Archive for the ‘Personal Bloggers’ Category

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Roger The Radar Rotter

Posted on the May 18th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Zoom and Bored(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Roger the Radar Rotter generally lurks around the Sharjah University City area. His favourite places are the roads around the AUS campus, the back road that tracks along the landfill from the logistics center to the roundabout by Sharjah English School and the Middle Road from the Mileiha Road up to the 311. Oh! And also on the stretch of Middle Road just beyond the 311 turnoff towards Sharjah City.He’s more Wile E. Coyote than most. He likes to hide his little portable radar behind a lamp post and then drive a few hundred yards up the road and lurk, no doubt giggling softly to himself and drooling, waiting for the flashes to go off.Knowing full well that we skittish victims can sniff he’s around when he parks up, he often hides the car. This means the wary are rewarded with glimpses of cars parked in odd places as more trusting souls trigger the cheery ‘pop’ of the radar followed by the inevitable ‘cherching’ of the Sharjah Police cash register.It’s an expensive game these days: they’ve just put the fines up. So why speed at all? You ask, in all sensibility.Well, the reason Roger has quite so much fun with his sneaky tricks is he likes to pick roads that have insane 60kph limits on them. The roads around the University are, for instance, long and straight and have two lanes. They are nowhere near any crossings or habitation, just long tarmac stretches running along outside the high campus walls. The UAE, very sensibly IMHO, has a ‘grace limit’ of 20kph above the actual speed limit, so you can travel a maximum 80kph on these roads. Nudge it just 1 kilo above it when Roger’s around and POW you’re toast, bub.The wee back road behind Sharjah English is a long straight line of blacktop running along a fence and surrounded by scrubland. The low speed limits make the drive interminably frustrating and the old speedometer does rather tend to sneak up a little. And then you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a glint of something out of place. Slow down, pass by regally and breathe a little sigh of relief as Roger sits in his hidden car, shaking his fists and snarling, ‘Damn you McNabb!’The other day I was driving thusly, overtaking a very slow lorry on the road behind SES. I had spotted Roger’s car on the hard shoulder ahead and was taking things easy, when I get some spotty Herbert in an FJ giving it socks on the flashers and horn behind me. With a resigned sigh I pulled in beyond the front of the lorry and moderated my speed.With satanic glee, I watched my tormentor speed past me, honouring me with a great display of shade thrown sideways as he hit the throttle to let me know one of us was a real man with a real right foot and the other a sissy rated by all and sundry as less than zero.Boom!Tisshhhh…I felt a little like Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s anti-hero whose sword feasts on souls and passes a little of the energy to its tragic albino* wielder.For I had given Roger the soul he craved but the benefit, my precioussss, was mine, all mine…*Apparently these days we’re supposed to say ‘person of albinism’ but frankly, my dear…

Virus Attack Shock Horror. Don’t Say I Didn’t Tell Y’all…

Posted on the May 15th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

A typical server "rack", commonly se...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)About 16 years ago, prescient me sat down to write a book to take my mind off my recently ceased 60 a day habit.This amused me a great deal for a number of months and involved bringing together a self-manifesting roasted chicken and various other objects, the angriest policeman in the UK, a leather catsuited CIA operative who gained considerable sexual satisfaction from killing, a hapless doctor from Richmond, a shadowy cabal of evil octogenarians a sex worker called Kylie and divers other players.These were gathered together to form the 100,000 word lump of idiocy that was to become my first, very silly, novel Space. Widely rejected by people who knew what they were doing, it reposes on Amazon at £0.99 simply because a few years ago I opened the thing and took a look and it amused me greatly. Its first Amazon review reads ‘this book is not funny’…Anyway, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you this was going to happen:Trickling through the Internet like sand through pebbles, the Hellfire virus replicated itself, building heuristic databases on its host servers, configuring itself to match each host operating environment, squeezing itself into every device it could find, hijacking middleware, pushing Java subroutines into client devices. It built lists of target machines from lookup tables on its host servers, patiently gathering information, segmenting targets and flinging out code through ports to match vulnerabilities in hardware and software alike. Its primary target lists, defined on the servers at The Space Agency, replicated in China, Dubai and Portugal, started it on the scavenge for secondary targets. The core lists were updated as scavenger routines passed back server information. As each primary list was completed, the servers triggered client targeting routines, passing code across to client devices. The virus reached the last of the first batch of core target lists and started to disperse code across to the last class of servers. The folder named Utilities opened automatically and a fresh batch of code started to stream across the world’s networks as the virus targeted the next class of URLs in its fast-growing lookup databases. The virus completed its host lookup tables, closed the core folder then deleted it. The core code streamed out of the server farm at The Space Agency, triggering a delete routine it had left behind and flowed out through a single private network connection that had been preserved for this moment. It replicated its core, then: snaked out to a number of defined primary servers around the world. From these, it started again, using the information gathered by its hunter applets to send out new child routines to the new servers it had identified over the past 24 hours. Each child carried the core virus routines but also had added what it had learned over the past day, new backdoors and open port locations, new platform configurations added to its databases. The replicated core routines each started life anew, stronger, smarter and bulked by the data they carried. Its performance started to slow as links became clogged with virus traffic, new routes harder to find each time a search routine triggered. Slowly, Internet traffic died down so that only the virus was sending and receiving information across huge swathes of network. As terminals came live, the virus scavenged and infected them, triggering the Hellfire display and sound routines. They waited, counting processor cycles. Every machine the Hellfire virus had infected became inoperable as it closed down any inputs except the ones that waited for the next command from the virus. Global bandwidth utilisation soon dropped to an absolute minimum. There was no traffic. The Internet was dying.Here’s a link to it on Amazon. Please don’t consider this as an example of the kind of thing you should expect from my later novels. And remember: no refunds.

Statutory EU Compensation, British Airways Customer Service And Ritually Disempowering Customers

Posted on the May 14th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Airbus A319 takes off from London Heathrow AirportA BA plane taking off. This can take a while to actually happen sometimes… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Okay, so you’ve heard the story about how British Airways managed to screw up our flight at the New Year. Being a little annoyed at the way things turned out, I wrote them an email afterwards letting them know I thought they should pay compensation.Here’s what happened, in case you find yourself in the same boat. It’s a long post, sorry.Under EU regulations, airlines are liable to pay passengers compensation for a flight originating or landing in an EU country that is delayed over three hours. For a short haul flight (Under 1,500km – ie: Belfast to Heathrow), that compensation is €250 per passenger.The opt-out for airlines is when the flight has been delayed by ‘extraordinary circumstances’. These are a little fuzzy, but include acts of terror, the plane being turned into a giant pumpkin, dinosaur attacks, civil disturbances, strikes (NOTE here, not including industrial action by the airline’s own employees!) and ‘Weather conditions incompatible with the safe operation of the flight’.Airlines really, really don’t like this piece of EU legislation at all. Oh, no.If you are delayed by more than two hours, the airline is in any case responsible for providing you with a reasonable amount of food and drink; a means for you to communicate (for instance refunding the cost of your calls); accommodation, if you’re delayed overnight and transport to and from the accommodation (or your home, if you are able to return there).If the airline is unable to organise these (and in our case British Airways was clearly in no state to organise festivities in a brewery. You could argue the merits of an airline which will accept passengers for carriage from and to airports where it has no arrangement in place to manage customers in case something extraordinary happens), the CAA’s guidance is that you have the right to organise reasonable care and assistance yourself and claim it back later.Keep receipts for everything. In fact, keep any and all paperwork you have INCLUDING boarding passes that have been replaced or superseded, baggage slips, everything.So we were delayed, apparently, because of the weather. Handily, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) publishes a list of dates and flights cancelled from Heathrow which it believes would be grounds for refusing a compensation claim on the grounds of extraordinary circumstances. It’s linked here for your handy reference.Our New Year’s flight – BA1417 on the 30th December 2016 – wasn’t on that list. So I wrote to BA and told them I thought they should pay the compensation. To be fair, they had subjected us to a deeply unpleasant two-day incapability-of-providing-a-flying-machine experience and had totally failed to provide any assistance beyond a useless call centre and their Twitter team offering a refund in extremis (so we do what, walk home?) as well as some pretty meagre meal vouchers the next day.They had also failed to properly notify passengers of their statutory rights – a nasty habit airlines have these days.British Airways responded smartly enough to my email:Your claim’s been refused because BA1417 on 30 December was delayed because of adverse weather conditions, which prevented the aircraft operating as scheduled. Under EU legislation, I’m afraid we’re not liable for a compensation payment in this situation. We take all reasonable measures to avoid delaying a flight and we always consider if there are any operational options available before we make a decision. We’re very sorry the delay was necessary in this case.I love the ‘I’m afraid’ line in that. I wrote to them again – they have a handy online form for emails which means you don’t get to keep a copy of what you’ve sent them, so it’s important to cut and paste your text and keep a record of it in a Word file or some such.This time the response was:Thanks for coming back to us about your EU compensation claim. I’m sorry that you are unhappy with our response. I’ve reviewed your claim and can confirm that your flight BA1417 on 30 December 2016 was delayed because of adverse weather conditions, which prevented the aircraft operating as scheduled. On the day you were due to travel, there were Air Traffic Control restrictions in place affecting the aircraft coming in and out of London Heathrow, which was a direct result of the severe weather conditions. Under EU legislation, I’m afraid we’re not liable for a compensation payment in this situation. Article 5.3 of the EU Regulation 261/2004 states that a carrier is not obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the delay or cancellation is caused by extraordinary circumstances that couldn’t have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. In Recital 14 and 15 of EU Regulation 261/2004, extraordinary circumstances include weather, strike and the impact of an air traffic management decision which gives rise to a long delay. This means you’re not entitled to compensation under the EU Regulation for your delayed flight. I realise this will be disappointing for you but I hope this information will help you to understand our decision.So we get a longer response with a load of obfuscatory waffle about EU regulations. Nope, I responded to them, you are SO liable for compensation.A couple of ping pongs later (and by now we’re at the end of January), I got this from them:I felt the need to write back to you. I understand this is something you feel strongly about and I’m sorry you’re unhappy with our previous replies. We’ve received a reply from our Flight Investigation team. I’d like to inform you that we really want you to fly with us again and we know not resolving your complaint fully will affect the decisions you make when you need to travel in the future. I’ve had another look at your claim for compensation and I’ve taken time to make sure our response is accurate and up-to-date. I’m afraid our decision hasn’t changed and the responses you’ve received about the eligibility of your EU compensation claim are correct. As Your claim’s been refused because BA1417 on 30 December was delayed because of adverse weather conditions, which prevented the aircraft operating as scheduled, we’re unable to offer you any compensation. I know this isn’t the answer you were hoping for and I’m sorry to let you down. Given the information we hold about your delayed flight, our answer won’t change and we’re unable to respond to any further requests for compensation.It’s quite a clever piece of communication. I felt the need… we know not resolving your claim will… and I’ve taken the time to… as well as I know this isn’t… I’m sorry to let you down are all smart use of language.At this point, having jerked me around for a month, they have refused further correspondence: we’re unable to respond to any further requests for compensation.What do you do now? I mean, clearly, you’re being unreasonable. BA has responded to you time and again explaining why you’re not liable for compensation IN THEIR VIEW which they often fail to make very clear. They act like they’re the law, representing the law but in fact they are a plaintiff and you are the complainant.They will unlikely take the same view of the situation as you, but they dress it up with such authority that any reasonable bloke will go ‘Oh, right then’ and wander off.It is possible that I am unreasonable. I wouldn’t like to deny the charge.Your next step is to escalate to Alternative Dispute Resolution. You have to wait eight weeks AFTER your airline has refused compensation and then file your case with (if you’re a BA passenger – other airlines could use other ADR providers) the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). At this point, you have to put some skin in the game – if CEDR finds against you, you’re liable to pay the £25 fee for the arbitration.You can skip the eight week wait if your airline agrees to send the case to ADR but they won’t. They’ll depend on that eight week cooling off period breaking what little resolution you might have left. They really, really don’t like that whole EU statutory compensation thing one little bit.The CEDR website steps you through the process of filing a claim for compensation. It’s a little gnarly, but this is where those receipts you kept come in handy. You can file additional documentation, too, so I took great delight in including our car hire receipt, a copy of British Airways’ useless rebooking form with its wrong numbers and missing information and an account of how they cancelled, then delayed, then rescheduled, then delayed our flight and basically jerked us around.I was able to reconstruct the two-day horror quite accurately from my blog post about it and also from my Twitter tirade. The 100-tweet rantathon was just me being bored and pissed off, but it did lead to the BBC getting in touch and filing a story online (Which I also included with my evidence) and did give me a handy list of times and events when I went back over it.It’s not the first time I have been glad of Twitter and I’m sure not the last, either.The CEDR process takes two weeks. Within that time BA got in touch and gave up the ghost. They would, after all their denials and I’m afraid emails, pay the compensation. It has just arrived in our bank and so now I can post this happy little account. If it helps you in your claim for compensation, I am delighted.Don’t stop. Don’t let them brush you off. If you believe you have a case, pursue it.Be unreasonable!Here, just in case you want a little fun, are the highlights of that 24-hour Twitterthon.My sincerest thanks to the lovely people over at All My Tweets. It’s best read from the bottom up…Pursuing a claim for compensation from #BritishAirways, they’ve already denied it and refused to go to adjudicator three times. Nice people. Jan 08, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png#BritishAirways sent an automated customer service email the day after the Great Belfast Disaster. I responded. They’ve sent two more since. Jan 03, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt’s lucky we CHERISH departure lounges! Squee! We said as we lolled around for 10 hours with no information or contact! #BritishAirways Jan 01, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOh noes. After everything over the last 48 hours, #BritishAirways just sent me a ‘Customer Satisfaction Survey’. I kid you not. Jan 01, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngHonestly, #BritishAirways, it would have been more sincere to have said I was a noisy pain in the arse and you’re g… https://t.co/e5gFJrF2BQ Jan 01, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWhat’s more, #BritishAirways – why thank me for my patience? I threw about 100 frustrated tweets your way yesterday… https://t.co/rtNvEGmqdV Jan 01, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWell that’s all very nice, #BritishAirways except you don’t understand at all. How could you, sat in your office tweeting platitudes? Jan 01, 2017 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThanks for your company, Twitter. You know who y’all are. Off to London for New Year, finally! Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngCafé full of shiny, happy people now. Much elation. We’re all going home/where we’re going. It’s only taken 26 hours… #britishairways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngCrew here = we there. Doing a little departure dance as we speak. #britishairways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSee, my issue is I don’t see staff in pom pom outfits with #britishairways CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TEAM tops lining the way to Gate A… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI think we have spotted the extra crew. Either that or there’s a #BritishAirways themed drag act doing a gig in #Belfast for #NewYear… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe #BritishAirways Customer Experience Management Team, meanwhile, are experimenting with dropping cats down vertical blackboards… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOne detail on the Beeb story was incorrect, the BA note wasn’t handwritten but in a horrible ‘handwriting’ style font. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOoh, lookit! I is on da Beeb! https://t.co/z26qfm2Kht Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngMan in clown mask bouncing up runway on Pogo stick. Thought it was incoming #britishairways Customer Experience Team. It’s just a clown. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngHave just tried to move. My arse is now a right angle. Staggering around like Quasimodo. Or a #BritishAirways Customer Experience Manager. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png#BritishAirways 1415 to LHR is now getting ready for boarding. They’re like golfers ‘playing through’. We are happy for them. Really. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngA #BritishAirways plane has landed at BHD. We feel like worshippers of a cargo cult. Will there be crew? Yes, my son, there will be crew… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngFor the uninitiated, an Ulster Fry is bacon, sausage, mushrooms, beans, black pudding, fried bread and fried egg. With white wine. Grief. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOkay a new low for the weirdometer: two Ulster Fries being demolished with gusto washed down with glasses of white wine. #ThingsYouSeeInBHD Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngRoses are red Violets are blue I’m having a #BritishAirways customer experience How about you? Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngMe: When I said #BritishAirways would lock us in from 6am and jerk us around all day and you called me cynical… Sarah: ShutupShutupShutup Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png#BritishAirways have more vouchers for us! £10 each! DOUBLE VOUCHER BONUS! #SoExcited #StockholmSyndrome Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI was serious about Sarah photographing her hat. Here’s the photo. She’s planning to go to Boots after lunch.… https://t.co/WEIHjncJKD Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt’s 09:10. There’s a bloke here doing an Ulster Fry and a pint of lager. That’s pretty hardcore, IMHO… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSome men in CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TEAM t-shirts started to erect a bouncy castle then left mumbling about a ‘wrong location’. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngtube on a stand at BHD and right now it’s as useless as a #BritishAirways Customer Experience Manager. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSo the problem wasn’t the slot, it was the crew. There’s no bloody crew. Other flights will come and go, but we’re stuck. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngHelp! Send entertainers! Or, better, #BritishAirways Customer Experience Management Team members and a selection of sharp, pointy things. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt’s now light. We can see #Belfast out of the window. It’s 08:55am. ‘Light refreshments’ at the #BritishAirways Gate. Oh callooh callay! Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png#BritishAirways #BA1417 to fly at 17:30. ‘Regretfully the saga will continue – I know that’s completely ridiculous’ – announcer at BHD. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngArgh. @flybe are pushing back. Happy New Year, you smug, purply happy-looking bastards… #britishairways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI can see the #BritishAirways ‘Customer Experience Management’ team meeting now. ‘Let’s do the Kraken now!’ ‘No, no! The Kraken later!’ Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSarah is taking iPhone photos of her hat. We might need the medical services team soon. It’s getting light. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSarah now threatening to buy a Radley bag out of boredom. This is getting twisted. We got up at 03:30. We’re 5 hours in… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWe apologise for the lateness of your next information, this was due to the late arrival of the previous next information. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png08:32: ‘Next information at 08:30’ #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngFOUR minutes to go until ‘next information’! We’re having a wee ‘next information’ party at our table. Silly hats and all. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngAh, it’s okay. Panic over. The skeleton wasn’t a dead pax. Apparently it’s the Spirit of Customer Experience Past… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWe’ve just spotted a skeleton under one of the tables in a darker corner. This isn’t looking good… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngTranscend your corporate newspeak and fake sympathy. Truly go beyond the ordinary. Really, for once, delight people. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI mean, here’s an idea, #BritishAirways. Seriously, a positive #NewYear thought from me. Open up your business class lounge to #BA1417 pax. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOoh, yes, you’re right. #BA1417 now showing departure 5.30pm on the #BritishAirways website. It’s 08.00am. #Joy… https://t.co/74mGClnpvv Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngUpdate ‘Next information at 08:30’ THERE HAS BEEN NO INFORMATION EVER YOU SPONGIFORM DOLTS! #YesBetterNowThanks #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI’m waiting for ‘Hitler finds out anything at all ever from #BritishAirways’ to break… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngA woman has just stroked her husband’s arm and said ‘It’ll be okay’. I kid you not. It’s like Downfall around here… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe chap offering a glass of prosecco with a strawberry in it has just gone away. He’ll be back in 30 mins, apparently. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe table next to us is getting hysterical. Their brittle laughter has collapsed into moans and nail-biting. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngEI has just pulled back and I should be happy for them but I’m not. I hate them. Smug, travelling people going somewhere. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngA one-man band just tap-danced past dressed as a pearly king. I thought it was a #BritishAirways ‘Customer Experience Manager’. But, no. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSarah has taken to staring into her coffee. She’s gone to the toilet for a change of scenery. It’s still dark. All is lost. Send help. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngI mean, you treat us like cattle, obfuscate and misinform us, and this in the name of ‘customer experience’? Nah. #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png‘Next information at 8am’ showing. This follows ‘Next information at 7 and 7:30’. #BritishAirways information: there is no information. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngA hunch-backed drooling gnome with a pointy hat is poking my leg with a sharp stick and cackling. This must be a #BritishAirways manager… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe 7am ‘information announcement’ has now become a 7.30am ‘information announcement’. There is no information. No hope. All is bleak. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe face painting team hasn’t showed up yet. The clown seems to have gone home. Oh, the joy of the #BritishAirways ‘customer experience’! Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSausages in the machine, we await our ‘customer experience’ as we watch boards promising information that never comes… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngHerding the ‘about to be processed’ and dashing their hopes in a crushing, relentless tide of ‘service experience’… #BritishAirways Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThey shake up wasps in jam jars, pull kittens’ nails and scare bush babies in a relentless quest to better the #BritishAirways experience! Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngOh, joy! Deep in the bowels of #BritishAirways HQ, the ‘customer experience managers’ experiment, Mengele-style on unwitting victims… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWait, what, you have ‘customer experience managers’? Gosh, golly! What do THEY do every day of the year? https://t.co/vRdRNy7l2w Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png£10 per pax for food and drink for an overnight ‘delay’ doesn’t seem quite, well, cricket, does it? #BritishAirways #BA1417 Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt would be interesting to see what compensation is available from #BritishAirways – which has offered minimal assistance for #BA1417 pax… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWhile we slowly rot, we’re plotting how to spend our gorgeous £10 #britishairways ‘compensation voucher’. Maybe share a breakfast roll… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png‘Next information at 07:00′ says the chirpy wee screen at BHD: #BritishAirways rockin’ real-time… @HeathrowAirport yet foggy, apparently. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe Ulster Fry is the Lady Gaga of breakfasts – a terrible thing to behold. It’s sort of wrong yet at the same time it gets your attention. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe optimism all around me is heart-breaking. Everyone thinks it’s over. We’ve all got boarding cards, but there’s no slot for #BA1417… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngBTW, #BritishAirways, a ‘breakfast roll’ here at BHD costs £6.95 and two coffees is £5.20. But we must be grateful for small mercies… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWe’re now checked onto today’s ‘free flight’ – we have a plane, boarding cards and a VERY generous £5 ‘breakfast voucher’. Just no slot… Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSo #BritishAirways has known all along it could accommodate all of yesterday’s #BA1417 pax, it just didn’t want to share for some reason. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngRight. We’ve found the missing #BritishAirways #BA1417. It’s been sitting on the tarmac here at BHD all night. Just they didn’t tell us. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngObviously no BA staff on hand, tannoys or information. Just a queue. People sharing stories of disbelief in anything #britishairways says. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png5am. BHD airport. All is quiet apart from a long, long queue for the #britishairways desk. No sign of the promised BA1417. Dec 31, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWe’re assured we have a 6am flight BHD/LHR. That means getting up here in Newry at 3.30am. They’d better be serious… #britishairways Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngWe’re being told our BHD/LHR flight is delayed until 6am tomorrow rather than today’s cancellation. Don’t trust it… https://t.co/OhxHBuDbRy Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngBrilliant. @British_Airways has DMmed me and offered a full refund. I can have my money back and SWIM to the mainland. Great solution. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png“All our agents are busy at the moment but your call is important to us.” Call centre case study, @British_Airways… Pure gold. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt’s a case study in screwed up comms. EVERY single comms tool is failing. @British_Airways is in a simple, straightforward, total mess. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngIt’s hard to think how an airline could have handled this more maladroitly than @British_Airways. Well, perhaps apart from @Ryanair… Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngThe @British_Airways airways app is as useless as a chocolate in a blast furnace and their website worse. Call centre now has 30 mins wait. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngNo @British_Airways staff on hand to manage re-bookings. Handlers giving out leaflets with the wrong number to call ‘between xx and xx’. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngSo @British_Airways flight to LHR has been cancelled. They are singularly, spectacularly useless. Website, app, call centre. Nothing works. Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.pngMad freezing fog @HeathrowAirport, so we’re sitting at George Best waiting to see if we can fly or not. Already 2 hrs 45 delayed. Oh joy… Dec 30, 2016 https://www.allmytweets.net/css/extlink.png

Dubai Font – The Typeface, The City, The Legend

Posted on the April 30th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Dubai has its own typeface, Dubai Font.And I have to say, I love it. Cool, contemporary even a tad, dare I say it, futuristic.Created by Microsoft under a doubtless lucrative deal with Dubai Government, the new typeface is the first time a city has got its very own Microsoft font. Well, apart from the remote and little known city of Comic Sans, Wyoming.You can download Dubai Font free here!You’re welcome. My pleasure…

Fake Plastic Souks Is Ten

Posted on the April 26th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Birthday Cake(Photo credit: Wikipedia)Oh golly, oh gosh! I nearly missed it. Happy Birthday, Fake Plastic Souks! Ten years ago this month, I was sufficiently intrigued by the idea of expressing my opinion without using a pseudonym (at the time the standard approach for bloggers in Dubai) and was also missing writing magazine articles (I used to do a lot of that) enough to contemplate starting a blog. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then it was all, well, terribly experimental. Now, of course, it’s quaintly retro.It all followed on from another experiment in online scribbling, a Wiki called ‘Orientations’ I had started to put together, which played with the idea of creating a hyperlinked series of articles that led you on an adventure, a little like playing Colossal Caves, around what was something of a stream of consciousness. PB Works, the nice people wot hosts the Wiki, have been threatening to take back that workspace for years and yet the crumbling ruins of that largely incomplete experiment still exist. The first word of the first post on Fake Plastic Souks linked, through the fiendishly clever use of houmus, back to the Wiki in a sort of nod to the past.Here’s the first Fake Plastic Souks post, linked for your clicking pleasure!That first post was inspired by the sententious rumblings from the Arab Media Forum and amused me greatly. Like many things that amuse me greatly (my first novel, for instance), I find I am in an audience of one. Luckily, that has never detracted from my amusement. The ability to amuse oneself avoids a great deal of unpleasantness in life, I find.An awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those early days, quite a lot of the events which took place around me documented as I jotted things down. It’s not quite Samuel Pepys, but I occasionally enjoy stumbling across something old and dusty. In all this time, a tad over 1.2 million pages have been read. Which is nice. I would hate to think how many words I’ve thrown into this little cloudy corner. I’ve probably written about 700,000 words in my various novels (not including the two books I made from FPS posts for publishing workshop purposes) and likely more in the blog.Oh yes, the books. There were two of them, made when I needed a text to create a sample book for a ‘hands on’ publishing session I did for the LitFest chaps. The first one documented 2007-2009: Fake Plastic Souks – The Glory Years. I joked that I’d do another one if that book sold more than ten copies and to my mild amazement, it did. So I made the second, Fake Plastic Souks – The Fear Returns, which covered 2009-2011. The links take you to the Kindle editions, but there are also paperbacks. I never did get around to a third one. Just as well, probably.It all seems a little irrelevant these days. Mind you, an early and perhaps over-passionate proponent of ‘social media’, I now find myself yearning to sit under a tree and play with wooden toys rather than post, share, tweet and snap for the benefit of small and frequently mildly bemused audiences.I think my favourite things from over the years are were when I ‘outed’ Harper Collins’ Authonomy and the ‘Shiny’ posts, which did rather tickle me. Documenting the egregious contents of Tim Horton’s French Vanilla Coffee not only provided me with amusement, it has informed something like 10,000 people. The ‘stuff they put in our food’ posts have always caused the most ‘Yews’. My abiding interest in food, of course, led to the co-creation of Dubai’s first ‘food blog’ with partner in crime Simon McCrum, The Fat Expat. That was finally shuttered due to lack of time and photographic talent back in 2013. TFE was never really Instagram gold, but I still use it to find recipes even today.These days, as people may have noticed, I post rather more infrequently and have stopped looking at Sitemeter or analytics. In the early days, the blog would attract a sort of ‘background radiation’ of readers, about 30 or so per post. That grew to hundreds and even thousands, with anything up to 40,000 page views each month. I was just starting to think that was getting rather reasonable when I met Russian writer Boris Akunin, whose blog gets about 1,000 comments a day. When he invited readers to join him in a walk around Moscow to protest Putin, 10,000 people turned up.I was duly humbled.Anyway, there’s no real point to this post. I just thought I’d mark the occasion…

Airline News

Posted on the April 12th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Kentucky man demonstrates customer service experienceI’m hesitant to add more words to the trillions that have been shared around the world after US airline United caused a passenger to be rendered insensible and dragged off a flight by three police officers. If you have by any chance been hiding in a nuclear bunker for the last 72 hours, 69 year old Dr David Dao was travelling home from Chicago to Kentucky on a United Airlines flight on Sunday and refused to give up his seat when instructed to do so by the crew. They called the police, who removed him forcibly.United’s blundering mismanagement of the entire incident reads like an text book on how to create a global PR fail of such magnificent proportions that it wipes $800 million off a company’s stock price – which is precisely what it has achieved.Although it would appear everyone was told the situation was due to ‘overbooking’, in fact United needed four seats to fly its own crew out to staff another flight. It had managed to screw up its own rostering to the point where it had to try and get people already boarded on a flight to agree to give up their seats. It offered $400 compensation, then $800 – which Dao agreed to and then rescinded his agreement when he found out the next available flight was 2.30pm the next day.Of course, it’s easier to say ‘As the flight has been overbooked we are offering passengers…’ in a tannoy than ‘As we have goofed up our rostering and have four unexpected dead heads, we are offering passengers…’United’s consistent use of obfuscation and mendacity is only part of the whole glorious and potent mixture of incompetent communications that led them to become an object of global opprobrium. With a video of a bloody and unconscious man being dragged down the aisle of the plane being shared by millions, the company’s CEO said this was ‘re-accommodating’ passengers. The company also said that Dr Dao – a man torn from his seat on a plane – had been ‘refused boarding’.Dao is currently being smeared across mainstream media, a sad incident from his past being dragged up to show us that this seemingly innocent Doctor is actually a gay sex fiend who was struck off for ten years and earned a fortune playing poker instead of doctoring. We’ll likely find out he was horrible to hamsters and kittens, too. United has finally, and this is Wednesday, made a full and proper apology – something it should have done at the latest by Monday but, in our Twitter-driven world, really Sunday was the time to react. It would seem United has either engaged an agency or started listening to its incumbent.But the late reaction is too scripted, too late and follows an initial and very different reaction. Result? It lacks the one thing we know is the most important element of communications in today’s environment: authenticity. They don’t sound like they mean it and that’s precisely because they don’t mean it. United has consistently made it clear that Dao was an inconvenient trouble-maker because he didn’t do what they told him to do and wanted him to do.Is United responsible for smearing Dao? It’s hard to tell, really, the smear has certainly made the ‘innocent passenger’ narrative more complex but it has also prolonged the coverage of the whole sorry incident. And with every new story, we have a chance to replay that video of a man being dragged from his seat – bought, paid for and occupied with every expectation of being able to fly home that night – and pulled off a plane like a sack of spuds.For me, currently engaged in an arbitration case against British Airways, the story has particular resonance. Airlines are big businesses and the regulation of their behaviour would appear to be particularly lax. They are routinely lying about their flight times to avoid charges of delay (have you noticed how yesterday’s 45 minute flight has become today’s 90 minute flight?), using reasons of security to mask operational convenience and generally treating passengers pretty woefully. The first line of response is reasonably consistently to take refuge in obfuscation and filibustering, using a variety of means to disempower consumers. We are all sausages, lining up to be squeezed compliantly into the sausage machine.It’s remarkable how falling standards in aviation customer service and comportment have become the norm rather than the rule. BA’s descent from the world’s proudest national carrier to a sub-Ryan Air low cost carrier has been pretty meteoric. A sort of flying Nokia.The exceptions to that rule are, of course, finding that being better than that pays off. That consumers will avoid (showing remarkable lethargy when it comes to making active choices to change) the bad airlines and gravitate to the good guys. It’s where the Gulf ‘feeder flight’ carriers have made such inroads.And it’s going to be hard to see United waving the flag for ‘good ole Amerikay first’ when it comes to competing with the Gulf airlines, continuing that lobbying effort to have the Gulfies throttled to support American airlines. Their service standards being already notoriously low, beating up your customers really does set a new standard.United will be reassuring itself that the news cycle will move on and this, like all things, will pass. they won’t change, not one jot, despite their CEO’s belated and PR-penned promises. It’ll be interesting to see, when the online howls have died down, how many consumers vote with their feet in the weeks to come…

Airline News

Posted on the April 12th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Kentucky man demonstrates customer service experienceI’m hesitant to add more words to the trillions that have been shared around the world after US airline United caused a passenger to be rendered insensible and dragged off a flight by three police officers. If you have by any chance been hiding in a nuclear bunker for the last 72 hours, 69 year old Dr David Dao was travelling home from Chicago to Kentucky on a United Airlines flight on Sunday and refused to give up his seat when instructed to do so by the crew. They called the police, who removed him forcibly.United’s blundering mismanagement of the entire incident reads like an text book on how to create a global PR fail of such magnificent proportions that it wipes $800 million off a company’s stock price – which is precisely what it has achieved.Although it would appear everyone was told the situation was due to ‘overbooking’, in fact United needed four seats to fly its own crew out to staff another flight. It had managed to screw up its own rostering to the point where it had to try and get people already boarded on a flight to agree to give up their seats. It offered $400 compensation, then $800 – which Dao agreed to and then rescinded his agreement when he found out the next available flight was 2.30pm the next day.Of course, it’s easier to say ‘As the flight has been overbooked we are offering passengers…’ in a tannoy than ‘As we have goofed up our rostering and have four unexpected dead heads, we are offering passengers…’United’s consistent use of obfuscation and mendacity is only part of the whole glorious and potent mixture of incompetent communications that led them to become an object of global opprobrium. With a video of a bloody and unconscious man being dragged down the aisle of the plane being shared by millions, the company’s CEO said this was ‘re-accommodating’ passengers. The company also said that Dr Dao – a man torn from his seat on a plane – had been ‘refused boarding’.Dao is currently being smeared across mainstream media, a sad incident from his past being dragged up to show us that this seemingly innocent Doctor is actually a gay sex fiend who was struck off for ten years and earned a fortune playing poker instead of doctoring. We’ll likely find out he was horrible to hamsters and kittens, too. United has finally, and this is Wednesday, made a full and proper apology – something it should have done at the latest by Monday but, in our Twitter-driven world, really Sunday was the time to react. It would seem United has either engaged an agency or started listening to its incumbent.But the late reaction is too scripted, too late and follows an initial and very different reaction. Result? It lacks the one thing we know is the most important element of communications in today’s environment: authenticity. They don’t sound like they mean it and that’s precisely because they don’t mean it. United has consistently made it clear that Dao was an inconvenient trouble-maker because he didn’t do what they told him to do and wanted him to do.Is United responsible for smearing Dao? It’s hard to tell, really, the smear has certainly made the ‘innocent passenger’ narrative more complex but it has also prolonged the coverage of the whole sorry incident. And with every new story, we have a chance to replay that video of a man being dragged from his seat – bought, paid for and occupied with every expectation of being able to fly home that night – and pulled off a plane like a sack of spuds.For me, currently engaged in an arbitration case against British Airways, the story has particular resonance. Airlines are big businesses and the regulation of their behaviour would appear to be particularly lax. They are routinely lying about their flight times to avoid charges of delay (have you noticed how yesterday’s 45 minute flight has become today’s 90 minute flight?), using reasons of security to mask operational convenience and generally treating passengers pretty woefully. The first line of response is reasonably consistently to take refuge in obfuscation and filibustering, using a variety of means to disempower consumers. We are all sausages, lining up to be squeezed compliantly into the sausage machine.It’s remarkable how falling standards in aviation customer service and comportment have become the norm rather than the rule. BA’s descent from the world’s proudest national carrier to a sub-Ryan Air low cost carrier has been pretty meteoric. A sort of flying Nokia.The exceptions to that rule are, of course, finding that being better than that pays off. That consumers will avoid (showing remarkable lethargy when it comes to making active choices to change) the bad airlines and gravitate to the good guys. It’s where the Gulf ‘feeder flight’ carriers have made such inroads.And it’s going to be hard to see United waving the flag for ‘good ole Amerikay first’ when it comes to competing with the Gulf airlines, continuing that lobbying effort to have the Gulfies throttled to support American airlines. Their service standards being already notoriously low, beating up your customers really does set a new standard.United will be reassuring itself that the news cycle will move on and this, like all things, will pass. they won’t change, not one jot, despite their CEO’s belated and PR-penned promises. It’ll be interesting to see, when the online howls have died down, how many consumers vote with their feet in the weeks to come…

When Brands Go Wrong

Posted on the April 4th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

For many years, I was the delighted driver of Toyota’s achingly brilliant MR2, first the ‘ordinary’ one then the leather-seated T-Bar. A glorious car that, sadly, would never take off in France, because pronounced in French it translates to emmerdeu or pain in the arse. Rolls Royce narrowly avoided naming one of its models Silver Mist after someone pointed out that mist is German for dung although this didn’t stop Clairol, which actually brought its ‘Mist Stick’ curling iron to market there. Mitsubishi’s Pajero is, as eny ful no, called a Shogun in the UK and a Montero in other European and US & South American markets. That’s because pajero in Spanish means onanist. And Ford rather blew it when it took its Pinto into the Brazilian market, where in the local argot pinto refers to an under-endowed gentleman.Kia’s sporty concept for a car named Provo, caused an outburst of offended reaction in Northern Ireland where it is slang for Provisional IRA. Who was to know?I love these stories and can never get enough of them: the marketing disasters of idiotic nomenclature amuse me greatly. This is because, as anyone who’s read this blog knows, I am a child.The sustained train crash of Vegemite’s attempted launch of a new product a few years back tickled me from the get-go and was a gift that kept on giving, from the opening salvo right the way through to the inevitable derailing and appalling subsequent tumble down the embankment and into the oil storage depot where a guard was smoking.We start with the fact that Vegemite is itself a poor and pallid parody of the King of Dark Salty Spreads, Marmite. Vegemite came up with a new product, an insane experiment in wrongness which makes cheesy peas seem attractive, and proposed launching a jar stuffed with a blend of Vegemite with cream cheese. The company, in a move which should have served as a history lesson for the British Natural Environment Research Council in the same way Hitler would have profited from a quick review of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, asked the public to suggest a product name.And there it would have ended if they hadn’t chosen, from the 50,000-odd suggestions, ‘iSnack 2.0’. The bloke that made the suggestion noted it was a tongue in cheek effort, but that escaped the drooling idiots at Vegemite brand owner, Kraft Foods. The company’s head of corporate affairs defended the name: “Vegemite iSnack 2.0 was chosen based on its personal call to action, relevance to snacking and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite to the original.”I kid you not. Even Hitler himself jumped on the bandwagon.It’s apparently now called ‘Cheesybite’ which is, IMHO, not a great deal better.The daddy of them all, the fact that Coca Cola was originally dubbed ‘Bite the wax tadpole’ in Chinese is, sadly, not due to an outbreak of idiocy at Coke marketing central but was the result of over-eager merchants daubing signs advertising the new wonder drink in the 1920s.Which is really something of a shame…Mind you, the geniuses at Pepsi didn’t need a new product name to make a mess of things, did they?

The Passing of Paper

Posted on the March 28th, 2017 under Personal Bloggers by

Smash logo and brand identity(Photo credit: Wikipedia)I follow quite a few legacy publishers on Twitter and suffer from the not infrequent urge to block them as I stare, open-jawed, at their attempts at what they clearly think is ‘marketing’. Where most self-published authors have worked out, often by trial and error, that ‘buy my book’ doesn’t work, publishers are frequently to be found out there using Twitter as a broadcast medium.My least favourite of an ugly bunch are the guys who have clearly logged into Twitter for their daily session (“Dave does Twitter from 4-5pm, then goes through the slush pile”) who then retweet anything nice said about them or one of their authors. To the luckless recipient of this gold, a timeline suddenly packed with retweets of breathless praise for Dave’s publishing house, event or client’s book until Dave runs out of RT cruft. At this point, if you’re really unlucky, you’ll get Dave asking you what’s your favourite colour or what book changed your life as he practices his ‘engagement’ skills.The example that flashed across my disbelieving eyes last night, however, took the proverbial biscuit:It ticks every ‘shit use of Twitter by a publisher’ box I can think of. What, you mean if I pre-order this book and send you proof that I have, indeed, placed a pre-order, you’ll actually send ME a real whole honest-to-goodness PDF file containing chapter one of the book I can’t read yet? I am SO grateful! I can’t begin to thank you! Really! A whole chapter one of a book I just paid for but can’t read as a crappy, bitty PDF (like the ones torrent sites serve) just for little me? Squee!These are just a few examples of how legacy publishers are struggling to get their heads around marketing, promotion and distribution in a post-paper world. We’re not quite there yet, of course – there’s still a lot of papery stuff around. But anyone not habitually wedded to a paper-based business model can see that the consumption of ideas, information and narrative on mushed-up dead trees and bleached old knickers (paper) is moving to a diverse and often inter-connected ecosystem of devices with blinding speed. When we are using those devices, we are not pleased to be ‘disrupted’ and, in a device-centric world, the publishers’ ability to use their market power – sales teams stocking retailers – is minimal. They’re no better off than the rest of us. The Internet, as we have been seeing since 1995, is a great leveller.The idea that there is value in selling information encoded in a ‘book’ or indeed any other conventionally printed product now belongs in a Cadbury’s Smash advert. When was the last time you looked at a paper map? I fondly recall driving across Scotland in 1988, following a printout from Autoroute 1.0 and picking up some hitch hikers who, when they found out I was following a computer programme around Scotland, became very nervous indeed and wanted let out early. They clearly thought I was a madman. It’s taken a while, sure enough, but the paper map today is (along with the dedicated GPS device, incidentally) a thing of the past. The ability to contextualise information based on a layer over the ‘real’ world is incredibly powerful. It’s why Google has invested so much in building that layer with Earth, Streetview and the like. Apple is rumoured to be making a huge play in ‘Augmented Reality’. Not only are we consuming information about where we’re going totally differently, we can clearly see around the corner a world where we won’t care where we’re going. We’ll just tell the car to go there and it’ll tell us how long it intends to take and then provide us some entertainment of our choice as we travel. It’ll probably be plotting to kill us, but that’s another kettle of fish.Newspapers are clearly in the throes of another aspect of the movement of information online. In their case they’re having to struggle with the reduction of value in two ways – the loss of revenue from people buying papers and that of advertisers willing to pay to reach those readers. The problem becomes one of scale – the news gathering resource and reach of a quality newspaper is expensive – and when you devalue the good through information ubiquity, you lose the ability to pay for large teams of journalists. Who will custodiet custodes, then? Smaller teams working more efficiently – but also a slew of copycats, content farms and repurposers. Quality content has to fight harder to cut through the rubbish. It’s messy out there, but there’s one thing that’s certain – nobody’s interested in print anymore – and the revenue models for print don’t translate online, the scale doesn’t work at cents per click. Not only do you not have the resources for big newsrooms, presses and distribution networks, you arguably don’t need them.Print books are a good whose price is set entirely on its own inefficiency. The cover price of a book consists entirely of percentages based on the cost of print – including the author’s royalty and distribution. A tiny proportion goes to editorial costs. Oh, and profit. Let’s not forget profit. An author is remunerated on a percentage of the revenue generated by the book as, indeed, is a distributor – the latter gets a whopping 50% of cover price. You could perhaps see how publishers would be wedded to this model – it has been thus for the past century or so. That’s the way we do it around here, see?When you go online, you not only rip out the costs of print and distribution and sales returns/stock loss but you also tear down the sales network publishers have depended on for so long. Bookshops are dead, sales are taking place on platforms the publishers don’t own, control or influence. And so that most passive of sales environments (the long shelves packed with attentive soldiers of stiff-spined papery joy, the tick of the clock, Mildred sitting behind the till, reading and leaving you to have a nice, long browse) has been transformed into an online nightmare of conflicting shrill demands for people’s time and attention.In this brave new world, publishers no longer offer the significant scale they used to. Even the media they retain privileged access to are less powerful. Physical book retail is on a massive decline, despite constant announcements by ‘the industry’ that ebook sales are under pressure. These are mendacious and statistically skewed to an amazing degree – and they’re quite poignant, in their way. ‘It’s going to be okay, chaps, you’ll see’ – that brave last sentence nobody quite believes, but they’re all grateful for as they all walk into the hail of enemy gunfire.The one thing publishers had to offer authors was scale. Scale of marketing, distribution, recognition. That’s a product of marketing. Rip out the sales channel and go online and you’ve got some serious problems on your hands unless you can get your head around building serious online scale. Legacy big-hitters like JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman have made the leap and brought their audiences online with them and have massive reach on platforms like Twitter.Publishers haven’t. And they really don’t know how to do it. They can’t believe they need to do it. And they won’t resource to do it properly because they’re still clinging on to that last log in the sea.Or, as an old pal once said to me (of literary agents, but never mind, it fits today’s legacy publishers too), “They’re like eunuchs in the Ottoman court. They see it happening all around them; they know what it is that’s happening. But they’re totally incapable of doing it for themselves!”