Stupid Corporate Tricks

A picture named stoudemire (1).gifSome days the web feels like a version of Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks, except with corporations. Today is one of those days.

Seth Godin has a takedown of Progressive Insurance, which keeps rates low by not actually selling insurance. We had all heard the story about the woman who was killed in an auto accident, covered by Progressive for, among other things, accidents caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Progressive, trying to avoid paying her family, actually defended the other guy, against their own customer! That part of the story is not new. But Godin dug up the company’s excuses, which are terrible admissions of corporate malpractice hidden among confusing legalese. Makes me wish there were a corporate death penalty so we could impose it on Progressive.

Speaking of Mitt Romney, do you believe his chutzpah! He says he’s never paid less than 13 percent. Wow. I wonder if they tested that with focus groups. Here’s a clue to Mitt. That’s a lot less than middle class people pay. My grandfather, whose life was saved by the United States, taught his grandchildren that it was a privilege to pay taxes. He wasn’t a softie, but he was glad to be alive, and I don’t think he ever forgot the role this country played in that. Romney appears to feel a sense of entitlement, no gratitude to the country, and no kinship with other Americans.

Someone should ask Romney if he believes in the great Kennedy exhortation — Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. If so, please tell us Mr. Romney, what have you done for your country lately?

Finally in the Stupid Corporate Tricks department today there’s Twitter.

I’m not surprised by what they did yesterday. I saw it coming, and I told you all to be prepared. What I didn’t anticipate is how crudely it would be done, and how much confusion would ensue among users who are paying attention.

Bottom-line: Twitter is selling their channel to advertisers. They need to prove to them that they have control of how their messages will be seen. I don’t think any of what they’re doing is stupid or evil or misguided. However, it might not work. It might not turn out to be the big value in what they’ve built at Twitter. But it certainly is one theory.

The good news is that as Twitter focuses, and pulls back, and makes their product smaller — this will create space for new things to blossom and possibly flourish. So it’s a good time to be thinking about and doing new things. I don’t think a re-hash of Twitter is the next big thing. Twitter was new in 2006. It’s time for new online services and tools that draw inspiration from things like Twitter and Facebook, but if the past is a guide they will not do what the earlier products did.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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