Today’s Internet Means Repercussions From Business Mistakes Are Faster Than Ever

The CEO of Chik-Fil-A says what he said, it hits the internet, and within minutes, the gay community and its allies have their protests and boycotts in action.

The CEO of Barilla pasta says that gay people can go eat some other pasta, it hits the internet, and within minutes, the gay community and their allies start eating other pasta. The company must have noticed since the guy eventually apologised. But boy, that was fast.

The CEO of Mozilla was found to have made a donation to a group working against gay rights, it hit the internet, people were upset. OKCupid put up a special page only Firefox users would see asking them to stop using Firefox. After about 2 weeks on the job, the CEO of Mozilla resigned. That was fast.

Hobby Lobby is fighting hard to not have to pay for contraception for its employees. And evidently they don’t believe in holidays that Jesus celebrated like Hanukkah. Woman and Jewish people are pretty mad at Hobby Lobby right now, and they are mobilising.

Conservatives rushed to back some seditionist rancher who owes the government money. They backed him even when he was filmed saying he doesn’t believe the US Government exists (treason?). But when he declared that “the Negro” was better under slavery, now a few people are looking to step away for fear of association.

I imagine 50 years ago, if a businessman donated money to a certain political party or to try to get a bill passed, who knows who might ever know about that. 50 years ago, we didn’t know most of the moves our politicians, celebrities, or CEOs made. Once upon a time, “important” people got arrested for stuff, and people either didn’t know or didn’t bother caring.

But today, the speed at which truth (and fiction) travel around the internet means there is less room for mistakes than ever before. One false tweet can get your company boycotted.

And look at this maniac, the “tech CEO” that beat his girlfriend and got off with community service. Within a few days of that news hitting the internet, some of his biggest customers are looking to disconnect from his company. I wonder if his company will still IPO in the wake of all of this. Who will want to invest in a company whose CEO is a girlfriend-beater, causing big clients to consider leaving? Now his Board is wondering if they should try to remove him, especially since this convicted criminal has taken to Twitter to say he’s innocent… even though it was all caught on tape. Distorted reality.

It also means that personal choices and leanings can and will affect your business.

It means that you can lose business by what you are personally affiliated with. I’d say “guilt by association” but you can’t be guilty of something you chose to do because it matched your beliefs. If you donated to a group that fights gay rights, you probably felt really good about that choice. I guess it’s more of an overlapping of personal and business in ways people who flap their lips obviously didn’t see coming.

Now maybe I’m not reading the “right” news feed, but I don’t see any businesses bleeding customers or having CEO’s apologise or step down after being found to be associated with a liberal or Democratic set of beliefs or agendas. The ones I see leaning liberal and being for gay rights seem to be enjoying the press and success it brings them. I didn’t see any CEO apologise for a graham cracker commercial showing a gay couple. I don’t remember IKEA shutting stores after ads showing gay couples. Disney is a great supporter of gay rights. Is anybody bothering to try and boycott Disney? If you have kids, good luck boycotting Disney. :)

All in all, this means we all have to think a bit more before we say or post anything publicly about our personal world. There is no longer a separation of business and personal. Nobody is interviewing an openly racist for a job and deciding that he’ll be OK because his personal beliefs shouldn’t affect his job. Before you create a PR nightmare for your company (as CEO or any level of worker), think about how what you say or post could be on the internet forever with your name on it… and then possibly affecting your company. Who will want to hire the guy who publicly says or posts crap that makes his company look bad.


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How Good Should Version 1.0 Be?

I recently heard a few people say that if you’re not somewhat embarrassed by version 1.0 of your website, you’re doing something wrong. I can’t think of a reason to not make the first thing the public sees from you as fantastic as it can be.

An old commercial has the timeless line of, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I was thinking about that again when I saw answers to a Facebook question about why the search engine Cuil failed. People explained the early tech problems they had, which then made search results junky. People got fed junky search results, and they didn’t want to come back or give them a second chance. Cuil wasn’t enough to make them stop using Google or whatever they had, and that was it. Impression formed, decision made.

To me, version 1.0 should have been thoroughly tested, especially with a focus group made of up people from your target audience. Launch something you’d be proud of. Sure, it won’t be perfect, but why not shoot for close to perfect?

I recently saw a startup that has plenty of competition already launch something that I felt needed more time in the oven. The UI was gloomy and dreary whereas competitors had designed “brighter” happy cartoon lands like Twitter or Skype. Their UI was dark and plain. I found things hard to use and counterintuitive in places. How will they bring people over from competitors? Why not show me something compelling and amazing so that I stick around and tell friends?!

This also reminds me of what I once heard Seth Godin say about the Microsoft Zune, which was being developed when iPods were already all the rage. He basically said that if MS is not developing the iPod killer, then what’s the point. If you’re not developing the product that will make people throw away their iPod, what do you really have.

I ask that to startups who are launching sites, products, or services, that may not be ready. You often only get one very short chance to make the impression people will always have of you. Show them the best you have in that moment. Don’t show anything that’s not quite ready. Show them the iPod killer for whatever your market or vertical is. If your company is not so hot that people will drop what they are already using, then what do you really have?


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Must-Have Android Apps

Having purchased the Evo 4G for Sprint the day it came out (4 June 2010), I’ve had an Android phone for just over 5 months. Before that, I was mostly on Windows Mobile, with a few unhappy months with a Palm Pre in 2009. Android was new to me, but touch-screen multitasking phones were not.

In no particular order, here are some apps that make my life and business easier and faster.

1) K9 email. Too many features to mention, but I absolutely love K9. I handle 4 email accounts, and it makes juggling those fast and easy.

2) SayMyName reads texts, emails, and tweets out loud using TTS (text to speech). I only have it reading email senders and subjects as they come in. That way, if I’m driving or doing something where I am not looking at the phone, I know from hearing the sender and subject if it might be important. If it’s not important, I should keep driving and not play with my phone. :)

3) QuickProfiles lets me create phone profiles… how loud is the ring, media, airplane mode or not, etc… Great to quickly switch between profiles. My favourite feature is that you can associate each profile with a background screen for the phone. So I use a picture of my cat to visually remind me that my phone is on silent. If the background is Tucson, AZ, then I know the sound is on.

4) Dolphin Browser HD. Great browser with great plug-ins.

5) I do a huge amount of travel, so I have a number of travel apps that I live on. TripIt integrates with my TripIt.com Pro account. Wildly handy to keep track of flights, transportation, hotels, etc…, plus TripIt also syncs with Google calendar. FlightTrack just got a new UI and some new features, and I think it’s a major upgrade (ooo and congrats to them on being acquired!). It’s one of the few apps for which I’ve paid. TripIt and FlightTrack will alert me if anything in my travel schedule looks like trouble, like a delayed flight or changed departure gate. TripIt alerts me via text and email. FlightTrack uses an Android notification. Kayak is great for pricing out some travel options.

6) Calendar Snooze gives me more options for snoozing a calendar reminder. I can customise my own snooze times.

7) Ringo Lite lets me customise ring tones and SMS tones by person. I edit all my own sounds from songs I love, so I like to give the most important people their own sounds.

8) SlideIT Keyboard. I thought Shapewriter was amazing, but they took it off the market, and stopped updating it. I decided to try SlideIT, and then I paid for it. Yes, really. I’d like to get in some day, and remove the zillions of words it came with that I will NEVER type. But one great feature it has is “shortcuts.” For example, I slide my finger over “BFC” and then I choose “BFC” from the words it thinks I meant. I set up BFC as a shortcut, which will then type “BrassFlowers.com” for me, just like that. A shortcut is up to 30 characters, so you can even use it for short sentences you use over and over.

9) Startup Cleaner 2 lets me set certain apps to NOT open on phone startup.

10) Apps2sd lets me move installed apps from internal memory to my storage card, freeing up internal memory room.

11) Rhapsody. Couldn’t live without their catalogue and my playlists.

12) Smooth Calendar drops my next 3 appointments on my home screen. It’s a widget.

13) Tech Time pushes the most popular tech blogs like Mashable, Engadget, TechCrunch, etc… I like having one place to keep up on those news stories and opinions.

Those are the ones I live on. I have many others I use and enjoy, but those are my life-changing Android apps.


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Contractual Matters: Confidentiality

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had a confidentiality section, but it was one-way. It only protected the client from anything I might know about him. There was nothing in there about him keep confidential anything he learns about me or my business.

The Solution: I told him to make it mutual.

The Discussion: He told me to just never tell him anything confidential about me or my business.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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Contractual Matters: Intellectual Property

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown would have me assuring that anything I deliver to this client has never been copyrighted or trademarked, in whole or in part, by anybody else.

The Solution: I told him that if he would like to budget for an intellectual property attorney to review every idea, then we need to get that into the budget. We can’t throw that in for free. We always do custom and unique work from scratch, and we don’t copy anybody. We are reasonably sure that our work is unique. But without having a qualified lawyer check into things, I can’t be sure that someone else didn’t have the same idea at some point, and would claim to own that idea.

The Discussion: He told me his clause stays.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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Contractual Matters: Idea Disclosure

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had language that basically said that in the process of working for this client, if I had any ideas that could possibly benefit his company in any way, I had to immediately disclose them. These ideas were then his property 100%.

The Solution: I told him that as a consultant, and especially a marketing consultant, I have ideas all the time… but they are for sale. I normally don’t just report every idea I have to a client without being paid for that type of consulting work. I suggested that if he wanted piles of ideas for me to put me on retainer. If I’m being paid, I’d be happy to be in constant-brainstorm mode, and hand him lots of ideas.

The Discussion: He told me he would not pay any extra for my ideas, and I would be obligated to give them all to him at no extra charge.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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Contractual Matters: Rejected Ideas

(Back to our series on contracts…) I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I showed this potential client had a section that said that we will show him a number of design ideas. We are ultimately selling him one idea, revised and tweaked until he’s thrilled and approves it. He is buying this one idea off of us, and we give him all the rights he could possibly ever want to that one idea. Any ideas that he rejects or does not specifically approve stay as our property. They would be ours, and we can sell them to somebody else, do nothing with them, etc… Anything he doesn’t want is ours.

The Solution: He told me he wants to own every idea we show him. I told him that would be fine. We’ll come up with a price for ideas he sees that he wants to own, but are never revised, tweaked, or carried to completion.

The Discussion: He told me that he will not pay for additional ideas. Every design idea we show him should automatically be his exclusive property, and we would have no rights to it.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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PayPal X Innovate 2010

Are you at the PayPal X Innovate 2010 conference in San Francisco on 26 & 27 October 2010? So am I. I’m presenting the breakout session on Branding and Marketing, which will also cover user interface. My session is 2pm on the 27th, and it’s in the Business track, so enjoy the presentation and say hello!

You can also get my attention on Twitter @brassflowers. If you want to meet up, please send a text message to 408 320 8984, or email deb AT brass flowers DOT com as I may notice either of those faster than I will notice a tweet.


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Contractual Matters: Definition Of Work

(Back to our series on contracts…) I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown was for this client to hire outside software developers. There was an area of the contract that defined software development. He just added, “User interface,” to the definition of software development. The rest of the contract continued referring to my work as software development when we were being hired for UI, web design, copy writing, and possibly some future marketing work.

This reminded me of when Schering-Plough gave me a contract in the 1990s for a website project. They had taken a standard vendor contract, and done a find and replace to get the word “website” in there, since that’s what we were doing. The contract ended up saying brilliant things like we needed to have a million-dollar insurance policy in case someone trips and falls on the website.

The Solution: I told him that the definition of work was way off. It should exclude references to software development since I shouldn’t be signing a contract that states that I’m providing software development services (when I’m not). I said that the contract needed to clearly define what Brass Flowers is doing for his company.

The Discussion: He told me that what he did was fine, and refused to change it.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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Contractual Matters: Power Of Attorney

I was recently shown THE most bizarre contract I’ve ever seen. I wanted to share some odd bits from it so that other designers and UI pros can look out for these things when reading a client’s contract. For more posts on contracts, check our blog tag for “contracts.”

The Problem: The contract I was shown had language that basically said that if my client ever needed me to sign any legal document relating to the rights of the work I’d create, I am giving him Power Of Attorney over me. That means he can legally sign my name to any hopefully-relevant document, even if I’ve seen the document and refuse to sign it, and even if I’ve never seen the document.

The Solution: I told him to rewrite my rights section so that it gave him all the rights he could possibly ever need to my work, worldwide and forever, so that there is never any future document that might require my signature. I asked him to have his lawyer write something that was air tight and not vague so that he would be satisfied with his rights ownership.

The Discussion: He told me there is no language that can really give him all the rights, and he had to have that power. I told him I could not sign something that said that I agree that in the future, he can sign my name to documents I’ve never seen and might refuse to sign. I told him if that clause is so great, make it mutual. Give me the power to sign his names to documents I might need signed pertaining to the rights to our work. He didn’t go for that.

I didn’t sign the contract. We won’t be doing business. Read contracts carefully! Sometimes, it’s better to walk away from the work than to sign something you’ll be sorry about later.


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