kottke.org posts about Mena Trott

Mad Men season five fashion predictionsJan 31 2012

Over at Sew Weekly, Mena Trott predicts what some of the characters will be wearing in the coming season of Mad Men.

Oh, Betty. For years, she has been immaculately dressed and presented as the facade of the perfect 1950s/1960s wife. With her cinched waists and billowing skirts, she's held onto late 1950s and early 1960s fashion the longest. In season four, she's married to the anti-Don, the boring Henry Francis and is getting a little too familiar with the bottle. When you're married to Henry Francis, you just don't care any more. That should be embroidered on a pillow.

Customer service on TwitterMar 02 2011

Here's how you do it well, courtesy of Zappos (of course). Yesterday I tweeted:

I think my wife is having an affair with someone named "Zappos". He sends her a package at least every third day. I am on to you, Mr Zappos!

Almost immediately, Zappos' customer service Twitter account replied:

@jkottke I'm sorry sir, but our relationship with your wife is strictly professional.

Great, right? A company that gets the joke and participates meaningfully in an actual conversation with a full awareness of the context.

Here's how not to do it, courtesy of United Airlines. Mena Trott, a co-founder of Six Apart, had her flight to NYC randomly cancelled on Monday night by "a robot". (They actually blamed it on a robot!) In a series of three tweets, Mena voiced her displeasure:

Thanks @unitedairlines for randomly canceling my miles booked ticket for tonight, taking the miles & not letting me rebook for lack of miles

And then hanging up on me after I waited for an hour! I hate you @unitedairlines

Apparently the automated voice recognition system can't tell what I'm saying through my tears @unitedairlines #IhateYouSoMuch

Reply from @unitedairlines? Nothing. But then while on her rebooked flight the next morning, Mena tweets sarcastically:

Thanks to @unitedairlines I can finally watch that Frasier episode I missed in 1994.

And unbelievably, @unitedairlines replied, pouring burning acid into Mena's obviously still-tender wound:

@dollarshort "...I hear the blues a-callin', Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.."

That is some serious customer service tone deafness right there. It would be easy to blame whatever social media jockey they've got manning the Twitter account for the faux pas, but obviously United customer communication problems run deeper (and originate higher up the pay scale) than that.

The first Gizmodo designFeb 11 2011

While we're being all nostalgic, here's what Gizmodo looked like when it launched:

Gizmodo 2001 design

The site, which launched several months before Gawker, was designed & developed by Ben and Mena Trott with the couple's relatively new blogging software, Movable Type.

Can helium balloons carry off a child?Oct 08 2008

In the opening credits of the 80s TV show Webster, the title character is shown lifted into the sky by a dozen helium balloons. Mena Trott recently enlisted her young daughter in an attempt to prove, a la Mythbusters, that a few balloons won't actually lift anyone anywhere.

Update: Mythbusters actually tackled this question in 2004. (thx, javier)

Little MenaMay 05 2008

I think I have a crush on 16-year-old Mena Trott.

Mena Trott: "If you aren't going toDec 19 2006

Mena Trott: "If you aren't going to say something directly to someone's face, then don't use online as an opportunity to say it".

Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies IntoJul 05 2006

Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies Into Livelihoods, including Dooce, the Trotts, Josh Schachter, and the Digg folks.

Vox's Question of the DayJun 06 2006

Six Apart recently launched a preview version of their new Vox blogging service. When you log in to Vox, one of the first things you notice on the front page is the Question of the Day followed by a quick posting box. Answer the question, press "continue", and you've got yourself a blog post. I asked Six Apart president Mena Trott how the feature came about.

Jason: Everyone loves the Question of the Day feature on Vox. The QotD cleverly formalizes the memes that travel through LiveJournal and the blogosphere at large, making it OK for the kind of people who hate email joke forwards to participate collectively in something on a regular basis. Who is responsible for generating these questions? Are they recycled memes from LJ or do you have some meme genius working for 6A?

Mena: Question of the Day actually started in a design comp I did -- meaning it hadn't been specified in any product requirements docs. I was creating the Vox dashboard and realized that the one thing really missing from the page was a call to action. So, I tried to think what would be the one thing that would make me want to post and the Question of the Day made total sense.

You're exactly correct in saying that we're wanting to legitimize the behavior we've seen in email (forwards). It's all about trying to figure out the behavior that would make my mom feel comfortable posting or make someone not feel overwhelmed by a big white posting box.

If you remember the Four Things meme that floated around a couple months ago, you'll recall that this simple meme got people (like me) to post on their blogs after significant absences. We wanted to capture that sort of motivator.

And of course, LiveJournal is the inspiration for all of this.

As far as who creates the questions, we have a scratchpad that is generated by various members of the staff as well as suggestions that come in from our feedback forms. We're still in such an early stage of Vox that these questions are evolving daily. One thing we've seen, however, is that the two topics that people most like to answer questions about are nostalgia (favorite childhood candy, childhood fears, etc...) and media-based (favorite movie, song that makes you happy, anything television).

Some questions, surprisingly bomb in an unexpected way. In April, I posed the question "If you had a time machine and could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and why?" It's a difficult question for those who don't obsess about time travel as much as I do. And, I have to admit, I made it question of the day since *I* had my own answer. Still, I'd love to try this one again now that more people are in Vox.

--

Thanks, Mena. Sometimes it's these little things, tiny addictive hooks, that make the difference between a product taking off, and Vox's QotD is a nice hook indeed. (Also, I'm totally with you on the time travel question.)

Update: Mena posted some more info about the QotD on Vox.

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