Smartphones: Essential Tool or Luxury?

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal has commenters doing their typical rant about how others are idiots.  I wonder.  Here’s my take as I commented there:

The tools have simply changed for those of us who earn our living in the service economy. I use my iPhone 4S for my email, calendar, GPS, Twitter account, and LinkedIn updates, among other things.

In the ’80s I needed a desktop computer and a laser printer. In the 90s, laptop, internet and color laser printer. A smartphone and blog/website in the next decade became indispensable. I’m sure in the next decade, it will be a chip-enabled pair of carbon fiber Google Goggles that will allow me to multitask while listening in on interminable conference calls. With added sound, I’m sure I’ll be able to conduct simultaneously translated speaking engagements with audiences in other countries, rather than having them listen in on headsets as they did in South America in 2008.

Economists used to say “guns or butter.” Now apparently, it’s phones or food

Yes, all four of us have smartphones in our family, and although I “occasionally” go ballistic at my children’s multitasking while we watch t.v. together (almost never at the dinner table, which is a no-no), I also am proud that my children know how to use their iPhones to navigate in new cities, read the New York Times or Kindle books, keep in touch with friends they’ve made at schools in other states, and keep their parents informed about where they are and what they’re doing.  I managed to thrive without computer, wireless phone, or internet in college, but that world is long-gone.

How much do you and your family spend each month on cellular phones and service, and is it worth it?


Minecraft: Waste of Time or New Career Development Tool?

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal on the popularity of Minecraft really got me thinking:

Minecraft fans make Minecraft baked goods, create Minecraft pointillism art and marry each other in Minecraft weddings.

And they create parody music videos of hit songs, rewritten to feature Minecraft characters and themes. Some, like Mr. McLemore’s, have reached views in the millions, at times rivaling the viewership of the original song’s video.

A parody of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” has racked up more than 37 million views. Another video, parodying Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” has more than 54 million views.

One version of Martyn Littlewood’s parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” has been viewed nearly 10 million times. The video, called “Form This Way,” plays like a love letter to the game, following a gamer as he purchases Minecraft and then logs on: “I’m so in love with this game / Don’t care if I sound lame.

Instead of Lady Gaga’s character giving birth to evil, as happens in her video, Mr. Littlewood starts his story with a little guy lifting up his mining pickax. “Oh a zombie run away! Found a sword, I’m gonna slay!” the song goes. “Oh a creeper stay away!”

Mr. Littlewood, of Nottingham, England, says he gets anywhere from £700 to £1,500 (about $1,100 to $2,300) a month from sales of the song on Apple’s iTunes music store. “It just about covers monthly bills—or at least the rent,” he says.



Here’s what I commented:

My son and I have an ongoing negotiation about how much time he spends on his Xbox and Minecraft on his computer. He’s an excellent student, and also plays on both lacrosse and soccer teams. Still, until reading this article, I was generally of the opinion that it is a waste of his time. But because it is my fault I got him originally hooked on Legos when he was little, I must accept some of the responsibility. The $10 I spent at a garage sale on used Legos years ago led to hundreds of hours playing with them (and hundreds of dollars of additional Legos), and now this online version. As a Frank Lloyd Wright fan myself, and 50 year-old b-school professor who loves social media, I’m going to now find a way to help him use all of his skills he’s developed to generate some revenue to support the family unit! 

Do you or your kids play Minecraft, and if so, what do you think about it?


Minecraft Video

Massage Envy Customers Are NOT to Be Envied

I’ve been a customer of Massage Envy for years.  Here’s my review on Yelp, and we’ll see if their staff notices that, or my responses to their latest customer survey.


Hi Neil,

Thank you for your recent visit to Massage Envy at Eastgate. We appreciate the opportunity to help you with your relaxation and wellness needs.

At Massage Envy, we strive to provide the most relaxing, therapeutic massage experience to everybody, every visit. To help us ensure your experience is wonderful every time, we would appreciate your feedback.

This is a chance to tell us about your experience. It will only take about 3-5 minutes to provide your feedback, and you will automatically be entered into a monthly drawing to win your choice of a $150 Massage Envy Gift Card or a 3-Month Gift Membership. We know your time is valuable and appreciate you sharing it with us!

To begin our brief survey, please click here to take part.

We hope to see you back at Massage Envy soon!

Telenav Restores our Trust, and We Restore our Service

As we were traveling to Michigan last week by car, our AT&T Telenav service became unavailable on all three of our iPhones that use it.  Even though we realized that it couldn’t be the phones themselves that were the problem, and it had to to do with Telenav, it took quite some time for that to be determined as the problem.  As we were trying to find some locations along the way to stay and eat, having GPS navigation was critical (none of the AAA TripTiks as Karen and I used in the ’80s), and so we downloaded a competitor navigation app which worked flawlessly for the rest of our week-long trip.

I Tweeted about my poor experience in resolving the problem, but decided to give Telenav another chance when it reached out to me asking if there was anything they could do.  Also, we’d come to prefer the simple yet ever-improving interface that Telenav uses, especially its summary routing feature.

Here is where one of Telenav’s stars, Kenji Onozawa, Social Media Manager for Telenav, rose up to take ownership of the problem and fix it on multiple levels.  It took some doing, and several emails back and forth, but resolve it he did, and in a way that completely demonstrated that this is how he would have done it if it had been is own navigation service which was disrupted.  If this is how TeleNav treats all of its customers, then it is one outstanding company!


Lost a Song You Purchased on iTunes? Apple Can Help Restore it Pronto!

I use iTunes for buying almost all of my music (the rest I get from CD Baby, and once in a while, Amazon).  It’s great to have it everywhere I listen to my music, most recently on our Apple TV device which is great way to listen to music while watching all the great photos of Maggie and Jack we’ve taken over the past 17 years (well a small fraction of the photos we’ve taken, as we still need to scan all of those photo albums, but I digress).  So when I can’t find a song I recently purchased, I have to wonder how I lost it, especial with everything backed up on Apple’s Cloud now.  So, I emailed iTunes Support, and they got it back to my very quickly.  Not only that, the customer support person was much more polite than the average retail person I deal with (including, unfortunately, Noodles here in Durham, but I’ll take care of that complaint on Yelp).

Dear Aneil,

My name is Ky and I am an iTunes Store Advisor. I understand your song has disappeared and you’ve just purchased the song a few days ago, I’m sure you are looking forward to having this song posted back to your account and I will be happy to assist you in a timely manner.

I have posted “Walkin’ On the Sun” back to your account. If you have a computer, please follow these steps to download the item:

1) Make sure you’re using the latest version of iTunes. It can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple website:

Note: Installing the latest version of iTunes will not affect your library or any items in your account that you haven’t downloaded.

2) Open iTunes. From the Store menu at the top, choose Check for Available Downloads. You can also click this link to do the same thing:

3) Enter your account name and password, then click the Check button.

Aneil, the missing item should begin downloading and appear in your Purchased playlist. If you receive an error message while downloading, try again after turning off any firewall or web-accelerator software that you may have installed. If the download process is interrupted for any reason, it should resume once you reopen iTunes.

This article provides information about resuming interrupted downloads:

If you don’t see the item in your iTunes Library, please include this information in your response to this email:

– The name of your Internet service provider (ISP)
– The type of Internet connection (such as dial-up, cable modem, or DSL)
– Any troubleshooting steps you may have taken
– Any error messages you may have received

I hope that works, Aneil. Please keep me posted though!

I look forward to speaking with you again soon, please write back if you have further issues regarding this case. Thank you for supporting iTunes, Aneil, and have a wonderful evening!


iTunes Store Customer Support

Please note, I work Sunday to Thursday, 4:30 PM – 11:30 PM EST.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

How to Keep Your Contact Information Current on LinkedIn

I’m a huge fan of, as it allows me to easily keep current on my network as well as easily update my own profile information and activities on behalf of my clients and audiences.  Recently, someone in my network contacted me and asked me whether I was still affiliated with an old institution.  I was puzzled because there was nothing in my profile to indicate that.  Nevertheless, he still had an old email address affiliated with that institution as my secondary email address.  I went back to my profile and still couldn’t find it.

Well, it turns out it was because my network contact had kept the old email address in his own LinkedIn personal records, which I couldn’t see and of course couldn’t update.  LinkedIn’s wonderful support people quickly identified the problem and helped me resolve it.


Thanks, LinkedIn and thanks, Sean!


Member Comment: Aneil Mishra 05/21/2012 16:04

A connection of mine noted that I have a secondary email address that is no longer valid when he viewed me in his list of connections. I am unable to determine how to delete that email address, which is:__________

Can you please help me delete this?

Thanks very much.

Aneil Mishra

Hi Aneil,

Thanks for contacting me about this, and I apologize for any confusion regarding your old email address.

That email address is not associated with your profile. What your connection is seeing is their own records for contacting you. Either they imported that email address for you, or you used to have it on your profile. The only way it can be removed on their end is they would have to edit that information themselves.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns, Aneil.

Thanks for using LinkedIn since 2005, and I hope you have an excellent day!

LinkedIn Customer Service

When Someone Helps You Look Better On LinkedIn (or Anywhere Else), Say ‘Thank-You’

I’ve given plenty of unpaid help to people looking to improve their professional communications over the years, mostly to my students looking for feedback on their resumes, but also to friends and colleagues who wanted to improve their resumes, cover letters, academic manuscripts, and other important written communications.  I’ve received such help myself as well from many people over the years, and I’ve always been grateful for it.  All I’ve expected for my help is a simple “thank-you,” either oral or written, and most of the time, I have received such thanks.

That is why I get so irked when people don’t express any gratitude, and the more help I’ve given without any thanks, the more irritated I become.  Earlier this year, I spent over an hour helping an MBA student in his job search over coffee, and then introduced the person to several people in my various networks so that the person could request informational interviews and advice about his job search.  I did this as a favor to a good friend, as I had never taught the MBA student and indeed he attended a university with which I wasn’t affiliated.  I never once received any thanks from the student, and recently learned that the person had received a permanent job offer.  I’m glad he got the offer, but I would have also appreciated learning this from the person himself rather than from someone else (who also had provided help to the student and who also had never been thanked as it turns out).

Then today, I learned that someone had viewed my profile on LinkedIn.  Curious person that I am, I checked out this person’s profile to guess as to why they might have wanted to learn more about me.  In reading the person’s profile, I noticed a grammatical mistake.  She had written “works good under immense pressure” when she should have written “works well under immense pressure.”  (Obviously, she doesn’t write well under pressure, even though she has a bachelor’s degree in “mass communication/media studies,” but I digress.)  I thought she’d want to know this, and so I sent her and InMail message on LinkedIn letting her about the mistake.

Several hours later, I was back on LinkedIn, and received a notice saying another person had checked out my profile, and so I went to see who it was.  It turns out it was the same person.  Again, being curious, I decided to see if she had fixed her profile.  Well, indeed she had, but she never bothered to thank me for letting her know about her mistake.

I’m certainly not going to let these two people keep me from helping others in the future.   Their lack of gratitude, however, means that I’ll probably first consider consider whether a person is the type to “pay it forward” to others in the future before I take the time to provide help, solicited or unsolicited.


FedEx Office Regains My Trust

I recently needed to do a large-volume color printing job for a leadership development program I was conducting that would have taken too long to do on my HP CP1525NW color laser printer. and in any case also had to be spiral/coil bound.  I checked prices online, and determined that I could get the price down to about 35 cents a copy if I used FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinkos).   Office Max was close in price before any discounts, but FedEx was offering a 50% discount for high-volume jobs.  I called the local Durham FedEx which is conveniently two doors down from our favorite watering hole, Starbucks, and confirmed that the number of pages I was going to get copied qualified as a high-volume order.

I dropped off the document to be copied, showed the FedEx Office employee the 50% coupon I’d printed out from home, and again confirmed the discount.  You know where this is going.  When I returned the next day to pick up my order, the bill was several hundred dollars higher than I’d estimated.  I looked at the receipt, and found I’d only be given a 10 cents per copy discount, not the 50% discount I’d been promised.  The employee, a different one than the one who’d taken my order, said it was too late to change the price in the system.  As I had to use the handouts the next day for presentation, and didn’t have time to go somewhere else to get another set of copies, I took the copies with me and said I’d follow up later.

Over the next three weeks, I then called FedEx Office’s corporate number and the local office several times to get the bill rectified.  Finally, Rob the local manager, was able to get the discount applied, which resulted in a refund of more than $600 almost a month to the day after I placed the order.  That’s real money in anybody’s wallet!

Thanks, FedEx Office, for restoring my trust in you!


Words With Friends Hooks People Together in More Ways Than One

Karen is a lifelong Scrabble fanatic, and so when our kids introduced her to Words with Friends on her iPhone, she was of course immediately hooked.   So are a lot of other people, 20 million in fact according to today’s Wall Street Journal:

Last summer, Kyla Smith spelled S-E-X-Y in Words With Friends, an online Scrabble-like app on her phone. It won her more than just 13 points—it won her love.


Donna Neveux
Stephen Monahan met Britney Hilbun by clicking ‘random opponent’ last year.

Eventually her opponent, Charles Briggs, became her boyfriend. Up to that point, the two hadn’t met in person. She lived in Texas, he lived in Arkansas. They met through the “random opponent” feature of Words With Friends, which matches up anonymous players.

The game is played by nearly 20 million people a month on Facebook, and countless more on smartphones. Players take turns moving letter tiles on a virtual board, trying to rack up points by spelling out words.

I’ve recently started playing, too.  My favorite Words with Friends partner is of course my wife. of 27 years.  H-A-P-P-Y   V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E-S   D-A-Y,   Karen!

Gisele Bündchen Really Loves Tom Brady, and That’s Great

There’s a great essay in today’s Wall Street Journal Jason Gay about Gisele’s defense of her husband Tom Brady after the New England Patriots’ loss in this year’s Super Bowl.

The last thing I thought was this: Wow, Gisele Bündchen really loves Tom Brady. She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other. She loves him blind.

This is a comforting, uncynical thing. Maybe you’re married, maybe not—maybe you were married once—but one of the things you want in a union is that kind of unconditional, unrestrained, forget-everyone-else support. Everybody should be lucky to have a fierce advocate in their corner, and you should be a fierce advocate in their corner too. Leave the measured consideration and the caveats to the friends and the shrinks. You want your spouse to tell you it’s going to be OK. To defend you when nobody else will.

Even when it’s wrong. Even when it sounds like lashing out. Even when it’s the absolute incorrect thing to say. Because they’ve got your back. Because you’ve got theirs. Because that’s love.

I’m not saying she was right, I’m not saying she shouldn’t regret it. But the supermodel loves the quarterback.

The fairy tale is actually a fairy tale. It’s so unfair, but it’s also pretty sweet.

Right on!  My wife Karen is exactly the same as Gisele:  she’s always got my back, defends me against my critics, and is beyond beautiful.  I. Am. Blessed.