Tag: communication

Using Non-Violent Communication for business

I’m just getting started reading the Non-Violent Communication book. I was in the middle of chapter 2 when I put it to work, with amazing results, in a business setting. Needless to say I’m sold on the idea and I’ll continue reading the book, perfecting it and recommending it to other people. This is what happened.

I was doing market-fit research for a new product called Glycast, which is like AdSense for Podcasts. Some years ago I built the core tech for it, but the timing was wrong and it sat on the shelf until now. Now I want to put this tech to good use, so I recorded some videos explaining how it works for podcasters and advertisers and started reaching out to talk to them, get their feedback, refine the product, validate the idea.

Shortly after setting up the landing page I got a message from Dave Jackson of School of Podcasting. In his email he asked a few questions about the service and linked to a YouTube video. I clicked the link to find a video recorded by him, with the title “Clueless Podcasts Advertisers”.  I though maybe this was about things to avoid, to watch out for. Nope, that video is about me. He never mentions me by name but he describes my operation and quotes me verbatim.

My blood started to boil. I’m not trying to harm anybody. I’m just searching for feedback to build a product podcasters and advertisers are happy with and the first message I get is attacking it. In my 6 years or so of running startups I been constantly attacked, so this wasn’t new to me. I don’t understand the mentality of people that when they don’t have a use for your product, they attack you, insult you, spread false information, etc. I normally just move on.

My first reply to the Clueless Podcast Advertisers video was, well, clueless. It went something like this:

I really don’t appreciate you posting a video, calling us clueless. We are not trying to harm anyone blah blah blah and you are attacking us. You are saying this and that and your are wrong, WRONG, WRONG.

Thankfully, I decided to stop and apply the principles of Non-Violent Communication I just learned. The first thing we have to do is observe without evaluation. We often mix the two. The books gives a few examples, such as:

You are too generous.

which is a mixing of observation and evaluation. On the other hand

When I see you give all your lunch money to others, I think you are being too generous.

is separating the two. Me, feeling attacked, was an evaluation of the situation. It was time to ignore that painful evaluation and observe. I re-read his email, I re-watched the video, observing, like an impartial third party and what I found surprised me.

David is helping people get into podcasting. These people are in a vulnerable position because they don’t yet understand the industry they are getting into so they can be subject to scams and abuse by unscrupulous third parties. I bet David is constantly exposed to people that signed up for the wrong service, bought the wrong microphone and now they are coming to him for help. And all he can do is break the bad news: you wasted money, you wasted time, you lost your audience, you are re-starting from scratch. I constantly see entrepreneurs making similar mistakes and I have to break the news and every time I wish I was there earlier, to warn them.

From David’s point of view, I was an potentially unscrupulous third party that was trying to pull off a vendor lock in. Podcasters needed to be warned about me! At this point, I felt I was on David’s side. How weird! It was a fast onset of high level empathy. I re-wrote my answer to be:

About the video. I’m not here to harm anyone. I’m here to make a product to help podcasters and advertisers connect, be more efficient. I’m building whatever podcasters will need to be happy. I understand your worry and your desire to warn your audience that might not understand RSS distribution and make a bad decision now that will cost them a chunk of their audience later on. That’s not something I want to do and I wouldn’t be happy with any company holding an audience hostage like that. I do want to work with you, and other podcasters, to make sure I meet your needs of an excellent platform that will help monetize your podcast, whatever your size is, whatever your topic is, and focus on your craft, on what you love, on podcasting.

I sent the email and I felt immediately better about it. Much better than if I sent the previous version. I consider it a success for Non-Violent Communication and I moved on. Shortly after he asked me for permission to publish this email and I said yes. What I wasn’t expected is that he was going to record a podcast episode reading the whole email and commenting about it: http://schoolofpodcasting.com/7141-2/

Among other things he says, referring to us:

I’m completely blown away by their response

About our solution, he says:

interesting, creative and I like it

He particularly refers to the paragraph I re-wrote as “the coolest part on the email”.

What a phenomenal result! I’m completely sold already on the principles of Non-Violent Communication and I can’t wait to finish reading the book and possibly reading other books too, to learn how to apply them.

If I were in charge of Skype

SkypeThis is what I would do if I were in charge of Skype, a product that could be doing much better. The big problem is, of course, adoption. Currently there are a lot of show stoppers:

  • You have to go to the site.
  • You have to download the software.
  • You have to install it.
  • You have to create an account.
  • You have to find and add your friend.
  • You have to remember to re-run it after you restart the computer.

If every obstacle halves the amount of users you are getting, Skype’s market could be 64 times bigger. That’s a lot.

I would start by writing a Flash implementation of Skype: Skype-on-the-web. Then going to skype.com/call/bob would call the Skype user bob without having to install anything or even create an account. With this feature Bob could tell his friend Sally, in an email or chatting with a competing product: “Go to skype.com/call/bob, let’s talk”. Personally, I would prefer Silverlight, but someone at Microsoft decided to halve its market by not supporting the microphone.

That’s open to abuse because anyone can call Bob at any time, anonymously. What a nightmare! That can be solved by requiring some random password, or hash. Bob would have a button on his Skype client that says “Generate call-me address” that would generate a use-once URL like skype.com/call/bob/dckx that would even work only for a short amount of time.

That last solution got a little bit too complicated. I would offer it, but I would also offer something much more intelligent. When Bob wants to talk with Sally he would go and add her to his buddy list by email address. That would automatically create an Skype account for Sally with a randomly generated password. Sally would get an email saying “Hey! You now have a Skype account! You can download Skype or just go to skype.com/on-the-web and start using it”. The most likely outcome is that Sally won’t do any of those things and will just throw that email away. That’s all right because now comes the best part.

The next time Bob calls Sally, since Sally is a non-convert yet, she’ll get an email saying: “Bob wants to talk with you! Answer him on skype.com/call/bob/dckx”. When Sally goes there, she doesn’t get a call-only-bob Skype, she gets a full featured Skype-on-the-web, automatically calling Bob. She’ll be able to call other users but what’s most important, she’ll have Bob in her buddy list. And when John does the same as Bob to call her, Sally will have Bob and John in her buddy list. Skype’s value for Sally is growing! She now has two good reasons to start using Skype

To increase the network effect hugely, I’d make it so that Bob won’t be able to see that Sally is not a Skype user. He won’t search for Sally and give up because she doesn’t have an account. He’ll just add her and it’ll seem to him that Sally is a Skype user. Because eventually she will. This model is nothing new, it’s how Paypal became the number one (only?) player in its field.

With the upcoming feature of screen sharing over Skype, tech support could also improve

Another thing I would do is target the support market. I would allow companies, like Dell, Microsoft, Apple, etc, to open corporate accounts and get the ability to have a lot of users under the same name (like “Dell Support”, “Microsoft Office Support”, “Apple iPod Support”, etc). Skype would handle all the routing and distribution of calls to each user using the typical call-center algorithms. Currently you call a local number and Dell routes you over the internet to where the call center is: India. That routing over the Internet is most likely paid by Dell. If their customers used Skype they’d be calling India directly lowering the bandwidth bill for Dell.

For the users it’s a huge win because sometimes it’s a hassle to find the right local number to call. And if you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in, or are traveling, it’s always a problem. Serving a global market globally is the way to go. After all, Skype knows which language you want to speak most of the time.

But the real jewel of this idea is this. Skype could try to discover the type of machine it is installed on and what products are installed alongside. You download Skype for MacOSX? Here’s Apple Support on your buddy list automatically. Microsoft Office installed? Either Mac or PC, here’s Microsoft Office Support on your buddy list. Running Skype on a Dell laptop? Here’s Dell support on your buddy list. The next step is letting any developer and company register a support line with Skype and enable it at install time of the application. For example: when you install Picasa, Google is added to your buddy list and, through a Skype API, Picasa has a “Call support” button that triggers Skype if locally installed or Skype-on-the-web otherwise.

Suddenly, Skype is becoming the dial tone of the internet (instead of that Twitter thingy).

Reviewed by Daniel Magliola. Thank you!