Thursday, July 21, 2011

Borders/Apple/Google+ & Facebook

Borders at the Westfield San Francisco Centre,...Image via WikipediaYou shouldn't notice any differences on the reading side of things but I've switched over to the new Google blogger beta composing tool. So far so good, though there have been a few bumps in the road. I had to do some manual editing in raw HTML mode to correct a couple of formatting anomolies.

The new composition tools don't seem to offer much additional functionality but it's early going yet. I decided to be proactive in making the change but I don't recommend that to everyone. The interface is a fair amount different and there certainly is a learning curve. It's probably a good idea to wait until it's a bit more polished before making the jump.

The final dissolution of Borders wasn't a complete surprise. When they closed a bunch of stores earlier this year the writing was on the wall. My wife and I were frequent visitors to our local Borders over the years and it was kind of  a surprise when it was one of the first ones to close down. The store  seemed to be busy and the staff were friendly and attentive. It was hard for me to understand how they couldn't be profitable given what I'd observed.

One thing that did bug me was the way they did their coupons for the Borders reward program. On the plus side they emailed the coupons regularly and the offers were often attractive. On the downside initially you had to print out the coupon and bring it in. They would then take the coupon. If both my wife and I wanted to use a particular coupon we had to print out two. At first I thought there might be different codes for tracking but when I compared two of the coupons we printer out they looked identical.

The Borders rewards program included a card. All the coupons were clearly in their point of sale system. All the coupons for a particular offer were so far as I could tell identical. Why then did they insist on a printed copy?

Later they did change the rule so you could show them a copy of the coupon via your smartphone but the whole thing was annoying and inconvenient which was kind of counter productive.

Maybe there was some obscure reason for this bizarre rule but it's certainly a head scratcher and it made me start to think that the problems Borders was having were rooted very deeply in the corporate side of things.

Barnes & Noble has done OK using essentially the same business model as Border's so you can't explain this bankruptcy by simply blaming Amazon, EBooks and other technological shifts in the book industry.

Borders has now joined Circuit City, CompUSA and many other large chains in the march down liquidation road.

I don't actually have anything to say about Apple other than WOW. Seriously, what they are doing in this economy is just amazing. Mostly I mentioned them because putting Apple in the title of my posts is always good for a few more page views.

Imagine a smiley here if you like them, pretend I never brought up the topic if you don't.

I'm expecting to start hearing about G+'s growth slowing over the next month or so. It may just be me, but I'm seeing pretty much zero uptake by my less technical friends and contacts. G+ has become the geek choice hands down but that isn't going to carry them beyond a niche player and being a niche player in this space isn't very exciting as I've noted before.

In some cases people are apparently worried about the potential privacy issues of getting a Google account. That kind of confuses me. Both Facebook and Google know an amazing amount of stuff about me. They are both large companies with many fallible human being working for them.

Personally I prefer Google's approach to privacy right now but I may not ten years down the road if their management changes or undergoes a change of heart. Anyone that truly cares about their privacy should probably think very hard about the folly of putting a tremendous amount of personal information in the hands of any big online company. Before doing that though you have to ask yourself what kind of life you want to lead because like it or not the 21st century as we currently know it here in the US and much of the world is driven in large part by the ready flow of advertiser friendly personal information.

We collectively chose this path when we decided we wanted our Internet to be "Free". Employees and share holders need to be paid and so advertising became the economic engine of the Internet. When a business model is built on advertising you've given the companies in question a heavy motivation to optimize their means of bringing money in. In the case of advertising optimization means developing very sophisticated methods of tracking and categorizing people and this in turn leads to a significant reduction in privacy.

At some point in the not too distant future G+ needs to start making inroads to the mainstream. I'm personally hopeful that they will, but I'm starting to have serious doubts.
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