My first social media policy


Despite seriously considering deleting my Facebook profile in the past, I haven’t managed it, yet. The downsides are still just about outweighed by the way I use Facebook, i.e. very little. That’s my choice though and after a conversation in the canteen recently, I started wondering whether it was right to effectively start building up a social media profile for someone before they’ve even been born!

Despite Google’s unhelpful profile name policy, Eric Schmidt apparently commented that young people may need to disassociate themselves from a trail of embarrassment online by changing their names. I can see his point, but wouldn’t it be worse if your dad had created a Facebook profile for you?! You’d need to change your name at least twice!

So, given it’s not possible to control information on Facebook, we’ve decided to try and avoid putting anything there on behalf of the bump. Not that we’re picking on Facebook- we’ll be avoiding posting anything on the other social networking sites too. This is a bit of an experiment at the moment, along with the whole (very wide) parental minefield, so the bump’s social media policy may evolve over time. For a start it needs a better codename!

We do still want to annoy at least a few people with news and photos when bump’s big day finally arrives though, so we’ll be sending out announcements via ‘old fashioned’ electronic mail and Short Message Service. (And there will definitely not be any live blogging!)

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Too busy to blog


I seem to have been far too busy to get any time for blogging lately. Actually, it’s the finishing off posts that I’ve been having trouble finding time for; I do still keep adding to the number of unpublished posts, with this selection boosting the number of drafts to 38:

  • Master Information Hub: Social Bookmark Search Transaction
  • My first Joggler app
  • Election results!
  • Icelandic Economy Bill
  • dub dub dub dot fail
  • Parking charge

Instead of finishing any of those off I’ve been…

…ordering a canvas for one of our wedding photos.

We’ve been married almost a year so it seemed like it would be a good idea to finally do something with some of our favourite photos!

The canvas has arrived, and looks great, but it’s still sealed in a back to keep all the dust off from…

…decorating the porch.

We have two front doors; one on the outside and one on the inside. I added the outer door not long after moving in to create small enclosed entrance hall/porch, which has been great for shoes, coats, assorted junk, and getting rid of anyone trying to sell something without letting out all the heat in the process. The old front door has needed a coat of paint ever since, but because I never look at the outside much I only painted the inside, until now. As a result, most of the house is currently covered in dust from all the sanding!

…playing with a new toy.

A bit of an impulse buy, but after gradually increasing the number of boxes I have plugged in all the time (ironic since it all started with the Current Cost meter!), I’ve cut down a few with a FRITZ!Box. Pretty happy with it so far: it’s a neat combination of ADSL wireless router, file/media server and DECT base station. Plus, thanks to a tip off from Jee Labs, @jthouse will soon be following @andy_house‘s lead and sending me an SMS if I miss any calls.

…not hacking the Joggler.

Apart from being in German, the FRITZ!Box media server works very well with the Joggler, so I’m still really happy to keep using the default Joggler software. For now that is: the Joggler appears to have been discontinued, and my question to O2 about creating Joggler apps seems to have vanished as well. I didn’t have much/any luck using Flash Develop, which is a shame because it seems to be a decent IDE, but Nick has been getting on pretty well on Linux. His Joggler music app looks very promising.

I have been keeping an eye on various Joggler hacks and the first one to have me seriously tempted, is Opera mobile running on the Joggler. I did briefly boot Ubuntu off a USB stick, but I don’t think it’s worth it just yet. On the other hand, Jolicloud does look like it might be ideally suited to running on the Joggler, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work. I’m still hopeful that someone will get Jolicloud booting on the Joggler though; any ideas?

Actually, I think Sony have got a much better idea of how devices like the Joggler should work with the Dash. Getting something like that running on the Joggler would be awesome.

…thinking about home automation.

@lauracowen sparked off some great discussions on the Homecamp group, and I definitely like some of the ideas in Ian’s blog post. I had a chat to Laura on Friday, and the idea of a ‘boost’ is probably a good starting point. I’m sure that would help lower my gas bill, although I’m wondering whether an even lower tech solution might work with my existing heating controls. We often turn on the hot water to top it up, but forget to turn it off again. So, since there is currently no boost button, I’m tempted to just get a basic timer to sit next to the controller to set a reminder to come back and turn off the hot water after a short period. Or I guess I could even use the kitchen timer that’s already in the microwave.

…visiting London.

We spent yesterday in London, mainly to see The Woman in Black, which was excellent. It was hard to work out which of the blood-curdling screams were from the audience and which were part of the production! We also had some time to visit the National Gallery, which brought back a few memories of art lessons.

See how much things have changed since I ruined Turner’s Ulysses deriding Polyphemus with an oil rig?!

…watching Inception.

Really enjoyed Inception although, now I think about it, it’s riddled with plot holes that I never noticed at the time. Guess that’s pretty normal for dreams!

…blogging.

I’ve also been posting on the MDM Workbench blog, so there’ll be fewer work related posts on here now. (Still figuring out how to decide which blog to pick for MDM posts.)

Social radar


Some technologies change the way you do things. Before mobile phones you had to plan where and when to meet people in advance. Before PVRs it was easier to watch TV when the show you wanted to see was on, unless you found a tape which you were at least vaguely sure didn’t have anything on you wanted to watch again, not to mention the ten minutes needed to set the VCR to record… on the wrong channel yet again! Radio, antibiotics, electricity, cars, planes, the internet, the wheel; the list goes on.

Earlier this year Twitter gave me a glimpse of something with the potential to rival even the microwave oven. Twitter is almost pointless in its simplicity: just answer the question, “What are you doing?” In most cases you’ll probably be wondering, “Who cares?” If you need convincing, there’s a very good guide to Twitter on YouTube. The real revelation for me was the power of Twitter on the move. You can still send updates using SMS, but at its peek you could also receive them, either from direct messages, people you were following or (and this was the life changing one) any updates that contained words you wanted to track. I got in the habit of tracking places I was about to visit, giving me local knowledge of things to check out/avoid, traffic/travel problems, other people in the area- what ever people were saying.

Last week could have provided another great example: I tracked ‘Hursley’ which is where I work, so on Thursday I would have got an SMS telling me that the site was closed because of a burst water main. Sadly Twitter has been on a steady decline ever since I started using it, so it was only by chance I checked Twitter before leaving for work. Without tracking, without SMS notifications and without IM, twitter has gone from personal radar to little more than Facebook status updates.

I haven’t given up using it just yet though. In fact I’ve just been cutting down the number of people I follow so I can keep up more easily; 80 is about enough for me. I don’t have any set rules about who I follow like some people, otherwise Martin would have gone just for the amazing number of ‘#’s he gets through! A good way to stay in the list is to make me laugh, and it’ll be hard to beat, “Convinced people are practising yogic flying in the meeting room near me“! After much agonizing I even unfollowed Stephen Fry despite him being nice enough to follow me back- still a huge fan but somehow felt a bit too stalkerish. Having said that, Robert Llewellyn is too interesting to unfollow just yet.

Twitter tracking, hashtags, BarCampBrighton2 and the return of SLorpedo


Since I started using twitter I’ve used the SMS notifications for about an hour in total. I do occasionally use the web interface from my phone but most of the time I’d rather not have interruptions from text messages all the time while I’m out and about. So when twitter introduced tracking, I didn’t take much notice, being a largely SMS feature (it does IM as well, but I don’t).

Until yesterday that is.

Having recently had a couple of twitter related tweetups in Hursley I was having a look at hashtags and decided to give tracking a go as well. The first thing I decided to track turned out to be so unpopular that I didn’t think it was working at all! So I switched to something that might feature in a few more tweets… too many as it turned out! I was about ready to give up on tracking when I learned that SLorpedo was going to make a reappearance at BarCampBrighton2, so I gave tracking on more shot. This time it worked perfectly- I’ve been clearing out the house and off doing viewings all day so didn’t have time to keep an eye on Arcanum for signs of life but just before dinner the phone buzzed as Rachel then Nigel tweeted about SLorpedo and I just about caught the end of the game in Second Life when I logged in! Very cool! (Watch out for SLorpedo tweeting as well!)

I didn’t need as much convincing that hashtags would be good but they proved handy too, revealing some photo’s of the latest SLorpedo outing very nicely in the aggregated media for #BarCampBrighton2.

Back to packing boxes!

Premium rate guarantee


A little more progress after I had my mobile phone account held up:

A letter from a Vodafone Customer Relations Specialist arrived this morning which did at least depart from the standard script used so far. They very carefully didn’t accept any liability but made some goodwill gestures instead, so I finally have my money back and should be properly invoiced from now on, at no extra charge. One thing they are still unwilling, or unable, to do is prevent the same situation being repeated. I’m quite happy with the ring tone that came with my phone, and I’m not interested in paying for an expensive call to find out if I’ve won a fabulous prize, so I would much rather block any future reverse charge SMS texts. The closest they offered was to block all SMS messages, both incoming and outgoing! Not exactly useful when I use texts more than phone calls on my mobile.

In many respects I think that existing laws should already protect customers if only the mobile phone companies accepted their liability. In particular, my contract is with Vodafone, not some 3rd party I have never interacted with, so they should be refunding me for services I have not requested. Given the unwillingness of Vodafone to take responsibility for the charges they are billing their customers for, and I suspect other companies are no different*, I wonder if a premium rate guarantee would be useful to increase the level of protection for consumers. Perhaps the following would be a good start:

  1. an option to accept or reject a message should be given before each reverse charge SMS is delivered (if this is not given, the company billing the recipient should be liable for providing an immediate refund)
  2. it should be possible to block all premium rate services on an account without affecting other services
  3. a proper invoice should be provided for any premium rate services at no extra cost

I would be very interested if you have any comments or suggestions.

* if there is a mobile network that does better than Vodafone, please let me know!

Update: was very pleased to receive another letter from my MP last night, who has also written to Ofcom. Looking forward to seeing how they respond.

17 Dec Update: another follow up letter from my MP who has received a teflon letter from Ofcom telling him that it’s a matter for PhonePay Plus, the premium rate industry body. No prizes for predicting what they’re going to say! I think Ofcom are missing the point that the mobile phone company are dodging their liability, regardless of what the companies sending these texts are doing. I also finally received the itemised bills Vodafone have been promising for so long. Unfortunately the bills are about as useful as a chocolate teapot; one of the text messages is so well hidden that I can’t find it, and the other is just labeled as a premium service, or something similar, with no indication of who sent it. I think I’ll be writing to Arun Sarin again since even the extra special call centre staff I now have the number for are completely uninterested.

Highway robbery – update


It has been just over a month since receiving a couple of unwanted reverse charge SMS texts, so here’s a quick highway robbery update:

  • I have just received, and paid in, a refund sent as Postal Order from one of the SMS companies. My guess is that it was from 81404 as they did actually get in touch, unlike the other company. Nothing in the envelope other than the Postal Order though (I think it’s the first Postal Order I have ever received!) so it could have been an early Christmas present I guess! The person who phoned from 81404 explained that they were unable to simply refund the charge made to my Vodafone account directly so, in part thanks to Royal Mail delays, I have had to wait a month to get the refund. Still, I’m actually quite impressed to get it at all, so the October award for best effort goes to 81404.
  • Vodafone did eventually reply in writing to my complaint, unfortunately it appears that they didn’t take the time to read my letter before replying. Instead they just restated exactly what they had told me on the phone. I have had a couple of attempts at encouraging them to take the matter seriously, but despite the promise of a free itemised bill for September (it might be nice to know exactly how badly you’re being ripped off) and forwarding my complaint on to a manager for a reply, I have not received anything more from them. Looks like I’ll be writing to their CEO Arun Sarin next.
  • I have just been on the phone to Royal Mail about one of the other letters that I sent recorded delivery and they can find no trace of it on their system. So it looks like Icstis may have an excuse for not replying yet. An updated letter will be on its way to them shortly though.
  • As I suspected, my MP was the first person to respond in writing, however I still await a full reply. Looks like he might have other things on his mind now but I look forward to hearing from him soon.

I completely forgot about the Watchdog option last month. The last time I wrote to them was about phones 4u… what is it about phone companies?!!

Highway robbery


I almost went for “Hightech robbery” but actually, it’s not that hightech at all. Just send a premium rate reverse charge SMS text message to someone who didn’t ask for it and collect. Who on earth thought they would be a good idea?! Especially when they arrive without any chance to accept or reject them before the money is taken. Even worse, there’s no way to stop it keep happening: Vodafone won’t let me block any future reverse charge messages to my account. So every time it happens you have to look up the number on the ICSTIS site (try 80122 or 81404 for example) to attempt to get a refund.

Magic.

Your mobile account is being treated like a debit account for ‘services’ (not that I even got a ring tone for the money) without any of the protection of a bank account. I’ve wasted the entire evening writing to Vodafone, the two companies who stole money, ICSTIS, and my MP. I’ll also be writting to OFCOM and possibly the Information Commissioner’s Office. Wonder who will reply first… I don’t think Vodafone have ever replied to me in writing, I’m not holding my breath for Tanla Mobile Ltd or Zamano Ltd, and I suspect ICSTIS, OFCOM and the Information Commissioner’s Office are going to be completely disinterested. MPs are usually pretty good though, and I did actually vote for this one; maybe I should have mentioned that in my letter!!