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BT – this is my last complaint.

Dear BT

I can’t say I’ve ever trusted your brand nor had any respect for it. Let’s face it, I had no choice but to use you a few years ago when you had the monopoly. Now you don’t. Let me explain why I’ve voted with my feet and how you have helped me leave you for ever.

Four years ago I applied for 4 telephone lines into our farmhouse. Why 4? Well, because your copper is so awful I can’t get more than 1mb/s broadband speed. So, I use a technology called sharedband.com to bond the output of each line into a single, usable service (it is indeed a fabulous thing). Sure, I hear you say, it’s expensive because I have to rent 4 lines and then pay for the broadband on top of it, but I have no choice. (well until 4G/LTE comes to our parts)

Because I live at home (like most people do!) the four lines are setup as residential lines. When applying for broadband, your residential service doesn’t offer fixed IP addresses (which I needed at the time given I am a little bit geeky) – so I had to opt for Business Broadband. At the time, the sales people say “No problem, you can run business broadband on residential lines, easy!” So I sign up to an expensive offering putting business broadband on three of the lines. The fourth one has such poor quality copper that broadband can’t run on it at all! Beggars belief given that the 4 cables come down the same pole, but that was a fight (hours and hours of trying to reason with your customer “service” people. I tried to win but lost.)

So let’s recap- I have 4 residential lines. 3 of those run Business Broadband. The fourth doesn’t have any broadband on it because it’s not possible (according to BT). I’ve been a client of yours for nearly 4 years (many years longer than that if you consider my patronage when I lived in London) – I have dutifully paid you by direct debit every quarter never giving you any billing grief.

So a month ago I see John Lewis advertising Broadband. I think, I wonder whether they can get me broadband on the fourth line? So I apply using the fourth line’s telephone number, and in 5 working days I have lovely John Lewis broadband running on it! Something BT never could do for me (they always blamed the quality of the line and I totally understand that John Lewis runs on BT’s infrastructure by the way). I then thought, maybe I should transfer the other three lines to John Lewis and thought ah, why change something that’s not broken- it was too much of bother and frankly I just can’t live without internet – both my wife and my jobs depend on it – so just left it.

In the process of John Lewis transferring the single (fourth) line to themselves from BT retail, BT managed to get their knickers into a huge knot – because their systems are all messed up! They didn’t transfer just the one line. They transferred the one line and ceased the other three lines. Maybe it was because it was on the same account number? Who knows? All I know, is that I didn’t ask John Lewis to take over the other three lines, how could John Lewis have even known about the other three lines, I certainly didn’t give them the other three lines telephone numbers. No, it was a BT cock-up, pure and simple.

This morning, I woke up to find that three lines have been ceased! I didn’t request these lines to be ceased, BT’s systems just screwed up big time.

So when I call BT this morning, I phone business support. They tell me they can’t help me as the three lines are residential lines. So I phoned residential support asking just one simple question “Why did you cease my 3 lines, who asked you to, it wasn’t me!?”

Guess what, when I got through to Residential they told me they couldn’t access my account as the lines were business lines.

So I spent over 90 minutes on a call with someone in India (actually a friendly person, for once) – who admitted after 90 minutes (and I have a recording of it) that he couldn’t help me – as, in his efforts, he was also being passed around from pillar to post. Actually he had to talk to the Business dept, the Residential dept, the residential-to-business dept, the business-to-residential dept and after all that he told me that the only thing I could do was to phone residential sales and apply for three new telephone lines which would take 3 days and then once I had the numbers back (and they couldn’t guarantee I get the same numbers back) I could then apply for Broadband which would take another 5 working days. He couldn’t explain, or get anyone in any of the 4 departments to tell me WHY the lines were ceased. All he said was sorry! 90 minutes I will never get back. After 90 minutes, I was no better off than when I started the call.

So, I called John Lewis Broadband. In 15 minutes they helped me restore all 3 lines (with the original numbers!) and have promised me broadband within 5 workings days. And get this…. it’s going to save me 30% on a quarterly basis. Exactly the same unlimited data, same speed, same copper. What’s the difference? John Lewis care about the customer, they are structured to look after the customer. That’s what it’s all about. (I have had issues with John Lewis too, but they are long since resolved by a team that ultimately cares about customer satisfaction).

So as painful as it is… it means my wife won’t be able to work from home for the next week, our children (and I) will miss her a lot – and she will be pretty upset by the whole thing too…She’ll have to stay in a hotel in London and pay obscene Greater Anglia train fares. Having said that, BT has done me a favour – made me leave them for good.

Farewell BT, I shall never pay you another dime.

Yours,
Adrian

PS My advice to everyone out there – vote with your feet and back away (quickly) from an organisation that just cannot look after its customers. Leave BT quickly.

Grace

I came across a tweet yesterday that I need to remember for those awkward moments when asked to say Grace before a meal.

Let it act as a sober reminder to the more fortunate of us. It also reminded me of the crazy gaps in our society.

The Gap between rich and poor. Not only in Britain but in Africa most notably South Africa. Did you know Johannesburg sports the biggest Porsche dealership in the World? Doesn’t seem fair but then I’m told this happens in new democracies.

Talking of Grace, though:  here’s a less sobering story:

At College, now a very long time ago, we used to have to say Grace in Latin.

Benedic, Domine, dona Tua in usum nostrum, et nos in servitium Tuum, per Iesum Christum, Dominum nostrum.

~ Bless Lord Your gifts in our use and ourselves in Your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Never being prepared for Latin, I was caught off guard by the Headmaster’s instruction to lead the Grace. I couldn’t begin to recite the Latin so nervously defaulted into English. Like many schools, St John’s College was not known for restaurant quality food and there were times we all forced ourselves to eat the offering. Accordingly, my popularity with peers soared when my wording (eventually) sunk in:

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord be truly thankful.

Suffice to say, my seniors were less amused.

Having it over again

One of my earliest memories was hearing the grand movement of Beethoven’s Ninth on the Radio. I turned to my Mother and asked her “What instrument is that”. She duly explained  it wasn’t an instrument, but  an orchestra. My reply:

I want to play the orchestra

Of course, at the time I was too little to realise that I could have been a conductor. Missed opportunity.

Not Svbtle, I know.

Svbtle is a curated, invite-only collection of great people who have things to say.

I’m a real fan of Svbtle.com. Mostly I love the clean, fresh, uncluttered design. But, to be fair, a big chunk of the content is worth reading too. I first discovered Svbtle through one of my favourite writers – MG Siegler, despite rating his Techcrunch column  more than his Svbtle presence. No doubt MG will be a Marmite Moment for you – for me, I just love his dry, direct style. Oh, and he’s an Apple fanboy too.

Naturally you’ll bump into a few spoilers on Svbtle – the inevitable big egos gracing a few of the (not so) subtle pages. I won’t pick on anyone – I’m sure you’ll know who I mean.

Dustin Curtis has created a really aspirational brand. Sure, I’m not in the league of MG or Adii Pienaar (despite us both being South African) or Dalton Caldwell but I’ll let you into a secret:

I couldn’t help myself having a shot at membership. (although I do openly admit I faced zero chance of ‘cracking the nod’)

Mr Melrose, your writing and contribution to society just isn’t up to scratch

The ensuing disappointment had nothing to do with failing to make the club but more to do with the lack of a Thank You (for applying). Not even an automated email saying I didn’t make the cut. Nothing, not a peep. It just felt so arrogant.

I don’t think fame, celebrity status or success gives anyone or any brand the right not to say thank you. Online brands seem more guilty of this. Have you read the “The Thank You Economy”  by Gary Vaynerchuck? A great, entertaining read. You can read about how Tea Pigs lost me as a customer for not saying Thank You.

So here I am writing in the Svbtle style. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Please, at least, notice that I’m not trying to pass myself off as being a member of the Svbtle elite just someone who really rates the layout and design of the pages.

Actually all things considered, I’m not even sure why I’m declaring this.. chances are it will go unnoticed.

[update] Since writing this post I stumbled upon this written by Adii Pienaar. He explains far more eloquently than I do why Svbtle is so aspirational. It’s about exclusivity. I also feel better after reading what the creators of the WP-Svbtle WordPress theme wrote about its potential lack of originality. 

Thank You Mr Chairman: the loss of a great leader.

Some may not understand why this morning found me all choked up. Irrespective of your generation, we should all be able to name one or two people who have shaped the way you think; have inspired you to be better people. Steve Jobs is one of those men to me and he is no longer with us.

He has shown us how to test the boundaries with everything we do. He was driven in his quest for simplicity and perfection. The example he set us was not just about defining the technology curve. He was a leader – one of the greatest leaders of my time.

He should also be remembered for his personal war on cancer in the the last 6 years of his life, an example of his fight, dedication and passion.

It’s still early in the day and we’ll see some befitting dedications to Mr Jobs, but this (thanks to Ken Segall  is the one that moved me early this morning when I discovered the sad news.

When “Hacking” is too strong a word.

Amidst the mobile phone hacking blame-game, how many of you understand how this hacking took/takes place?

Don’t for a minute think the hacking procedure is an elaborate thing. “Hacking” makes you think of a  Bletchley styled operation: a technical and deliberate science. Sorry to disappoint you.  It is far simpler than that.

A few years back when you signed up for a mobile phone number  your voicemail came with a default pin code. You weren’t asked to change it before use and you weren’t explained why you needed to change it and the risk of not changing it. I *think* this has now changed (I really do hope it has). Even today, you probably rarely use the pin code because when you dial into your voicemail from your phone you are authenticated by your mobile number (assuming you haven’t blocked your caller ID).

But did you know that you can access your mobile phone’s voicemail from any landline too? See the footer of this post for the numbers to dial. All you have to do is enter you mobile phone number and your pin.  That’s the first big fail on the part of the networks – they have failed to educate people about how voicemail works. They have failed to protect their customers. What’s worse is that unless you change your pin, it remains set to a default four zeros, or 1234 etc depending on the network.

If the mobile operators forced their customers to set their own private PIN (most now do)- none of this scandal would have happened. But if you’ve had your mobile for years there is still a good chance you run the risk of a default pin number.  The mobile operators have done nothing to help you tighten up the security. I think the onus is on them.

Would you trust your bank if it mailed out your debit card with a default pin number on it and expected you to change it?

So why did the mobile phone operators get away with it? They haven’t been asked to account for the blatant breach in protecting their customers’ privacy. If they had prioritised security and education none of this invasion would have taken place. It was just too simple and too tempting for the “scum-of-the-world” reporters to resist.

Whilst there’s no defence to invading anyone’s privacy, I hold the Mobile operators jointly and severally liable for this diabolical mess.

=======================

Vodafone UK – 07836 121 121
O2 –  07569 149 187
Orange 07973 100 123

and if I haven’t listed your operator above simply Google “Accessing my XXX voicemail from a landline” and replace XXX with your operator.

Never Stop Starting (the birth of The First 65)

Many of you will have watched me launch AoB at the end of last year whilst at Dreamforce in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, it dawned on me that I desperately needed a talented team to help me implement the ideas and solutions that I develop for clients. The overall team needed to offer “a formidable blend of business strategy, creative flair and programming expertise”.

Several months later, I’m extremely proud and excited to announce the launch of The First 65.

My co-founders are James Kindred and Chris Waters of Condiment fame. I have so enjoyed working with James and Chris (as a client of Condiment’s) and have been immensely impressed by their grasp of where the web is taking us. It was a natural extension to joint-venture with them on The First 65.

To complement James and Chris’ extreme creativity, vision, client service and down-to-earth approach we’re wildly excited to announce the appointment of three superbly talented people. Tom Crinson, Nina Christensen and Anders Fisher all of whom join Chris, James and I today. We’ll be working out of the Condiment offices in Ipswich. The First 65 will operate alongside Condiment who will continue to operate as a separate brand and business. Obviously the skills of the two businesses will intersect across many future clients.

Tom will head up the development team – we’ve rescued Tom from the toils of a London commute! Tom runs the Ipswich Ruby Group and there’s no surprise that The First 65 have chosen Ruby as our development cornerstone – we are on the road to becoming a Force.com accredited development house. (For an explanation on the what and why of Force.com, please read my AoB post here.) Tom is joined by a right hand man, Anders, an equally talented developer.

Nina is no stranger to the Suffolk Digital scene too and she will assume the responsibility of account, product and project management. Nina joins us from Notcutts, where she was the E-Commerce manager. Before that, Nina was a client account manager at Jamie Riddell’s agency Cheeze.

We’re not launching with anything traditional, I’m afraid: no glitsy website etc. We’ve worked hard on our elevator pitch though and we have a place to announce things (blog.first65.com)  and naturally we have a twitter account (twitter.com/First65) and two facebook pages facebook.com/First65 and facebook.com/fcommerce , so please follow us there. You’ll get to know what we do when we start showcasing our client and product work (think 37signals) . Right now we’re noses down working for some really exciting brands – we’ll let you know when we’ve got something to show you!

The enchanting Guy Kawasaki

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Last night I travelled into London to see Guy Kawasaki‘s keynote. I have to admit that I smiled from beginning to end- he’s such a lovely speaker.

Being a Guy Kawasaki fanboy (which frankly I’m not ashamed to admit) can be frowned upon by those active in social media circles because he became so noisy pushing out content from his Alltop content distillation business.

The Guy Kawasaki who enchanted me in 2006 did it with his address on his first book Art of the Start. Ever since then I’ve always wanted to see him live. Last night was my opportunity when he came to talk to us about his new book: “Enchantment: The art of changing hearts, minds and actions”. The advice he dispensed could easily have been esoteric but instead, it was practical and very credible: I’ve followed him for some years now and he practices what he preaches. More than half a dozen times he’s replied to any conversation I’ve initiated with him on Twitter, for instance.

The best part for you: last night’s keynote is available to watch in the comfort of your armchair – you really ought to. I managed to walk away with a signed copy and if I’m enchanted enough, I’ll post a review.

Thank you to Graham Brown-Martin of Learning without Frontiers for giving us the opportunity to listen to Guy.

Woodbridge Library: a Digital Hub. Let’s Race Online.

Source: Suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Background We are all unsure of whether Suffolk County Council is in the position to continue to fund the Woodbridge Library expenditure of circa £300k per annum. There is now an urgent need to reduce costs and/or turn to alternate funding models to preserve and enhance the current service provision. The threat to continuity of service is of great concern to the local community (not necessarily limited to the current library users)

Opportunity As a current user of the Woodbridge Library (only, however, on behalf of our young children) my observation is that there is an opportunity to tap into a demographic of user that isn’t currently engaged in this community hub: those that create and consume media digitally (online). If we were to bring this demographic into the user base of the Woodbridge Library, we’d create a subsidiary revenue stream, and support structure of digitally inclined people who would both help with the ongoing running of the existing library services (stacking books, staffing help desk etc) as well as help create a critically needed Race Online 2012 (see below) presence in Woodbridge

Current Observations Out of town Suffolk has a poor reputation for the provision of higher speed broadband. There are currently few “digital spaces” for owner managed businesses who have harnessed the power of digital to meet, work and build a “startup culture” network.  Woodbridge Library has a wonderful new purpose-built building including a conference room in it. I have discovered that this room is for hire at a charge of £35 per half day. It can accommodate 25 guests. It’s modern, beautifully appointed and light and airy. This charge may initially sound understated but I later discovered that there is no provision of internet! – neither cabled or wifi anywhere in the Library. Should this required internet facility be offered, I can see no reason why the room would not be in great demand and command a daily rate way in excess of the current one. Not only that, but the occupancy would rise dramatically. I am yet to see the room in use by any group other than the library staff. Not only would the room be a fantastic facility but would increase the footfall to- and user base of- the library.

Building a Digital Hub in Woodbridge In terms of the above and whilst the provision of internet (both cabled and wifi) would be a great way to boost the library revenue stream I feel that the space described above could be used in a more meaningful way both boosting the revenue stream and creating a digital hub in Woodbridge expanding the user demographic of the Library to create a pool of progressive digitally inclined volunteers who would support the current and proposed community initiatives. If the room were to be used to create a members only hot desking work environment the Woodbridge Library could become a digital hub in Suffolk. Paid membership would entitle users to access a “hotdesk” in the facility for up to 10 hours a week – booked online on first-come-first-served basis this facility could produce up to £10k per month (roughly 120 members of £80 per month) The setup cost would be minimal and involve purchasing workstations:  this could be sponsored by one of the private digital agencies in Suffolk.

Race Online 2012 – A community initiative in Woodbridge Going forward it is critical that those who have been digitally empowered help those who have been excluded (for whatever reason: social, economic or lack of knowledge/empowerment/confidence/facilities). The Library’s support base continues to be threatened by the Digital Divide and rather than fight it, the Libraries need to embrace this and play a central role in bridging this divide. Race Online 2012 is a national campaign to give Britain’s socially and digitally excluded equal access to life-changing power of technology – founded and championed by Martha Lane Fox – the UK Government’s digital champion (see http://raceonline2012.org )

Conclusion What better way to transform the Woodbridge Library into a digital hub – creating a precious revenue stream to preserve the existing services but also to recruit a new digital demographic who can also help in the Race Online initiative?

Next Steps A group within the Suffolk Digital Community would be fully prepared to develop a comprehensive plan if the above achieves any traction. It goes without say that this would be a project for the community by the community and would be funded by the volunteers. Do you agree with me? Could you help with a strategy like this? Please comment below and let’s rally some support please.

Dual posted on AOB – you can download a PDF of the document I submitted here.

A Sacrifice for Charity

Photo with thanks to spudballoo.com

We’ve been raising a few Tamworth Pigs on @RoseryFarm in Great Bealings and when I discovered Mike Keen (@theIpswichTap) was suggesting a Hog Roast for food at the Suffolk Twestival party, our donation became obvious.

I thought I would share the story of Mr Pig’s upbringing – it is important to understand where your food comes from and the circumstances in which it was reared. We originally purchased 6 ‘girl piglets’ in autumn last year from Karon and Simon Sanders a friendly and helpful couple, the proprietors of Stackyard Nursery (@stackyard) (you ought to pay them a visit- it’s a fine example of a Suffolk owner managed business).we earmarked 6 little girls to avoid the trouble of separating them when the boys wanted to get “active”. As it turned out one of the ‘girls’ hid his true gender – he has turned out to be a rather hefty boar! He’s the hog on the roast, I’m afraid. So if anyone asks, that’s the process I followed to select the Suffolk Twestival hog!

I was responsible for feeding the pigs twice a day during the harsh winter and defrosting their water supply every morning – one morning I was forced to drive down to the pigs’ field in the Land Rover as it was just too cold to walk or take the quad bike – the temperature gauge registered minus 10 degrees C! Raising livestock in a high welfare environment is a labour of love, trust me.

A number of people have been confused by my recent decision to convert to a vegan way of life. This decision was purely motivated by health considerations although  animal welfare will always remain important to me.

Raising the pigs is an experimental business for us. At no stage, was I under the false pretenses that they were ever to be pets although I have a natural fondness for them. As a pig farmer (yes, who would have believed it) – I am vehemently opposed to drugs and feel that there is no other option but to give an animal a free-range existence. The pigs were born in the sunshine (or as much as we have in the UK) and lived on open land with plenty of space – should anyone wish to come and visit – I would be happy and proud to show them around.

Yesterday at the abattoir I led Mr Pig past a pen of sickly, anaemic looking pigs that have clearly never seen the light of day. They had calloused feet being raised on concrete and they looked very unhappy.  That is not right or fair and I would never knowingly support a business that derived profit out of such derision.

Our Mr Pig had a very happy life. No two ways about it – the decision to end its life was mine. It rests heavy on my heart but I do not regret it, I am proud that your Hog Roast is brought to you from a very ethical farm, just round the corner, and in support of such a wonderful charitable cause.

Suffolk has a reputation for top notch Pork and I learnt a lot from my Pork in a Day Food Safari last year. Polly Robinson (@foodsafariuk), the founder of Food Safari has kindly donated to the Suffolk Twestival Raffle/Auction this year– a very generous ticket to her Lamb Butchery Course on the May 5. It’s so important for all of us to understand the “From Field to Fork” process. In my opinion, we should all have a responsibility to understand where our food comes from and the implications of our buying choices and personal tastes. Suffolk also has a growing reputation as a self-sufficient food county and I do hope everyone continues to support our wonderful farmers and producers. We have much to be proud of.

My parting words, the hog on the roast is enough to feed 150 and it would be a travesty of justice if we didn’t sell-out! Please bring your friends and make sure Mr Pig doesn’t go to waste. Thank you. Tickets are available here.

For more photos and Piggy talk – please read “This little piggy went to market”

For those of you who’d like to know a little more about Suffolk Twestival I put a little video together. You’ll see the pigs in the background!