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Day 1 of mesh 2007

I’m at the second version of the mesh conference as I type and it’s been an interesting morning. I missed the keynote with Mike Arrington, but made it for the always inspiring panel keynote with Tom Williams and Austin Hill

What Austin and Tom are doing online is truly inspiring and one of the key points I took away from their discussion was the notion of charity being absolutely conducive with UGC in order to engage and provide a sense of community to the donors. It isn’t just about being a credit card. (more thoughts about this later, and UGC in general)

The first panel discussion of the afternoon was “The Web and Politics” with Scott Feschuk, Garth Turner and Phil de Vellis (Phil of course being the paid consultant on the Barack Obama campaign who mashed up Apple’s ‘1984′ ad with a speech of Hilary Clinton). I have to say it was entirely more cynical than I expected and really take issue with the myopic view expressed by Scott and Phil. But then again, they are allied with specific campaigns, I suppose their view of what politicians and campaigns should be doing online is, out of necessity, tied to getting a vote from the “constituent”.

What struck me as quite narrow minded is the thought that most people who comment on blogs are stupid and should be ignored. Wow. I can imagine how well that thought would carry over into a townhall meeting for example. Yes, there are trolls who will always only seek to disrupt, but the majority of people are not and have views and opinions which shouldn’t be ignored. The web is not a giant press release, nor a news conference on CNN. Garth at least seemed to recognize and embrace that notion.

A common thread that emerged was that politicians would only want to use these new social networking tools if it could be shown they could persuade someone who may not have voted for them to do so. The panel was in agreement that it probably couldn’t be done.

Phil mentioned dailykos.com quite a few times as being a site worthy of attention by politicians, but went on to state that most of the commentators there (vs. those who post ‘diaries’ or in non-blog terms, articles) should be ignored as crazies. If that is the take of the folks advising politicians then I suppose it’s not surprising the candidates feel they can or should ignore what the voters have to say. Obama for example posted a highly contentious ‘diary’ last year on Daily Kos and when large numbers of the community disagreed with his position he and his staff ignored, rather than engaged, and subsequently appeared to alienate a hell of a lot of the American voters (who may be Democrats but hadn’t declared which nominee they would support for President) who took the time to post passionate comments in disagreement.

Does that serve the goals of the campaign? Maybe. Does it undermine any subsequent fundraising or outreach efforts Obama will need for his run? Probably.

Interesting discussion all in all, and it says a lot about the state of politics that a politician, Garth Turner, came off the best in the panel.

I may post updates to these thoughts as we go, but I’d like to hear from other ‘voters’ how they would like to see their politicians or candidates interact with them online.

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The vacation that built loyalty

Now that the madness of the last month has died down (the AQUOS 1080p D82 Challenge is alive and rockin’ in the green world!), I’ve been able to reflect on my trip to Cancun (yes, I offset my footprint!) and how the simple experience of a week’s vacation morphed into my complete loyalty to Club Med, and how paying attention to your customer’s needs (expressed or not) makes the biggest difference in how someone views your brand… and starts to spread word of mouth.

I’d been to Club Med Cancun two years previously when it was an adults only resort, and after the devastation of hurricane Wilma they recently re-opened as family friendly in November of 2006. Now, I’m not one to enjoy crowded swimming pools with screaming kids and waits for beach chairs or drinks, so I was a bit apprehensive when Kevin and I got on the plane. I really shouldn’t have worried. Kev and I really couldn’t believe our eyes. It felt like there were maybe 50 people at any one place at one time. The kids were off with the G.O.’s doing their own thing and when they walked through the resort they were happy, and oddly well behaved. The parents who we spoke with all said how wonderful it was for them to be on vacation, be able to relax, and not have to worry about their kids. A vacation away from the kids, with the kids. Perfect.

The beauty of a Club Med is that it allows you to choose your own experience and they do whatever it takes to facilitate it. If you want to go all out and do sports all day – the G.O. team is there. If you want to hang out on the beach with a cerveza and zen out to the ocean (Tamera), they leave you alone except to facilitate the cerveza’s. The Chef de Village, Eyal, was exemplary and ensured that the live music each night, circus acts and every thing and every one was running smoothly. It was especially nice for him to welcome and then see off the bus of rowdy Torontonians… it really is the little things that make an experience exceptional.

And what can anyone say about the local staff – the bartenders, cooks, housekeeping, gardening and security – but warm, amazing, diligent. Everyone at Club Med wanted to be there (well, as much as one would want to be at work when it’s 32 C out…) and it emanated down to the guests.

The excursions arranged through the Club are also top notch. Our trip to Coba and Tulum was led by a certified archeological tour leader who’d been in Quinta Roo for 12 years, and was punctuated by lunch at the Club Med archeological villa at Coba with the chance for a light swim. Perfect day.

The same experience with the private catamaran snorkeling trip to Isla Muejheres. The crew was superb and a ton of fun, the sun was shining and Mexico was beautiful. It emanates through every person Club Med engages.

The moral of the story – Kevin and I cannot imagine another vacation elsewhere unless we’re doing our own local adventures. We’re fans and that matters. It may cost a bit more to go to a Club Med, but, this experience is worth the cost.

The product experience lives up to the branding, and the company and employees care… and that is unfortunately exceedingly rare these days.

Air Transat on the other hand, well, I won’t ruin this post with that tale.

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