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I Just Got ‘Warm Transferred’. It’s A Southern Thing.

I Just Got ‘Warm Transferred’. It’s A Southern Thing.

I dig language. I dig analyzing human interaction. And I dig marketing. That actually means every interaction with every business is like a moment in the lab for me.

So I hit a triple play today when I was on the phone with a State Farm customer service rep. The rep told me she wanted to get me to speak to someone from my state. She said: “Let me warm transfer you to someone in PA.”


My prefrontal cortex woke up with a jolt. I have honestly never heard this before.

I knew of course what it meant: to be transferred to another agent with a live agent-to-agent hand off. Of course there should be a word for that!

Shouldn’t all transfers be ‘warm’?

This is customer service gold. Use it — do it! — and your customers will be delighted.

So at the end of the call, when she asked me if I had any other questions, I checked in with her: “Did you say ‘warm transfer’?

Yes, she said bemusedly. She then politely explained what it meant and added: “It’s a Southern thing, I guess.”

Well, that makes it twice as nice.


Yeah, “Cellphone” Isn’t Really the Right Word

Today’s New York Times has a thought-provoking piece on cellphones–That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker–that’s worth five minutes of your time.

The Take Away: Sometimes the name for a thing can cloak a lot of complexity. Not suggesting a conspiracy here–but cellphones do track your position, your spending, who you call and probably a hundred other things. And, be honest, we all don’t read the Terms of Service for all the apps we’ve downloaded.

So, what is my iPhone?

Best I can surmise is that it’s like those black boxes/flight recorders that are bolted in plane cockpits that record everything. The difference–and it’s a huge one–is that we don’t own the data like the airlines own the data. They own the planes–they deserve the data. But who owns all that data that’s being emitted from my phone every second if not millisecond? It’s most likely no single entity–it’s a bunch of disparate entities. It’s still disconcerting.

But, wait. Does it matter?

Don’t I like the convenience, the offers (savings?), the entertainment, the… dare I say it… distraction? Besides, isn’t our freedom locked in sufficiently to let me kind of ignore this stuff?


In the past, do you remember how some families chose not to be listed in the phone book?

That kind of anonymity seems almost antediluvian.

I actually wrote this post so I could use that word 🙂


PageRank Should Be Demoted–And Why Google Search Is Broken Until It Is

Part 1

If I search for “The New Pornographers” I AM LOOKING FOR The New Pornographers’ website!

But instead of delivering me to it Google serves me this: Wikipedia, MySpace, three YouTube videos, Matador Records,–then

Strange. Not intuitive. But not a huge inconvenience either, but there’s no mystery around what I’m searching for–so why does Google serve me a few 3rd party sites first?

Perhaps they’re smarter than me, and with all the data at their fingertips they know most folks who search for “the new pornographers” end up at Wikipedia?


Part 2

Today I searched for “panico’s cape may”–a great Italian joint in Cape May, NJ. Here’s what I got from Google: Yelp, Tripadvisor, Restaurant Passion, Google Maps, Urbanspoon, JerseyMenus… the restaurant’s website ( isn’t even on page 1!

How could that be?

So, here’s what I think is happening: PageRank’s importance is faulty–or, more specifically, Google’s reliance on it is. It just shouldn’t matter how many inlinks there when there’s an instance of clear intention in the search query. I’m not sure Google is dynamically applying PageRank: when search query is focused/sharp > demote it; when it’s muddled > rely on it.

Perhaps my intuition about what natural language search scientists should be able to do with my queries is grandiose.

Let’s see if this changes with an upcoming update.

Do I Really Want To “Like” Bad News?

Do I Really Want To “Like” Bad News?

No. I don’t.

And this draws attention to a unique Facebook issue–on their mobile app.

Take a look:

In this circumstance, I would like to share this news–but it’s a bit creepy to “Like” it. You know, the other meanings of the word “Like”?

They’ve got it figured out on their web site–but when are they going to get to updating their mobile app?

Lesson: be on the look out for semantic snags or the linguistic impact of your UI elements.

I throw this in as a bonus (if Facebook happens to be reading this!): let me share with a subset of my friends not everybody. Google+ has got you here, FB.

Go-To-Market Overselling?

It’s a pet peeve of mine when marketers go all pie in the sky and promise more than they can ever deliver.

In this case LevelUp is just jamming them in:

  • “Good things happen”
  • “Save Always”
  • “Use it Everywhere”

Can these things be true?

Is it a turn off to adopters?

Does Anybody Use the Word “Viral” Anymore?

It used to be that ‘going viral’ meant that people forwarded the s$#t out of some meme.

Today, you don’t really hear the word “viral”—”virality” yes, but more on that in a minute.

Here’s why:

In the olden days—4 years ago!—”viral” meant that a meme spread throughout networks as a result of many people working fairly hard/investing real quantities of time—most likely that meant people spammed their address book or fired off 10s or 100s of individual emails. It meant that the meme had overcome a relatively significant impediment to achieve ubiquity or success.

But today that doesn’t apply. Today, meme’s traverse an ecosystem that is fundamentally built to facilitate the success of viruses.

So today we use ‘virality’ to describe the relative success or value of a meme’s growth towards ubiquity—because everything is viral, isn’t it?

And “virality” isn’t even listed in!

Share the Meme Not the App

Share the Meme Not the App

I have’s iPhone app, and I receive their Word of the Day. Today I actually looked at it and it was a gem:

Bandersnatch: An imaginary wild animal of fierce disposition.

There’s something about this words that seems so cool and useful that I’m definitely gonna use it. Ok, that makes me a little strange… My instinct, though, was to share it on Facebook–where my geeky linguaphile friends would surely drool over my discovery.

Alas, the only sharing on the iPhone app was for the whole app!

Who wants to share a whole app!

People tend to share the smallest parts of our culture—song, photo, text, quote, link, video… Have you ever heard of an app going viral?

And so could enable the sharing of words because that’s what people do. Marketing strategies might share apps, but people sure don’t.

It’s the meme that counts!


Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

Someone Splice Skype’s DNA With Visual Thesaurus For The Ultimate IM UX

So IM was a great tool.

It no longer is.

Why? Primarily because we’ve all adapted to the concept of asynchronous communication, and we’re ready–we expect!– for a better, easier, more intuitive, more effective tool. What do I mean?

The problem:  The Skype UX lays out communication in linear fashion–even though human conversation isn’t! Here’s a little illustration to remind you:

Tell me you haven’t had this IM experience: your typing fast on the initial thread and then someone veers off–so you follow. Then someone comes back to the initial thread before you’ve even finished typing a response to their tangent. Then you press ‘Enter’ on the tangent thread and the IM UX shows the response next to a non-corresponding line. Now your work has exponentially increased. Add another thread and you’re focused entirely on the screen above–double checking previous IMs to ensure your on target. At this point the UI is not making it easier–it’s making it harder. Fail.

The solution

Now, imagine this: a branching IM a la Visual Thesaurus.

What if each comment or line had an imaginary box around it–and that box could be dragged around and anchored anywhere on a screen; and from each node could grow a conversation?

I would pay for that that!



Twitter the Tool Rocks, Twitter the Product Name Doesn’t

I’m a big fan of Twitter. Really, I think it’s bonafide communication infrastructure—on par with the phone, tv, fax… Sometimes I say it’s RSS on steroids, your own personal multi-media channel… I have a lot of emphatics for it ( I just made that word up!).

But you know what would really help me out? If Twitter was named something else.

Most of the time when I’m trying to explain it, it really feels like I’m trying to defend it. The word ‘twitter’ just has so many negative connotations: insignificance, small, ephemeral, light, transitory, fleeting…

So Twitter product guys, what’s with the name?

I think with a name like Burst—or a utilitarian acronym—adoption rates could have been even faster. “Facebook”, “email”, “internet”, “SMS”… these are all much better names because they’re descriptive or utilitarian—not self-deprecating.

Product naming isn’t for the birds.