Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Online Privacy - Where We Are Today

I read an article recently about how "microtransactions" are revolutionizing the video game industry. For anyone who has dipped their toes into Facebook games like Farmville or Mafia Wars it's easy to see how this can happen - you get started for free, and then you have the option to spend very small amounts of money to get little online in-game benefits.

What concerns me lately is the rise of the information capturing industry, and how they take snippets of data about things you do online - call them micropayments of privacy -and sell them to businesses who compile them to make money. Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist or anything like that, and I do see the good side to all this information analysis - for example the ads that I see online are more often targeted to me, so they're more interesting and relevant than things I might have seen just last year. But I do wonder where all this might go.

The Wall Street Journal has done a great job of investigating this side of the industry in a series of articles here, here, and here.

Another site I didn't see mentioned in the WSJ reports was I see this site come up all the time on Facebook, mostly (but not entirely) from teenage friends and family who use it to "Like" certain things. For example you can like "Pretending to text or listen to your ipod to avoid awkward situations". 64,000 people have "liked" that phrase (idea? not sure what to call it), and by doing so have given access to their personal information stored on Facebook. The Welikeit website is very vague about who runs it and owns it, but their privacy policy is crystal clear -they're going to use whatever information they can get however they can get it, and they're going to plant cookies on visitor's PCs to gather even more info. Thousands of people a day use this website, so what does WeLikeIt do with the data?

I don't know, and I've not found anywhere on the internet that has looked into it. But it reminds me of the "Create Your Quiz" app which was extremely popular until Facebook shut it down for spamming and other unethical behaviors.

So buyer beware! These small things, like visiting websites and "liking" things on Facebook do come with a price tag, and only time will tell if these micropayments of privacy come back to haunt us someday.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

CT Annual Conference Report

From Richard Warren, Ass't National Director for Communications:


Computer Troubleshooters just completed their 11th annual North American Conference in Decatur, Georgia, on June 7th. This year was rather unique in that the conference was held at the highly regarded Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA. The Agnes Scott campus was a perfect fit the technology franchise’s needs. The main theme of this year’s annual event was “Beyond the Horizon”.

Chip Reaves, CEO, stated, “Keeping your eye on this horizon is important for any business, but especially for a technology-based company like Computer Troubleshooters. If we are going to keep our status as the world’s best IT network we need to be thinking about where we want to be as an organization five years from now. During our time together we explored our future together. Some of the exploration will be technology, so we are pleased to have many great vendor partners who attended”.

Reaves continues, “What can we do together to maximize our opportunities in the future? That was our main topic for some sessions. We have a team of over 450 locations around the world and over 1200 of the smartest folks on the planet. We have a great foundation to build from, and we have a newly reorganized Assistant National Director team along with the CTUSA office to help focus our efforts and goals for going ‘Beyond the Horizon’”.

Three new franchisees were trained prior to the conference which adds to the strong growth of over 1200 worldwide technology technicians. The conference started with the Computer Troubleshooters Growth Club business coaching workshop. Four new sales videos were shown throughout the conference. These were received quite well by the franchisees and will be available for them to use in their local areas.

Franchisee attendees came from all over the United States and Canada to attend this annual conference event. The five day event was a tremendous success and was packed with many training seminars, one-on-one workshops, and vendor presentations as well as a town hall type meeting where the franchisees and their ideas and suggestions were heard. Computer Troubleshooters has always been a franchisee orientated business and with this town hall meeting it gave the franchisees another venue to express their ideas and suggestions.

Franchisees received training during these workshops and presentations on new technology such as cloud computing, SEO & SEM (Search Engine Optimization & Marketing), HaaS (Hardware-as-a-Service opportunities, and MSP (Managed Service Plans) to name just a few. Computer Troubleshooters and their 450+ worldwide franchisees were one of the very first to introduce MSP (Managed Service Plans) to their clients. Other new technology that was covered during this conference will be introduced to old and new clients as the attendees return to their local businesses and communities.

Numerous Awards were given to the franchisees including the Franchise of the Year award, Gold, Silver and Bronze sales achievement awards, the Rising Star Franchise award, the Fast Growth award, and tenure awards for five and ten year franchisees.

As Computer Troubleshooters looks forward, “Beyond The Horizon”, I am certain we shall see this leader in small businesses clients, home office clients, and the residential customer grow to reach new horizons that will again keep them ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine, Franchise Business Review, and as a top technology franchise.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Small Business Advocate interview

I've done several interviews now with Jim Blasingame, and today we talked about cloud computing and Computer Troubleshooters upcoming initiatives in that area. Jim also got a little personal.... you'll have to listen to find out more.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What to do?

I like to think that Computer Troubleshooters is a good partner to our vendors. We're sometimes a little slow to review and sometimes a little disorganized, but overall we've got a great relationship with top vendors like Zenith Infotech, Dell, Robin Robins, MSPU, SuperAntiSpyware, Fonality, SUTUS, etc.

But there are a handful of vendors I would just as soon never hear from again, usually because of past unethical behavior. American Registry is one of those ( They make these special plaques for companies who win awards, except they're really pushy about it. Seven years ago I had a problem where they shipped me a giant plaque with a note saying "if you don't like it you don't have to pay for it". I hadn't asked for it, and didn't like it or their sales technique, so I threw it away. For months afterwards I kept getting harassing phone calls from their staff demanding money.

Seven years later, they are STILL annoying me. Every time Computer Troubleshooters wins an award - and we do win a lot of awards (shameless plug) I can count on new emails and phone calls from American Registry. So far this year I'm averaging one email every 3 days, and a voice-mail about once a week. "Congratulations from American Registry on being recognized by in its selection of Top Low-Cost Franchises." (or Top Home-Based Franchises, or Top Franchises, or Top 25 Franchises in Atlanta, etc.

I have asked them time and time again to stop emailing me. I've asked them to stop calling me. It's a minor thing in a way, but every time I hear from them I remember the scam they tried to pull in 2003, and it just irritates me.

So, internet friends, what would you do if you were me? Is there a way I can get these folks to stop bothering me or should I just grin and bear it?