The weather was described as “identi-kit” on BBC

When you go local on the BBC sometimes the production values plummet. Clearly no one bothered to watch what was going on in this report as they let Elizabeth Austin describe the weather as “identi-kit” on three separate presentations – that’s criminal 😉

Corel reward loyal customers by charging them nearly double for an upgrade to Paintshop Pro x3 Ultimate

I have ended up with a lot of graphics software and often use an individual product for a particular feature. In the case of Paintshop Photo X3 Pro Ultimate I am buying it because it can handle the raw format of the pictures from my Fuji S200EXR – because Photoshop can’t!

Corel have a tendency to treat customers like idiots

One up to Corel. Of course then they shoot themselves in both feet by treating me like an idiot. They seem to think that sending me an email telling me that they were treating me as a loyal customer that I would believe that they were offering me the upgrade at a competitive price. At £49.99 it’s cheaper than their previous upgrade price of £59.99. Do they really not expect customers to feel unreasonably treated if they later discover that at the same time Amazon are selling the full boxed version with free delivery for £27.90

Unfortunately Corel are not the only graphics software company to treat users badly, Adobe being a case in point, but this really is a great way to alienate your “Loyal Customers”

A Paid-up Member of the Pudding Club…

Yesterday’s BBC regional lunchtime bulletin, Points West  with a blonde roving reporter possibly called Linda?

Reporting on a cook at the school who had managed to win the regional heats of a school cook’s competition and was now due to move forward to the national competition. The reporter looked a bit of a lemon trying to interupt the queue and get a comment from the lady involved.

She then turned around and approached a table of children sat at a table to get a further comment and said to the camera…

“The proof of the cooking is in the pudding” aarrrggghhh!

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating”

Need a little lift?

I found this amazing wedding video which is just brilliant and I challenge you to not feel good after you have watched it…

AA – The yellow team have lost their way going green

I received new AA membership cards through the post today.

With the information came an offer to “Help the Environment” by recycling our old membership cards – by sending them back to the AA to recycle! I think the AA have lost the plot on several levels here:

  • The environmental impact of returning the cards to the AA will far outweigh the benefits of doing so!
  • Why issue a new card every year. Wouldn’t it have a far greater environmental impact to only renew a card when the old one needed replacing?

Although the card does appear to have a data strip on the back it has never been used in my 10 years as a member – I have had to call them out once or twice or 10 times. But if a bank can manage to only renew a credit card every 3-5 years why can’t the AA.

As an AA member for 10 years I think the AA do a great job and I am not looking to move to another service any time soon. I just think they have got this wrong and will be contacting them on Monday to share my thoughts.

Google inspires…

As you can see from the number of previous posts on this blog that I have not been prolific with my ramblings so far. Part of the reason for that has been the awful Blogger interface (provided by Google) and the fact that I wanted to run my blog from my own domain name. (Of course the other reason is that I have been very busy – thanks to all my clients and customers!)

A colleague had enthused about WordPress as an alternative but I had been reluctant as it is based on a different technology that I wasn’t sure I had the time to get to grips with. Google obviously understood my needs and decided to prevent users running blogs on their own domains from remotely updating their blogs. This meant me having to bit the bullet and take a look at WordPress. Thank you Google – why didn’t you do this before?

Even after a couple of small problems I can see that WordPress is far superior - Easy to use from the outset with no coding experience required to get up and running. It has a lagrge community of enthusiasts that create themes and plugins that can completely change the way your site looks and functions. The best bit is that a lot of this is completely free. 

So once again I thank Google for forcing me inspiring me to take a look at WordPress – What great guys!

Lies, Damned Lies and Misquotes…

I can’t be the only person who gets irritated by the inability of the people who appear on national news programmes to get their quotes and sayings right.

Today was the turn of BBC Weather presenter Louise Minchin who answered a question from one of the news presenters about snow by saying “That’s the 60 million dollar question!”. It could be argued that this is an attempt to bring the old “$64,000 question” bang up to date.

But the phrase originated from an American game show “The $64,000 Question”. A possible equivalent would be “the £1,000,000 question”, as in the final question for “Who Wants to Be a Millionnaire”

I think it would be fun to start listing when people in the public eye misquote or get sayings wrong so watch this space. Of course you are welcome to let me know about any quotes or saying that people usually get wrong.

O2 Premium, Non-Geographic Number Muddle

In general I am happy enough with the price I pay for my mobile phone service through O2.

That said I think their website is too slow and the information could be easier to access.

They have a new Artificial Intelligence widget called “Ask Lucy”

I typed in “Cost of non geographic numbers”

Lucy responded
“I know you’re talking about costs but I’m not sure of your exact enquiry. Please rephrase your question or take a look at the FAQs to the left”

I typed in “Cost of premium rate numbers”

Lucy responded
“I know you’re talking about costs but I’m not sure of your exact enquiry. Please rephrase your question or take a look at the FAQs to the left”

I tried again and noticed when I clicked on “Ask”

Lucy started off with…

“Hi, it’s nice to see you again. How can I help you today?”

I thought she was a bit forward but it had been a slow day…

I typed

“What time do you get off?”

Lucy replied

“My watch says it’s 12:35 pm, but I don’t know if you are in the same time zone.”

I typed
“Do you fancy a drink later?”

Lucy replied

“I appreciate the offer, but I try to separate drinking from the workplace. That said, if you’re buying a quick round, I’ll have a glass of a decent shiraz please.”

So in summary she doesn’t seem to be very helpful but has the beginning of a sense of humour!

Obviously I wasn’t going to get a sensible answer to this question from a machine and the FAQ didn’t contain anything remotely useful so I rang O2 for help.

I helpful sounding guy answered

“Do you have a list of charges for non-geographic numbers?”, I asked.

He said, “What are those”

I said “You know Premium rate numbers…”

“Still not sure what you are asking me…”

“Lucy…..!!”

The eventual solution was that he offered to “Compose” an email with the cost of the number in(I suppose he want to get on the X-Factor and keep copyright??)

Carephone Warehouse/Onetel actually had a spreadsheet you can download because there are more than 80 different premium numbers.

Trying to be helpful I suggested that they should perhaps have a simple online tool where you could enter the first 5 digits and it could tell you the cost of calls to this number.

“That’s a good idea he said!”

Yes it is but you can bet it will take awhile for the telephone companies to have one on their websites because then it will be easier to spot the premium rate numbers and they won’t make so much money!

Premium Rate Advice for Free

I got a bit of a surprise last week when I investigated why my mobile phone bill was somewhat higher than normal.

I discovered that I had been charged for two calls to a number beginning 0701 and this raised a couple of questions.

1. 0700 numbers are free phone so what the heck is the telephone ombudsman doing allowing the use of 0701 as a Premium Rate prefix. If this is not spotted that extra digit can cost around 50p per minute.

2. Had I been deliberately scammed. My two calls cost more than £20 for about 50 minutes!

What made it more uncomfortable was that this had been described in the contact details of the individual I was talking to as a mobile number – because it was someone I knew I didn’t look at it properly. The guy is an independent sales consultant who I had worked whilst he was working with another company and I am gobsmacked that he set up both his contact numbers as premium rate. I will certainly be dropping him like a hot potato beecause if he did any work for me and anyone else got stung it would be my reputation at risk too!

One of the reasons for the popularity of these numbers is that they can be provided for no fee to the subscriber as they are paid for by the callers – ouch!

The guy concerned has a naff, error ridden, one page website that includes a standard mobile number (which fails to connect – of course). So I have emailed him to ring me back so I can get him to cough up the money for the calls and say sorry!

We’ll have to see how successful I am with that ;-).

You saw it first on .TV

Whilst checking my sites through the Google Webmaster tools today I discovered that some duplicate content was being reported on two pages for Meta Descriptions and Title Tags.

On closer inspection it was actually the same page but Google had a listing for it that included a variable string that was nothing to do with me.

Original page link
http://www.nursing-agencies-list.com/email_arch4.asp
New link
http://www.nursing-agencies-list.com/email_arch4.asp?ref=Guzels.tv

This was obviously an attempt by someone to mess with my sites listings in Google or to promote information about another site. I checked for the link in Google using
link:www.nursing-agencies-list.com/email_arch4.asp?ref=Guzels.tv
but as expected got no results

Then I searched for “?ref=Guzels.tv” and got 1,460,000 results!

How and why and what could be done by Google?

  • It would appear likely that there would have been a number of pages on a temporary website that listed the urls with the additional query string “?ref=Guzels.tv”
  • It seems obvious that his is an orchestrated campaign to create a presence for Guzels.tv
  • I am somewhat surprised that this seemingly obvious technic is not already captured by Googles algorithms and if not I would suggest that this should be looked at ASAP. In the meantime it would also make sense to find someway of removing the majority of the 1,460,000 results

Quick fix
I used VBScript to check for the variable and then perform a 301 redirect to the page without the variable

Dim NewRef
NewRef = Request.QueryString(“ref”)

If NewRef <> “” Then
Response.Status=”301 Moved Permanently”
Response.AddHeader “Location”, “http://www.nursing-agencies-list.com/email_arch4.asp
Else

End If