Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fwd: Article: Digg this: Former social-sharing superstar reportedly sold for $500K


Article summary:

Not that long ago, Digg was seen as one of the kingpins of the social web -- BusinessWeek put founder Kevin Rose on the cover and said he was worth $60 million. Now, what's left of Digg has been acquired by Betaworks for a reported $500,000.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Comcast Still Sucks

What is Comcast charging you?

If you do a search for "Comcast Sucks" on, you get about 149,000 results. If you do the same search on, you get 5,900,000 results! Bing? 868,000 results.

(Those are some serious differences. Might be cause for another conversation?)

That is a lot of people who think Comcast, one of our most beloved cable monoliths, sucks.

First thing's first, lets give credit where credit is due: Frank Eliason, Comcast's resident "Twitter man" and social media guru, and his blog team have made great strides in lessening Comcast's relative suck-i-ness. Personally, I believe Eliason has revolutionized Comcast's customer service -- or is it that he merely installed some sort of customer service? All you have to do is tweet to @comcastcares or send an email to, and you'll actually get a fairly immediate response, which is more than I can say for the (still) horrific experience of using a touch-tone phone. Thank you, Frank, for making my stay with Comcast bearable over the past 12 months. But, to use a metaphor that President Obama has been using quite liberally recently, it will take a long time to get this particular ocean liner to turn around.

And unlike the customer service representatives on the phone, it seems Frank and his team have the power to actually do things. Which brings me to the point of this conversation...

My "Triple Play" package recently expired. Prior to its expiration, I paid $145/month for the following, not in any particular order:
  • HD Digital Cable w/ HBO, Showtime, Starz
  • 1 HD DVR
  • Cable Internet
  • VoIP
Two weeks before I received my first new bill, I received a postcard from Comcast thanking me for my business and informing me of two new discounts that would be applied to my bill in place of my Triple Play discounts: a $20 "valued customer" discount, and a $30 "maintain level of service" discount.

Essentially, don't change your service, and you'll get $50 off your bill. I assumed this was more or less a replacement for my Triple Play package discounts...and boy was I wrong. My first new bill was $176...and this is with my discounts applied! Now, a 3rd grade student can use this to deduce that the standard -- standard -- price for HD Cable TV with a DVR, Cable Internet, and VoIP is $226!

So I sent an email to Frank's team, just to verify that my discounts were being applied. In my email, I also explained that I didn't want the VoIP service, and only had it in the first place to get the Triple Play discount on TV & Internet. In less than 24 hours, I was replied to by a nice member of Frank's team, who explained that my discounts were being applied, and apologized that the price was not to my liking. He proceeded to offer my all of my exact same service for $138, or $118 if I wanted to remove my VoIP service.

What? That's great! But I was charged $176 to begin with (with discounts applied). I had to ask him how he was able to put together such a great deal for me. His response:
We have the ability to offer packages that are not available to the call center to retain customers.
Sorry? Did you say you have secret packages? This is somewhat akin to walking into a BestBuy, remarking to the salesman that a CD is too expensive, and him saying "well, we have a secret price that we don't advertise. This is just the price for all the suckers that are willing to pay it"

Just because this wheel squeaked at the right mechanic.

Comcast has indeed come a long way in the realm of customer service. It sounds like they are making attempts to fix their outraigious prices...but only behind closed doors. If I can get these services for $138, then make it $138 -- not $226. Don't give me discounts because I complained. I'm not interested in discounts. I don't want to have to go through this every 12 months.

I've been trying to figure out why Comcast thinks it can charge so much.

The most obvious reason is that, in most areas, Comcast has or had a state-, city-, or town-sanctioned monopoly, and there is simply no meaningful competition forcing them to lower their prices. I think another possible reason is that Comcast provides a lot of "free" services to their customers; I believe that the cost of these services is rolled up into the cost of the overall service. Here are some examples:

Comcast On-Demand
This has previously been touted to me by customer service representatives as something that sets Comcast apart from its competition (wherever they are...DirectTV? Dish?). How much of the $90 Cable/Digital Cable price represents this service? $10/month? More? Less? If Comcast On-Demand was offerred to me as an option, I don't think I would pay more than $4.99, and even at that price I would probably pass. I just don't use the service, and I don't know many people that do.

With the existence of XBOX Live, Amazon Video-On-Demand, Netflix Instant Queue, Hulu -- not to mention the advent of the DVR -- there are way better experiences out there.

I would pay to access these services in my Comcast set-top box.

Endless, Useless, Channels
Companies like Comcast are always championing the amount of channels they have. If I could opt out of channels, I think I would, in total, have about 30 channels. I'm not necessarily advocating alacarte channel selection -- that would make Comcast executives' heads explode. I'm just merely suggesting a "good channels" package and a "useless channels" package. Although, it might just be easier to do alacarte, since I'm sure other people may not agree with my selections.

Email and Web Hosting
I have to ask myself how much Comcast is charging me, rolled into the price for Internet access, for the ability to have up to X email accounts, and to have them host my personal website.

I have not used my ISP's email or web hosting services since 1997. Feel free to drop these from my bill and charge me $30/month instead of $40/month.

So, let me bring it back to the point. What exactly are we paying so much for? Stop forcing me to purchase things (*cough* VoIP *cough*) in order to get a "decent-but-still-way-too-high" rate. I'd appreciate the ability to opt out of things in order to bring my bill down, but what I really think people want is choice. Opt-out is nice, but Opt-in is immeasurably better. Put all your cards on the table, Comcast, and let me chose what I want. No more games.

Now let me open it up to the echo-chamber: What is Comcast charging you?

Friday, June 05, 2009

About Distributed Conversations

Welcome to Distributed Conversations. Full disclosure here, this is a term that I recently read in What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, that really resonated with me, and I'm running with it. We are living in an increasingly flat world: politically, economically, socially. And I think the only way to move conversations forward is to distribute them.

The aim of this blog is to start conversations and for you to continue them. I would like to, in the future, have ideas for conversations provided by the community, but first, we have to create a community! My goal is to blog, at least, once every two weeks. It will depend on the usual suspects: time and ideas.

The topics discussed on the blog will be wide ranging. Those of you who are familiar with my previous blog, Esc, will recognize the range. We'll start with my interests: movies, music, religion, politics, economics, games, copyright reform, and more. If we can get this going, we'll start discussing some of your interests, but you'll first have to leave comments and let me know what we want to talk about.

Is this revolutionary? Or even evolutionary? Not necessarily. Blogs are nothing new. Neither are communities. I just want to throw my hat in the ring and see what I can see.

Shall we get started? Welcome to conversations 2.0.