Rob Dolin's Blog

Thoughts on technology, politics, non-profits, and their intersections; and food

@LibertyMutual Ad Targeting #FAIL on @Facebook using @DerrickSkaug #UW != #WSU /cc @AaronGoldman

There are a number of things wrong with the below ad:image

1. Derrick Skaug is a rabid Washington State University (WSU) Cougar fan (not a University of Washington (UW) Husky fan)

2. Consider targeting my undergraduate alma mater: the University of Illinois

3. I’m partially color-blind, but the painted face looks blue and white.  These are not the UW colors of purple and gold. 


Filed under: Technology

Crowdsourcing a computer for students

I’m obviously biased, but I think this program for students to crowdsource the funds to buy a computer for school is really great:

Like many other crowdsourcing platforms, users can define a project or goal and ask family, friends, and strangers to donate a small portion of the cost.  What makes this program stand-out is:

  • Microsoft is funding the first 10% – You’ll notice prices at end in some odd numbers (ex: a Surface RT is $314) this is because it’s down 10% ($35) from the retail price of $349.
  • The PC will come with Office 365 University pre-loaded – As good as some web-based office suites are, having the gold standard in document, spreadsheet/list, and presentation creation is super-useful; and I’m a big fan of Outlook for email and calendar management and OneNote for both personal note organization and group project collaboration. 

I know that not everyone wants one of these PC’s.  (I didn’t see the Dell XPS 12 convertible ultrabook as one of the options.)  So I’m also curious: Do Apple, Google, Samsung, RIM, Ubuntu, or others offer a similar program for Macs, iPads, Chromebooks, Android, or BlackBerry?  I hope they do. 

Filed under: Education, Microsoft, Technology

Getting a Windows Phone on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and even U.S. Cellular

Nokia Lumia 900 (Cyan)If you’re an AT&T cellular customer, you hopefully have seen the awesome Nokia Lumia 900 (right) available in CYAN, black and white.  However, this is only one of many awesome Windows Phones that AT&T offers including the HTC Titan II with its massive screen or the smaller Samsung Focus series including the original Focus (my first Windows Phone), the Focus 2 in white, and the budget-priced Focus Flash which AT&T is offering for less than $1. 

But AT&T is not the only network that offers great Windows Phone devices.  While the iPhone is nice and may have lots of apps, it doesn’t let me create apps for people.  The Windows Phone has all of the key apps but I can also create app-like tiles for my spouse, best friend, and other friends, family members, and groups and “pin” these to my home screen. 


HTC Arrive™

If you like discounted, unlimited data plans, Sprint seems to be the way to go in the USA.  They don’t have a ton of selection of phones like AT&T, but the HTC Arrive (left) is a nice device that includes a sliding keyboard for people who may prefer a tactile keyboard for quick email and TXT’ing. 


Even though Verizon was the carrier behind the original Droid campaign touting Google’s Android OS, Verizon has a solid Windows Phone in the HTC Trophy.  I used a phone with similar hardware on AT&T and it’s a solid, highly capable phone.  It looks like a black version of the HTC device lower right.


HTC Radar™ 4G

T-Mobile was the first carrier to have a Nokia Windows Phone in the USA with the Lumia 710 (available in both black and white.)  T-Mobile also has the HTC Radar 4G (right.)  All three are great phones that run the latest Windows Phone 7.5 OS (aka “Mango.”)

U.S. Cellular

While I don’t know anyone with U.S. Cellular as their carrier, since they helped to remove the infamous name “Comiskey” from a Chicago baseball stadium, I feel like they merit a mention here for offering the HTC 7 Pro.

Filed under: Technology

Goldman Sachs resignation letter, misalignment of incentives, and implications for $AAPL $FB $GOOG and $MSFT

Today’s New York Times ran a resignation letter from a (now former) employee of investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.  Twelve-year employee Greg Smith describes his reason for leaving:

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

This misalignment of incentives between what is best for Goldman Sachs clients / customers and what makes the firm the most money seems to be the problem; and the firm has swung too far toward making itself money instead of doing most right by their customers.

Looking at some of today’s tech titans like Apple ($AAPL), Facebook ($FB), Google ($GOOG), and Microsoft ($MSFT), there seems to be similar potential for this misalignment to warp priorities.  Consider:

  Product users Who pays
Apple Mac, iPhone, iPad, and iPod users Same
Facebook 800 million + social networking users Advertisers
Google Hundreds of millions of search users Advertisers
Microsoft Hundreds of millions of Windows users Same

Apple and Microsoft are companies that make and sell products.  Whether it’s hardware + software (Apple) or software (Microsoft), these companies make products that the users pay money to own and use.

Facebook and Google are companies that sell the attention of their users to advertisers.  Their users pay no monetary cost to use the service.  The cost (and profit) comes from advertising revenue.  While it would be ideal for these advertising-funded web services to remember that they only can sell advertising if they have users, James Whittaker suggests that in the user vs. advertiser battle at Google, the customer is losing:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.

Considering the current challenge monetarily free web services face of pitting their revenue stream (advertisers) vs. their true customers; I wonder if a launch of web services where customers pay for the service rather than advertisers paying for the service could help to right this misalignment.  The key challenge seems to be: How much would you pay for Facebook or Google; or what about Twitter or your blog? 


Filed under: Technology

Why I was so impressed with “The Story of Us: Five Years Ago Today” video from @BarackObama

Regardless of how you feel about President Obama, take a minute or two to watch this video that his digital team launched about a month ago:

What impressed me so much about this video was how the Obama campaign’s digital team used Outlook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and the Facebook timeline as background / context for photos and video from the past five years. 

Filed under: News and Politics, Social Networking, Technology

Vision vs. Analysis: Apple’s Steve Jobs vs. Microsoft’s Steve Sinofsky

InfoWorld’s Woody Leonhard wrote last week comparing design techniques used by the late Steve Jobs at Apple and Windows Division President, Steve Sinofsky, at Microsoft:

But Sinofsky’s approach to design and that of Steve Jobs couldn’t be more different.

Jobs started with the germ of an idea and obsessively whittled away at it until he felt good about the end product: No focus groups. No user labs. No marketing input. No users telling him what they wanted, or why or how. He had a vision and he brought it to fruition.

Sinofsky, on the other hand, is a master at assembling and dissecting information about the way a product is used. Few people realize it, but he’s been the driving force behind a Microsoft internal product called Watson, the source of the "telemetry" that he’s fond of citing in the Building Windows blogs.

As Windows 8 becomes more broadly available, it will be very interesting to see if visionary design as embodied by Apple’s Jobs and the iPad will maintain its high share of the tablet computer and netbook market or if data-driven designs of Microsoft’s Sinofsky and Windows 8 will win in the marketplace.

In some ways, I wonder how appropriate the comparison is to political campaigns.  Is Jobs a brilliant producer slick mail and TV; or is he as shoot-from-the-hip consultant?  Is Sinofsky of the new breed of analytical campaign managers who employ the latest academic research or are his methods too poll-driven?  It will be an exciting race to watch.

Filed under: Technology

Your Input Wanted on Feature Roadmap for CivicCal

Over the winter holidays, I’ve been making some updates to a website where I list upcoming political and non-profit events in the Seattle metro area.  The site is CivicCal (for Civic Calendar.)  In addition to a listing of events, it also includes a list of organizations and a list of venues.  I’ve been thinking about directions to take the site and I would very much welcome your input.  A few ideas:

  • Personalization – Make it easier to set the organizations you’re interested in and to subscribe to their events
  • Social Network integration – Make it easier to share events with your friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, etc.
  • Mobile integration – Develop a more mobile-friendly site or apps for the top mobile platforms
  • Organizations – The site is heavily focused on civic-oriented organizations and events; it could expand to include a broader set of non-profit groups
  • Geography – Should the site expand to another metro area?
  • Other – Do you have another suggestion?

Please leave a comment, post on CivicCal’s wall on Facebook, tweet at @RobDolin or @CivicCal, send an email, or otherwise get in-touch.  Thanks very much–


Filed under: News and Politics, Online Communities, Social Networking, Technology

Email Blast Open, Bounce, and Click-Through Rates (via Constant Contact)

Many organizations (both commercial and non-profit) send email blasts and most measure these; but it’s hard to have a sense of what success looks like except by comparing from blast to blast. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find Constant Contact has a compiled list of average Open, Bounce, and Click-Through rates for their customers segmented by around two-dozen businesses.  You can find this at:  Enjoy–

Filed under: Technology

Windows Phone App Recommendations

A while ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who suggested that Windows Phone didn’t have very many apps.  I think he might be living in the past.  😉  With the latest apps including Amazon and Netflix and the latest games including Plants vs. Zombies, Fruit Ninja, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Tetris; I continue to keep my SIM card in my Windows Phone (Samsung Focus) and my iPhone stays in a drawer at home.


  • 4th & Mayor – A second foursquare app
  • Adobe Reader – When someone
  • American Airlines – For booking travel and checking on rewards
  • Evernote – Syncs my notes between my phones and PC’s.
  • Facebook – When I want to search for Events on Facebook
  • Foursquare – My favorite local social app
  • Gowalla – Great local app for some cities including their hometown of Austin, TX
  • Microsoft Tag Reader
  • Seesmic – Posting to multiple social media accounts
  • Twitter – When I want to view Twitters lists
  • Yelp – Checking local reviews
  • YouTube – watching the occasional video that a friend shares



  • ChickenImplosion – Great game premise and entertaining graphics
  • Flow – A geometry puzzle app written by a friend
  • Kill the Duck – Like “Duck Hunt” from your old 8-bit Nintendo
  • Impossible Shoota – Space Invaders with really nice graphics
  • The Oregon Trail HD – Yeah, like you played on the old Apple ][e
  • Swipy man – Cute physics-based game
  • Unite – It’s like the old “Marble Madness” arcade game


Seattle/WA specific

  • OneBusAway – Our local public transit app; tells when the next bus is coming
  • Seattle Traffic – For seeing the WSDOT map of how congested the highways are

If you’re thinking about getting a new SmartPhone, here are my recommendations on the USA-based carriers based on which devices are available as of mid-August 2011:

Larger screen Keyboard
Samsung Focus
Dell Venue Pro or
LG Quantum
Verizon HTC Trophy
T-Mobile HTC HD7 Dell Venue Pro
Sprint HTC Arrive HTC Arrive

Thanks for visiting–

P.S. For more apps and games, check-out the Featured, Top Free, and Top Paid lists of Windows Phone apps. 

Filed under: Technology

Screenshots of upgrading to Facebook Messaging

Earlier today, I was offered the chance on Facebook to upgrade to their new Messaging platform.  I’m excited to see how this works so I went ahead and upgraded.  I’ve heard that this is a slow roll-out so I also took screenshots so blog readers who didn’t have this feature (yet) could see it:

Step 0: Activate

It looks like Facebook is offering me a chance to upgrade to their messaging platform. 


Here’s the screens of what I went through if folks are interested:

Step 1: Choosing an email alias


Step 2: Enabling text messaging

(I’ll be turning this off if Facebook doesn’t have a good relevance system for limiting who can send me a Facebook message as a text.)




If you’re also using Facebook’s new messaging, please leave a comment with any tips and/or let me know what you think.  Thanks very much–


Filed under: Social Networking, Technology

Rob Dolin on Twitter

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