Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Idiot users and how to deal with them

One of the most common complaints I've heard from IT workers over my years of working in the industry is "users are idiots" or some variant thereof. It's an understandable but ultimately self-defeating attitude. Users are your customers, they're the reason you have a job - treat them badly enough and you won't have them or a job for long.

This is true whether they are literally customers (people who buy a product you make) or metaphorical customers (the people within your company who use the product you develop). This attitude is the primary reason IT workers have a reputation for arrogance in the business world.

This is not a touchy-feely "always put the customer first" post. Some users are truly stupid. Many more, while not being inherently stupid, are capable of behaving in what seem to be incredibly stupid ways. A couple of my favourite examples from previous jobs:

One of the many times I was "lucky" enough to be working in the public service, I was working on the development of a global intranet for a division of the federal government's foreign trade department. This was an intranet to serve over 100 overseas offices and one of the top public servants from Canberra came in to see how it was going. This guy looked like a stereotype of a British major-general with a huge walrus moustache. He gave off a vibe that made it obvious he considered us lucky to be worthy of his attention.

I started the demo I had been giving users from various offices (which had been going quite well with other users). I opened the home page and started to explain how clicking on the various links would let you complete certain tasks and invited him to try it for himself. He did this by picking the mouse up from the desk and trying to use it like a TV remote - pointing it at the part of the screen he wanted to use, clicking madly, then berating me because "it wasn't working". I resisted the urge to ask "are you from the past?"

In another case I was running a training session with a group and one user in particular was having trouble so I was taking him through the process again:

ME: Right click on that link.

HIM: I am!

ME: No, you need to right click. With the right mouse button.

HIM: I know how to use a mouse, I'm clicking it right and it isn't working.

ME: Sorry, I didn't mean right as in "correct". There are two buttons on the mouse; one is on the left side, on is on the right. When I say "right click" I mean click the button on the right hand side. I'm not passing judgement on whether or not you are correct.

HIM: You don't have to talk to me as if I'm stupid.

ME: You reckon?

At this point I absolutely did not trust myself to keep speaking to this person and so called for a break. I bring these stories up firstly to provide a bit of a laugh (hopefully) and second, to illustrate that, yes, we do see some truly stupid user behaviour from time to time. So this is the recurring conundrum faced by IT workers: users behave like idiots but it's a bad idea to treat them like they're stupid because our jobs depend on them.

The first coping strategy I would suggest is the one I described above: take a break. It often doesn't occur to people to stop a conversation that's going nowhere. Do it in the appropriate way, of course. Saying: "Let's get back to this later. I've made a note of your issues and I'll look into them more then get back to you," works way better than "Shut up! You're stupid! I'm not talking to you any more."

Likewise, email doesn't have to be answered instantly (despite what some people seem to think). If you get what you think is a stupid email, take some time to think about a reply. Get a second opinion if you can. Just don't fire off a quick response that makes it clear you think the user is stupid.

It's also important to be able to determine when the "stupid user" behaviour isn't an IT issue at all, even though it's being directed at IT. If a user's system isn't working because of the crap they've installed on their machine ("Download a free animated screen saver? That sounds like a great idea - what could possibly go wrong?") that isn't an IT issue, it's a HR issue because they're misusing their PC. If a user lack basic computer literacy that isn't an IT issue, it's a training issue. If a user keeps bugging individual developers and eating up their time rather than following established channels, that's a management issue.

One of the most important things to learn when dealing with stupid user behaviour is recognising when dealing with a stupid user isn't part of your skill set. Most developers aren't hired for their people skills - it's great if you have good people skills but it's important to be honest (both with yourself and with others) when you don't. That's why Business Analysts, Team Leaders and Project Managers exist. If you're in one of these roles and you have lousy people skills then something is seriously wrong.

At the risk of ending with a platitude, if you aren't part of the solution then you're part of the problem. It's easy to bitch and moan about how stupid users are (all too often it's like shooting fish in a barrel) but that does nothing to make the situation better. In a world where IT work is increasingly commoditised and a wider range of jobs are in danger of being outsourced, people skills become increasingly valuable. So learning how to deal with stupid users can save your job as well as your sanity. I'll borrow from another well-known platitude to close on a positive note:

There are no stupid users - just stupid situations.*

(*caveat: there really are some stupid users)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Virgin worship, anal sex and oral sex

So much for today's gratuitous search engine baiting in the blog heading. It is a source of continuing amusement to me how many searches for sexual terms get pointed to this blog. All those horny desperadoes finding themselves on a web page that contains more words than pictures. And no porn. Never mind, horndogs, at least you might find an entertaining diversion here.

This post is actually a (semi) serious response to an issue raised on Suroor's blog. Why the hell are so many people so obsessed with virginity? The focus tends to be on female virginity (admittedly, there are some people who place an almost equal stress on male chastity but they're a small minority) which raises obvious issues of double standards. Why is it so often the case that men are excused if they have sex while women are expected to be virgins?

One contributor to focussing on female virginity is that there's an artefact that ostensibly proves or disproves female virginity - the hymen. But this is where it devolves from an unhealthy obsession into pure insanity. A hymen in and of itself proves nothing. There are a plenty of reasons besides sex for the potential absence of a hymen (from medical procedures to accidents and doubtless other causes). And there are plenty of things a woman with an intact hymen can do that stretch any concept of purity way beyond breaking point.

There is this whole purity/chastity pledge/born again virgin routine that's popular with American evangelicals that is absolutely astonishing in its hypocrisy. And another point, why is it so often the case that media reports about virgin obsession in Islam focus on it being the oppression of women while reports on Christian virgins are all about purity and the celebration of God's love? Those damn brown people...

Anyway, while many reports are keen to point out how many eager young Christians are taking the "virginity pledge" they're likely to gloss over how narrowly those teens define "virginity". Apparently, these teens are way more likely to indulge in oral and anal sex than "impure" teens. Who knew taking it up the butt was the path to eternal salvation? It reminds me of the scene in "Clerks" where the girl gets pissed off at her boyfriends because he's had sex with about six other women while she's only has sex with two men which makes him some sort of slut. The it turns out she's sucked 37 dicks.

Now, if you really put these hymen worshippers on the spot they'd say that all the anal and oral sex is wrong too. Most of them would, anyway. But where do you draw the line? Is kissing/groping/making out OK? So a woman who had sex with one man she loved is less pure than a woman who makes out with a different football team every night (but never has actual sex)?

And as I was saying before, often the weird obsession isn't even about sex, it's about the hymen. I remember reading a story years ago where a father was saying he wanted to sue the driver of a car that ran into his daughter's car because she "lost her virginity" in the accident. I was intrigued and read on - were the daughter and the other driver overcome with emotion and commemorated their shared experience by having sex? No, it turned out the father was claiming the impact broke his daughter's hymen meaning she was no longer a virgin. The other driver had therefore devalued his daughter and should pay compensation.

This attitude is nothing short of fucked up. It's the sort of mentality that leads to the hideous practice of surgically "re-creating" the hymen. Nothing will get through to idiots who believe this is a sensible way to behave. Actually, a few solid punches to the face might work. Even if it doesn't work, it would be fun to try.

Monday, January 29, 2007

It's official: Google have decided to kill all of YouTube's competitors

What almost everybody has predicted for a while is now apparently a fact: Google have decided to enable revenue sharing for content creators on YouTube. This is effectively a death warrant for every single YouTube competitor (interestingly, they've effectively killed Google Video too). None of them have managed to make the remotest dent in YouTube's popularity, even when they have tried paying contributors and YouTube hasn't.

YouTube has consistently beat out any competitors by a handy margin in terms of how many people watch and contribute. Now that they're going to be providing an opportunity for content creators to make money, all of their competitors are going to become digital ghost towns. I mean, more than they are now. While this development has obvious appeal for me (is YouTube going to provide my post 500 milestone for me?) I can think of one obvious drawback.

People are arseholes.

YouTube has one of the greatest concentration of arseholes on the internet. They come in many flavours, from the common or garden variety of hater to racists and other zealots to those who game the system. It's this last group of arseholes who are going to have the biggest impact on the success (or otherwise) of YouTube as a paid medium.

In the current YouTube world where there are NO direct rewards for how many times a video is viewed, there are still hundreds of "cheaters" who employ various methods to raise their profile. And by this I mean methods other than actually being so good that thousands of people want to watch them. And they do this for... nothing.

The truly bizarre thing to me is that many of these people who spoof the system truly gain nothing by doing it. They don't feature themselves in the videos so they aren't going to gain any "fame". They don't produce other videos so they aren't gaining attention for their "real" work by proxy. They gain nothing but they frustrate thousands of legitimate users. For what? So they can say they got a million views on YouTube? Maybe I'm missing something but this seems like the epitome of fucked up to me.

I think it's distinctly possible that the "cheating" will get so out of control once there's money involved that the resulting disaster will make YouTube implode. Not likely but possible. The one area that YouTube is still a long way from getting right is the user/community aspect. The paid model could very well degrade the user experience even further. A truly scary prospect for anyone who's been trying to cope with the dog's breakfast that is YouTube today.

I wish YouTube wasn't so opaque. I wish I knew what was going on inside. I wish I knew what they were planning to do with the "community" aspect. I wish I knew what they were planning to do with cheaters. But my crystal ball is on the fritz. So we're going to have to wait and see.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Some Angry News you may have missed

Here's some more behind the scenes news reporting from Mr Angry.

The first story revolves around a major Australian festival known as The Big Day Out. This is actually a series of concerts featuring major Australian and international acts that tours the capitals every summer. The Sydney show is almost always on Australia Day and last year it happened to arrive not long after the Cronulla race riot - an unfortunate event where a large crowd seemed to mistake "patriotism" with "being a drunken bogan fuckwit".

At last year's BDO there was a phenomenal amount of flag waving. There's nothing inherently wrong with this but there were several cases were it took on menacing and racist overtones. One of the most obnoxious incidents involved a moron draped in the flag walking down a line of people urging them all to kiss his flag. When one person, inevitably, refused the drunken dork punched the dirty commie refusenik. Oh, and then the flag waver ran away. How unlike a racist to be a coward.

Anyway, the organiser of the BDO decided he really didn't want that shit this year. So he made a public announcement. Did he stick to saying he didn't want people to be aggressive drunken dickheads? No he didn't. He showed the astonishingly poor judgement to say he didn't want people to wear the Australian flag to the concert. You can imagine the shitstorm that followed.

This next piece is the medical breakthrough that caffeine drinkers have been waiting for - caffeine is good for you! Well kinda, sorta. It was positive enough for me to increase my cola intake by several litres a day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What does kiwi poo taste like?

AKA "The Return of the Little Angries".

My life is fraught with peril. A perfectly respectable novelty girft from New Zealand is used by my kids to play an awful prank on me...

What is Australia Day?

While I'm in Australia Day mode (although it's over now) I thought I'd post one more video on the topic. This video was done in response to a request for some background from a YouTube subscriber who didn't actually know what Australia Day commemorates. In this video I give a brief overview of what the date marks (the First Fleet landing at Port Jackson), the legal concept of Terra Nullius and why some people (trouble making commies) call it Invasion Day.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Angry Australia Day

It's Australia Day today - our national day and I'm celebrating in the traditional way by scorching some dead animals. But am I a proud Australian? Well, let's start with a definition of "proud":

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Trigger Words for Mr Angry

Did you ever notice how we all seem to have trigger words that can have a massive effect on our moods and responses? I've shared before how racists on YouTube set me off by phrasing their bullshit with some variation of "you have to agree that..." Well, no dickhead. I don't have to agree with anything. Least of all the incoherent ramblings of an unintelligent, insecure, pathetic racist.

Just before going on holidays, I discovered another set of trigger words that will make me unleash my most vicious attacks upon the perpetrator. Namely, don't say any variation of "no offense, but..." followed by something incredibly offensive unless you want to feel the full wrath of Mr Angry.

One of the last videos I made before going to NZ was a response to a featured video on YouTube - I didn't post it here because there was really no context for it on this blog. The video I responded to was part of a series called "God Inc" that runs on the premise that Heaven is really run like an office with all the bureaucracy and petty jealousies that suggests. A bit of a depressing though really.

I did a response as some of my demonic characters because the idea popped into my head and it seemed to fit. The video has been viewed over 20,000 times since I posted it (average for me is a couple of hundred to a thousand views) so it was certainly a success for me. The thing is, it was a rush job (just before my holiday) and the standard is honestly pretty bodgy even by my rather low standards. And it got seen by thousands of dweebs who had never seen my stuff.

The first few comments were from my regulars who liked it but then the losers with nothing to offer the world but a fucked-up opinion started. As is my usual way, I responded to nearly all of the comments, partly to thank the positive, partly to rip on the negative and partly because lots of comments gets you noticed on YouTube. The more obnoxious the comment, the more obnoxious my reply.

The funny thing is, I couldn't give a shit about these losers. The fact that they feel compelled to spit out negativity when nobody is being negative towards them says way more about their pathetic lives than any insult I could deliver. But I did save my worst bile for the one who said "No offense but this vid sucked."

Why the fuck do people say that before they say something offensive? Are they that fucking stupid that they think they aren't saying something offensive? Are they stupid enough to think saying "no offense" excuses the offense? Or are they so mind numbingly fucking stupid they don't even know the meaning of the words "no offense"?

I decided this putz needed a lesson so I responded in kind with the most offensive thing I could think of:

"No offense, but your mother fucks truck drivers for 50c a throw."

I suspect the irony of the response would be totally lost on him. For those who want to see just how angry I can get, the full list of comments can be seen here:

Comments on re: God Inc

Showing my sexy ass on YouTube

No, I haven't become a gay porn star. Or at least I'm not willing to admit to being a gay porn star. Although I'd get a lot of search engine traffic if I started promoting hot man on man gay butt sex action. My god, I'm cynical.

Basically, I wanted to celebrate the impending launch of the ASS joint venture with Daniel, Gruntski and myself (and who knows who else). See the comments on this post if you have no idea what I'm talking about. The announcement of ASS coincided, completely unintentionally, with me showing my arse on YouTube in this video:

If this doesn't make any sense to you, it's a response to this video from one of my favourite people on YouTube, Mr Safety:

Mr Safety's "Hairy Ass" video

So who knows, maybe ASS will soon become a household name. Remember you heard it here first.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Do you hate your team enough?

Based on long experience, I can only assume that this is a question that many managers ask themselves on a daily basis: "Do I hate my team enough?" Quickly followed by: "How can I demonstrate the extent to which I hate my team?" Well, I feel it's my job in life to help managers, so here's my tip: if you want to demonstrate unequivocally that you hate your team, send them on a team building/training exercise.

Now, be careful here. I mentioned "training" because that what these team building seminars are often called. Having said that, it's vitally important that any training component be of no value whatsoever to the people undertaking said training. The training should be about "team building", "problem solving" (note: not problems they will actually encounter in their work but abstract or conceptual problems) "conflict resolution" (you'll need this for when they come back wanting to kill you) and best of all "corporate values".

For best effect, the training/team building environment needs to be as unrelated to the work environment as possible. A consistent winner is sending IT development teams on wilderness survival treks. These geeks spent their high school years being bullied by the sporty types who run these outdoors activities. They miss it. A few years ago paintball tournaments were very popular. Shrewd managers thought it would be funny to make pasty dweebs run around with weapons. Bad idea. Even facsimile weapons can give geeks inspiration for wreaking revenge on you. High powered rifles and paint ball guns handle in a remarkably similar manner.

Tailor the team building exercises to be humiliating as possible. If your staff are desk bound and have seen neither the light of day nor the inside of a gym for years, send them rock climbing. If they are introverted and socially awkward, force them into uncomfortably intimate situations or maybe make them perform some "hilarious" skits. Hilarious for people who enjoy watching torture anyway.

When your staff say "I'm too busy for this," you say "You need to make the time for your personal development." When they say "Giving up this time for this stupid team building exercise will make the project late," you say "You need to prioritise more effectively - work smarter, not harder." When they say "This is a waste of fucking time!" you say "You're not a team player." (This is an excellent all-purpose phrase that carries the veiled threat of a bad performance review and no pay raise/bonus) When they say "I have evidence that you're taking kickbacks from the training company," you say "You're fired."

Most of all, make sure the team building event is no fun whatsoever. I've had team days in the past before that were lots of fun and they did the managers involved no good whatsoever. When people have fun once, they expect more fun later. A team that's had fun returns to work invigorated and lively; and an invigorated team is scary as hell for a manger who's out of their depth. Plus, a team that enjoys each other's company ends up being united and what sort of manager wants to deal with a strong, united team?

When you get right down to it, a team building seminar can be the ultimate Zen moment for a manager. It's a perfect moment when you make someone's life miserable while giving the outward appearance of doing something positive. So this is my call to managers everywhere: go for it! Take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself:

"How much do I hate my team?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Great moments in engineering

I'm not getting invited back to the engineering department any time soon. In fact, I suspect they may have posted my picture on the wall with a sign saying "Don't let this smartarse back in here." All because I tried to be helpful.

My reasons for being in this unfamiliar building aren't important (also, I don't want to give too much about my job away - I'm trying to be anonymous remember?) One thing I noticed while I was there was a range of what was obviously sensitive equipment mounted on the walls. I say "obviously" because each of these sensor thingies had a sign on top of them saying "WARNING: Do not rest items on top of this cabinet." The signs had simply been printed out on the laser printer, probably after someone had fucked up the equipment by resting stuff on top of it.

I noticed something seemed a little... wrong with the sign so I had this conversation with one of the engineers (who turned out to be the one who had put the signs up):

ME: So I'm guessing this equipment is sensitive?

HIM: Great guess.

ME: Did somebody break something by stacking things on top of it?

HIM: Yeah, it interferes with some of the readings, plus that wall can't hold too much weight.

ME: Did you have some problems with the signs blowing away?

HIM: Yeah, how did you know that?

ME: I noticed you've weighted the signs down with block of wood.

HIM: Because of the cooling fans here, every time someone opens a door we get a surge of wind so yeah, I had to weight them down.

ME: So you're holding the "don't stack things" sign in place with bits of wood?

HIM: Yeah.

ME: Heavy bits of wood on the sensitive machinery holding down signs saying "Don't put heavy things here".

(pause while this sinks in)

HIM: What the fuck do you want here anyway?

Like I said, I'm not getting invited back any time soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

400 posts down - where am I going now?

Long time readers will know I'm a big fan of arbitrary milestones and I'm celebrating another one now. While I was on holidays, the automated Angrymotron3000 (tm) pushed this blog past 400 posts. At each of my previous 100 post milestones I've set myself a goal to reach in the next 100. Each time I've ended up meeting the goal even when it was a "stretch" goal like the last one - getting paid (thanks to The Fizz on 101/DirecTV).

My 500th post should happen at around the same time as my one year anniversary (the end of March) so I think I need to set myself one big motherfuckin' hairy-ass audacious goal for this one. The thing is, I've been thinking about this for a while and there's only one goal that makes sense to me now: turn this stuff into a professional gig and quit my day job.

Maybe this is wussing out but I don't think aiming to quit my day job in the next couple of months is a viable goal. What I want is to have a concrete plan in place to reach the goal of turning all of these shenanigans into a paying gig. There are a number of ways to pursue this and at this point, I have to admit, I don't think I'm going to end up being a "professional blogger".

I think they most likely path to success is to convert what I'm doing through this blog and YouTube into money via another medium. I know this isn't very Web 2.0 but I do think it's realistic. Plus, here's a little tip about all this "Web 2.0" hoo-ha: most of it is unmitigated bullshit. If I'm ever going to make money out of my writing and/or performing it's most likely to be in the form of publishing a book, writing for a magazine or newspaper, or working in TV or film. Or possibly stand-up comedy. But nobody makes money doing stand-up comedy so fuck that.

The last month or so has been my most unfocused time since starting this blog but the holiday's over now. Besides getting into gear for my plan I promise to check in with every else's blogs more regularly now too. Because that's what it's all about - without the support of all my regular readers and commenters I'd be nowhere so it's only fair I return the favour. Stay tuned for further development and. of course, a whole lot more angriness.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What made me angry about my holiday

While I was on holidays I didn't actually make any angry videos and post any angry rants (you may have noticed). So first thing on my arrival home I decided to get back into it. And talk about some fuel: my fucking memory card fucked up and lost a pile of photos and videos. So I decided to express my frustration in the best way I knew how:

But there was actually a happy ending or semi-happy at least. To get over my disappointment at having lost some really good photos and videos I indulged in a little retail therapy and bought a new video camera - one I'd had my eye on for a while. The bloke at the camera store heard my tale of woe and sprang into action. He had a recovery programme that was quite good at reclaiming files that had been deleted from memory cards and he ran it on my camera's memory card. The end result was that I got back about 80% of the files I thought were completely lost.

Oh, and I got a kick-arse new camera. So I made a video with the new camera and included some of the recovered footage:

As a post script - my editing software is having trouble working with some of the partially corrupted files. If anyone knows some good tips for dealing with this - let me know.

Mr Angry's New Zealand retrospective

So I'm back home now. New Zealand is absolutely awesome! Maybe it was because it was my first decent holiday in about 7 years but I had a really good time. Here are a few more videos I shot while I was there. This first one is shot in the tourist centre of Queenstown. In this video I make at least two factual errors; one, where I call the lake a bay and one where I say a hill covered in trees is suitable for skiing. It was the ski-lift that tricked me.

This one is shot at another of the picturesque camp site where we spent the night - Moke Lake. Contrary to what I say in this video, I actually did go for a swim in this lake. Right in line with what I said in this video, it was fucking freezing.

This one was one of the most fun to make as I involved people around me in the video. They clearly thought I was insane.

Here's another piece of evidence that I'm a frustrated nature documentary presenter. Although I won't get far when I keep calling birds that can obviously fly "flightless". Although you're pretty safe calling any bird in NZ flightless - I don't know what it is about that place but it's crawling with flightless birds.

Here we see Mr Angry - Thrillseeker! But I'll tell you this for free - pay attention to warning signs in NZ. I saw some big-arse chunks of ice falling off the face of the glacier while I was there. Pieces that would easily have weighed more than a tonne. Natural splendour also means huge risks.

We'll be back to your regular angry service directly.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Angry News - The Streets of San Francisco

I always thought San Francisco was meant to be a mellow hippy sort of place but it seems like "parking rage" is getting out of control there. I get pissed off occasionally about parking spaces but I've never killed anyone... yet.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Neighbour troubles for Gruntski

Gruntski loves dogs. Gruntski loves his neighbour... usually. But there's a combination of neighbour and dogs at the moment that's really pissing him off.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Angry News - A Question of Intelligence

Another pre-prepared video post wherein I thank Time magazine for one of the best straight lines ever.

And while I'm on the topic - sure Bush is fucking up the world but at least he's providing plenty of material for satirists.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mr Angry in New Zealand

Here's a vid at the end of my first day in New Zealand just as I'm setting up camp. So how's NZ? In a word - awesome!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Something is bugging Gruntski

This is another guest post from Gruntski.

Something is indeed bugging the man: bugs. As I'm on holiday, I'll let him explain it in his own words:

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hell freezes over - or There's hope for me yet

One of my ongoing frustrations is that I've never had a video featured on YouTube. Getting featured would be a major step towards my goal of world domination. And I deserve it it, dammit. They feature some real shit on YouTube.

This video is a little tribute to a YouTube mate of mine, fellow Aussie Seanbedlam who was recently featured. If you don't know Sean's work you wouldn't know why I think this is such a major event. In short, Sean is way more offensive than me as a rule of thumb (hard as that may be to believe.)

I'd often thought that one of the reasons I never get featured is the powers that be at YouTube were worried highlighting one of my "clean" videos would lead people to my potty mouth work and make them look bad. But if they'll feature Sean, there's hope for me yet. He's been on YouTube longer than me so maybe I just have to be patient. Anyway, here's my tribute to Sean being featured:

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gruntski on driving

This is a guest post from Gruntski.

In this video post, we learn that Gruntski and Mr Angry have at least one thing in common: they both hate fuckwits in traffic.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Angry News - Found and Lost

A major air crash is always a traumatic event for those affected. It must be a real treat when the tragedy is made worse by a bureaucratic fuck-up like the one that recently happened in Indonesia as I outline in this video:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The customer is always wrong

This is a guest post from Engtech.

The expression "The Customer is Always Right" was first used in advertising by Gordon Selfridge in the late 1800s, but has been around for centuries in who knows how many different languages. Yet it is a mantra that seems to be falling by the wayside in modern
business. From the corporate point of view, the 21st century consumer is right less often. Corporations attack our pocketbooks from numerous fronts:

  • an abundance of user agreements telling you what you can or cannot use,
  • product purchase contests now use pins and require registrations to build up direct marketing databases,
  • hints at online retailers doing targeted price increases using your shopping habits to increase the price of items you are likely tobuy,
  • digital rights management (DRM) technology -- a fancy way of saying "even though you paid for this you don't get to own it and dowhat you want with it".

I didn't like it when gift certificates changed to gift cards with expiration dates, although I understand the logic behind it. (It's done for accounting reasons.)

I hate that if I make a mistake booking a flightand I don't correct it within the grace period that I still have to pay a rebooking fee (and the original expensive fare) when rebooking to a cheaper flight. I understand it is a necessary barrier to prevent people from switching flights willy-nilly, but it sucks. (Always triple check your itinerary well ahead of time). The corporation has you bent over and at their mercy; business as usual. Pray they use lubricant.

But what really makes my blood boil is the underhanded stupidity that you can only get when the person is right in front of you. It's easier to ignore the short-sightedness and psychosis that is assumed from an unseen evil corporate overlord. It isn't so easy to ignore a cashier in a green golf-shirt and clear plastic gloves who's standing face to face with you.

Subway: Eat Fre$h

This first story is a simple one, I'm sure every consumer has experienced something similar at a one time or another. This was back when Subway still accepted "free sub" stamp cards (before the widespread counterfeiting made them too cost ineffective). My significant other and I bought two subs as a Couple Unit(tm) and we were soundly informed that we were only allowed one card per customer.

So we paid for them separately and USED OUR CARDS thankyouverymuch under the disapproving glare of the manager-slash-owner. (And have exercised out rights as consumers by never returning to that specific location.)

The second story happened today. The Subway location near my work offers daily 6" sub specials for $2.49. Today's special was the Italian BMT (Pepperoni, Salami, and Ham). Meanwhile, the 6" veggie delite vegetarian sub was $4 + change. For those of you who are not Subway aficionados, there is no difference between a veggie sub and any other sub with the meat taken out.

So, something that cost Subway less in both ingredients and time was considerably more expensive than the special. If you fancied a veggie sub, you might think you could ask for the special but leave the meat out. In the words of StephenR. Covey, this would be a prime example of thinking win/win. I save a buck, Subway saves some cost on ingredients. But instead it was a clear example of No Deal. The only way to get a veggie sub for the low-low-price of $2.49 is to buy a meat sub and throw out the meat in front of them. You can't even ask for "meat on the side, please".

As a carnivore, I fully understand the desire to subsidize your business on the backs of the omni-lacto-hippo-vegans and visible minorities who avoid meat products for "religious reasons". After all, our ancestors didn't fight this long to get to the top of the food chain only for us to start giving up ground now. Maybe the refusal to play ball was really a neo-conservative judgment on my perceived left-wing hippy vegetarian societal choices?

Or maybe they were afraid what might happen if they started down that slippery slope:

  • trying to exchange two different 6" subs of a lesser value for a footlong sub,
  • trying to switch cookies for chips in your sandwich, drink and side combo,
  • or trying to substitute a $2.49 cold-cut trio (turkey-based ham, turkey-based salami, turkey-based bologna) for a genuine turkey breast sub.

They're absolutely right of course. Increasing your business by making choices that benefit the consumer while saving your business money at the same time is the first step down the slippery slope to anarchy. Arbitrary rules are always a better way to go than allowing people to make independent, intelligent decisions based on changing circumstances.

Besides, the customer is always wrong.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

As I was packing my bags for New Zealand, I couldn't resist the urge to make one last video before leaving home. Besides packing I had a few big announcements, namely, I've reached 500 subscribers and over 300,000 video views. Woohoo! Small potatoes compared to the big YouTube stars but major milestones for me.

Now we'll see how how addicted to YouTube I am - how many videos from New Zealand will be posted while I'm still on holidays?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Geeking out at the airport

Well, my girlfriend just called me a complete dag for logging on the net while waiting at the airport. Then she said to let he know when I'm finished this post so she can check her email. A perfect match it seems.

I'm doing this from one of those pay terminals - I was able to find a few networks on my Macbook but they all required passwords and nobody seemed to have chosen a really dumb password like "password".

We did the good thing and got here way early so now we have another hour to wait for the flight, then a three hour flight. Because of the time difference, it's close to midnight when we land in Christchurch so I hope the hotel where we are spending the night is as easy to find as they promised. If not, my first angry blog post from New Zealand will be on the topic of the bastard lying hotel web site.

I am hoping to get it together to post a few scenic vids from NZ while I'm there - I can't imagine I'll be very angry in them, I plan to have a good time while I'm away. But I like the idea of an outdoor yolog with some massive mountain or glacier in the background.

I've lined up some guest posts to make sure I don't miss a day while I'm away. You'll be hearing from EngTech and Gruntski. In Gruntski's case you'll be literally hearing as well as seeing because he's provided several excellent yologs of his own. Mate, you already have fans on YouTube - you should prepare yourself to conquer that world too!

I'd love to make a vid on the plane but I want to maintain my anonymity and pulling out a mask on a plane could um... cause problems. Stupid paranoid dickheads. What could possibly be wrong with someone wearing a mask and screaming angrily on a plane?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm gonna kill my neighbour

If my neighbour is really lucky I'll have left for my New Zealand holiday before I kill the fucker. The cheap bastard has a shitty car that never starts properly and he's too cheap to get the fucking thing fixed. I know this because I'm always hearing him try to start it. You know that annoying rrrr-rrrr-rrrr noise you get when a car engine won't turn over? I get to hear that very regularly.

In itself, that wouldn't be so bad. But when it finally kicks into life, the ignorant prick revs the guts out of it for about a minute. I'm assuming he does this in the hope the engine won't cut out again. Now, I'm not a mechanical expert but I think he's actually damaging his already fucked engine by doing this. Maybe someone who knows something about engines could confirm this. But it's a pissy little van and the engine sound like an over-worked lawn mower when he revs it.

He's done this once while I was making a video and I had to stop until he'd finished because of the noise. Maybe I should actually make it the topic of the video next time it happens. He's also done it very late at night but he stepped waaaaaaay over the line when he did it this morning. At about 6-fucking-a-fucking-m. The only reason he lived through it is I'm so out of it at that time of the morning he'd made a getaway by the time I'd stumbled into some clothes.

Assuming he lives through tonight, he's got the two weeks I'm away to fix the fucking thing. If it happens again after I get back I'll muffle the noise by jamming his fucking head up the exhaust pipe.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A noisy computer makes for an angry blog

The fan in my computer is playing up and making a horrible fucking whining noise. At least I hope it's the fan. If it's the hard drive I'm in serious trouble. It's so loud I can't stand being on the computer for long so this will be a short post.

If I wasn't goin on holidays in a few days I'd be arranging to have it fixed but I have too much on my mind to deal with this at the moment. Besides, I have a backup in place now. I went out yesterday and bought me a sleek black MacBook. I'm taking this on holidays so I may well be able to maintain posts in New Zealand by finding wireless internet access points.

It's pretty cool. I can hear the Mac faithful chanting now: "one of us, one of us..." I haven't gone online with the MacBook yet, once I do I'll probably be totally hooked. The kids already think it's fantastic - they spend hours playing with the PhotoBooth software making funny distored pictures.

I may even experiment with the Comic Life software and do some Mr Angry comic strip blog posts. It's a fun little piece of software that splices images into a comic book type of template and lets you add voice ballons etc really easily. It's true what they say about Macs - even the stuff that is essentially toys make them seem better than Windows machines.

Anyway, for now I'm going to sign off and punch my desktop PC for a while.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cleanliness is next to...

Cleanliness is next to impossible for some people apparently. This is a rather personal rant today, I'm not sure if anyone will actually identify with it. We've had a very hot week in Melbourne - temperatures over 35C pretty much every day. When this happens, I like to go down to the beach towards the end of the day, cool off in the bay and have a barbecue.

One of the nice features of this area is that there are free barbecues near most of the beaches. One of the not nice aspects is that no bastard cleans the fucking barbecues after using them. I reckon nine times out of ten the barbecue is filthy when I go to use it.

I actually left a barbie dirty once and I felt awful about it. I realised too late that I'd brought all my barbie supplies along but hadn't brought anything to clean up the mess I made. The next day I went out and bought a nice set of implements that included this scourer/scraper thingie to clean all the crap off the cooking surface.

It's all about having the right tools, people. Don't take on the job if you don't have the right tools! Little Miss Angry thinks I should make a video showing how filthy most people leave the barbie and compare it to how clean I leave it. I may well do this - it really pisses me off.

Cleaning up after ourself, people - it's what separates us from the animals.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Arseholes aren't funny

I feel compelled to point out this obvious fact: arseholes aren't funny. The reason I do this is there's an increasing trend in "comedy" to put together a show or an act that simply consists of people being fuckwits.

Arguably, people like Sacha Baron Cohen (AKA Ali G, AKA Borat) are responsible for this. His comedy revolves around behaving in a way that makes people uncomfortable. At his best, he really pushes the envelope of what he can do without being punched in the face. Why I think he gets away with it is (a) he's almost always funny and (b) he makes himself the "stupid" one and acts in such a disarming way that other people end up making fools of themselves.

It seems that other people see his success and think: "I can be more successful that him if I act like a total prick." Funny doesn't enter into it. Some of these shows go for full on physical assault and call it comedy. There can be a fine line between having fun and humiliating people but not in the case of these shows. They take the express train over to Fuckpeopleoversville.

It isn't as if I'm a shrinking violet - I go after people all the time. But not defenseless people in the street. It's marginally funnier when they go after celebrities but they still don't seem to think it's necessary to be funny. "Hey, if we hit a celebrity, what more do we need to do? That's pure comedy gold!"

There was a time when being a sociopath was an impediment in life. These days it seems like a guarantee of getting a TV show. Or even elected president.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to screw up eCommerce

Working in IT, I come into contact with a huge number of techno-idealists. The sort of geeks who think technology is going to change everything. Nerds who think the internet is the pinnacle of achievement. Even zealots who believe that computer programs will spontaneously develop self-awareness and intelligence. I'll tell you why these idealistic views of the future are never going to fully come true:

People are fucking morons.

Every now and then I stumble across a website that really brings home the fact that intelligent computers are never going to happen because unintelligent and/or lazy people are getting in the way. People are always talking about how eCommerce is going to put bricks and mortar shops out of business; a view I take with a grain of salt. Mostly because of how hard most websites make it to give them any money.

Your average shop doesn't make you jump through hoops to spend money. Usually if you even look like getting your wallet out they're all over you. The biggest difficulty you usually get is a disinterested teenager behind the counter who'd rather talk to her boyfriend than serve you.

Recently I had to deal with the height of stupidity from a website. I was trying to buy a "gift certificate" and the had a few denominations listed: $10, $20 and $50. I thought I'd get a $20 voucher but is was marked as "SOLD OUT". How the fuck can it be sold out? It doesn't even exist as such. It isn't as if they have to run out and print some more, it's a fucking electronic transaction.

So long as there are fuckwits doing things like this with websites, eCommerce is never going to take over.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A new front opens in the spam wars

An interesting wrinkle has developed in the ongoing war against comment spam. Spammers have started doing something that I actually suggested they do. Unfortunately they did not follow my suggestion to kill themselves in a painful in gruesome manner. What at least some of them have started doing, however, is to post actual, real comments that are relevant to the post and the only link to their commercial site is in their ID, not in the message itself.

I'm actually slightly conflicted about this. The person(s) responsible are clearly taking the time to write individual comments that are direct responses to the posts in question . They aren't making generic comments and spamming thousands of blogs with them and they aren't filling the comments with URLs and meaningless crap. They are essentially making legitimate comments.

But they're fucking spammers.

I actually deleted these comments after deliberating for a short while. The thing that tipped me towards deleting them is that the comments were made to months old posts which reeks of trying to hide them. They seem to think that if they post comments to old blog posts I'll miss them. They clearly don't understand that I get notifications of every comment. I'm not Robert Scoble getting hundreds of comments a day - I get maybe tens of comments on a good day so I have time to look at them all.

So here's the deal spammers: you're halfway there. Making legitimate comments as a way to promote your commercial ventures is fine, but don't try to hide them from me. It won't work and I'll delete your comment so no hyperlink for you! BUT... if you make legitimate comments to CURRENT posts I'll leave them up - links to your site (in your ID) and all.

Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age.

Monday, January 01, 2007

An Angry New Year

I've never made a New Year's resolution and I'm not about to start now. The only arbitrarily timed resolutions I make are for each 100 blog posts I make. I realised today that my 400th post would go live when I'm on my New Zealand holiday. Given that I'm likely to only be making short posts and/or using guest posts while on holidays I probably won't have the time to focus on my goals for the next 100 posts.

I only point this out to head off anyone who's particularly attentive and/or anally retentive. I really don't like it when people tell me what I should be doing. So I won't be ignoring this landmark but I probably won't set my goals I want to reach before post 500 until I get back from my holiday. So now you know.

And while I'm not making any new year's resolutions I do have some predictions for you, courtesy of the Blogging Bot from the future:

So that was my last video for 2006 (the 206th for anyone who's counting). Now I have to go and work on my first for 2007.