REVIEW: The McDonald's App Experience


Order Ahead

or get back in line

I've been using the McDonald's App for about a year now. It is pretty slick and gives you some good discounts and acts as a punch card for items like coffee that give you a free drink. I usually open it on my way there to see what deals and coupons they have.

This week I opened it and saw a coupon for $3 off $10. Apparently, that deal was only good if you ordered ahead of time. So when I got to the window the lady said I needed to order ahead of time. I asked if I could order in the app since I was already in line. She said I would need to drive out and get back in line.

Hey, I get it, the idea of this deal is to get people to put in their payment info and use the app. What I recommend to McDonald's, however, is to let people like me who are regular customers and learning the new rules they are imposing to use the discount this time, and advise me to order ahead next time. Giving the cashier the ability to give me the discount would have made her job easier and me happier.

I did drive around again because I am a marketing geek and wanted to see how this whole thing would play out. I also knew I was going to write a blog post when I got home.

Is McDonald's going to read this and change their policy, probably not. I am writing this for you. When putting promotions into action, make sure you allow for some wiggle room and make sure your employees can make good decisions at the moment to help the customer.

The name of the game these days is customer experience, also known as CX. Those businesses that are good at it will have a huge advantage over their competition.

Here's Why My Website Never Goes Down: Squarespace

Midnight Bucket Brigade

I'm in my 5th year of using Squarespace for my website hosting. I was attracted to the ease of use and the unique look I can create with their site building software, but something else has gained my attention as of late. Their hosting. My site never goes down.

I listen to a lot of the podcasts on Leo Laporte's TWIT Network. It's great fun for tech geeks like me. They have quite a following. So large that every time they mention a website that website is inundated with traffic. And it goes down. Unless it's a Squarespace site.

Squarespace has their act together. When a site gets more traffic than usual, they are able to relieve the stress by balancing the load on their servers. Cool stuff.

But wait, there's more...

I got an email from team Squarespace last week explaining that their servers are located in lower Manhattan and that fuel to their last generator was running out. Hurricane Sandy had taken it's toll. I had a few hours until my site, and all the Squarespace sites lost power.

I kept checking my site, but it never went down. So what happened? Did they hand carry fuel up 17 flights of stairs in total darkness to keep from going down?


I got the email below telling the story.

Way to go team Squarespace. You have increased my respect and admiration for your fine company. Keep up the good work.


Hurricane Sandy Update

A little over a week ago, I sent out one of the most difficult emails that Squarespace has ever delivered to our customers.

Peer1, our data center in downtown Manhattan, was so severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy that it suffered a total loss of power despite multiple levels of redundant systems. At the time, there was no resolution in sight. Our backup fuel reserves and building infrastructure had been destroyed by Sandy's storm surge, which flooded many buildings downtown. As you may be aware, this was a historic and unprecedented storm for the entire tri-state region, bringing about the largest storm-related power outage ever in Con Edison's history.

I am proud to announce that throughout this event, Squarespace customers experienced absolutely no downtime related to the power outage. This is an amazing outcome considering the extraordinary circumstances we faced last week. What remains is an incredible story.

For those of you that haven't been following our updates, employees from Squarespace, Fog Creek, and Peer1 manually carried fuel up 17 flights of stairs for three days to save our generator while an interim fuel supply and pump could be installed. These efforts to provide uninterrupted service for our customers were chronicled by numerous publications including All Things DBetaBeatComputerworldFast Company,TechCrunchThe New York TimesPando Daily, and The Verge.

We now have a working pump system delivering fuel to the roof generator, more than enough fuel on site, and a redundant street-level generator connected and tested as of last night. These systems will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Our building has still not been able to connect to Manhattan's power grid, as the building's two sub-basements were submerged in 30 feet of water that took four days to pump out. We will continue to post updates on status.squarespace.comas we resume normal operations.

Of course, such heroics should not be necessary to keep operations running smoothly. We initiated a plan to build a geographically redundant operation this past summer and expect to have it online in early 2013. This gives us the ability to route around areas affected by natural disasters much more effectively.

We take the responsibility of running the hundreds of thousands of sites on Squarespace very seriously . Our homepage states that our scalable, reliable cloud infrastructure eliminates downtime, and our customers all over the world count on us to keep their websites online no matter what. Wanting to keep that promise is what propelled us forward and helped us persevere during this most challenging of times. Thank you all for being Squarespace customers - it is with your continued support that we can continue to fight for great design, amazing products, and exceptional service.

We know that there are many in our area that were impacted far beyond what we experienced - if you can, please take a moment and contributeto hurricane relief efforts. A little goes a long way.

Thank you.


New Compose Page in Gmail - Revolutionary?

I've been trying the new compose page in Gmail. It's one of those "what took you so long?" ideas. Many times I have opened Gmail again in a second tab when composing to get information while composing.

It is missing a few things like CC and BCC that made me go back to the previous version to finish my message, but overall I think it is a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Have you tried the new compose page in Gmail?



TEDxOrangeCoast Event Recap

I had a wonderful time at the TEDxOrangeCoast event this week at Soka University. I must say I was surprised by how beautiful this campus is. I have been to larger universities, but Soka is most impressive.

The event consisted of 4 hours of footage from the TEDGlobal2012 event in Edinburgh, Scottland. TEDxOrangeCoast aired the best of the presentations. I learned about everything from human genomes to the hacker collective Anonymous. And there was even a magician/mind reader.

This was just a taste of the awesomeness that is TED.

If your appetite is whetted, I recommend you check out the LIVE TEDxOrangeCoast event coming up this October. It should be a blast. See you there.

Rise Lunch: The Place to be for Entrepreneurs in Saint Louis

I finally made it to a Rise Lunch today. I had a great time and learned a thing or two in the process. If you are a small biz owner in the STL, you should check it out sometime.
The event is hosted by Rise to the Top founder David Siteman Garland. He is a witty and inspirational character, definitely the friend of small business owners and entrepreneurs.
The first speaker was Sam Silverstein, author of No More Excuses. Sam focused on a few key ways to take responsibility and be accountable to your own values. 
I liked this quote:
"If you delegate responsibility, also delegate authority. Otherwise you are micromanaging and you might as well do it yourself."
I have tried to say the same things in other ways, but this is a great succint way to get the point across.
Sam has 5 key points about acountability:
1. Do the 'right things' consistently
2. Manage your space
3. Manage the process
4. Establish the right expectations
5. Contribute to your relationships
If that piques your curiosity, check out his site for more details or pick up the book.
We were then treated to a panel discussion on social media with Erin Steinbruegge, Chris Reimer and David Siteman Garland.
Here are some choice nuggets:
"SEO is not a standalone thing, it should be integrated into your whole marketing plan. Your site should meet the needs of your visitors, and then you can focus on the SEO." Erin Steinbruegge
"Follow the 2+1 rule for social media. Focus on 2 sites that are important to you, like Twitter and Facebook, and spend most of your energy there. Follow that up by giving away free content on a regular basis." David Siteman Garland
"Buy my t-shirts." Chris Reimer 
Also by Chris: "Everyone knows the family in the Tide commercial is not real. By the same token, not all brands use social media personally, but use professionals to talk about their product for them."
Verdict: Very cool atmosphere, nice lunch, cool peeps and good info.
See you at the next Rise Lunch.
*All quotes are from my notes/memory

Jeff Pulver Tweets Up with The Social Media Club of Saint Louis #SMCSTL


Last night I attended the monthly Tweetup of the Social Media Club of Saint Louis (SMCSTL) at Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves. The excitement for the night was the arrival of 140 Characters Conference (#140conf) founder Jeff Pulver. Jeff has been driving from city to city, live streaming from his car, to promote the conference.

Jeff took a corner of the bar and addressed the 100 or so folks that showed up. Jeff's passion for communication, and using technology to facilitate, was evident. He spoke of converting your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) into a Chief Listening Officer (CLO). Smart businesses will learn to listen to their customers and with the new social media tools available they are all talking. 

Jeff also touched on the power of new media to do social good. The Haiti disaster is a prime example of people using these tools to give support and to coordinate relief efforts on a scale never seen before.

He capped off his short speech with a gift of a digital video camera from Kodak and gift cards from GM. Jeff asked "who can do some good with this camera?" I gentleman that works with college kids said he could use the camera in his work. He was handed the brand new device without question. Very cool.

I had never been to Robust Wine Bar before. It's a great place with an excellent selection of wine and beer. It's the first place I have been that had a real reward for checking in on Foursquare - a free Tin Mill beer. I plan on bringing my wife back on our next date night.

SMCSTL is a lot of fun. I have been to a ton of networking events and I don't usually like them. Too much work. SMCSTL is a very laid back environment. Sure people talk business, but usually the people showing up love social media and there's more to talk about than buying insurance. If you are thinking about checking it out then you'll want to attend next month for sure. It will be held at Busch Stadium before the game. See you there.

PS- I had a lot of people check out the QR Code on my name tag. People were interested in how it worked and how to get one for themselves. I'm working on a "HOW TO" that I will be sharing soon.

Video #SMCSTL August Tweetup @robustwinebar

REVIEW: Nixty Helps You Make Online Courses for Free

Some of you know I created my own online university using Moodle a few years ago. Sadly the cost and time to maintain that site was too much for me and it has since been removed.

I came across a new site called Nixty that lets you create and promote your own courses using similar tools to Moodle and other learning management systems (LMS). The cool thing is that Nixty is free. I have created a course for my book Internet Marketing for Newbies that includes a quiz, discussion and a certificate of completion.

Take a look and tell me what you think. If you have a book or some content try creating your own course. It seems like a fairly new site and there are a few bugs, missing links, iffy UI choices, but I hope it sticks around and has time to improve. This is a really cool service and a great opportunity for both educators and learners to benefit.

Are online courses like this useful to you? Will you use this tool for your organization? If you create or take a course, Please let me know in the comments.

REVIEW: Squarespace Website Building Software

Note: I am NOT an affiliate for Squarespace and receive no remuneration for this review.

Squarespace is one of the best options for do it yourself business owners to create a professional looking site with minimal tech skills for around $15/month.

I have been talking up Squarespace with friends this week and realized I have been pitching this company for months now. I decided to write this summary of why I chose Squarespace and how it may be worth considering for your business.

What I like about Squarespace

  • Fairly intuitive interface based on WYSIWIG's (What You See Is What You Get)
    If you can create a word document you can do 90% of what you need to build a site on Squarespace
  • Templates that don't look like templates
    Most do it yourself websites look the same. Squarespace has enough variety and customization to make your site look unique and professional
  • Administration in one place
    Your website, hosting, analytics, files and everything else are all located on the Squarespace site. You don't have to FTP files or try to remember where items are located
  • Robust hosting
    If you do get a lot of traffic to your site it will likely stay up as Squarespace will automatically give you the resources you need to handle the extra load.
  • Great tech support
    I have asked several questions via email and received answers in a few hours at most
  • Decent price
    Not the cheapest on the market, but definitely within my budget. You can start for $8/month, but I usually use the $15/month for a few extra features
  • Discounts for multiple accounts
    Since I have several sites with Squarespace I get a bulk discount
  • You can customize anything
    You can even tweak the CSS if you know how
  • Website and Blog in one place
    Squarespace has a nice blogging engine built in, but it includes the tools you need for creating standard web pages so you can choose how to use it

What I don't like about Squarespace
Confusing interface
While you can change just about anything, it is not always clear how to get to it's controls. I gave up on the first site I built, but I returned to Squarespace after getting frustrated with WordPress and wanting to have a more professional looking site. I have now spent enough time that I know how to tweak most of the settings, but there is a bit of a learning curve. However I think it easier than using WordPress.

Here are the sites I have built using Squarespace so far
Dr. Ray's Treetop Chiropractic
Agrusas Italian Restaurant
Bud Frank's Lawn Care

If you use the code "twit" when you sign up you can get 10% off your bill for life. This code comes from the This Week in Tech show of which Squarespace is a sponsor.

So what do you think? Are you going to give Squarespace a try? They have a 14 day free trial. If you do
try Squarespace please leave a note in the comments about your experience and a link to your site.

Location App Smackdown: Foursquare Vs Gowalla

Have you heard of Foursquare? How about Gowalla? Most people haven't. But just as Twitter has the major buzz right now, one of these two companies is likely to be the next superstar. They are kind of like Twitter, but with location tracking and game like elements mixed in.

I have played with both, as well as some lesser known location based apps and have had a hard time deciding where to place my bet. For now I am leaning towards Foursquare because they have a big headstart, have inked some big partnerships, and I know more people on Foursquare than on Gowalla.

This excellent infographic from Mashable shows you what they do and who has the advantage. Read the full article on Mashable to learn more about location apps and why they are next big thing.

Gist Lets You Know What's Happening in Your Social Network

Gist is a phenomenal way to gather intelligence about your network. Start off by plugging in your contacts via Gmail, Outlook etc. Next, link your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account and you are ready to start monitoring important events within your personal social network. One of the features I really appreciate is how Gist adds the contact information from new emails and adds it right into my list of connections.

Check out this webinar for a detailed look, or just sign up on the Gist site and start playing today. It's still in Beta and free for the moment.