Which emergency service? Digital Champion please.

Yet more speed camera misery in our house. 50 in a 40 at 12.30pm on a deserted stretch of well-lit road near Guildford. But hurrah! A form arrives saying that as a means to rachet up middle-class motoring taxation a notch further, my good lady wife can opt to go to on speed awareness course and thus get off of the points. We fill out the form — name, address, driving licence number and so on (every single field on the form was something that they already knew) — and send it back.

A couple of weeks later, we get another letter, saying that they have not yet heard from us and that if they don’t hear from us then my good lady wife will be fined and “pointed”. So I set about filling in the same form yet again. Why can’t I do this online? The missive from the “Safety Camera Partnership” has a unique reference number, after all. There’s no phone number on either the form or the covering letter, so they clearly don’t want us to phone up, but there is a URL at the bottom of the letter so, hurrah, I assume I can deal with the issue online.

But, of course, there is nothing remotely transactional about the site. You can’t fill out the form online (and I’ll bet a pound to a penny that on the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Netscape on 4th April 2014, you still won’t be able to) although you can, in a nod to the 21st century, download the forms to fill out. Digital Britain at its finest: a pretty web site that cost zillions to build and but unable to execute any useful work at all. Isn’t this the sort of thing our Digital Champion is supposed to be doing when she’s finished teaching a fifth of the population to read so that they can use websites?

 

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

Business banking

[Dave Birch] I see that Essex council has abandoned its plans to start its own bank to fund local businesses and the First Bank of Billericay, or whatever they were going to call it, will now never get off the drawing board. How this insane plan ever got to the drawing board in the first place is a complete mystery. Or, at least, it was until I read that the council spent £372,000 on management consultants

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

Extra shots

[Dave Birch] The number of times I’ve found myself enraged by the expense of wifi — in a hotel, at a train station, wherever — is huge, but I think becoming slightly rarer. Apart from hotels, where the wifi charges are absolutely ridiculous, the situation is improving. I’m still curious, though, why free wifi isn’t more widespread.

I usually go to Starbucks because the company offers free, unlimited Wi-Fi

[From Tech Leaders: Google, Apple, and…Starbucks? — Datamation.com]

I tend to do this too. I think I prefer Caffe Nero coffee at the moment, and they have contactless payment terminals too (which ought to work faster than cash, but don’t, because of the way they are configured), but because I have a Starbucks card I can sit and get some work done using the free wifi. I really don’t understand why all coffee shops don’t just provide free wifi and be done with it and then get back to competing on coffee. Although I suppose there are other things to compete on still.

At my own local Starbucks, they’ve recently remodeled the store to add more and bigger desks, and dozens of outlets. Rather than encourage people to pay and leave, as have many big chains, Starbucks clearly encourages loitering

[From Tech Leaders: Google, Apple, and…Starbucks? — Datamation.com]

The theory, presumably, is that other than at peak times there is always room to sell another cup, a piece of cake, a biscuit for people who want to stop and work/read/relax. The next logical step would be to have iPads built in to the tables for people who want to read the news and browse around. Presumably it would be cheaper to negotiate a global deal with News International instead of messing about printing, delivering and returning copies of the The Times. (Like many people, I’m sure, I pick up my copy to read in the queue and while I’m waiting for my coffee, but I never buy it and leave it at the pick-up point.).

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

Music and business

[Dave Birch] Here’s an example. I just paid £17.38 for “Bernie Plays Rory” by Bernie Marsden. Why? Because I wanted it and couldn’t find it on iTunes. There was no need to try and find a pirate version to see if I played it a few times because I already knew that I wanted it. Why? Because there’s a track on there that I love and often play in the car. Why? Because I have it on a recording of the Paul Jones show on BBC Radio 2 that I downloaded. Why? Because I often listen to Paul Jones to find new music, but I listen to him when I’m cycling to work or in the car. If you subscribe to the BBC podcast of the show, it doesn’t have the music in (hilariously). I assume this is something to do with Big Content. So instead I found a piece of shareware that lets you download from iPlayer instead of having to listen on the computer. For months I have been using this to download the Paul Jones show to my iPhone. But now it doesn’t work any more, presumably because the BBC have changed iPlayer in some way.

Well, there we are. I won’t be buying any more CDs from musicians like Bernie because I can’t listen to the Paul Jones show any more. Who does this benefit, exactly?

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

A bunch of bankers

[Dave Birch] A fascinating research paper shows that

male chess players choose significantly riskier strategies when playing against an attractive female opponent, even though this does not improve their performance. Women’s strategies are not affected by the attractiveness of the opponent.

This seems to me to be as reasonable explanation as any as to why the banksters (bankster = banker who works for a privately-held bank that is “too big to fail”) took such absurd risks with other people’s money. As soon as women began appearing on trading floors, the male bankers were unable to control themselves and began putting ever-larger bets on ever-more absurd propositions that they didn’t really understand, confident in the knowledge that they had no downside. In the old days, when bankers were generally rather dull (but rather rich) men, the risks they took were proportionate. Now that bankers include attractive women, it’s all gone pear-shaped. I suggest that it is only a matter of time before the first lawsuit is filed by an out-of-pocket customer against a bank for employing women who are too attractive: perhaps this is what UBS has in mind with its new dress code that prohibits tight blouses, short skirts and black underwear.

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes

Twansparency

[Dave Birch] There’s an interesting post over at Virtual Economics. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit about it since I read it. It’s about adding a new convention to Twittering to help when people tweet about companies:

There’s already an agreed taxonomy for doing so – you take the ticker of the company, and precede it with a dollar sign. Thus Google is $GOOG, Apple is $AAPL, Microsoft is $MSFT. Search for postings about Google by sticking $GOOG into the search box and you get a page like this… So we need a way to add disclosures to tweets about companies, preferably one that doesn’t take up too much space and allows for some nuance.

[From virtualeconomics: Proposing a disclosure taxonomy for Twitter]

The post is asking for a similarly simple taxonomy for letting readers know if you are posting about a company that you have an interest in and it proposes a logical, but too complicated set.

I commented: Actually, I think you’re probably right, although we need something simpler. I’ve got two ideas. There certainly ought to be a common mark for “my company provides paid services or products to the company that is the subject of this tweet”. Perhaps “@$”? So I might write “I see that @$VISA has announced their in2Pay product today” as distinct from “I see that $VISA has announced…”. There also needs to be a simple taxonomy for “I have a financial interest in the company that is the subject of this tweet. So perhaps “%” followed by the twitter name of the company. Thus I might write that %@chyppings is doing some ground-breaking work on mass-market NFC services, instead of the more neural @chyppings.

This seems like a simple and desirable element of transparency that would add to the twitter experience.

In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen megabytes