Wayback Machine saved my skin

A while back I did a very silly thing. Well, actually I did a series of things that all seemed perfectly sensible at the time but the upshot was a bit of a disaster.

I started this blog way back in 2006 and over the years I accumulated over 100 posts, which is not a lot compared to many people but they represented a fair investment of my time over the years. A couple of years back I decided that I would migrate away from WordPress and go to Ghost, a shiny new node.js based platform. The idea being that I’d blog a bit more and learn about node at the same time.

The migration to Ghost went smoothly enough, but in the end the blog just ended up languishing. I decided not to bother to continue paying for Ghost hosting and eventually the ghost version died. “No problem” I thought, “I’ll just reinstate the WordPress version on Dreamhost”. I can’t be sure exactly what happened, but somewhere along the line I either overwrote the old version of my database, or it had already been deleted. Whatever the cause, I had lost all of my old posts and I couldn’t find any backups to restore from. I did some swearing.

Then it dawned on me… archive.org have archive copies of my site. Slowly and painfully I managed to get all my posts back and they’re all on this site in glorious technicolor for you to enjoy! A lot of the links will link to web archive and some of the pictures are hot linked from there, but for the most part all of the content and categories are still available. I didn’t bother bringing over any of the comments.

So thank you Archive.org! A small PayPal donation is on its way to you.

Does this mean I’ll start blogging again? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe… I’d like to, if I have the time

Let’s agree to never speak of this again

I don’t think I’m a naturally grumpy person, but there are somethings that I just don’t understand that bring out my inner curmudgeon.

My feelings about sport pretty much match the way I feel about religion: Practice it & enjoy it if you want (though for the life of me I don’t understand why you would), as long as you don’t force it in my face and it doesn’t cost me anything… fine.

Why does anyone care about this stuff?

I can run a bit, swim a bit and throw things a bit but I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be interested in how effectively I can do those things. Hell, I don’t even care. Why an adult would  want to watch some other adults trying to get from one place another quickly is completely beyond me. Watching a kids sports day is one thing “awww, bless… little Johnny managed to do the sack race without falling on his nose.” but if the only thing someone is any good at by the time the reach puberty is elegantly falling in to a swimming pool, we should be asking ourselves how the education system was allowed to foul up so badly, not celebrating it.

I’m proud to be British, as a nation we have much to be proud of. We’ve given the world a model for democracy, the World Wide Web, marmite and much more besides. The idea that someone can represent their country by running round in circles seems completely barmey to me.

Don’t be fooled

Besides, it’s not actually about the sport. I hear Jessie J sang “price tag” at the closing ceremony last night. I’m sorry love, you’re wrong…  the money is precisely what it’s all about. Coke, Lloyds and Visa didn’t sponsor the Olympics because they love you, they did it because the recognise that they can make a ton of cash of the back of it. Now I have absolutely nothing against corporations making tons and tons of cash, the Olympic tax breaks didn’t even upset me all that much. The thing is this: do you think those megacorps would have put money in to the Olympics if they thought they could fleece the public for the same amount of dough with out having to pay for some shell suited people to mince about a stadium? Of course they wouldn’t. I’m particularly pissed off about Lloyds, as a public owned bank they should be nowhere near things like this.

Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!

In a 24/7 news cycle driven social media world the Olympics have been almost impossible to avoid. It didn’t matter how many filters I set up in tweetbot I was still subjected to a multitude of tweets about the games. Facebook has been full of it and the media, well… We have dozens and dozens of radio & TV channels some of them (Sky Sports News & Five Live for example) are even dedicated to sport. Why then did the Olympics get front page billing on the main BBC News website? Why has it entirely taken over the TV & Radio schedules? My two favourite shows on  Radio 4  (Today & PM) have been pretty much unlistenable for the past few weeks because there’s been so much Olympic nonsense on them. Is it really that unreasonable to expect sport to be kept to the sports channels? They were still harping on about it on Today this morning; it’s finished now, shut up about it! The last thing we need is 2012 becoming the new 1966. To rebalance things, I propose that BBC Parliament, NASA TV & coverage from CERN be allowed to dominate the schedules for the next few weeks.

Double dip what now?

I could get really, really ranty about the cost to the tax payer, but I shall simply say £9.3bn is approximately £150 per person in the UK. That’s per person, not per tax payer. Think of the good that money could have been used for.

Any way, that’s my rant. Let’s all agree to never speak of this again.

Don’t underestimate the power of the crowd

Companies today are climbing over each other to harness the power of social networks, to reach a wider audience and ultimately get more sales. Get it right and the public will love you. Get it Wrong and you’d better be prepared for some pain

They forecast snow but it looks like hfail.

Just over a week ago twitter and facebook were buzzing with news about a competition that Nokia were running to bring snow to five UK towns. The way to make your town to win was to get the most votes.

So the people of Worthing duly installed the facebook app & invited their freinds, the retweeted the link and advertised it on their blogs. They nagged everyone they knew to vote until the competition closed. After a few days the results were announced & people were delighted to find out that Worthing was one of the winning towns. Again people tweeted the good news & talked about it on facebook & bebo. “Good old Nokia, they’re bringing us some snow!”

Once again a few days passed and then an email started popping in to peoples in boxes. “Your five free tracks are waiting” it said. “eh?” said the people of Worthing “what about our snow?”. This was followed by another mail

Welcome to Nokia Music Store. Enjoy the music you love on the move.

This email is to confirm that you’ve successfully joined the Nokia Music Store. Your username is *******. You will need these details to access Nokia Music Store, so keep them safe.

The thing is, no one knew they were registering for the Nokia music store when they entered the competition.

Why had nokia registered people for a service without telling them? This is not good for trust.

More time passed. Then, Yesterday an email arrived “You’ve received this because you entered the Nokia Win Snow competition, and you’ve been selected for special VIP tickets to your town’s event!”. The email linked through to a survey which asked which session you wanted to attend and how many tickets you wanted. After completing the survey users were dumped back to the Nokia Christmas website with no idea what was going to happen next. When would the tickets arrive? How would we get in to the event? Everyone settled down to do a bit more waiting.

Then today, this:

Thank you for the overwhelming response from Worthing to the email we sent out!

We’re sorry for any confusion we’ve caused over the wording of the email and the instructions we provided. Unfortunately we can’t reply to you all individually to explain the process, so we’ll outline it in this email.

By filling in the online form you’ve registered your interest in getting tickets for the event.

Worthing Council have informed us that we can only have a maximum of 500 people at each session, so we’ll have to limit the attendees to a fixed number of invitees and a limited number of guests for each invitee.

If you didn’t fill in the form in time and the form was closed, I’m sorry, but we have had to limit the number of applicants.

We’re going to randomly select a number of invitees from all who applied, and send them an email to confirm that they are invited to the event, how many guests they have, and what they need to do to gain entry.

We’d love you all to come, but unfortunately the response has been so overwhelming that we will be unable to fit you all in and still comply with the Council regulations.

If you didn’t complete the form fully or correctly, for whatever reason, I’m afraid we can’t include you in the draw. Owing to the large numbers involved, we cannot engage in individual correspondence over any particular entry.

Oh dear, oh dear. This will never do.

Almost immediately irate Worthingites started tweeting their frustrationat Nokia, swapping details of conversations with officials from the council (who denied any knowledge of any restriction on numbers) and planning to demonstrate outside the event on Saturday if they didn’t get the tickets they’d been promised.

The local paper published an article about the fiasco & I blogged about it over on WorthingThing.  An hour or so later Nokia did a massive u-turn when a spokesman said to the Worthing Herald “Nokia’s spokesman added: “What we are hoping to do is somehow accommodate everyone and we’re just working out what we can do as we have made a commitment to more people than we planned for.”

“Nokia will do all we can to make sure everyone has some sort of experience.”

So, Nokia underestimated how many people would want to come to the event, having voted for it. and they underestimated how angry people would be when they were told they couldn’t go after all. Faced with the prospect of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory Nokia have done the only thing they can to mitigate a barrage of bad publicity.

I hope that Nokia’s underestimation of people’s expectations doesn’t lead to an anti-climatic event on Saturday.

What can companies learn from this?

It’s not a new lesson really. If you promise the public something make damn sure you can deliver it.

The difference now is that if you don’t deliver on your promises social networks mean that people can very quickly rally together and cause negative publicity and that will bite you on the arse.

How not to deliver a good customer experience

When purchasing software online you expect the process to go something like this:

  • Choose your software
  • Add to cart
  • Pay
  • Download Software

nice and simple & stress free. Unfortunately some companies don’t get it – Tomtom I’m looking at you.

Yesterday I decided to purchase the Tomtom maps of Western Europe in preparation for our holiday next month, so I spent £60 (approx $120 US) on the map and nearly a day later I’m still waiting for it to be “delivered”.

The Tomtom  map purchase experience goes like this:

  • Choose map
  • Add to Cart
  • Confirm your Tomtom account details
  • Pay
  • Get a screen that thanks you for your purchase and tells you that you will receive download instructions “shortly”
  • Receive thank you email
  • Receive invoice email
  • Wait!

Now the thank you screen did say that if I waited more than 24hrs for the download details to get in touch, but frankly I think having to wait more than a few minutes is too long – if I’m buying a software download I want it now, not tomorrow. Come on Tomtom, sort it out.

A better way to update your facebook status from Twitter

I just noticed that Facebook have stopped pre pending their statuses with “is:” which, in my opinion is a good thing. Unfortunately they haven’t stopped pre pending “is twittering: ” to updates that come in from twitter.

Fortunately Dustin Brewer has come to the rescue by developing twittersync which, as the name sort of suggest syncs your facebook status with Twitter without pre pending anything (unless you want it to). Thanks Dustin! That’s much better.

Quick tip for using XHTML Strict with ASP.net

One thing that has always infuriated me with .net is it’s insistence on adding an invalid name attribute to the asp.net form*.

About a month ago I found a nice easy cure for this, so I thought I’d share it. All you need to do to stop .net adding the name attribute to the form is add an xhtmlConformance tag to your web.config like so:

  1. <configuration>
  2. <system.web>
  3. <xhtmlConformance mode=“Strict” />
  4. </system.web>
  5. </configuration>

Hopefully that’ll be of some use to someone.

*What annoys me more is the fact you have to have a form tag on every page for .net to work, but that’s a rant for another day.