Archive for May, 2008

Can you Digg this? – A Nokia charger cost Vodafone Ireland over 1700 quid

Monday, May 19th, 2008

I think this is worth DIGGing. Frank wasn’t allowed collect his phone from repair until he returned the crappy spare they gave him AND the charger. He forgot to bring the charger back with him.

After arguing with the store manager she refused to trust him to return the charger if she handed back his phone first. She didn’t care that he spent over 200 quid a month with Vodafone. Over a charger than doesn’t even work on the latest Nokia phones. So they lost a golden customer.

Here’s the DIGG post

This is a picture of a donkey:
wild mule
Photo owned by lexdenn (cc)

So you’d let your kids play in an unsupervised playground?

Monday, May 19th, 2008

There’s been a good bit of talk again of late about Bebo and Facebook and YouTube and the good and evil that happens in and around them.

I’m a proponent of social networks and think like most technologies that they’re a very positive thing but anything that enhances one aspect of humanity can enhance the good or the bad.

Social networks in the Irish context sprung up overnight and became the defacto place to hang online for teenagers and those in their early twenties. This still holds true. It was a new place and a new way of interacting. Our current daily social norms have taken 100s if not 1000s of years to form, Bebo is a new world where these norms are being worked out as we speak by those inside it and those outside must be baffled and scared when maybe they should be bringing their wisdom and experiences into it to share and guide people.

Zoned out on code
Photo owned by ToastyKen (cc)

The good:

Relationships are accentuated with social networks. They’re good people management tools. We can store details of dozens and hundreds of friends and acquaintances. The mobile phone allowed us to store hundreds of numbers on our phone that we’d never remember without a physical address book. The social network expands on that. Our friends can update us by just changing their status on Facebook or upload pics of their holidays to Bebo and everyone they’re connected to get informed of this and can look at the pictures. The daysof sending 15 postcards to people is over. A facebook update takes care of it all. Social networks also reconnect us with old friends, friends who we’d never remain in contact with because of Geography. Families scattered around the world can stay connected and informed via social networks. I often chat to old college friends in America and New Zealand. Because of the ability to stay connected over a lifetime and over continents, our friends lists are much larger than before. The Dunbar number with the idea we can only maintain a certain amount of quality relationships with people has been inflated hugely now. I firmly believe humanity is becoming far more friendly because of these technologies.

Photo owned by Annie Mole (cc)

The bad:

With this new Big Brother and American Idol nasty culture, everyone seems to want to be nastier than Simon Cowell and on social networks, blogs and YouTube you see some people trying to outdo each other on how can be most vitriolic. In a normal social situation people like this would be rebuked but online that doesn’t seem to happen. Given the positive reinforcement from mainstream TV shows, it’s only encouarging people to explore their hyper-critical sides. I’m reminded of a free class in school that gets rowdier and rowdier as time goes on and gets calmed down with the teacher next door coming in or the free class ending when the next class starts. Imagine this rowdy class going on forever. Not good.

There does not appear to be much supervision on these sites of the kids. Playgrounds do not necessarily have supervisors but they are within reach of homes and people doing about their business in estates. Sites like Bebo, Facebook and YouTube have report abuse functions and they seem to be working hard at making them better but it’s not that you need adults going “stop that” but you do need people going “Do you not think that? How about?”.

Choose your poison
Photo owned by szlea (cc)

The utterly horrible:

Things can go out of control quite quickly. Like real life there’s bullying and harassment though it can be controlled slightly as you can lock down a profile and deny the bullies access to leaving comments. Like Lord of the flies though, kids without adult guidance could take things down a wrong path and keep going and going and going. Bullies in real life are recording their attacks (what is it with bullies and dictators being some of the earliest adopters of tech?) which rang from tauting, to violence and beatings and uploading them to YouTube and Bebo and distributing these videos amongst their peers. The videos get taken down eventually or sometimes rapidly after complaints but pop up again in new videos that get around the blocking software. The bullies build shrines to their attacks like the way some serial killers takes momentos of their murders. You have terrorist groups doling out punishment beatings to people or covering people in paint as a visual method of ascerting their authority and this tar and feathering is now happening online too. But it’s accentuated. A network of 1000 kids can see a video within hours wheras word of mouth is a lot lot slower than that.

So what can be done?

Don’t ban Bebo or social networks. Parents should learn how to use social networks and take part in them and see where their kids are playing these days. They should be able to dive in and out now and then but without excessively spying on their kids but parents should have the ability to make sure everything is ok. Same goes for teachers. Demanding access to their profile though, I’m not so sure. I do wonder whether the report abuse functions should be better too. Were I Bebo I’d consider the Community model where the community looks after each other with voluntary moderators ensuring smooth sailing. Perhaps if you are under 16 for example you’re profile is always connected to an identified counsellor or team of counsellors who can give advice.

The services do have age restrictions but it’s not like they ask you to prove your age so 8 year olds can just like and say they’re 15 and they’re on Bebo. YouTube is 16 and over, Facebook and Bebo are 13 and over, in line with US data protection laws and MySpace is 14 and over.

The worst thing a parent can possibly do is believe the hype that only bad things happen on these sites and they need to slam them without ever understanding them and I fear that’s what is happening again and again.

A big thank you to Josie Fraser for her advice and thoughts on this area. Here’s a great overview to Cyberbullying and how to deal with it. RTE 1’s Prime Time programme is doing a piece on Cyber Bullying tonight at 2130. It might be worth watching.

Seesmic Video comments – A spammers delight?

Monday, May 19th, 2008

By the way, given Loic‘s passion and ability to market his products I have no doubt that Seesmic itself will be a success. Not many startups can get Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and the man that ruined the Star Wars legend to use their service to promote their movies and Seesmic also keeps trying new things too while the other videoblogging services just seem to wallow. So Seesmic itself will do well and make money for their investors and employees but I think this video comment aspect is not a good development.

You may have seen a few blogs of late allowing people to leave video comments in the comments section. That’s due to not very reliable flash based video blogging service Seesmic. I tried using it a few months back and was less than impressed. Totally flakey and bug ridden and it crashed Firefox. It’s improved an awful lot and I think Loic the founder and the team understand blogs and social networks more than most in that area. But leaving a video comment instead of a string of text? Not good for SEO, not good for people that scan through comments. Video comments make blog posts less usable, not more usable. Just like podcasts as a means of getting around typing make the web worse, not better. Too many lazy people and those who love the sound of their own voice are using podcasts and videos to produce content which would be better in text form.

Instead of quickly scanning through comments and finding interesting links that those leaving comments might provide, now you have to click 17 individual videos and watch people feed their egos when they leave comments. Joy oh joy.

Naked Vlog Campaign
Photo owned by koka_sexton (cc)

But while Loic says it stops nasty anonymous comments, I think Seesmic blog comments are perfect for spamming. Askimet won’t stop some video spammers since there’s no text to figure out if it’s spam or real conent, a person that clicks the message won’t spot it’s spam til the video is playing. Spammers resort to image text spams by email now, so why not video text spams for blogs? There’s enough people gaming YouTube with shit videos by keyword spamming and they can’t tackle that so well. Seesmic will prove a perfect distribution mechanism for spam. I’m sure it’ll eventually be dealt with somehow but in the short term expect blogs that allow video comments to start getting video spam.

Fluffy Links – Monday May 19th 2008

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Check out Christian Hughes‘ blog.

Frank covers the Student Enterprise Awards. Is that our own Rick there?

An interactive version of Picasso’s Guernica.

New Irish site Check Lottos. Checks your lottery numbers for you and will let you know your winnings.

Very detailed Cyberpsychology digest from Sinéad. The first of many we hope!

Cybercom cover fakebloggers and how they could get done now for creating false blogs Ireland.

It’s hard to meet a girl in Saudi so the ingenuity involved in finding one is interesting.

Fragments. Haydn is launching this today. Inexpensive art that everyone can access.

The Black Cab Sessions. Another version of the “bands playing live music in odd locations” type setup. Death Cab for Cutie playing in the black cab is the latest.

Our Taoiseach. Our making?

Sinead O’Connor – Thank you

Social networks and suicide

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Today the Sunday Independent had a bit about Facebook Memorials and a suicide expert decrying them, though I think they meant Bebo Memorials.

To me Dan Neville’s comments seemed quite balanced, he gives out about the memorials but he also says the bad old days where suicide was not talked about should be left in the past. The Indo put their twist to it. Yeah, I too was surprised at that.

“The Bebo and Facebook tributes that are going on at the moment are not appropriate at all because they are allowing people in crisis to involve themselves in events after the suicide and that can be extremely dangerous.”

“I would be extremely concerned about guards of honour by school friends and sports clubs at the funerals of suicide victims — not because the person involved should not be recognised for what they did, but because it also gives a signal of attention and recognition.

“Someone in crisis looking at these guards of honour and Bebo and Face Book tributes might say to themselves ‘look my crisis will be over and I will get this type of attention or send off, or recognition of my life from my peers,'” Mr Neville said.

Banning teenagers from doing something, though? That’s going to do what? If Bebo pages in memory of someone that killed themselves are taken down in order to prevent more suicides it’s not going to work. That kids create them means that there’s a need for them to remember their friends. Why not instead have links to suicide prevention campaigns and links to people on Bebo that people can message if they have a problem. Suicidal people will find out these memorials be they on Bebo or elsewhere, they’ll come there and maybe you can intervene there. There’s a greater chance of interevention there than out in some dark corner of the web.

The scary thing about suicide though is that it’s contagious in a way and I remember hearing someone on Morning Ireland (maybe it was Neville himself) talking about news reports on suicides can actually trigger people into considering it. This is why there are suicide clusters in areas.

Neville talks about banning these memorials but these memorials are where people are going to remember their friends. It would surely be like trying to ban talk of their friends in the classroom or pub or when they mope around in groups in shopping centres. Instead of banning them, why not establish guidelines with the community that create them?

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Check out this 30 minute presentation from Paul Graham about how benevolent startups succeed.

Then have a read of this Malcolm Gladwell article about inventions not being unique and that all inventions are inevitable. He also goes on about getting the right crew together can cause a lot more inventions to happen. Inspiring.

The Irish Web Awards – Judging Criteria

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I may have mentioned the Irish Web Awards before. They’re in Dublin on October 11th. A Web awards based on the structure of the Blog Awards (free nominations, all nominations are judged etc.) and since this is an Awards not about the sponsors but those taking part I’d like to get the feedback of the public on how they think a website should be judged. I’ve asked a few folk privately about what the think the criteria should be for judging websites but I want as many opinions as possible. The feedback here will shape what the criteria for the judges of the Web Awards will be.

There’s all the usual ideas of marks for functionality, design, utility and so forth. I was wondering should there be any mandatory criteria for a website to get nominated such as HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 compliant but some have pointed out that many sites that are full of browser hacks to get them to look nice will probably not validate but extra marks should perhaps be given if they look well in many browsers AND validate.

So should there be points out of 10 for the basics like design, utility, functionality and then extra marks for usability, conformance to WAI WCAG AA, HTML 4.01 compliance?

I do of course understand that there will never be full agreement on the criteria so will try and make it fair and balanced. But not the Fox news style of fair and balanced.

Photo from Tub Gurnard

Half day Business Blogging Course in Galway – June 5th

Friday, May 16th, 2008

More self-promotion. Another hugely subsidised Blogging Course, this time in Galway on June 5th. Me again, this time in association with the Galway Executive Skillnet folks.

Venue: Westbic, IDA Business Park, Mervue, Galway
Time: 9.30 – 1pm
Fee for non members is €32

Anyone interested can email info < at > Or ring 091 755736

Eyre Square, Galway
Photo owned by wjmarnoch (cc)

Fluffy Links – Friday May 16th 2008

Friday, May 16th, 2008

What are Ticketmaster trying to say?

Lineup for the Cork Midsummer Festival.

Some of the talks at Interesting 2008.

New blog: Irish Negative Equity Blog.

And another: Xbox4Nappyrash, he explains how he rolls.

Some Unofficial code to stick on your posts if you want them nominated for Blog Post of the Month.

Sinéad does not like Tate on Who. I love her on it.

They want to make traffic go slower on the M50?

Spongebob Rectal Thermometer.

A crucifix mp3 player. I’m going to put “My Own Personal Jesus” on this to start with.

Via You Ain’t Grime Music. Wiley – My Rolex, for Sir Paul

Vodafone Customers – Check your account

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Seems Vodafone accidently double billed some credit card paying customers and will eventually rebate them. Looks like they haven’t told their customers about the snafu though.

The bit that interests me is the crappy customer service that Conor got. I own the pretty much dead blog (Which is coming back as a different service later this Summer) and this is the kind of customer care you should not have to deal with.

Got this from Conor Byrne:

Have you heard about Vodafones double charging of customers who have paid by credit card. I am one of those customers. When I discovered the charge I rang Visa and was told to ring Vodafone. I rang Vodafone and the girl in Customer Care (thats a joke) told me that no there was no double charge on my account. I was looking at the charge and explained to her I didnt care what her screen was telling her, that I WAS double charged. She then went off to “speak to a supervisor” (God I hate that line) and then told me to fax the proof. I had to prove to them! I said I had no access to a fax machine and could I email it….no there was no email address (really an organisation the size of Vodafone has no staff emails?). Eventually I got an email. That was 11 days ago. And there is still no refund on my account. I have had to email Vodafone 4 times to see what is going on before I even got a reply…and this is the reply I got:

Vodafone email:

It has been discovered that due to a technical error, some credit card payments made on My Vodafone by a small number of customers were duplicated for each paying customer.

Some customers who made CC payments between the 23rd of April and the 11th of May were charged on a duplicate basis.

The issue is currently still under investigation and a rebate will be applied shortly.

Unfortunately I wish I could give you more information than this, but this is all I know at the moment. I do know that a rebate is going to be applied but not the exact date when this will happen, and I am not in a position to refund the card myself as this is being dealt with at a higher level.

It kind of gets better, they haven’t actually informed customers about this. They need to figure it out themselves:

When I asked to speak to the person who would know (the higher level person) what was going on I was told to call Customer Care on 1907!!

Do Vodafone just not care. They didnt communicate with me to tell me this had happened, didnt assure me that it would be resolved quickly, didnt call me (lets face it they have my number) or email me (and everyone else) to tell us what the latest was.

Circle of life
Photo owned by Robyn Gallagher (cc)