Thursday, May 28, 2009


I gave in and joined Facebook a few months ago. As with most other social networking tools, I had been avoiding it. It seems that with most new technologies, once I get in and learn how it works, I wonder how I ever lived without it (blogging being the prime example of this). I am glad I never joined MySpace, but while I appreciate some things about Facebook and generally support it, I do have a few issues with it. I don't know if I could say that it's something I couldn't live without.

To start off my experiment, when I joined, I decided I wouldn't invite anyone to be my friend. Now, I actually did invite two people, but these were people who had previously invited me before I joined, so in effect I was just accepting their previous invitations. I'm not 100% sure how the friend recommender works, but I may have also invited someone to be my friend after an existing friend recommended them to me. What I've ended up with, after little or no inviting of my own, is a mass of family members, employees, former coworkers, former roommates, high school friends, a high school barely acquaintance, PhD classmates, professors, old neighbors, junior high friends, people I've served in Scouting with, and people that go to the same church as I do.

There are people from almost every phase of my life all lumped together, and that's where it starts getting strange. I've ignored a few people whose updates I don't care to see. I've deleted a comment or two of people who don't think before they post on something I've shared. But for the most part, all these people who have never met each other and have no connection other than at some point they met me, are having this mass, public, unfettered conversation with me and showing each other pictures they have of me from a long time ago. I don't necessarily have anything to hide, but in real life I'm not going to invite a couple of my employees over to my house to hang out with me and a couple people I knew when I lived in New Jersey 20 years ago, yet that's what's virtually happening. I'd like to see some of my friends from New Jersey again. I'd have nothing against having a barbecue for my employees at my house (we'll see if any of them are reading this and take me up on it). I just wouldn't do them both at the same time. There's something strange about it.

A possible way to work around this would be to allow the user to put their friends in different groups so only people within the same group can see each other's conversations. I don't know, but there has to be a better way.

The thing I do like about Facebook is the open platform that it is. It can be extended to be anything you want it to be. The groups are obvious, as a way to communicate with large numbers of people quickly without having to be their friends. The applications are where it really gets good. Well, the potential is there anyway. I don't feel a need to fill out every 'what X are you?' quiz out there, and Mafia Wars appears to be a colossal waste of time (not as much as World of Warcraft of course). It's just this limitless platform that anyone can write a program for and throw it out to the world to share. We've obviously had that open platform for awhile called the internet, but now the social component is automated.

I asked some students in one of the classes I teach what they would think of having a Facebook group for our class. At first they thought it would be kind of weird but then admitted they would keep up on what was happening in the class better, since they would be in there all the time. However, when I asked some of the non-traditional students (read older, less tech-savvy) in another class of mine, they basically replied that there would be no way they would set up a Facebook account, even if that was where we were 'holding' class. CourseFeed is one app that has potential in this area. I need to set it up and try it out.

So I have mixed feelings when it comes to Facebook. It makes sense. I can see the good in it. Like anything else in life, there's waste in it. I look forward to seeing if some killer app shows up for it. Perhaps the next UI redesign will be much more successful than the last one and it will actually become easier for more people to use instead of more difficult so they can reach a new audience. Right now, I'm just watching and waiting.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


KFC management apparently has worse powers of prediction than Jim Cramer.

Let's look at this for a moment. They offered coupons for free meals over a two week period with their new product, grilled chicken. Anyone ought to be able to see where this is going to end up. It gets picked up by Oprah and thousands of bloggers and twitterers, who slam their website so hard that it can't keep up with all the traffic.

The funniest part of the whole thing, I thought, was the website where the coupons were posted. It was What happens if you split that out? You get Unthin KFC. Ooh, not exactly the point they were trying to get across by touting grilled chicken instead of fried. I should mention that also worked, but the link from Oprah's page was to the unthin URL.

I assume they figured that by limiting the coupon to print four times on a computer, that people would only print a small number of coupons. I'm sure not everyone has access to a computer lab with 35 computers in it like I do (you do the math to figure out how many coupons my employees printed), but most people have access to a computer at home, one at work, plus a laptop, and maybe grandma's house. It adds up quickly.

So we go last night and get several free meals for our family and take it to a great U8 soccer game. Overall, it was a good experience. The wait was terrible, though. There was a line snaking through the whole restaurant, and when you got to the front you realized why. Even if the people scooping up the mashed potatoes were fast (which they were not), they had a hard time keeping the chicken stocked. One of my employees was a few people behind us in line. He and his wife got two meals inside and two through the drive-through. They ran out of grilled chicken and offered to let them take Original Recipe chicken instead. Really? Is that a good idea? People show up to try your new grilled chicken and you give them the fried stuff instead? So much for the whole point of the promotion, which was to try the new product.

I did actually get grilled chicken last night, but when we went for lunch today, they were out again, and they gave me Original Recipe. As good as the grilled chicken was, the fried chicken was still better. The biggest problem with the grilled chicken, I think, is that they leave the skin on. Why not cut it off and save that many more calories?

The other problem was one of sides. I don't know if other stores did the same thing, but where we went, they only allowed you to get mashed potatoes and cole slaw, even though the coupon infers that you can get any two sides you want. I suppose it's more efficient and probably cheaper to give everyone the same thing, but really, I heard a lot of people ask for something other than cole slaw only to be turned down. I guarantee a lot of cole slaw and the styrofoam bowls it comes in ended up just being tossed in the garbage. Part of the problem likely comes from the manager of the store not finding out about the coupons until just a couple days before the great giveaway was to start and being able to have enough of everything on hand to handle the increased traffic.

So today, three days into the two week giveaway, KFC announced that they will temporarily stop honoring the coupons, since they have been inundated with people taking them up on their offer. Are you that surprised, KFC? Did you really not see that coming? So now, customers have to take their coupons into the store, get an extra form from the manager, which they mail in to KFC, who will mail back rain checks with staggered dates they can be used, in order to spread out the demand a bit. At least to make up for the extra effort, they are throwing in a drink with the rain check.

So thumbs up for going with the free offer that really is actually free, but thumbs down to whoever didn't predict this would be this huge. Seriously, how can they be surprised?

On a side note, what's with the fake "Buttery Spread" and "Honey Sauce" for the biscuits? We're supposed to unthink what we thought about KFC when you give out sauce that is 89% corn syrup and 11% honey instead of just pure honey?