Blog

Amazon A Go-Go

I love Amazon. They’re they way the world should do the online shopping experience. Then again, I hate Amazon. They keep recommending stuff I want so I buy it. But just now, I love them. I got my first two reviews published!

I love Amazon. They’re they way the world should do the online shopping experience.

Then again, I hate Amazon. They keep recommending stuff I want so I buy it.

But just now, I love them. I got my first two reviews published:

Start Up – Jerry Kaplan
Piloting Palm – Andrea Butter and David Pogue

Continue reading “Amazon A Go-Go”

In My Thoughts

My granddad was born on 1 July so it would have been his birthday yesterday. He died several years ago and I have to say that I miss him. I lit a candle at St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday.

My granddad was born on 1 July so it would have been his birthday yesterday. He died several years ago and I have to say that I miss him. I lit a candle at St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday. I just had the urge. I wonder why I did that? I am not the most spiritual person in the world nor am I the greatest believer. St Paul’s was so peaceful and relaxing I think I will go again. And it’s really beautiful inside – which is something I had never noticed before.

Shopping Madness

So, you would rather give me my money back than work with me to arrange delivery. Isn’t that rather short-sighted. Why would I ever shop with you again?

So, I try and buy a new power supply from a computer supplier (let’s say they are called Tell Computers).

Buy online and pay by credit card. They will only ship to credit card billing address. No problem I say, somebody will be there to pick it up and sign for it. Takes so long to arrive that nobody is there anymore. So, I think, I’ll have the courrier redeliver to work. They can’t change delivery address without Tell’s permission. OK, I say, somebody will be in on Thursday, please deliver it then. They try and deliver Friday.

No problem, thinks I. I will have them deliver one evening. “We don’t do evening deliveries,” they say. So I say, “I’m in Saturday”. “We don’t work weekends”. Huum.

“What about if I collect from your depot?”

“It a delivery centre with no collection point. Try calling Tell to have the address changed.”

“Hello Tell. Here’s my problem”

“Sorry, I’m in billing. Here’s customer service.”

“Hello Customer Service. Here’s my problem.”

“We can change the address. Oh, you bought online. You’ll need to speak to our Internet team”.

“Hello Internert Team. I have a problem and I’ve spoken to many people. I am assured you can help me.”

“No. We can’t change the address because you paid by credit card.”

“But here’s the problem. I am not at home during the day anymore. You don’t deliver evenings, weekend and you don’t have a collection point.”

“Can’t help you. Sorry.”

So I say, “I will have to send it back and have a refund”.

“Certainly Sir, no problem.”

“So, you would rather give me my money back than work with me to arrange delivery. Isn’t that rather short-sighted. Why would I ever shop with you again?”

“Sorry, that’s our policy. Somebody will call within the hour to confirm the refund”.

That was Thursday morning. Nobody has called.

Agggggggggghhhhh

Paris In The Summer

I have never been so hot while in meetings – which I think added to the sense of exhaustion by the time my head hit my pillow.

I don’t know what to think. I am so tired. I had a business meeting in Paris Monday. Travelled Eurostar. It’s usually fabulous. Up at 4.30 to make the 6.20 train was OK but the 18:16 return train was delayed by four (count them, 4) hours (sat on the train for 2 of them) and so I wasn’t actually back at my house until nearly 1am. 21+ hour day – now that’s what I call working. And I probably didn’t achieve very much!

Paris was baking. I have never been so hot while in meetings – which I think added to the sense of exhaustion by the time my head hit my pillow.

Have you ever thought how the internet is feeling (apparently, it has emotions). Right now, it’s looking The current mood of the Internet at www.imood.com (honest).

Welcome To Curnow.Org

And now they say go. My website has been online for a number of years (in fact, my first website was in late 1993 on the backend of the web servers of the company I was working for). Over the years I have kept up various parts of the site, taken others down and generally tended it like you would a garden that you let go “back to nature”. To be honest, I left it alone. Some of the more cringe-worthy stuff may be moved into this new look (but I doubt it) and my site devoted to pictures of satellite dishes has been, forever, lost (and, honestly, I am sad about that).

So it was time for a re-vamp. Time to do something different with my site and that’s when I decided that maintaining a site was hard work and there must have been an easier way. I had been experimenting with various Blogging tools for a year or so and never settled on anything I felt wholly comfortable with. Then, taking a walk down one of the web’s odder byways, I stumbled across Movable Type and decided that, if I was serious about making it easier to maintain my site more often, then this was the tool I was going to use. And so here we are …

I have now given myself the power to do this stuff quickly and efficiently. At last, I can update my site easily. But when it comes to the moment of truth I expect the next few entries to be pointless links to (vaguely) interesting stuff until such time as I find my voice again.

Update August 2008: You may have noticed that the site is no longer powered by Movbable Type. I’ve switched to WordPress which my hosting company, Dreamhost, updates automatically for me.

Why Do You Do It?

These are my ramblings and I can’t blame anybody else for the lack of interesting, entertaining or useful content. Still, it’s much more fulfilling than the static site with a few pictures of friends on it. It’s a place to vent, a place to keep things that I want to be reminded of in the future (or remember to do tomorrow). In my head it is some kind of journey that I have embarked on and don’t know where it will finish (but that’s what life is). In the grand scheme of things, however, it is an utterly pointless exercise.

I wrote these words about why I have a web presence sometime back in around 2000. At the time as I running an incarnation of my web site that has long since vanished. I started building a personal site for myself at the back-end of 1993 when HTML mark-up first hit the scene and I had very little to do while working the night shift.

Over time, of course, many things have changed. A couple of years ago the craze we know as blogging planted small roots but grew quickly. Drowning, as I was at the time, at an internet advertising company I toyed with, but never fully developed, the concept of my blog. I played with blogger and thought of all the great site management uses it had (at one time I worked for a company that built a large, complex site with almost no concept of a content management system). Still, I kept a small site at curnow.org and thought nothing more of it.

When the internet business went into free-fall and I, fortunately, remained in gainful employment I once again investigated a blog. I thought that the hard times that faced the industry were worth documenting and I tried but soon tired of the project. So I turned the blog into a personal journal (rather, weblog) and updated it daily. It did not, however, live under the curnow.org URL. Daily updates, of course, are beyond many of us and, again, I gave up.

Of course, the logical progressions is to what it has become today – an oft-updated collection of thoughts and ramblings (akin to drunken conversations in a pub, but without the sickening “what did I say” feeling the next morning). Without the self-imposed pressures of trying to do something daily, it’s a much better experience (from the author’s side).

So, what is it?

It is, of course, a personal site. These are my ramblings and I can’t blame anybody else for the lack of interesting, entertaining or useful content. Still, it’s much more fulfilling than the static site with a few pictures of friends on it. It’s a place to vent, a place to keep things that I want to be reminded of in the future (or remember to do tomorrow). In my head it is some kind of journey that I have embarked on and don’t know where it will finish (but that’s what life is). In the grand scheme of things, however, it is an utterly pointless exercise.

It is a weblog (rather than a journal) for I comment on things that interest me. Some of those things, obviously, are directly to do with my life but, most content, is not a diarised version of my life. I have seen journals and web logs referred to a mini-soap operas before. You can see into somebody else’s life. Well, I don’t think curnow.org will do that for you. It may give you an idea of what is in my mind right now, but then there are many things that I don’t comment on, so I suspect anybody reading this will get a wholly unrealistic picture of Jon Curnow. My favorite journals and weblogs are listed in the Give Us Our Daily Blog entry.

It’s pointless then?

Despite what I said above – not really. If you didn’t read the link at the top of the page, do so now (I’m to lazy to copy the text and my impression count goes up). I think there is a great power in personal publishing. This is my little contribution.

Privacy Policy

It’s always important to know what personal details are stored for use on any site and this site is no different. Read about my privacy policy.

I believe the sites and services we use online should be open about what information is collected and how it is used. In spite of some nonsense having been written about privacy threats, collecting information like this is not as creepy as it sounds because some information is needed just to make the internet work. For example, this page mentions your IP address. That’s the way the internet gets pages, music and video to your computer, phone or TV (depending on what you’ve connected). Without that address the internet won’t work so it has to be passed around a little bit.

The internet is also global which means it might not always be obvious where this information is going. For example, although I was born and live in the UK, the machines that hold this site are physically in the United States. I also use some services from Google which is headquartered there. So, some information passes through them.

So, in the spirit of letting you know what this site does – and doesn’t – do this page aims to explain it all as clearly as possible. If it’s not clear then I want to know.  Tell me @curns.

Respecting Your Privacy

The curnow.org website does not need to collect nor store your personal data in any way. You can use this site without sharing any personal information.

In common with most sites, the web server – which is the machine that sends the pages to you –  may collect information from your browser, including your IP address and the page you request which will be logged and used to identify the most popular pages. In addition to information stored by the web-servers of my hosting provider, Dreamhost, I use Google Analytics to help me understand how visitors use my site. It is anonymous and I do not know who you are. I also use the Cloudflare service to get the fastest page load times and best performance for the site. As the request for the page is routed through their service they may collect your IP information to be able to provide the service but they don’t keep it for very long. They wrote a blog post explaining what data they collect.

Comments and Email Addresses

If you contact me with your email address it will not be sold or released to anybody else unless the law requires it.

You are able to comment on selected entries within the site or by using the form on the contact page. When you comment then the information you enter (name, email address and website URL) may be stored in cookies on your computer to allow you to easily to comment on other pages (see below).

Your email address is required if you wish to comment or contact me. This is to help authenticate real users and to deliver your message to me. It will never be shared with anybody else (I hate spam too) and you’re not going to get any emails from me except for any automated ones I set up to confirm your comment or contact (unless your contact request asks me to get in touch, of course). For security and to prevent spamming, the system collects your IP address from which you made the comment and this is recorded alongside the comment. That data is stored on my servers which, as I have mentioned, are located with Dreamhost in the US.

I use the Akismet anti-spam service for comments. The data on the comments  — IP address, user agent, name, email address, website, and message — is submitted to the Akismet service (owned by Automattic) for the sole purpose of spam checking. The actual submission data is stored in the database at curnow.org and is emailed to me. This email will include the submitter’s IP address, timestamp, name, email address, website, and message.

If you use the contact form then I will receive an email containing your message. My email provider is also located in the US. Therefore, if you are from within the EU, you should be aware that these basic details will be sent outside of the European Union but it’s really no different then sending a email to somebody which, I imagine, you do quite a lot anyway.

Please remember that any details you leave in the actual comment on a page will be displayed. Do not enter anything you do not want to be published on the site. Please think before posting any personal details. I will remove all posts containing obvious real world information and I reserve the right to remove any posts. If you use the contact form then your message will not be displayed on the site.

Moderation

Depending on the amount of comments – or spam –  I am getting, I sometimes – but not always – hold them until they have been reviewed. Don’t worry if I don’t publish your comment quickly as it can often take me some time to get round to it. You can always nudge me @curns.

Cookies

A ‘cookie’ is a small file that is placed in your browser and allows curnow.org to, amongst other things, recognise when you have commented or that you have seen the cookie notification on the top of the page. A number of cookies are set and by using this site you consent to the setting of these cookies.

Specifically, a cookie called catAccCookies is used to show you have seen and accepted the cookie message. Once this cookie is set you will not see the message again unless you delete it. A cookie called w3tc_referrer may be set. This helps with speeding up of the site (technically known as caching). It knows nothing about you and is used to help the site function well. The cookie __cfduid is related to the Cloudflare that also helps speed up the site and, they too, have a helpful cookie policy. You will see cookies with a name like  __utma (or similar). These are related to Google Analytics which I use to understand how people use my site. Google have a whole page devoted to explaining these cookies and a mechanism for you to opt-out if you wish. You will find more details at http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/privacy.html. Finally, I store some cookies if you comment on articles (they all have a cookie name that begins comment_) that allows the site to remember the details you have entered so that you may comment on multiple articles without having to keep retyping your details. All of these cookies will stay on your machine until their expiry dates but you may delete them all without causing any problems (they will get set again if you come back or comment again). They fall into the category of ‘very helpful cookies that save you typing’.

The sites does not use cookies for anything else. There are no tracking or advertising cookies set. For more information on cookies please see aboutcookies.org and remember that you may delete the curnow.org cookies at any time. It will not effect your interaction with any other site. If you do not accept cookies, you can still use the site. If you want to delete your cookies then aboutcookies.org has a handy guide.

Gravatar

I use the Gravatar image service when you comment on the site. curnow.org will contact Gravatar to see if you have a picture that you wish to set with your comments. If you have never set this then it won’t find one. It’s a fun thing to do but if you don’t use that service then it can’t magically put a picture of you there.

Other Services 

There are a few other services supporting this site. I use Google Fonts for some of the display fonts. No cookies are sent by website visitors to Google Fonts. Requests to the Google Fonts are made to resource-specific domains, such as fonts.googleapis.com or fonts.gstatic.com, so that your requests for fonts are separate from and do not contain any credentials you send to google.com while using other Google services that are authenticated, such as Gmail.

The technology behind this site is WordPress and I use some elements of their Jetpack service to provide this site.  These services are provided by a company called Automattic and information about the data they collect is here.

Do Not Track

Note that I won’t show the cookie warning if you have enabled do not track in your browser settings as the site honours that setting and doesn’t set most cookies (i.e. I won’t set comment cookies). Google Analytics, however, may still set their cookies. You will find more details at http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/privacy.html.

Credit Card Details

We do not need this information ever, so you do not need to enter it anywhere on this site.

External Sites

curnow.org is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. You are advised to read the privacy policy of external sites before disclosing any personal information.

Remember The Risks Whenever You Use The Internet

There is no reason to send us any personal details other than as specified above. In addition other Internet sites or services that may be accessible through curnow.org have separate data and privacy practices independent of my site, and therefore I want to let you know that I disclaim any responsibility or liability for their policies or actions.

Please contact those vendors or sites directly if you have any questions about their privacy policies.

Corrections and Contact

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if something on the site requires correction or removal. This policy was last revised in May 2015 to add the Cloudflare service and update the details about the cookie alert.

 

Key

Security on the Internet is a big concern for many people. Keeping information that identifies you personally from falling into the wrong hands is important. Check for secure sites when submitting credit card information, be careful about who you give your email to and read privacy policies. This is all worthy advice.

If you are concerned about sending information (or you want to verify information came from where it says it came from) I would recommend you investigate Pretty Good Privacy. A useful piece of freeware to digitally sign and/or encrypt files (including emails).

PGP uses a system known as public key encryption. As a PGP user you would generate a “key pair” which is made up of both a public and private key. The private key should only be accessible by its owner but in order to share files etc. you need to share your public key (and you would need a copy of another user’s to send files). For mote information see PGP or PGP International.

Occasionally, I use PGP to sign emails or encrypt files. If you wish to email me using PGP my public key is given here.

other resources

Visit PGP and read this message (at PGPI) from Phil Zimmermann who invented PGP.

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
Version: PGPfreeware 7.0.3 for non-commercial use 

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My Web

Much of the information below is now well out of date and many of the site are no longer around. Independent Radio News’ site no longer has any of the original code behind it and Satellite Media Services went out of business a long time ago. See ex-sms.com a little bit more about that company. I’m leaving this page up, however, because it remains a valid history of some of the early websites I worked on.

Since I have been online I have been involved in the development of a number of web sites. Nowadays, I do not work for a web development company so many of the sites listed here are not the versions that I was involved in. Some of them have developed well and some seems somewhat stuck and, dare I say, even basic.

In 1994 I was working for Satellite Media Services. During the next two or three years we developed various versions of their web presence, including the online versions of IRN’s news service at The Radio Magazine. Now they have a new web address and much better design but don’t seem to develop sites for others any more.

The Radio Magazine has a new web site that has absolutely nothing to do with me but it still makes good reading about the UK radio industry.

Independent Radio News has also gone through several revamps. I can still see some of the code we developed behind this version of the site, and I suspect, the original audio scripts are still in place. IRON was one of the first sites in the UK to broadcast up-to-date news in RealAudio format.

At the time, Satellite Media Services was partially owned by Capital Radio plc and were responsible for the original prototype of Capital Online. Capital’s web services have moved on dramatically yet remain some of the best entertainment web sites around.

My original personal sites were based on the SMS servers and there remains no trace of them anymore. They were moved to various free space until I placed them here. The original UK Radio Information Pages were also based at SMS. They then moved to Onair before I removed them. James Cridland and the Media UK team do I much better job than I was doing.

SMS, back then, was a satellite audio distribution company. Back in 1994 I used to produce a site featuring a range of photographs of SMS’ satellite dishes which became a something of a cult site for a while (I know, the whole thing was very strange). Media UK also became the host of those pictures but, somewhat wisely, they seem to have removed them.

The next few web sites I was involved in are no longer in existence. Events Online, one of the UK’s first events listings services has long since vanished. It was an idea ahead of its time. For something similar, try Scene One (link now obsolete).

A number of other sites were developed around that time. Fruit Machine is still an idea and I did some of the scripting work behind the original Alternative Holidays site (working with Kevin from Incline Media – one of the best web productions houses around).

The last commercial web development I was involved in was at IPC Magazines (now IPC Media). Yachting and Boating World still has massive amounts of content behind it and, if you have an interest in sailing, why not pay it a visit?

I had great fun working on the development of all these sites. One day, I think I would like to work with content again (rather than software) but for now I am happy to be away from the struggles of generating commercial content.

Colophon

Health Warning

Most of this content is now out-of-date. I like to think it was written in simpler times, but actually, technology has made site maintenance much easier.  However, I think it’s worth keeping this around, and snippets are still valid. And who uses the word colophon anymore?  Web 1.o, huh?

Colophon

When some of this content was in beta form Mosaic had arrived and, I guess, the graphical web browser was about to change my life. At the time I was working the night shift in a small office just off Euston Road in London and learning HTML and using the Internet seemed like a good way to pass the night.

With one browser it was easy. HTML seemed logical (if limited) yet within months all that had changed. I used to be one of Netscape’s biggest fans; they pushed the boundaries and tested the standards. Several years, and the development of many web sites, later my attitudes have changed.

Graphical web browsers were created to help you, the user, control the way the documents you are reading look. Commercialisation of the web, particularly the insistence by content creators that they controlled every pixel on the page, meant the user was given less control. Add to that the fact that many users don’t understand that fundamental of the web, and you’re left with an industry that is moving away from that guiding principal. It’s a shame, but this kind of development has reinforced my belief that content creators and software vendors (including those that code the browsers) should adhere to standards.

I have always been in favour of standards and, for the basics of the web to survive, I believe those standards are even more important today. My site has been tested against the major browsers and also against Opera – which is a browser that I would whole-heartedly recommend if you are looking for a compact, compliant and fast browser. My current browser of choice is Mozilla which gets better with every release. If your site does not render using Mozilla, and I don’t need to read it, I’ll go elsewhere.

Originally, my personal site was written using Allaire’s HomeSite web-authoring tool. I had an email suggesting this went against my belief in the fundamentals of the web but unlike almost any other HTML coding tool I have tested over the years, HomeSite does not necessarily add unnecessary HTML or re-format HTML you have written. These days, however, I employ Moveable Type across all the web sites I run. Using style sheets it does a fine job of separating content from design as well as making sites easy to update. If I was the purist I wanted to be I would argue for hand written code every time but none of us has the time and Moveable Type twinned with HomeSite makes a nice, easy-to-use, alternative. HomeSite’s HTML validator is also useful if you want to try and keep some coding standards on your site (and before anybody else emails me, I know this site isn’t perfect).

Conforming to a standard does not mean you can’t implement many of the latest mark-up developments though. My site is built using style sheets and I make use of the JavaScript SRC command so I can control my sctipts better. As such, you will need a CSS complaint browser and JavaScript enabled to see it the way I hope you would. I don’t require a certain screen resolution, colours or window size as I don’t like sites that try to tell you how you should view them. However, I don’t think it is a bad rule to make sure you are always using the latest version of your chosen browser.

You may also care you read my PGP public key page which contains some information on why I occasionally use PGP.

As I am not a graphic designer, Paint Shop Pro is my image editor of choice. It does all I need it to. I try to keep the image sizes down to speed your loading time and there should always be an ALT tag in my code so you can, if you wish, switch them off.

Like many other website I make use of the Georgia and Verdana fonts (available from Microsoft) which were designed for reading on the screen. However, if you don’t like the you can always set your browser to override them.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve made the move to Windows XP at home (although I have fallen for Windows 2000 in my office). I actually write a lot of my content on my Palm Vx (which replaced my trust Palm Pilot Pro in Fenruary 2000). I use the QED file editor and pull them in after a backup. If you know a good Palm HTML edior, send me an email. My web pages are hosted with Instant Web and I recommend them if you don’t want a hosting company who bombards you with emails and offers and who let you get on with building your pages.

And finally a word about Copyright. When I produced the UK Radio Information Pages, other people passed off much of that content as their own (more about UKRIP, here). So, please ask before taking anything. All the images on this site are either mine or have been publicly available in newgroups. If you own the copyright to anything, let me know and it will be removed. If, however, you want to link to this site, please feel free. Linking content together is what the web is all about – and I do get frustrated when companies try to sue over a few links.

Ratings

As you can probably tell I am a great believer in the use of the web for free speech. As such, curnow.org is voluntarily rated with the internet content rating association (icra).

Useful Resources

If you want to read more about web standards W3C is not only a standards creator but a useful starting point; try browser.com for more information on browsers and try JavaSctipt.com for some JavaScript starting points and a ton of links. For a useful style sheet resource try builder.com. The UK Copyright Licensing Agency is a useful resource and three is a good discussion about web copyright here. If you’re not familiar with the term colophon then you should read this or this.

Reasons

The are many reasons why I am happy to have a web presence. Some of them are simple and to do with how I first cam across the internet. You can read about that, and my opinions on browser standards, in colophon.

However, I do believe in some of the underlying principals on which the Internet, as we know it, was founded. The ideals of a less censored form of communication, open and available to all, appeals to some deep belief I have in the basics of human community. A medium that is not owned or controlled by any one individual seems to make sense to me.

I believe in the power of connected networks to allow better communication and empower people who would not otherwise have a voice. The world is better for open and free expression of opinions and thoughts even if, sometimes, we disagree with those opinions or find them, somehow, unpleasant. I would rather thoughts and feelings were on the web than contained within and ready to erupt into violence (when thoughts turn to violence we all loose).

While I am in the spirit of the net, don’t forget to check out The Open Directory Project and play your part in creating the greatest web directory of them all!

Of course, this all sounds very grand but many years ago I just wanted to play with HTML and see what I could do. I’ve moved on a lot from those early experiments with the Mosaic Browser (yes, Netscape and Internet Explorer were some way off) but wish I’d held onto some of those early efforts. Where is the archive of the way the web looked in 1993? I wish I had the screen shots!

Digital networks may have changed our lives but I do not think that they should take over our lives, and that’s probably why there isn’t much here yet! Still, if you have anything to say, or more especially if you are a Curnow, why not drop me a note?

Is Email Bad?

The internet is the most wonderful tool of recent history. It’s fun, factual, interesting and full of fascinating creatures. It’s strange and freakish: at the same time useful and useless. I am thankful that it filled my night shifts and unhappy it takes over my time. Thank goodness for the internet.

The internet is the most wonderful tool of recent history. It’s fun, factual, interesting and full of fascinating creatures. It’s strange and freakish: at the same time useful and useless. I am thankful that it filled my night shifts and unhappy it takes over my time. Thank goodness for the internet.

Of all the components that make up the ‘net (Archie, anyone?), email is – probably – the greatest invention. Fast and functional, it has revolutionised my working life. Back in ’93 when I got my first real-world-connected email address, apart from those people in the same office, I knew one other person. Friends of mine couldn’t see the point. However, once I was able to communicate with my Dad in Thailand at a reasonable hour without staying awake to call him – other people saw there may be uses. Then, they connected and suddenly they sent me emails telling me how great it was to be part of this connected-universe.

Now, after six years, I think I may be turning into one of the none-believers. That’s not wholly true but – nevertheless – I’ve decided email is not as great as it could be. Sure the power to communicate is still fantastic and the informal nature is wonderful. The ability to time-shift conversations is useful but it gets in the way of my working day and I haven’t the strength to do anything about it.

If you can’t put a finger on why email doesn’t always work, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much unrelated junk do you sift through daily?
  2. How many times have you stopped working to answer the “ping” of the email to read some nonsense.
  3. How many times has your concentration been broken by the “You Have Mail” screen?
  4. When did you last get copied in on an email that was only of peripheral interest to your work because somebody felt the need to “share” or “justify”?
  5. How many times have you felt the need to copy people on an email who, if you’d conducted the communication by ‘phone, wouldn’t have been included?
  6. How many times have you been mis-understood because you typed in a hurried, informal manner to somebody who doesn’t see email as less formal?
  7. When you last answered the ‘phone did the caller say, “have you got my mail” and they’d only just sent it?
  8. When you last met a colleague in the corridor did they ask you what you’d thought of their email. When you said you hadn’t got round to reading it, did they look like they’d been snubbed? Did you feel bad for not having read it?

I could go on but my day is like this. I have to get discipline and stop interrupting myself. But I can’t. Ping, here comes another one.

Note: This article is dated 1 November – although the exact date of writing can’t be determined. It was retrieved from the archive and posted in March 2003. See the entry from March 2003 that links.

Elsewhere: Acting Like Rank Amateurs

On the uk-netmarketing mailing list, Stefan asked, “Why do people seem to think it’s acceptable to act like rank amateurs just because it’s online?” It’s a question that increasingly comes up as we’re looking to develop service models for a digital businesses. I’ve been recently asking similar questions both of our ability to serve our customers and of those that service my little piece of business. Technology on its own can not create great customer service; those of us involved in designing and managing that technology have to start with a customer centric view.

On Monday, over on the uk-netmarketing mailing list, Stefan asked, “Why do people seem to think it’s acceptable to act like rank amateurs just because it’s online?” It’s a question that increasingly comes up as we’re looking to develop service models for a digital businesses. I’ve been recently asking similar questions both of our ability to serve our customers and of those that service my little piece of business. Technology on its own can not create great customer service; those of us involved in designing and managing that technology have to start with a customer centric view. Nonetheless, technology should be able to help us deliver better service. I posted a response yesterday:

I’m not sure I’d use the phrase “rank amateurs” but poor service still common in many parts of our industry despite the fact most pitches tell the client how an online presence can help with customer service.

And it’s not just customer service. It’s the service levels we give each other.

You buy a service – be that hosting, mailing list management, stats crunching, ad delivery, product fulfillment, whatever – and in a high number of cases you get plenty of promises and in reality a 9-5 service. Something goes wrong outside those hours and there’s an excuse. And I suspect many of us are guilty.

I used to work in another media environment where 24 hour operation was also the norm. And if something went wrong at 2 in the morning somebody was available – or at least on call – to fix it. In the 3 years I was there we never had a 100% service failure for more than about 2 minutes. Sure, sometimes small elements failed but tried and tested monitoring procedures provided backup so that the customer got 70% of the service.

I find this is not the case with online media. Servers go down at 2 on a Sunday afternoon and it isn’t easy to get somebody in to fix them. Pipe to ISP fails. Sorry they’re in a meeting? Somebody messed up the DNS records last night? Can it wait until Monday? (All 3 responses happened to me in the last 2 weeks) Where’s the backup & redundancy that’s in the initial sales pitch? I find the concept of a Service Level Agreement pretty hard to swallow – I accept things go wrong and I’m not in the game of trying to get compensation for every second over the agreed levels that the service isn’t delivered. However I’m slowly turning that way as it appears to me the only solution to some basic failures where I believe there should be redundant systems etc.

Now it isn’t everybody and as there are more and more online only or online centric businesses then it will get better but there seems to me a great reluctance to accept we need the professional service levels other media already have.

Am I alone with this view/experience?

jon

I genuinely believe we are in a place to change customer service using the web technologies for our customers but we must not forget the service we provide each other. The novelty, if I can use that word, of web-based service delivery should not be excuse for forgetting the lessons learnt elsewhere. If you service sucks your customers will, eventually, go to somebody else.

Update August 2009: Almost ten years since I wrote this and I’ve found it archived online by the good folks at Chinwag.

Around The World

curnow.org may be my place on the web, but I am keen to hear from Curnows around the globe.

curnow.org may be my place on the web, but I am keen to hear from Curnows around the globe. If you are a Curnow, why not drop me a note using the comment form below? I would be interested in knowing anything about the history of the family name so please get in touch.

There are many Curnows who have contacted me and, one day, I may start a directory of sites related to the name. If you are interested in that or would like to submit a site then, again, please drop me an email using the form below.

Please forgive me if it takes a little longer than it should to get back to you – I am trying to keep up with my emails, honestly.

Your Name (required)

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Subject

Your Message

Did you know that a quick search on Flickr shows up many more Curnows than you would imagine.

Elsewhere: Wayback When

Trying to find some of my earliest work on the internet was an interesting lesson in how we have failed to archive the internet but I did find some references to some early emails I wrote.

Two years ago today I left my colleagues at Satellite Media Services in Lawford Heath, Warwickshire and moved on to IPC where I can be found looking after advertising systems for ybw.com. I left copies of my original web presence on SMS’ servers but sadly they no longer exist. For a side project, I have been trying to determine when I first started building web sites. The Wayback Machine only appears to have an archived version of the SMS site from 1997 but, unfortunately, I don’t appear to have the earlier versions. Wayback does have a copy of the original Independent Radio News site we launched in 1997 but not of the original news audio we were serving for several years before that. If I am not mistaken it was the first real-time news audio service in the UK. Thanks to Deja News (now Google Groups) I can find references to the UK Radio Mailing List that we at SMS took over running in 1996 and one reference to a 1995 request for information about an indirect access service called 1602. It’s a shame those original sites are not archived somewhere. I guess this is a lesson in the transient nature of the web. We need to remember how easily digital history can be erased.

  • Update September 2002: Deja News links updated to Google
  • Update August 2003: Links updated
  • Update June 2009: ex-sms.com link added