Internode Increase Prices, Twice

Internode BannerI use Internode as my current Internet Service Provider, they have been reliable, cost effective and I have not had a single complaint. The day before yesterday they announced that there would be changes to their plans and pricing structure. I now have a complaint.

There has not been an increase or major changes to their offerings since I have been with Internode. Indeed there has not been a price increase for six years. I can appreciate that these things change and inevitably prices always increase. However in this instance it is the percentage of increase and the way in which they have gone about it that sticks in my neck.

The reasons that have been given for the price increases are that while offered line speeds have increase, the cost of provision has not decreased. In other words users have faster speeds, download more and the cost of providing that bandwidth has increased. Internode blame the heavy use of services such as YouTube and BitTorrent for this. I am not sure what they expected users to do. These services especially video are only really available to those on faster connections!  Therefore they have hit the high speed users more than the lower end plans. I presume they use the above for justification for this. They are the ones using the bandwidth so lets charge them the most.

So the price goes up. Which as far as I am concerned is fine. I can understand that if something costs more then you need to essentially cover that cost. For me this means an added cost of about $10 AU to my bill per month. Currently I am on 8000MB/384kB connection with a limit of 20 Gig down per month. I can cop the 10 bucks on the chin. But essentially I have been delt a double blow. My bandwidth has been halved to 10 Gig per month for the same price that I am paying now. The cost to increase to my current 20 Gig limit once the changes are in effect? 10 Bucks… Do you see it? This is not a 10 dollar increase, it is a 20 dollar increase. Because that is what it will cost to maintain my current service.

This was underhanded in my opinion. If you are going to increase my plan by 20 bucks then bloody say that. Don’t halve my service! Don’t tell me that most users don’t use their limit and don’t soften it by saying that you are offering 13 new plans to better suit my budget! This is a massive increase in cost to the end user both in bandwidth and cost. I assumed that maybe it would be 5 – 10 dollars per month, I was very wrong. Internode will loose customers having done this and there are a lot that are not happy. As the Whirlpool Forums, in which users have vented their displeasure is a testament to. There are those defending them as well but more that are trying to wrap their head around exactly what Internode were thinking.

As I said Internode are excellent, I don’t have a complaint about their service. Am I leaving? No, not for the moment, but I am looking at alternatives.

With the advent of the connected world, the increase demands of bandwidth for applications and web development with software technologies such as Ajax, Java and Flash, podcasting, on-line video and gaming this was inevitable. People are using the technology, they are utilizing that which the online universe has presented to them. They are using more bandwidth, they are consuming more resources. It was not like you could not see it coming. But this is only the beginning. The Internet is being programed for users that have the bandwidth to run it, not the other way around. In my opinion the thought that if you give users a faster speed they won’t actually consume more bandwidth was an oversight. Then to slug users that are using these services with a large increase and cripple their ability to use them due to reduced bandwidth limits was wrong.

I am not impressed Internode, at your lack of foresight, your logic, your increase in price and your reduction in my service. But as I said I have been happy with your service and I will give you but few chances and no, you are not a cat and there goes one…

Internode Homepage Screenshot

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Making Sense of the Noise

The Internet and everything can be a lot of white noise to some. Understanding it can be a problem for people that don’t understand the technology. Yet it is this technology that is shaping our future and that of our children.

This would have to be the best video that I have ever seen. It embodies nearly every aspect of where we have been, where we are and where we are going. Sure it has been floating around for a while now but I think it is great, inspiring and very well done. I have seen it about 10 times now, but you need to watch it more than once; the pace is quick.

I am not saying that it explains everything or that it has any answers for you. Yet it might send you on a path of discovery or just help to put things into perspective. The concepts that this video encompasses is the basis of RSS, Web 2.0, content, delivery, community and heaps more. The implications of the principles that this video depicts are wide and far reaching. While I think I understand what is happening around me I still learned a few things by watching it.

It is time to rethink a few things…

The Need for Speed

I have had broadband or ADSL1 for a while now. Where I live we only have access to ADSL1, ADSL2 is not available as yet. I have had a 1500/256 connection for most of that time. Earlier this year Telstra “took the breaks off” the fastest attainable speed that you could get. We also saw a drop in price for this fastest speed. In order to get the “unthrottled” service you had to upgrade your connection and pay a few extra dollars.

I have been pretty busy and I only got around to looking at my connection last Friday. Now the plan I was on, the 1500/256 plan dropped in price but I have been paying the higher price as I did not change anything. I found that I was basically paying for the unthrottled service. So I thought what the heck, I am paying it I may as well change to that speed and I got a 100% increase in available bandwidth.

Changing my plan means that I now have a 8000/384 connection. But this is variable, meaning that the minimum I will get it 1500/256. All week end I have been testing my connection on Speedtest.net checking if it switches over. Today I had some luck. I tested my closest Speedtest server which is Brisbane. I got the following result (note that the miles are wrong in this test):

What I noticed was that the ping has not changed much with the faster connection, not sure why. But as you can see the download speed has definitely had some improvement. The fastest I could get before was about 1300 download. So pretty good. I also tested Europe and the UK in addition to America, the following is the best result from the US:

The big surprise was the speed that I got here in Australia as the best result came from a connection from here in Cairns to Melbourne. What you might not understand is despite our connectivity here in Cairns we are actually quite isolated from the rest of the country. Our pipe from Cairns to Brisbane, which is the most direct is a long one and can be problematic at times. That Cairns – Brisbane connection is the bottleneck as all North connections run through it. But here is the result that I achieved to Melbourne:

I thought that was great. I am pretty happy with these results and time will tell if it is worth it. While I was happy with the download speed that I was getting on my old plan, it was not mega fast but I did not have to wait for much and I had the bandwidth that allowed me to do other things while I downloaded stuff. Now I have bandwidth to burn and the limit that allows me to test out great new services like Joost.

The upload speed was the thing that I was more interested in increasing. I upload the podcast each week and lots of files to our hosts and others this will help speed up that process a bit. But not as much as I was hoping. Then again it is very close to the stipulated 384k that is advertised so I should not complain. In fact it is very good really, as you may or may not know you never get what is advertised. Most people I talk to have no idea what speed they are on!

As I said previously this service is a variable one so I am going to do a few tests at different times and see what times of day are better than others.

These tests were performed with my internet service provider Internode using Speedtest.net. I have found Internode to be excellent and provide a great service at a reasonable cost. ISP choices are a personal choice and you have to be happy but you could do worse than Internode. A list of available plans is available from their website.

These speeds may seem poor if you live in Europe or the US and they are in comparison. Fact is; that for me this is as good as it gets where I live and is faster than most of the population here in Australia that have broadband access. Fast connection speeds in Australia are hard to come by and when you do they are very expensive, for me this is a good middle ground.

SPEEDTEST.NET is a great way to check out how well your ISP performs. It uses a graphical interface with some funky dials and gives very usable results as can be seen here. That is all well and good in isolation, but they also give you the functionality of being able to compare your results to others in your country and the world. These images are via the supplied links that they offer to embed your results into web pages.

Speedtest.net Screenshot

Marketing Podcasting

I was reading Don Thorson’s Blog today and he was talking about “Whole Product“. Marketing he says:

“…come[s] down to a few basic rules. They’re basically the same rules we were taught in our first marketing class.”

I am not a marketer, nor have I studied it in any great detail. I would however say that I do marketing. I have been marketing The Global Geek Podcast since it’s inception as well as this blog and the brands associated with them. So given Don’s formulae I thought that I might try to apply them to podcasting and see what I come up with.

The rules of marketing are simple enough:

  1. Does it solve a problem?
  2. Is it easy to understand?
  3. Is it easy to get?
  4. Is it easy to use?
  5. Is it easy to share?

Does Podcasting Solve a Problem?

In my opinion podcasting is an audio or content delivery system. So I would answer yes to this question. You have content that you want to share and “casting” it is a solution. Syndicating your podcast is a method that makes it available to your listeners. Although that statement is a bit of a weird one because podcasting is syndication of audio content.

Podcasting also solves the problem that radio does not always deliver the content that I want to listen to. More often than not the radio is terrible and contains content that I have no interest in at all. The radio also demands that I listen to it at a certain time in order to listen to the content that I am interested in.

I can listen to podcasts when I want to for how long I want to. So podcasts are “on demand” they do not dictate to the listener, the listener gains more control over what they listen to. That in my opinion means that podcasters need to remember that they have an audience that knows these things and that they should “target” their audience.

Is It Easy to Understand?

You say “podcast” to someone and more often than not you will get a dumb look. The dumb look is not their fault. Podcasting is a new media delivery method, it has not become mainstream. This presents a problem, does that automatically mean that it is hard to understand just because it is a new “product”? I don’t think it should be.

I try to explain podcasting as: A radio show on the Internet. That at least fits into the category of a product that can be explained in five words or less. It would probably pass the “Mum test” as well. But I do think that seriously undercuts what podcasting really is and because of stereo types causes the other person to make some inaccurate assumptions.

This is especially true when you look at the Wikipedia definition of a podcast which is 123 words long! But it does take into the account the special attributes that make podcasts very appealing.

However, John Dodds in his “Geek Marketing 101” Post makes me feel a little better in that he states that:

“Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation.”

In other words, just because you describe something simply does not mean that you are selling your idea short or degrading it’s potential. So maybe my very simplistic definition is a good one for people that have never heard of podcasting. The idea and the medium itself is not a difficult one to understand but the fact that it is wrapped up in “geekology” and “tech” does cause a block. They think that because it uses a computer and the Internet it is hard to understand. Which means the delivery is important.

Is It Easy to Get?

This is where I think the idea of podcasting is a failure as far as a marketing is concerned. No, I do not think it will fail but the current state of podcasting means that there are issues with accessibility, especially for the new listener.

The simplist way to listen to a podcast is a flash player on a website where a podcast calls home. Any podcast should have one for this reason. Vist the page and hit play, it could not get any simpler right. But, this type of listener is not taking advantage of podcasting especially if you are applying the strict definition where according to Wikipedia:

“Though podcasters’ web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their content, a podcast is distinguished from other digital audio formats by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feed formats such as RSS or Atom.”

So someone listening off the web page is not listening to a podcast, they are listening to streaming media that calls itself a podcast. Strange but true according to the definition.

For a listener to subscribe to a podcast via an RSS reader or aggregator that supports enclosures is; in my opinion is one of the biggest failures of podcasting. Podcasts or any feed for that matter are not easy to understand or subscribe to. This needs to be simplified in a big way for podcasts to “take off”.

I have managed to get one friend that I know of to understand how to subscribe to feeds and podcasts and use it regularly. He is a fairly smart person and computer literate, even then on more than one occasion I had to assist him to subscribe to a feed or understand something about RSS feeds, or his aggregator. What hope is there for the person that just uses their computer to email and look at a few [add interest here] sites? Or the person that has no help at all, who I can almost guarantee will give up soon after clicking a feed button and they see the raw RSS feed and write it off, who wouldn’t?:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
  <channel>
    <title>Liftoff News</title>
    <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/</link>
    <description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <pubDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 04:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
    <lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>
    <docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>
    <generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>
    <managingEditor>editor@example.com</managingEditor>
    <webMaster>webmaster@example.com</webMaster>

etc…

Once a user has got this far they need to either listen to the media on their computer or transfer the file to an MP3 player. This for some people is put in the “too hard basket”. Listening to it on the computer negates the “on demand” concept I talked about earlier in so much as they are restricted to listening to it when they are on their computer. It also makes a podcast a less attractive product.

There are moves however that are dealing with the complexities of subscribing to content. As much as I loathe iTunes I think part of it’s success has to do with the fact that it makes this process easy. Subscribing, downloading, transferring to a portable player – it is all done seamlessly. I am sure that some iTunes users have no idea they are subscribed to an RSS feed. You can get up in the morning, the iPod is charged with new content and off you go.

Firefox 2 that launched this week is also a step closer to making RSS feeds more accessible, one click subscribing to an RSS feed with the aggregator of your choice. At least when users click on the RSS feed link they get a note at the top of the screen explaining what it is and what they can do about it. IE 7 also has better RSS management as of the latest release. This makes podcasts that much easier to get. Although Windows Media Player is yet to see the light, which is poor to say the least and little wonder Apple has the market wrapped up, at present anyway.

Podcasts and RSS feed subscription has to become seamless and invisible for it to hit mainstream. Otherwise podcasts and feeds will just remain a neat geek technology trick.

Is It Easy to Use?

I think most people can play a music file now, or an .mp3 file. Here is one of the powerful aspects of podcast marketing, if you can double-click or press play then you can listen to a podcast. The fact that even a basic install of a computer recognises file types and associates the appropreate application to play it with. From a listener’s perspective once you can get your hands on the file it is easy and accessible. Even vidcasts would fit into the easy to use category.

Don says that at Apple they had a rule:

“”1 minute after they start to use it , they feel like calling their friends”. ……” You will not believe what I just got””

I am sure that given insight into the powerful medium, a listener would see the advantages of the medium. That is of course assuming they have downloaded a quality podcast and not something that has awful production and content. Podcasters, you are ambassadors for podcasting and it’s future, indeed your own future as a podcaster. I am sure there is a marketing rule that says something like: “make sure that you have a product that people will want”. If I have described a listeners first experience of a podcast and that is you, please just try again there is some great, great content out there of any topic you care to name. There is a pile of rubbish as well, like anything.

Is It Easy to Share?

I had to think about what sharing is within the product of podcasting. Can I easily share an .mp3 file? Yes, I could do that but but it is not really sharing the “concept” of podcasting. That is the key, podcasting is not a thing, it is a concept. How do you convince people that you have a concept that is worth having? You become a podcasting evangelist; that is how.

I talk to people when ever I can about podcasting, blogging and whatever else might be associated with it. I have found that you don’t have to sit people down and give them the Podcasting 101 talk (unless they want it, then great).

I am reminded of someone that I work with, about as much of an anti-geek as you could find. More of a “hippy” than anything geek. She has heard me talking about podcasting and she has even asked how she could listen to a show. Yes she has listened to a show. I have mentioned small things about the show or how things have been going to her. The other day she come right out of the blue and asked me how the new co-host was working out! Blew me away. No, she is not a podcasting guru now, but she knows what a podcast is and she won’t give you the “cow in the headlights look” if you said “podcast”. That in my opinion is marketing podcasting, moving it from the geek arena to the mainstream at this present time involves word of mouth education and enlightenment of everyday people to the medium.

This is not about marketing a specific show, that is a another mega post it is about podcasting and marketing the concept. Making the medium understood in the public. Understanding leads to acceptance, use and finally demand. Understanding exerts pressure on developers to overcome the “Easy to Get” problem.

“Marketing is a conversation, but most people don’t speak geek.”

– Rule Number 2 of Geek Marketing

So yes podcasting is easy to share. Do you know about podcasting and subscribe to some yourself? If you can answer yes to this then tell people about it. You might have a podcast in your iPod, people ask you what you are listening to, offer them a listen. Get them interested in wanting the content then they will want to know how. Why not assist someone to set up an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts? Once you have got someone hooked on podcasts they will want to tell others as well. Demonstrate by example how it is done. Something that I do is to wear my “The Podcast Network” T-Shirt as soon as it is washed and ironed! It is a great way to start a conversation.

This is really my take on Geek Marketing 101 Rule Number 10:

10) Marketing demystifies.

“As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”

Nope.

My conclusion is that podcasting is a marketable product or concept but there are significant blocks to it becoming a successful one. Given the rules of marketing it fails. Podcasts solve a problem, are relatively easy to understand, use and share but they are hard to get. Four out of Five is not bad for a new technology medium. But for it to be a successful whole product it has to make five out of five. The main hurdle is that software remains relatively complicated and detailed and the user requires some assistance to set up. For podcasting to be a “whole product” we need to make the process of accessability one that is seamless within the user experience. They should be able to subscribe and listen to podcasts without needing to know anything about an RSS feed or an enclosure. It should be as simple as clicking “play”.

I am not sure how I have done as a marketer in this post, but it has made me really think about podcasting and viewing it as a product. Any real marketers out there have an opinion?

Another Telstra Rip-Off

So Telstra (the major Telco here in Australia) get all fired up about their new service. It is called the “Next G Network”. Basically offering WiFi where-ever you go.

The only upshot as far as I can tell with this is that you can take your Internet connection with you. That is they supply you with a “mobile card” that you install your Laptop and you can be connected while you travel, as opposed to find some unsecured WiFi network somewhere. If you mainly or only use the Internet at home then this is a rip off of staggering proportions.

So there is on offer two plans and yes they are locked for 12 months. The first plan called “G Fast” offers 256 kbps and 128 kbps upload. There is a 200MB option or one GIG, and that is per month… The cost… $49.95AU and $79.95AU respectively. First up the speed is poor even for WiFi and second you would not want it to be going any quicker as you are charged 30 cents per MB once you go over your quota! So that too slow for you and a bit restrictive? Well we are geeks and we need speed right?

Well maybe the “Super G Fast” is for you. There is only one speed here and that is 550 kbps to 1.5 mbps download (average) with an upload speed “bursting to 384 kbps. This plan is offered in two options; by the hour or by the volume. 10 hours or 20 at a cost of $29.95AU and $49.95AU respectively. The volumes offered are 400MB, 1GIG and 3GIG. Costing, $79.95AU, 109.95AU and 199.95AU respectively… Oh and I forgot that there is a one off fee of $299AU for the wireless card.Is it just me or does this seem like there is something wrong?

Pays to read the fine print where some of this information was taken:

1. The G Fast plans will have a download speed up to 256kbps and an upload speed of up to 128kbps. These speeds are a theoretical maximum. Actual speeds will be slower. The Super G Fast plans will have an average download speed of 550kbps to 1.5Mbps and an upload speed bursting to 384kbps. Speeds may vary due to congestion, distance from the cell, local conditions, hardware, software and other factors.
2. Usage means monthly combined upload and download data transfer. 1 Gigabyte = 1000 Megabytes.

[Added Emphasis]

This country is going bloody mad. Anyone that thinks this is any type of good deal could be in for a shock. Especially when you consider that Google is delivering free wireless access to the whole town of Mountain View where they are based and they want to do it elsewhere! Not to mention the fact that this type of thing has been available in the US for about the last 6 years.

Sure I don’t have the ability to have access no matter where I am. But if I wanted WiFi at home, the addition of a Wireless modem would be all it would take and that would be for less than 200 bucks! So taking the mobility part of the equation out. I have a connection here at home that is 1.5 mbps download and 256 kpbs up. No that isn’t break neck speed but it is the fastest available here in Cairns, Australia at the time of writing this. I pay a quarter of the cost above and I have 10 GIG to play with!

I am no maths genius and I may be wrong here but this whole thing seems very, very steep. The sad thing is that this will be the only high speed Internet option available to some isolated communities here in Australia. What choice does that leave them? I certainly hope we are rescued from these crazy times by someone, some company or at least the Australian public waking up to themselves and realizing that there are other options other than Telstra. Force the competition and start giving yourselves the choice at competitive prices and stop complaining.

No thanks Telstra I will have my restricted mobility.

Voilence in Video on the Internet

A little while back I posted a story on violence on the Internet in the form of video. I talked about these videos in relation to if they should be regarded as entertainment. I am not going to restate the argument here, read my original post for that.

The original post that I made was motivated by an article on the same subject. There has been a follow up to the original article due to the response that it got. Indeed I got a large response to my post as well and remains as one of my top posts as far as readership. I think it remains in my top five.

This follow-up talks about many of the issues that I discussed and the motivation that people have for watching people getting hurt. There is also mention that they talk to the guy that blew up his hand with a dry ice bomb, but I don’t know if it is the same guy as the one that I saw blow his hand off.

Anyway have a look at the follow up on The Red Tape Chronicles worth the read especially in relation to the story I did.

Do Developers Favour the Microsoft Operating System?

Apple LogoThe other day my brother became the proud owner of a brand new Mac-Book Pro. He very excitedly messaged me and we had a bit of a chat and I asked if he had installed Skype yet. This lead to an interesting discussion.

James believes that Skype support for platforms other than Windows is poor. He stated that Skype probably had loads more developers for Windows development and few for other operating systems including Mac and Linux. This was in reference to the Video feature of Skype not being supported in Mac and certainly not in Linux. Linux have only just had an update (version 1.3 beta) released, the last iteration came out at the end of last year. While us folks with WindowsWindows Logo systems have been enjoying Skype with video support for a while now and we have had a number of updates as well as version 2.5 coming out recently. So I can see his point somewhat.

James also went onto make a number of other points in regards to this issue. Such as the Linux community asking for ALSA support in the Linux version, which I might add has been addressed in the latest beta version of Skype. It was also suggested that developers failed to recognise other operating systems for fear of upsetting Microsoft. The case in point being that the development currently being predominantly in the Windows arena and the fact that Windows programs tend to be very operating system dependant. This then increases the exclusivity of Microsoft, strengthening their market share and market dominance. In turn this threatens the neutrality of the Internet as a platform and communication medium. He also felt that this unfairly skewed people’s ability to choose the operating system they want to. Regardless of what might be superior.

I thought about this whole issue and came to the conclusion that it it is basic economics and market forces here. If you had 1000 Windows users and 100 Mac users then it makes economic sense to develop for the users of Windows. That is the biggest area for profit making. The economies of scale are drastically reduced. So you get a product out there for your biggest user base and start making profit. It is that same profit that enables companies like Skype to be able to deliver a product to a minority of users on other platforms.

James believes however that there should be parity and equality in features and releases between versions for different systems. He feels that the current state of affairs is such that it is the equivalent of selling the same car in say Australia and the US and one has airbags and the other does not and the reason the company gives is that we drive on the left side of the road. I guess this is in reference to the features not being present across the versions of Skype. To that I can see his point as I said earlier. But perhaps this is a way that they have used to market their product and attract users from the largest group based on operating system. I really do not know.

Another analagy that James used was that Windows users are being offered a BMW and the rest are being offered a clapped out Hyundai! Well I can see his point again. However, maket forces are very strong and I suggest that this is what we are seeing. I don’t know what he would say if the shoe had been on the other foot. Anyway it looks like the video solution for Mac will be here soon enough, but as James said they have been saying that for a long time.

Skype LogoI have used Skype in my post to reflect something that may be true across all types of applications, but only because our conversation was about Skype. But are we seeing a trend that will continue and how will it play out in the long term? Mac is certainly gaining in user base recently and perhaps we might see more specific support and development for it. In addition to that I think that there is a great divide between Mac and Windows users. Personally, I see advantages to both systems. I have never rubbished Mac and I have never said that Windows and Microsoft have the best operating system. As far as disparity between applications is concerned I think that it is a valid argument to a point but hard economics is difficult to fight against in the corporate world of profit and loss.