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Is Google Making Product Documentation Obsolete?

Ok, I’m still amazed at the value Google provides, AND how it makes lots of companies (their documentation) look silly.

Case in point: I was trying to figure out how to prevent Adobe from automatically opening pdfs after I create them. I started (of course) by going to Acrobat (Pro in this case) and looking around its menus.

You know, Preferences?  Nothing.

Then I tried Google. I searched: “how to prevent Adobe acrobat from opening newly created pdfs”

The first result had my answer. It was Tek Tips. Never heard of it before–basically a poorly designed forum for tech Q & A.

But low and behold there was my answer. In less than a minute.

Note: Adobe wasn’t even on page one.

To be fair, I went back and used Adobe’s help files. I entered my search and hit enter. Nothing happened. Nothing. Fail.

My Marketing Manifesto–Two Sentences That Cut Through The Nonsense

I had an epiphany today when I was toting my two girls around in a wagon:

  1. Here’s my definition of ‘brand’ (arguably the most dubious term in a marketer’s lexicon): The spontaneous emotional and intellectual feelings a person has about a company or product.
  2. And here’s my definition of marketing (or what a marketer’s job is): to capture the essence of a company’s or  a product’s brand and to repurpose it in a variety of ways in order to make more friends.

Is Huffington Post the Ambulance Chaser of Internet Media?

Here’s my suspicion of the new darling of Internet media:

  • HuffPo editors use Twitter and other real-time & mostly social media to find out what’s trending.
  • Then they grab a writer to jot out a quick story or grab an AP brief to see can get in on the action.
  •’s formidable SEO capital catapults them to the top of searches for that topic.
  • They get zillions of ad impressions for their advertisers.
  • HuffPo’s leading lady isn’t po’–she’s rich.

Good for her.

Bad for the internet.

I’m not the first to comment on this, but I was just infuriated to see a tweet in my stream that pointed to an article about a man who drive down the freeway with his wife on the hood of his car.


Internet publishers: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either have editorial discipline and focus and accept reasonable margins from loyal and interested readers OR make a ton of money gaming the system and be out of business soon.

Poets Can Be Marketers–Marketers Should Be Poets

I’m on record for thinking it’s an easy hop from being an artist to being a good marketer. And this Charles Bukowski quote reminds me ever more.

An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.

Marketing is about robust communication on the head of a pin. It’s about the ability to distill–to take the complexity out of a thing without taking out the thing that makes the thing a thing. Wait, I just turned into Bukowski’s intellectual!

Wait! You Should Really Watch the Credits

I’m a big fan of HBO’s In Treatment. If you’re a fan too, then you know some of the episodes are wrenching–often times you have to sit for a few minutes before moving on (seriously).

During this ‘recovery’ time, I’ve noticed a lot about the credits: they’re there for a reason.

  1. They transition you out of the experience.
  2. They allow for time to fully digest the experience.
  3. They’re extensions of the specific show (or should be).

Next time, don’t just fast forward or turn it off.

Sit. Stay tuned.

Have. The. Complete. Experience.

Natural Language Search–Give It A Try

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been testing Google: I’m using natural search language. I think the results are as good–if not better.

Instead of googling ‘outlook restore pst file’ I’ll use ‘how do i restore a pst file in outlook’.

Is anybody else doing this?

It’s so much easier from a user’s perspective–um, my perspective.

Here’s why I might be doing this?

  • Google is all about good UX (user experience)–so I’d expect them to be thinking about…
  • Crafting a human language question probably gets users (searchers) closer to their intended target–versus a user trying to distill their thoughts into ‘keywords’. Think of it this way: Simply tell Google what you want.
  • I’ve seen savvy bloggers creating titles like this.
  • Perhaps it’s Vlingo! An awesome voice to text iPhone app.
  • I’ve been experimenting with writing content right into email subject lines.

Really, it’s about getting to the point. And fast.

I’m Kicking An Old Habit: Microsoft Word

Here’s some naked lunch I woke up to this morning: Microsoft Word is dead.

I’m just done with it. Cold Turkey.

Here’s why: it’s a tool for printing stuff.

I’ve been using Word since I was in, like,  middle school–and it was always in preparation for printing.

It sounds like an epiphany–but it’s really been a long train coming.

I think the first thing that happened was that I checked out Google Docs–which doesn’t have a lot of fancy formatting tools. But it made me think: what formatting tools do I really need?

The next thing that happened is that I switched my Word ‘View’ from ‘Print layout’ to ‘Web layout’–which allowed my content to fill  my entire screen. Really, why would you want to reproduce the constraints of paper on a screen? This was the ‘ahah’ moment.

Here’s the nugget of truth I’ve been working on:  we need tools to enhance our thinking–not to structure the output of our thoughts; otherwise, the tail starts wagging the dog. The focus should be on synergy, interrelatedness and sharing. The goal is enhancing thoughts (like shoes enhance walking!).

I want a tool that lets me cut, paste, share, email, tweet, blog, label, hide/unhide, connect, disconnect, save–whatever.

The last thing I need to worry about is getting my indent perfectly at 1 1/4 inches (who hasn’t lost a day in their life trying to get Word to obey!).

Let’s agree to move away from tools that constrain (not even a tool then, right?) to tools that liberate and accelerate.

Right now I’m using Evernote–not perfect, but totally digging the shackle free experience. No tabs. Just content.

Gmail vs. Outlook: Are They Even The Same Species?

So I’m forced to use Outlook during the day–but in my free time I use Gmail.

I proclaim: they are not even the same species.

Fundamentally, it’s about flexibility and rigidity. It’s about the way humans use things and the way Microsoft robots think humans use things.

Case in point: folders.

Microsoft: since when does an email only pertain to one subject (and have to reside in one folder)?

Gmail’s labels are intuitive, and they map pretty well to real life (and the way the brain works too): our mental organizational structures are not like Windows Explorer–they’re more like a web of relationships. It’s pretty clear that the more our tools resemble our mental infrastructure the more efficient we’ll be (or I should say: the easier things will be to do). Tools should make things easier for us to do–they shouldn’t be things that create mental work).

And don’t get me started on searching my inbox in Outlook (I use Google desktop search!).

Customer Service 101: Don’t Be Grumpy

Customer Service 101: Don’t Be Grumpy

I saw this great sign today on my walk to work.  Such a metaphor!

First rule of customer service is to not be grumpy. If you’ve got that, you’re half way to a gold star.

I think a little extra sleep on the part of this sign maker might have yielded something ‘nicer’ like:

  • Sorry, you gotta go that-a-way >
  • Looks like a door–but not really a door. Try around the corner.
  • Sorry! Entrance is actually over there >

I went the extra mile and added a bit of play–always a good idea to try to make someone smile a bit right before you start dealing with a customer service issue, no?

Customer service is about empathy–just inhabit your customer’s mental state and you’ll make friends and provide exceptional experiences.