AT&T denies change while sticking it to loyal iPhone users: Should you switch to Verizon or Sprint?

AT&T Customer Service Memo - Figure 1.

AT&T Customer Service Memo -Figure 1.
(Click through for a great spoof from the old Unix days.)

$250 is AT&T’s new penalty to loyal customers for upgrading with each new release of the iPhone. AT&T’s change in policy to extract this extra fee seems especially unreasonable while they still do less well than their competitors with more dropped calls, slow downloads and spotty coverage in any part of San Francisco with lots of geeks, hipsters or hills.
So if you have an iPhone 4s, what should you do? (Here’s the best explanation I can find for eligibility to upgrade.)
Since the first iPhone upgrade, every year when Apple releases a new phone, AT&T has given it’s best upgrade pricing to those who bought the latest model when it was released.  I know, because I’ve bought that phone for that price every year (except the year Apple had systems problems and had to make an exception and give me one free in order to sell it to me at all). One year they threatened to charge more (for 3GS owners upgrading to the 4), but folks raised so much stink that they went back to the old policy.
Perhaps because it is an election year, AT&T really sounds like a politician here. It simply denies inconvenient truths, and sticks to its guns even in the face of facts.

Why is Burning Man still selling tickets at all?

Dear Burning Man folks:

The last time you guys were bickering this much I was away in India. I wouldn’t have cared, but you filled my inbox with so much crap about raising money for alternate alternate art funding (Borg2) that I wrote back telling you that what you needed to worry about was not more art funding but more whiskey and rockets at Burning Man.

This time, I was away on a silent meditation retreat, so I almost didn’t notice. But on my return, what seems like half of San Francisco and Silicon Valley had entered the Burning Man ticket lottery, were disappointed with the results, and were filling every social media outlet they could find with tales of woe and suggestions for what the BMorg should do next. Endless fine points about ticket levels (to $400 and up), scalpers with prices many times that, printing photos on tickets and making them non-transferable, and so on, ad nauseum. (The best post I read has been Alyssa Royse on Burning Man tickets and crisis PR.) It seems like there is a good answer that I’m surprised noone else has suggested it by now.

Why is Burning Man still selling tickets at all? Continue reading

The Lean, Agile Quantified Self

Self-tracking and personal science has always fascinated me, from trying one of the early heart rate monitors 20 years ago to separately plotting lean and fat body weight changes (my team developed the LeanScale app), to measuring my brainwaves at night with Zeo.

I’m blown away and humbled by the collective intelligence and spirit of adventure and curiosity in every single participant and presenter at the first Quantified Self Conference today. In the afternoon I’ll be co-presenting a short talk entitled Agile Self Development, on borrowing ideas from Lean Startup and Agile Software Development for optimizing personal development, experimentation and productivity.

Seth Roberts suggested in his opening plenary that professional science is stagnating, while personal science is about to revolutionize the advancement of knowledge and human health, productivity and happiness. Hooray for progress!

Startup Lessons from NASA (and pictures of Discovery's last flight, STS-133)

Shuttle Discovery on pad 39a, night before her final launch

My visits to NASA for this launch were an amazing experience, but I also noticed a valuable lesson for company founders and leaders.

Innovation and reliability sometimes compete, but they matter differently to each of the things you do. At any stage and any size, your company can be more nimble and accepting of failure where needed, and more risk averse where needed. The trick is knowing the difference and taking advantage, rather than succumbing to the temptation to always favor one over the other.

Perhaps a more interesting way to look at it might be that we’re always engineering a reduction in different kinds of risks. Focus on the right one to reduce for each problem, and we can meet our most important and appropriate goals. Beware the temptation to manage the wrong risks.

More about the lesson and the launch, with a few of the snapshots I took on this trip (all are unedited/uncropped from my point-and-shoot Canon sx30is), after the break… Continue reading

Canon SX30is thoughts and 5 Best Photos from NASA KSC and Shuttle Discovery STS-133

First the images, then the review. Oh, and a little contest: Can you guess what and where each of these shots are?  (Click each for larger image, post your answers to the comments.)

I ordered a Canon SX30IS 14.1MP Digital Camera with 35x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom because I was lucky enough to be asked to NASA for the final launch of Shuttle Discovery. I wanted as much zoom as possible in a small, easy to use and affordable package. I wanted most of all to be present and see everything with my own eyes. I wanted to capture images along the way with a minimum of distraction from the equipment.

I knew to expect amazing access through the #NASATweetup, including the press area (as close as you can get for a launch, but still three miles away), at the launch pad, and inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. Not to mention briefings by Astronauts, engineers and managers, and meeting Robonaut 2. Thanks so much to NASA (in particular @NASATweetup and @NASA) for your wonderful hospitality and amazing opportunity to learn and see so much these past five days! Still looking forward to viewing the (delayed) launch from the press area!

So how well has the Canon meet my needs for these conditions so far? Continue reading

Trouble for Social and Location Networks means Opportunity for new Startups

Mark Zuckerberg already admitted that lack of context is the biggest problem Facebook sees in the future of Social Networking. The real solution will probably have to be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. There’s a huge opportunity, one more likely to be filled by a new startup than by existing players.

It’s not just me who thinks so, I’ve been seeing a crop of smart posts the last few days that all seem to be contemplating related issues. Continue reading

Who can build your iPhone app?

Last night my friend Doc Pop asked me for a recommendation of who could build an iPhone app for his performance and art. Doc is a force of nature: he blogs, is a nerd core rapper (who is releasing a new album of all-iPhone music), a world-champion yo-yo’er, comic creator, and does other arts and crafts in addition to his day job as an iPhone game designer. So of course he should have his own app.

We were at a party, so I didn’t have time to find out more about what he had in mind before giving him the general answer of what anyone in his position needs to hear… Continue reading

Dear Foursquare: You just don't understand my feelings anymore


When we met, it felt like you really cared about me and my feelings. You used to help me stay better connected to people. Now you only connect me to places in a mindless game.

What was once an interesting and useful relationship has become an irrelevant distraction. I’m taking you off my iPhone’s shortcuts dock for now, but I hope this note might help you change in ways that make you relevant in my life again. I’m going to take a break from our friendship for a while rather than unfriending other people… Continue reading