Business logic?

I just got MSN’ed by a friend who said the following after reading “The Gread Petition Dilemma” (For more background on that entry, check out this link from that post – “Why e-mail petitions don’t work“):

i am confused with your logic […] for posting such a blog entry. let me explain…
…i read this and i just wonder if you are not throwing out a great bussiness idea that you could have taken and put into practice. with this kind of company you could use set things up that 90% of it were self sufficient and then you or those doing the work would in fact have very little to do to keep the system going. other then the initual text and options for each petition or poll.
did you think of taking this idea and useing it as a bussiness

There are basically 3 things that we need to determine:
1. Is this a viable business opportunity?
2. Did I give away enough information for someone to take my idea and make their millions from it?
3. Do I care?

So lets start…

Is this a viable business opportunity?
Personally, I don’t think so… Who would want to pay someone to hold online petitions for them?  How much would it be worth?  I’m guessing I’d only charge the petition maker, not every person that signed the petition… (otherwise you’d never get people signing them – you’d be better off putting up a “donate money to us if you support our cause” type link on the cause’s website – that way they get the cash, AND they get a list of unique users that support whatever it is that they’re petitioning about)

Ok, so who’s likely to pay for having a petition hosted?  Well, lets just put it this way: The more the person knows about the net, the more likely they’ll be to make their own solution (it is after all just a glorified online survey) and the less they know about the web the more likely they’ll be to believe that the standard “e-mail petition” will work and they won’t see why they should spend money on it.  So there’s a small grouping of people inbetween who might use the service. 

The only petitions I’ve seen have not really been well documented… So I wonder how “legit” they are.  Does anybody actually know how these things really work?  Its all fine and well to have a petition signed by 500 000 people, but can you prove that its not just one person signing 500 000 times under different names?  Its kinda tough to fake lots of physical signatures (I’m guessing that a handwriting analyst could quickly say that only 1 person had done all 500 000 or at least decrease the number of “valid” signatures)  But its pretty easy to fake 500 000 web votes.  Anyway, lets just say you could have a credibility problem with a whole bunch of the people who might use the site.

Next, it is after all just a glorified “online survey” – so it will be EASY to copy the business idea, and easy to charge very little for… so you could quickly find yourself with lots of competition, and either very few customers or very low profit per sale. Either way you’d end up not making much money.

So on the whole you’d probably not make much cash out of this kind of business…

Did I give away enough information for someone to take my idea and make their millions from it?
I hope not…. 😀 From the previous point, I’ve been trying to say that its not likely that anyone would make their millions from this kind of service… so that kinda kills this question before we start answering. But let me go into how little info I actually did give away…

So basically I said it would be:
1. An online service
2. Which totals votes
3. Some how it verifies that they’re unique votes
4. Could possibly manage sending e-mails to friends of the people who have voted

Point 1 is fairly generic. Point 2 is kinda obvious as to a basic function. Point 3 is fairly obvious functionality of a petition and has been tackled by most Online Survey’s (since survey data is kinda useless if one person can submit 5000 responses).  In fact points 1, 2 and 3 are all covered by online surveys (to some degree) and I didn’t really get into any innovative details as to how you could ensure that users couldn’t “sign” more than once. (All that I mentioned was perhaps using an ID or Passport number – but then people could fake those, internationally there would be different standards as to what constitutes a valid ID number and because of that you could end up with duplicate ID’s… No innovative solutions were given to solve this problem, so no real “business secrets” were revealed) Point 4 is both good and bad – lots of online competitions have “mail this to your friends” functionality… which is basically what this is talking about… its nothing really new.  In fact online competitions usually try to ensure that you only enter them once, so they are probably a better “match” as a solution than an online survey.

The really BIG innovations that would draw users to the service would be in HOW you implemented each of those points, and if you implemented more features than I listed.

Do I care?
Well… yes, and no… If someone who never thought about offering this as a service, after reading my blog, decides to use my skimpy description and makes it big time I’ll be a bit disappointed.  (PS: I’ll be less disappointed if you choose to give me a portion of your profits :-D) But to be honest there’s no way I’m going to build such a system right now and in 5 years time, when I begin to think about doing it myself, someone else will probably already have done it… So I really wouldn’t be losing out on much, and in any case at least then I can prove to my kids that I’d thought of the idea before Mr Millionaire did. (Maybe I should submit it to LazyWeb – their wiki lists about 5 other sites that do the same thing as them – so clearly some good ideas just aren’t unique/great innovation)

I’d like to think that if Mr Millionaire was to read this blog and implement this idea, he’d be nice and let me know either out of courtesy or perhaps to see if I had any other ideas that could help…  But if he wasn’t so kind, it still wouldn’t be a big problem. 

Am I the only one that thinks this way?  I guess that’s the main reason for me posting this… I’m wondering if I’ve been “stupid” or not…  I didn’t think it was a stupid thing to post, but someone else did… to what extent would you have posted about this idea?


“The Great Petition Dilemma”

So… in a recent post entitled “Why e-mail petitions don’t work“, I gave figures showing how you’d only end up pissing off the charity/organisation that you’re trying to support if you take part in the standard “e-mail” petitions…

D’ave replied with a solution that he uses… basically saying “Here’s a petiton.  Reply to me if you agree with it… DO NOT sign this message before you pass it on.”  Which is great!  Except that there’s still a lot of manual work to be done…

I guess most other “workable solutions” are kinda tough to actually implement… I guess any real attempt at doing automating this process would be complicated… My three hassles with D’ave’s solution are:

1) You’d still need to sift through the addresses and add up the number of “signatures”
2) People could/would get multiple copies of the e-mail
3) You’d be running the risk that some “kind” sole would modify your petition e-mail, converting it to a “standard type” petition e-mail, hope-ing (sp?) to save you time/effort but only ending up causing your cause more grief that its worth.

So my solution would be to build a website which you could direct people to if they want to sign the petition… they then sign it online and the application records their vote… Possibly recording their ID/passport number, name, IP address, and e-mail address as a way to make sure that nobody tries to enter twice…  [This takes care of point 1]

Regarding getting multiple copies of the petition – you could have a part of the site that says “enter a list of e-mail addresses here and we’ll send them the petition to them (if they haven’t already recieved if, or opted out of petition e-mails)” [This basically takes care of point 2]- the site would need to record the sender’s e-mail address and other details so that it could send the e-mail from them.  And because the site sends the e-mail, there would be no “risk” of anyone tampering with the wording of the e-mail… [This basically takes care of point 3]

Of course the mission would be to make the system easy to use, privacy-friendly, anti-spam friendly, etc. But it could work… depending on how concerned you were about each of the potential problems, you could either leave out that part of the solution or simplify it…



Customer DisService

Hrm, I think I’ve ranted about this before, but I CANNOT believe that an organisation can consistantly give such shocking support!  I wanna scream! (but I’ll restrain myself for fear of freaking out my co-workers)

Ok, here’s the deal… starting from the begining…

Last year I was looking for a way to SMS people easily from my PC. I wanted nice and easy grouping of people, and a few other things that I just wasn’t finding in existing applications.  So I thought I’d write my own… After searching, I found that IDWS had an SMS Webservice (and web interface).

Soon after that, I got engaged and I wanted to let a whole bunch of people know really easily… I had a list of cell numbers, so I went to their site, which allows me to SMS a list of numbers.  I did a quick test by filling in my Cell number, and clicked “send”.  I waited… and I waited… and I waited… so I clicked on their log of sent messages and saw that I’d suddenly sent like 200 odd SMS’s… the first one was to me, and had a message.  All the rest were sent to an empty number (ie no value had been entered for the “to” field), and had an empty message.  And I’d been charged for all of them. (i.e. I’d been charged for sending nothing to nobody)

I e-mailed their support to tell them about it, and they e-mailed back that they can’t be held responsible if I simply click “send” repeatedly…  I was kinda shocked since I don’t know anyone who can click a button over 180 times in 30 seconds.  So clearly it wasn’t me who was doing the clicking, and nobody else had logged on as me.  I’m guessing there was a proxy or something in the middle that decided to re-query their site or something….  As a web developer, I’ve had clients irate over lesser problems…

Part of the conversations revealed that aparently their system still sends the sms to the cellphone networks, even if it has an “empty” number.  But they have some javascript on the page to prevent you from sending an sms without entering one.  So I was also blamed for switching off JavaScript on my machine and I was told that it was my fault.  I was like “Great, so now its my fault that you can’t do proper input validation?  My JavaScript was enabled, and I didn’t click the button.”  But it was still my fault.  They graciously (according to them) refunded me 1/2 of the credits, and wouldn’t deal with the problem any further. So I left it…

Recently (3 months ago) I started needing to SMS members of the choirs at church, so I thought I’d give IDWS another go… Since then I’ve had the one error occur 3 times, with the same result.

Here’s the outline of what happens:  For some reason their SMS system can’t access their MySQL database, and it throws an exception.  The message their Webservice returns to me is “Exception: [TCX][MyODBC]Can’t connect to MySQL server on ‘’ (10060)”.  The message never gets sent, but their online system shows it as having been sent and I get charged for it.  If I look in their SMS Log, I can “verify” that the message was sent… But if I do that, I get an error saying that there is no tracking information for the SMS because I used an old version of their software. 

I think it really means that their software added the log, but never got to adding a tracking record.  So when I ask their system to “verify” that the message was sent, the query returns no tracking rows and the system assumes that the message was sent with an old version of the software. (BTW: throughout this time, the software version that the Web Service returns is 2.0, so I’ve always used the latest version of their software)

Each time, I’ve had to e-mail them to tell them that their system has messed up.  Each time, they’ve told me that it was my fault because of X, or that I was wrong in what I told them because of Y.  Each time, I’ve had to reply to correct them and step them through their own systems so that they can finally see that there is a problem.  This third time, I thought I’d learned… so I gave them ALL the details I’ve given them before.  I told them that I’d had the same problem twice before (but I stupidly forgot to give them the tracking numbers of the previous support requests)… So they replied and said:

 “We apologise for the error that comes up. However your sent SMS’s will
only come up in the SMS usage log if they left our server.

If the intended recipiant did not recieve the SMS, please let us know,
so we can make double sure on our side that the message left our system.”

Now… SURELY if this is the 3rd time that I’ve had the SAME problem, they would just have “double checked” before they replied?  Well… I guess I shouldn’t have expected that… (In one of the previous problems, they took a day to reply “please send us your username”… when if they’d just bothered to search on my e-mail address they would have found my user)

I’m SICK AND TIRED of having them ALWAYS blame me for something, and NEVER being thorough in what they do.  Geez, its a flipping recurring ERROR… their API doesn’t return the nice numeric error code its supposed to, it returns “Exception: [TCX][MyODBC]Can’t connect to MySQL server on ‘’ (10060)”, and their database processes are never completed! (hence the lack of tracking data)  Can’t they just handle the exception like any semi-decent developer would!   But no… its my fault for not doing something… I just can’t wait to see what the my fault is this time.

The first time I got this error, I was complained at for not giving them all of my user account details or the full error message (it was my first time I’d seen this… I told them was that their system “couldn’t connect to the MySQL server” but that wasn’t good enough… ok, so the account details are kinda excusable… but really, what more could I have told them about the error? 

The second time that I emailed them about the error I mentioned that the same error had happened again (this time I copied and pasted the exact error message into the email)… However I was told off because it wasn’t the same thing that caused the error this time around.  This time, their MySQL server was undergoing maintenance – so what? Does that mean that its any less of an ERROR?  And anyway *I* got the same error message returned to me both times… So to me, the user, it’s the same error… I wanted to say something like “Shut the heck up! Don’t tell me off for not diagnosing YOUR backend problems successfully! Just fix the bloody thing!”

This time I get told that I wouldn’t be charged if it wasn’t sent… BUT I WAS charged and it WASN’T sent!

Right now, I think I’m the idiot for still using them… but I can’t find anyone else that has a Web services API, and I’ve 1/2 implemented the COM API for Clickatell, so since I needed to quickly use it this morning, I stuck with what I hoped would work… Anyway… once I have the Clickatell api up and running I’ll never have to deal with the people at IDWS again… (who clearly have never heard of anything like “The customer is always right”, or even “be nice to your customers”)


Great links…

Armand (who always seems to post interesting blog entries), blogged recently about “A Game in 96K” (which looks interesting but doesn’t work on my work PC… I’ll have to take it home tonight and see if it will be happier there)… In that post he mentioned that he found out about the game from “Hello_World“… which is a REALLY interesting blog (its kinda linked to “Jo’blog” which is also fun).  They have some really fun thoughts on some of our current Ad’s in South Africa.  They also linked to “Story Blog” which is great… I liked the way D’ave from “Hello_World” explained that blog it was made “with the objective of creating a collection of stories that can be used in presentations, or explaining a concept to an inept client“…

Check out “The Ambulance Down In The Valley” for a great example! 😀


Why e-mail petitions won’t work…

I hate getting e-mail petitions, because I never pass them on and often the people who sent them to me will get all offended if they find out.  But I have good reason, and here it is.

Your average e-mail petition says “Please add your name to the list, forward it on to all your friends, and e-mail X@Y.COM if you’re the 50th person on the list”.

Ok, so lets look at some figures….

sent to #sigs per mail #mails total sigs total unique sigs
1 1 1 1 1
5 2 5 10 6
5 3 25 75 31
5 4 125 500 156

If you take that down to 50 signatures per e-mail, you’ll get

sent to #sigs per mail #mails total sigs total unique sigs
5 50 1.77636E+34 8.88178E+35 2.22045E+34

So now poor X@Y.COM has 8.88178E+35 signatures, but only 2.5% of those are unique, so either X@Y.COM or the organisation that is being petitioned is going to have to filter through all that data to find the unique signatures.  Now, ignoring the computational abilities required to do that processing, lets just look at how much space would be required to store those e-mails.

Lets say that each signature is 20 characters, which we’ll assume uses only 20 bytes, Those 8.8178E+35 signatures would take up 1.665436E+28 gigabytes!  And remember, this is assuming that the mails are only sent to 5 people each time… Even if we reduce that to only 2, you end up needing 524288000 gigabytes to store that information!  So basically either X@Y.COM or the organisation are going to have their mailboxes completely filled with these e-mails, and they’re pretty likely to NEVER have the time to process them.  Any figures that they could draw from the petition are totally inflated, and would never hold up under any scrutiny.

So basically all that forwarding would be for nothing! You’ll only end up wasting the recipient’s time, and flooding the very organisation you’re trying to help with useless “petition” data.  And that’s why electronic petitions are no good.

[PS: Please feel free to correct my maths… I think I got it right, but I might be wrong…]

Geek food General


OK, so I’m still reading the cluetrain manifesto… And in chapter 4 (“Markets are conversations”) they’re talking about how companies use TechnoLatin in their communication like their quote from a website who say “the company has focused on its ability to integrate advanced technologies that use innovative system architecture and software into high performance system solutions for PCs and workstations.”

So what exactly does that company do?  Well, they “integrate advanced technologies”… ok, but what are these “technologies”? what makes them so “advanced”? how to you “integrate” them? what do you “integrate” them with?  What do you mean by “innovative system architecture”? and “innovative software”? Um… I guess I don’t really know. Exactly!

How often do we as IT people do that to each other? How often do we do that in casual conversation to non-IT people?  How often do we do that to clients?

I very rarely get to talk to an IT person who is passionate about the same technologies (programming languages, hardware, networks, applications, etc) as me, and who can communicate clearly without the haze of these TechnoLatin “buzz words”.  So far the easiest people to talk to are those who have had some formal background where the naming of programming concepts (e.g. object oriented programming concepts like polymorphism, inheritance, interfaces, exceptions) are similar.  Off hand, I can remember only one (non work related) conversation that was like this, and that was with a guy who’d gone on some Java courses… I can’t remember what we were talking about, but I do remember that we it had something to do with the practical application of some of the object oriented concepts.  The “problem” was that there were other developers around without the same background who became involved in the conversation.  Suddenly the flow was lost and what was clear communication before became murky. 

So it happens when IT people talk to IT people… I fully understand that to explain the inner workings of some technical concepts would simply take too long to make communication effective.  But we also need to “pitch” our vocabulary at the level of the other people in the conversation. I guess that’s where a “website” is wonderful, in that you can use the “technical terms” and put in links to more detailed descriptions.

But that’s often too much effort for a “non-technical” client.  I recently needed to explain to a client why their domain was taking a while to be transferred from a web hosting provider to me.  The problem was as follows:

  • the original web hosting provider had registered the domain but not paid for it
  • the registrar was not prepared to transfer it until it was paid for
  • the client was getting e-mails from the registrar about the transfer requests and was starting to e-mail the registrar directly (not understanding any of the technical considerations, and getting very confused by the replies from the registrar)

The client wanted to know what the e-mails were about, why there would be a delay in the transfer, and generally everything that she’d not been told about owning a domain before.  I think my e-mail response was pitched a bit too technically, because they kinda seemed to stop reading part way and lost interest in the details.  I’m not too sure what they think of the events now. My e-mail was kinda long, but I did have a LOT to catch them up on (it seems that nobody had explained a thing to them about the fact that their site was even moving – a friend of theirs was managing it, but was not communicating to the web developer, the other web hosting provider, myself or the site owner)

Personally I’m happy to manage the entire process for a client (if that’s what they want), but I’m also happy for them to manage as much as they can handle.  This client was not given the choice and ended up being forced into the middle of a technical problem (i.e. they were asked to vote on the domain transfer and didn’t know what the voting was about, or that their domain was to be transferred)  So I don’t think it was a very happy situation, and I hope the client knows that its not how I would have liked things to happen.

Regarding the hosting, I’m going to try and improve the balancing act of technical involvement vs. ease of use in the future… but its going to be interesting.  I’m kinda toying with the idea of building a “Domain owners handbook” and giving the client the option of using the handbook or having me deal with it entirely. (i.e. their e-mail address is not listed as any contact for the domain so that they never have to see the technical e-mails, but they also lose the power to keep me in check – so I could happily sell their domain to someone else and they’d not know anything about it until after it was done)

Regarding general communication – I’m not sure… I think I’ll figure that out as I go along – each conversation will need a different level.  Some of them (like this blog) will probably be pitched to technically for some, and far too simply for others.  I’m not trying to please anyone specifically, just trying to write out my thoughts. (If you have questions, feel free to contact me, or leave a comment.)  In other “publicly visible” conversations I’ll try to give links to definitions of terms and to explanations… and I’m definately going to be around to answer people’s questions/comments/complaints… as long as we’re talking, I’m happy. 😀

Geek food General

Great, yet frustrating…

[Update: All the links were broken… they’re fixed now.]

I saw a link to a flash “page/site” by Microsoft around their new slogan “Your Potential. Our passion“…. (Via Alex Barnett‘s blog entry “Microsoft Does Flash RIGHT!” – he got it from Flex-MX blog)

Its a really cool flash “ad”, and shows a lot of the technologies that I’d really love to have the cash to play with.  But its also frustrating in two ways:

  1. It takes forever to download each flash file – I’d love to save them to my hard drive, but my brief attempts at finding the SWF to download turned up pretty empty.
  2. I now KNOW that soon some rich yuppie near me with no real appreciation for the technologies will buy a Tablet PC, only to 1/2 use its potential but still WOW’ing people with their supposed “technological knowledge/abilities”… Ok, so I’ll admit it…. I’ll be 100% jealous… I’d LOVE to get my hands on one of them, I just KNOW it would help out my wife at her work, and me with my attempts at starting my own business some time in the future. (if anyone out there is feeling really generous and has a good few thousand rand to spare, feel free to buy me one :D)



“Old School” values….

[Warning to those who went to Private Schools in South Africa (specifically those who went to my old school): You might not like some of what I have to say…]

[Prefix: After writing this, I’m guessing that some people will just dismiss what I’m saying as “some poor guy who has sour grapes”.  But doing that would miss the main points: Speak the truth, and speak it honestly – without sounding like a “PR Robot”. Give us a consistent message and, since you have the money, why not try and make it professional and user-friendly. ]

I just recieved a letter from my old school (St. Andrew’s College –  Grahamstown, not Bloem)… They’ve been trying to do something with the old boys.  I’m not sure what they’re trying to do, but I suspect their primary goal is to obtain money. (Although I suspect they don’t want us to suspect that…)

The first contacts were all about the school’s 150th “birthday” next year, and then came the “please give us money” e-mails (along with a relatively shocking website).  Suprisingly, it worked quite well with the school raising about 18million rand in a VERY short space of time. (I haven’t checked for about 6 or 7 months now, so its probably more by now.)  Then came the “Jo’burg old boys” e-mails which seem to be sent out by 2 separate people to the same list of recipients. So  I get the mails twice each month to remind me about their “Old Andrean Drinks” evening on the 1st Thursday/Friday of every month. (Can you tell I’ve taken to ignoring them – I can’t even remember which day its on anymore…. Anyway, for a school that can raise so much money so quickly, they really need to find someone who can help them use technology.)

Today’s e-mail was from their “Liaison Department” and was… well… rather disturbing.  Let me quickly put it in perspective: Once a year St. Andrew’s plays rugby against their “arch enemy” Kingswood College (they’re the only 2 private schools in Grahamstown).  Its a “big event” with lots of fanfare and hype.  It usually happens around their half-term, so pretty much all the parents of the pupils are there and many old boys come from far to watch it.  The event is called “K-day”. (don’t ask why, I don’t know)

Now on to the e-mail… It basically said “click on this link for a message from the headmaster”. The web page was basically a letter (no images). So again I wonder who they’re paying to help them with their “online presence” or their “electronic communications”, coz its not very “user friendly”.  Anyway I clicked… and got “chided” by the headmaster.

So the message so far is “Come to our celebration”, “Give us money”, “Come drink with us”, “Behave yourself!”… I wonder what’s next.

Anyway, back to his letter. It was to all old boys and parents telling us that last year there was shocking behaviour at K-Day (with drunk parents and old boys causing scenes, provoking fights, etc) and reminding us that both schools have a christian heritage and suggesting that we should behave accordingly.

I was partly amused and partly annoyed by this.  You see, when I was at the school there was very little “christian heritage”.  Unless you count being forced to chapel twice a week only to hear un-engaging messages of little relevance to our young lives, while surrounded by peers who have no intention of taking in any of the message.  Even for a christian (as I was & am) it was boring, and generally the time could have been spent more productively(spiritually speaking). But at the same time surely if they are so filled with virtue and are so proud of how they turn their pupils into “fine upstanding men”, these very same men should not be behaving so badly?  Perhaps all is not quite so well with the education they’re recieving? Perhaps they need to be addressing the culture created by the school on the whole and specifically the culture around this one event.  (I’m aware that this is partly what the headmaster was addressing in his letter, but there is no “acceptance of responsibility” for anything the school may have done to allow things to get to where they are)

But then this is a new headmaster, so perhaps he is greatly different to the one that was in charge when I was there.  Hoping that this might be the case, I thought I’d read one of his other letters. (I’m assuming the link will change with time… If so, you might have to search for Newsletter number 17 from 28 June 2004)

I quickly found that my hopes for change were not well founded.  I must point out that I don’t know the guy, and I’ve neither been to the school, nor taken an active an interest in its goings on pretty much since I left. So I could be forming a totally incorrect opinion of the guy.  But his letter was so insincere in its tone, politically scripted in language, and generally made him sound like a P.R. robot.  On top of that he just waffles… he never really makes a point.  (Or at least not one that is backed by any facts or proof)

Here’s a quote from the letter:

“The thought occurred again when a prospective parent came to see me the other day, sat down in the study, (she was attractive and blonde) [WHAT? Does that have any bearing on the story? Or is he saying that he’s just “not getting any at home”?  Or maybe he’s trying to “identify” with the parents? Well, I’d hope its not the last one, or else he’d be making a bit of a stupid mistake – they’re not likely to be bachelors, and hence interested in the latest cute butt to walk into his office!] and asked:

“What has St Andrew’s got to offer?” [Good question!]

I had to pause, smile inwardly, and did not allow myself to list 5 squash courts, two pools, 2 basketball courts, 6 tennis courts, 400 computers, approximately 10 000 metres of fibre optic cable etc, etc.;[Yeah, right – you’ve just taken great pain to mention them here. You’re proud of it. Its always mentioned in any PR documents – even though most of it is badly administrated, and generally has had lots money wasted in its installation/upkeep] because St Andrew’s College has never been about the outward and visible sign[s], those things that you can measure and see, but always about the inward and spiritual grace. [NOT – you’re appreciated if you’re in 1st team Rugby or Cricket, and only slightly less appreciated if you’re in 1st team hockey. There’s no recognition for “inward and spiritual grace”. Give me a break! Enough of this PR junk!]”

He goes on to make comments about how there’s a “respect and dignity and understanding towards” the older boys by the younger boys “so that we feel connected to what is good, to the love of Christ, to those less fortunate than ourselves”.  Yeah right!  They “respect” them out of fear.  Fear that they’ll be bullied, beaten, and ridiculed, while any attempts to bring attention to this are scorned on by peers, the older boys, the younger boys, and even some of the school teachers would “look the other way”. 

He also says that the school is active in helping out the poor communities of Grahamstown but neglects to mention any examples.  Its a similar sentiment to what was said when I was there.  Even then it wasn’t true and if it is now he certainly isn’t giving anyone any reason to believe that it is.

I admit that there is something that is learned through the “newboy” experience, through the “stick together no matter what” type spirit that is present, through the “honour awarded” to sporting achievment, the “hardships” that build character, and “spiritual depth” to be gained in the chapel.  But I reject the ideas that “newboys” are beaten (and other forms of degrading behaviours that I was fortunate to miss out on because I was a day pupil (who spent every waking hour at school, and was only at home to sleep)).  I think there are limits to be placed on the “stick together” spirit. I think a school needs to recognise that sporting achievement is not the only achievement in life (and for most of the boys it won’t be).  I think the “hardships” can be guided, and that “spiritual depth” should be shown by example and be relevant to the pupils.  I’d love to know how to balance these things, and how to put them all in place in a “real live” school.

For now there’s not much I can do regarding those things… I don’t know enough to be able to formulate ideas that one could prove would actually work, and I certainly don’t have the influence (read: money) to make any of those changes in my old school.

But what I CAN suggest is that my school needs to re-vamp their PR – be real, be honest, stop sounding so darned politically correct, start sounding like a human being… and for goodness sake make your websites and “electronic communications” more usable!

I guess I’m also frustrated partly because I hoped that the school would have progressed since I left, but from this I’m guessing it hasn’t.


Getting a clue…

I’ve been reading Robert Scoble and Eric Sink and been very much interested by their views on “Marketing” and other business functions.   Recently I was looking on 20Twenty‘s website and I saw a reference to the cluetrain manifesto, something that I remember Scoble mentioning… Something that I started reading at the start of 2000 when I left university and started working at Internet Solutions.

Anyway, so I re-started to read it this weekend… I can see why I didn’t finish reading it when I first started.  I was new to web development (well, officially – I’d done some corporate web development work while I was studying), new to business and new to the company so I didn’t want to “rock the boat”, and I didn’t think I could achieve much anyway.  Also, it looked like a fairly “anarchistic” (?is that a word?) document and I didn’t want to be seen to be some dissident new employee.

Now that I’m reading it again with some more experience behind me, I am starting to see its value… Especially if I put it in context – I was fortunate to start using the internet when I was in about Std 6/Grade 8 (1991).  So when they refer to those times, I can identify with it to some extent.  Also considering that it was written in 1999, they were remarkably accurate in their comments – if you look at how quickly RSS has spread and how easily blogging enables people to express their “voice”.

Sometimes I want to kick myself for not wanting to “rock the boat” – to often that stops me from reading/doing things that actually through their rocking would benefit the boat as opposed to sinking it.

Geek food General

Pet Peeve…

Look, I love the fact that we do get some of these over here… but really… I just saw a link to where you can order the VS 2005 Beta and Express Edition Product Betas on CD. (via LarkWare New’s entry “The Daily Grind 413“)

So I quickly click on it only to find that in the list of 96 countries, South Africa is not listed. 

Sometimes I don’t get the logic…  The USA can order or download (and they have the bandwidth to do it), but SA can’t order, and the downloads aren’t that viable an option either.  So the score is USA 2, SA 0.  Lovely. 🙁

Is there anyone in SA who has downloaded them and is prepared to write them to CD? 😉