Category Archives: support

Corporate Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Tuesday June 1st is Corporate Tuesday, according to my chums at the Inspire Foundation. So in order to convince you to part with your lovely waterproof Australian money, I will be wearing a suit for the day.

If you already wear a suit to work you will be aware of Dress Down Fridays, where the normally be-suited wear casuals or jeans and shed some money for a noble cause. Well Corporate Tuesday is both similar and different. Similar in that it is in order to raise funds for a charity, different in that it involves wearing a suit instead of casuals. You probably already know I’m most comfortable with ancient trainers, comfy scruffy jeans and some sort of comedy t-shirt. I don’t even wear ties to interviews! So on 1/6/10 I’ll be wearing:

  • a suit
  • tie
  • polished shoes
  • crisp white shirt
  • starched boxers

BUT: If you want me to wear something more, ahem, embarrassing, (it must still b a “suit”) well that comes down to what you’re willing to part with. There will be no shortage of cameras on the day (no-one at inspire wears suits!). So offer me a challenge and put your money where your mouth is if you want to embarrass me in front of my work colleagues.

The reason I am doing this is because suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among young people aged 15-24, alongside road and traffic accidents, and 75% of mental illness begins before age 25, so helping young people find a way through tough times is one of the best things we can offer the world.

So if you want my attire on Corporate Tuesday to be different to the usual “Whistle and Flute”, please visit my donation page and see what you can offer.

Money where your site is

The web began as a communication and collaboration tool but soon evolved into much more when someone sorted out how to pay for stuff through it. A secure protocol and security certificates helped make it happen but ultimately it was coders and credit card companies who put payment processes online.

Today the most well known payment process is undeniably PayPal, helped in no small part by the boom of eBay a few years back. I generally had no problem with paypal so long as I kept feeding it money to use for me and people happily paid for my eBay stuff through it. However, problems started when I migrated to Australia from the UK and both eBay and Paypal failed to move with me. Perhaps because Americans think no-one leaves the USA by choice, to move countries permanently, and their view is a world view, that this was not something worth catering for. I have to say it was easier to open a new bank account in my adopted country than to get paypal or eBay to acknowledge my move. I was told that i could change my address, of course, just not to another country.  Neither would accept that I should be able to keep my account open but update it with new address and payment information for another country.

The only answer was to open up a new account in my new country (with a new email address I might add since email is a unique identifier, of course). So goodbye eBay history and PayPay previous payments, and hello newborn newbie accounts. I suffered through the awkward separation and divorce and settled into newly-wedded bliss. Problem was though, my old relationships kept popping out through the cracks like a horror film zombie, to haunt my new babe with my past discretions.

This manifested itself in occasional top level domain redirection (.co.uk from the .com or .com.au I originally typed) or the refusal to buy an item restricted to aus addresses, even though my address and ip address clearly show Aussie-ness.

It would have been OK if the excuse I received made any sense, that it is to avoid international money laundering. That would suggest the system is incapable of managing a decent log of transactions or monitor accounts opening and closing rapidly. But confusingly for me, I don’t understand why it is incapable of understanding a person’s history online is important to them and in many ways, their own property.

Hopefully it’s not an excuse to increase the account count.

So even though it may be off topic, these are the kinds of questions I will be asking at the PayPal Developer Day in Sydney on Monday.

Basically, what is changing in the pay pal interface to make it easier and better for humans to get their tasks done?

If you have to blame someone, why not Drew’s cancer?

Just a short note today to talk about Drew’s Cancer. ( I know, not a good plan to start a blog with an external link, but bear with me. All these links will open in a new browser window, if that’s any consolation.)

A few weeks ago Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. You can read all about the experience on his Tumblr page. So now he’s facing 6 months of chemo, but since the cancer has a record of being 90% curable, he has a good chance of beating it. He decided he needed to attack it mentally as well as medically so he started blaming the cancer for things happening in his life, losing his keys, his team losing a game, stuff like that. A way of berating and offending the cancer. It is a common suggested treatment to visualise an affliction and imagine physically beating it to help contribute to recovery.

He got together with some friends to take the battle with his cancer to the streets, or in this case, to the interwebs, in case others needed someone/something to take the rap for things happening in their lives.  He invites you to give his cancer a swift kick, in the easiest way possible.  He created a hashtag for the cancer and anyone on twitter can have a whack at his cancer for anything not going right in their day. Something like: I #blamedrewscancer for inspiring me to keep plugging on but also #blamedrewscancer for the current Sydney cold snap! Double-whammy!

He’s teamed up with sponsors who will donate a dollar to two prominent American cancer charities for every participant who tweets with that hashtag in it. The site has been brilliantly designed by 9Astronauts in just a few weeks, maybe only a few days, to great effect. It works well, doesn’t require flash, is very Web 2.0 and is fun. A few minutes after you post your twitter with the hashtag, it pops it onto a placard as if you were at a public demonstration.blamedrewscancer

It’s great to be able to help Drew feel surrounded by people berating his cancer, but it also is a great view of community and social media in action. The spectrum of tweets are anything from people sincerely wanting to make Drew feel better, not alone, to people pimping their own blogs, events, sites, etc. Although the same person posting repeatedly does not contribute to the charity coffers, it does help spread the word, and add to Drew’s sense of not being alone.

This is what makes open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) so powerful and exciting. The Twitter API lets anyone tap into the stream of public Twitter messages and find things of interest or collate research about your brand, company, location, interests or pastimes. And not only that but collate it against something else, like how Jonathan Harris did with blogs for We Feel Fine. You are probably familiar with the example of the Google API where you get to collate maps of things of interest to you using their pool of information about the world… or the moon, ..or Mars… Open APIs are one of the knowledge-sharing elements of Web 2.0.

So if you twitter, take a moment today to blame something in your day on Drew’s cancer by using the hashtag #blamedrewscancer.

Oh, BTW: my WordPress threw away my posting this morning so I had to completely rewrite this, and I frikkin’ well blame Drew’s cancer for that too! i.e.:

I #blamedrewscancer for WordPress not saving my post while I was writing this today!

The site: Blame Drews Cancer

The hashtags showing recent posts: #blamedrewscancer

Analogue with a digital on top

Bought a guitar on eBay last week, out of some sort of desire to be a bit more analogue, and realised I had no good way to know if it was in tune. So back to eBay for a tuner from the US.

Now who’s an eejit!

Completely forgot I have an iPhone and that there’s an app for just about everything (there’s three fart apps FFS!!). So my new dilemma is do I just use the tuner coming in the post eventually from the US, or repost it on eBay and buy the app?

My loyalties to analogue are in conflict with my loyalties to my lovely new iPhone.

Guess who’s going to win!

Commuter pic of the day to follow.

BTW: played guitar for 40 minutes last night in an attempt to strengthen my fingertips. Can I just say the left side of the keyboard is my enemy this morning? fingertips over on the left of QWERTY is ouchy!

Just sayin’!

The difference between helping and hating your customer

One thing I am extremely passionate about, are sites that include a crucial process, like joining membership or soliciting feedback or making a purchase, that think about what I might feel about their process. I can’t stand form fields with conditions (i.e.: username requires special characters) that I’m not told about until the form fails, registrations that have a field that is required, yet is not marked as such, forms that don’t retain your information when they fail so you have to fill it out all over again… that sort of insult. That’s what it is, an insult. Terrible websites built by uncaring cowboys.

I just paid several dollars for the privilege of booking tickets that do not need to be posted and that I had to spend very many tries to get through the process; each time there was a difficulty, there was now way to return to the process except by leaving. The process was incredibly complex, involved needing to make choices I could not see, had no helper through the process, gave no indication what part of the process I was involved in, moved me through THREE different domains that had pages that looked different from each other and was generally the most uncomfortable process I have encountered in years.

Now I have made very complex purchases from dedicated or free Open Source-powered websites in the past, I have even set up an online shop or two myself and have some inkling as to what is possible and necessary. I do have to state that this particular purchase recently encountered was designed by a rude bastard who cared nothing for the people having to go through the process. we would be surprised to walk into a well-known shop that has the plumbing exposed, half-broken stock display units, dangerous wiring, etc, but we tolerate it in websites for some bizarre reason.

Whenever I encounter an online process like this, unless it is crucial I get it from them, I’d rather not reward them for their insult and look for it elsewhere, even if I have to spend an extra ten minutes of my own time to do so.

MOO Cards get it right.

From their attention to helping me find what I want, through a complex design and upload and selection processes that require no instructions at all, to fantastic delivery, communications process, perfect customer care to real love for me and my experience with them.

Get this, they quoted me free shipping erroneously, openly told me they would charge shipping later, which I assumed and agreed to anyway, made sure I saw the shipping costs and got my permission, and then they AUTOMATICALLY checked the process and decided that since one of four screens showed no shipping that they would refund me the shipping anyway.

Ordered, printed, delivered wrapped (with five discount coupons for friends) and received in 5 days, London to Sydney.

Guess who gets my custom again? And guess who I’m raving about to friends and colleagues?

zackly!

community and coding fun at WordCamp Australia, day 2

WordCamp Australia day2

After a great day at Word Camp Australia, my personal highlight of day two was definitely Harley Alexander of Baffle! inc who gave a fun and entertaining presentation on a simple but complex (yes, I just wrote that!) concept, WP_Query versus Query_posts.

The great thing for me was that he is 15, has been using WordPress since he was 12, and has several tutorials and tips on his blog and a forthcoming book, How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer.

His significant height belied his modest age, and his comfort and confidence with talking about coding issues made his presentation very charming. I liked that he was teaching his teachers about WordPress as well as that his teachers were confident enough to let him do so.

Once again, a committed, interested and passionate disseminator who will definitely go far if he manages to not let the attention get to his head. I look forward to reading more of his stuff as well as his book, when WP2.7 actually ships so he can complete the screen grabs.

The second great thing today was the formalising of the WordCamp Association Australia and its’ committee which I hope to support once I get this little matter of gainful employments sorted. (offers and introductions, both contract and permanent, welcome!) I have a 2 week gig till Christmas so looking to line up some work for the new year.

Saying that, it was definitely not just these few people who impressed me, it was everyone, with their own individual passions driving their creative and business ideas, who floated my boat. Thanks everyone; rom the presenters to the Twitter backchannel chatter, loved it!.

Shattered, neighbours’ late night kitchen renovations kept me up all night, going home probably. Thanks everyone! Now to go home and shave this effing ‘tache off so I can kiss my missus proper-like!