Monday, June 30, 2008

Classroom Innovations by Roy and Jennifer -- Balloon Tests

Jennifer is one of those teachers you wish you'd had when you were at primary school.

She has parents fighting with each other and with her headmaster trying to get their kids into her class. And she specialises in teaching right brain-dominant kids how to liberate their creativity and their intellects.

She's never made a kid stand in a dustbin facing the wall, for instance. (Yes... I've BEEN in a dustbin, facing the wall. Thanks to Miss Light, Grade 1, at Colin Mann Primary School in Germiston. Hope you died a miserable death, Miss Light. Or was it Miss Love? Bloody hell. I'm not recalling!)

We've been discussing how to get her knowledge out into the wider world.

That's when a brainwave struck. I love innovating. And illustrating. She loves teaching, and creating beautiful ways of making learning more loving and fun and enjoyable. And her classroom is already a laboratory of innovation. So what we're doing is jotting our ideas down, and we're going to be putting a book together for other teachers to benefit from her experience and wisdom.

This page is a first stab at finding a style for our book. I like the informality of this. But I'd love to hear reader opinions. What do you feel about it? Is it readable? Is it fun? Does it convey the concept fully? What would you want to see changed? Do you have any innovations that you'd like us to consider for the book? Drop me a note in the comments section! Thanks!

Fictionwise online eBook shop -- Re: Response for Support Ticket #63465

Uh... Lynn...?

If you received this response from a customer support person, would you be happy?

Lynn's response

We very much appreciate your suggestions for titles. We're working
with publishers now to get as many as possible.


Would you be filled with confidence that the company you're dealing with has your best interests at heart?

I'd like to make a recommendation. Please pretend you didn't just send me your non-answer, and let's try again, okay?

I'm going to write you a possible answer that you're welcome to copy and paste right back to me. I'm also going to do you the service of analyzing WHY my response would be better than yours. And to refresh your memory, I'm going to quote my request to you. Now pretend it's YOU asking Fictionwise for the book below...

Roy's query:

This is really just a request. I
would love it if you could sell me
a copy of THE BIG PICTURE by
Dennis Littky. I'd prefer a
MobiPocket copy, cos then I'd be
able to read it on my phone. But I
suspect it's only around in an
Adobe format.

Thanks for running an awesome
book-selling establishment. I'm
really glad I stumbled on you
guys as my introduction to

Blue skies, love, Roy

Roy's suggested rewrite of Lynn's non-response:

Dear Roy

Thank you very much for your request. And thanks also for asking us to sell you this book. That's really kind of you. What's even MORE kind of you is that you've chosen to spend approximately US$150 with us since you joined just a few weeks ago. I hope you're loving the books you've purchased so far!

The book you're asking for -- THE BIG PICTURE by Dennis Littky -- is currently not in our stock-list, as you've already seen.

I made some enquiries, and I've noticed that several other eBook companies sell the electronic version of it. Which means it IS available. I know you're probably itching to purchase the book. I really hope that you'll be able to hold on a little while before making a decision to use one of the other merchants...

If you're willing to wait a week, one of our procurement people will be negotiating with the publisher of the book to place it in your Fictionwise Bookshelf. If we're unable to conclude our negotiation to your satisfaction within this coming week, I'll be giving you a free 100% rebate on the next three books you purchase with us.

In fact, because you've already waited three days for a response to your initial query, we've placed US$5 in your Micropay account. No strings attached.

I understand that you'd like the book in MobiPocket format. However, I'm almost certain that it's only available as a secure Adobe PDF. We WILL look into making a conversion of the book for you. It may very well be out of our hands, as the publisher controls the rights to the format a book is allowed to be released in.

I really hope you'll be happy with the steps we've taken to address your query.

Please feel free to make use of the US$5 deposited in your Micropay account! And we look forward to getting back to you within a week with news about a solution.

Thanks very much for your query.

Yours sincerely,
Fictionwise Support Team

Roy's analysis of why his rewrite works better:
  1. It uses the customer's first name, something that the service representative has access to, regardless of whether or not the customer signed off with that name. People are human. We want to be dealt with as people. We're not numbers.
  2. The paragraph detailing how much money this customer has spent in the past serves many purposes. It shows that the customer service person has actually looked into this customer's history. The customer feels acknowledged. It shows that the company actually values his custom. Finally, it's a chatty way of starting a conversation with the customer. It shows that it's one person communicating with another.
  3. This is an acknowledgement of the title that was requested, and it verifies that the company does not have the title in stock. This gives the customer peace-of-mind that he or she didn't just miss the title somehow. This is very much akin to the waiter in a restaurant repeating the order, word-for-word, to ensure that the customer KNOWS that her request was heard.
  4. This paragraph acknowledges that the customer is not an idiot. OF COURSE the customer has searched the web for other stockists of the book. OF COURSE he knows it's available elsewhere. He's CHOSEN to come back to the company he's spent his dollars with. He has his reasons. He WANTS to do business with this company. If you don't acknowledge this, you'll probably lose this customer. This paragraph shows the customer that you understand and recognise his loyalty. And it asks him to be patient.
  5. Here, we go into the 'what's in it for me' portion of the service response. In this case, offering a three-book 100% rebate is a powerful way of encouraging this customer to spend more with the company. It reinforces his buying habits. If he buys three books, and gets his money back on them, he's going to buy another three. That's SIX books that he purchases for the price of a sliver of the markup of three of them. You win. He wins.
  6. The US$5 freebie is not COSTING Fictionwise an actual five dollars. It's costing them ONLY the markup on whatever the customer purchases with that money. Cos it's not REAL money. It's reward money. For the customer, however, it's ACTUAL money that he doesn't have to spend. He glows. Fictionwise glows. Win-win.
  7. The next paragraph addresses a specific query that the customer made... the MobiPocket vs Adobe PDF question. It shows that this eBook seller is aware of the issue, and has investigated it. This client feels delighted that ANY effort has been made to secure the book in the format of his choice. But he's also been very clear in his original query that he's willing to accept it in Adobe format. He explicitly states that he'd PREFER it in MobiPocket format. This means that this part of his query MUST be answered. Silence means you don't know and don't care.
  8. The next line is an invitation to the customer to continue the dialogue. The customer service representative is wrapping up the query, and keeping channels open.
  9. This next line reminds the customer that he has received a five dollar freebie, and reassures him that an answer will be forthcoming within a stated time period. If this is unacceptable to him, he'll simply buy the book elsewhere. But he'll DEFINITELY be coming back to Fictionwise for other purchases. Because they've treated him very well indeed.
  10. The next lines are simply courtesy closes. They serve the purpose of satisfying the ritual end of the conversation.
I don't know about you, but I would be a MUCH happier customer receiving the rewrite than I am right now. Right now, I'm pretty much deciding to cash out my Micropayment account and moving my business elsewhere.

The customer service agent has the power to fix this. And it's NOT about freebies. It's about being heard.

Lynn... your initial answer is a textbook example of what not to say to someone ASKING you to business with your company.

I urge you to consider this letter in a positive light. And I hope you'll treat my request more seriously the second time around. I do in fact NEED that book. I don't merely 'want' it. I REQUIRE it.

Blue skies

Visual Facilitator, Illustrator, Writer, Director
Contracting to BLUE MOON as a Creative Director & 'Wild Card'

Professional member of the National Speakers Association of Southern Africa:

Mobile: +27 74 104 6386
Fax: 086 512 2580 (South African calls only)
Visual Facilitation:

I predict... Some Visual Facilitation's Coming Your Way

A bunch of illustrations from Visual Facilitator, Roy Blumenthal. He works live, painting visual interpretations of whatever's happening in your meetings, seminars, and workshops. Check his portfolio at

// created at

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Betty's Butt Nuggets -- Transform Your Haemorrhoids into a Tasty Treat!

I'm sure this little delicacy would only be legal in places where cannibalism is legal. That's if we're talking about eating HUMAN haemorrhoids.

Whenever we eat mass produced sausages, there's a pretty good chance we're eating cow lips, udders, vaginas, and rectums. So maybe this isn't so outrageous.

I sketched this in my li'l black Moleskine, which accompanies me everywhere. I then scanned it, and played colour-colour using Photoshop CS3.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pish Kebabs -- Something to Do With the Leftovers

Uh... what can I say? I'm on a roll. After my Jesus-in-a-Jar jamboree, I couldn't stop myself from having sicko ideas.

The Pish Kebab is basically something to do with all those leftover foreskins. In cultures where circumcision is practised, why not make the guests happy at the same time?

The word 'Pish' is yiddish for 'piss'. As in, 'I've got such a pish on board, I'm gunna burst!' And it's a pun on the phrase 'Shish Kebab'.

I've made sure that these kebabs are both kosher AND halaal. This is accomplished by having the rabbi and the imam working in peace and harmony overseeing the preparation of the meat.

Great way to get peace in the middle east, yeah?

Now... there's something else I want to say, but I can't for the life of me think what it is. Damn. It's on the tip of my tongue!

This pic was sketched in my trusty Moleskine (or, in this case, Foreskine). I scanned it, and modified some of the lettering a tad in Photoshop, and then did all the colouring there too. On my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc. And yes. I AM Jewish. So I'm ALLOWED to make Jewish jokes.

Jesus-in-a-Jar -- an equal-opportunity offender

I thought I'd try going below the limits of my own grossness. I've always known that I'm capable of transcending (is that the right word?) all known limits when it comes to grossness.

But I didn't know I could get THIS low!

An ex-girlfriend and I came up with a pretty grotesque idea... to put foetusses in snow globes, and sell them as souvenirs at abortion clinics.

Yesterday in the bath, a flash of inspiration almost drowned me with its radicalness.

Yup... these little souvenirs can be customised and sold at almost ANY place of religious worship.

We've got Jesus-in-a-Jar. Mohammed-in-a-Mug. Moses-in-a-Magnum. Krishna-in-a-Carafe. And finally, Buddha in a bottle (here we only use very big foetusses... real feeders).

I figure if I'm going to offend someone, I might as well offend EVERYone. I apologise for not having anything to do with Scientologists. I just couldn't think of the appropriate container. Hubbard-in-a-Humidore? I dunno.

If you're going to kill me for this, I'd appreciate it if you wait till I'm about to die of old-age. Thanks. Knew you'd understand.

This pic was sketched into my Moleskine notebook while my hands were still moist from bathing. I then scanned it, and coloured it in Photoshop CS2.