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.

CB > FB?

Sometimes I feel a bit jealous of teenagers today. They have all this cool online social networking stuff that I would have loved to had access to when I was their age, but this evening while deflating the paddling pool (I know, rock & roll eh?) it dawned on me…

I was using a social network 18+ years ago!


OK so I wasn’t on Twitter or facebook or bebo or whatever, but still:

  • we invited our friends (on Channel 19)
  • we arranged events
  • we had handles, back then I wasn’t fordie – I was “Nemesis” (Rawr!!!!1!one)
  • we made new connections
  • we shared geo location data (what’s your twenty?)
  • we pimped our profiles (or our rigs, with echos and fancy roger beeps)
  • we even occasionally swapped songs (even though it pissed other breakers off a bit)

So in the last 18 or more years the technology has changed, but our use of it hasn’t all that much. Looking back with my rose tinted specs it seems that CB will always be better than FB.

I wonder what’ll be next?

I think Ferris Buller said it best…

life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it

Ferris Buller

The last time I blogged about my life I had just left my Job as Lead Front End Developer with Tesco Property Market. I’d been there for 2 years and to be honest things weren’t going the way I’d hoped, so I took a role with Madgex in Brighton.

Madgex are well respected in the web development community, they sponsor a number of tech events in Brighton. It looked like exactly the sort of role I’d been looking for & I was excited to join the team there. Then the recession hit. And Madgex ended up having to make dramatic job cuts & I found myself out of a job. I have to admit, I wasn’t actually all that upset – I’d been tempted for a while to go contracting but I’d never had the balls to go & do it. This was my chance.

So that’s what I’m doing. It does mean a bit of uncertainty & less time with the kids, but I am quite enjoying the variety.

Breaking news, different people like different things!

Bobbie Johnson has article in the Guardian today about twitter. Nothing remarkable about that, Johnson is after all one of the Graun’s Tech Journalists.

What is remarkable is the number of comments moaning and bitching about the coverage that the Guardian gives to twitter. It’s true that they have given it quite a lot of coverage lately in the paper, on the website & on the excellent Tech Weekly Podcast, with good reason, and this is the reason: some people, maybe even a lot of people think it’s interesting.

The fact is I find twitter extremely useful. As a web developer I use it for keeping up to date with the latest industry news, it’s an excellent way to pick your peer’s brains & share your own knowledge.

Every day papers & news websites dedicate pages & pages to sport. I hate sport; I particularly hate football. So do I take time out of my busy day to write to the paper or post a comment on the website every time there’s a sport related story? No, I ignore it and remain blissfully ignorant. I guess some people just have too much time on their hands.

Review: HP Photosmart C4585

Wireless Printer, Copier & Scanner – All In One Printer.

Since my old printer died a few months ago I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement. I ummed and ahhed for quite some time trying to work out what I wanted from a new device – eventually I decided that I wanted

  • a colour printer
  • integrated scanner
  • ideally wireless printing & scanning
  • cheap (<£100)

I’d almost given up on finding all these features in one device for the right price, then on Friday I spotted the HP Photosmart C4585 for £75 on the pc world website & decided it looked just the job.

Set up

Setting up the printer was surprisingly easy. Once the power was connected the printer displays easy to follow instructions for installing the ink cartridges on it’s screen.

Next I popped the set up DVD into my MacBook & followed the instructions. I was half expecting to experience pain trying to set the printer up with the Mac, but actually it was a doddle there’s a wizard that guides you through the whole process. Eventually it asks you to connect the the printer using the supplied USB cable; it asks you if you want to connect to a wireless network, if you answer yes the set up program displays the name of the network your computer is attached to and prompts to enter the network key and er, that’s it. Easy.

Note: When adding the printer under Print & Fax on your Mac OS X be sure to choose “HP Jetdirect – Socket” from the protocol drop down or you’ll get network device not ready errors when you try to print.

I thought it was a nice touch that HP provide a Mac OS desktop widget that shows you the printers ink levels.

Now that the printer was on the network it was very simple to set it up on the wife’s Windows XP rig. Again there’s a wizard to walk you through the set up, this time I told the software I wanted to install a network printer – it did a quick scan & found the printer. very, very easy.


If you buy a printer it’s a good idea to buy paper unless you’re sure you already have some. I wasn’t able to test the printing straight away. But when I did get to the shop and printed a documents I was very pleased with the text printing. I’ve also tried printing one photo (on photo paper) so far, I have to say I’m extremely impressed with the quality.


Before setting up the printer / scanner I wasn’t entirely sure if the scanning function was goting to be available over Wifi, I was extremely pleased to find that it does. No more plugging in USB leads for me! The scan results seem very good, so far I’ve used it to upload embarrassing photos of my Sisters to Facebook.


I’ve only had this bit of kit for a couple of days, but at the moment I’d be more than happy to recommend it to anyone based on my limited experience.

jQuery intellisense in Visual Studio 2008 & Dreamweaver

jQuery is a lightweight JavaScript library that emphasizes interaction between JavaScript and HTML it’s my weapon of choice when it comes to adding client side interactions to a site.

It has rapidly gained popularity with web developers and designers – now software manufacturers are starting to take note with industry leaders like Adobe & Microsoft adding tools to their web development environments to help make jQuery development even quicker.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2008

I spoke previously about getting Jquery intellisense in Visual Studio2008. Since then Scott Guthrie announced that that Microsoft will be shipping jQuery with Visual Studio going forward and then just yesterday I spotted this article on the Visual Web Developer Team Blog with interesting updates to VS2008’s jQuery intellisense. The best development from my point of view is the ability to get code hints in your aspx & master pages, not just your .js files.

In order to take advantage of these improvements you’ll first need to install Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1and this hot fix.

Next download the jQuery IntelliSense documentation file and save it in to your website in (probably a good idea to put it in the same folder as your jQuery file).

To add jQuery intellisense to a javascript file simply add this line to the top of the file:

  1. /// <reference path=“jquery-1.2.6-vsdoc.js”/>

To add it to aspx & master pages do add the following lines to the head of your document.

  1. <% if (false)
  2.    { %>
  3.     <script src=“~/[PATH_TO_REFERENCE_FILE]/jquery-1.2.6-vsdoc.js” type=“text/javascript”>
  4.     </script>
  5. <%} %>

Points to note:

  • The “if (false)” statement will prevent the link to the reference file being rendered at runtime.  Microsoft are planning to release a hotfix to automatically search for the vsdoc file if the javascript file has a reference path in it meaning that these links in the head will become redundant.
  • If you are using aspnet’s MVC framework you need to ensure that your path to the reference file starts with a tilde otherwise VS will not find the reference file.
  • dding a link to the reference to a master page means all aspx pages that inherit that master page will have intellisense enabled.

Adobe Dreamweaver


Adobe have just released Dreamweaver CS4 which also has support for jQuery code hinting. Adobe have taken a different approach to Microsoft, they use “introspection” to parse any javaScript files you have linked to your page and provide code hints.

This seems to work pretty well, and even handles chaining. However, I do have a couple of minor gripes. Firstly as soon as I typed “$(” dreamweaver told me I had a syntax error which really confused me, in the end I realised that just had to keep typing and DW would eventually figure out what I was doing. The other thing is, as a VS user I’m used to to code hits appearing strait away, in DW you have to press Ctrl + [space]. It’s not a big deal but would take some getting used to.

Older Vesions

Users of older versions of Dreamweaver this extension from Chris Charlton adds excellent code hints for jQuery & jQuery UI and what’s more it prompts you as soon as you hit “.” good work Chris!

Scroll to the first error in form – using jQuery

Oftentimes we ask our users to provide us with an awful lot of information in things like registration forms. It’s no wonder that every now and again the poor dears forget to fill in a box or make a mistake.

On longer or complex forms users can find it difficult to see where the errors actually are.

The other week our QA manager asked us (the front end team) to scroll to the first error on a page. I started off thinking that it was going to be difficult and time consuming to achieve, but with the awesomeness of jQuery & one little-bitty plugin I was able to achieve the desired effect in  3 or 4 lines of code.

This technique relies on you already having validated your form and added a class of “error” to you the markup, either on the form elements or an error message.

You will need

  • jQuery
  • The scrollTo plugin (I used the minified version)
  • A web page with some errors on it
  • a couple of old yoghurt pots and some sticky back plastic.

And here’s the code

add this to the head of your document:

  1. <script type=“text/javascript” src=“/JQuery.js”></script>
  2. <script type=“text/javascript” src=“/jquery.scrollTo-min.js”>
  3. </script>
  4. <script type=“text/javascript”>
  5.     $(document).ready(function() {
  6.         $(“.error:first”).attr(“id”,”firstError”);
  7.         $(“#firstError”).each(function (){
  8.             $.scrollTo(“#firstError”, 800);
  9.         });
  10.     });
  11. </script>

And Bob’s your uncle!

Please let me know if you found this technique useful.

Incidentally the code for this post was prepared with the very excellet postable. Check it out!

Looking forward to d.construct

d.construct07It’s only just over a week away now. d.construct is the only conference I’m currently booked to attend this year (though I’m hoping to get to @media Ajax in November) So I’m really looking forward to it.

The sessions look like they are going to be very good – I’m also looking forward to spending getting to know a few people who’s blogs I’ve been following over the past few years. Oh, and the free food and drink ;¬)

If your going to be there get in touch through the backnetwork & let’s grab a beer.

The first Worthing TweetUp

Last night at the Burlington Hotel, during the biggest thunderstorm so far this summer we had the first Worthing TweetUp.

Considering this is something that started as an idea I mentioned to David Rosam in passing two or three weeks ago I was pretty pleased with the turn out. David & I were there along with Jala68, Loudmouthman, Spidernix, Steaders and Clive Flint.

It was an informal event with everyone sat round a table chatting about everything from social networking to photography and the Russian Mafia! Loudmouthman managed to stream some of it to qik, and Clive has posted some photos to twitter.

We were also joined for a while by a lovely – very scared collie called bones who’d run away from her owner on the seafront during the storm.  She ran straight into the bar at the hotel & took up residence under our table.

It was really good to meet everone last night, I’m planning to arrange another meetup in a few weeks, probably at a different venue (hopefully somewhere with WiFi) so keep an eye on this blog and upcoming for more information.  Incidentally, if you are interested in sponsoring future events please get in touch.