November 30, 2006

I Think You Mean Last

At the start of the week, I ordered a TV-tuner card for the MythTV machine I'm building. Yesterday, when I got home there was a "we tried to deliver a parcel" card from the Home Delivery Network. It just told me that they'd try to deliver it again today, and after that I could arrange alternate delivery or collection.

Today, there's another card. Good to their word they've tried to deliver it again. But I'm working away from home at present, so there's no-one in during the day.

Still. This sort of thing has happened many times before, and it isn't the end of the world. The card even proclaims "Putting the customer 1st" at the top.

There isn't a website listed on the card, so I can't check where the depot is - all I can do is phone the number on the card and quote my parcel number at them. So that's what I do.

The depot is in St. Neots. Not particularly far, but not as close as any other parcel firms I've dealt with. But it isn't open on Saturday, the day that would be best for me to go and collect it. Okay, maybe I can divert via St. Neots on my way to or from work... but it only opens at 9am, and closes at 6pm.

Excellent. So, because I'm busy during office hours and so can't be at home for delivery, I can go and collect it any time during office hours. I'm sure there's some problem with that logic...

Then it gets even better. They can't give me the address for the depot in St. Neots, because I have to arrange with the depot before I collect the parcel. How long does it take to find a parcel on a shelf in a warehouse?

Finally, we reach the point where I'll be phoning and getting a refund. The guy on the phone is quite keen for me to agree for the depot to phone me tomorrow to arrange when I'll collect it; something I don't want to do because I'd rather choose a time when it's convenient for me to be interrupted at work. "But", he protests, "if you phone tomorrow to arrange it, you won't be able to collect it on Monday."

Monday!?! It's only Thursday today. My parcel started its journey back to the depot this morning. Yet if I phone tomorrow to arrange to collect it, the earliest that they'll let me is Tuesday.

Can somebody explain to me how anyone can have the audacity to claim that any of this is "putting the customer 1st"?!?!!

Posted by Adrian at 07:13 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

What Is Everyone Twittering About?

Twitter. Catch it while it's hot, and whilst there's still a chance that I'll be posting things to my twitter page.

It's like blogging but with even less content. Or maybe like sending text messages to the world. I'm not sure how useful I'll find it as a service I have to explicitly post to, but I think it could be a useful interface to collate streams of data about what I'm up to. So people (or their computers/mobile phones/whatever-smart-device-they-have) can where I was last seen, or what I was last doing.

Of course, by people, I don't really mean random strangers. I'm sure some people would be happy to publish such information to all and sundry, but I think it would be more useful if it were my friends.

But then that feeds into my age old pondering on how you'd provide the user interface which would let you deicde how much data was exposed to whom - I'd want to create different profiles on the spectrum from complete stranger to family member or spouse. Maybe it would be sufficient to apply a "how public" setting to each feed, where you pick a number between one and ten, and then you can group people into a public-ness profile.

I guess it's something I'll have to play around with when I first come to implement such a service.

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links for 2006-11-24

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November 21, 2006

ESWC Roundup

This is the last of my posts on the European Shareware Conference 2006. There might be the odd update to the posts if I find links to the presenters slides. I'm missing notes from two sessions - on the first day I missed the start of Tony Edgecombe's talk on Trust and couldn't take notes as my laptop was stranded at the other side of the room on charge. Gavin Bowman's has published his notes for that session. Then on the second day I skipped Thomas Wetzel's presentation about protecting your application (again, Gavin's notes are available) because I was being interviewed.

Mike Dulin had converted one of the rooms in the hotel into something resembling a radio studio and was quizzing me about tedium and the conference for his podcast - Shareware Radio. It was my first ever interview, but Mike does a great job of keeping things moving, and we'll have to see what it's like when it gets aired. Watch this space...

Here are the links to all of my notes from the conference:

Day One

Day Two

Final Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. There was lots of information to soak up from the presentations, which covered a full range of topics useful to anyone running a business online. As a direct result of the conference I'm going to be ditching Google Analytics in favour of another web server log analyzer (not exactly sure which yet, there are two I want to try), and I'll be trying out Infacta's GroupMail for managing my mailing lists (I've been looking for something to do this for a while, and this looks good and there was a conference offer of a free Personal Edition copy!).

It wasn't just the sessions that were good. I met all sorts of interesting people over the three days (I'm including the evening spent in the pub on Friday as part of the conference).

It was nice to meet both Bob and Gavin after trading emails with them in the past. Plus there were some locals attending who I hadn't met - Tony and Stephen, and one (Martin) I used to play footie with but haven't seen in a while. Then there were all those I met for the first time. It was great to meet you, and illuminating talking to you all.

As always seems the way when I attend conferences, I came away from the event buzzing with ideas and thoughts. Now I need to sift through them and start working on some of it.


A final note about my note taking during the conference. It was the first time that I'd used my tablet PC in anger, and it acquitted itself well. The battery lasted half a day before it needed recharging, so I could just leave it to charge over lunch; and handwriting my notes in Microsoft OneNote was much less intrusive and distracting than typing would've been. The handwriting recognition has also been pretty impressive - by which I mean that the process of converting my handwritten notes into what's been posted up here has been: convert the handwriting to text in OneNote; then check the text against the original handwritten version and make corrections. There's generally been something to correct on every line, but I think it was quicker than typing them up manually would've been.

I'll leave you with some of the more amusing mis-conversions I've encountered whilst writing up the notes:

Auto-converted version
Taming your visitors
Gaming your visitors
How many customers
Have mangy customers
FAQs are good
Torsos are gout
Analyze your logs
Downcast your loss
If you're lucky with an engineer
If you're bully with an engineer
androids or bywords or woodworks or pollards

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November 19, 2006

ESWC - Website Critique

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ESWC - Michael Lehman: Project Glidepath

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ESWC - Panel #4: Supporting Your Users

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November 18, 2006

ESWC - Dave Collins: Google AdWords - Taming the Beast

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November 17, 2006

links for 2006-11-17

  • Lots of links to companies offering recycling (and such) services in the (south of the) UK. I thought I posted this ages ago, but couldn't see it.
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November 16, 2006

Refreshing Firsts

Last night saw the first presentations session for the Refresh Cambridge group (a collection of web designers, developers and anyone else who's interested). Matthew Pennell, who just needs to embrace his role in the group as organizer-in-chief, has written a good round-up of the evening over on his blog.

It also marked the first time I've presented something in such circumstances. I've done a couple of best man speeches, and run training sessions for colleagues at places I've worked; but last night was the first time I'd presented to an external group of my peers.

The brief was only to produce a five-minute talk on something relevant to the group, which was good because with the other work commitments I've got at present, I almost didn't have time to pull anything together. (For future reference, Matthew's idea of giving a Pecha Kucha presentation on your recent links is a useful technique)

I think it went okay, although it felt like I rushed through it somewhat and wasn't as clear in my direction as I'd have liked. In my defence, we were running short on time before I started, and normally I'd have run through it once or twice beforehand but didn't have time. I figured as it was only five minutes, I could wing it, and I did - but only just.

The presentation was bascially a quick demo of Selenium, a very handy test framework for testing websites. It runs in any of the popular browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera, etc.) and can click on links, open pages, type text, choose menu options - anything you might do in using your web app - and lets you check for given text or page elements in order to test that things have gone as you expect.

Once you've written your test cases, you can automatically run through them all and use them in any of the supported browsers. So, for example, you can easily check that things are okay in both IE and Firefox before you make the newest version of your site live.

I'm starting to use it to test tedium, and I gave a demo of it running over through the tedium test suite during the presentation. In fact, there wasn't a lot more to the presentation, but in case anyone is interested (and because I said I'd post them up), here are the slides:

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November 15, 2006

Last Couple of Days to Try to Win a Year of tedium

Things have been a bit manic round here of late, so I haven't had chance to point to a very nice write-up of tedium done by GTD Wannabe.

Luckily, there are still a few days left to leave your thoughts and comments about tedium over on the write-up and be in with a chance of winning a year's subscription.

Posted by Adrian at 02:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2006

links for 2006-11-14

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November 13, 2006

ESWC - Panel #3: eCommerce Advances and Advantages

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November 12, 2006

links for 2006-11-12

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November 11, 2006

ESWC - Dave Collins: Websites That Sell

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November 05, 2006

ESWC - Thomas Wetzel: Grow Your Google Adwords Account Successfully

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ESWC - Sinan Karaca: How to build extreme installers

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ESWC - Panel #2: Technical Issues

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ESWC - Marcel Hartgerink: Next-generation Software Protection Tools

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ESWC - Panel #1: Marketing - What Are The Opportunities In 2007

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ESWC - Robert Martin: Marketing - It's What We Do

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ESWC - Gary Elfring: On Selling Software

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ESWC - Search Engine Optimisation/Optimization

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ESWC - Keynote Address: Bob Walsh

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November 04, 2006

links for 2006-11-04

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November 02, 2006

links for 2006-11-02

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November 01, 2006

A Good Weekend For Cambridge MicroISVs

This weekend the European Shareware Conference is taking place in the Crowne Plaza hotel in the middle of Cambridge. There are a lot of interesting talks about all sorts of topics relating to writing, marketing and selling software. See the link for the full schedule.

I'll be going along, and will also be heading down to the pre-conference pubmeet on Friday. It's down at The Anchor at 7:30pm. And, because a number of the people who hang out on the "Business of Software" forum are going to the conference, there's a JoS meetup happening in the Crowne Plaza at 6pm and then probably moving onto the Anchor a bit later on.

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