Employees To EA: We’ve Got Your MADDEN 2005 Right Here, Pal

As originally noted here and here, there have been accusations of workers being run into the ground at Electronic Arts. Today, NPR is reporting that three heroes of the revolution employees (Jamie Kirschenbaum, Mark West and Eric Kearns) have filed a class action suit against EA for failing to pay overtime compensation. The lawsuit alleges, among other things:

“In failing to properly compensate Plaintiffs and the Class for overtime hours worked, Defendants acted maliciously, oppressively, and/or fraudulently, and such despicable conduct designed to maximize the Defendants’ economic gain was carried out with the wrongful intention of causing injury to Plaintiffs and the Class, in willful and conscious disregard of the rights of Plaintiffs..”

A quick scan seems to say that anyone who worked for EA in a similar role as Kirchenbaum, West and Kearns between July 29, 2000 and whenever the case gets resolved may be part of the class.

If you’re into lawyerese, the full complaint is up here.

As this evolves, three things to watch for:

1) The original post from ea_spouse has now generated nearly four thousand comments. Will that post, ea_spouse, or any of the commenters be involved in this in any way, either as part of the proceedings or as members of the class?

2) In skimming some of the chatter around the original ea_spouse post, it seems that the practices around overtime and a high-stress, micromanaged work environment may be endemic to the whole games industry. Will other game providers also face similar lawsuits?

3) What, if any, will be the customer reaction to this? Will customers begin to move to fix this, a la Nike?

The Real Redux

(this post had originally started out as a response to Jay Rosen’s comment here, but then one thing led to another and, well, you know how these things happen…)

Google search: “I hate RealNetworks“: 92 results
Google search: “I love RealNetworks“: 0 results

Real *is* an interesting case. One line of discussion could be: “How does a company that brutalizes customers, ruins desktops, forces actions, and bombards users with phony upgrade messages stay around?” However, I think the crunchier aspect is to ask the question “What are customers who are feeling brutalized doing about it? And how?”

Since there seems to be more work to do here, we’ll be chugging down a couple of parallel paths:

Path 1) If anyone has any stories, either pro or con, regarding Real, would love to hear them. Comment away!

Path 2) I will be going out and trying to collect and solicit some additional data points (not unlike the MSN Spaces discussion of last week), as well as see what, if anything, Real has done to address any of the issues raised.

That action taken, there is another interesting aspect to this discussion. Jay states:

“And here you’re [the] blogger for the social customer perspective and all you have is some lame, cliched line when Jarvis rips them: ‘tell us how you really feel?'”

In the case of that post, the answer is “yes.” Sometimes, I’m all about the cliches. And the snark. In case there was any doubt, I’m going to out myself right here: I heart the snark.

I personally have given up, written off, and completely exorcised Real from my online existence. The only time within recent memory that I’ve interacted with them in any fashion was during the 2004 debates, where I signed up for the two week trial of their service in order to get full streaming video of the coverage. I too despise them for having intrusive, overweight, and altogether clumsy products and services. (Full disclosure: I watched the debate and then cancelled that same night.) As such, I really didn’t intend to spend many personal cycles thinking about Real. They’re dead to me, so I had no reason to elaborate further. I simply found the Jarvis comment to be a good example of a customer who was speaking out in unambiguous terms about one of his service providers.

There are varying types of posts you will see in this space. Posts are the blogger’s tools. Some, like this one, are participation in an ongoing discussion. Some, like the posts on how technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networks, etc. are affecting the customer experience, will be researched and (gasp!) maybe even edited. Some other posts, like the post that initiated this whole discussion, may simply be pointers to other sources out in the media/blogosphere that seem to exemplify the idea(l) of the social customer.

The tool reflects the task.

Seth Godin Called On The Carpet By His Customers

Ubermarketingguruguy Seth Godin has sold a gazillion copies of his books, and has had his e-books downloaded ten gazillion times. The trouble is, according to Jeff Jarvis and Doc Searls, that they (his readers and customers) hate the format his e-books are in.

“Seth Godin is the god of listening to your customer, giving your customer what your customer wants, giving your customer something extra, making your customer feel special. But for some reason, he refuses to give many of us customers what we want: HTML. I ranted about it again and again. No response then.” (the full rant from Jeff)

“Have I made it clear I hate .pdfs? I do. Says here ‘our PDFs don’t suck.’ Because they’re beautiful and ‘a joy to read.’ Excuse me, they do suck if what they contain isn’t also on the Web in relatively ugly but open, unowned, nonproprietary, standard and non-infuriating HTML…” – (the full rant from Doc)

So, Seth does the right thing and replies, publicly. Unfortunately, he completely dissed his customer in doing so.

“Anyway, we use PDFs because they’re a lot more booklike. They read better. They stick together when you forward them. They print better. I know they’re not in HTML. There are 6 trillion other web pages to choose from if you want that.”

Wow. Translation: “I’m going to keep doing things this way because it’s better for me this way, and you, Mr. Customer, can go somewhere else if you don’t like it.”

We here at The Social Customer Manifesto would also like to humbly point out that this page is created with 100% HTML, for the convenience of those customers who prefer it.

Forrester Research on MSN Spaces

Charlene Li has her perceptions of MSN Spaces up here. Buried in the last paragraph is a gem:

“The next wave of bloggers is going to look very different from today’s blogger – their motivation will be on sharing experiences rather than having a place for their ideas and opinions. The integration puts the blog in context of other communications, such as email and IM. If you’re about to email me, you’ll see my latest post/photo – instant context setting…”

IOW, from the social customer perspective — it’s another place and another way to build the relationship between the individuals within and without organzations.

Right on, Charlene.

A Conversation About MSN Spaces

On Thursday, Microsoft will launch MSN Spaces, Redmond’s entry into the crowded market of blog publishing. There are already a bunch of folks kicking the tires on it, and it will be interesting to see the reaction of users and customers who start to make it their online home (vs. Blogger, TypePad, Userland, etc.).

Many of the usual suspects are already conversing over at Scoble’s place. However, it would be very interesting to hear the point of view from actual users of the system. So, if you are a user of MSN Spaces, what are your thoughts on:

– business vs. personal usefulness
– ease of setup
– ease of configuration
– features
– likelihood of making it your “primary” blogging platform
– technical capabilities
– etc.

In other words…from a user/customer perspective, does Microsoft have a winner on their hands?

(via dave, scoble)

UPDATE: Feedback from other sources:

“Ugh! I was not impressed in the least. The tool is overly simplistic, although it did have a few nice (although not unique) features, like customizable music lists. The designs are limited; in fact, the only variation to the visual elements is of the background and second color (one is always white). Plus, the weblog is powered by ASP.NET, so it’s difficult for search engines to index.” – willsblog

“I am sure it will improve and will be acceptable by 3.0 if MS follows its usual track record (which should be around 2006 🙂 !). No thanks. If you want a free blog, use Blogger or LiveJournal, I see no compelling reason to use MSN spaces at this time.” – Roland Tanglao

“Oh my God. Blogger is going to have it’s hands full with the new MSN Spaces which premiers today…I have to say I’m pretty darn impressed. For anyone who who’s been apprehensive about creating a Blogger site because of all the html coding and such, run…don’t walk to MSN Spaces. You’ll be up and blogging in no time flat.” – theShu, Greensboro Is Talking

“It looks like a very good first effort, with heavy borrowing from Typepad and Blogger, plus some ActiveX links to photo and music tools, and integration with their IM client, for showing presence.” – Stig Hammond

“As usual with a Microsoft 1.0 offering, this gets them in the game… but it certainly isn’t sufficient to get me to leave Blogger (despite its hideous warts), nor for me to recommend it as a solution to others.” – Tony Gentile

“MSN spaces is not a credible option for lawyers looking to blog as a way to market their legal services. The blog sites are set up to share personal information and do not have the necessary features of a good blog, including archiving content by categories and unique domain names.” – Kevin O’Keefe

Additionally, it looks like Feedster just added a Spaces-only search (Hat tip: Tony)

Another update: Xeni does some fine investigative journalism here.

In Boston Today

In Boston today for meetings. We’ll be in the Charlestown area this afternoon if anyone wants to get together for a bit before heading to Logan for a evening flight.

Blogosphere Crucifies Target Stores Just A Little Too Quickly

Ok, so the picture does look, shall we say, a little incongruous:

(and yes, in addition to marijuana, Target is apparently selling crack as well.)

A number of blogs have called this out (one two three four five… ) as a PR crisis in the making for Tarzhay.

It must be said that it is rather strange. So how has it happened? What’s the reason for this? Is it the work of hackers? Was it done by a disgruntled employee? Or were these items the Mountain-Dew-and-pizza-addled cries for help of programmers being worked to within a hairsbreadth of their physical and emotional limits?


Whilst this very much appeared to be a customer and PR nightmare for Target, it turns out it was completely intentional and that Target really is selling these items. The people that are going to be supplying Target with cannabis for sale better learn how to grow a bigger cannabis yield as people will surely be flocking to Target to buy cannabis products…little do they know they can probably get better deals on it online, and find more of a variety of items to enjoy it with. Take a look at this site for example https://www.kingspipes.com/products/12-triple-honeycomb-bong! I suppose the good thing about these items being sold at target is that they can see them in the flesh before they buy.

Shocked? We were too. But it’s not as criminal as it first appears. Or rather, it’s not criminal at all. Target is indeed selling marijuana and crack, but they are actually… the titles of, respectively, a book and a DVD .

Panic over. Unless of course, you were looking forward to being able to get your fix from target. Whilst crack is illegal (for very obvious reasons), you can purchase marijuana just not from Target. If you would like to purchase marijuana seeds to grow your own plants, then you could visit i49.net/Michigan. Otherwise, hit up a dispensary close to home. With laws changing across the US, getting hold of hemp-related products, including CBD for help with reducing things like anxiety, depression, and pain, has never been easier and they may be able to look towards retailers such as Pure Hemp Farms in order to acquire such products. The medicinal benefits are constantly being corroborated and there are plenty of studies freely available online that you can read if you want to verify such claims.

UPDATE: Target no longer finds this as funny as we do. (via BoingBoing)

Online Content and Real

Jeff Jarvis is not shy in sharing his thoughts on Real and the issues he ran into in using RealPlayer to access online news content from ABC News.

I had to walk through glass to watch two minutes [of video using Real]. And then when I tried
to cancel it all, I had to stay on hold on not one but two calls to
Real for 40 friggin’ minutes. Real sucks. Real Audio sucks. Real Video

So Jeff…get off the fence.  How do you really feel about it?

In a related post, he does pose some very sage suggestions on how broadcast news can better manage their content and give viewers what they want, where and when they want it.

Social Networking Spam. Or Not. Sort of.

Just tripped across an interesting column about social networking spam or, perhaps more accurately, how one can use social networking systems more effectively without spamming everyone whose email address has ever crossed your transom. The salient bit:

The first thing you have to do is get the right frame of mind about why you’re using technology to help you manage your relationships. It is not so you can pretend to a larger number of people that you care about them when you really don’t. It’s so you can treat more people who you really do care about as you would like to treat them, if only your brain were capable.

ObReferences to Dunbar’s Number, etc.