21 August 2012

Dear Tyler

Thank you for calling me today from the security department of my Windows computer. I hadn’t realised that the computer had a security department tucked away inside, let alone a human being able to address me by my own name.

I jest of course.  I know you’ve got other people there because I can hear them in the background and, indeed, I think some of them have called me in the past.  So I guess you work in a call centre, probably somewhere in South East Asia judging by your accent.

I have had more or less friendly conversations with many of your colleagues, or perhaps they are competitors.  Who knows.  There seem to be a heck of a lot of you and you all tell me that my computer has a security problem.

Since you all know my name and that I use a computer with Windows I have tried asking on previous occasions which of my two computers has the problem, what you believe its brand name to be, and whether you are employed by Microsoft itself or their appointed agents.  Curiously, at this point, the line usually goes dead.

I do hope you weren’t phoning about the same, forgive me, scam that one of my friends fell for when someone called him about the security problem his computer also had.  That other person took him through a long routine online that ended with him saying, I may have the detail wrong, ‘And if your screen shows the number 2789.54 you have a security breach that our software can resolve.’

My friend was so impressed with the diagnosis that he subscribed to three years’ worth of protection from the problem.  Pity he read later that the same sequence of steps on any computer would result in the same number.  Sort of magic, isn’t it?

Anyhow, my apologies for putting the phone down on you so quickly and abruptly.  I expect all this has made me more cynical than I should be.  Feel free to call again and we can compare notes about the weather in Scotland and Manila, or wherever you’re based.  I don’t expect you get much light relief.  It must be a hell of a way to earn a living.

Yours sincerely

Recorded by the BBC at the Farnborough Air Show, an exhibitor explains his company’s product

This is next generation of systems to provide kind of the high-end situation awareness for pilots.  It starts with the central computer right here which really has the computer capacity of a laptop but it’s really no bigger than a smart phone.  That system is fully integrated with the soldier worn display which is again a nice, if you look here is a very thin wear right on your wrist touch screen gives the person off the aircraft situational awareness kind of the bird ‘s eye view of where they are, where the target is, where the friendlies are and where the bad guys are.  The beauty of this is that we’re really leveraging off of existing commercial technology, making it applicable for military use.  So that soldiers when they go back into the field they don’t go back in time   They can operate with systems and solutions that they‘re very comfortable with in everyday use.  That’s the big deal about this.

So now you know.

“We are at a very interesting point in terms of the products we can make…Anything we can imagine we can build, we are no longer really limited by the technology” – Justin Rattner,  chief technology officer Intel BBC web site

Intel’s new computer today…

  • …halted the traffic and jollied the year 1s and their mums along as they crossed the road to school for the first time
  • …paused sympathetically to allow the parents to gather their thoughts as they registered the death of their child
  • …spoke to the troubled teenager after the lesson to find out what was really bothering her
  • …spotted that the disabled driver was having problems getting out of the space and helped him manoeuvre his car
  • …stroked the hand of an elderly dying woman in a council care home and assured her that her absent daughter loved her.

Public servants do a million small acts of human kindness every day.

It seems everyone is trying to say something to mark the death of Steve Jobs of Apple.  None of them approach the power of the man’s own words in his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005.

My shortest post ever.

People seemed to enjoy a previous blog post on Ten things PowerPoint presenters shouldn’t say – but do.  So here’s the follow up, more dross and drivel they perpetrate.  All guaranteed genuine.

  1. I’ll just highlight the key words with the light pointer…it’s the red dot…eeerrm it’s just there…just, just above where it is now…no, there…it waggles around a bit but I’m sure you get the point
  2. Ooops, spot the deliberate mistake!  It should of course read public toilets with an “l”.  I did ask the PA to spellcheck it so I’ll be having words later
  3. It might be a bit rough and ready.  I’ve been rather busy and I threw it together a bit quickly last night
  4. Unfortunately the minister can’t be here so he’s asked me to read his slides for him
  6. Sorry, it’ll just take a few minutes to change over to my Apple.  I didn’t realise people still used PCs
  7. I didn’t realise the text would be a bit tricky to read on that colour background
  8. Oh, it seems to have fallen off the edge of the slide there.  Well what it should say is…
  9. The yellow line on the graph hasn’t really shown up on the screen but it shows the increase in the number of applications over the last five years
  10. Ah, that’s supposed to show an updated summary of the consultation response. Damn, I’ve used an earlier draft.  If you bear with me I’ll just get the updated version from the desktop
  11. I’ll just leave the last slide up while I take some questions…what, the screensaver?…oh, that’s my wedding photo, er…

Finally, the PowerPoint horror to end all PowerPoint horrors, the Afghanistan conflict explained

My thanks to correspondents on this blog and on the LGID communities of practice web site whose comments and suggestions I have used as inspiration – Nigel Blake, Annika Coughlin, Tim Games, Tom Gorman, Liz Grieve, Jon King, David McLean,Vijay Patel, Alistair Tait and David Trim.  Anyone serious about this subject could also join SAPP – the Swiss Anti-PowerPoint Party.

Footnote 9 September 2011: Tweet from Australian blogger and Tweeter Craig Thomler @craigthomler at the Australian Marketing Institute Government Marketing and Communications Conference 2011 – “My key learnings from #amigov2011 – the more stylish the slides, the less engaging the presentation. Personal experiences work best.”

I don’t normally do commercials on this blog – except for myself of course.  But this is one such.

Scots and those quick off the mark for a Ryanair or easyJet flight from points south (no that’s not the commercial, other airlines are available – BA, bmi, FlyBe or, if you’ve got the price of a small mortgage, Eastern Airways) should get themselves to the wonderful city of Aberdeen, on which the sun always shines in September, for ScotGovCamp on the 24th.

I’m hacked off I can’t manage it (family commitments) because I went to last year’s event and thought it was great.  So great I blogged about it (where you can see what a govcamp is if the idea’s new to you).

Since ScotGovCamp 2010 I’ve discovered a lot in the world of government and social media.

  • I know in some detail what’s happening in Syria because of the brave souls there who get video clips out showing their government’s repression
  • I followed the good, the bad and the ugly of the English riots including the wonderful #riotwombles who were on the streets with brushes and shovels the day after cleaning up their communities
  • I suddenly realised that police forces (mostly in England it has to be said) are waaaay ahead of most of the rest of the public sector in using social media.  If you don’t believe me check out @hotelalpha9 (including his anti-grafitti video on YouTube – he’s apparently just nabbed his suspect), and our own @DCCTayside
  • I started following an increasing number of council chief executives who Tweet (again, mostly if not wholly English – where are you Scottish CEs?).

On the other hand

  • Where are the innovative Scottish public sector apps for all those ipads, androids and other fancy stuff my kids can’t live without?
  • Why does the oh-so-dire UK government DirectGov web site still stagger on, notwithstanding the best efforts of Martha Lane Fox et al?
  • Why does the home page of my local council web site under the heading Self-service access invite me to “Book it” and for community use of schools then takes me (today) to a page that tells me no public applications will issued (sic) nor accepted until 2 May 2011 and allows no online booking.  Misleading or what?  Grrr!

So ScotGovCamp’s got plenty to get to grips with.  You can book online (it’s free) here.  Do it.  And enjoy!

Clearing out the attic of my house the other day I came across an unusual newspaper cutting lining an old chest of drawers.  It was undated but obviously came from the 19th century.  Readers may be interested in it as a curious throw back to times past as it clearly bears little relationship to modern society.


In a move unprecedented since the introduction of the “Penny Post” by Sir Rowland Hill in 1840, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli today responded to the Fenian Riots in our great northern cities by calling for the suspension of the now-familiar Royal Mail letter service.

Mr Disraeli told a crowded House of Commons that chief constables up and down the land were reporting that Fenian troublemakers were writing letters to each other to co-ordinate their nefarious activities.

“The problem,” he said “is that the service with its guarantee of same or next day delivery allows these Irish ‘gentlemen’ in one city to communicate almost instantly with those in other cities where there has been large scale immigration from Ireland. The problem has been exacerbated by the increasing number who are able to read and write and can afford the 1d postage stamp affixed to each letter.”

Reaction from other parts of society has been critical.

The secretary of the London Chamber of Commerce Mr Thomas Gradgrind said “This proposal does not seem to take account of the extent to which our great British industries rely upon swift communication with each other in order to progress the business of Empire.  This could be a major blow to many of our members.”  Private soundings taken by this newspaper from within government itself affirmed that the Board of Trade amongst others shares the Chamber’s concerns.

The editor of the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post asked “How are we to despatch our daily edition to country subscribers, many of them gentlemen of the cloth, in the event of a suspension of the postal service?”

And Lady Cynthia Garside, doyenne of London high society lamented “This will be an absolute disaster for the social life of the capital.  At present one can despatch a letter to any respectable member of society in the morning inviting them to supper that evening, confident that they will have responded by the luncheon hour affirming their attendance or not.”

It is not known at the time of writing if Mr Disraeli intends, in the argot of our military men, to “stick to his guns” or whether like the Grand Old Duke of York he intends to march back down the hill again, having ascended half way to the summit.