Ted’s take on the world, one topic at a time.

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The Girl Effect – Powerful Video

Posted by Ted Hopton on November 13, 2009

Posted in Activism, Charity | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Half the Sky – Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Posted by Ted Hopton on November 7, 2009

halfthesky-image4.jpgI’ve recently finished reading a truly moving book, Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It’s both horrifying in its graphic description of the atrocities women and girls suffer throughout the world, and ultimately inspiring in its accounts of those who have overcome adversity to survive and even thrive, often going on to make a difference for others.

You can get a quick sense of the book’s message from the website (http://www.halftheskymovement.org/). I can’t recommend this book more highly. It’s more than “just a book” — as the authors explain in the introduction:

So let us be clear about this up front: We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts. That is the process under way — not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen.

This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join in.

Some of the specific worthy websites cited in the book include:

Global Giving

GlobalGiving is an online marketplace that connects you to the causes and countries you care about. You select the projects you want to support, make a tax-deductible contribution, and get regular progress updates – so you can see your impact.


Kiva’s mission is  to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.


Givology is an Internet online giving marketplace that empowers individual donors to connect with students and communities in need of education support. By leveraging the Internet to support education grants and projects, Givology creates a global community of people connected through their belief in the power of education.

Plan International

Plan aims to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of deprived children in developing countries, through a process that unites people across cultures and adds meaning and value to their lives.

Women for Women International

Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives through a holistic approach that addresses the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.

World Vision

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian charity organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

American Jewish World Service

With your support we fund hundreds of grassroots organizations working to promote health, education, economic development, disaster relief, and social and political change in the developing world. We work with women, youth, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, indigenous people, refugees and IDPs and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Women’s eNews

Women’s eNews is the definitive source of substantive news–unavailable anywhere else–covering issues of particular concern to women and providing women’s perspectives on public policy. It enhances women’s ability to define their own lives and to participate fully in every sector of human endeavor.

World Pulse

World Pulse is a media enterprise covering global issues through the eyes of women.

CARE Action Network

The CARE Action Network, or CAN, is a group of CARE supporters working to educate our nation’s leaders about issues of global poverty. Together, we ask our elected officials to adopt policies that address the underlying causes of poverty, such as gender inequality and poor governance.

Posted in Activism, Charity, Education, Politics, Recommended Reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

TD Bank Redemption!

Posted by Ted Hopton on October 22, 2009

checkmarkI need to provide an update on my experience with TD Bank (see, TD Bank Really Stepped In It). Within 24 hours of my deeply frustrating and disappointing experience, I got a phone call from Eric Baker at TD Bank. Now it was the 9th inning of a Phillies playoff game, so I had little interest in talking to him at that moment, but he promised to call back the next day — and he did.

He knew I’d had a bad experience and he promised he could help me. We reviewed what had gone wrong and what I needed, and sure enough, he knew what to do. Pretty soon we had everything set up as it should be, and he’d apologized again and again for the way the call center had handled things. He promised to follow up with the person who had not been able to successfully help me, and make sure she understood the right way to make Quicken work with their website. He gently mentioned that it was Intuit that causes the problem I encountered, but that was almost in passing and he took full responsibility for TD Bank’s not explaining what to do better the first time.

All in all, it was quite a nice save! And 24 hours later, another person from TD Bank called to offer me help, not being aware that Eric had already helped me. Not so organized there, but I’d rather have redundant follow up calls than none. So, I’ve gone back to being a basically content customer. Maybe I’m not so hard to please after all?

Posted in Call Centers, Customer Sat, Customer Service | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

TD Bank Really Stepped In It

Posted by Ted Hopton on October 5, 2009

TD Bank made a real mess when they made massive system changes. I’ve heard about the problems customers are having on the news, and now I find I’m one of them, too.

I used to have an account at Commerce Bank, which I liked. Then Commerce Bank’s president got in trouble, the bank got in trouble, and TD Bank bought Commerce. All was still well until last week, when TD Bank launched an “improved” online banking website.

Now I can’t get Quicken to connect with TD Bank any more. I followed the directions from TD Bank for re-establishing this connection, but what the directions say should happen doesn’t actually work. I’m stuck and can’t find a way around it.

So I called for help, which Commerce always was good at providing. I’ve been on hold for about half-an-hour now. My first call was declined — I was simply told by a recording to try later. Maybe I should have listened, but I want to get my banking done now, not later.

My second (current) call was answered promptly by a functionary who asked the nature of my call. I explained that Quicken won’t work with their online service any more. After 20 minutes on hold, my call was taken by a beleaguered customer service representative who was not familiar with technical details of online services. He needed to transfer me to online services.

Wait, why wasn’t my call sent there in the first place? He had no idea, and he wasn’t interested in hearing my complaints about my time having been wasted. He gave the perfunctory apology, but declined to pass my complaint along to where it could do some good for future callers. “It’s too big a system,” he explained.  He had no idea who to contact or complain to, and just wanted to get me off the line.

So I am still on hold as I write this. Starting to feel like Charlie on the MTA.


It has been 90 minutes now. My call was finally, clumsily answered after an hour (there was silence for so long I thought they had disconnected me, then there was a fumbling around sound for a few seconds and finally a human voice spoke). I got transferred to the right department after 60 minutes on hold!

And then I felt like the straight man in “Who’s On First” as I tried to explain what keeps happening to me.

It took half an hour to get to her best solution for me, and I rejected it. Turns out TD Bank wants me to delete all my pending transactions that I scheduled on their website (not in Quicken). After I do that, I can follow the rest of their instructions and hope it works this time. And then I get to re-create the transactions that I deleted.

Instead, I created a new account in Quicken, while I was waiting on hold for an hour. And I found it pulled in my pending transactions just fine. The stupid thing is that now I have my data in two separate accounts. But after totally wasting 90 minutes on this exercise, I’d rather settle for that than go through more hoops.

TD Bank has a long, long way to go to convince me that I want to remain as their customer.

Posted in Call Centers, Customer Sat, Customer Service | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why I’m Newly Proud of My Daughter

Posted by Ted Hopton on September 18, 2009

kelsey headshotI don’t want to imply that I have not been proud of my daughter before (hence, “newly”), but I realized today that I’m feeling proud of her for a new reason: she’s vastly broadened her life and career options.

Despite being plenty bright and intelligent, she’s long struggled in school. In fact, kindergarten was the last time she had excelled. She had a wonderful kindergarten teacher who encouraged her to explore as a learner, and that was an environment in which she thrived. Once she encountered the more rigid expectations of grade school, her interest faded and a seemingly endless struggle ensued, until she finally graduated from high school (by the skin of her teeth).

After a year away from school in which she realized how much money it actually takes to live the way she’s used to, she started in a community college degree program in Veterinary Technology. And everything changed because she was excited about what she was learning. She studied hard, went to professors for extra help, became part of a study group with experienced students, and found herself getting good grades.

But it’s not the good grades that I’m most proud of, I now realize. It’s all the possibilities that she’s opened up for herself by learning how to learn. People who learn well can do just about anything. They can respond to economic adversity by acquiring new skills. They can pursue their dreams by learning to do what’s needed to achieve them. In short, their lives become an expanding web of possibilities. And that’s the exciting kind of life I’d wish for anyone to have.

So, becoming a good student isn’t about the GPA. It’s about opening the door to amazing opportunities. That’s why I’m such a proud father today!

Posted in Career, Education, Learning, Parenting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Hope You’re Reading My Other Blog

Posted by Ted Hopton on June 14, 2009

Just a reminder that I have not dropped off the face of the blogging earth, but in fact am blogging more often here: Adventures in Social Media. I’m also writing even more often in my company’s internal online community, but I’m afraid I can’t point you to that (see, internal).

Posted in Blogs, Social Media | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Springtime on the Farm

Posted by Ted Hopton on May 21, 2009

Feeling guilty that I never blog in here any more, but I blog so much in other places now that I simply don’t come back here often. But today I have a reason.

I wrote last year about the little bird family outside my back patio doors, and the sad demise of the chicks at the claws of a cat. I meant to cover that hole up so no bird would be foolish enough to use it for nesting again, but I never got around to that.

A couple of days ago, I noticed avian activity on the back deck again. A wren couple is building a nest in the same hole in the wall. They are awfully cute as they earnestly land with twigs and other bits before popping up and into the hole.

One of the barn cats is no longer with us, but one is, and he’s certainly a hunter. I have a bad feeling about how this is going to play out.

And in front, mockingbirds have made a nest in a bush that climbs up the wall. Pumpkin, the cat, has been watching them for a couple of weeks now.

OK, that’s the quick update from the cottage on the farm. Back to work!

Posted in Animals | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PlentyOfFish.com Sucks at Customer Service

Posted by Ted Hopton on March 2, 2009

Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish

Well, that’s a pretty blunt headline, isn’t it? This is one of the reasons I like having a blog: I have a platform to complain LOUDLY about companies that do wrong. This is what my old colleague, Keith Dawson, calls the “Super Empowered Angry Customer.” And that’s who I am today.

There’s a free online dating website called Plenty of Fish, at plentyoffish.com or pof.com, and for reasons that should be obvious, I decided to create a profile there. The site is fairly lame, frankly, but it’s free so I figured I would try it, anyway. Much to my surprise, within a few days I received the following “friendly” email with this Subject Line: Your Only Warning!

You have received this email because one or more of our rules have been violated.

If any of these rules are violated again, your account(s) will be removed from our website permanently.

1. Harassment – harassing or offending other users will result in your account being deleted

2. Nude/Inappropriate images – if you upload nude or inappropriate images, your account will be deleted

3. Duplicate/Fake Accounts – if you created more than one account for yourself or create a fake account, all of your accounts will be removed from our website


5. Age – if we have reasons to believe you are under 18 years of age, your account will be deleted.


You’ll just have to trust me on this, but I did nothing offensive, harrassed no one, uploaded fully-clothed normal-looking pics of me and friends, did not spam anyone, and I sure as heck am older than 18.  I also only created one account, but the crummy website interface gave me a cryptic error message while I was creating the account and then it forced me to change from the username I had originally selected. I complied with the inane request and finished setting up my one and only account.

So, why did I get that email? I have no idea, unless the glitch when I signed up caused their system to create two accounts for me. More to the customer service point, what is any customer supposed to do when they get this email?

The fatal flaw that lands Plenty of Fish in the “sucks at customer service” column is their clear assumption that their users are bad people. The email they sent could only be effective when received by people who knowingly did one of those forbidden things. Plenty of Fish appears to hope that by acting like a stern and angry parent they will get creeps to stop acting like creeps. I really wonder how well that works.

My guess is that a very high percentage of people who get that warning email subsequently get banned from the site, as I did. Yes, I tried to log in a few days later and could not. Whatever sin Plenty of Fish thought I had committed, they must have thought I did it again, so they kicked me out.

Since I’d already decided after being treated like a criminal that I’d prefer to use another site, this did not bother me, but it sure did amaze me. See, when I got that threatening email from Plenty of Fish, I replied and asked what had triggered it, explaining that I was not aware of violating any of their policies.

Guess what the reply from Markus, the guy who runs Plenty of Fish, said? That’s right, nothing, since he did not reply. But that’s okay, Markus, you don’t have to answer email from me, since I have a blog and can tell you right here what I think of the way you treated me. And can at the same time tell my friends and anyone on the Internet who wants to search for Plenty of Fish, plentyoffish.com or pof.com and customer service. I’m happy to let you know right here what a lousy job you do with customer service.

You see, I’m not a criminal, I don’t intentionally violate terms of service, and I sure don’t act like a jerk on a dating website. So Markus’ “Your Only Warning!” email both insulted me and failed to give me any avenue for correcting whatever issue had caused my account to be flagged. If you’re interested in losing customers and visitors, Plenty of Fish sets a great example:

  • assume your customers are out to get you
  • threaten them the first chance you get
  • refuse to tell them exactly what it is you think they did wrong
  • ignore their responses and questions when they offer to make it right
  • kick them out with no further explanation soon after.

We all could learn a great lesson in how NOT to treat customers from Plenty of Fish. That’s plentyoffish.com or pof.com, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention. After all, there are plenty of dating websites, too.

Posted in Customer Sat, Customer Service, Human Interest, Social Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

What’s the Opposite of ADD?

Posted by Ted Hopton on February 28, 2009

My daughter has some degree of ADD, but I think I have whatever the opposite is. Not that I am a fan in the slightest of naming every personality trait with a disorder diagnosis, though. But I find myself zoning in on things lately to such an intense degree that I look around after more time than I thought has passed and wonder why the heck I let myself do that.

Guess it’s a phase I’m going through. Now that I think about it, I’ve done this before. Kind of how I built an entire website when I first got the hang of using Dreamweaver. And how I started this blog about a year ago. Compared to those examples, I am currently a model of balance and self-discipline!

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve been blogging, but in other places. I never did think I would do well at keeping up with multiple blogs, and that’s proving to be the case. I blog more and more for work, on our internal Clearspace platform. Then I have the Our Social Media Cultural Evolution blog, which I’m terribly delinquent on (luckily my co-author there has largely taken up the slack — thanks, Matt!).

But I’ve also expanded my use of social media, so I spend more time in other places besides here. I actually go on Facebook fairly often now, much to my own surprise. I still think it’s 90% a silly waste of time, but I can’t deny the other 10% has value. And I’ve been posting to Digg and Delicious when I find things of interest, or tweeting them in Twitter or using FriendFeed or Feedly. In addition to blogging internally for work, I’ve been reading and contributing to forums about social media, such as Clearstep, particularly on topics related to Enterprise 2.0 (using Web 2.0 applications inside an organization).

I think I’d need to have ADD to keep up with all of those platforms, actually. Instead, I just let some go dormant for a while. Sorry if you were one of my readers here! I’ve ignored you for so long… and this isn’t a promise that I’m coming back, either. I’m still playing the social media field, and the new toys are shinier than this one ;-)

But you know what they say: you never forget your first. And this is my first real blog, so I won’t abandon it. Like a true friend, I’ll trust it to be here when I get a chance to come visit and catch up. Like today.

Posted in z | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Clearly Our Tax Code Is Too Complicated

Posted by Ted Hopton on February 3, 2009

taxcodesign300x397You know what I take away from the parade of Obama cabinet nominees who are confessing to tax errors? It strikes me as a loud and clear message that our tax code is too complicated. If these people can’t get their taxes right, how many of the rest of us are making errors, too?

I don’t think the answer is to beef up IRS enforcement, either. It’s simplification we need. I’m not advocating a flat tax or 3×5 card tax form, but c’mon! It sure looks like we could streamline the tax code and increase compliance as a result.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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