Monday, July 06, 2015

Bringing a single payer healthcare system to DC

I have retired from PR and have decided to work full time to bring a single payer healthcare system to DC. Under Obama's Affordable Care Act states, including DC, can create their own single payer systems. Such a system would save DC taxpayers millions or dollars in addition to guaranteeing healthcare to every DC resident. It is cheaper for the entire city to self insure itself that pay millions of dollars to private health insurance companies in addition to contracting with providers. It would save residents of DC millions of dollars to pay a reasonable healthcare tax, such as Canadians do, rather than extortionate health insurance premiums. Follow my work at Alice Marshall on Medium. Contact me at if you would like to help.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Twitter transformed customer service

Technology support is notorious for its poor quality. Early on in the history of the Internet management decided that customer relations was not a core function of a company and that it could be outsourced. The consequence of this was that customer service was reduced to statistics, how many calls were handled and how quickly were issues resolved. Much hung upon the definition of resolved.

Whether technical support of billing issues, customers were confronted with telephone trees that were as time consuming as they were confusing. Technical support became the subject of bitter humor. Everybody knew it was bad, but since everyone had horrible customer support companies could get away with it.

Until Twitter.

All of a sudden your company's horrible customer service became a public embarrassment. At first PR people where hired to handle customer service issues on Twitter, until companies figured out that Twitter had to be integrated into their customer service response.

But what companies have still failed to comprehend is that customer service is a core function of any company. Customer service is public relations, it is how your company relates to the public and how the public experiences your brand. If customer service is poor your brand suffers.

When your company outsources customer service, and makes clear that customer service is a dead end job for employees with no future in the company, you are saying that customers are not important. The larger implications of Twitter customer service issues have yet to be understood.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Behind the scenes at Metro Connection

May's NetSquared meeting was a behind the scenes look at WAMU's Metro Connecton. Producer Tara Boyle and host Rebecca Sheir explained how they and their team of freelance reporters put together they show. A theme is chosen and they work up a series of stories connected to that theme.

For sources they use the Public Insight Network, a database of individuals who are available to be sources. Anyone can list themselves. In the past they have used sources like Help A Reporter Out, but found it unwieldy. As a flack, I too have found it unwieldy.

They also spoke about their use of their website and social media. Their website has evolved and continues to do so. They now want it to be a news source as well as hosting a mix of audio, text, and videos. While most of their audience continues to be on the air, they are pleased with the growth of their online audience. They have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. It seems that the Facebook page is more for audience engagement while Twitter is also used for research and identifying possible sources. Sheir described Twitter as more diverse because it is all public. She noted with some displeasure that Facebook wants you to pay just to reach out to your subscribers. I share her displeasure.

Edit -
Joe Logon writes his account of the evening: So That's What They Look Like: Behind the Scenes of WAMU's Metro Connection (NetSquared DC Meetup)

Elijah's blog at NetSquared

Thursday, May 16, 2013

To Facebook or not to Facebook

Judging from the results of my survey every business should be on Facebook. It is by far the largest social network. So why do I continue to stay away from Facebook except for personal use? I just don't think that it is the correct venue. Selling software on Facebook would be a little like selling software at the dog park. The decision makers may all be there, but the atmosphere just is not right.

Not a single respondent named Facebook as a source of tech news, while both Twitter and LinkedIn were. This reflects my own view that business conversations take place on Twitter and LinkedIn, not Facebook.

If you are a politician, celebrity, or non-profit, you do need to be on Facebook. People like to discuss and promote their favorite causes on Facebook. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is a great example of the effective use of Facebook by a non-profit. Gorgeous pictures of wildflowers help promote the use of native species of plants.

The other problem with Facebook is that they want you to pay for access to your subscribers. It is not enough that users subscribe to your feed, Facebook has a weird algorithm that determines what users actually see. In order to get past that algorithm, you have to pay. That might be worth it for a non-profit or politician, but not a technology company. You are better off using Twitter and LinkedIn to push out content.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Survey Results: What Tech Washington Reads

Given the small number of responses (fewer than 50), I cannot regard my survey as statistically significant. Having said that, the results are not without interest.

Most of the respondents were commercial sector, only one civil servant, a retired civil servant, a writer, a political activist, and two journalists. This is not surprising given that I aimed the survey at small entrepreneurs.

By far the most popular source of tech news is corporate web sites. This is in line with previous surveys and is a result that never ceases to amaze me. Clearly it behooves companies to pay attention to their website as people look to it as their preferred source of news. Close behind is the Google News Alert. Clearly everyone is their own executive editor. Subject matter rules, if you have the correct key words in your copy, you will get the traffic. We pay attention to SEO for a reason.

The remaining preferred sources of news, in descending order:
Federal Computer Week
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Government Computer News
Wired Magazine
Washington Post
USA Today
Government Technology Magazine
Federal Times
CIO Magazine
Google Tech News
PC Magazine
The Economist
Washington Business Journal
Financial Times
Public CIO
Defense News
MIT Tech Review
CNN Tech
Inc Magazine
The Pew Internet & American Life Project
Potomac Tech Wire
PC World
Amtower Federal Direct
Dorobek Insider
Corporate Press Releases

I also asked respondents to volunteer other sources of news which I had not listed and received the following replies:
Industry Analyst
The Verge, Ars Technica, Twitter
Too many left off the list to specify here. Essentially, the list needs to be upgraded to include many more web-based sources. For me, as a developer, Smashing Magazine would rank high on the list.
And finally:
None of the above, they are useless for my business. I had to create custom Google Alerts, and even those miss the mark. Creative Cow,, Redshark News, the NAB show, and newsletters from various sites with products I am interested in.

I always find the "other" responses the most useful in my work as a PR practitioner. 

No surprises in the section on favorite business and tech blogs, Slashdot and Tech Crunch were the overwhelming favorites. Other favorites in descending order:
Ars Technica
Tech Dirt
Boing Boing
Read/Write Web
Joel on Software
None - that is don't read blogs
CMS Wire
Schneier on Security
Coding Horror
and, pleasantly enough, one respondent reads Presto Vivace Blog
Other blogs that were mentioned:
Bill Salm, Gizmodo, and Hacker News (YC)

I just put a space for respondents to lists their favorite business and technology podcasts, as I don't listen to podcasts. Responses included CNN, Paul Castain, and In Beta. One respondent said, "Those related to tutorials for the software that I use, but even those are rare. Podcasts are otherwise a waste of time, since you can't "speed read" and skip the jabber fluff, ads and jingles, or go straight to what you want to know very easily. News podcasts are too long, with too many stories. Each story should be a single file, so we can cut to the chase what we want to know without having to waste with the useless stuff."

Most respondents don't like aggregators, None was the most popular response, closely followed by Reddit. Clearly Reddit has arrived. PR practitioners must pay attention to Reddit, but be very careful. I am going to write a post about how to handle Reddit. The other poplar aggregators in descending order:
The Federal Contractor Network
In "other", I received the following responses:
and "More time wasting fluff sites."

Facebook is by far the most popular social network. Although, had I included LinkedIn as a choice it might have been the favorite. As it is, it was volunteered by two respondents, and mentioned in the "other" choice throughout this survey. LinkedIn is the community where people talk about their work. Govloop the other network marked by respondents.

In discussion groups by far the most popular choice was None. However, in the "other" section respondents mentioned P4hotel, LinkedIn, XML-Dev XSLT DITA, "Yahoogroups for specific industry issues and software" and, "LinkedIn and Ohio University/Vanderbilt University alumni discussion groups."

The biggest change from previous years is the shift away from the Washington Post. Now that Rob Pegoraro and other reporters have left, their readers have moved to other sources of tech news.

There were far too few respondents for this survey to be statistically significant. Some news sites are conspicuous by their absence in the responses. The only thing I would read into that is that this survey had too small a sample to be considered as serious market research. But it is not without interest.