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

NCP causes a bit of a stink

NCP the national multi-story carpark company has suggested they are thinking of combatting the offensive smell of urine in their stairwells by using automatic scent dispensers.

I am predicting that there will be a number of lawsuits from individuals who get an allergic reaction to whatever substance they choose to spray into the stairwells to mask the odour.

It seems to me that they have a couple of options that would be more effective

  1. Build carparks with toilet facilties on each floor
  2. Run a low voltage electric current under a the surface of a water porous gridded floor surface on the stairwells
    • Anyone walking over the dry surface would fine
    • Anyone walking on a wet surface with shoes on would be fine
    • Anyone walking barefoot should know better with all that urine about
    • Anyone taking a leak gets the voltage passed through the urine flow and gazzam! Instant deterrent… This seems like a great use for Pavlovian theory!

Unsure about Esure but now happy with Direct Line!

I had been with Esure for 3 years and thought I could trust them to look after me. We had a couple of motor policies with me on my wife’s policy and vice versa. I am pretty lucky to have 9 years no claims bonus.

I have been unlucky this year in that I bought a new car for me and ended up having it damaged twice. On the first occasion, April, we had the road being prepared for being taken over by the council. The housebuilders had contracted workman to re-lay tarmac on pavement areas either side of my house and then they in turn contract a roadsweeper. The first contractors created a lot of tar dust and the roadsweeper flicked it up onto both our cars – aaarrggghhh.

I had paid for extra insurance so that I could persue out of pocket expenses but Esure lacked any sort of co-ordination or desire to sort out my claim and it was left to me to keep pushing and pushing. Eventually it got put in front of the solicitors who said there was no chance of winning the case until I actually showed him all of the evidence which he hadn’t been made aware of.

So 10 months down the line I am waiting on the court proceedings to move forward – but at least it is now out of Esure’s hands.

The second incident was a smack I got on the nearside front wing, where some kind person hit my car in a private carpark and decided to drive away without owning up. Unfortunately the carpark security camera was not up to much and so it was busy panning when it should have been zooming. So no help there.

When I got the renewals back for both our cars they seemed OK but then I realised they had omitted to add the accidents for both Tracey and I. Bear in mind that we are both with Esure and the claims had both been made through Esure! When I checked with them about this they said that they don’t automatically update details with the information that they have – doh! That would be just too efficient and I can see why the only person that will endorse Esure right now is Michael Winner! Don’t panic…. it only an overinflated premium for rubbish service, dear.

So as far as Esure are concerned that adds up to one claim and one possible no fault claim. So they wanted to add more than another £100 to both our car insurances for the crossover. I put my wife’s insurance up because of my claim and she put mine up because of her claim.

I felt like I was being poorly treated and that the service wasn’t engendering any feelings of loyalty so I gave Direct Line a call. The quotes they gave were actually £50 less, including all the accident information, than the original quotes from Esure without the accident information. It’s not rocket science so I cancelled the two policies with Esure in the cooling off period. Then to demonstrate how lax Esure are they didn’t even bother to ask why I was cancelling!

A lesson learnt about not assuming that because your record may not be perfect doesn’t mean that you don’t still have choice when it comes to insurance.

The Financial Spirit of Christmas Past

Sometimes we make mistakes and get away with it and sometimes we make mistakes that everyone can see or that someone sees and tells lots over other people.

I get the Telegraph Perspective published by telegraph.co.uk. I like the telegraph editorial on the whole but the edition of Telegraph Perspective published on the 5th Decmber made me chuckle in these times of editorial doziness (lets not mention the BBC… Jonathan Ross & Russell Brand).

Part of the email was this:
Under the Personal Finance section
Christmas gifts that will keep on giving
Teresa Hunter says opening a bank account for a child or giving shares or bonds is far more practical than a present that will not last beyond the festive season.

“uumm Hello… not sure what planet you’re on, but if many shares maintained their value up to Christmas and beyond I would have been surprised.”

But still I’m not a financial genius as demonstrated by the catastrophic devaluation of my pension fund – so I guess I will be working until I am 105 just to pay of the interest on my mortgage!! At least the bank will have a nice inheritance to look forward too.

Roles of a Nurse – Nurse Comedian

I read in the Daily Mail recently that NHS staff are to get humour training to brighten up the wards…

Back in the Stone Ages when I did my training i.e. pre-project 2000 I got berated for suggesting such an idea. I was obviously way ahead of my time.

We were asked to do the old standard essay about the roles of a nurse and I suggested that a new could be the Nurse as a comedian. I indentified the role postive attitude has on healing and how laughing causes the release of endomorphins and endokinins but alas it didn’t tickle my tutors funny bone.

I was obviously not going to take it lying down so I did a care study on the care of a patient with an above knee amputation. Obviously and rightly a very sombre thing to write about – I decorated the front cover with a hand drawn image of a bandaged thigh and called it….
“Stumped for a Title?”

That possibly seems a little callous but part of the problem with the care of patients with amputations, or ill patients generally, can be the difficulty of communication in terms of the
practical and emotional issues about their condition.

I’m guessing there are one or two of you who have suggested that a leg amputee “hop out of bed” or said something equally embarrassing like”Right Mr Jones where’s you other slipper?”
These things happen and rather than putting up barriers to the patients progress it’s better to use that as an opening to invite the patient to discuss how they feel about the changes to their body and how they will manage their lives or their deaths.

I’ve started so I’ll finish…

Despite my best intentions workload and family life got the better of me. I went independent in February of 2007 after working for the same person in various roles for about 7 years.

Inevitably the first couple of years of a new business require a great deal of effort and time. Things have gone well on the whole and despite the bleakness of the current financial landscape I feel very positive about what can be achieved.

Just for Nurses has continued to develop and grow and we have been able to give away over £1,800 worth of prizes to our members. The JFN Nursing Jobs Board continues to grow and we have had over 500 live jobs showing. (Thanks to Hayden and Colin at Brainhunter UK and the guys at Brainhunter Canada for great support.)

The Nursing Agencies List has gone from strength to strength, seeing over 5,000 unique visitors per week.

The SEO management has lead to 4 out of the 9 active sites gaining a PR5 in Google – so we must be doing something right!

There’s a lot more to do in 2009 – it’s looking like an exciting year!