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Websites these days are so hip… and boring.

Is it just me, or is this hip new style of web pages (all on one page, big banner on top, blocks of graphics going down, numerous little cute graphical stat counters) getting to be more than a little tiring?

It seems that every valley startup has a formula – get this type of hip website, raise a seed round, try to build a product, try to raise an A round, then go bust, then start a new company with exactly the same type of hip website…

What is the new new thing? Certainly not this look… 
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Ship Your Enemies Glitter

A website by a 22-year old Australian has garnered a quick $85k on Flippa.com.

The website promises to “…vomit up a tonne of glitter & put it in an envelope with your recipients address on the front of it. We’ll also include a note telling them how awful they are which will be folded within.”

Oh.

(h/t)

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Another lesson from the “don’t screw your customers” rulebook

Intuit has suffered brutally from users (and competitors) over a recent change in TurboTax. The company removed support for Schedule D (capital gains) in their latest Deluxe version, forcing users to shell out extra money to buy the Premium version.

User backlash was breathtaking — over 1,500 negative reviews on Amazon alone, not to mention social media. What’s surprising is that this whole backlash started in November of last year. Intuit is only now formally apologizing and issuing refunds. But the apology is one of those “we’re sorry we didn’t do enough to communicate the change”.

There are three parts of this issue that really bother me: a) why did Intuit do this in the first place? Anyone who has any experience in this business knows the danger of downgrading features from an “upgrade”. Then, b) what the heck took them so long? It’s now late January, and user rage started in November. And c) why not do a real apology, not blame it on “not doing a good enough job of communicating”.  It’s like a husband saying “sorry, honey, I am with another woman now, I’m sorry I didn’t do a good enough job of communication that with you.”  Idiotic.

The lessons are obvious. Don’t screw your customers. Instead, create a culture of delivering more than is promised. The next version should have been better and more awesome than the previous, not a downgrade. And, if you screw up, get on it fast, and be completely forthright. Take the blame, apologize, fix it and don’t do it again.

Ironically, some of the best opportunities to shine are when you screw up. It’s how you handle it that counts. Instead, Intuit is mealy-mouthing their way through this debacle.

One party is happy, though: H&R Block. And so there’s final lesson: when your competitor screws up, jump on it hard and fast as a great opportunity to capture fleeing customers. And treat them awesomely!

tumblr_static_trainwreck_phrases

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Runaware — live online software demos

A year ago, I took on the role of executive chairman of Runaware, the leading producer of live online software demos (“test drives”).  This system allows a software company to bypass having to ask users to download a software program; instead, the user simply runs the demo software through a Runaware TestDrive session. Some of Runaware’s customers include Dell, Sage Software, and SAP.

It’s been an exciting year as we’ve revamped the entire technology from top to bottom, and created a truly world-class demonstration environment.

One of the problems software companies have in demoing their software is being able to guide the user through the process of trialing the software.  In short, users don’t always know where to click, and what to focus on.  So, we developed “Walk Through Guides“, tailored environments that walk the user through the various features of the product being demoed.  This has been a huge success.

I’m still working on a number of other board positions, including being on the board of BlueStripe Software, and StopBadware (originally, a joint-effort by Google and Harvard to make the internet safer, now a thriving community on its own).

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Problems installing Nito Smart Installer on original Apple TV (silver)

I had a bit of effort to get this to work, so I’ll share my findings.

I installed FireCore atvflash on my original silver Apple TV.  But couldn’t get Nito Smart Installer to work.  I kept getting an error message to the effect that “mhelper has the wrong permissions or owners to work properly”.

I tried the recommended solution, but no help. After some messing around and googling, my solution was to do an installation of Nito TV through SSH, as explained here.

Basically, it’s beyond easy.

Open SSH (I use Putty).
ssh -1 [email protected]
wget http://nitosoft.com/nitoTVInstaller_tt.zip
unzip nitoTVInstaller_tt.zip
cd “nitoTV Take Three”
chmod 755 installme
sudo ./installme

Reboot the box.  Just type “sudo reboot” from your SSH session.
[If you have trouble getting to your Apple TV box (which should be accessible as AppleTV.local), just use the IP address of the Apple TV box directly.  You can get the IP address by checking your wifi router.  The user name and pwd for the box is always “frontrow”]
Then, go into the Nito TV menu, install Smart Install.  It may fail once.  Just try it again.  It should work fine.
Alex
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Quiet for a while

I love blogging, but I’m going to be going quiet for a while as I work through a number of projects.  As always, if you have questions on business, finance, or just want to say hello, you can always email me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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I’m joining the board of StopBadware

I’m quite honored to have been invited to join the board of StopBadware, the non-profit organization originally founded as a joint effort by the Berkman Center at Harvard and Google as a way to make the internet safer.  It’s been spun off as a separate non-profit and is a thriving hub of security information and action.

I’m joining other board members Vint Cerf of Google, Esther Dyson , Michelle Barret of Paypal, Philippe Courtot of Qualys, Eric Davis of Google, Brett McDowell of Paypal and StopBadware executive director Max Weinstein.

I look forward to working with this stellar team to help make all of us safer on the internet!