Category Archives: Rants

6 Ways To Save My Sanity

Patience is a virtue, apparently. Google ‘patience: definition‘ and the first result returned is thus:

‘good-natured tolerance of delay or incompetence’

I admire people who have a lot of patience and tolerance – good-natured or otherwise. Try as I might, I cannot summon much from the depths of my deepest self. So, instead, I thought I would publish some tips on how other people can help me – perhaps this tolerance thing can work both ways…

© Martin Deutsch

© Martin Deutsch

This, therefore, is a collection of pointers that would help me get through life that little bit quicker…

1) Please don’t queue to use a cash point, and only at the time you are standing in front of the cash point you have spent 20 minutes queuing for, decide to hunt around in your purse the size of a washbag for your cash card. You have had 20 minutes to prepare – did you not know what you were queuing for? Was it a surprise to you when you arrived at the cash point that you would need a card to withdraw your money from it?

2) If you’re going to stand around in a massive group where the number of wheelie bags and children exc exceeds the number of adults by a ratio of 4:1, please don’t do it in any of the following places:

  • At the stop of the staircase on the way out of a tube station
  • In the busiest doorway you can find
  • In the middle of the pavement
  • At a busy pedestrian crossing (which you have no intention of using)

3) If you and all of your friends want to buy a £1.25 Lotto scratchcard each, fine. Nominate one person to buy them all with a tenner and sort it out amongst yourselves afterwards. Don’t nominate one person to go and buy 8 separate scratchcards with 8 different sets of £1.25, made up of varying amounts of coppers, 5p pieces and bits of chewing gum you’ve flattened down to look like a very old 20p

4) When you get off the tube, you will need your ticket or an Oyster Card to get through the barriers. They give you a bit of a hint by making you go through barriers at the start of your journey, so please don’t be surprised when you have to do it when you ‘alight’ too. Have your ticket ready. In fact, if it’s a short journey, just don’t put it away – keep it in your hand from one station to the next. How hard can it possibly be to lose something walking down an escalator, standing up for a bit, and then walking up an escalator?

5) A tip: If you’re waiting at a red traffic light, it will go green again at some point. Be prepared for that – have your hand on the handbrake, perhaps, or maybe don’t even worry about the handbrake at all… There is, after all, a perfectly serviceable foot brake designed for just such an occasion when you need to be stationary for a short period of time. As a general rule of thumb, you will not be able to change the CD/radio station, light a fag, turn round to shout at the kids and wolf-whistle at a 13 year old girl walking down the street in an average traffic light stop. Also, watching the traffic lights themselves can often help in knowing when they have changed

6) When out shopping, please don’t be too polite to say ‘yes’ when the checkout person asks you if you want someone to help you with your packing. It’s what packers are there to do. Don’t deny them their packing opportunities. Especially if you have £130 worth of Tesco Value products, 2 children who only stop screaming long enough to shove a few more Giant Buttons into their fat little faces, and one arm in a sling. You will not get your packing done in a respectable and non-cardiac arrest inducing amount of time for everyone else in the queue


Spin, Lies*, and Voicemail Messages

Nearly  a week ago, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones wrote an article about Spinvox, a UK firm that turns voicemail messages into text.  The central tenet of the article was that the service uses humans to convert messages a lot more than it leads people to believe, which leads to a number of questions about the security and privacy of messages transcribed by Spinvox. Within his article, Rory was able to cite responses to the points made from Spinvox, made ‘in a statement’.

So far, so normal. And, perhaps, only of niche interest to people who work within technology or who use the service.

© Serolynne

© Serolynne

However, my eye was caught this morning by a tweet from @Ruskin147 (Rory Cellan-Jones), saying ‘New blog post – Spinvox, we stand by our story’. Hmm, I thought. This might be interesting, and I’m a bit bored. My fingers crept towards the link, and lo, I was reading Rory’s follow-up article on the same story.

James Whatley – who ‘runs social media’ at Spinvox – posted a lengthy and on the face of it comprehensive rebuttal of the original claims made by the BBC. All still as you would expect. Or is it?

The original article by Rory Cellan-Jones was written by a professional technical and investigative journalist, and posted on the main BBC News site. Not hidden away within an obscure techy blog somewhere, right there – on the site of one of the most trusted news outlets in the world. Spinvox’s *only* response is that on James Whatley’s blog. The original ‘statement’ referred to in the original article is nowhere to be found on their site, nor is a statement from anyone more senior than their resident blogger.

Now this is what intrigues me. Regardless of the validity or otherwise of the claims within both of Rory Cellan-Jones’ articles, Spinvox ignores the reach and credibility of the BBC at their peril. Blogging absolutely has its place in the world, and can be an incredibly powerful tool in communications, awareness raising and campaigning, for individuals, not-for-profits and commercial entities alike. And used in the right way, with the right tone of voice and depth of content, can be just as valuable as a traditional PR press release.

However, I don’t think Spinvox has achieved either the right tone or depth of reply. The tone of their response is, at best, flippant. It doesn’t read like – and I’m not sure that it is – a serious and considered reply to important and concerning allegations levelled at them. (As long as they have ‘kick-ass data security standards’, then that’s alright then. Why should I worry?! And aw shucks, you’re right ‘legal stuff never is easy’, so that’s OK, don’t worry about trying to explain it to simple ol’ me.)

Add this to the fact that none of this ‘maelstrom’ has even made it into their News section, and one might be drawn to the conclusion that there is either something to hide, or they just don’t care enough to provide a formal, attributed comment to the accusations made. (Incidentally, nothing has made it into the Spinvox news pages since October 2008, so perhaps only the end of the world or a similar sized event is thought worthy?)

I’m not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of the actual charges levelled, I don’t use Spinvox and I’m not a massive technology geek. However, the quality and type of Spinvox’s response has made me unlikely to ever want to use their service in future.

Sometimes, you do have to ‘go all corporate’ and wheel out the big guns. It’s called picking your battles, and if Spinvox aren’t careful they could very soon find themselves licking their mortal, BBC-shaped wounds and wondering where it all went wrong.

* I don’t know who, if anyone, is actually lying. It just made a nice title. Please don’t sue.