Weekly Download 14.23

download-158006_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

How Matt’s Machine Works is a very interesting read on the founder of WordPress (the platform for this blog).  It presents a unique view on how large a relatively old tech company uses its own tools. I was surprised to learn that 20% of websites are based on the wordpress platform.

10 Brilliant Quotes From Warren Buffett, America’s Second-Richest Person. I really enjoy the sage advice from Buffet and always read his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. Here he boils it down to 10 points. Good advice, indeed.

Seth Godin: Keep Making a Ruckus. This video is worth the 20 minutes.  Here are a few of my notes:

  • Today’s economy is about connection, not capital.
  • What’s next? What we’re doing now is what is next—don’t wait.
  • The difference between a painter and an artist is the leap that leads to connection. Without connection, it’s just using tools to do things. That’s a painter.
  • Creating a ruckus means activity provoking people into trying something they otherwise wouldn’t.
  • To change the outcome, change the circles.
  • Renaissances are messy.
  • Nobody wakes up in the morning with “talker’s block.” Writers block is due to the perceived risk of writing being a more permanent thing.

Coffee as Community

The heart desires neither coffee or a coffeehouse. The heart desires a companion, coffee is but the excuse. —Turkish proverb

There are those who drink coffee and those who are coffee geeks. I am in the latter camp. As a true aficionado, I’ve enjoyed connecting with others in the coffee community both locally and in my travels. The simple pleasure of a good cup of coffee is enhanced by being part of something bigger. Consider:

  • Coffee has a global culture that encompasses place, people, knowledge and even its own language.
  • The craft of coffee is truly farm-to-table. Every step from growing beans to harvesting to roasting to brewing requires mastery that contributes to that final, perfect cup.
  • One coffee tree produces about a pound of coffee per year. It’s important to me to recognize and appreciate this offering from nature.

I’m frequently asked questions about my passion for coffee. Here are my answers to the most common.

What is my favorite method of brewing?

Hands down, pour over. This got me going on my most recent cycle of coffee loving. A visit to Kickapoo Coffee Roasters (Viroqua, Wisconsin) was the starting point. But even more importantly, it was connecting with Kyle Johnson, the co-founder of Johnson Public House (Madison, Wisconsin). He reinforced the education and convinced me of the importance of water quality and precision (to my wife’s incredulity, I actually brought home water from JPH several times). It’s a chemistry thing after all—using water to extract flavor from the coffee beans. The formula is simple: quality ingredients (coffee and water) + a precise method (by weight, with careful timing) = a high quality output. Of course, to get started, you need the right equipment.

What is my favorite coffee?

I used to favor darker roasts. My current preference has shifted to lighter roasts. Done right, the nuances of the coffee is almost like wine. The fruity-type flavors come out. Ethiopia Yirgachefffe is one region typically of this style. However, just ask the barista for “bright, acidic or fruity.” To be honest, I don’t ask anymore, the great folks at Johnson Public House just tell me what I should get! There are so many new options becoming available with the burgeoning “third wave” of coffee.

Drawing and photo by Mark Baker

Drawing and photo by Mark Baker

What are some of my favorite coffee houses?

There are different coffee houses for different reasons. Just for quality coffee or espresso, or for great ambiance—a combination of environment, people watching/listening or a third place to meet people or focus on work. Ideally, it’s a combination of both.

The Apple Store Experience

Photo by Mark Baker

When was the last time you had a positive retail experience and wanted your picture taken with the person who helped you? I’m guessing NEVER would be the answer. Much to the embarrassment of my 18-year-old daughter, I took this picture of my wife and Mike Lane (shout out to @mikelane) at the Apple Store in Portland, Oregon.

Compared to the Microsoft Store ½ block away where there were eight employees and one customer and the AT&T Store with five employees and four customers (but only one customer being helped), the Apple Store experience was MUCH different.

Photo by Mark Baker

First things first. There was a LONG line 20 minutes before the store even opened. No worries, though. The group was orderly and there were at least three Apple Store employees working the line, performing a sort of triage and answering questions. With their mobile devices in hand, they lets us know what they had in stock, put in a reservation for service, told us what time to return and who would help us.

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

It turns out that most of the people in line were purchasing unlocked iPhones, which I suspect were quickly resold and sent overseas. The Asian woman with a large suitcase hovering over the large, 100-person group was a tipoff. But here’s the important service lesson: Apple had designed a process that segregated and prioritized those purchasing under a cellular/data plan from those who were not. Instead of having to wait, we were given a reservation and could return after the store was open within a designated time period to complete our transaction.

We went off exploring and then returned. Mike Lane assisted us. He was patient, took as much time as required, was pleasant and most helpful. Hence the photo.

This was no accident, but, rather a service experience that was carefully designed. The result? What started out to be a purchase of an iPhone 6 for my daughter ended up including an iPhone 6 for my wife and my own iPhone 6 Plus (thanks AT&T Next Program).  Happy customers, happy Apple employee and now a blog post to tell the tale. Word-of-mouth marketing = priceless.

Seems like the Microsoft Stores, AT&T Stores and many of the other retailers should take note. Much like my previous posts on IT as a Service (here and here), we need to thoughtfully design the experience we desire. If not, we’re just standing around waiting to frustrate people.

P.S.  It was the Apple employee who sent me to the AT&T store to cancel my AT&T order that had been in the queue for six weeks. It was not a pleasant experience.