Category Archives: Commentary

Guest Appearance on Jim Wang’s MicroBlogger Podcast

It is clear that I’m unable to maintain this blog as I’d like to, but I can still use it to share some cool stuff . . .

Today, I just wanted to point out that I did a fun interview for the MicroBlogger Podcast with my friend, Jim Wang.

The show, titled, How Josh Dorkin Attracted 160,000+ to the BiggerPockets Real Estate Community will give you some insight into the growth of BiggerPockets . . . check it out!

Timing is Everything for a Startup: Managing Multiple News Releases in a Short Period of Time

In the next few weeks, I’ll be faced with managing the following important newsworthy events:

  • BiggerPockets crossing the 100,000 member milestone.
  • Launching a MAJOR upgrade to BiggerPockets including new homepage and some great new features (TBA shortly).
  • Announcing the outcome of a MAJOR, top secret project that BiggerPockets has been working on with a soon-to-be-named partner.

While these are all amazing developments, they bring with them challenges . . . particularly in managing timing.

Perfect Just Doesn’t Exist in the Real World

If the world were perfect, we’d be able to launch the upgrade mentioned above at the exact same time that we hit the 100,000 member mark, and could include the upgrade as part of our news release on the event. We’d follow that exciting announcement with the news release about the “top secret project” shortly thereafter. If we could time it perfectly, we’d be able to gain maximum impact for these three important events.

Unfortunately, as anyone in business knows, product launches don’t always stick to timelines. After working on this upgrade for months, it looks like we’ll probably not be able to release at the same time we hit 100k. This is certainly a disappointment, but we’ll find a way to manage the PR side and will use the inability to get the timing perfect to our benefit, regardless. Instead of two releases, we may just have to put out three, but that’s a discussion that I need to have (yesterday) with my PR advisors.

It looks like we’ll be working overtime over the coming 2-3 weeks, and I hope that these events help us to get out word that over the past few years we’ve built a site that over 10 million people have visited, but few in the tech community may actually know about. If all goes well, that will change soon…

Wish us luck!

Is Healthcare a BFD — Big Fucking Deal? Ask President Obama

I love politics. I love talking about politics. I love debating about politics. But rarely do I write about it. That might start to change.

We’re all human and a casual slip of the tongue happens all the time by world leaders. That said, one of the things that we ask of our leaders is that they be role models for the rest of us. With that in mind, I saw something today that really turned me off . . .

Coming off of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Obama’s Health Care Act (aka Obamacare), apparently our President — leader of the free world — decided that it was time to not only gloat, but also to do so crassly via Twitter with the following Tweet:

And needed to toot his own horn again with this fine example for the youth of America:

Is the Court’s decision a BFD (Big Fucking Deal)? Absolutely.
Does everyone in America know that? Absolutely.
Was the President’s BFD tweet appropriate? No!
Was the “I did it and you couldn’t” tweet to our former leaders necessary? No.

This public gloating degrades not only President Obama, but also the White House itself. Presidents always pat themselves on the back a little, but the manner in which this was done, I believe, is below the office. It stinks of the kind of trash talk that you might expect in the WWE, not from our most important representative.

I don’t care what your political beliefs are . . . this is simply not the kind of thing that we expect demand of our President.

You got your win Mr. Obama. Now it is time to show the country a little class and apologize for your “in your face” message.

Recent Personal Blogging and Speaking News

Hey everyone. There’s plenty of cool news in these parts . . .

I’ve also been dealing with a real headache on the personal front. I hired a contractor to rebuild my back patio, and it has turned into a complete fiasco. I’ve shared some details about the concrete issues already, but it turns out that there are far worse problems then those I’ve already discussed. I’ll likely be sharing photos for all to see in the not too distant future, but if the contractor decides to stop playing games and do what’s right, I’ll likely keep the pics and videos of the absolutely sloppy and careless work to myself.

Why You Shouldn’t Nickel & Dime Your Customers

This story can be applied to any kind of business, so pay attention . . .

Almost a year ago we found a local company to clean the house. They worked on a few homes in the neighborhood and did a great job. Unfortunately, that relationship came to an unfortunate and abrupt end today.

We had been paying them $85 to come and clean the house, and in the early days they would typically stay between 2.5 and 3 hours. Over the course of the year the amount of time they spent declined as did the attention to detail that was present early on. As we noticed this, we began to get somewhat disillusioned, but not enough to get rid of them.

Fast forward to this morning . . . they arrived and began to clean while I worked perched on the couch. A few minutes in, one of them walked towards the kitchen, stopped, turned to me, and told me that “from today onward we’re going to have to charge extra to clean the dishes.”

“Really? From today onward?” I remarked. “How about giving someone a little heads up before springing something like that on us” I continued, annoyed by this revelation.

Silence.

The kitchen sink had a handful of dishes, some cups and a bit of silverware.

I told her that we weren’t going to be paying them any more to clean our dishes and proceeded to clean out the sink for the next 5 minutes.

I was not happy and immediately called my wife to pass on the new info. Now mind you, two weeks ago we asked them about cleaning some of the dust from under the bed and was told that there would be extra charges for doing it.

I’ve been asking to get rid of them for a while now, but was always rebuffed by my wife. That wasn’t going to happen today. She immediately told me to fire them . . .

We needed the house cleaned, so I held off and simply went on with my business.

When they finished up, I handed over my check for $85 and they told me that they’d see us in a few weeks.

“Hold on. That’s not going to happen,” I said as we all walked out the door. “If you’re going to nickel and dime us on everything, we’re going to just find someone else. Thanks for everything and good luck to you.” I was talking to the back of one of their heads as they stormed off, annoyed at me, while the other guy was very cordial and nice about it.

Do You Run Your Business Like Them?

Forget the decline in quality of service, but when they stopped offering services that are typically standard and started trying to upsell us on these very services, they lost us.

Think about the stupidity of this move . . . they were going to charge us an extra $5 or $10 to do 5 minutes of dish cleaning. There’s no way we would pay that kind of money to clean a few dishes for a few minutes, so had we not fired them, they would never see any dishes from us to clean going forward. The most they would possibly have gotten from us on this up sell would have been the $5 – $10 had I decided to eat crow and let them do it today.

Instead, we felt like the principle of their nickel and diming us was something we couldn’t deal with, and fired them as a result.

Mind you, we pay $85 every 2 weeks or $2210 over the course of a year.

They lost that steady cash-flow because they got greedy and wanted to make a few more bucks from us.

Not only did they lose our money, but it is going to cost them money to acquire that next steady customer, so the losses compound themselves.

Was it worth it?

The fact that I was talking to the back of her head as she walked away, tells me that she probably realized at that very moment that it probably wasn’t.

What would you have done?

Photo: Paul

Reputation & Crisis Management Rockstars: Where to Turn When Things Get Crazy

Brett Borders – Online Reputation Management

I just finished responding to a bunch of interview questions about community building from a good friend, and social media rockstar, Brett Borders. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out his site before, I strongly recommend going through each and every post, and of course, when the interview is published, you’ll want to have a look at that as well. Brett is one of the smartest people in the social space, and I guarantee that you could stand to learn a thing or two from him.

In addition to social, Brett is a bonified expert in online reputation management. He publishes a blog focused on the topic called Online Reputation Edge, and if you’re ever need some help in that field, I strongly recommend you check it out or get in touch!

Charles Feldman – Crisis Management & Media Consulting

I’ve known Charles for many years now, and he is flat out brilliant. Formerly with CNN, he is an investigative journalist with KNX Radio in Los Angeles, and writes for such outlets as Reuters, Huffington Post, WalletPop, HousingWatch, and the BiggerPockets Blog . He is also co-author of the book, “No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle.”

According to his website, “He has extensive experience as owner of a Beverly Hills based media consulting company in corporate, as well as individual media crisis management. Feldman has trained lawyers, doctors, corporate leaders and private citizens in how to best present themselves and their business/practice to the media.” Very few consultants have the experience in television, radio, print, and the internet, as do Charles.

Wrapping it up . . .

DISCLAIMER: I don’t get paid for referring these people to you.

Both have the experience and expertise to help you in the event that you need assistance with your reputation or crisis & media management. So, in the event that the shit hits the fan, you now know where to turn.

You can contact them on their sites, or follow Brett and Charles on Twitter.

What NOT to do in Business – LIE to your Customers!

I’ve only got a few minutes, but I had to get something off of my chest.

After determining that I’m just not going to use my gym membership, I decided to give my 30 days notice. I knew that I had to get this handled quickly, as the end of the month was quickly approaching.

I called my gym on Monday morning and was put through to their accounting office, where I got a voicemail; I left a message letting them know that I needed to cancel, and to call me. After not hearing back all day, I called back, and again was put through to voicemail — once again, I left a message.

I then followed up with an email to ensure that I had some kind of proof that I had indeed tried to cancel.

I didn’t hear back from anyone on Tuesday, so on Wednesday I sent another follow up email regarding cancellation and CC’d my wife for yet more proof that I had indeed contacted them about the matter.

This morning, Thursday, I received a phone call from someone regarding my membership. She told me that she had canceled the membership and gave me a confirmation number of the cancellation.

I inquired why it took so long for someone to get back to me and she told me that she had called and left me a message on Monday afternoon. I thanked her and got off the phone.

I was upset that I must have missed the call and her voicemail, so I called to listen to this missed message.

It wasn’t there.

I checked my cell phone.

There was no message.

I checked my wife’s.

There was no message.

Perplexed, I decided to check the missed calls on my phone and logged into my phone accounts to see when she called, but there was NO record that she ever called!

Sometimes CYA Will Bite YOU Back

Clearly, when she told me that she had left me a message, she was covering her ass. Most people would have accepted the information and moved on, but I was fairly certain that I would have know if she called.

This woman simply lied to me.

Do you think I’ll EVER refer anyone to join that gym?

If you said no, you nailed it! I’m now going to tell everyone the story of how I was lied to, instead of telling people about the gym itself. By doing a CYA, she instantly created bad karma and publicity for the gym.

Why did she do it?

I have no idea, but sometimes it is easier to lie then to admit that you were wrong.

I bet that is the case here.

Lessons Learned?

Lying can be bad for business, so stop doing it!

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End of a Rough One


This has been one rough week!

  • I learned that my neighbor’s “lawn” was likely sending the bugs that were destroying mine – thanks LawnDoctor for the info.
  • I was hopelessly unable to connect with several key people who I rely on for advice and help.

  • I was the victim of a “glitch” at Paypal that resulted in the removal of hundreds of dollars from my account . . . hopefully they rectify it ASAP and refund my money.
  • I still never heard back from the reality television show that had supposedly booked me as a guest. Their credibility is definitely out the window in my book.
  • I had WAY too much drama with website crashes, load issues, and other computer-related problems. I’m starting to tire of these things.
  • I climbed two 14,000+ foot peaks – Grays & Torreys. That was rough, but a blast! (see pic)

Lets aim for a more relaxed week to come . . . only time will tell.

Host Lunarpages Fails to Make the Grade – Again

I’ve had several clients of mine over the years host their websites with a company called Lunarpages. For the most part, their experience has been a good one . . . cheap hosting, reasonable uptime . . . the basics.

Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that Lunarpages has dropped the ball, bigtime!

According to my client, Charles Feldman of TheFeldmanBlog:

I had this once before where the site was down, remember, and I left messages on their 24 hour line but they never got back to me…same this time. And last time, when I called during the week to complain, I , of course, got a voicemail for the manager who also never returned the call.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s not the type of service I’m looking for in a host. Sadly, it seems, reality doesn’t match up with the company’s promises. The following comes directly from the front page of the Lunarpages website:

There are thousands of web hosting services so why choose Lunarpages? When comparing web hosts it is important not only to consider a price difference of a dollar or two. Although we offer more data transfer and storage resources then you will likely ever utilize, we prefer to focus on something much more important, reliable web hosting and great customer service. Above all we take care of you personally and attentively with 24-7 award winning customer support. It’s all about making sure your website and email remain online and you are happy. It’s not just technical support to us; it’s about caring for people since 1998. Phone us any time and become part of the rapidly growing Lunarpages web hosting family. We are rated #1 in the world. Call us now and find out why.

Notice the text in bold (we bolded it to highlight) . . . doesn’t really match what I’m hearing from my client. The 24 hour customer support seems to be nothing but a voicemail system . . . WOW that’s revolutionary 24 hour support! I’ve called several times over the past 24 hours – particularly late night and early morning, and have not gotten a person on the phone. Isn’t that what 24-7 customer service means to you?

Hopefully someone at the company reads this and works to rectify the situation . . . either way, I thought it was important to let you all know so you can make an informed decision when considering this host.

Photo Credit: Control Panel by Tim Dorr

CNN & MSNBC Want to Know about My American Airlines Horror Story

Since posting my story about how American Airlines abandoned me, and then treated me like a 5th class citizen last week, I was contacted by both MSNBC and CNN.

I got the email from Christopher Elliot of MSNBC first thing Thursday morning (he sent it to me 4:30am that day – the day of my flight), and he wanted to discuss what I went through. Unfortunately, I got back to him too late for his deadline, but I was told that he’d mention my story and link to the blog post I wrote about it . . . I haven’t seen anything yet! Any updates, Christopher?

I was also contacted by Jen Haley of CNN. Jen was writing an article about travel insurance and decided to get in touch. The article just went live on the CNN site and I thought I’d share it with all of you.

So . . . check out:
Protect your cash if travel plans get canceled

American Airlines Cancels Thousands of Flights then Hangs Up on Customers Repeatedly


BOYCOTT AMERICAN AIRLINES

images.jpg



As many people are aware, American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights yesterday, and then canceled 1000 today. They just announced another set of hundreds of cancellations for tomorrow . . .

Why does anyone care?

Well, I happen to be one of the 100,000 plus passengers affected by these cancellations, and there is a big difference between what American is saying on the news and what is happening in reality!

American is Ignoring Their Customers and Leaving them Stranded!

Upon hearing about the issues American is having, I started calling the airline early this afternoon, in hopes of figuring out what to do about my flight tomorrow. I was able to get through customer service, but when I got to the digital announcement that tells you how long the wait is, the line went dead.

This happened over and again – 7 TIMES TOTAL!

Annoyed, I thought I’d be clever and call the corporate line for AMR, the parent company of the airline. When I reached someone, they told me I’d have to speak with customer service, and that they’d connect me. I got someone after a 20 minute wait and was told that they could not handle the situation; I would need to talk to some desk that is dealing with the issue. When they transferred me to this desk, the hold music came on, and after 4 minutes, the line went dead! I called back and told everyone I spoke to what happened, and was told that there was NOTHING that they could do, and that they would put me back to that number. Again the line went dead as they tried to connect me.

Note that I’ve done this on multiple phones, and it is not the fault of my cell phone, home phone, or other line . . .

Finally, at around 3:14pm I got an automated phone call from American (I signed up for such messages through the website) letting me know that my flight tomorrow was, in fact, canceled.

I thought I’d give it another shot and called the main reservations line . . . after sitting on hold for 24 minutes I finally got someone on the phone! He asked why I was calling and I explained to him who I was, what flight I was on, and that I wanted to make arrangements to get on another flight.

The agent (never gave me his name, unfortunately) proceeded to explain that they were experiencing cancellations because of the FAA. I responded that the cancellations were happening because American never did their job in the first place with inspecting their fleet properly, and the agent snapped back that it wasn’t American’s fault, but the FAA’s.

I didn’t want to get into an argument, so I asked him if we could figure out how to resolve the issue with my canceled flight.

He told me “you have two options: we can refund your ticket or put you on a flight Friday afternoon” (instead of Thursday that I needed). I began to ask about getting a ticket on another airline when he cut me off and started to re-explain that I had two options. He then kept talking about how the airline was taking care of things, but would not allow me to get a word in. I tried to speak and he kept talking over me. This went on for well over a minute, but the agent NEVER allowed me to get another word in – he just kept talking.

Finally, the line went dead . . . he hung up on me!

As I write this blog article, I’m sitting next to my phone on speakerphone . . . I’ve been waiting for 1:32:15 (almost 1.5 hours) to get someone, and it doesn’t seem like it will be happening ANY TIME SOON!

So . . . when the American Airlines spokesman goes on CNN and other networks to tell everyone that they are taking care of the people that they stranded (screwed over), don’t believe their lies!

I’m not being taken care of! I’m being ignored! I will certainly do my best to avoid American from here on in thanks to this spit in the face!

UPDATE: 5:44pm THEY JUST HUNG UP ON ME AGAIN!!!
Just after publishing this article my wife managed to reach someone at American Airlines on her phone. She had been on the phone waiting for 26 minutes when the agent called . . . meanwhile, the time I’d been holding on the other line had reached 1 hour, 35 minutes.

She handed me the phone and I pointed this out to the agent, who said, “well, I’m on the phone now, so what can I do for you?” I thought I’d hang up the other line as I finally reached someone . . .

I told the agent that I was calling about a canceled flight, but before going forward, I wanted to find out who I was talking with. I asked for her name and she told me it was Margie. She then repeated the question, “what can I do for you?” I explained that I was hung up on by the previous agent and I just wanted to make sure I had a written record of who I was speaking with. I asked for some kind of identifying information like her Agent ID # or call center info, and she responded telling me “all calls are recorded, so we have a record of your conversations.” I told her that I appreciate that, but I wanted to have it for my own information . . . we could then discuss the problem I’m having. Suddenly, the line went dead, AGAIN! I was once again hung up on!

UPDATE 6:12pm – My wife just got someone from American Airlines on the phone again . . . and the didn’t hang up! Miracle of Miracles!

He was VERY NICE and helped my wife get a refund for our flight. They weren’t able to get us on a direct flight to replace the one that was canceled . . . he let us know that there were flights on United, but they couldn’t verify whether or not we’d get on the flight. Without that guarantee, we could arrive at the airport and sit for hours waiting to get some kind of verification. Instead, we decided that the only prudent course was to get a refund (note – we had already purchased 2 tickets on Southwest for $1006 immediately after the last hang-up) for our 2 tickets for $318.00.

After it was all said and taken care of, the agent (Ron Moore – PF), explained that what we had been through was uncalled for and that American did not put up with that kind of behavior. He apologized profusely, and I must say, did a FANTASTIC job. He did tell me that anyone who hangs up on a customer would typically be fired (if they found out about it), and additionally, if someone refuses to release identifying information to a customer (Margie), they are disciplined.

Unfortunately, Mr. Moore’s fantastic customer service does not make up for the horrific experience that we’ve been through in trying to handle this situation with American Airlines.

We’re now out an additional $688, and supposedly must wait at least 60 days to get refunded the $318 we initially paid for our tickets. So . . . until that happens, we’re out a grand total of $1321.00 for a $318.00 airline ticket!

So . . . What are you going to do about it American Airlines?

UPDATE 8:39pm – I JUST GOT A CALL FROM THE AMERICAN AIRLINES AUTOMATED PHONE SYSTEM AND WAS NOTIFIED THAT MY FLIGHT WAS REINSTATED!
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!??!?!?!?
After going through everything I’ve gone through today (hours on hold and hangups), setting up a refund with American Airlines, and spending over $1000 on a replacement flight, I get a call telling me the flight is back on . . . what the hell would you do?

Joshua Dorkin Interviewed about Housing Crisis by CBS News Radio as Founder of BiggerPockets.com

Hey all! It has been a month since my last post and I’m finding that keeping up with this blog along with everything else I do continues to be difficult. I will struggle on and try to keep it alive and kicking. With that in mind, I wanted to share a bit of news . . .

Joshua Dorkin Makes the National News as Real Estate Commentator

Earlier today, I was interviewed about the US Housing Crisis by CBS radio, and the interview aired throughout the afternoon on KNX 1070 News Radio in Southern California, and across the Nation on all radio stations broadcasting CBS Network news. For more on the interview, visit the BiggerPockets Blog.

It was fun to do, and I have been happy with the feedback so far. I certainly hope to continue sharing my views with the media and the rest of the country.

If anyone else in the press is interested in speaking with me, I’d be more than happy to make myself available.

Thanks for everyone’s continued support!

CNN Secretly Endorses Barack Obama

It is no surprise when a newspaper or other publication backs a presidential candidate. We’ve seen it happen forever. The issue that stands before us today is that one of the major media outlets is secretly backing a candidate without letting us all in on the secret.

We all know that FOX’s, “Fair and Balanced” motto is a huge joke, in looking at their far right slant on the news. After last night’s CNN / You Tube “debate,” it seems that CNN needs to change theirs from “The Most Trusted Name in News” to “We Really Want Obama to Win in 2008.” While watching this “debate” it became hard not to notice that host, Anderson Cooper, favored the Junior Senator from Illinois. Not once was he cut off, even when he failed to keep to the topic at hand. Furthermore, it was compelling to see how truly un-balanced Cooper moderated the event.

From ChrisDodd.com:
7-23-chart.png

It is not hard to see that the amount of time allotted to Obama (15:11) was close to 3 minutes longer than Clinton (12:26), and a whopping 6 minutes longer than the average given to all 8 of the candidates of 9.17 minutes.

If you accuse me of being unfair, then I ask you to also look at the June 3, 2007 CNN “Debate” moderated by Wolf Blitzer:
6-3chart.png

In the first CNN debate in New Hampshire, it is clear that the amount of time allotted to Obama (16:00) was 1.57 minutes longer than Clinton (14:26), 4.3 minutes longer than Edwards (11:42), and a whopping 5 1/2 minutes longer than the average given to all 8 of the candidates of 10.5 minutes.

Conclusions:
I challenge anyone – especially CNN – to take a look at this data and try to conclude anything other then favoritism. When the mega news corporations stand behind our top tier candidates, no wonder the guys in the second tier don’t stand a chance.

How to Work With SEO Consulting Companies

While on vacation, I met a great guy — a friend of a friend — who had a website developed for his company. When he found out that I worked in the internet business, he began to ask me a few questions about how things work, SEO, and then some. In building his website, he hired a design firm that did a great job. He was not satisfied with simply having a website and found a company that could do SEO (Search engine optimization) work for him to help his site rank for certain keywords.

They had been working for many months together. The SEO company kept billing him and he kept paying. Unfortunately, since he had no idea what an SEO consultant actually did, he could not verify that they were doing a good or effective job. He asked me if getting a handful of leads over a few months was good, and I responded that it was not. This led me to become curious and visit his site.

I was shocked!

The company did not do even the most basic of SEO work for him. His code was not optimized, whatsoever.

This happens every day to countless people around the world. People calling themselves SEO experts charge people an arm & a leg to get their site ranked in the search engines. Many of these companies have no idea what they are doing.

How Can You Avoid an Unscrupulous SEO Company?

I recommend making sure you use a company that you have been referred to. Make sure they can provide references. Find out what keywords those references wanted to rank for and see if they rank for them. Contact the owners of those sites and ask them questions. A very quick hint if a SEO company is worth their salt is to see what keywords they rank for. Ask them. If they can’t get their own sites to do well in the search engines, do you think they will be able to help you?

Be sure that there are a set of expectations established before signing any contract. You must have in writing EXACTLY what you expect this company to do. They should be willing to provide details on how they intend on working with you and helping you out. If they do not, STAY AWAY! If they won’t answer your questions, STAY AWAY.

Basically, be extremely careful when working with any SEO company. There are many legit ones out there, but if you don’t do your part and investigate the companies you work with, you can find yourself paying out the a** to a company that is doing nothing for you.