Fascinating study from Harvard Business Review on presentation and how others perceive it. The bottom line: when you present a list of things (features, accomplishments, etc.) mentally those reviewing that list treat it as an average rather than a sum. From the report:
During an interview, your potential new boss asks you to briefly describe your qualifications. At this moment, you have a single objective: be impressive. So you begin to rattle off your list of accomplishments: your degrees from Harvard and Yale, your prestigious internships, your intimate knowledge of essential software and statistical analysis. “Oh,” you add. “And I took two semesters of Spanish in college.” Not technically an impressive accomplishment, but since the company does a lot of business in Latin America, you figure some Spanish is better than none at all.
Or is it?
Actually, it isn’t. You’ve just fallen victim to a phenomenon that psychologists have recently discovered, called the “Presenter’s Paradox.” It’s another fascinating example of how our instincts about selling — ourselves, our company, or our products — can be surprisingly bad.
I’ve seen this a little bit myself. Until recently we kept web pages around for Palm, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry versions of powerOne, even though those products don’t sell anymore. Part of it was just not getting around to removing them and part of it was wanting to make sure that those folks still had access to help resources. 
Oddly (to me anyway), we occasionally received emails saying, “You support Palm but not Windows Phone!” or some such modern operating system version, as if we made the recent decision to write for Palm and it isn’t a decade old app we still have around. I can’t help but wonder now whether this Presentation Paradox was in full effect for them.
 Yes, we still have customers that carry around old PalmPilots just to use our software. While I removed the product pages from view, I minimized the support pages but left them available. They don’t have the same “weight” as the iOS and Android links have.
I saw this news yesterday and had to smile: the SAT exam is being redesigned to better match school work. That’s exciting alone because it has been woefully out of touch with the real knowledge required to do well in college.
In particular, this caught my eye (emphasis mine):
The changes are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary challenges will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.
For any of you who have been long-term readers of this blog, you know I spent about 1/3 of Infinity Softworks’ history in math education. What we found is that schools will only use in the classroom what is allowed on the exams. Because the AP, SAT and ACT exams only allow hardware calculators, then only hardware calculators are used in the classroom.
We came very close to upsetting this apple cart. Our software on a PalmPilot was approved for trials on AP exams but before we could implement it Palm fired their education team and the College Board backed out. A decade later and there still are no software calculators available for any of these three exams. In fact, I believe we are the only company in the world who has software calculators available in any standardized exams .
The best thing that could happen to classroom advancement of mathematics is the elimination of these calculators on these three most critical exams. It’s like using DOS in a windows world. Most students are turned off by the 30-year old technology more so than the topic. Removing them from exams would open up a world where software could penetrate the classroom, and students could finally get back to learning math rather than learning which buttons on their calculator to press.
 A version of powerOne is available in CLEP exams and in the Praxis, Texas and Georgia teacher licenser exams.
Brilliant interview with indie developer David Bernard. The three passages couldn’t have been more appropriate. Here’s one comment, based on the question, is there more Apple could do to support paid apps?
Currently developers can use IAP for all sorts of convoluted free-to-play schemes, but Apple has a rule against free trials, demo apps, and the like. With a single policy change, Apple could empower developers to use App Store receipts to roll their own free trials. Surely that’s no more user hostile than Candy Crush’s casino-like techniques for milking users for cash.
Exactly! I’ve said this before — and I’ll say it again and again and again — most of the problems with the App Store are Apple’s fault. All of these discussions about search, top ranked, analytics, even the annoying rate my app dialogs, all of them are really about Apple and the policies they put in place.
As David points out, one single deletion in a policy document — not even a technology difference — could completely change how indie developers make a living.
Every once in a while there is something that happens and I just have to wait for that situation to resolve itself. The past month has had one of those situations. Ten other decisions  hung in the balance while I waited on this one event to resolve itself. There was nothing I could do to speed up the process. I just had to wait.
I could do other things while I waited. I could try to line up everything so coming out of the decision I could move quickly. I did that. I worked on re-arranging the financials about three dozen times and worked on streamlining some of the existing costs. I could analyze what happens in each situation, depending on the decision, but I couldn’t execute and I couldn’t do anything else. I could only wait.
Last Thursday, finally, the decision resolved itself. It didn’t come out the way I preferred but I’ve been running a business long enough to know that sometimes the decisions that work against me at the time they are decided end up being the right decisions in the end.
At first I was sad. I wasn’t wanted and that is depressing. But as the evening wore on I figured it is the way it is meant to be, that it really doesn’t change our near-term plans anyway, and all the things that have been stuck can finally flow. It’s like having a big bolder finally moved out of the way of my stream, and now the water is flowing again.
I have another week to plan and organize and then back to coding, hopefully this time with a release soon around the corner. I knew that this decision would open up avenues one way or the other. What I didn’t realize was that there would be a sense of relief with any decision at all. I’m excited to move on.
We are traveling to Florida the end of March. We booked the travel in November because it is Spring Break and traveling during the Break is always risky. At the same time we booked a car. This past week my grandmother called to offer us her car. No reason to spend the money on a rental, she said. We were grateful.
I called this morning to cancel the car and was told I rented the car under a no change, no refund policy. I couldn’t believe it. I’m calling more than three weeks before the travel and Hotwire is telling me I have no recourse. They said this was part of the agreement, which of course is only provided as a click through link when signing up, and then is buried in a multi-page agreement. I don’t remember the site ever once saying, clearly, booking this car means no changes and no refunds.
So I called Hertz. Here’s a company that supposedly takes care of their customers. No dice there either. They basically said I should have booked with us instead. Great. I have a $400 rental car in Florida that I don’t need. I love pissing money down the toilet.
It bothers me that Hotwire trusts their services so much that they bury important information like no refunds or changes. (Delta changed our flight and we arrive 7 hours earlier. Hotwire wouldn’t change our arrival time either — no changes — so who knows if we will have a car when we get there.) This makes Hotwire look shifty and underhanded.
I’m just as disappointed in Hertz, though. Here’s a company that supposedly takes care of their customers and they are basically telling me to pound sand. Why, if you want a good relationship with your customers, would you even rent cars through assholes like Hotwire? Could you imagine buying an iPhone at an AT&T Store and then Apple telling you they won’t support your iPhone because you didn’t buy it from them?
It’s not like I’m an amateur here. I’ve sold products to customers for 17 years. We have always tried to accommodate them even when they didn’t buy through us. This is particularly challenging in the App Store world, where we are given no recourse for our customers. I’ve given away tons of promo codes to customers who felt they bought the wrong product even though we have no means to prove a purchase was made.
I will definitely never book anything through Hotwire again. And as for you, Hertz, we’ll see if I get over this one. At the moment I wish a plague on both your houses.