Wednesday, January 19

Is Twitter the answer to getting customer support?

A few weeks back my Buffalo Linkstation started dying, badly.. I had bad sectors all over the shop.

Fortunately I had just backed it up (phew!) so whilst data loss was not an issue (and believe me, I'd have been gutted if that had happened) getting a replacement sorted definitely was, as the unit was still under the 2 year warranty.  However, as a year had (just) expired, I had to return the unit to Buffalo's RMA warehouse in the Netherlands.

Despite being a tad miffed at the extortionate price required to return the unit, I dutifully parcelled the knackered unit up (after giving it a few hard stares and swearing at it a few times) and nipped down to the post office to post it.  Because I had to do this on New Year's Eve (yup, the bastard thing died on me over Christmas), I knew it would take a little longer to get to its destination than normal, but I was relaxed about that.

Then at the beginning of last week I checked the tracking on the parcel (recommend the Royal Mail's AirSure service whenever posting anything of value abroad), and it said a delivery attempt had been made on the Saturday, but no-one had been there to take delivery, so the parcel was being held by the Dutch Post Office.  I contacted Buffalo RMA support, who told me that they were closed at weekends, and had received no card, and I would have to contact the Dutch Post Office to arrange redelivery?

Not being fluent in Dutch, and aware that the parcel would be returned to the UK if it was not collected within a certain time period, I quickly went to the Royal Mail website and tried to find the contact us section of the site.  Have you ever noticed that it's easier to find rocking horse shit than find a page on a website that lets you contact a company.. any site that's selling you something is ten times worse. believe me.

Anyway, managed to find a "Contact Us" page and once I'd got past the "Have you checked our FAQ?" sections (yes, and they did FAQ all to help me thanks) managed to drop the Royal Mail a line.  This was responded to almost immediately..

Or rather that should read, this was auto-responded to almost immediately  In the automated response, I was informed that it would be 5 days before I was likely to get any kind of response.  Arse! And of course, calling them would involve a lengthy wait randomly pressing numbers in response to another automated system only resulting in another lengthy wait in a queue whilst I was being told that my call was important to them (not so important that they's actually employ enough staff to answer the fucking telephone, mind) which I didn't have time to do during working hours as - aha! - was in work.

And then it struck me: "I wonder if they're on twitter?" (see, and you thought I'd never get to the point, ye of little faith).. a few seconds later on the twitter user search showed that they were: @RoyalMail.  So I dropped 'em a tweet, and had answers within 20 minutes.

No 5 days to read my mail
No "Press 1 if you want to send Anthrax to your MP" (I would, it'd be cruel to Scott Ian)

Some companies are really making use of twitter to help their customers out in a way that's probably more efficient for them (not listening to whinging customers complaining) and us (not having to wait half an hour to five days to have a good whinge).

Could this really be the future..??

Of course, some companies go above and beyond the call of duty..
Microsoft's XBox Support (@XBoxSupport) must search twitter for enquiries not even directed at them and this is how I found out about them.. I randomly tweeted something about transferring content licences from one console or the other and these guys, out of the blue, gave me an answer.  Of course I follow them now and they have dealt with all subsequent enquiries incredibly quickly! In short, @XBoxSupport are awesome.

So could Twitter become the de-facto way to get customer support in the future..?  It certainly seems that some companies are showing how it can be done.. and I for one salute them

Oh and follow @silentbazz for briefer commentary on random shit wot I do think about

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Sunday, November 21

The Internet's priorities are all wrong..

Ding Dong Merrily On High and all that..
Soon it will be the season to be jolly, and by jolly I mean merry and by merry I mean almost permanently inebriated for a week.. No other time of the year causes so much alcohol to be consumed in such a short space of time.. and it's practically the law to be seeing double by the time the Queen's speech is on (then her Royal Highness provides just the right amount of stimulus to send you into a nice alcoholic coma for a couple of hours until you wake up rested in time for brandy, Christmas pud and the seasonal episode of Doctor Who - nice)...

Now the only kind of Christmas shopping I have left to do this year is the annual "booze run" where I take a tesco's trolley and fill it to the brim with enough cans & bottles of grog to make sure that at no point during Xmas & New Year me or any member of my family, or anyone who "drops in" (and who is, of course, of drinking age) risks being in a state that in any way resembles sober.. But I wonder, where is the cheapest place to get my Xmas booze?  Are litres of spirits cheaper in Tesco or Asda or Sainsburys?

Surely the internet knows..?

Well, no, actually it doesn't unless Google is spectacularly failing me..
I can find sites to help me find cheap video games, or petrol, or books.. but not booze - seriously WTF!? Someone surely has missed a trick here? Where's my cheap booze comparison site?

That's some fucked up priorities on behalf of the internet..

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Oh yeah, I have a blog

It's like a toasted sandwich maker though, I used to use it all the time.. Blogs about everything, any subject you can think of..

Now, my blog is at the back of the kitchen cupboard, just behind the Espresso machine and the smoothie maker.. untouched, unloved, unread.. Makes you sad..

And then you remember you have a blog!!!
And it's like, "Yeah, fuck twitter and it's 140 character limit, I can write more than that, I'm like.. literate and shit, you know", so you write a post and are pleased with it and for a while you think you'll go back, but you know what..??

It's not long before the blog is snugly back forgotten in the kitchen cupboard..

Aww bless

Saturday, July 31

The great Kinect pricing hoohah

So quite a lot of the internet, yes I'm looking at you, has gone literally bat-shit about the the price of Microsoft's Kinect.

If you don't know, or hadn't heard yet, Kinect will cost £129.99 and will be bundled with one game, "Kinect Adventures" (which is kind of like an on-the-rails version of Wipe Out, i.e. the whole idea involves a lot of jumping and ducking to avoid various obstacles, but without Richard Hammond).

Now some people, have declared in lots of badly spelt posts (an awful lot of which were written in solely capital letters, presumably because their caps lock key was stuck down due to the amount of drool that routinely hits the keyboard) that this is Microsoft ripping off the gamer, that it will fail because of this price tag, and that it caused them to literally laugh out loud (how often does that really happen??)

Now I'm not going to be drawn into a Kinect vs Move or XBox vs Playstation argument here, because quite frankly there's enough rampant fanboyism on the internet..

But let's just consider a few things..

Back in April 2007 Activision shipped Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360.  In the box was a plastic guitar controller and a copy of the game and the price?  Well had it in stock originally for £64.99, so the RRP was presumably slightly above that.  So consider that Just shy of £70.  Now at the time, this was the only game that the guitar controller could be used with on the XBox 360 platform and the controller that shipped wasn't even wireless!!!

Just over a year later, in May 2008, Harmonix/EA shipped Rock Band into the UK.  Now the "Band In A Box" - which contained 1 x Drum Kit (and sticks), 1 x Microphone and 1 x Guitar Controller (wired again) had an RRP of £129.99 and didn't even bundle in a copy of the game you needed to play the fucking instruments with.  No.. That shipped separately, at an RRP of £49.99.

Now admittedly this was during the height of the "rhythm game" craze, but still, if you paid RRP for a copy of Rock Band & bought its instruments on the day of release, you'd have coughed up a whopping £179.98.  I appreciate that few people actually paid anything like that figure, I mean who actually pays RRP these days with internet retailers trying to undercut each other in order to attract our business?

Elsewhere, DJ Hero, a game shipping with a plastic turntable, had a recommended RRP of £108.

This is also, I'll admit,  when we weren't either in, recovering from, or about to be plunged back into recession.  I am sure you'll remember these days with a fuzzy fondness.  You know, that time where we all used to wipe our arses with five pound notes whilst laughing maniacally..

So now we have the price of Kinect at £129.99.
Yes, it's not cheap, no one is going to disagree with that.

However it is £129.99 for something which is fairly revolutionary in the gaming industry and features some pretty cool tech.  It ain't just a plastic controller shaped like a guitar, it's innovative. The sensor array built into the device tracks players in 3D, allows facial and voice recognition for vocal commands.  In short, whilst they are shamelessly going for the "casual gamer" market with Kinect, at least they are doing something new and bold in trying to capture those gamers.  It would have been simpler (and, most likely, cheaper) to simply go for some form of controller solution, I'm sure, but they pushed the envelope and credit to them for that.  The titles available at launch might be slightly disappointing, but then launch titles almost always are and I can imagine that it won't be long before a developer really "gets" Kinect and really something that really allows the platform to shine, already "Children of Eden" could be gearing up to the title that everyone with Kinect "must have".

So it's innovative, it's fairly cool tech, and it's being released just before Christmas.. of course it's going to be priced at £129.99.  And I don't think it's that ridiculously priced, or will fail at this price point, not when you compare it to the price of some of the games.

The so-called group of "hardcore" gamers bitch about the price of Kinect, whilst on another browser tab they are considering ordering The Legendary Edition of "Halo Reach" which wades in at a not inconsiderable £99.99 because the game ships with some tat that is, apparently, collectible..

But, apparently, Kinect is a rip-off at its pre-Xmas, early adopter, price of £129.99

You know, just saying.. it?  Really??

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Back from the Dead

This is a test..
No, really, this is just a test..

Nothing really to see here..

I had to jump through numerous hoops to get back to my blog, that I thought I should put something here just to mark the occasion.

It's weird to be back..
It's like pulling on a pair of underpants that you've not worn in some time..

Anyway.. words will appear here again in the future..

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Monday, October 22

Out on a limb..

Okay, controversial statement coming up.
Brace yourself for impact..

Here goes..

I really rate Halo 3.

There, I said it. Not only have I said it, but I have blogged it for posterity so that, years from now, the evidence is still there in cyberspace that I said I rated Halo 3. So there you go, I mean it and am prepared to stand by it and everything.

I finally got through playing the single player campaign on Heroic yesterday and I can honestly say it was damn good, bloody tough in places I'll admit, but ultimately very rewarding. I think Bungie did a really good job constructing what felt like quite an epic tale (being new to the franchise, I must admit that some of the significance of some of the story threads may have been lost on me), played within a well designed and varied environment with some pretty tough opposition. And it really did feel as if I was in the middle of a huge campaign, with the events playing out having an overall effect on the whole state of the war.

Looking forward to re-visiting the game now (especially as it is ridiculously easy on Normal), and playing the amusing-sounding "Meta" game that reverts the whole single-player experience to a basic arcade game with points earned for every enemy slain. And of course, I will be playing online again soon as that's hugely cathartic after another crap day at work (when you cannot go postal at work, killing others over XBox LIVE is the next best thing).

So, thanks Bungie, for a thoroughly entertaining game. Worth every penny.

Friday, October 19


At around 11:40 there was a general panic in the world of Cranky Software Development Limited, there had been no decision on what we were doing for lunch.. As this is the single most important decision made on any given work day, and is the second highlight of the day (regular readers will know the first), realising that we had not set our minds to the task of deciding where to go for lunch certainly caused a bit of a stir. I was, as always, indecisive and beyond needing to go somewhere "near to a cash machine" I really didn't care. It took a coder with the bravado of Sir Lancelot to finally commit to a destination: McDonalds.

I rarely go to McDonalds these days as the food is undeniably shit (no matter how they dress it up, it's all pretty crappy and overpriced, but what the fuck it's within walking distance, supplies ketchup (a big plus) and comes with a free carbonated beverage) and I refuse to be one of those parents who treats McDonalds as a treat and then falls a victim to their child spotting the golden arches on every outing and demanding to eat there.

Anyway, as you approach a McDonalds you spot their advertising on the building.. "Why not try our tasty..", "The new, delicious..", yadda, yadda, yadda..

And for a second (or sometimes longer) you forget every single previous shit experience you have had at McDonalds and you actually think.. "OOh I'll try the new (insert shit burger name here)" that looks very appetising". You get to the till, speak to the shaved chimp operating it, order your meal and then - if you're very lucky- get a plastic tray with your food.

And it's just shit.

Just as shit as it always was.

Just as shit as it ever will be.

Why do I go back?
(If I was less indecisive, I guess I never would).

So the M should stand for McDisappointment, cos every time they spectaculary fail to deliver a meal that looks even 1% as appetizing as the poster.

That is all.

Thursday, October 18


..And look, this is where I used to blog.

Damn, I even left a half-drunk cup of coffee here

Well, waste not, want not and all that..

Guess what, boys and girls..??

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacck!

Okay nobody probably reads this any more, but I missed the cathartic feeling that ranting on here seemed to provide me with, something that even sites like Facebook couldn't rival (and yes I am on there, I'm just in "stealth" mode).

Anyhoo.. for those who have been wanting a return, watch this space.. blogging is back on my agenda


Monday, June 18


This weekend's Doctor Who was, quite frankly, the best episode since the new series has returned to our screens.

I was literally blown away with the reveal that an old enemy of the Doctor's has returned to the series and, despite knowing The Master would return (for the forums are littered with spoilers like this), I thought the way he was brought back was absolutely fabulous. In previous series they have left clues throughout the entire series as to how the show would end, and this series was no different. However, in previous years the "clues" have been as unsubtle as a brick to the head (with phrases like "Bad Wolf" and "Torchwood" emblazened throughout the shows leading up to the finalé). This year was so much more subtle and the final reveal, as a result, was so much more of a payoff than we've ever previously had. It was also a bit of genius casting to get Jacobi and Simm in as the Doctor's nemesis. All in all it was brilliant television and I am REALLY looking forward to the show's season finalé now.

In other news, my kids were very generous this year for Father's Day, and have bought me tickets to see the "One Man Star Wars" show at the Lowry next week, which has gone down a storm off Broadway and at the Edinburgh fringe. Cannot wait. Bit of a Sci-Fi geek triumphant weekend all in all. Marvellous.

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