Archive for April, 2009

Twitter Etiquette

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Now that I'm on Twitter over a year, I've noticed some patterns. I wanted to make some suggestions to people on how to get and keep your followers. After all, like anything else, if you're not retaining people, what do you have? :)

The short version is "be sensitive." The medium version is, "this is social networking, which means think about how you would behave in an in-person social setting with strangers." The longer version is…

  1. Unless your Twitter account is devoted to certain topics, like you're Rachel Maddow, consider minimum tweeting on politics. Around 50% of your audience may not agree with you. Say something liberal, and you may alienate half the people reading. Say something Republican, and you may alienate half your readers. I recently unfollowed some people for making repeated politically charged tweets that didn't match my beliefs. I followed her because she seemed like an interesting online seller, and I had no idea what her politics were. Ask yourself: Would I say anti-President things to strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party?
  2. Same for religion. Like politics, religion is often something that people take very personally. Like politics, this is an area where debating people may be meaningless. People have their beliefs, and they're likely to stick with them. They aren't on Twitter for you to convert them, nor are they reading you so you can put their beliefs down. These often aren't intellectual debates… these get personal, and when you're getting personal, it could get ugly. Ask yourself: Would I talk about my religious beliefs to strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party?
  3. Fighting with people. Remember that anything that's not a Twitter direct message is public. Anybody can see it. If I'm following you, I'll get at least your half of the fight. Some Twitter fights have already become legend, and have been blogged about. While your fight may not rise to legend status, it's still important to think about the communication you're putting out there. How will your followers see you? Will they want these tweets pushed to them? Might they unfollow? Ask yourself: Would I fight with a stranger at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party, or would I walk away or never start the fight?
  4. Negaive statements on popular people or current events. For example, tweeting that you're glad Natasha Richardson is dead because you didn't like her movies or Rihanna deserved to be beaten… that could be left out of Twitter. I don't agree with either of these… they are just examples of some of the bizarre things "anonymous" people tweet because they think it might be cool or funny to talk crap. Ask yourself: Would I say this to strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party?
  5. Topics that might break people's hearts or come off as insensitive… cancer, alcoholism, child molestation. You're going to have to REALLY tread lightly here if you want to post about this. Remember that everybody following you either will have experienced "this" or will have people close to them who has. People will naturally be sensitive about these topics. I can't really think of a tweet about molested children that I'd feel good about reading, so if you're going to tweet about one of these very personal issues, please consider people's feelings. The people sitting in front of their computers DO have feelings. Ask yourself: Would I discuss molested children with strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party? If someone else brought that up, would I engage in debate, would I change the subject, or would I walk away?
  6. Pet causes. Some people have experienced awful things, or those they love have been in horrible situations. I validate that, and I feel for people. But some of them now feel that it's their job to push their agendas on their Tweeple. I've read tweets bitching people out about getting girls vaccinated for cervical cancer. I've read tweets bitching people out for using their cell phones while driving. One thing I've learned from many years of amateur psychology is that you often can't change people. Bitching me out may not make me use my cell phone less when I drive. And for every one thing you want to change in me (a stranger who you may not have ever met), there may be two things I could ask you to change. But your purpose on this earth is not to talk me out of what I believe, nor is it to conform to what I believe. I just want to respect what you choose and believe without being given an earful about my choices and beliefs. Ask yourself: Would I tell strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party how they need to change to fit in more with my beliefs?
  7. Insensitivity piled on top of insensitivity. I recently unfollowed something who tweeted something so insensitive about (some) children who are sexually molested that I could physically feel my heart breaking for everybody I know who had that happen to them. She then bitched me out for not really reading the whole fight (why would I want to do that… she made her point clear, and it was plenty sickening). She repeated what she said again @ me (I guess the first time didn't have enough painful effect on me), and basically told me I was overreacting and being oversensitive. She wasn't sorry, and she wouldn't stop, so I just unfollowed and blocked her, but I'd already lost a few followers who saw the unpleasant topic go by their screens. Ask yourself: If strangers at a business networking luncheon or alumni cocktail party seemed to disagree with something I said, would I "sheesh" at them, get sarcastic, and tell them they're just overreacting and being oversensitive?
  8. That celebrity you're following may not be your new best friend. :) It's great that celebs are Tweeting and letting us into their worlds more. And it's really fun when they respond or retweet something we said. That's what social media is about. But they may not follow our tweets. They may not respond to us. They may not read what we're posting. And that's OK. They're celebrities. You don't have their email or phone number. They probably don't post to their own fan message board websites. You may never see them on commercial flights. :) They have to have some sort of wall up and boundaries, and that's OK. Don't bitch celebs out for not connecting with you more.

You don't have to be sensitive. I've read plenty of insensitive tweeters, including a few who looked like they were shooting for being purposefully insensitive or looking to incite people. The trick is to not take the bait.

Take the tests. Think about how you would react in a space where you might want to be liked and respected. Twitter is a social network, which means it's about connecting with people. You don't have to have everything in common with them, but you may want to behave more like this is a business luncheon than this is a noisy bar. :)


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Try Our Mango Juice!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I recently tried a local Mexican food place. I'm darn picky about my Mexican food, after living for years in Tucson, AZ, and let me say I was VERY happy with the food. I will definitely go back.

The waiter was probably the owner. He was happy to see us, and wanted to know which neighbourhood we came from to eat at his place. He told us how good his steaks are, and that he gets them from the same people who supply the fancy downtown places. He was charming, and between him, the place, and the food, we were won over.

At one point, he came over with a glass of juice. He asked if we'd try his "home-made" mango juice. Well, yeah, that sounded great. It was delicious. It was the most refreshing drink I have ever tasted in my life. We live around a mile away, and I could imagine jumping on the moped in the summer, and scooting over just to get some juice.

The bill came, and guess what. He charged us for it. Not only that, but the menu said "juices" were $1.75. We were charged $2.75 I think. I didn't say anything. The food was so good and cheap that I let it go, and still over-tipped him.

But my tip to you is that the freebie can go a long way. Coming over to tell us about the quality of your steak can have an impact. We were interested! Coming over with the most delicious glass of juice I've had in my life was awesome. But then charging me for it was a BIT weird. I thought this was the freebie that completely the reeling me in.

I think some people might have been really pissed off to be charged for something they didn't order. I suggest that the freebie really be a freebie.


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Cost Savings on Driving

Monday, April 6th, 2009

I'm thinking about getting a 50cc moped, scooter, baby motorcycle in training, whatever you want to call it. I do a lot of local driving, and my car is a 2007 Toyota 4Runner. In this city, this car is gigantic, and it getting shamefully low gas mileage. Back home in Tucson, I was getting nearly 24mpg driving around town. Here, I seem to be lucky if my 4Runner gets 14mpg. :( Plus, here in Boston, you have tiny one-way streets that are really tight for the 4Runner. I can't even get up and down my own driveway because it's too narrow.

I'm wondering what I can save on parking, gas, and car maintenance if I did my "easy" local driving on a 50cc moped. Clearly, my husband can't take it to band rehearsal since where would he put his guitar. And we can't take it out for a giant Costco shopping or any of our famous road trips. It won't be allowed on the freeway, so it'll be for mostly local driving. But we can get a lot of use out of it 8 or 9 months out of the year, I'd think.

The math!

My car gets 14mpg, and the Piaggio Fly 50 I'm considering gets 110mpg. My car can take regular gas, but I think premium gas is suggested for the moped. So let's do the math with those assumptions. The Fly 50 can take 400 pounds of rider weight, so my husband and I can ride together. It's a 4-stroke, so it doesn't sound like a lawnmower. It's relatively quiet.

100 miles in the car will take 7.14 gallons. At $1.90/gal, that's $13.57. The Fly would need 0.91 gallons. At a 91 octane price of say $2.26/gal, that would be $2.06. So I'm saving $11.51 at current gas prices for every 100 miles I can take the scooter. I don't go 100 miles a day… so maybe I'm saving $40/month.

Parking STINKS in the big city. I am plunking quarters into meters like mad, and a few times, we've been stuck parking in a garage for like $20 because we couldn't find street parking where we were. So let's say I'm saving $40 per month on parking.

Oh we also save on public transport. Waiting for the bus where we live SUCKS. If I'm only trying to go 2 miles, it can take what feels like an hour between walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, sitting through every stop, and finally getting to where I wanted to go. Or let's say we wanted to go for lunch to Faneuil Hall /  Quincy Market. We have to wait for the bus. Take it to the orange T line. Change lines to the green T. Get off at Government Center, and walk a few blocks. It's 3 miles from my front door, and it can take over an hour each way.

So I might just jump on the scooter rather than all that waiting and changing buses and trains. Every round trip bus ride costs me $3.40. So maybe between me and my husband, we take the bus 10 fewer times a month. That saves $34/month, though I'd love to calculate the savings of my time based on what I bill in an hour! Each round trip might put 1.5 hrs back into my life.

Wear, tear, maintenance? Well, the Boston roads will do a number on any car. But if I'm driving the scooter more, then my scheduled car maintenance every 5,000 miles will come less frequently. With a $250 service looming for my car, spreading these out more does sound nice. But it's not necessarily savings as the cost didn't go away… it'll just be delayed.

You also have the enjoyment of riding a scooter. It just might be fun. We might go out more. I do dread going out sometimes since I'm sure we won't be able to park cheaply or find a spot. You can evidently park a 50cc moped anywhere on the sidewalk where it's out of people's way. Enjoyment and getting out more mean something but are hard to measure when doing financial calculations.

Also hard to calculate is the environmental impact. The scooter does take petrol, but probably pollutes way less than a V6 4Runner.

So we'll stick to straight math. Let's say that using our scooter would save $114/month on gas, public transport, and parking. The scooter might cost around $3000 when all is said and done. We'd have to use it for 27 months for it to pay for itself. If we can use it 8 months a year, that's about 3 years of scooting.

The math on this may be like doing the math on a hybrid car. The hybrids currently cost so much more, and the gas savings will depend on how you drive it. When I was in Chicago last month, a cabbie was driving a Prius. I asked what kind of gas mileage he saw with it, and he said around 37. That's NOT that great… but you will spend $10K more on the Prius (than a Yaris). If you got 10 mpg more with the Prius, that may take months or years to "pay for itself."

Back to the scooter. From what I'm hearing, this is a great price on this moped. With gas prices not at $4/gallon, the scooter prices have dropped since demand has dropped. Prices may also go up when it gets warmer, and people are thinking about scooters. So I think this is probably a good idea at a good time.

How can you save money on driving, and save your time too without killing the environment?


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Best Designed Twitter Backgrounds

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

There are plenty of Twitter users, websites, and blogs who are showcasing or awarding people who they think have the best Twitter designs. I look at a lot of these, and there is one thing I notice over and over.

Nearly every “best” Twitter background uses a gigantic canvas. Many of them are 1600×1200 or larger. Many have a LOT going on in the first 3-5 inches of the left side.

I first designed mine like that, and then put it out for my friends to check out. Many reported back that their screen resolutions were only at 1024, 1200, or 1280 wide. Some said they had bigger screens, but had “zoomed in” or used CONTROL + to bump up the font size. This also seems to bump up the background. Also remember that screens are getting larger, but laptops are getting smaller.

That meant they couldn’t see the first 5 inches of the left side of my design. I did some math, and decided that the lowest common denominator was that just about everybody should be able to see the first 137 pixels of the left, which will be just under 2″ for some people. If your resolution is higher and your screen is bigger, you’ll see more. But especially if you’re writing words, it’ll be important to think about compatibility for more people.

Looking at the Google Analytics for our aswas.com website, 56.2% are at 1024×768. 2% are at 1152×864. 23.4% were at 1280xsomething (4 diff resolutions that all had 1280 as the width). 6.7% are at 1440×990. That’s 88.3% of users who can’t see your 1600×1200 design, even on a really good day. 5.5% of my visitors were at 1680×1050 (which is my external monitor), and 2.2% of my users were at 1920×1200.

So if you are designing for a 1600-wide canvas, most screens and laptops won’t see the whole thing. With Twitter centering the main content on whatever you CAN see of the background, that means that elements you deemed as important to the design could be covered.

Let’s take a look at some screen shots to illustrate what I mean…


This is how I hope my twitter background might look for many people. You get my whole left side, and you even get my right side.

I have a large screen on my desktop, but I’m using left side room for my Windows taskbar, and right side room so that I can always see my Vista gadgets.



This is how the same screen looks on my laptop (same computer, I just unplugged the external monitor).

The taskbar is still on the left, so I’m just missing my right-side ASWAS.COM part of the design. Anybody who keeps the taskbar at the bottom would see that.

How about when someone zooms in? I hate reading tiny text. I use glasses for the computer, and don’t want to lean forward. :)



You can see that as I zoom in more, the design just disappears on a smaller laptop screen. The same is true for zooming in on a bigger monitor. This time, let’s show an example that I found on one of these “best backgrounds” websites.

This is the design on my large monitor. This is clearly how it was meant to be seen.


Again, these words are just tiny to me. So in Firefox, I zoom in. Here is how the design then looks on my large monitor…





And on my laptop, first “normal” and then 3 levels of zooming in…




The interesting thing is that if designers were using my 137-pixel guide, and putting most of the left side content inside there, designs would mostly stay in tact across many different screens and resolutions.

Which leads me to this point. Anybody can design anything really eye-catching and amazing when given 1600×1200 to work with, and assuming that people can see inches of design on either side of the Twitter content.

My question is what can you do when many people will only see the left 137 pixels? Is it still great Twitter background design when a large percentage of users can’t see the design the way you intended it? Is it still one of the greatest Twitter designs ever when possibly 88% of viewers can’t see your message?


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Upcoming eCommerce Conferences

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Well holy cats, the month of June is getting quite complicated! There are so many events coming up. I figured I'd try to help people sift through them. :)

April 28-29, 2009 is ChannelAdvisor's Catalyst event. We sponsored last year, and it seemed like a good event. Most of the attendees told me that their favourite parts were the networking meals and other networking aspects. Many didn't think the seminars were that business-changing, but they loved who was there and who they could meet. I think CA had

This year, CA has dramatically changed their event. It looks like most of the networking aspects were taken out. I didn't think the seminars looked that business-changing. And I think they are capping the event at 200 attendees. They have not sold out yet, so you can still arrange to go. I have not registered yet, but plan to attend if all works out right… I have a (personal) event to attend a few days before in Tucson, AZ. I'll have to route a tour!

Yes, I know April is not in June, but I'm hearing from some people that they're not attending CA because they can only budget for one event each year, and they're choosing one of the ones in June. I just wanted people to know it was an option!

June 3-4, 2009 will be the PESA and ECMTA event in Atlanta, GA. I am currently not a PESA member, and the last time I was at one of their events was 2004. However, that was a nice event! :) I'm sure that this upcoming event will be a good one. I'm not sure I can budget for it because…

June 15-18, 2009 is the Internet Retailer show in Boston, MA. They seem to have sold out their giant trade show floor, and have 4 days of seminars and workshops. It's not cheap to attend, but it looks like a major eCommerce event. I'm going to try it for a day or two, just to see if it's something I want to throw more money at next year. So I'll be attending the first day or two. Then, I'll be flying to…

June 16-18, 2009 is the eBay and PayPal Developer Conference being held in the eBay North Campus in San Jose, CA. Yes, cross-country events the same week. I always love the Dev Con. It sounds like this year's will be smaller given the competition from other events.I think many "top level" people from companies will be at Internet Retailer, so I expect DevCon to attract more programmers than CEOs. I'll be speaking (for my third year in a row), so I'll be there for at least the last day or two.

June 24-25, 2009 is the eBay Radio Party (working title) in Las Vegas, NV. For those who miss eBay Live, the current plan is to do an small event in Vegas focused on live internet radio broadcasting with Griff and Lee. There will be some seminars (yes, I'm speaking there too!), and hopefully a fun party given the name of the event.

So those are some options for how to spend your month of June (and April) with the events that are most relevant to eBay and online sellers. I hope you will look for my As Was shirt (if you don't know my face), and come say hi!


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Would eBay Listen to This?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

This is NOT an April Fools post. I'm serious about this!

I suggest things to eBay all the time, sometimes in my blog and sometimes privately, behind the scenes. We know from Scot Wingo's blog and statements that he's probably doing the same thing. I would imagine other Certified Providers are trying to give eBay suggestions. Yet most of us know different people at eBay, which means we might be telling the same ideas to 10 different eBay staffers, who never compare notes, and might write off an idea as just one person's idea.

I also thought about how many times I've been right. Not to toot my horn, but things I've put in my blog or told eBay staffers behind the scenes would or would not work have nearly always turned out to be true. I'd imagine other high-up people at the eBay Certified Provider third party companies are thinking the same thing… they're thinking, "Hey. An idea I gave eBay (or put in my blog) that they didn't listen to turned out to be right!"

2008 and 2009 have been great for one thing: eBay is talking more to the top third party providers. They want to know what we think of some of their moves and ideas. They want to know how they affect our users and clients. We're getting more advanced notice. These are all GREAT, and I'm very glad that eBay is connecting more with the Certified Providers and a few other top developers.

Here is what I'm wondering today. Chances are, most of the third party CEOs will soon find themselves at the same event. Maybe we'll all be at Internet Retailer. Maybe we'll all be at eBay's Developer Conference. With DevCon attracting more programmers, it's more likely to be Internet Retailer in Boston in mid-June.

What if all the CEOs and any other really relevant top people at the Certified Providers got together in a closed-room discussion. What if we put our heads together about what eBay should be focusing on and changing based on what we see going on with eCommerce and sellers. Many of us are talking to the media, analysts, and investors. People are listening to us, and want to know what we think.

What if we presented a proper paper to eBay, not to bully them, but to say HEY… this is what companies representing hundreds of thousands of sellers and billions of dollars of eBay transactions think should be changing… this is what is broken, this is how we'd fix it, and here are some negative things that rippled out of things eBay did (when they may not have realised what would ripple out).

When it comes from just me, you can pass it off as what Debbie wants for As Was or As Was clients. But if the paper were co-authored and signed by the CEOs or top people from ChannelAdvisor, Infopia, Kyozou, Vendio, Inkfrog, Auctiva, As Was, What Do I Sell, ShipRush, Mercent, JDT Technologies, Channel Velocity, Monsoon, ShipWorks, Terapeak, and the like, would eBay take that more seriously?

If eBay is listening to PESA as a representation of PowerSellers, and eBay is listening to Voices as a representation of buyers and sellers, I'd
think eBay might want to listen to a unified (or nearly-unified :) ) bunch of suggestions from
the third party companies. We just might have some good ideas.

We're the companies out there dealing directly with sellers' triumphs and struggles. When eBay sellers are failing, that ripples out to our companies, and that ripples back to eBay. We see the causes and effects in short periods and over long arcs. Think about how many eBay Certified Providers have had the same CEO or management for the last 3 yrs, 5 yrs, maybe even 10 years. We have been in these trenches a LONG time… longer than some eBay staff are in their jobs or assigned to a certain project. We have a really unique point of view on things.

We're all invested in eBay sellers doing better… being stronger, being more viable, being more profitable, keeping their businesses open, selling more, shipping more. Anything we can come up with as a team can only be win-win-win-win-win

I invite all the top people to get together when we're all in Boston for Internet Retailer. Let's make time for this. Not April Fools. Totally serious. We should put together formal suggestions that most or all of us agree on. Maybe that would be taken more seriously. eBay sellers, send this blog post to the high-ups at the third party companies you use. Let's have an eBay Certified Provider Summit, and let's really put our heads together.


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