Use the Interwebs to Get Your Way

Posted in Business, People by Harsha on December 4, 2011

To those who think they don’t have a voice (at least in the United States), think again. Christopher Null penned this great how-to in WIRED’s recent issue. As my part, I wanted to assure you that it is neither impractical, nor difficult to do what he says. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the old saying goes, and so here are a few examples of what Chris is talking about.

I have three great examples to share about how I got three big companies to listen to me. It took almost no effort (considering what I would have had to do in pre-internet days) coupled with a bit of social media savvy. My successes included Chris’s Twitter suggestion, in addition to using email and my blog as a way to gripe and to get what I wanted.

The first and my most memorable experience was with Bank of America. I wrote a few posts about it, so read the before first, then a quick update during the resolution process, and after my problem was resolved. I got a cool $50 gift card to out of it. By reading the posts, you can pick up a very easy way of harnessing the power of “we” to get your way.

The second experience was with Best Buy. I have not blogged about it yet because it sort of moved really quickly, via Twitter. If you follow me, then I think you should be able to see my tweet from 2010. Essentially, I did what Christopher suggests in his article. Briefly, this is what happened:

I had purchased a TV from a Best Buy store where the sales representative assured me it was Wi-Fi enabled. But of course, when I got home, unwrapped and installed the TV, it turned out to be Wi-Fi “unabled”! I had plugged in a Samsung wireless dongle as it is known, to the new TV, which did not work. So I re-wrapped the TV and returned it. But I ended up leaving the dongle inserted into the TV and realized it after the fact. When I called the store, they checked and said that they did not find it still plugged into the side of the TV. Now mind you, I am a “silver level” member (or something like that) at Best Buy because I had spent over $2500 with them in one year. I took to Twitter with my gripes, used @bestbuy and lo and behold! I quickly heard from one of their social media watchers. She did some investigating, called the store etc., and then decided to send me a Best Buy gift card worth $80 to make it up to me.

The third experience was one that my wife had with DSW Shoes. She had recently tried to use a $30 DSW coupon on their website, but it did not work. The coupon was due to expire that same day, so she emailed them to complain. Guess what happened next? She got that coupon back, in addition to another $20 coupon that had expired a couple of weeks earlier. In addition, they sent her another $10 coupon in the mail with a letter of apology. To top it all, she received additional regularly scheduled coupons bringing her quite a good haul.

So thank you Chris for not only a great reason for me to restart my blog, but for also providing readers with a realistic how-to on getting one’s way with big companies

The Bet Against Singularity

Posted in Big Thought, People by Harsha on April 6, 2008

Ray Kurzweil lives in Massachusetts and has been a prolific inventor since he was in his mother’s womb. He has also written a ton of books – here is his Wikipedia entry for more information.

He is also the main proponent of Singularity. WIRED has a cool article about him in their latest issue, billing him as a Futurist who is doing everything he can to live long enough to witness this event. Briefly, it is the point in time predicted by Kurzweil where when machines become conscious or become aware and overtake human intelligence. Before you start guffawing, remember that he has been at the cutting edge of technology for many years and has been almost always ahead of his time.

Kurzweil’s toenail is smarter than me. But then when I read that he and his research partner Dr. Terry Grossman whom he met in 1999 have “exchanged thousands of emails, sharing speculations about which cutting-edge discoveries could be safely tried” (WIRED article), and also that “The doctor charges $6,000 per appointment”, I couldn’t help wondering what will happen to the future of Singularity, if I placed and win won a bet that Kurzweil will be dead in 60 years or less? You see, this obsession with immortality or doing stuff in the afterlife is traceable to the Egyptians. They buried their Pharaohs with artifacts to be used in the afterlife (which still lie lie still unused after 1000s of years!), so this idea of wanting to either live forever or for at least way beyond general life expectations, is very, very old.

But can such stupendous claims, backed no less by the most complex and probably the most accurate of equations generated by one of the smartest men on Earth, be dissolved into oblivion, by the simplest of representations of information – a binary choice … a bet?

Kurzweil pops a LOT of pills (“He takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that he doesn’t have time to organize them all himself”), which for a renowned scientist like him seems like a very stupid naive approach because after all, these are pills from today’s time, created by today’s unethically scary pharmaceutical industry, for treating yesterday’s problems from yesterday. I think if old age doesn’t kill him eventually, then the chemicals will probably get to him soon enough. He also “frequently bicycles through the Boston suburbs” – seems like a fairly safe activity but you can be hit by a car anytime and as the traffic is crazy in the city.

The “Singularity” movement hinges on Kurzweil’s ability to live very long. Guys like Matt Philips, 32, “who became independently wealthy when Yahoo bought the Internet advertising company where he worked for four years” and are willing to pay Dr. Grossman (remember, he is Kurweil’s Singularity partner) $6,000 an hour purely based on Kurzweil’s word, means I smell opportunity.

I’ll bet that Kurzweil (born 1948) will die sometime in the next 60 years. He is already around 60 years of age, and people living up past 100 is not uncommon (there are around 75,000 100+ year olds in the US). I think he will probably die due to a major illness concocted by these toxic pills, or by riding around in Boston, or by being shot by a crazy-eyed Matt Phillips (JUST KIDDING!). Dr. Grossman states that “The normal human lifespan is about 125 years” – ancient Indian texts suggest 4 stages of life each spanning 25 years. So do I believe 1000s of years of knowledge or a $6,000/hour doctor with a deeply vested interest in propagating Singularity till Kurzweil lives?

Can the great mathematical and scientific Kurweil and his million books on Singularity be brought down by an scientific simpleton like me?

The Big Switch – I am not a fan

Posted in Big Thought, People, Reviews by Harsha on March 14, 2008

The underlying point of this book (which was a very quick read) is that the Internet is just like electricity. I agree and disagree with the author on various points he makes in the book because while he is right, he is also dead wrong. That is all I have to offer at this point.

The average reader like me will love connecting the dots between the Internet and electricity but that is pretty much it – I was pretty surprised that Wired chose to glorify the book.

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