What’s For Dinner?

In all things, what people want is not always the “best.”  Consider dining: even if money were no object, sometimes people would prefer a grilled cheese sandwich, made from Kraft singles and Wonder bread; to Oeufs Benedict with Italian ham.

My wife Cindy’s birthday on the weekend was like that.  In our family, on one’s birthday, you get to eat whatever you want.  (I get two inch thick rare beef tenderloin with roasted asparagus and rosemary potatoes.)  Cindy has a choice of anything I make.  My repertoire includes an amazing variation of Chicken Kiev that involves bacon and asparagus; a succulent tender veal scallopini; barbecued salmon with a sundried tomato rub; chicken Milanese, any kind of perfectly grilled beef; prosciutto e melone; a variety of kebobs and souvlakis; roasted or grilled pork tenderloin; and several kinds of fruit pies.  So what did she choose?  This:

For those of you unfamiliar with eastern Canadian cuisine, that is a lobster roll.  It’s diced-up lobster meat mixed in with some mayo, dijon, celery, cucumber, lemon, and spices and seasoning, served in a butter-fried hot dog bun.  My presentation includes parsley, paprika, and a whole claw sticking up like a sail.  And, of course, crinkle cut french fries from PEI.  This shot makes it look smaller than it is, because we have REALLY big dinner plates.

So why would Cindy prefer what is essentially New Brunswick’s version of fast food to some of my finer gourmet creations?  Because for a birthday dinner, with a 7-year old participating, and cake and cards and presents and all; this is I guess the definition of “comfort food.”  It’s what she asks for every year.

So, when predicting people’s preferences, remember: context is everything.

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Workus Interruptus

Gaaaa!  I’ve written before about how I hate the phone, but there is a new top nemesis to my productivity: Instant Messaging.

I have to, for purposes dictated by my role, be constantly available on not one, but TWO instant messaging systems: Lotus Sametime and Windows Live Messenger.  Most of the time, this is no problem, since most of the other people who I regularly IM with use the tools in a sensible fashion.

But what can throw a serious wrench into my day is when someone doesn’t get how synchronous communication technologies work.  Remember in the old days of radio communications when people would say “over” when they were done talking?  Well, some IMers need to learn a lesson from that.  I’m talking about someone who pings you with a question or comment that obviously requires a response, then, while you are typing said response, sends another blurb that invalidates your almost complete response and requires you to start over.  After this happens 3 or 4 times in a row, you throw up your hands and sit idly watching to see of they have, in fact, finished yet.  After a minute or so, you think, OK, they’re done now, and start to type the final reply, and they send, “U there?”  — as if I’ve been ignoring them this whole time.

Here’s a hint (that applies to marketing as well, oddly enough): before sending someone a message, think it all through and compose it appropriately and completely.

And speaking of technology that annoys me, why did WordPress arbitrarily insert that margin there on the left? 

Why I Don’t Use RSS (Much)

When I asked folks earlier this week to leave a comment on that post if they are a regular visitor to my blog (and thank you very much those who did), I found that about half of you are subscribed to me – you are giving me permission to PUSH my posts at you via RSS rather than coming by and PULLING the articles yourselves.

RSS makes a tonne of sense, and it is the epitomy of permission marketing – relevant, anticipated content delivered to an actual person who has asked for it.  And it is one of the results of Web 2.0 and the Long Tail niche-ification of information – totally personalized content delivered to your door every day, as if someone was printing a newspaper or producing a TV show just for you.  But I don’t subscribe to many feeds, and here’s why:  I’m a moody  browser.

There are some sites I go to every day, like Seth, Scott, and Penmachine. There are others that I go to when I want to spend more time exploring the ephemera of the Web, like BoingBoing, YesButNoButYes and Truemors.  And there are some that I only go to when I’m completely goofing off, like Geekologie, xkcd, Dave Barry, and Indexed.   The content I crave varies with what mood I’m in and how much time I have available.

So I don’t use RSS (except for news and weather) for two reasons: first, I might not WANT to know that there’s a new post at YesButNoButYes (like there is every couple of hours) right when it happens – I want to drift by and soak up a couple of days’ worth when I feel like it.  And second, there’s a bit of a treasure-hunter style thrill when I check blogs that are updated less frequently (like Netdud and Basic Instructions) and find a new post – it would have been less “exciting” to have it pop up in my Google Reader.

We’re Sorry.

Much has been written lately here in Canada about tainted processed meat products sold by Maple Leaf Foods that were responsible for 18 deaths all across the country.  One of the sidebar issues has been how well Michael McCain, that company’s president & CEO, has handled the crisis.

The standard formula when you have screwed up is supposed to be:

1. Admit you made a mistake.

2. Take responsibility for it.

3. Apologize for whatever inconvenience your error caused.

4. Explain what you will do to prevent it happening again.

Mr. McCain has done a good job on all these counts.  But it’s astonishing how many companies don’t (or maybe can’t).  Think how often you have called an organization out on some mistake it has made and the first reaction is, “it’s not my/our fault.”  This is unfortunately especially prevalent in the hospitality industry where poor service is one of my pet peeves.  If you mess up my food order, or give me the wrong kind of pillow, or put too much vermouth (i.e. more than one Higgs boson) in my Martini; and I complain, don’t ARGUE with me.  Make it right.

I got onto this kick because I made a mistake yesterday.  The first one since the late ’70s, I believe.  Well, really I didn’t.  A colleague has expected me to get approval from someone when I had understood I was simply to share the information with them.  When the approval didn’t happen she fired me a nastygram.  My response could easily have been, “No-one told me I was supposed to get approval!”  Just like the bartender can say, “No human can possibly call a drink with that little vermouth in it a Martini!”

But arguing won’t make either party feel better, so the right marketing  thing to do is follow the four steps above.  My response was (and I cut-and-paste):


Sorry, that was my fault – I did remember to send them to Angela, but did not explicitly request approval. I will from now on.        



And now everyone’s happy.

Who Are You?

Can you do me a favour?  If you know me personally, can you leave a comment on this post?

I have gotten to the stage now that people I don’t know, who stumble across this blog through Google or Technorati or other bloggers who link to me, have started leaving comments, which is very gratifying.  But it leaves me wondering how many people I actually know visit here semi-regularly.  Netdud and CM I know drop by often, but I yearn to know who my regulars  are (just as if this were a bar).


Where is My Muse?

I got nothin’ today.  No razor-sharp observations.  No brilliant theories.  No insightful commentary on current events.  So here’s a link to a pretty cool site that lets you graphically see the 1,000 most popular names for each decade since 1880.  “Stephen” has really lost ground since they hung it on me:

Witty Software

Every blogger in the world is required to download Google’s new browser called “Chrome,” and then write about how much faster, easier, buggier, sexier, prettier, memory-efficient, and inexpensive it is. Well, I just did the download, and I’m going to write about how…  witty it is.

Chrome has a feature called “incognito browsing” which works just like normal mode, but doesn’t save any browse or search history, or any cookies you pick up along the way.  Once you close that session, no-one will be able to tell where you’ve been.  Of course, teenage boys all over the world are loving this, but I love the introduction screen:

Google (the company) has a reputation of being a fun, irreverent place to work – their corporate motto is “Don’t Be Evil.”  It’s nice to see that they have enough of an organizational sense of humor to let those last 2 lines through.  Can you imagine IBM or even Microsoft allowing those words to appear in shipping software?

It’s also an example of how your business needs to stick with its “personality.”  If your company (especially a hospitality establishment like a bar) has a fun personality, it always has to be fun.  If you’re edgy, you always have to be edgy.  If you’re a redneck sports bar, having a Goth night is probably not going to work for you.

It’s all part of the story you tell.