Posts from June 30, 2005

Dell hell: Deus ex machina

Dell hell: Deus ex machina

: So the wonderful guys at EVDOinfo snuck me a new driver, due out next week, to make my high-speed Verizon card work on the newest Macs (thanks, Mike!). I went back to CompUSA (no, I don’t have that much spare time; I was next door working at a Borders while I wait to pick up my son at computer camp) and installed the driver with great help from the Apple rep in the store (thanks, Bruce), who said if this worked, it would help him sell more Powerbooks. It works! There I was, connected to high-speed cellular from the store.

I swear to God at that very moment, my cell phone rang and it was a customer service person from Dell. She was calling because of the email I sent to her chief marketing officer and vice president of US Dell. She told me she’d read the emails — and blog posts — and get back to me. And that’s fine.

But what a criminal shame that it took sending an email to the head of Dell U.S. (not that he has his email address online; I guessed it: Dell puts an underscore between the first and last names of employees) to get the first and only attempt to solve my problems.

It didn’t come because they noticed I had to send the machine back and get most it replaced and send them scores of emails and wait forever to get any service and still did not have a working machine.

It didn’t come because they monitored what their customers are saying online.

It came because a VP didn’t want to be bothered and so they have this chain of complaint, standard.

I told the nice lady that I was in the store right then getting ready to buy an Apple.

Divine intervention may well get me out of Dell hell. But it wasn’t from Dell. It was from Mike and Bruce.

Money, meet mouth

Money, meet mouth

: There is a crapsquall brewing over Time Inc.’s decision (underplayed on their own site) to hand over reporter’s notes in the Plame case to the court. See Tom Watson and Chris Geidner and Staci Kramer’s thoughtful post here.

I want to add one thing: When I saw a picture of Time reporter Matthew Cooper with his wife, Mandy Grunwald (whom I met maybe once when I was at Time Inc.) and child, I thought of my own scene at the hearth and wondered: Would I have the courage to go to jail to protect a source? After watching Oz (not meant flippantly), I honestly wonder. I support the war in Iraq, but when I see pictures of the violence there or the fatherless families back home, I also have to wonder whether I would have the courage to go or, worse, to allow my son to. The only honest answer is that I don’t know.

Did Time cave or did Time try to protect its reporter? I have no idea.

Last night, I got email from a show to come on and talk about this and I said I couldn’t because, now that I’m working as a consultant for The Times, I think I’m in a conflict of interest. I’m also in a conflict of opinion; I don’t know what I think about shield laws now. This is what I said to the show’s producer:

I firmly believe that anyone and everyone can do journalism; I am a blog triumphalist, a proponent of citizens’ media. So there should not be a special privilege for people who are somehow officially accredited as journalists — not only because that excludes citizens who do journalism but also because it puts those credentialed at risk of having their credentials pulled by authorities. We do not want to find ourselves in that position.

Should there be a privilege? When everyone has it, there is also the danger that someone will claim privilege to hide criminal behavior: Someone will claim via a blog that they are doing journalism and have privilege and thus refuse to reveal a source of what they wrote in civil or criminal matters.

This had led many to say that privilege should not extend to criminal activities: that it is an obligation of citizens who know of criminal activity to reveal that. If that were the standard, then Miller would still not have privilege.

Frankly, I’m not sure where I come down. Ying-yangs:

I do believe in the necessity of privilege to enable the watchdogging of the powerful.

At the same time, I think we have grossly abused confidential sources in media and perhaps ruined privilege in the process.

I do think that if journalists have privilege then all citizens have privilege when they practice journalism, which now anyone can do: Anyone can publish.

I also believe there need to be limits — for example, regarding criminal activity. But then that, too, defangs privilege.

So the long and the short of it is is… and this is rare for a blogger or a TV guest to say: I don’t know.

As Groucho used to say…

As Groucho used to say…

: There has been a rousing discussion on the Media Bloggers Association‘s listserv about whether the MBA should have a code of ethics and standards and such. Well, actually, the discussion started with what kind of code it should be to get a committee going on the task. I entered the word “whether” into the discussion.

I said I didn’t think we should have a code, echoing what I’d said in reaction to Bayosphere’s pledge here and here. I believe codes are for institutions that have lost their humanity while blogs are human and trust here is measured every day by everyone with whom we interact. And I don’t want to see blogs turn into institutions and closed societies. I also agree with Fred Wilson that lists of the Top N this or Top N that are silly in a medium where the meat’s in the middle, where everyone determines their own Top N lists and where the top for everybody becomes merely a least common denominator. (I will confess to coveting Technoratijuice but rationalize faw egotism in that case because that it’s about links rather than lists and it enables the conversation; this is also why I enjoyed blogebrity skewering the lists and those on them by creating one with no rationale except random ego tweaking; and this is why I didn’t link to another Top list that just came out).

I also want to say that I wasn’t crazy about the discussion occurring on a listserv rather than on the open web. Ditto some great discussions that have occurred out of a few Harvard confabs. Listservs (let alone ones from Harvard…) are closed conversations themselves and I think we get the wisdom of the crowds (and the lack thereof in isolated cases) when discussions are held in public.

Well, today Corante’s Dana Blankenhorn took the MBA discussion public with a bang – a bang on my head.

I figure a group like the MBA could at least enforce simple rules by creating valuable member benefits and kicking out those who refuse to conform, following some objective process.

But thatís not how itís going down, mainly due to one person, Jeff Jarvis (right).

Jarvis wants no standards, and certainly no policing. Might as well disband the committee.

ìWhy pledge to be honest? Only if you’re assumed to be dishonest.

Used car salesmen should take the pledge. My blog friends do not need to.î

No objective measures of ethics, thus anything goes. Want to lie, misrepresent, ignore facts, engage in personal destruction for the sheer fun-raising hell of it? Heck, thereís no such thing as truth. We define whatís truth based on who yells the loudest.

Well, pardon my language but bullshit. Thereís a fine line between libertarian and anarchist, and Jeff Jarvis just crossed it.

And on… and on… Go read the rest there.

Since this is in public, where it should be, I’ll quote (obnoxiously) from my own emails that said why I think we need to look at the world differently. (I’ll leave it to others to quote their on views on their own blogs.)

It may be contrarian of me, but I will argue that we should not adopt a code of ethics and standards. That is for institutions to declare because they lose touch with their publics. Weblogs are, in the end, people and, as in our everyday lives, we exhibit our ethics and standards without swearing to codes.

I have my pesonal code of ethics. You have yours. They probably all boil down to this: Be honest. But we shouldn’t have to pledge to be honest; that should be assumed. Or to put it another way: If you have to pledge to be honest, then you have a problem.

I do not think we should mimic the trade groups of media; we are something new and different and need to explore new ways….

This is also about educating the world — particularly the world of big media — about weblogs: that a parody NYTimes correction site from Bob Cox is news/commentary/journalism just as is an interview on Pressthink just as is an editing of the best of big media on Winds of Change… and that the voice of one citizen speaking — which is what a weblog is — is just as valuable in the public discourse as the voice of the guy who owns the printing press. In the end, it is up to the person on the other end of conversation, formerly known as the reader, to judge the credibility and ethics of any of us: Trust is in the eye of the beholder. It always has been, only journalists forgot that as they thought they could control this aspect of the relationship with the public as they controlled others: They wrote codes of ethics and decided what’s ethical and what’s trustworthy. Or they thought they did. I hope we can start to show how we have a new relationship with our publics….

[In response to an email about how bloggers and journalists do different things:] I disagree that “the rules and expectations are different for each.” We are all bloggers and there is not blanket rule about what a blogger — or a journalist — is and isn’t and I wouldn’t like to see one. Bloggers do journalism. Journalists do blogging. To make a sharp line is to start excluding people and their activities and voices. That is antithetical to blogging, in my view….

This is also about educating the world — particularly the world of big media — about weblogs: that a parody NYTimes correction site from Bob Cox is news/commentary/journalism just as is an interview on Pressthink just as is an editing of the best of big media on Winds of Change… and that the voice of one citizen speaking — which is what a weblog is — is just as valuable in the public discourse as the voice of the guy who owns the printing press. In the end, it is up to the person on the other end of conversation, formerly known as the reader, to judge the credibility and ethics of any of us: Trust is in the eye of the beholder. It always has been, only journalists forgot that as they thought they could control this aspect of the relationship with the public as they controlled others: They wrote codes of ethics and decided what’s ethical and what’s trustworthy. Or they thought they did. I hope we can start to show how we have a new relationship with our publics.

This is about more than a bit of high-school hallway snarking (though, as one unnamed member said in email to me: at least high school had girls!). This is about more than what this organization should be about. It’s about what blogging is.

I have to constantly kick myself to stop thinking of blogging in big-media terms, to stop judging it by the top of the power law and in silly lists, to stop assuming that bloggers want to do what media does, to stop thinking that blogging has to be media, to stop thinking of blogs as publications and remember that they are people.

I keep trying to hear Doc Searls and David Weinberger in my ear as they insist that this isn’t a medium and it’s not content. It’s new.

I don’t want to see blogging turn into just another old media institution. But I don’t think it can. It is that new.

So perhaps I’m the odd one out. Scratch the perhaps. I am an odd one out, but just one of many. That’s why I blog.

As I said in an earlier post on all this, perhaps the real lesson for me is that I’m not a joiner: Let those who want to start their societies start them and I should stay out of the way and drift from this conversation to that one, the social nomad.

Is the blogosphere a society of joiners or a vast plain of nomads? That’s the real question, isn’t it?

The pity in not joining would be that there is strength in numbers when it comes to support, education, defense, lobbying, selling and, besides, blog confabs are a lot of fun. So I still ask: Do we need codes and standards to have that?

Apple heaven?

Apple heaven?

: So I just went into a CompUSA to see whether a Powerbook would work with my Verizon Novatel V620 EVDO card. The nice man let me install the helpful ap from EVDOinfo. But when I put the card in, the Mac doesn’t recognize it, doesn’t ask me to configure it, only lets me power it down. Any help? For the want of a card, heaven is mine, sayeth the Jobs. A nice commenter told me the guys here are experts, so I emailed them as well (imposing to ask for free advice).

: I just got a most generous dose of help from the folks linked above who run the incredibly helpful (am I gushing?) EVDOinfo. Bottom line: In a week, they should have something that will work better on the lastest OS X. Thanks, guys.

Guten tag

Guten tag

: Sean Bonner’s Metblogs just added one of my favorite cities: Berlin.

Dell hell, neverending

Dell hell, neverending

: OK, I’m going to the Apple store and putting in my EVDO card and if it works, I’m walking out with a real computer.

After four days, I still have not heard from the reputed supervisor who Sunday said I’d get a new disk drive but still, after three emails from me, has not followed through to get it to me. The wireless networking is now completely schizo: it thinks it’s not working when it is and is working when it’s not. And this morning, I woke up to another blue screen of death, a fine way to start the day.

I just sent this email to Michael George, chief marketing office and vice president for US consumer business:

Mr. George:

Since you are in charge of both marketing and Dell’s U.S. operation, I think you would find it instructive to look at your own files to see how I am being handled by your company after having just bought a machine — my third and last Dell — that is broken in innumerable ways.

I am writing about this on my weblog in detail and you are losing customers by the day… including me. I am going to the Apple store in one hour. You may go read what I’ve written here. But first, I urge you to read what consumers say in the comments there. And before that, again, please read your own customer service email trail first and tell me whether this represents the best of the Dell brand.

In its first two weeks of use, this machine has so far gotten a new motherboard… cpu… memory… keyboard… wireless networking… and case. The disk drive is so bad it won’t even run your diagnostic. The wireless networking still does not work. The machine goes to the blue screen of death frequently. The keyboard is still faulty.

I paid for both at-home service and complete care but have received neither. Your at-home care is a fraud; your own person has said in writing that the technician would arrive without parts sufficient to fix the machine. Complete care? The machine is clearly a lemon under federal warranty statutes and regulations and you’d be better off just to replace it. If it just burned up — which it has come close to doing — you’d send me a new one. But instead, your people put me through service hell. And I am left unable to do my work because I have an unreliable Dell computer.

The email trail is positively frightening. Your people don’t even pay sufficient attention to get my name right. Sunday, a reputed supervisor told me I needed a new disk drive but I cannot get them to reply to three emails to follow through and get me that.

My readers on my weblog have been very helpful. They have said I was an idiot to buy Dell and its service plan and that I should get an Apple as soon as possible.

The last straw: Four days without a response from your alleged supervisor about a disk drive and one more blue screen of death today as the machine can’t figure out whether its wireless is on or off.

This machine is a lemon. Your at-home and complete care service is a fraud. Your customer service is appalling. Your product is dreadful. Your brand is mud.

But at least perhaps you can learn from the experience.

Sincerely,

Jeff Jarvis

I also just noticed that Dell has a chief ethics officer. So I forwarded the note to him.

: And here’s a new one: Now the machine doesn’t recognize that it has Bluetooth. Somebody shoot this poor animal and put it out of its misery!