Hotwire’s little deception

Imagine if you were reserving a hotel room and saw this option:

Screenshot 2016-05-23 22.01.10

Notice at the bottom it say “Your selected bed type is guaranteed.”

So imagine how I felt when I checked into a Holiday Inn, after selecting the two bed option, only to be told that we get only one king bed.

Surely there must be some mistake.  But Hotwire confirmed twice that even though you can select your preference of bed types, they won’t actually guarantee it.

Screenshot 2016-05-23 22.04.09

I even paid a few dollars more for the option to have two beds. And had I known this tricky practice of Hotwire, I’d have gone to Travelocity or another hotel directly instead, where I can be sure that I get two beds when I select the option for two beds.

Shame on you, Hotwire, for misleading frequent travelers like me– and then doubling down on your mistake by not being willing to acknowledge or fix it.

At least change what’s on the site to say “You can select your preference, but we can’t guarantee bed type, even though we’re charging you different prices for different options.”

Here is my receipt, by the way, which also shows two beds.

Screenshot 2016-05-21 01.59.48.png

The first screenshot, by the way, was from another booking– sometimes you get to choose how many beds and sometimes you don’t.  But if they do let you choose, then definitely they should honor it.

Social media is so powerful that brands who attempt to play such tricks will get lambasted by consumers. There are too many review sites now to engage in misleading practices. Let’s see if there is someone who cares at Hotwire.

POSTSCRIPT: after going round and round with Hotwire, they have stood by their initial response that bed types are not guaranteed, even though the screen clearly says it is.

Burn victims don’t die immediately from their injuries

Instead they die weeks later, a painful series of skins grafts over limbs that look like rotisserie chicken.

Psychological injuries, though harder to see, are no less severe.

And burns can come from not just extreme heat, but extreme cold.

Someone once gave me their only remaining picture of their grandfather so I could make a portrait. He made me promise not to lose it. But that’s exactly what I did.  I ran away, hoping to never confront him.

Another friend started a software company with me. Even moved to California and worked at Yahoo! so he could build his coding skills. He died in a motorcycle accident, through no direct fault of my own. But I remember I had a hand in it. And it’s only once of two times that I’ve cried in the last 20 years.

His name was Chris Rummel and he put full trust in me. When he needed cash, I withdrew $20,000 from Bank of America that afternoon and gave it to him. Out of honor, he insisted on giving me his car. I refused at first, but eventually relented. So he rode his motorcycle to work and that’s how he died. I never forgave myself for not fighting harder, as that voice was warning me weeks before the accident that this would be a mistake.

Have you burned other people, either through extreme heat or extreme cold? Unintentional or not?

Fix it before it’s too late.

Consider where people have trusted you. Do anything to keep your promises, no matter what.

My Christian friends will say that the blood of Jesus covers all.  Full stop. As a child of God, you can move on from your past as a new creation.  Forgive yourself. All true.

But if you’re really changed, you’ll want to make things right. You can’t shut out that voice completely– call it your conscience or Holy Spirit, you pick.

Don’t be that weekday drunk who goes to church on Sunday morning. Don’t let church be a car wash for your sins where you can get as dirty as you please, knowing you’ll get a free wash every Sunday– unlimited.

Don’t fake holiness and passionate Spirit-filled living to please someone else. Living two lives will catch up with you, when the doors of the burn unit burst open with bodies you’ve tried to hide.

I could tell you more stories of how I’ve failed over and over in ways that would make you think I’m psycho. But one thing I know is that I never quit, especially when other people trust me with their lives.

Be grateful for the relationships you have and know it’s never too late to make things right.

Twitter shoots itself in the foot by cutting off Datasift access

Last week, Twitter announced they’re cutting off API access to providers like Datasift, forcing everyone to go through GNIP, the data reseller service they purchased.  Full disclosure, we were a customer of GNIP (not Datasift), and were forced to pay between $5,000 to $20,000 per month for access to Twitter data.  And Datasift via Mark Suster is disappointed that Twitter didn’t make the split amicably. People are wondering if Facebook will yank everyone but Datasift’s access in retaliation. My bet is no.

Why does this matter to you?

If you want to grow your community, perform social analytics, or run ads– and if that has something to do with Twitter– then you’ll need Twitter data to make decisions.  Twitter folks, if you’re reading this, making decisions = spending money. Without analytics, brands can’t understand where Twitter campaigns are performing. They are in the dark.

So while forcing everyone to go through GNIP may yield Twitter a few million dollars, this is penny-wise and pound foolish. Twitter’s potential advertising business is not worth maiming for data access fees.

That’s why Facebook has never charged for their APIs and likely never will.  Facebook even made their ads API open to everyone. Anyone can get basic access without having to jump through hoops. Facebook has even free training in Facebook Blueprint, Facebook for Business, the various Facebook developer garages, and so forth. All of this is free– since it builds the ecosystem of developers, brands, and consumers.

Google doesn’t charge for Google Analytics or the API because they know that stronger intelligence leads to more ad dollars. In fact, Google has been investing heavily in free tools for marketers: Think With Google, Google Tag Manager, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Translate, Google My Business, Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and so forth.

If I were Dick Costolo, I’d find out what Datasift customers have been doing with the Twitter data. If the metrics lead to analysis and then action, they’re saving pennies by throwing away dollars.

The last thing customers want to do is get into the business of building data infrastructure.  I know this. The very reason we play in the data space is because of the complexities of dealing with multiple APIs from multiple vendors.

Not an option for small businesses and a shaky play for even enterprise-level brands to have their data strategy reliant upon just a GNIP or Datasift. The Adobes of the world will eventually release something here, likely via acquisition, while you see other third parties building logic layers (data models) via platforms (like Pylon from Datasift) so expensive that if you have to ask, you’re missing a few zeros in your budget.

Maybe the marketing automation or tag management players will come in to save us, for the geeks that care to discuss. But for the rest of us, we mourn the slow irrelevance and demise of Twitter at their own hand.

Maybe Twitter with smart folks like Adam Bain will wake up to see that analytics (or at least data) needs to be free.


Uber nearly kills me, then charges me $178.93

It’s the nightmare that the crowdsourcing companies fear, when something goes wrong and they might be held liable. Airbnb had their fair share of guests who had disastrous hotel stays, causing them to implement safety policies and checks.  

Consumers think that they’re doing business with Uber, when really Uber is merely facilitating the connection with an independent contractor. In Uber’s words:

Screenshot 2015-04-06 02.47.21

They’re saying it’s no different than if you went on a date on and had a bad experience. It’s not’s fault. Or if you bought a car on Craigslist that turned out to be a lemon, then it’s not Craiglist’s fault.

However, are these equivalent? If you hire a maid from Merry Maids, you’re buying based on that brand’s reputation. They come in their pink cars, follow standard operating procedures, and are effectively employees.

People expect that the Uber driver works for Uber, in the same way that if you get cold fries at McDonalds, that the McDonalds company stands behind it, even if it’s a franchise owned store.

Uber is wanting to treat their employees at 1099 contractors, hoping they can duck employment taxes and liability. In my unfortunate ride last Thursday, the Uber driver nearly got us killed by changing lanes in traffic without a signal and nearly hitting a cyclist. Had the cyclist not swerved, we would have hit them.

But calling Uber about this, as you can see, got us multiple assertions that it’s something we can’t take up with Uber, since the driver is a contractor. Had we got in an accident, Uber passes this on to the driver. Though I really like the Uber service, we do know that drivers for the other cab companies are protected by their company.

Not all drivers are perfect, but accidents do happen, especially given how fast Uber is aggressively scaling.

Everything is great and you think you’re saving money until just that one nightmare. We had to get out of this car and hail another Uber, against the driver’s assurances that things were fine. He wouldn’t let us leave.

By the time we were able to exit the vehicle and hail another Uber, it was too late to make it to the Caltrain station for our baby bullet down to Menlo Park.  We’d have to take this Uber all the way down to Facebook’s headquarters, instead of via the train.

This cost us $178.93.

Screenshot 2015-04-06 03.00.49 

We asked if Uber would be willing to eat part of this. After 6 attempts, we were able to secure a $5 credit. Out of luck on the $178, according to Uber, since they’ve already paid the driver.

Screenshot 2015-04-06 03.03.05

We gave Uber a few opportunities last week to clarify their position, in case this was a support rep that didn’t understand policy.  Heather from their incident response reaffirmed that since the driver was able to get us to our location, no partial refund was possible.

I’ve probably ridden Uber over a hundred times in the last 4 years. But it was only until a week ago that I found out that Uber, in their words, is a technology company that merely connects passengers with drivers– and is in no way responsible for what happens.  They are independent business owners.

Let’s say that one day you discovered an amazing airline– the coolness of Virgin in first class, but charged only a fraction of what you used to pay. But they happened to crash their aircraft 1% of the time. Would the awesome service and cost savings then be worth it, even with a 1% fatality rate?

Uber, as aggressive as they are in their business model and playing gray areas, is sitting on a time bomb with arguing that their employees are really contractors.

AirBnb, conversely, has taken the smart approach by implementing a safety guarantee, so travelers can have trust in their brand. Even Amazon, in skirting state sales tax for so long, knew they couldn’t play the loophole forever. The story at Uber just goes to show that a company of geniuses, no matter how intelligent and aggressive, will eventually fall down when customers discover the company doesn’t care for their customers.

Will we have more of God View or will this company, as bright as the people are, decide to put customers first? I’ll update this post should Uber folks decide that customers like myself are valuable and have a voice.

The 5th law of thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics is entropy.  Things move towards chaos, often in irreversible processes, like burning a piece of paper. F=Ma, D= 1/2at^2 + vit, and other such formulas were things in physics I used to tutor students.

A cold, precise reality, but comforting in their certainty.

Yet people are not like bouncing balls in elastic collisions, where they bounce back up to the original height you dropped them from.  Rather, they break.

Dennis Yu and Alex Houg at BreakOut West 2014 in Winnipeg.

Dennis Yu creates a free blog and here’s what happens….

IMG_0358 2

Having an exact match domain on your primary keyword is pure gold for Google. But will this work for subdomains like

Regardless, since getting your subdomain on is free, just like at, you should do it. At least you can claim your name.

You should include your name as one of the tags, which generates another page to be crawled by Google.  And don’t put it under “uncategorized”– choose something.

Finally, write a compelling article at least 250 words long. Link to it from other articles if you can.