Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Role of Social Media in Simple Terms

Wind the clock way, way back. Look at retailing before telephones and radios. Customer service was a personal experience that happened at the place of business. Want to visit with other customers, visit with your neighbors as the smaller towns all supported the local merchants and the merchants generally listened or went out of business. Wind the clock forward and retailers are on a steady path to greater and greater levels of isolation with their customers. Most retailers today have no real "forum" for customers to share ideas or unique experiences with each other much less share these ideas with the vendors/retailers.

That's the basis for social media in the business world. Creation and fostering of a community of customers and company representatives that allow for a free flowing dialog of ideas, feedback and sadly, problems. The problems need to be quickly addressed so as not to sour the balance of the conversations. The best thing is to create a sidebar conversation of some sort to resolve the issue and then publish to all that the issue was successfully resolved. Never leave a posted complaint without a notice of resolution.

This model puts the responsibility for social media in the hands of Marketing/Sales with problem resolution the responsibility of Customer Service. Don't mix these 2 together. Marketing needs to focus on growing the loyalty of the customer base. Customer Service needs to address the problems.

In fact, in a well run Customer Service model, customers are advised to use designated support channels when they have a problem and not rely on Twitter or Facebook for answers. On-line support forums are not the same as "social media" per se but are a great place to allow customers to help each other provided they are properly moderated. Do not mix these forums with other social media channels.

Those companies that have complaints and problems being reported on their social media sites on a regular basis have a failed Customer Service system. It's no more complicated than that.

Remember the old adage, "Praise in public, reprimand in private." This applies to social media as well.

If you would like help defining and deploying an effective Social Media strategy alongside your Customer Service system, CEP, Inc. can help. Please contact us for a free evaluation of your existing systems.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Social Media: Where’s the integration?

Like many of you, I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I cannot say I am an active user of either system but I do occasionally take a look at what is being posted. What amazes me is that I have friends who are only reachable via their Twitter handle or a private FB message. This situation has really stumped me lately; how do you reach someone on Twitter or FB if you are an e-mail user?

It strikes me as totally arrogant that Twitter does not have the sense to create a simple gateway that would allow me to send an e-mail to someone’s Twitter address without having to invoke a 3rd party service. Having been involved in the development of e-mail systems for a number of years, I know how simple it is to create gateways. For Twitter, I ought to be able to send an email to or some sub-domain of the twitter domain and have a gateway process the message into a posting to the intended recipient….adhering to the various Twitter posting rules and privileges of course. Sadly, the simplest of integrations is not “sexy” enough to warrant the effort to integrate the new generation with the old generation.

Facebook, sadly, is not much better. Oh yes, FB is willing to give every FB user an email address with a Facebook domain name but what if I want to post a message to someone’s wall via an e-mail message. Again, a gateway ought to be able to do this with ease. I send a message to and it ought to be posted without much trouble or fuss.

As much as the social media sphere has gained attention as the new, shiny object that everyone wants to play with, it seems to me that the thoughtful design types at both firms would realize that building a path to “legacy” technology would expand their influence and help them to be embraced by a much larger audience. I also know that as a traveler,” store & forward” is much more useful to me as a messaging system than” always connected”. My e-mail works that way as does antique SMS (heard about Smashtalk?) FB and Twitter just are not that convenient…..but they could be.

Need more examples? How many e-mail client applications today include a field for a Twitter or Facebook name? Not even Google has these fields available in their contacts list yet Android has multiple clients for both systems. Go figure.

Maybe it’s just me thinking in full circles while others are only thinking in straight lines. I have to admit, I am baffled by the blinders these companies exhibit.

I am interested in what you think. Is e-mail considered such a legacy technology that these new interpersonal connection systems need not support the overwhelming standard of electronic communication?

Monday, November 07, 2011

An Idea Steve Jobs Would Have Appreciated

Steve Jobs, along with Jonathan Ive, embraced the love consumers have for technology “that just works.” The iPod, iPhone and iPad are great examples of existing ideas re-defined by an unyielding desire to make the products simple to use. The design of SmashTalk follows that same principle.

None of the myriad of group text messaging solutions that are garnering millions of VC investment dollars follow the basic rule that has helped Apple catapult itself ahead of all other vendors in its target markets. None are so simple that they just work. They don’t.

SmashTalk transforms the existing SMS experience without the necessity to change a single current consumer behavior. With SmashTalk, there are no web sites where lists need to be built, there are no services to which all your contacts must register and there are no issues with access speed. SmashTalk is the elegant solution to bring group text messaging to the consumers who continue to be hungry for a way to hold conversations with a group of individuals via SMS messaging.

The real questions in all of this is why are the carriers so silent and where are the handset manufacturers.

SmashTalk will triple the volume of SMS messages currently being sent through the carrier networks. These are revenue producing messages that do not highlight issues of dead zones or poor connections. SMS does not suffer from intermittent dead spots like phone calls or internet access. There are not multiple standards for SMS around the world as there are for voice calls and internet access. SMS just works and SmashTalk just works better.

The handset vendors claim to want new and innovative ideas that will set them apart and yet they sign up for Android and/or Windows Phone and thereby thrust themselves into highly limiting design worlds.

Microsoft is trying to maintain the control over Windows Phone to the degree Apple controls the iPhone yet allow its partners to vary the trivial qualities of their products. Android developers, while having more freedom to innovate, are also very limited in what they can develop if they desire to have the Android application developers as allies.

SmashTalk is the kind of innovation that will be quickly embraced by the consumers because its design allows it to just work. It is designed to work with Android, Windows Phone and the iPhone without any form of learning curve.

It is time for carriers and handset vendors to look at the handsets being built and sold and question every function; “Is there a better way to deliver this service?” Smashtalk is the better way to deliver SMS. SmashTalk is the equivalent of the touchscreen replacing the keypad. The accelerometer allowing screens to shift between portrait and landscape modes. Each of these changes which we take for granted today started with a single vendor realizing that the status quo represented an opportunity to innovate. SMS is about as status quo as it can get. It is time to bring innovation to SMS; innovation that consumers can embrace without changing a single usage pattern or habit; it just works. That’s SmashTalk.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Role of Social Media - The Cold, Hard Truth

Social media must be about letting the customer meet the "company" and other customers in order to develop a sense of community. People like to share and like knowing there are others who also acquired the product. Encouraging others to "spread the word" is what the purpose of Social Media ought to be and that supports a larger branding mission if done well.

The idea that FB, YouTube & Twitter ought to be a primary means of customer support is just plain wrong. No one needs to create the next Dave Carroll through poor service.

If there is a fire in a bedroom of your house, don't build another bedroom as a solution. Put out the fire! Same rule applies to customer service.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Social Media: Is a Dangerous Pattern Emerging?

A friend of mine recently had a problem with her American Express card. She had an issue with a late fee, called the 800 number, was told that the charge was valid and though there were many years of great purchase and payment history, the late fee would not be waived. My friend cancelled her AMEX card and posted a short version of the incident on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, American Express reached out to her as they are an avid user of Twitter search technology. The Social Media representative waived the late fee and recovered the credit card account.

So what has American Express, like hundreds of other companies, now accomplished? Sure they saved an account and made a customer happy. That’s the obvious answer. Look a little more closely and the answer is not so pretty.

AMEX had an opportunity to resolve the issue on the first phone call but the agent either did not feel the situation warranted a waiver, was not authorized to issue a waiver or was otherwise motivated to deny the issuance of the late fee waiver. As soon as the situation hits Twitter, the game changes and now it is acceptable to waive the late fee as the issue has gone public.

What AMEX has done is reinforce a behavior within its customer base that complaining on Twitter is the way to get a desired outcome – forget a private phone conversation. It is as if AMEX has decided that in order to keep their revenues high, they will not waive various penalty fees unless the problem goes public.

This is a moronic application of social media. Social media ought to be an avenue of building a community of users who share stories of the great things a company did for them and how the company is responsive; you know, the nice news about a company. What AMEX is creating is a “gripe board” where customers will learn to seek resolution rather than picking up a phone.

What company, in their right mind, wants to be training customers to gripe in public whenever they have a problem rather than call someone for a private conversation? The Twitter gripe is widely public. The black eye is done. The resolution may never be published and the readers of the gripe may never see the positive outcome but I bet they will remember that a loyal customer griped that loyalty was not rewarded.

I cannot offer statistics other than anecdotes such as this but the more I read about social media and the efforts to sell companies on social media as a front-line customer service tool, I cannot help but wonder how many companies are racing to be “with it” when it comes to being “social” and forgetting what it is they really need to be doing. Encouraging customers to gripe to the world in order to secure an acceptable resolution to a problem is just a bad idea. In fact, it’s worse than bad. It may well be terminal for a fledgling company.

AMEX is probably not worried. In fact, AMEX paid customers to go away during the mortgage meltdown. Clearly, thinning the ranks of card holders is part of their overall business strategy. For the rest of the business world, I suggest an examination of the social media strategy is in order.

Social media should be used as a marketing tool. That’s it. Build a community. Let customers share stories. Encourage interaction through coupons, contests and games. That’s what social media is intended to be.

Contact centers are where customer support happens. The interactions are private and the rules of engagement should be the same regardless of whether someone calls, writes (yes, some of us still write letters), e-mail or posts on a social site. The objective is to resolve the issue quickly and fairly such that publishing an account of the situation and the resolution does no damage to the reputation of either party and does not encourage customers to seek a public forum as a first point of contact.

Mistakes will happen and customers will post gripes on social sites. The point is to not encourage the posting of gripes on social sites as a primary means of obtaining customer satisfaction.

Back to my friend’s situation. Had the initial AMEX rep applied the same rules regarding fee waivers, the Twitter gripe would never have been posted. AMEX would not have had to spend additional time and money to “negate” the gripe posting and an untold number of people would not have read about AMEX’s failure to forgive a late fee for a long time customer.

Social media cost AMEX money in this situation. Is social media costing your company money?

I’d like to hear your stories about how companies are “encouraging” you to utilize social media. Feel free to post your stories and I will publish them all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Here We Go Again!

Many years ago, instant messaging was all the rage. More than a dozen companies sprang to life all promoting their method and their “standard” as the next big thing. Even the really big players decided to try their luck in this new game that was going to take a large bite out of the e-mail market and make ICQ a dinosaur.

Anyone old enough to remember what happened knows that instant messaging is still in its infancy and has no hope of ever becoming the ubiquitous communication utility so many preached it would become. Seems that when everyone has a “standard” to push, no one can possibly win.

Imagine what would have happened were it not for an agreement on the formatting of SMTP messages. Today, e-mail systems can interact seamlessly for the same reasons that phone systems can interact; there was an agreement, (OK, several agreements), that set the stage for interconnecting all the various phone system standard each country decided to adopt. The result is a seamless ability to dial anyone from anywhere. E-mail can go to anyone regardless of the e-mail client of the sender and the receiver because of similar agreements.

And what of instant messaging. Well, it seems that no one was willing to give in order to get. Even the biggest players like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft tried to force the market to go their way and failed. Too many products fighting to become the standard and too many people wanting to be the controlling party.

A new wave of “ubiquitous communication tool” is now in the throes of the market model that killed instant messaging. This new wave is group text messaging.
Group text messaging; the ability to send text messages (SMS) to many people and their ability to reply to every original recipient. Today, every mobile telephony device available provides a simple form of SMS. Today’s SMS allows the recipient to only see the sender – no other recipients are available.

To solve this problem, at least 2 dozen companies have taken to the web to offer a solution. Yes, even the big boys like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are trying to take command of the market. Like the instant message of old, every offering from all these companies is incompatible with all the other offerings. That is, except 1.

Smashtalk® is the only form of group text messaging that is a plug-in replacement for the SMS engine in every telephony device available today. Smashtalk is the only group text messaging technology that does not require a change of consumer behavior to utilize. Smashtalk is the only solution to the group text chat problem that does not require participants to register lists of friends via special web sites.

History has a way of repeating itself. Sadly, too often the lessons of the past are considered too ancient to apply to today’s “high tech” innovations. “The world is different now.” “It’s not the same now as it was then.” Yes, heard that a lot. Heard it from myself when I was young and now I hear me telling young kids that history has lessons they ought to learn.
The world is run on economic decisions. Instant messaging could not advance partly because there was no base of established users on which to build and thus, there was no historical basis for cooperation. The economics did not make sense for businesses or consumers to adopt any 1 system because no system had sufficient reach.

The group text messaging market is at this critical inflection point today! Those of us who have been around can probably name another dozen technologies that went through the same inflection point. 802.11n made it but not before it had to be changed in order to level the playing field. Anyone remember G-Net or Omninet?

Success is more likely to occur from evolution than from innovation. Even Facebook has as its roots the broad audience that once surfed CompuServe forums sharing ideas and software with friends all over the globe.

The opportunity to create success in the group text messaging market is now. The solution is evolution that retains the broadest possible support to those standards that have come before. That solution is Smashtalk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The New Traveler’s Gathering Spot

As a regular business traveler for the past 30 years, there have been a number of changes in the traveling environment; some good and some not so good. Obviously, the TSA experience fluctuates between grand nuisance and mild annoyance depending upon the location and calendar. Choices of eateries is also much broader today than it was years ago.

The most stark difference I have noticed in the past couple of years is actually an update of a very old model; the phone bank. Remember those walls of pay phones that used to be the first or second stop for every business traveler coming off a flight? Remember the waiting lines and the long list of calling card digits that started the calling process.

Well, the 21st century version of the phone bank has arrived in most airports in North America; the Power Station. While cell phones have brought about the demise of the pay phone, the bundle of electronics in all our briefcases need recharging after a long flight. Thus, the urgent need for a “fill-up” between flight connections.

The good news is that with more and more airports offering free WiFi for all travelers, the need to power cell phones, notebook computers, iPods, tablets and DVD players has grown to significant numbers. What’s good about this is that a critical mass of sorts has been reached. Ease of recharging has become another competitive advantage as airlines and airports compete for the traveler’s dollars.

The banks of pay phones generated revenues for the calling card companies. Sometimes that was the same company as the owner of the pay phones and sometimes is wasn’t. Economically, there was sufficient revenue to warrant the installation and maintenance.

So how about the companies who today are offering free power and a place to sit. What’s their incentive? Goodwill? That’s the only benefit I can see for Samsung, Verizon and others investing millions of dollars in airport power stations. For that, I am grateful.

The real question is are enough people grateful such that companies like Samsung will expand their current investment and install Power Stations in all the airports big and small. If you happen to enjoy the convenience of a free recharge service, let the vendor know. Unless someone can figure out a way to monetize all the outlets in the airport, positive PR is the only incentive any company or airport has for deploying this modernized gathering spot.

The next time you plug in your favorite electronic gizmo at an airport, connect to the airport’s web site and let them know you appreciate the “electron fill-up.” Acknowledging the free service is the best way to insure the service continues to be offered.

Happy traveling!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Case for Tablets

Having just returned from CTIA and having had an opportunity to try out all the latest tablets, I can firmly state that while the idea of a tablet computer is very enticing, there are just too many shortcomings to get me to buy one.


First and foremost is the act of typing. Tablets are not made for typing and every vendor concedes this fact. For this reason, there are plenty of third party companies that can fill the void but that simple addition makes the tablet into a laptop/netpad. I concede there are some tasks better that are better suited to a quick tap on a screen rather than navigating through menus but the productivity apps need to be designed for touch screens to push the pendulum over to the touch screen as the primary means of interaction. It all comes down to the type (pun intended) of work needing to be performed as to whether a keyboard is integral to getting things done.

Screen size

I have looked at screen size and the 10” seems to be the optimal size for real work while the smaller 7” versions are great for media and calendar checking but even writing something as simple as this posting would be painful. I know you can zoom in to see larger text but writing on what appears to be a thin column of paper is not like seeing the full width of the page.


iOS or Android are really the 2 choices today with WebOS in the near future. I like having my native tools within easy reach and sadly, I am an Office user from way back. I really like having all the formatting remain intact as I move from laptop to desktop and back. There really is something to be said for having docs appear exactly the way you left them. Today, that poses a bit of a challenge for the tablets. Viewing is not the same as constructing. Today, I do a lot of constructing.

So are there any positives? Absolutely.

Battery Life

Tablets have great battery life. They ought to. They generally have cell phone processors rather than low-power versions of desktop CPUs. CPUs eat power. Not surprisingly, the ARM world of cell phone CPUs has been focused on battery life for quite some time. Intel? Not so much. Tablets have so much more room to hold large batteries that long life is not too surprising. Let’s be real here, most tablets are really big versions of cell phones. The extra space can pretty much be all battery.


Tablets weigh next to nothing. That is one of the most attractive aspects of the devices. When you schlep a lot of gear through airports or even around town, a 6 pound laptop gets old very quickly. A tablet with a lightweight Bluetooth keyboard looks very attractive after a few visits to my local Chiro.


Tablets are the new cool device to carry around and show off. Apple has once again established what it means to own cool gadgets. It is pretty hard to argue with devices that have the sell rate of the iPad. It is clearly a hit.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line for me is the balancing of the positives and negatives. Today, the state of the tablet market has me awaiting a different set of features. When I look at the cost of adding the wireless keyboard and case to the cost of just a WiFi tablet, I can buy a decent, lightweight notebook for the same price. Start adding in 3G and the number make even less sense.

Is a lightweight notebook cool? No. Never will be. But it is more functional and expandable than today’s tablets.

Today, I sync my laptop and desktop via Microsoft’s Live Mesh software. Plenty of storage and FREE. Sync’ing e-mail is another matter as I am not running Exchange in my home office. If you have a solution for this, I am all ears. I also rely on USB ports for a variety of devices. I have yet to see a tablet with a USB port. Can you say “power drain?”

The bottom line is that I know what the ideal device looks like and how it works. As the patent for this idea is issued by the PTO, I will be happy to share it with any and all interested parties. Until then, I guess I am destined to not be cool yet still highly productive.

PS. I still use my 10 year old iPAQ phone and its desktop sync, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, Voice, Data, expansion slot, unlocked GSM, apps a plenty, all under my control features every day. Why the technology advancements in handsets have been so slow to materialize is a topic for another day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Solving the Mobile Payment Problem

I don’t know about you but the idea of transmitting my credit card data from my smartphone to a receiver in order to avoid using my credit cards does not sound like a good idea. I know about the encryption and all the steps to secure the transmission but I still have a big concern about someone snagging the information.

That said, I like the idea of being able to use my smartphone to pay for purchases at any checkout counter. Seems to me the technology to do this already exists to a very large degree and is quite secure.

Let me see if I have the requirements correct. Each credit card needs to be able to be uniquely presented in an electronic form. Some proof of ownership needs to be provided such that no one else but the phone’s owner can access the credit card info. The merchant needs assurances that the electronic card being presented is valid. Impact on the existing infrastructure needs to be minimized as many merchants cannot afford to replace existing cash registers. I think that about sums it up.

My idea to solve this problem involves barcodes. To be specific, 2-dimensional barcodes. Imagine approaching the checkout counter of your local supermarket or department store. The clerk scans all your items reading the UPC barcodes affixed to each item. Once all items have been scanned, the clerk tells you the total and asks what form of payment you would like to use. Out comes the smartphone and a credit card locker application is opened. The desired credit card is selected, the appropriate password is entered and a barcode is displayed on the screen of the smartphone. This barcode is then scanned by the merchant’s scanner and all the necessary credit card information is identified. The merchant then looks at the small photo accompanying the barcode to verify that the person presenting the barcode is the same as the person in the picture. The transaction is then continued as normal.

The beauty of this model is that there is no transmission of data to worry about. The barcode is password protected on the smartphone and the photo, programmatically connected to the barcode, provides verification of the validity of the customer. Most smartphones have screens of sufficient size that both the barcode and the photo can fit on the screen at the same time. The customer can create as many different credit cards for their “locker” as they desire so there is no limitation nor waiting for the bank to issue any sort of special codes. The scanners that most merchants use today are able to read barcodes other than UPC codes once they have been updated through software.

So what would it take for this idea to come to life? IBM and NCR agreeing to an encoding standard for the barcode along with the necessary software updates to their current equipment. Once this defacto barcode standard is published for all to adopt, the only thing left is for the smartphone app vendors to build “lockers” in which to create and store the barcode info. I would guess the entire process would take less than 12 months to develop and deploy.

Keep in mind that some airlines already accept electronic, barcode-based boarding passes that have been sent to the customer’s smartphone prior to being scanned by a gate agent at the airport. All I want to see is the same type of technology to be applied to my credit cards.

So what do you think? What functionality have I missed? What security issues are not addressed that would cause you concern? If you were a merchant, would you want more assurances before accepting a smartphone-based barcode? Post a comment NOW and let’s see where this can go.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Making Every Contact Center Resource a High Performer

Today, contact centers around the world are spending hundreds of millions every year in an effort to measure the performance of their employees. Quality Monitoring (QM), Infomarts, Datamarts, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking and Speech Analytics are just some of the forms and names representing these products. Without these types of reports, managing the contact center staff would be quite a challenge.

Sadly, most companies have no idea that all of the investments they have made to produce performance reports only tell half the story. Companies all over the world are making decisions today based on having only 50% of the available information. Why is that?

We have just seen the Super Bowl between the Jets and the Packers. Imagine you are the coach of the Packers. You keep detailed stats about each and every play in every game and practice session. At the end of any game, you compile all the play statistics and look at how each player performed. Businesses collect much of the same type of “performance” data each and every day about their “players”.

Major sports teams know, however, that the performance reports are just the beginning of the analysis process. The successful sports teams take the performance reports at the end of each game and develop training plans for each player in order that they correct their “errors” before the next game. A continuous performance feedback process is a vital part of every successful team. Every contact center needs to adopt this strategy; convert the performance results into an actionable training program.

The Skills Assessor product from Silver Lining Solutions is a unique product designed to take the performance measurement results and combine them with the results of knowledge measurement or assessment tests to create a complete picture of each contact center resource. That’s the missing 50% -- connecting the performance measurement tools to a set of knowledge measurement tools and then locate all the correlations that exist between the 2.

Just as each position on the football field requires specific skills, so too do the various tasks in the contact center. Want to know the skill requirements needed to make the ideal quarterback, wide receiver or nose tackle? The coaching staff know and they drill and drill their players in order that every player is the best they can be at their position. Contact centers need to do the same.

Silver Lining refers to this skills requirement as “Skills DNA”. Using the Skills Analysis tool included with Skills Assessor, the ideal skill set, or Skills DNA, for each task can be formulated, compared to the measured skills of all the current staff and validated by the performance results. Contact center agents coming up short in the measurement of their performance can quickly be identified and scheduled for additional training so that they too can be the best at their position.

Skills Assessor is the tool to tell you why the high performers are high performers and what to do to bring the rest of the staff up to that performance level. Skills Assessor is the tool for the Enterprise to build a world class customer service delivery model with high performers in every position.

So how many high performers do you have in your company? Isn’t it time to add knowledge measurement to your existing performance measurement systems? Without both measurement systems, high performers are more accidental than predictable. Do you want to operate your business by accident?

For more information about Skills Assessor from Silver Lining Solutions, visit their web site: SIlver Lining Solutions

Friday, February 04, 2011

20 Years of Electronic Calendars and Time Zone Shifts are Still a Problem

Maybe it’s the wave of new technology that has me bothered or maybe it’s the real lack of innovation that seems to be largely ignored or maybe it’s something else. All I know is that I still cannot put appointments into my Outlook calendar, travel across the country, change my time zone and have the appointments stay where I put them.

Now I know many of you will tell me that there are ways to tag an appt with the time zone so that when I shift the Windows setting, the appointment ends up in the right spot. I know all about that. The problem is that when I am in Oregon and planning meetings in various cities during a week long trip around the US, I do not want to think about which time zone is involved. I know I will be in New York on a specific day and my meeting is at 10:00am. Why can’t I put the meeting in my calendar for 10:00am and have it stay there? For 20+ years, no one has solved this really simple problem.

It is so simple, if I had the money to build and market an Outlook replacement, I would patent my idea. The solution takes a single bit. That’s right. A single bit that is either a 1 or a 0. The bit is the TZTrack bit. If an appointment when entered into my calendar needs to hold its position regardless of time zone changes, I set the bit to 0. If I want the appt to track the time zone, I set the bit to 1. In the user options page, the user is given an option to set the default for this bit so that only exceptions involve changing this bit.

The beauty of this idea occurs when I arrive in NYC from Oregon. I change the time zone for my laptop and smartphone (what an ironic name considering how stupid they are but I digress). When Outpost, my name for the really useful e-mail/calendaring program, recognizes the time change, only those appointments with the TZTrack bit set to 1 shift. Conference calls for example need to shift automatically. Meetings I have set are left alone as the TZTrack bit is not set. All I have been able to do with both my phone and computer is change the time leaving the time zone alone. Yes, I know that means manually changing the conference calls but there are fewer of them than the meetings so less work wins.

So how hard would it be for someone to add a single bit of data to each calendar item along with some simple logic to examine the TZTrack bit before shifting appointments en mass? Yeah, I know. “Pretty simple but there are bigger issues that need addressing.”

I do not know how to reach the iCal standards board but I would happily switch to Thunderbird from Mozilla if they were to adopt the TZTrack bit idea. Hell, I’ll forgo seeking a patent on the idea if someone will build an MS Outlook add-in that provides this feature. I’d ask Steve Ballmer to do it but he is too busy trying to figure out why Windows Phone 7 doesn’t do half of what Windows Mobile 5 does including Cut & Paste.

In the meantime, if you know how to configure stand-alone Outlook 2007 to not move appointments when I change time zones, I am all ears.