novelty and I can definitely live without it. In fact I probably should. I don’t desire a homogenized, curated business discovery solution. My experiences are not enriched with Foursquare. I’d argue that they’re enriched without it.

Heading into my local neighborhood, where franchises, big corporate retailers, and small mom-and-pops co-exist is as much about taking in the sights and smells, bumping into friends, meeting new people, exchanging real currency, and trying new things and is about as authentic a local experience as it gets. Should I avoid the local indie bookstore because my Foursquare friends don’t suggest it? Should I not stop by the new crêperie because a very vocal minority panned it? Curating these experiences, or even prejudging them based on what a digital friend or algorithm says, just feels wrong. It takes the fun out of it, degrades the experience. The best stories we tell our friends and family are of the most authentic offline experiences in our lives – the bad choice we made when stopping to eat off the highway one night, or the fantastic discovery at the local hole-in-the-wall in our own neighborhoods.

Yelp does a better job informing me on where to go in a new city, and Yelp is my go-to app for such a use case even though I discount virtually all of the content of its reviews. If a restaurant has earned a 4 star rating from 65 out of 90 people, I’m on my way. Like on Amazon, if 400+ people give a gardening tool a 4+ star ratings, say no more, it’s going into my cart. But Amazon makes the mistake of now thinking I’m a gardener, because I forgot to check the “this is a gift” box during checkout. I digress.

Foursquare’s discovery solution is just not easy to use – it’s cumbersome and requires too much of an investment from me, and again, I don’t really have ‘the problem’ in the first place. In the time it takes me to open Foursquare, search for “whiskey” scroll past the Starbucks reviews that happen to include the word “bourbon,” alter the filters, expand my geography (against every fiber in my being), decrypt and tweak the “more options,” refine the categories to exclude coffee shops, I could be at the local pub enjoying my second scotch and meeting new people in the real world and embracing the wonders of living an analog life. And by the time Foursquare prompts me with a message on my iPhone display, I’ve already sat down and started sipping my coffee – it’s too late.

Again, I don’t really have “the problem” in the first place — I’m not even sure I understand or remember what the problem is anymore. And therein lies the crux of it: FourSquare’s solutions have bifurcated, its core value proposition is lost on me now, and I’m only more confused about what I’m supposed to do with this tomato dicer than ever before, and like the tomato dicer Foursquare been relegated to the drawer, FourSquare sits in on my iPhone collecting virtual dust.

I want to believe that there’s a place for the intelligent business discovery app that Foursquare is attempting to be, but I can’t help but think that ultimately these products are all solutions seeking problems. I just want Foursquare to do something already. I’ve invested five years into it now and I just want it to deliver on its promise — one of them anyway. Your move, Foursquare.

About Ben

I'm Ben Saren and this is my blog. I have another website where you can see my professional bio and stuff like that. If that's what you're looking for just head over to BenSaren.com.

Check out my blog and stay for a bit. I'd love hear from you too, drop me a line.