bookmark_borderPlease don't lie

This post is prompted entirely by my recent interactions with Royal Mail, but the hold true for many organisations.

Life, as we all know, has times when it just seems to be ganging up on you. Nothing seems to go right, nothing happens the way you expect and you are left in an uncomfortable place and without enough, or some times any, knowledge or information you quickly become frustrated as you are not sure what to do next.

So when, as a customer, I reach that place the last thing I want to hear are lies. They may be lies offered in good faith, but they are blatant and completely without excuse.

The most common lie I’ve heard is the lie of affirmation. Being told that I matter, or that the organisation is very keen to improve their service and help solve my problem, and other such positive affirmation is not useful and likely to only irk me further.

Apologise by all means but please mean it, and please make sure it is immediately followed up with an offer of help.

And when you have really stuffed up and I, the customer, point this out, have the good grace to agree, rather than look for excuses that I, the customer, have no control over. I’m sure that crucial system was down for a short while and that is the root of all evil in the world, but hey, it’s not my problem.

Lastly, and this is sometimes the worst of all, please please PLEASE do not send me out a questionnaire after the event. Remember, I’ve been angry and frustrated, lost in the midst of YOUR processes and systems and most likely I’ve been the one trying to peace together information from email A, website B and phonecalls C, D and E as, for no good reason (trust me, my company builds this stuff, there is no reason why you can’t have all your systems talking to each other).

That questionnaire is usually a stock affair with a nice welcoming “ohhh we are good people and not only that we are trying to be better!” waffle at the start, and is constructed in such a way as to make REAL feedback almost impossible.

People like me really don’t want to write letters of complaint, and you know what, when things go bad that’s ok. Just don’t lie to us. Tells us you know something has gone wrong, share the information with us, talk to us and be human. We don’t expect everything to work all the time, but the way you handle things when they go wrong makes far more of a difference than you seem to realise.

bookmark_borderOn commenting

A couple of weeks ago I asked if everyone who visited my site would leave a comment, and quite a few of you did. Thanks to you all, even the cheeky ones who decided to buck the trend and email me. It was all quite overwhelming and lovely and.. well.. ta! I do appreciate you taking the time to both visit and comment.

When I wrote that post I knew in the back of my mind that every blog goes through a lull, as does every blog reader, but I was genuinely curious to see who responded. It wasn’t JUST about stroking my ego, honest.

As ever some of you posted some very insightful comments and with some consideration I’ll admit that it was incredibly cheeky of me to “call you out” when my own commenting ratio has been slowly plummeting for some months now, but that was another reason for the post, could I ‘force’ people to comment? (guilt, what a wonderful tool).

There does seem to be a consensus though, and this is backed by my increasing use of Google Reader to read other blogs (on that note it’s very much a case of “if you don’t have an RSS feed, you ain’t getting read”), that we read too many blogs to be able to keep up. It’s hard enough reading the damn things, without having to visit each and every one to add a comment, presuming that you are moved to do so at all.

Is this the demise of blogging? No, I don’t think so, but I do wonder if it’s shifting from being a discussion or conversation, to being an open window or voyeuristic opportunity. You’ll happily stand there for days on end, soaking up the events and words as you peer in, only responding if prompted. No?

I guess it’s one of those things that ‘depends’ (ok ok EVERYTHING ‘depends’ but bear with me) on the number of blogs you try and keep up with. Beyond a certain point the basic logistics of commenting becomes too hard so you just stop trying to comment at all. “I suspect that people are reading more blogs than they used to, which leaves them with less time to comment. Which is a shame.”

And it is a shame, after all, it’s not very fair if you only comment on certain blogs but not others. I do find myself looking at my ‘blogroll’ and trying to remember who I last commented on, and whether I should ‘spread my comments’ around like they are rationed or something. Then I give myself a shake and remind myself that this is a hobby and certainly no-one will be offended if I don’t comment on their site as often as I do on others, right?? Ohh but I do hate to offend… and so on and so forth.

Thinking about it, this internal dialogue may be the REAL reason I don’t comment on as many blogs as I used to, “I don’t leave comments anywhere anymore. I’m shit at it. Busy things – sorry. Do read everything on GoogleReader though. But I suppose that doesn’t count. Boo.”

“Do you leave comments as much as you used to?” Is a valid question (although it’s “as many” not “as much”) and the answer is no. How can I? I’m far too busy to read AND comment, sheesh.

Perhaps the way that comments work is to blame then, after all if their primary aim is to create and further ‘conversations’ then surely it should be much easier to see what has been said, how far along the debate has been moved, before you delve in to add your own opinion. Or perhaps that is a little too grandiose a view of the content of most blogs, the ones I read anyway.

Ultimately I’ve reached the point, actually I reached this point sometime last year, where I don’t really care what my readership stats are, nor do I care if they are new people or the old faithfuls who’ll return here just because I’ve posted something (bless, they don’t get out often). I know people are visiting, and I understand why comments are down, and yes I’m taking the ‘summer lull’ into consideration.

My own habits have changed, my approach to this blog, and others is different today and it will be different tomorrow. The fun part is trying to figure out where it’s going to go next. Is twitter setting a new ‘micropost’ standard that blogs will head towards, or will it allow us to be free to write longer posts? Will comments die and discussions end? Or will we continue to observe and share, collaborate and discuss and reach the utopia some think this part of the interweb holds? Have I started wittering on and should stop drinking so much coffee first thing in the morning?

As the bloke with the funny accent who does the voice-overs for Big Brother says: “You decide”.

bookmark_borderGet a grip

“Good grip!”

Isn’t it funny how the mind works, how seemingly trivial everyday comments open a little trapdoor in your brain allowing those little mental connections to trickle out.

Take the title of this post as an example. Ring any bells for anyone? The first line is what my brain conjured up, can you name the film?

The reason I mention this is because, during moments of pause and “blogging malaise”, my brain seems to take some delight in flinging open these trapdoors at all sorts of moments, particularly late at night when I’m trying to sleep. Most bothersome of it, I’m thinking of having it removed.

There I lay, watching the flicker of neon glow mark each passing minute with my brain leaping from trapdoor to trapdoor in an endless succession of self-referential connections that only I and possibly my wife (lying snoring next to me) would understand. Like a dream they float past my memory, tauntingly close but out of reach. Or to put it another way, I can’t remember a single thing that struck me as “bloggable” last night. Typical.

To more mundane matters then.

Louise’s brother and his girlfriend came over for dinner last night and the ever reliable Bombay Cottage did the business once again. Also got to play with Centarsia, a photo mosiac application, with surprisingly good results (some samples here). It’s a bit fiddly to start with but once you get to grips with it, and with a little care and some pre-editing, you can get some nice images… hmmm, there’s a space on the living room wall that might suit…

What else, what else?

This morning I came into work to find my mug was in the “just turned on” dishwasher. Not a happy bunny as I like my routine in the morning (in office before everyone, coffee, email, news… start work at 9). Isn’t it funny how little things like this can affect us.

Finally – anyone else noticed a drop in the number of spam emails? I hardly get any at all now, so either BlueYonder have beefed up their spam filters or spammers are targetting elsewhere… mind you, I don’t get that many real emails.. *sniffs*

Right. Enough. Work to do.

REAL content later, if yer lucky (and if I can decide on a topic – suggestions?).


Just got my first “phishing” email which alleges to have come from PayPal. It doesn’t.

The subject line reads: Your account will be suspended!

It reads:

Dear Paypal User,
In accordance with our major database relocation, we are currently having major adjustments and updates of user accounts to verify that the informations you have provided with us during the sign-up process are true and correct. However, we have noticed some discrepancies regarding your account at Paypal. Possible causes are inaccurate contact information and invalid logout process.

We require you to complete an account verification procedure as part of our security measure.

It then asks you to click a link which, I can assure you, has nothing to do with Paypal. I’ve let them know about it, but I’d advise you to be careful if you receive something similar.

Top tip: If you use Thunderbird as your email client, the REAL email address is displayed, in this case whilst it looks like it’s coming from service AT paypal DOT com, it’s really coming from service AT mythtv DOT lan. Alternatively, switch your email client to use a plain text view as most of these “phishing” emails come in HTML format. You’ll soon see the real details hidden away behind the “click this link now!” text.


Ohh it’s the new blogging, is it?

Could be, everyone’s at it, and it’s guaranteed to be “mainstream” now that iTunes support it but, and please don’t think of me as some neolithic oaf but what IS all the fuss about?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those who are doing podcasts, I’ve heard some very good ones recently and as an extension of a blog they give an extra dimension to the personality behind the microphone of a type you only normally get when you meet some in person (real life, remember that? fresh air, no keyboard and REAL people, what a concept! It’ll never catch on that one…).

However let’s get this straight. A podcast (blogcast, whatever) is, unless I’m hugely mistaken, mainly a recording of someone talking, with the occasional spot of music thrown in. Right? Err… and this is a new idea? Well obviously it’s not (and just in case you miss my point, I’m referring to that old favourite, of the more refined knob twiddlers out there, radio) but I’ll tell you what is.


I can tune into hundreds, nay thousands, of radio stations right now and with a bit of searching I’m certain I can find a station that suits my interests. However the limitation of radio is that, because it’s being broadcast, it has to try and appeal to as many people as possible, even if the core subject is fairly specialised. Podcasting doesn’t have that limitation. Because YOU choose to download and listen to it, it can be as specialised and insular as it wants, the only person it has to please is you.

Anyway, if you’ve been on the ice planet Hoth for the past few months, then here are a few links to get you into podcasting. Ohh and ignore the “pod” part of the name, it’s not limited to iPods or MP3 players, you can create and listen to them on your PC.

As for me, well I’m gonna leave this one alone for the meantime preferring to remain elusively enigmatic and mysterious. Or maybe I just can’t be bothered (you can always listen to me on the radio if you’re desperate – 2.7MB MP3).

So, are podcasts the future of blogging? Possibly but I doubt it, at least not for a while. Too much like hard work at the moment, so until it becomes a lot easier to do I think it’ll remain on the outskirts for a while longer. However once it becomes a simple point and click exercise then I think they’ll soon be popping up all over the place. But then I’m sure they said the same about “audio blogging“, but they’ve been wrong before.

The real question is whether anyone can bring something NEW to podcasting. That’s where the challenge will lie, a true blending of the internet and radio is what is required and what has been sorely lacking so far. However cracks that one will leap ahead and we’ll have our first A-list podcaster.


Itchy feet has advantages. For a while Louise and I were moving house every year (or less). It was just the way things panned out when we were down south. We rented at first, then bought a flat and then a year later decided to sell it (not sure it was a full year either), so back to rented accomodation we went.

The advantage is that we don’t have much in the way of ‘extraneous stuff’. Other than the trappings of materialism – DVDs, CDs, books and the like – we aren’t hoarders by nature, or at least not long term hoarders. Eventually the emotional tie to an object will be broken and it’ll get turfed out, maybe to Oxfam if it’s still in good nick, maybe sold in the local paper or maybe just taken to the skip. We both seem to run on a similar ‘purge’ schedule meaning that when one of us decides that they are going to tidy out their books, the other will think “Yeah I should go through my wardrobe and do that too”.

And so we did. Most of Sunday was spent deciding, sorting, tidying, binning, and collecting. All sorts of stuff. Oxfam will get a nice big bag of clothes and a box of books, all in good order. The recycle bin is now full, as is the regular bin. The house is tidy and organised, and I’m now noticing that we’ve yet to put photos in THAT frame for above THERE, and those shelves for THERE are still sitting up stairs waiting to be fitted. Plenty of time for that though.

Sometimes I do wish we held onto a few more things, sentimental things, the type you find in most attics and lofts across the land. But we don’t, a box of photos and a few old toys is about all the sentimentality we can muster. They lie in the loft, carefully boxed, waiting to bore future generations. Relics of a time gone past, where REAL things held our attention. “Let me show you a photo” I’ll say. The child will turn to the nearest screen and watch for it appearing, only to be bewildered when I produce a paper like rectangle with a picture on it.