Archive for June 2007

AT&T iPhone Activation Hell

iPhone Activation Hell
Source: Engadget.

Update: Ok, I’ve officially changed the headline on this blog post to AT&T; iPhone Activation Hell.

Well, my new iPhone still is not activated. I’m on hold right now with AT&T; and will blog the whole process. At the Apple store I was told that I didn’t need to do anything with the phone except take it home turn it on and plug it into iTunes.

So earlier this morning when I turned it on it did not go on. No problem, but it might be nice to ship with at least enough battery juice to do the activation. So I charged up the phone.

About an hour later I plugged the phone into my MacBook Pro and opened up iTunes (I’d already installed the new iTunes upgrade yesterday). iTunes immediately recognized my phone and then had me go through a series of steps, agree to the TOS, agree to pay $20 for the data plan, etc. When I entered in my existing AT&T; phone number it informed that I already had an account, had me verify the last four digits of my SS# etc.

So far so good.

But then when I thought I should be finishing activation I got a message that said that it could not activate my phone and that I would receive an email back notifying me when my phone had been activated.

I also received the following confirmation email message from Apple/AT&T; at 10:42 a.m.:

“AT&T; is now processing your activation. You will receive an email confirmation once your activation is complete.”

By 2:30pm I still had not received my activation email so I decided to check my junk mail folder to see if maybe it was in there and it was.

In my junk mail folder was the following message timed at 12:02pm:

“We’re sorry. AT&T; has identified a problem with the information you provided.

For more information, call 877-800-3701.

Please refer to your Activation ID when calling. (816XXX) “

So I called the number. The number asked me to press or say 1 if I had an activation ID which I did. The good news is that the call was promptly answered by a human being. So this person asked me which of my phone numbers I was calling about (I have two phone numbers with AT&T; on a family plan, one for me and one for my wife). I gave her my phone number and she told me that the SIM chip in my phone was incompatible with my phone number.

She wanted to make sure that I put the sim card that came with my iPhone into the phone. I told her that I wasn’t aware of any chip that was supposed to go into this phone and said that at the Apple store that they just told me to go home and hook it up to iTunes. She ensured me that there was a chip that was supposed to go with my phone and that it should have been included in my box. I disagreed again whereby she told me that she had been doing these activations all day and that there was indeed a chip I needed to put into my phone. I asked her where the slot was to put the chip in and she said she thought it was on the left side of the phone. I couldn’t find any place to put a chip. So she put me on hold again and came back and said that she was going to need to submit a trouble ticket.

She said that the trouble tickets were being dealt with pretty quickly though and that she thought in the next few hours that my phone should be activated on its own.

I should mention that throughout this, the customer service woman from AT&T; was very polite and nice.

So that’s where we are now. The phone still isn’t activated. I’ll check it again in the next few hours and if it’s still not activated I’ll call back again.

6:26pm Update: Ok, so it’s been a few hours and the iPhone still has not been activated. Nor have I received additional correspondance from Apple or AT&T.; I’ll try to phone them again a little latter on tonight after I have the kids down. Kristopher is telling me that there has to be a way to hack around the activation screen but so far even he hasn’t figured that one out.

6:36pm Update: Just tried calling AT&T; again and went through the same push 1 call transfer thing. This time though I actually sat on hold for about 5 minutes and then all of a sudden my phone call was disconnected from AT&T.; Will try to call back again.

7:26pm Update: Ok, just spent 33 minutes and 14 seconds on the phone with AT&T.; This time the customer service rep told me that the problem with my account is that my bill on my AT&T; account is in arears. The thing is that this account is paid by auto-debit every single month and it is not in arears. So the activation person said she could not do anything for me until I took care of this balance (less than one month’s service by the way). So she transferred me to AT&T; customer service where I could get this issue cleared up. Unfortunately after going through the menu associated with AT&T; customer service message I received a message from them telling me that they were closed and would not be open until Monday. So it may be until Monday that I can activate my iPhone. We are going to call them back and try the activation people again. Kristopher is here with me at my house for this and we are broadcasting it live on ZooomrTV. Well see where it goes this time.

8:19 Update: Ok, we just sat on hold for 55 minutes. After 55 minutes we were disconnected on the phone. We are not deterred though. We are calling back again. Live on ZooomrTV.

8:24pm Update: Sat on hold for 5 minutes and then got a message saying that due to uncontrolable high call volume that we’d need to call back later.

8:25 Update: Couldn’t even get through. Got an immediate “due to high volume” message. Dialing back again. I have more resolve than the AT&T; robot. We WILL win!

9:14pm Update: Finally got a hold of someone from AT&T.; Apparently my activation can’t take place because my wife has too old a phone. I have to order a new phone for her in order to activate. Apparently they can activate me now, but it will kill her cell phone and we have to find a new phone online for her in the future (and apparently I have to pay for a new phone for her as well). This person said that my number would likely be activated in the next two hours.

11:15pm Update: Still no activation. Trying to call AT&T; back.

12:39am Update: Just spent over one hour on hold with AT&T; and my house phone battery died. Disconnected. Damn! Just called AT&T; back on a fresh battery. Will keep trying until we get this damn phone activated. Broadcasting it all live on ZooomrTV.

7:43am (Sunday) Update: iPhone is still not activated this morning. Going to try and call AT&T; back right now and see what’s up.

7:53am (Sunday) Update: There is only a voicemail on the iPhone activation line asking me to leave a message. Will have to try back again later.

8:49am (Sunday) Update: Been on hold now for 26 minutes and 4 seconds waiting. Steve Rubel is having a hell of a time getting his phone activated as well.

9:23am (Sunday) Update: The comedy of errors continue. Was on hold for about 32 minutes when someone came on the line to help me. After giving her all my inf
o she said that she wasn’t allowed to help me and that she’d been instructed to transfer me to something called Telegence. I’m not sure what Telegence is, but maybe my account’s been flagged at this point to get extra nice customer service or something. She told me that I’d need to wait about 9 more minutes to talk to Telegence. She also gave me their direct number to call back in case I was disconnected 877-777-4192. I waited about another 15 minutes and finally heard someone else come on the phone and say “hello?” I answered back “hello.” And then he said “can you hear me?” And I said “yes, can you hear me?” And he said “yes” and then I said, I need some help activating my iPhone and then he say “Oh, man, I’m a customer too. I thought you answered to help me!”

So we commiserated a little bit. He’d been on hold for about 45 minutes and both decided that the best thing to do at this point was to try and call back. grrrrr. I’m calling this Telegence number back now.

9:36a.m. (Sunday) Update: Ok, I’m on the phone right now with an AT&T; person. I have to say that that Telegence number I was given *rocks* You go straight to a que to be answered by a live person. No pressing 1, no anything. Unfortunately the Telegence person couldn’t do anything for me. She said I may have to wait until later on tonight. Kristopher thinks we should try and call Apple care support or something so we are going to try them next.

10:01am Sunday Update: Just got off the phone with Apple Customer Care. They are actually blaming AT&T;’s servers. They are saying that when I put my iPhone in the base that it actually pings AT&T;’s servers to make sure everything is ok. So the problem is probably that there is some sort of glitch or something with AT&T.; He said to keep waiting. I think that’s all I may be able to do at this point. I suppose if it’s not activated by tomorrow I might be able to actually walk it into an AT&T; store and see if I can make better progress.

Update: Just took an Engadget poll that says 38% of people are having a problem activating their iPhones. Unscientific of course, but interesting nonetheless.

12:26pm Sunday Update: Just called Apple customer care back again. They transfered us to Apple iPhone internal second tier and then second tier transferred us back to AT&T.; This has now taken 57 minutes on this call. AT&T; tells us that there is a department at Apple though to deal with this and she is trying to connect to them. She just came back and said that she was going to have to try and contact another area at Apple. Apparently, according to this person, the iPhone must remain in the docking station the entire time in order to be activated.

She also disputed the previous agent who said that my wife’s old phone was incompatible with the family plan. We are on hold right now while she tries a third department at Apple.

5:07pm Sunday Update: Mission accomplished! The iPhone is activated!

Immediate After-Thoughts on the Apple iPhone Launch

Robert and Patrick Scoble with Apple Pioneers Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson
Robert and Patrick Scoble with Apple Pioneers Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson

I’ve got a few photos uploaded here, but will try and get many more up in the next few days.

I’m exhausted. Dead beat. Tired.

Except for a couple of short cat naps I haven’t slept since 4am on Thursday morning.

I do have an iPhone and here almost 4 hours after I purchased it it is still in the box. Unopened. Before experimenting with it I needed to spend some good quality time with my kids and take a shower. So now the kids are in bed, I’ve had a shower and I’m sitting here with a good glass of wine.

Before I dig into the iPhone I thought I’d reflect back a bit on the last 36 hours or so. First of all, to those who say it was stupid to camp out overnight at the Palo Alto Apple store when I could have gotten it waiting only 4 hours in line at a At&T; store somewhere else, you just don’t get it.

Camping out last night at the Palo Alto Apple store was not about an iPhone. It was about an experience. Something that I value far more than my new iPhone. There were many highlights for me.

Listening to Kristopher react to having traded nods with Steve Jobs. When we left the Apple store we crossed paths with Jobs. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even notice. Kristopher did though and he traded nods and a wink with Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs has been a long-time hero of Kristopher’s. It was an intensely powerful emotional thing for him. One of the best days of his life I’m sure.

Hanging out with Robert and Patrick Scoble. Two of the best people you’ll ever know. What an amazing experience for a father and son to have together. You should read Robert’s quick recap of the event. What a great thing for a father to do with his son. Patrick was so proud to be #1 in line. They made a big deal about it when they let him into the store first. That’s a memory that he’ll have the rest of his life. What a great dad to make that happen.

Meeting Bill Atkinson last night. For a good chunk of last night I got to listen to Bill Atkinson, one of the original Apple software developers talk about his personal history, his views on technology and most interesting of all for me, his work with digital photography. Atkinson is not only an incredibly accomplished technologist (I think he said he was employee #51 at Apple) but he is also an amazing photographer. Atkinson shoots with a Hasselblad and talked about his workflow, how he approaches photography with a strong critical eye to his own work (He’ll take 3,000 or so shots and might only get 4 keepers), and his printing techniques.

Bill spent the night with us and although had he wanted to I’m sure he could have just called up Steve Jobs and gotten an iPhone, he didn’t. He legitimately wanted to be there to experience what we all did. He likened it to Woodstock.

You should definitely check out his site online.

Streaming live on uStream with ZooomrTV was also a trip. Lifestreaming is such new technology and to be able to broadcast live and interact with thousands of people all over the world was amazing. It’s hard work to lifestream, but I think it really made for an even better experience. We interviewed lots of people. Thanks also to Yohannes who spent some much of his time as our cameraman. Really appreciate it Pal!

Zooomr, Zooomr, Zooomr. As much as Kristopher and I were there for the experience we were also there to try and promote our baby, the photosharing site that we both have poured our heart and soul into for the last year, Zooomr.

And Zooomr was definitely well represented at the iPhone launch. We handed out tons of stickers. We even used our stickers to mark people’s number in line. We got to personally evangelize Zooomr to so many people, were able to show our Zooomr stickers on CNBC (and get a link to Zooomr on their blog), many press photos and interviews, and getting to upload lots of photos live to Zooomr as we participated in the launch (resulting in some great digg juice). I think all in it was a pretty successful opportunity for us to evangelize something that we are both so terribly passionate about. Thank you again to Randyman who printed all those stickers for us for free! Randy man you do and always will rock!

The overall sense of community. The overall sense of community was something unreal. People watched each others stuff. Shared stories. Played guitar. SmugMug (a bunch of really awesome guys) bought us dinner and breakfast. Megan McCarthy from Valleywag brought us some beer.

I got to spend time with so many great people. Too many to even try and name. Thanks to everyone who came out and shared in this experience. You know what I’m talking about and it was an incredibly unique thing to be a part of.

I’ll have more thoughts on the iPhone later, but the launch itself was the highlight for me.

Update: Great shot of Scoble from the front page of the Mercury News! Also from TechCrunch, Eventstreaming, the seed of a revolution.

uStream / Zooomr iPhone Giveaway

Zooomr's Kristopher Tate with uStream's Johnny Ham

Well good news guys. We’ve been down here at the Palo Alto Apple store for the iPhone launch broadcasting live for about 24 hours now. We’ve had a great time and met a lot of super people. We will be here until 6pm when Apple opens up the store for the official iPhone launch.

uStream has been very helpful in helping us pull this production off. They arranged our power, fed us, and made sure that we stayed live as much as possible.

What’s made this launch so remarkable of course has been that we are livestreaming it on ZooomrTV through uStream. I’m sitting down here with Johnny from uStream right now who has said that uStream has decided to *give away* an iPhone tonight at 7pm on their homepage.

In order to be eligible to win the free iPhone from uStream, all you need to do is sign up for a uStream account before 6pm and enter the promo code iPhone when you sign up. One winner will be randomly selected by uStream.

Signing up for uStream is easy and free.
And tell your friends because someone out there is going to end up with a new iPhone at 7pm tonight.

They will also be giving a second iPhone away in the next two weeks. For the second iPhone giveaway they will be using the signups after 6pm tonight made during the next two weeks.

And be sure to continue watching ZooomrTV live from the Palo Alto store iPhone Launch!

On digg here.

First Photo of the iPhones

Unloading the iPhones

Apple Palo Alto’s shipment of iPhones just showed up. Security was tight with the UPS truck backing into a closed alley. Fortunately I was able to get over a fence and get the camera up and over the security people guarding the unloading. iPhones go on sale in about 7 hours.

We will continue broadcasting live at the Palo Alto store on ZooomrTV until 6pm when the phones go on sale.

You can digg this photo here.

Photos of the iPhone Launch from the Palo Alto Store

Megan and JuliaPatrick, Valerie and Kristopher
Robert Scoble Interviews Bill AtkinsonKevin, Leah and Alex

I’ve been told that the Palo Alto store has the longest line of any Apple store. I just took a power nap for a few minutes. Kristopher and I will be livestreaming the launch until 6pm when Apple opens the doors and starts selling those iPhones.

I’ve got photos up of folks who have been hanging out here.

Scoble has a blog post up here. And thanks much to the SmugMug gang who fed us all with Pizza last night!

Live at the Palo Alto Apple Store on ZooomrTV

Go to ZooomrTV if you want to chat live. Kristopher and I are here live for the Apple iPhone launch.

ZooomrTV LIVE from the Palo Alto Apple Store

Kristopher Tate and I will be joining Robert Scoble later on this afternoon with a special live broadcast on ZooomrTV of the new iPhone launch down at the Palo Alto store. In addition to sharing the Zooomr love down there, Kristopher will be launching several new (and returning) features to Zooomr.

If you are in the Palo Alto area and can make the launch, come on out and join us. We will have stickers to hand out and will be talking live about Zooomr and what we are up to. And I guarantee you there will be some great photo opportunities!

We have started an official thread in our Epicenter Forum to talk with folks about the launch. If you can’t make it live, come join us there or also in the chat room on ZooomrTV.

See you all live later this afternoon!

Why It’s Important for Us to Be Able to Photograph the Police – Straight Talk: Videotaping Police – Opinion Radley Balko has an op/ed piece up this morning talking about the importance of us being able to photograph the police.

He cites several examples of abuse by police including last month’s altercation between Brian Kelly and the Carlisle, PA police where Kelly spent 26 hours in jail after videotaping the police on a routine traffic stop, as well as a recent case involving Carlos Miller that I also reported on.

He also points to more serious abuse cases like the one of Eugene Siler, who was beaten and tortured by five sheriff’s in Tennessee. Fortunately for Siler his wife had surreptitiously switched on a tape recorder when this was going on.

Now I think most cops are honest cops. Some of my best friends are cops. There are cops in my family. Most cops are good cops. But there are bad cops too. And it is important that proper police training takes place so that police officers unequivocally *know* that they should not protest their being photographed in public. The courts have ruled on this already. It is an important first amendment right. And cops that get caught persecuting photographers? Well, they should get the book thrown at them.

It is important that we all as the new long tail photo journalists of the world retain this important right.

Balco says it best here:

“As noted, police are public servants, paid with taxpayer dollars. Not only that, but they’re given extraordinary power and authority we don’t give to other public servants: They’re armed; they can make arrests; they’re allowed to break the very laws they’re paid to enforce; they can use lethal force for reasons other than self-defense; and, of course, the police are permitted to videotape us
without our consent.

It’s critical that we retain the right to record, videotape or photograph the police while they’re on duty. Not only for symbolic reasons (when agents of the state can confiscate evidence of their own wrongdoing, you’re treading on seriously perilous ground), but as an important check on police excesses. In the age of YouTube, video of police misconduct captured by private citizens can have an enormous impact.”

Tracking Down Image Thieves as Part of a Business Plan?

Dan Heller’s Photography Business Blog: Making money from your stolen images:

Wow. Well Dan Heller’s stuff continues to be some of the best photography related writing on the web. Today Dan takes on the topic of stolen images on the internet. This is in fact a white hot topic right now. Last month superstar Flickr photographer Rebekka Guðleifsdóttira for instance had some of her photos ripped. I covered this on my blog here.

Dan makes the point that damages for stolen photographs can actually be much higher than we might at first assume. And while many of us might be hesitant to pursue image thieves due to the perceived costs associated with this (and documented by Rebekka in her case as well), Dan suggests that if a photo sharing company were to create a more streamlined approach to this, that this could actually turn out to be a fairly lucrative business in and of itself.

I’m not sure 100% on this one yet but I will say that Dan Heller certainly makes you think. On the one hand I really like this idea a lot. Especially running Zooomr we are in a good position to think about how we might implement something like this. I like this idea because I think it would be really cool to be part of a photo sharing site that actually went after image thieves and acted as an advocate on behalf of their photographers. If, as Dan suggests, going after image thieves financially is as lucrative as business as it might be, this would seem to make a lot of sense and possible be yet one more way to help make income for photographers — by getting judgments and settlements for their stolen images.

If Zooomr or other companies actually pursued image thieves with a zeal and it made financial sense, I suspect that this could also cut down dramatically on image theft on the internet. It could also create a new sort of freedom where photographers might feel totally free to share even their highest res images if the settlement payouts are as lucrative as Dan suggests.

On the other hand, I’m certainly *not* crazy about building a portion of a business plan on suing people. Maybe images thieves do deserve to be sued, but I’m still not sure that building any core business component around litigation really makes sense.

Thanks for the great article as usual Dan. I’m very interested in what other people think about this meaty subject. To me it’s pretty complicated but definitely worth some serious thought and reflection. And thanks Owen too for the heads up on this one.

Why Corbis’ New SnapVillage Stock Photography Agency is a Bad Deal for Photographers

Photos of Sunflowers Ranked by Awesomeness on Zooomr

It’ll Be Photographer’s Choice on a Web Site From Corbis – New York Times:

[I’m CEO of Zooomr]

“By starting SnapVillage, Gary Shenk, the president of Corbis, said, the company is not just acknowledging the growing importance of microstock sites, but also recognizing the threat to its higher-price images. “Cannibalization is going to happen in our industry,” Mr. Shenk said. “We can either let it consume us or be part of it.””

The New York Times on Monday published an article on Corbis’ newly launched microstock site for photographers called SnapVillage.

SnapVillage works like this. You, as a photographer, submit your images to SnapVillage. SnapVillage allows you to set the price on your image between $1 and $50. Then they pay you 30% of the proceeds from the sale of your images. If you allow your images to be used on a subscription basis you are paid 30 cents per download.

Now at surface this sounds pretty good. Especially when compared to Corbis’ main rival Getty Images. Getty Images runs the iStockphoto site where they only pay you 20% for images (you can get higher by signing exclusivity agreements) and only sell your photos for $1 – $5.

But in reality, both are rips offs. And both represent too late efforts by giants in the stock photography business to try and preserve the bulk of the $2.5 billion that they harvest from photographers today.

First lets talk about the price controls. Getty’s iStockphoto limits the upper price for a basic image to $5. Corbis’ now $50. Why are these limits in place? These limits are in place to prevent photographers from accessing the closed markets that they control where they make, far, far more money. That is the world where images sell on the cheap royalty free side for about an average of $285 each. Rights Managed photos sell for much, much more and individual images can sell for thousands of dollars.

Now. Most free market thinkers would tell you that the market ought to control price, not the major corporations running a $2.5 billion industry. But this is exactly what Corbis and Getty are trying to do. By creating a distinction between their “professional” grade work and their “amateur” grade work. They can set a wide divide between the prices that each charge.

Corbis and Getty would have you believe that there *is* in fact a wide disparity between the images that their professionals create and the images that us weekend warrior amateurs create with our Canon 5Ds and Nikon D200s. Between the images that they want us to sell for $1 to $50 vs. images that they sell for between $200 and $2,000.

Well this is pretty plain talk, but the fact of the matter is that there is not a hell of a lot of difference anymore.

By way of example, check out this search on Zooomr for sunflower ranked by awesomeness (our proprietary algorithm for determining rank and relevancy) vs. a current search for sunflowers on Getty images.

Zooomr sunflower search
Getty Images sunflower search

Now when you look at these two seaches. Ask yourself this. Are the images on Getty that much better? Is this image worth $370 for a half page photo in a magazine for a single month?

My own view is that there is artificial price control going on between Getty and Corbis’ microstock offerings and their far more lucrative traditional stock photography business. While I applaud Corbis for letting photographers set a price between $1 and $50. Why not let the photographer set the price between $1 and $1,000? If there really is no market for these images at higher than $50, the market is efficient and these photos would quickly price downward. If Corbis President Gary Shenk is *really* serious about being willing to cannibalize Corbis’ business as he is quoted in the New York Times above, why set the $50 upper price limit?

You won’t see Corbis and Getty allowing images by you and I to be priced greater than $50 for one simple reason. They understand that our images are just as good as their Pro images and they do not want to cannibalize this far more lucrative business. They want to keep the myth alive that their images are so much better than our images and to create a wide valley between the two to continue reaping in the millions that they do each year.

Restricting photographers to $50 is a bad deal for the photographer. Corbis and Getty will come back with a “we make it up in volume” argument. But this is simply not the case.

Now on to the next point. Getty pays photographers on their iStockphoto site 20% and Corbis is going to pay their photographers on SnapVillage 30%.

This is pathetic.

*You* are the creator of these images. Not Corbis. Not Getty. It is simply absurd that you would give 70-80% of the proceeds from your work away to big corporate interests.

What’s fair?

Well at Zooomr we are in the process of building what will soon be the world’s largest stock photography agency. We think we can pay photographers out 90% and still operate our business. We also are going to let photographers set their price on their images between $5 and $1,000 for royalty free images.

We are allowing photographers to price images now and hope to very shortly actually open up the library for marketers to purchase images. We are very close.

This new model will be more like eBay and less like Getty and Corbis. We will also implement some “make an offer” type features for stock photography.

What is the real and right price for a photo of a sunflower in a magazine? I’m not sure actually. But what I am sure is that an efficient market where photographers have flexibility to price will figure it out. I think it’s probably more than the $50 max that Coribs is allowing at present but probably less than the $370 that Getty is trying to sell their image for.

But whatever the price ends up being, photographers deserve more than just 20 or 30%. You are the creator of the image. It is your work that made it.

Kristopher Tate and I started Zooomr because we are both photographers. I don’t mean to sound cocky or brag, but I would hold my library of images up against what the Pros at Corbis and Getty are shooting any day of the week. And I ought to be paid the same prices that they are. And I ought to get to keep almost all the money from the transaction. And not just me. You, and you and you and you and you and you and you and you. My friends on Flickr. My friends on Zooomr. Sam and Eddy and Lane and John and Raoul and Jeff and on and on and on. Your work is every bit as good as the so called Pro work being shot at Corbis and Getty.

So if you want to change the world of stock photography and if want to redefine the economic balance between creators of images and buyers of images, then skip iStockphoto at Getty and skip this new offering by Corbis and come join us at Zooomr. Together we can the change the world and make it a better place for photographers.

Oh, and if
you are already a Pro at Getty or Corbis? Come and join us too. You only have to sell half as many images at a 90% payout to make up for the 40% or so that Getty and Corbis pay you today.

Power to the people. The best photographs in the world have yet to be taken.