I went to a liberal arts college and despite Garrison Keillor's chiding about that, or maybe more specifically, English majors (that wasn't mine luckily, I was International Political Economy), I have no regrets about the choice or about the education I received. The world is increasingly interconnected and interdisciplinary so it only makes sense to understand the world from different perspectives and be able to analyze issues through the different lenses that one develops with a liberal arts background.
There's no need to defend a liberal arts education because it speaks for itself...and because there are many far, far smarter people than myself who've tackled this question already. My alma matter's current president, Richard Celeste, is a great spokesperson and leader of the liberal arts college education. He's done phenominal work promoting Colorado College and the liberal arts so this post is for him and for all of the great professors who put up with me during college, especially when I wasn't prepared or hadn't studied enough (finishing my Senior thesis almost killed me but it made me realize how far I could push myself before breaking-- my only fear now is have I reached that same extreme in pushing myself in my career...).
From Nov. 30th's episode of Meet the Press, here's Ted Turner, quickly mentioning how valuable his liberal arts education was to his success (I'm no huge fan or opponent but the guy has been extremely successful, no matter how you measure it): emphasis added
MR. TURNER: Well, he, he, he really wanted me to go to business school. He was very practical. And--but Brown was a liberal arts college, and he knew that when I went there. Even the economics courses I took were economic theory. They weren't how to balance, balance books and the sort of thing I would have gotten if I'd have gone to, say, Wharton or, or to a business school. That--but that's where he decided later on, where, where I ought to be. But I was already at Brown. It was really an attack on a liberal, liberal arts education. And there are reasons why, there are reasons why I, I had a liberal arts education, and I was extremely successful in business. And I think I would have not been as successful if it had not been for my classical background, because I learned about Alexander the Great and Pericles and Aristotle, and I think it made me a better businessman.
Given NYT's article on some of the major ISPs moving to a metered usage fee model, this matches Nick Carr's premise in his newest book, The Big Switch (at bar/lounge right now reading it), that the IT & bandwidth model is going the way of electricity. What Carr points out is that electricity has a positive feedback loop, the more you made it available, the more of people used-- this wasn't the thinking of many analysts & ISPs back in the Dot Com Bubble who didn't think the fiber being laid everywhere would ever be used (e.g. Level 3 who almost went under with the Dot Com Crash but seems to be sitting pretty).
What's spurring the ISPs current push for metered usage?
It's to make more money but what's driving the decision, is it because:
Demand is truly outstripping supply or
Is it to combat the power users who unbalance the price equilibrium that used to exist between average users using slightly less bandwidth and the minority power users who used slightly more bandwidth?
If we move past that point, the more important question is will we as consumers except the metered usage idea?
Of course the bloggers and techies will protest but will the average user notice or care? They won't care unless they start seeing exceptional high bills-- and that will happen, per Carr's premise that if you give them bandwidth (and Web2.0 is guzzling up more and more) they will want more bandwidth, then average consumers will eventually complain unless the usage fees are scaled correctly as bandwidth use for average users increases.
And this last point is exactly why Net Neutrality is so important-- bandwidth shouldn't be a scarce resource (this doesn't preclude software & web engineers from designing w/ scarcity or constraints in mind-- see 37 Signals) that ISPs and current internet heavyweights wield to curtail the next generation of web entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas.
Also, research shows that even the idea of costs, either in the form of carrots or sticks, has a pyschological impact on people and changes people's behaivors quite easily.
Great time at the Red Bull Flugtag yesterday in Hyde Park. The weather held out and we had a good crew of people hanging out.
Had my telephoto lens so the photos of the ramp is as good as I could get from our vantage point and there was no standing up-- the English crowd used their boorish football heckling skills to pressure anyone standing up in front of the rest of us (who were sitting down) to promptly sit down.
Took lots of photos, despite Ellis' distasteful shots, which I didn't include here. let me know if you want to see those, they're censored for now.
I used to work exclusively researching the customer service function of Fortune 500 companies but since moving to London, I'm moved into a new role more involved with product management.
For that reason, I do excited (as only a researcher can) when you read positive coverage in the mainstream news about customer service successes. We have experienced and read about the horror stories about customer service (long wait times, never speaking to an actual person, having to call back multiple times to resolve issues, etc.) so those rare stories about satisfied, happy customers that do reach the media really stick in my mind. The reason we don't hear more about happy customer service stories is because most often customer service does it's job and customers don't think twice about it; conversely, one bad experience with customer service and that's what you remember and tell your friends
Beyond the rarity of those positive customer service experiences in the media, however, is the even more unusual coverage of innovative practices or stores from the customer service world. When you read those stories in the press, you really get excited.
So with preface, I wanted to make sure Zappo's recent coverage was recognized. Zappos is an online shoe company that has made a name for itself with it's quirky, non-traditional approaches to customer service. And what's garnered them their most recent news coverage is their policy of paying newly hired staff to quit, if the employee doesn't feel that they're a good fit with the company. As a researcher of the customer service function for Fortune 500 companies, I'm not suggesting that what Zappos is doing is best practice or even the right policy for *most* companies.
But the idea, or insight underlying Zappo's policy is valuable and transferrable across industries and different sized companies: it's not company culture that Zappos is directly going after with this policy (although it's a nice side benefit), what this policy underscores is that retaining staff is more cost-efficient than the hiring and onboarding training of new staff.
In fact, in the medium and long run (6months and up to 3+ years), customer service will see a much larger return on investment (staff productivity in this case) from the retention of the *right* staff versus the hiring and re-hiring of staff who don't stay with the job for long enough-- that may seem obvious but less known to most people is that retaining those *right* people, even if they're not the all-stars, is more cost efficient than trying to hire the very best of the best who don't stay in the customer service position for as long (they're promoted or poached by competitors).
So for all of those reasons, watch the Harvard Business Review video below on paying non-*right* new hires to quit and better understand this mini-case from Zappos. Think about how you can apply the idea of retaining your solid performers versus hiring the all-stars in your particular business or organization.
Washington City Paper is reporting that Murky Coffee here in the Capital Hill neighborhood may be permanently shut down:
''As reported previously in this space, Murky in late February was shut down by D.C. tax authorities over an unpaid tax bill tallying roughly $220,000.''
Nick Cho, president and head barista of Murky, posted a note on the store window making it sound like the it was The Man screwing with them. Hmm, you don't pay over $200,000 in back taxes and the D.C. Government shuts you down? Yes, definitely unfair. As I said before, Murky I love you but you're bringing me down.
And it gets worse, a note from the attorney representing the landlord of the space (which I didn't see posted on the glass when I walked by tonight after work-- but there were new address labels on the windows) means business:
''This is your official (30) day notice to quit and vacate the premises at 660/666 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. Washington D.C. 20003. Due to expiration of your month to month lease term. If you do not vacate or[sic] before May 1, 2008, the landlord/owner will file an action for possession in the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the District of Columbia Superior Court.''
That sounds like a curtain call to me. Murky, I loved the times we spent together and will miss you, R.I.P.
P.S.- I don't know how or if the shutdown of the Capital Hill location has affected the Arlington location, haven't seen any news on that. If you know something, leave me a comment or email me, cpherbert [at] gmail.com.
My beloved Murky Coffee is still closed.
I'm following the Murky blog but that's not cutting it; the last update was from Feb. 29th.
What makes Murky special is the character and community of going to the place and now that community here on Capital Hill is displaced (Port City Java is a poor substitute, and doesn't have even 1/3 of the Murky charm or even very good coffee. We care about Murky so there's two things that people want to know :
what's going on with the DC government and your paperwork?
when do you anticipate/guess that you will be re-opening?
And even if you don't have any news for us, Murky, we want to hear from you because we care about you. When you have crises and I'd call this one (they've lost two weekends of business now) you over communicate with the public. I'm not suggesting that Nick, who has written the two blog posts about the closing, is clamming up on purpose (I'm sure he's busy as hell trying to get this issue resolved) but this is when we want to hear from you.
When people ask me why their business should have a blog, I say it's because it allows you to communicate directly with your customers, gain valuable, critical insight, and to develop a community around your business. Does the community aspect apply to every business? No, probably not, but at the end of the day customers want to be heard and listened to and a blog is the easiest platform for that two-way communication.
You don't even want to blog specifically about your products, you want to blog about the industry that you're in: what's going in your world, what are the new trends, where do you see the business going. Don't use your blog to directly market your products or services because people can smell that a mile away. Build your credibility by blogging often and passionately, respond to all of your comments and engage your readers, and good things will follow. You'll do more to market your business this indirect way than by trying to market your products directly on your blog.
Which brings me back to Murky: I don't know what's going on and I'd like to know something even if it's that you don't have any updates. It's just like being at the airport and the airline doesn't give you any updates on the status of your delayed flight. I don't care if you don't even know how long the delay is or what caused the delay (although secretly I think the airlines often do but it doesn't make them look good to be that transparent), just give me an update and acknowledge me.
My brother came all the way from law school at Arizona State for a conference here in DC and there were two mandatory to-dos: get breakfast at Market Lunch in Eastern Market and get a classic cappuccino at Murky Coffee.
Ben loves Murky as much as I do so he was very sad to learn that the store was closed and he wouldn't get his Murky time on this trip.