Please Don’t Shout On Late Trains

Jakob Nielsen reports that researchers from the University of York have performed a study to assess why it’s so annoying when other people have cellphone conversations in public.

Earlier in the week, my fifteen-minute train journey was delayed due to over-running engineering works. Any regular traveller on the South West Trains suburban lines into London Waterloo station will be used to these delays after weekends or bank holidays. I know it to be so likely that I even plan for it and force myself out of bed and to the station a little earlier if I know there have been engineering works nearby.

As always some people are caught off guard by this or, perhaps, they use it as a cover for the fact they are running late. It’s amazing how many mobile ‘phone conversations announce that the caller will be late for the office/appointment/meeting due to how late the trains are when, in fact, there is no more than a ten minute delay (which when using London’s transport infrastructure you should be accounting for anyway).

Earlier this week, however, there was a well-spoken gentleman in my carriage who insisted in calling – what appeared to be – most of his mobile ‘phone contact book to let them know just how late he was. He also said that Justin would have to take the meeting (if Justin ever reads this, the gentleman in question claimed to have confidence that you wouldn’t screw it up which I thought sounded good for you). All very well but I didn’t want to know it.

The conversation was irritaing and irritation is always enhanced when a train is later (even if you have planned for it because other’s have planned for it and civilised behaviour goes out the window). The conversation, however, was loud but each one was brief and to the point and without any pointless small-talk. The gentleman was efficient in his conversations and factual. He was, however, still irritaing.

So I started looking for items on irritation factors caused by mobile telephony only to find that Jakob Nielsen has a some research on ‘Why Mobile Phones are Annoying‘ which implies that, upon testing, conversations face-to-face at the same volume are less irritaing that the equivalent mobile conversation. The research suggests,

Designing phones that encourage users to speak softly will reduce their impact on other people. For example, more sensitive microphones and improved quality on incoming audio will make most users less inclined to shout. [source]

Let’s hope Nokia et al. are listening.

It’s A Takeover

As each day passes I have more and more respect for the talents of Chris Moyles.

As each day goes by I have a new found respect for the talents of Chris Moyles on the Radio One breakfast show. I’ve noted before that he’s the first presenter in a long time to get me to switch back to Radio One but almost everyday I find myself hooked into something about the show in a way I haven’t been hooked on the radio for a long time.

I’ve worked in radio. I understand the ‘magic’ of the medium. I know not to believe everything but sometimes, with Moyles, I wonder. His spontaneity seems so genuine and so well-done it is – almost – believable. I have a new-found respect for his talents as a broadcaster and, as very show passes, I see why he’s where he is.

Last Friday I was listening as he trailed the Radio One 10-hour Takeover that happened on Monday. I was almost sucked into the belief that, on the spur of the moment he decided to try the system but my understanding of the medium knew that it was unlikely. The beauty of the web is that now you can find out how it was pre-planned and read all about the technology behind it. Hopefully, and I say this meaning no disrespect to Matt, not to many people will read it and the magic will be maintained. In a similar way I hope not too many read the next part of this post so the mystery can be maintained.

I have to say that the concept of the 10-hour takeover is nothing new and, in many places, it’s as well staged as Moyles pretending to try to break the system without any planning. Most radio stations have some “you say it, we play it” mentality at some point of the day. In fact, my parents received some calls for Beacon By Request years ago when their home ‘phone number was similar to that of Beacon’s Shrewsbury call-in line. Digital station, Core, claims to be driven by listener’s requests (and will even text you back to say that song is being played).

Depending on the size of the station and the number of listeners at any one time the whole listener jukebox is, most likely, something of a con. There are so many requests that stations can, pretty much, stick to their playlists while actually playing the requests. They can filter out the material they don’t want. On smaller stations I imagine they’re making up the requests so, again, it can conform to their playlists (which – like them or nor – are a vital part of their identity). So, all in all, I wasn’t excited by the 10-hour takeover whatsoever but when I read items like this from David at Fuddland (via plasticbag) it strikes me that The Frog Chorus can’t have been anywhere near Radio One’s playlist for many years. So, hats of to Radio One and the technology team behind it.

I wonder what impact – if any – it will have on Radio One’s programmers? From what I have seen the selections were older-hits and often, like The Frog Chorus, a little off the wall. Did the broadcast teams actually select the most ridiculous tracks suggested? And what does this do for Radio One?

Next time, however, let Chris Moyles appear to break it. That would be even better radio.

UPDATE: The full 10-hour takeover playlist is available on the Radio One site.

Google Mail Controversy

According to BBC News, Gmail, the planned free e-mail service from Google, could be facing strong legal opposition in California

I suspect everybody will link to this over the next few days but it does make me smile. At the beginning of April Google announced it’s email service. This morning, BBC News reports that a US Senator is drawing up legislation to stop it on the basis of the reports which claim it will scan emails to allow targeting text advertising to be placed (similar to the other Google ad products).

I don’t know if it’s the Senator’s actual words or a BBC journalist writing but the legislation is reported to be bring put in place because the problem “is Google’s plan to make revenue from users agreeing to their incoming e-mail being scanned for targeted advertising” [source]

The keyword for me there is “agreeing”. If you agree to the scanning (which I suspect is being hyped out of all proportion) then why not get the benefits of all the extras Google are offering? There are many other email services on the market so there is no reason to sign with Google unless you want to.

I am not sure if somebody is just jumping on the bandwagon but Google’s getting a nice lot of coverage from this offering and with an IPO looming it can’t be such a bad thing. I do suspect that over the next few days you will also see a whole stack of marketing gurus commenting on the effect any controversy is having on the Google brand. You heard it here first!

Where is Ashley Paske?

He used to be in Neighbours and Richmond Hill. Where are you now, Ashley?

Ashley Paske Autographed PhotoI always thought Ashley Paske was quite cute when he was in the daytime soap Richmond Hill and, later, in Neighbours. But now where is he? The only reference I can find to him recently is in an ABC (Australia) documentary called The Fame Game that tellingly says that the stars, “reveal how they coped with the all encompassing fame followed by a sudden and unexpected return to virtual oblivion.”

And yes, that is his autographed photograph in the picture. It was a gift.

Britain’s Railways

The whole saga of the upgrading of the west coast main line is outlined in today’s Guardian.

A very interesting item it today’s G2 about the on-going saga of the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line, one of the key railway routes in Britain:

One of the most disturbing facets of the west coast saga is the failure of democratic government that it represents. Not just of a particular party, but the whole system of government.

and later

And yet we cannot accuse our elected representatives of looking the other way. In mid-February and early March of 1995, after the consultants had delivered their report but while Railtrack and the government were still mulling over it, members of the House of Commons transport committee questioned Edmonds, Horton and the heads of some of the big signalling firms about the WCML project … Members of parliament had done what they were elected to do, conscientiously and thoroughly scrutinising a big plan by an unelected organisation with power over the lives and purses of the public. It had pointed out its weaknesses. And nobody paid any attention.

What the article does highlight is that, today, projects of national importance and public good like this one come second to short-term profit, power and – to some extent – ego. I wonder if we will ever see a situation where transport planning is for all our good rather than the few?