No mobile

I cut the umbilical chord today and cancelled my U.S. mobile phone account. We didn’t know that all calls would be charged at 69 cents/minutes, and had to pay over $200 this month. So I found it kinda funny that they tried to upsell me to a North America plan where I’d pay roaming fees if I went outside of Vancouver. Thankfully I won’t have to pay the $175 early cancellation fee as long as I fax them proof of residency in Canada. Yay!  But if you’re trying to text or phone me at that number…who knows who will answer it.


Brands, Sub-brands, products, features

At NorthernVoice on Saturday, Matt Mullenweg gave the keynote and spoke a bit on the naming blandness that goes on in software companies. He said that you’d never see companies like Procter & Gamble name their products the way tech companies do…and well, sorry Matt, I disagree. One example he gave was Tide’s Simple Pleasures. According to Matt, if it was named by a tech company it would be called Procter & Gamble Purple Laundry Detergent. Tide Simple Pleasures is just a step above that, but is essentially doing the same thing that Matt doesn’t like.

Well, P&G has a bit more brand clout in Tide than most tech companies have in their products. Here’s one of the first Tide ads that I found on Flickr. It’s not called Procter & Gamble Tide, but they sure are coming close to saying that. They’re using the P&G brand to help consumers trust it.

I understand what Matt’s getting at…we do choose some pretty bland names. He mentioned Amazon MP3 store as one tech name that should have been called something else. But it’s a fairly new industry with brands that are fighting to be top-of-mind. And when they do have that brand recognition, they shouldn’t jeopardize a product launch by calling it something completely new without the parent brand name and URL. There are only a handful of tech brands out there that your average, non-Silicon Valley person knows. (Matt and NorthernVoice attendees are not your average person.)

And we have to be super careful to ask ourselves if we’re naming a product or a feature. The MP3 store – that’s a feature, not a new product. The product is Amazon. The new feature is a portion of the site that sells MP3s. It doesn’t deserve a new brand name. And they already sell CDs. Anything like Amazon Music or Amazon Tunes would just cause consumer confusion. (I would hope that they did some focus groups on this to back up the decision.) And it would cost a lot of money to get brand recognition for the non-Amazon name.

Procter & Gamble doesn’t just mean laundry detergent anymore. Maybe once Amazon’s been around as long as P&G (and have the soap money), they’ll find that they’re going into many verticals and need to diversify their branding.  But until then, they just need to conquer going from Amazon=online store to Amazon= personal store.

I think Automattic should be careful when naming their products, keeping a more holistic view of what they’re offering. Down the road you might have some brand architecture issues. And just because something has “press” in its name doesn’t mean that it came from Automattic, but other people may use it to catapult their product. This might cause you some issues down the road. You don’t have a trademark on “Press”. And we’ve seen other products using it already. bbPress might be better off being called WordPress BB.

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Bikram’s yoga

So today I took the plunge and tried out a Bikram’s Yoga class. It totally kicked my ass. I’ve always thought it was a crazy concept and it goes against what yoga should be – relaxing and calming. And I was right – sorta. I mean you’re so exhausted afterward that you don’t want to do anything but collapse.  I tried to find some truthful reviews of it before going, but it was all too diplomatic. So I’ll try to be as truthful as possible.

So I got there and the receptionist is super nice but talks a mile a minute. So I tell her it’s my first time ever at Bikram’s and I feel like everyone by the desk turned immediately toward me. One girl even said, “Oh wow, never?” with a hint of a worried tone in her voice. Oh god, what am I getting myself into?

So I pay the $21 drop-in fee. (Ouch – that’s the reason prices aren’t on the website.) Then I get the whirlwind tour, told to grab a spot at the back of the room so I can follow everyone, and directed to the locker room. I strip down to what I think is bare-essentials – capri pants and a tank top – and I’m off to “the room”.

So I was expecting it to be hot – but it really was like a sauna in there. At 105F it doesn’t hurt to breathe, but I can feel the heat in my lungs. I’m beginning to wonder if my 1 towel is enough for the class. And other people have 2 or 3? So I take a regular’s lead and lie down to get used to the heat. Other people start trickling in and I feel completely over-dressed. Most of the women are wearing what is essentially boy-short underware  – there’s no way you’d get me in one of those outfits.  But there are two other ladies in the room that aren’t sticks and are wearing clothes. I’m not alone.

Turns out the girl that sounded worried that it was my first class is the instructor. She points out to the rest of the class that this is my first time and that I should lie down if I feel dizzy or nauseous. (great…now everyone’s looking at me and don’t feel any  more out of place.)

The class is like boot-camp yoga. The instructor fires out each move and how you should adjust your body…and reminds us that it should hurt a bit. (huh? I thought if you did that you wound up hurting yourself) Totally not the sing-song, meditative, all is right with the world instructions at other studios.  This definitely will take some getting used to.

I’m did okay for the first couple flows. (oh you’re not allowed to have water until after the third set. No idea why.) I found that as the poses got harder I needed to lie down more. But I wasn’t lying down for the entire class or even half of it. They repeat each flow twice, and I did at each flow at least once.  There was probably only two that I didn’t do. The poses lead up to triangle pose and then it gets slightly easier, and it’s much easier once the mat work starts. And the instructor was encouraging me throughout saying I was doing really well.

So it wasn’t that bad. The heat is definitely more than my body is accustomed to – my face was bright red for about a 1/2 hour afterward. And it didn’t help that I was sitting underneath the heat vent during the class. You might want to check that before you choose a spot.

I’m going back. I need my ass kicked. But if my stress level goes back up, then I’ll be searching for the old type of yoga.


Voting online

I wasn’t able to vote in the California primaries because I didn’t get an absentee ballot. But I was able to vote in the Democrats Abroad primary – online. First I had to register to vote by the week before. There was some identifying information that I had to give – date of birth, last 4-digits of SSN, last place of residence in US, etc. So I put in all this info. Then I was emailed a link with ballot number and PIN. So on Super Tuesday, the day online voting started for the week, I went to the local internet cafe and cast my vote. It was rather unceremonious. I guess it’s the same as if I sent in my absentee ballot, but I expected something a little more fancy than a grey java box with selections for Clinton and Obama. I guess my expectations for bells and whistles online has increased over the years.

Even if elections could be done completely securely, without fear of hacking or contesting results, I don’t know if I’d like it to be completely online. There’s a lack of ceremony to it. I could have gone to a local pub to vote online with other Democrats Abroad members, but was a bit too busy to get there. I guess people could hold voting parties, but then do you really want a bunch of drunk people thinking it funny to vote for the communist party candidate? Or would that not happen?


And we’re back

We’re all moved in and finally have net access again. It took about a week to get the adsl box, but it was waaaay too long considering our building is pre-wired. I felt completely out of it, didn’t know what was going on – CNN and BBC News just don’t cover enough tech and blogs for me. (But I could engorge on politics until I threw up of course.) Also, not having net access makes it incredibly hard to work on freelance projects.

As much as I love my Tivo (it’s a family pet now), the UI and programming leads something to be desired. They seem reluctant to change the top-level navigation to make it more intuitive. I understand not wanting people to have to relearn where things are, but right now a lot of the categories just don’t make any sense. I had to go online to find out how to change my cable provider. It was in a lovely category that leads you to believe you’re going to erase all your preferences..lovely. Well because we moved, it made all our programs null-and-void because they’re specific to a channel and not to first run program of same name – lame! Now I have to wait for it to download the next 2 weeks of shows before I can re-add our old list. Anyway, 4 hours, and several downloads later, it’s somewhat functional.

Luckily those were the hiccups to our move-in. The only other one was that Brendon had to go down to the border to release our belonging from customs because the moving company fraked up. It could have been a lot worse and inconvienent. Now I can focus on getting back to work.