Fake Steve Versus AT&T, Oh My! - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
12/16/2009
04:48 PM
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Fake Steve Versus AT&T, Oh My!

A blogger who calls himself "Fake Steve Jobs" wants disgruntled iPhone users to organize into a flash mob to cripple AT&T's 3G network at noon on Friday. AT&T has responded. It's all much ado about nothing.

A blogger who calls himself "Fake Steve Jobs" wants disgruntled iPhone users to organize into a flash mob to cripple AT&T's 3G network at noon on Friday. AT&T has responded. It's all much ado about nothing.The stunt has been branded "Operation Chokehold," and it's a marvelous idea if only because it triggers a number of latent, nagging issues arising from the iPhone experience. Fake Steve is in the business of driving readers to his blog (and thus getting his advertisers to pay him), and nobody should begrudge him for so effectively tapping into this nascent online tempest to fill his virtual teapot.

But it's still a stunt, for at least three reasons:

First, it misses the overriding, real problem with the iPhone, which is call quality and reliability. Anybody who uses it knows what I'm talking about. One out of every dozen calls fails to connect. A higher percentage of calls get dropped. Forget using it in midtown Manhattan or downtown Chicago. The iPhone just isn't that smart, as phones go, and spiking service with data use doesn't really address this fundamental issue. AT&T has declared that the gesture is "irresponsible and pointless." I agree with the part about pointlessness.

Second, Operation Chokehold overestimates the power and reach of online flash mobs. Sure, people are happy to click on things from the comfort of their desks or, if AT&T is working properly, their smartphones. But there's usually an inverse ratio between the number of clicks and the amount of effort required thereafter or therefrom. That's why some brand names have zillions of "friends" on social sites but can't depend on them to do anything whatsoever, let alone buy things.

Thirdly, the stunt underestimates consumers' capacity for settling.

AT&T operates its network just like OPEC prices oil, or the way health insurance benefits are determined: it defines the point at which customers will forsake the service, and then gets as close to it as possible without crossing the line. That's where profits come from in our Age of Declining and Diminishing Everything. Worse, AT&T has revealed that it might try to extort more money from its users without improving anything. I suspect, sadly, that most users would go along with it.

Branded technology services are often a let-down from the promise of the technologies they rely upon and enable; maybe that's partially due to the fact that the messy reality of experience can never be as ideally perfect as we hope or imagine it might be.

Operation Chokehold certainly references this reality, but I doubt Fake Steve can do anything about it beyond pocketing some change for his increased blog traffic.

What do you think?

Jonathan Salem Baskin is a global brand strategist, writes the Dim Bulb blog, and is the author of Bright Lights & Dim Bulbs.

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