Technology is great – when it’s smart and when it works!

I’m not sure if it’s because there’s tech all around us and we’ve had years and years of “plug and play” but I’d really like to understand the frustration I experience shortly after I get some new tech.  I mean why does so much tech take so much effort to get it working properly?  Well from research undertaken, whilst I was having my lunch, it appears that there are a range of factors/aggregation of said factors that can make human blood boil…

  1. Why doesn’t everybody use the same damn standard?
  2. Why is it sooooo difficult to set these things up in the first place?
  3. Why does the damn device keep losing its connection?
  4. Are things getting too complicated?
  5. Am I stupid?

For starters why is this so important?  Well…According to the report, “2018 Global Smart Home Market Forecast”, worldwide consumer spending on smart home devices, systems and services will total nearly $96 billion in 2018 and grow at 10% CAGR over the forecast period (2018 to 2023) to $155 billion. Adoption of smart speakers from Amazon and Google is boosting the market. – yikes!!

Now whether this is driven by the desire for us humans to have an easy life and achieving this by automating many of the hugely labour intensive chores at home (like playing music of turning on/off lights – Hey Alexa/Siri/Cortana/OK Google et al) or if it’s some quasi-ethical, anti-fossil fuel, tree-hugging instinct to monitor your energy use that is emerging (possibly only really amongst “millenials”) it appears to be a fact – the smart home market is growing apace!!

But what proportion of the population considers themselves to be “techies”?  I dunno -but back in 2013 IDG helpfully offered the following “10 Signs You’re Probably a Techie” – check your selves out – be my guest.  I consider myself to be one, I’m an early adopter who loves the latest “shiny-shiny”; gadgets and “cool-tools” – but I still find it a challenge to integrate my latest fave piece of tech!

Standards:

When I worked in the hi-fi world (hold on to your horses but we’re talking in the last millenium – yikes I’m old!!) there was a term that was used – “super-compatability”.  This meant that your devices not only connected up, but they played together – beautifully.  Sonic perfection with the minimum of fuss (although a not insignificant level of expenditure was required to achieve this aural nirvana). However, today we have a plethora of disparate operating standards across multiple operating systems and each designed to maximise the profitability of each brand’s “eco-system”!   Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Xiaomi, ZigBee, Philips, the list just grows and grows. Allegedly you can get some of these to talk to each other – you note I say allegedly!!

In fact it is far more complex than just that.  The Internet of Things organisation in the UK has helpfully provided a wealth of information for those of you who are the true connected home nerds:

Powered by Digital Catapult and Future Cities Catapult, IoTUK was a programme of activities that sought to advance the UK’s global leadership in the Internet of Things (IoT) and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

IoTUK was a national programme designed to accelerate the UK’s Internet of Things (IoT) capability, launched as part of the Government’s £32m investment in IoT.

Just check out their “IoT Standards and Protocols” – an overview of protocols involved in Internet of Things devices and applications. Help clarify with IoT layer technology stack and head-to-head comparisons. Yep, that’s what I thought too!  No wonder it’s difficult.

Difficult to set up

Remember Plug n Play?

Plug and Play (PnP) is a capability developed by Microsoft for its Windows 95 and later operating systems that gives users the ability to plug a device into a computer and have the computer recognize that the device is there. The user doesn’t have to tell the computer.

Yeah right, that sounds cool.  Sounds perfect for the non-coder early adopter such as myself!!  And maybe, just maybe, you can connect your new device to your home wifi network without too much problem – although if like me you’ve wasted money on TP-link smart plugs you’ll know that’s not a given – just check out those reviews – ouch!  Even if you’re fortunate to achieve that there’s no guarantee that, just for the hell of it, the device won’t suddenly decide it can’t be arsed to work and whatever you try it will just sullenly refuse to re-connect.  Shocking waste of money team – don’t do it.

Even Amazon – the accepted leader in the home automation world – still doesn’t make it easy on you.  Have you read my earlier post on the subject – or this one – they don’t like being criticised, do they?    I’ve got plenty of Echo devices, fire Sticks etc etc but if I wanted them to control the turning on and off of my TV/satellite box I need something else – a Harmony Hub. so I’ve got one but it was so damn difficult to get it to stay connected I switched it off.  Plus you had to say stuff like “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV”!

Here are the instructions for setting up your Harmony Hub

#update!!!  I have just discovered that as of November 10th (no idea which year!)…

 On Friday November 10th, Logitech Harmony introduced a deeper and more natural integration with your Amazon Alexa voice experience. Play, pause, stop, fast forward, adjust the volume and tune to channel numbers, all without having to say, “ask Harmony to”. Update to the “Harmony” Alexa skill to make use of these new features.

Well I’ll just have to try switching it back on and see 🙂 apparently all you have to say now is….

“Alexa, turn on sports” to power on your TV, set your stereo to surround sound, lower your window shades and even set your table lamps to your team colors.

Stable connections

I’ve already highlighted the propensity of the TP-Link “smart” plug to lose the plot but that’s not all – my broadband router, as supplied GigaClear offers the poorest of home wifi capability, although it does offer guidance on how to improve things via its website.

  1. Powerline ethernet:  I tried that and as soon as I switched it on the router just dropped ALL internet connectivity – thanks for that one!
  2. Direct ethernet connection: Er, isn’t wifi supposed to be much easier, and no messy cables around the house…
  3. Wireless access points.  They actually suggested I purchased and intalled a slave router.  I did. Trouble was every time we had a power cut (I live in a rural area…with no good BT broadband…hence using fibre from GigaClear…) the slave router was quicker faster and betteer than the GigaClear one so..all the wifi devices connected ti ti – but of course it was a slave so it didn’t have it’s own internet connection – doh!
  4. They said avoid wifi extenders – I haven’t and thank god I didn’t although I still get the odd drop out
  5. Their final option was using a different router – see 3!

So it’s clear that much of the issues are a mix of crap tech (the product) or crap service (broadband/electricity).  If you thought that broadband over fibre was stable – think again.  Here’s how Virgin Media and BT have been doing over the past 24 hours (live data so it will change) – so there’s still a way to go to provide the kind of stability that is required to cope with the flaky technology that we’re being sold!!

Too complex

At the beginning of this year (2018) Nilay Patel wrote a piece on the Verge called “Everything is too complicated” and in it he said:

Think of the tech industry as being built on an ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.

And you know what?  He isn’t the only one!

I could go on…and on, and on, and on!

Too stupid?

Am I really the reverse of Marvin the Paranoid android?  Do I have a brain the size of a pea?  I think NOT!

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to take you up to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong-  I’m no genius – but I’ve got an above average IQ (c.140 – whatever that means!) and I can grasp quite complex concepts like “Cognitive Dissonance“, “Bounded Rationality” and “Black Holes” and answer equally difficult questions such as “Why am I here?”, “Who is Linda Clayton?” and “What is The Infinite Improbability Drive” so I’m not a total idiot – I just have problems getting my tech to talk to each other and the outside world!

The answers are, btw, a. Because I damn well am, b. a figment of someone’s imagination and c. an example of Douglas Adams’ genius.

 

 

 

 

 

Bloated apps or developer diets?

Here’s a thought – have you seen just how much of your phone’s memory is taken up by your apps?  I think you may be staggered to see that it’s a pretty big chunk of your total available memory!  In fact have you noticed how big some of these apps are getting?  Here’s just a selection of the “A” apps on my phone.

  • Adobe Clip – 108MB
  • Amazon Alexa – 271MB
  • Amazon Shopping – 191MB
  • Anchor – 142MB
  • AutoTrader – 95MB

5 apps accounting for 807MB – pretty bad, but it get’s worse, much worse!

  • Chrome – the web browser from Google accounts for 730MB – on it’s own,
  • then there’s Google, the search bit – another 606MB!!
  • But of course the real memory hogger is, yes you’ve guessed it, Facebook:
    • 1.12GB, for the Facebook app itself,
    • 1.38GB for Instagram – and then there’s the separate Messenger app
    • at this point I went ballistic and installed the Messenger Lite version – a mere 43MB – hooray!!

Just doing some research on Google and discovering that back in the deep, dark , past of 2010, (yikes – very much the dark ages!!) most Android apps were approximately 2MB – yes you read that right 2MB!!  It seems that as phones have “improved” over time apps have expanded to take up the available space….

It’s getting crazy and, boy oh boy, the almost continuous updating of apps is sucking up my bandwidth – 23 apps recently updated!  Just look at Facebook’s history – here is its timeline as detailed by Wikipedia – boy was 2017 a busy year, and just checking on my mobile to discover that I’m on version 198.0.0.53.101!!

I wonder if these app developers have a deal with the mobile networks.  you know they get a cut of the data charges!

If they’re not then they’re missing out on a trick AND a load of dosh!  I also find it very interesting that at a time when Google is penalising websites for the time it takes them to load it is also producing massively bloated mobile apps that do just that – take a long time to load!!

I wish….there’s another trend that is irritating and that’s the decision by some of the major device manufacturers to embed some apps into the OS – so you can never fully delete them, only stop them from functioning – they’ll still hog your memory though!  I moved away from Apple ,many years ago because of their walled garden approach but Samsung you’re doing it too now!!

So, is that it?  Are we destined to a life of feature-rich, over-bloated apps that continuously update – or is there another way?  Thankfully there is!!

I’ve already mentioned that I installed the Messenger Lite app – it does the job perfectly well and takes up a fraction  of the memory of the full-fat version.  So when i found this list I thought – yippee…

  • Google Go
  • Gmail Go
  • YouTube Go
  • Files Go
  • Facebook Lite
  • Messenger Lite
  • Skype Lite
  • Twitter Lite
  • LinkedIn Lite

But sadly the Google apps aren’t compatible with my device, in fact none of my devices!  Hmm I smell a rat here- but actually I’m just misinformed – these apps are for Android Go devices – bummer!  If I can run a Facebook or Messenger Lite app on my Samsung Galaxy S8+ why doesn’t google step up?  I think we should be told!!

More digging and finally some progress…here’s a starter for 10 – a browser with a size of just 400-500Kb – sign me up!!  Now I’m on the hunt for a few more small footprint apps…email, other social media apps…. and some more

So now it’s time for a play, to see if any of these small footprint apps can deliver a suitable user experience…

 

 

Opting out – it’s an omnishambles


Royal Mail is an omnishambles! GDPR is an omnishambles and together they’re just ludicrously inept!

I continually get unsolicited direct mail popped through my letterbox by my lovely postie – he’s a really nice bloke and this is nothing about the excellent service that he provides (in shorts) all through the year.  Now I’m pretty sure that I’d already opted out and when I explore things – guess what?  I had!  But that over 2 years ago and apparently you have to renew your opt out – every two years!  I wonder if that applies to GDPR compliance?  I’ll need to check – it would seem logical that one rule would apply to all – wouldn’t it?

Here’s the guidance that Royal Mail offers and you may wish to cut to the quick by reading the headline below and then scrolling down to the headline that’s in red. Because the bits in between are directing you to external sites – or as I would put it examples of the Royal Mail, abrogating responsibility for what they stuff through your letterbox.

How do I opt out of receiving any leaflets or unaddressed promotional material?

Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door stops all unaddressed items from being delivered by us (although we do work with Government to get a message to every UK address in exceptional circumstances where delivery of the message is deemed to be in the national interest).

Things you need to know before choosing to ‘opt out’:

  • It is not possible for us to separate material you don’t want from those you do want. For example: advertising offers or leaflets from material from Central and Local Government and other public bodies.

  • Opting out means no one at your address will receive unaddressed mail items.

  • We deliver a minority of the total volume of unaddressed mail items in the United Kingdom. Our opt out does not cover any other distributors, who will continue to deliver unaddressed mail items to your property. Opting out of Royal Mail Door to Door deliveries will not necessarily reduce by a significant amount the number of items you’ll receive.

Opting out from other unaddressed mail deliveries

To opt out from deliveries from other unaddressed mail distributors you may wish to register with the ‘Your Choice’ preference scheme run by the Direct Marketing Association.

They can be contacted at:
‘Your Choice’ Preference Scheme
Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd
DMA House
70 Margaret Street
LONDON
W1W 8SS

Telephone: 0207 291 3300
Fax: 0207 323 4165
Email: yourchoice@dma.org.uk

If you would like to stop any other unwanted communications please visit The Mailing Preference Service www.mpsonline.org.uk Opens in new window , which provides details on all other preference services, or call the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599

Opting out of receiving charity appeal communications

The Fundraising Preference Service is a website-based service that can help members of the public control the communications they receive from charities.

By registering your details with the Fundraising Preference Service you can choose to stop email, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages directed to you personally from a selected charity or charities.

To find out more and register please visit the FRS website Opens in new window or call their helpline on 0300 3033 517.


Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door” – that’s another link by the way and finally…

Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door

If you still wish to opt out of receiving Door to Door mail items please complete our opt out form and return it to us at the address shown.

Royal Mail Opt out form – English
Royal Mail Opt out form – Welsh

We’ll action your request within six weeks of receiving your completed form. Your opt out will last for a period of two years. During this time every effort will be made to prevent the delivery of Door to Door items by Royal Mail.

At the end of the two year period, in order to continue with your opt out, you will simply need to repeat this process and complete a new application form to confirm that you are still resident at the address and wish to continue opting out of Door to Door deliveries.


So you have to fill in a form, every two years, that can only be posted – not completed online nor done over the phone….and on it the form has the following weasel words.

  • I confirm that I have read and fully understood your letter advising me of the implications of
    “opting out” of receiving deliveries by Royal Mail of unaddressed Door to Door mail items to
    my address.
  • I understand that I may miss important information from local or national government or
    other publications that are sent using this service.
  • I understand that I will continue to receive unaddressed material delivered by companies
    other than Royal Mail.

First off, where’s this letter?  I haven’t received a letter from them mentioning this – and frankly it’s just a waste of time – just get on with it!!

Secondly – I hope this isn’t a get out for Royal Mail losing correctly addressed letters to me.

You mean the chaps who wander around stuffing promotional crap through letterboxes – of course I understand that you morons!

Just to let you know if you, like me, get loads of charity mailings and want to stop their garbage from arriving you need to stop them individually on the FRS site – yep individually!

I’ve also been on the MPS site and registered with them (pretty sure I’ve done that before too!).


How tedious is that.  Actually it’s about the same as trying to opt out online.  For starters every website seems to use a different method or allows you to opt out of some things but not necessarily the same things that the next website you visit allows…and then of course if you don’t allow them to store cookies on your machine then you have to go though the same system EVERY time you visit the site.

Now tell me…how is that helping me as a consumer, to manage my own data?

It’s not is it?

This is from the Information Commissioner‘s website:

You cannot rely on silence, inactivity, pre-ticked boxes, opt-out boxes, default settings or a blanket acceptance of your terms and conditions.

Oh really?  I wonder what percentage of sites comply with that…5% maybe.  There are plenty of sites that don’t give you the choice of whether a 3rd party can see your data – as there’s no option there end to switch that functionality off!  And what about those emails that say it’ll take 10 days (or whatever) for this opt out to take effect. Why?  Surely once the fact has been established that you don’t want what ever it was then that should be that…digital update of data and all that jazz!!  It’s a bit like allowing a rapist a couple of weeks to process the fact that you’ve said “NO, No and thrice NO!” before you can say he’s committed an offence.  It’s bloody stupid!

What is required is some joined up thinking and some joined up legislation – but, sadly, knowing the legal profession there’s very little likelihood of that ever happening..but we can dream people – we can still dream!!


So as part of my day job I end up looking at a number of websites and coming across a range of opt in/out privacy details-  and I’ve just found this – possibly the most convoluted I’ve ever come across.  What follows below is the home page of the Oath privacy centre – there are 5 other pages for you to trawl throigh and msot of them mean you have to do a shedload of work to actually opt out!

 

Welcome to the Oath privacy centre

In June 2017, we announced that Yahoo and AOL had joined together to become Oath, a digital and mobile media organisation and part of Verizon.  We’re now bringing Oath and Yahoo together under a single privacy policy.  Some things haven’t changed, such as the control tools that we provide to help you manage your experience with us.  If you have an existing Yahoo or AOL account, you will need to agree to parts of this Privacy Policy.  If you have not yet agreed and consented to this Privacy Policy, the legacy Yahoo Privacy Policy or legacy Oath Privacy Policy (for AOL) still apply to your account.  For Oath products or services that are accessed without signing in to an account, this Privacy Policy applies to those products and services as of 25 May 2018.  If you are creating a new account, the terms below apply as of today.  

Last updated: May 2018

Our privacy pledge

Our commitment is to put users first.  We strive to be transparent about how we collect and use your information, to keep your information secure and to provide you with meaningful choices.  This Privacy Policy is intended to help you understand what information Oath, its affiliates and its house of global brands collect, why we collect it and what we do with it. If you are located in Europe, the Middle East or Africa (‘EMEA’), this policy applies to you.  It sets out how Oath controls and treats your information in its brands, websites, apps, advertising services, products, services or technologies (we’ll collectively refer to these as ‘Services’).  Except as set out below, when we refer to ‘Oath’, it means Oath (EMEA) Limited, the Irish-established company that supplies the Services to you (and acts as data controller of the personal data Oath collects when you use those Services). If you are a user of HuffPost UK, Sky | Yahoo Mail, BT | Yahoo Mail or TalkTalk News & TV Guide, ‘Oath’ may refer to different entities in relation to who controls your personal data. HuffPost UK, Sky | Yahoo Mail, BT | Yahoo Mail or TalkTalk News & TV Guide users can find more information by clicking here.  Furthermore, additional privacy practices for certain Services can be found in Details for specific products and services.

This Privacy Policy does not apply to the practices of Oath affiliates or companies that Oath does not own or control.

Your controls & privacy rights

We believe that you should have control of your information. In some cases, you can review or edit your account information, including your marketing preferences, location data, mobile choices, advertising settings and search history, as well as account deletion controls by visiting Privacy Dashboard. Some of our Services provide additional controls.  Please see our Details for specific products and services.

In many cases where we process your information, you may also have a right to restrict or limit the ways in which we use your information.  In certain circumstances, where we rely on ‘legitimate interests’ to process your information as described in the ‘Legal bases’ section below, you also have the right to object to the processing of your information by us.

You can also request the rectification of your information by us.  You can request that we delete your information, and Oath will carry out this request unless certain exceptional reasons arise permitting Oath to keep certain information about you.

You also have the right to obtain a copy of your information in an easily accessible format.  In certain circumstances, you can also request that we transfer some of your information to third parties.  Oath will help you exercise these important rights. Please use the ‘feedback form’ available in the Questions and Suggestions section below to learn how you can receive assistance in exercising any of these rights.

Withdrawing consent

You have the right to withdraw your consent to our processing of your information and your use of our Services at any time. You can exercise this right by going to the controls available in our Privacy Dashboard, or you can use the ‘feedback form’ available in the Questions and Suggestions section below to receive assistance with exercising this right. Similar to the way in which you can give consent by interacting with our Services, you can also withdraw your consent through our Services. You can choose to delete your Oath account via your account settings and we will delete your information.

If you withdraw your consent to the use or sharing of your information for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy, you may not have access to all (or any) of our Services and we might not be able to provide you with all (or any) of the Services under this Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service. In certain cases, we may continue to process your information after you have withdrawn consent if we have a legal basis to do so, or if your withdrawal of consent was limited to certain processing activities. For example, we may keep information if we need to do so to comply with a legal obligation, to resolve disputes and to enforce our agreements.

Information collection and use – general

Certain categories of information collected by Oath are necessary to use our Services, such as the information you must provide when registering for some Services.  We may collect and combine information when you interact with Oath Services including information outlined below.

  • Information that you provide to us. We collect the information you provide to us in order to enable us to operate and provide our Services, including:
    • When you create an account with an Oath Service or brand. (please note that, when you use our Services, we may recognise you or your devices even if you are not signed in to our Services.)
    • Oath may use device IDs, cookies and other signals, including information obtained from third parties, to associate accounts and/or devices with you.
    • When you use our Services to communicate with others or to post, upload or store content (such as comments, photos, voice inputs, videos, emails, messaging services and attachments).
    • When you otherwise use our Services, such as to view the content that we make available, perform search queries or install any Oath software such as plug-ins.
    • When you sign up for paid Services, use Services that require your financial information or complete transactions with us or our business partners, we may collect your payment and billing information in order to provide you with those paid Services. We may remember the payment information that you entered during a prior purchase for paid Services and provide you with the option to use that payment information during the purchase of a new product.
  • Device information. We collect information from your devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) in order to provide you with our Services, including information about how you interact with our Services and those of our third-party partners and information that allows us to recognise and associate your activity across devices and Services.  This information includes device-specific identifiers and information such as IP addresscookie information, mobile device and advertising identifiers, browser version, operating system type and version, mobile network information, device settings and software data.
  • Location information.  We collect location information from a variety of sources.  You can learn more about and manage your location permissions on our Locations page or by visiting the location settings tool on your devices.
  • Information from cookies and other technologies.
    • We collect information when you access content, advertising, sites, interactive widgets, applications and other products (both on and off our Services) where Oath’s data collection technologies (such as web beacons, development tools, cookies and other technologies, etc.) are present. These data collection technologies allow us to understand your activity on and off our Services and to collect and store information when you interact with Services we offer to partners.
    • This information includes the kind of content or ads served, viewed or clicked on; the frequency and duration of your activities; the sites or apps you used before accessing our Services and where you went next; whether you engaged with specific content or ads; and whether you went on to visit an advertiser’s website, downloaded an advertiser’s app, purchased a product or service advertised or took other actions.
  • Information from others. We collect information about you when we receive it from other users, third parties and affiliates, such as:
    • When you connect your account to third-party services or sign in using a third-party partner (such as Facebook or Twitter).
    • From publicly available sources.
    • From advertisers about your experiences or interactions with their offerings.
    • When we obtain information from third parties or other companies, such as those that use our Services. This may include your activity on other sites and apps as well as information that those third parties provide to you or us.
    • Information that we receive from Verizon will be used consistently with Verizon’s privacy policy.

How we use this information

In order to deliver, personalise and improve our Services, we combine and use the information that we have about you (including information we receive on and off our Services) to understand how you use and interact with our Services and the people or things that you’re connected to and interested in. We may also use the information we have about you in the following ways and for the following purposes:

  • To provide, maintain, improve and develop relevant features, content and Services.
  • To analyse your content and other information (including incoming and outgoing emails, instant messages, posts photos, attachments and other communications) in order to keep our Services safe and secure. This analysis also assists us in making the content, Services and ads we provide to you more personalised (except in BT | Yahoo Mail).  You can review and control certain types of information associated with your Oath account by using  Privacy Controls.
  • To fulfil your requests and when authorised by you.
  • To help advertisers and publishers connect to offer relevant advertising in their apps and websites.
  • To match and serve targeted advertising (across devices and both on and off our Services) and provide targeted advertising based on your device activity, inferred interests and location information.
  • To contact you with information about your account or with marketing messages, which you can also control.
  • To associate your activity across our Services and your different devices as well as associate any accounts you may use across Oath Services together. We may associate activity and accounts under a single user ID.
  • To carry out or support promotions.
  • To conduct research and support innovation.
  • To create analytics and reports for external parties, including partners, publishers, advertisers, apps, third partiesand the public regarding the use of and trends within our Services and ads, including showing trends to partners regarding general preferences, the effectiveness of ads and information on user experiences. These analytics and reports may include aggregate or pseudonymised information.
  • To provide location-based Services, advertising, search results and other content consistent with your location settings.
  • To combine information that we have about you with information that we obtain from business partners or other companies, such as your activities on other sites and apps in order to ensure that the ads, Services and content we provide to you are more suited to your interests.
  • To detect and defend against fraudulent, abusive or unlawful activity and to keep our Services safe and secure.

We provide you with controls to manage your experience with us. To review and manage your privacy settings, please visit our Privacy Dashboard.

What are our legal bases for the use of the information?

We mainly rely on three separate bases to lawfully process your information. First, we need to process your information in certain ways to provide our Services to you, in accordance with our Terms of Service. This processing is necessary to perform the contract between you and us, and our Terms of Service make it clear that processing of your information for the purposes of personalised content and ads is a necessary part of the Services we provide. Second, where you have given us consent to use your information in certain ways, we will rely on your consent. Third, in certain cases, we may process your information where necessary for the purposes of our legitimate interests or the legitimate interests of third parties, where those legitimate interests are not overridden by your rights or interests.  Occasionally, Oath may rely on other legal bases to process your information, such as to protect a user’s vital interests (such as where there is a risk of imminent harm) or to comply with a legal obligation. Please see our Legal bases page.

How we share this information

Oath shares information within its affiliated brands and companies and with Verizon. We also share information that we have about you in accordance with this Privacy Policy, including to provide Services that you have requested (including when you connect to third-party apps and widgets). We do not sell, license or share information that individually identifies our customers with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Oath unless one of the following circumstances applies:

  • With your consent. We will share information with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Oath when we have your consent.
  • With Verizon. As part of Verizon, Oath may, to the extent permitted by law and in accordance with user controls, share information with Verizon and Verizon affiliates. This information will be used in accordance with Verizon’s privacy policy.
  • Within Oath. Information may also be shared within Oath, including with other Oath Services and affiliates. Oath affiliates may use the information in a manner consistent with their privacy policies.
  • With partners. We may share your information with non-affiliated companies who are:
    • Trusted vendors.  We provide user information to trusted vendorspartners who work on behalf of Oath based on our directions and in compliance with appropriate confidentiality measures. Learn more.
    • Advertising, analytics and business partners. We may share aggregated or pseudonymous information (including demographic information) with partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps or other companies. For example, we may tell an advertiser how its ads performed or report how many people installed an app after seeing a promotion. We do not share information that personally identifies you (personally identifiable information includes your name or email address) with these partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps or other companies.
    • When you use third-party apps, websites or other products integrated with our Services, they may collect information about your activities subject to their own terms and privacy policies.
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er….doh!

 

Lights at nights and prats on the pavement!

As the evenings are drawing in, earlier and earlier and the dawn rising later and later, the growth in cycling on our roads (mostly!) grows ever more dangerous.  There’s a combination of bad behaviour from both cyclists and motorists part that can lead to accidents and when this is compounded by the advances in lighting technology, the lack of practical legislation and the result of government budget cuts – well just look out that’s what I say!  Allow me to expand on this…

From a UK health perspective the growth in cycling is a bonus – especially for those older people who are trying to exercise without adding undue stresses and strains on their ageing joints.  Not everyone can afford to join a gym, or wants to have their own static bike when the draw of the open air, the the feel of lycra on your skin and the “crack” of riding en masse exists.  Good on you I say.  If the roads had been kept in better condition and not left to rot away until they offer nothing less than an assault course for the rider I’d be with you – at least in summer when it’s warm, and light!

First off bad behaviour – on both sides!

I’m a driver not a rider.  I appreciate that my 2 tonne vehicle is perfectly capable of turning a cyclist in a bloody pulp.  So I do NOT drive up their arses, jump (or even totally ignore) red traffic signals, I indicate clearly what my next move is going to be and I give them as much space as I give a horse when I’m overtaking them – safely.  So I get extremely p*ssed off when I come across a pack of lycra clad morons who are either, totally oblivious to the queue of traffic that is building up behind them as the saunter down a country lane – 2 abreast (and when there are lot of them even more abreast!!), or just being ****ing arrogant!

I drive patiently, whilst I may be seething inside my comfy cabin, I understand the argument about “safety in numbers” but still, c’mon these are roads we are talking about not the bleeding Serengeti!  Drive responsible – everyone!

Jumping red lights – According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, 57% of cyclists admit to running red lights. A 2013 YouGov poll found that 35% of cyclists admit to ignoring red lights at least “occasionally.” If caught jumping a red light, cyclists can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of £30. OK these are kids – bloody stupid kids – but they’ll grow up into bloody stupid adults – if they’re lucky!

Let’s now focus on technology, specifically lighting technology.  When a car approaches with its headlights poorly adjusted there’s every chance that the driver is going to get a taste of his or her own medicine as the recipient of the dazzling elects to give the other driver the benefits of his or her own full beams!  Modern lighting is getting too bright, so when it is badly adjusted it’s actually dangerous – if you have to close your eyes, even for an instant, to avoid being dazzled (and having your night vision destroyed) you can’t see where you’re going… Now this isn’t as some writers have shown, down to my age – I’m not talking about the deterioration of my eyes – I’m talking about lights that if the individual was driving behind you would be dazzling you in your rear view mirror – i.e. too high or those lights which seem to be permanently readjusting themselves by flicking up and down or aligned incorrectly – too far to the right!

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders maintains there is no evidence that factory fitted high-power lights distract drivers and that lamp-levelling technology ensures they are safe.

Yeah, right….bollocks!

In fact there is clear guidance as to how they should be set up – this from Wiki-How :

There are mounting screws and adjustment screws above, below and to the side of the headlight. Park your vehicle 25 feet from a wall, and place a piece of tape horizontally 4 feet high across the wall in front of your vehicle. Turn on the low beams. Adjust the headlights until they shine on the tape.

Your car would fail its MOT test if your lights are poorly set up.  So you’d expect the same for those “xenon” style LED lights that bicycles are now using – wouldn’t you…and you’d be WRONG!

According to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR), it’s illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors and rule 60 of the Highway code says:

“At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”

Bike Radar offers guidance on bikes and lights –

Is there a maximum brightness for bike lights?  No there isn’t, but you don’t want to dazzle oncoming drivers, for obvious reasons!

“If your lights cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other road users, then you’re breaking the law and the police are within their rights to fine you,” says Cycling UK. In practice, though, as long as your bike has a front white and red rear light it’s rare to be stopped and fined by the police, but please be considerate to other road users.

One more word of advice — don’t mount your most powerful front light on your helmet. It completely dazzles oncoming road users, and is very inconsiderate.

So it’s mostly you MUST have lights at night and only an aside about don’t dazzle other road users…well let’s go back to that image at the top of this post.  Have another look at it – here it is again…

Have a look at the right hand hedge.  It must be at least 6 foot high.  And it’s being illuminated brightly by the light on the front of the bike…  Now take a look at the left hand hedge…it’s almost in the dark.  Now if that was me driving towards this numpty I’b be less than impressed.  In fact I’d have to say that at least 50% of the bikes I meet at night have overly bright, even dazzling lights, whereas for cars the figure is closer to 5%.

Maybe it’s about time that bikes need to have MOTs – to get their lights tested at the very least.  Maybe it’s about time the Police stopped some of these morons who give the rest of the cycling community a bad name and did something about it – but they won’t ‘coz Theresa May has cut their budgets by 25%, and officer number are way down, and they don’t even investigate burglaries anymore – so to expect them to leave the city centres late night opening establishments to pull cyclists over for jumping red lights and having dangerous headlights is never, ever going to happen – until someone changes the priorities.

I mean, for a PR stunt, you could always knock BoJo off his bike to generate aware of bike safety, or even better stop the twat from riding around by making him MOT his bike.

Also I would like to make 2 final points about cyclists – specifically those in Oxford.  Oxford is a city that pats itself on the back (repeatedly) for being extremely bike friendly.  Loads of bus/bike lanes for them to use, masses of “parking” spaces for bikes, speed humps and other road calming measures to slow the traffic down.  They’ve even gone so far as to reduce the amount of parking for cars in the centre so you have to use the park and ride schemes they have introduced.  Great, all those measures must make it a paradise for you cyclists out there…well there are 2 things that you can do to make it safer – for us drivers who now have turned into pedestrians so we can get around your city:

  1. park your cycles nicely – don’t just strew them around making it tricky to get past them..
  2. don’t ride on the ****ing pavement!

That 2nd one is actually an offence – it seems to confuse many cyclists about whether or not they are allowed to cycle on the pavement. According to Laws HA 1835 section 72 & RSA 1984, section 129, cyclists must not cycle on the pavement.

The World’s Best Biscuit

I’ve said this before, there is no argument here – Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings ARE the World’s Best Biscuit – period! End of!  If you haven’t tried them then your view is irrelevant, if you have – you know what I’m saying is true – right?

I was brought up on these crunchy ginger biscuits.  From my early years on the cliff at Whitesand Bay through my years away at college in Coventry and then Reading the taste has never left me – not even now another 40 odd years later!  I’m delighted to say that thanks to my daughter I have a box in my cupboard right now – dunked in coffee – oh, I can barely contain myself 🙂

Who would have thought that the combination of the following ingredients would deliver such joy?  Wheat Flour, Sugar, Invert Sugar Syrup, Butter (Milk), Vegetable Fat (Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil), Rice Flour,  Raising Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate), Rusk (Wheat Flour, Salt, Raising Agent: Ammonium Bicarbonate, Spices), Salt, Natural Lemon Flavouring.  But Mr John Cooper Furniss and his descendants have created the perfect match of flavour, crunch and dunkability!

No surprise then that…

In 2007, Furniss secured an official trademark to preserve Cornwall’s most famous biscuit. Now we’re the only bakery licensed to make Original Cornish Fairings™. If you find yourself eating only one then stopping, please check the pack…they might be imposters.

Some people, yeah like imposters, have tried to come up with a recipe for Cornish Fairings – Paul Hollywood  and Mary Berry to name but 2 (charlatans indeed!) – sorry Mary, but they don’t look anything like the real deal.

Cornish through and through, Fairings should be gently spicy, crunchy and very moreish. The name ‘Fairing’ comes from a present bought at the fairs which were held every year at Whitsuntide and Corpus Christi – a little gift for a loved one or a sweetheart consisting of a gingerbread, sugared almonds, cinnamon sticks or macaroons.

Sadly as well as baking imposters and charlatans there are there are other views about what the best biscuit is out there!  Poor misguided fools who have probably never heard of Fairings or of Furniss of Truro – they have my pity… Channel 5 even did a survey for a TV programme ludicrously named “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit (snort!) and came up with the following list:

  1. Chocolate Digestive
  2. Chocolate Hobnob
  3. Jammie Dodger
  4. Custard Creme
  5. Shortbread
  6. Bourbon
  7. Jaffa Cake
  8. Ginger Nut
  9. Digestive
  10. Wagon Wheel
  11. Kit Kat
  12. Caramel Wafer
  13. Double chocolate chip cookie
  14. Rich Tea
  15. Fig Roll
  16. Milk chocolate chip cookie
  17. Malted Milk
  18. Chocolate Finger
  19. Hob Nob
  20. Chunky Cookie

Dog biscuits – the lot of them – and a chocolate digestive at #1 – oh, p-lease!

The Metro fared no better when it released it’s findings – not even close people, not even close!

So, what, you may ask, makes the perfect biscuit?  Well here are 10 tips – thanks to cupcakersandcashmere.com for starting me off…

  1. Freeze your butter. Start with frozen butter. …
  2. Use a sift to mix your dry ingredients. …
  3. Never use your hands. …
  4. Use the well technique for combining dry and wet ingredients. …
  5. Only work on cold surfaces like wood or metal. …
  6. Cut and stack the dough. …
  7. Do not twist the ring mold. …
  8. Do not use the leftover dough.
  9. Throw all of this away
  10. Buy a pack of Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings

There you are!  It’s really very, very simple.  So just give up – the champion has been crowned – Furniss of Truro’s Original Cornish Fairings – take a bow!

 

That’s just the name of the company

Those of you who have reached well into middle age or are comedy geeks will have spotted that the title of this post is a Monty Python reference – but more of that later…

I really wish that I had the practical gene, you know, the one that allows you to be a DIY god, to transform your home at a fraction of the cost and to the envy of all men like me – but I don’t!

For anything more than changing a lightbulb or building an Ikea flat-pack piece of furniture I need a skilled person – to do it for me – I am perfectly happy with that – my skills lie elsewhere (at least that’s my story!).

Now I don’t think I’m alone in not having this gene, and increasingly it seems that I’m in the vast majority – well judging by the level of response when posting on ratedpeople.com (other websites for sourcing skilled tradespeople are available) anyway.  Sadly the work was outside the skills of my mate Handy Andy who has done lots of other stuff to my home – brilliantly I have to say – hence the need for my alternative approach!  Unfortunately, either the work I need undertaking is too piecemeal or these skilled individuals have become overly blase about meeting customers’ needs!

‘Cos let me tell you I’m not a happy bunny…

Today is the 6th November.  I posted a job on 17th August and got one response – but he seemed knowledgeable and keen so excellent. However, almost 4 months down the line and all I’ve got is a hole next to my garage and a lot of unanswered texts.. The most recent communication I’ve received from him was on the 11th of October.  The phrase “can’t be arsed” comes to mind.

If I had another alternative (bad grammar I know) I’d tell him to forget it – but I need the work done and as I said he was the only person to respond.

I wonder if I should start blaming the government for shafting the economy (look it’s still shite, whatever they try and tell you) which has dramatically reduced the number of house sales and turned the focus on spending money on your existing home and trying to make that better instead.  The logic here being that this upsurge in maintenance etc will have reduced the availability of these skilled individuals – supply and demand and all that jazz!

But there’s more to it than that – of course there is.

Is the man too busy to respond?  Has he lost his mobile phone?  Or does he just not give a ****?

I simply do not know – all I can do is highlight the time period, the lack of communication and what this makes me conclude and how that makes me feel. This feels less like rated people’s slogan – “Tradesmen at your Fingertips‎” and more like a tradesman has “slipped through my fingertips”!

The really important thing here is about setting and managing expectations – this has all the hallmarks of that excellent Monty Python sketch about the dry-cleaning service.  Irritatingly I’m unable to find it using good ‘ol Google but it featured a segment where the “customer” in a dry cleaners called “1 hour dry cleaning” asks why his dry cleaning isn’t ready yet and the shop owner responds – “That’s just the name of the company”….you get my drift??

This is from Quora as written by Eric Siu, who works at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency:

If you’re in a service business, your job is to retain your clients for as long as possible. That means doing the best job that you can and meeting their needs. But it also means meeting your own needs so that a long-term arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved.

He’s not wrong! He’s just set out the positive side of setting and meeting expectations with your customers – it’s when there’s a mismatch that things go wrong.


My current situation makes me want to add a review – right now – before he’s really even started on the job itself.  But what would that achieve?  Well if he bothers to check the rated people site he could see that I really was rather p*ssed off (but he should have realised that anyway) and I’m fairly confident that I be whistling for it if I thought he’d complete the job itself!!  That said it might be of assistance to someone else who thinks that this individual might help them solve their problems – DIY wise!

Online reviews are increasingly important – especially on sites such as ratedpeople – it’s in the very name of the site ffs – “Rated” people!!

Consider the following from an article by Andrew Thomas on inc.com:

  1. When customers are unhappy, there’s a 91 percent chance they won’t do business with a company again (Lee Resources).

  2. Dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to 15 other people about their experience; some tell 20 or more (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).

  3. A negative customer experience is the reason 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company (Customer Experience Impact Report).

  4. Good customer experiences lead 42 percent of consumers to purchase again (Zendesk Customer Service Study).

It’s even worse – he goes on to state that it can take 40 positive reviews to get over 1 bad review, he calls it the Secret Ratio – something that, as a service provider, you’d better learn it fast!

So, dude, get your communication sh*t together – pronto!!

Motorway behaviour – it’s just plain embarrassing

Here’s a question for you…

I can guarantee, from my observations, that not everyone knows the correct answer, which is, according to Driving Test Success website:

A two-lane motorway – keep to the left-hand lane for normal driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. Once you have finished overtaking you should move back to the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are permitted to use either lane.

Three-lane motorway – you should stay in the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower moving traffic. To do this you should use the middle lane. If you need to overtake several vehicles then stay in the middle lane. There is no need to weave in and out of the left-hand lane as you overtake individual vehicles.

You should only use the outer lane to overtake slower moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied with slower moving traffic.

When in either the middle or outer lanes, you must be prepared to move over, to the left or middle lanes, to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Indeed!  If only!!

Basically, whatever motorway you are driving on, these “rules” are simply ignored – by almost everyone!    Which still baffles me as to why our motorways are statistically the safest places to drive in Britain.  Research by the Road Safety Foundation, and published by the Telegraph back in 2013, showed that single carriageway roads seven times more dangerous than motorways! It’s there in black and white so it must be true!

In 2018 Erin Baker, writing for the RAC highlighted the 11 of the most annoying driving habits and at guess what people –  #1 was Middle Lane Hogging.  Despite police pledges to prosecute middle-lane drivers, nothing has changed.  There you’ll find the older person keeping plenty of space around him or herself, totally oblivious to the law and absolutely insistent that they have the right to be where they are and drive at the speed they want.  Or it could be the timid mouse clutching, terrified, to the steering wheel with a fixed gaze – forward – and in no other direction, at any time.  It could be a young guy lost in his music, a family having an argument – it could be you.  In fact it is highly likely to be a lot of you!  Just today I was heading back up the M40 from London and I spotted  a silver Mercedes Vito (registration beginning EN17 Z.. – and yes I do know the rest) in my rear view mirror, who was moving slightly faster than me, I was doing 70 (on cruise control) in the inside lane – honest I was! He slowly passed me – couldn’t have been doing more than 1mph more than me.  About a minute later I had to overtake someone in the inside lane and he appeared in front of me – going significantly slower than he had been previously – but still in the middle lane.  Why? Because he was looking down at his phone, possibly texting someone.  I overtook him, returned to the inside lane and within a minute he came whizzing past me, clearly having finished his “chat” and keen to catch up the lost time – he was doing well over the national speed limit (god I sound virtuous here – pass the sick bag).

That’s not an isolated example – in the past few weeks I’ve driven to the top of Scotland and back and can confidently state that it happens everywhere – people driving in the wrong lane.

In fact I’d go so far as to say we British are the World’s worst motorway drivers – although according to HotCars we don’t even make the top 20 – to be fair this is actually about people who just don’t seem to be able to drive at all…  India only makes #12 – and having been there that’s one place I certainly do not want to drive in!

OK let’s say we’re the worst in Europe – well we can until Brexit happens and then we aren’t in Europe anymore (Cameron you **** – thanks for ****ing it up for us – and now you think we’d be prepared to let you back into politics – think again you total numpty!).  The only place that comes close to us in terms of motorway bad behaviour is Germany, and then only in the rain – the rest of the time they seem totally sensible.  The best motorways to drive on are in Belgium (hey some of them even have their own Wikipedia pages!) and from my experience the most organised and responsive motorists are the Italians – strange but true.  In 2014 Autoexpress published a survey that showed us Brits thought that the Italians were the worst drivers.  And that may well be true in cities and on the twisty roads such as the Amalfi coastline – BUT it’s a different story on motorways.

At least they are predictable and in general they follow the rules.  The drive fast – true, they will let you know they’re coming – also true but unless they are in what many seem to be, a terrible hurry, they WILL stay in the slow lane – they do NOT hog the middle or other lanes.

The problem with drivers hogging the middle lane is then what happens…

  1. for starters on a 3 lane motorway this will lead to more and more people moving to the outside lane to get past them, this naturally causes the traffic to slow, as a concertina or ripple, effect builds up leading to what are termed “phantom traffic jams” – this is one reason why your are more likely to see an accident in the outside lane of a motorway.
  2. undertaking – passing them on the inside – usually accompanied by a long hard stare at them as you go by, possibly accompanied by a bit head shaking and/or finger wagging.  Go on, admit it – you’ve done it – I know I have, and whilst it’s perfectly permissable in the US it isn’t here – ok to be accurate – it is permissable here but only where the queue of traffic in the lane to your right is moving slower than your lane – but that is not the example I am describing here!
  3. overtaking and making a point.  This is the practice, especially on an otherwise empty motorway, of driving up behind a MLH (middle lane hogger) then dropping back and moving into the inside lane before flooring it and zooming quickly up the inside lane and at the last moment swerving to the outside lane to pass them before moving sharply left and back into the inside lane again.

Maybe it’s down to a lack of education – certainly all those years ago when I learnt to drive I didn’t drive on a motorway until after I’d actually passed my test!  Thankfully things are changing:

With the changes that came into effect in June 2018 road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.

“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”

But even then, according to the AA: “more than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that’s you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.”

Plus you then have to factor in the growth in the volume of traffic – which seems never ending:

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.

“The data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.”

The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.

And there’s more – the shift from shopping on the high street to out of town shopping centres not only started the demise of the traditional high street it also increased the number of journeys people take in their cars.  That trend has now been amplified by the shift to online shopping.  The consequent increase in the number of delivery vans on our roads has only fuelled the frequency of traffic jams.

For the last four years, van traffic has increased on average by 4.8% a year, and has been the fastest growing traffic type (in percentage terms) over this time.

Dear god is there no hope for us?  Well clearly there is – but you’re not going to like it, well if you knit your own yogurt, you’ll definitely hate it!

BUILD MORE ROADS!

Don’t spend £42billion (or £60bn as it might finally cost) on a crappy bit of railway – build more roads and help millions of people drive more efficiently as their cars can travel at the average speed it was meant to (c.56mph I believe) and give us more space just like driving in Belgium – ah bliss.

Dicks and Phoneys!

Dear Jack Clarke, Charlie Rostron, Nabil Patel and Jade Pritchard (they work for Dixons Carphone)…

Did you realise that you were working for an organisation which is extremely NOT customer focused – one might even say that it operates on Stalinist principles – me included (harsh..but fair)!

Some time ago I got an email, totally out of the blue, trying to sell me something – it came from the Dixons Carphone group – frankly I had no idea the last time I bought anything from them and wondered why in this world of GDPR, that they still had my personal information!!

So I responded to the email and asked them to remove my details – and there begins the tedious (I’ll try and make it exciting for you dear reader – like by adding in pictures 🙂 ) saga – that is still going on today – despite what they may think!

The nub of this is their failure to believe I am who I say I am – and then, on the basis that they don’t accept that I am who I say I am they go on to publish some of my personal information via the very channel that they refuse to accept that I am who I say I am…

Anyway as is normally the case in these types of sagas you have to read back in time from the end to the beginning, to see how things have developed…but I thought I’d assist you, dear reader, by producing my most recent communication up top and then you can read through the history from the start and understand my acute levels of vexation 🙂  I’ve separated each message with a horizontal line – so you can take a breather whenever you like.

So, to set the scene, I’m responding to an email which has a link to take me to their portal so I can read an update from them….


Dear Sirs please be advised that I shall be forwarding details of our “conversations” to the Data Protection Registrar as I believe that you are in breach of the latest regulations. Your overbearing approach seems intent to stop individuals having their personal data removed rather than making it the right which is enschrined in the relevant legislation – GDPR.

Plus the fact that, despite refusing to accept that I am who I say I am, through this email channel, you appear to have no problems with publicising my home telephone number – and that is surely a failure to protect my identity.

I have been out of the country and unable to respond to your continuous refusals to accept who I am and now you elect to refuse my request.

Well all I can say is that even after I have completed my discussions with the Information Commissioner I shall ensure that I will never purchase another item from your organisation and should I ever receive a single piece of marketing communication from you I shall seriously consider taking you to the small claims court for the time, effort and stress that dealing with you has caused me.

Yours increasingly irritated


…so having typed in the screed I hit send to let them know of my current state of mind 🙂 and guess what…

..so I entered my email – to gain access to “your dedicated” privacy portal – not anyone else’s but MINE! – er, how do they know it’s me? By entering my email obviously (doh!) – the same email that they have been using to communicate communicate with me…

And so, just like that, they “verify” my identity enough to allow me to access the conversation via their portal…but it would seem that it’s not good enough to allow them to actually ACT on my initial request…

Now I’ve been both irritated and on holiday recently (I wasn’t irritated on holiday even though the rain did fall horizontally and the sun did hide away behind the grey clouds for most of the time) so I hadn’t got round to responding to previous emails – but the last one, saying that they’d withdrawn my request really p*ssed me off (like REALLY P*SSED ME OFF) so, that’s why we are where we are right now..

Now it’s time to see how we got to this point, but before we do let’s note that the GDPR allows individuals to make a request for erasure verbally or in writing.  Now had I telephoned them – at no doubt a cost to me – how could I have provided the “proofs” they ask for below?
Here we go with my initial request..in writing.

From: Data Subject 09/26/2018 4:01 PM GMT

Remove my details from your database


So I get an email back from them asking me to log into the privacy portal and now (like today) at the top is the following:
Request ID: TEQV0C
E-Mail: xxxx@xxxxxxxxx
Brand: All of your brands
Phone Number: 012xxxxx566

Show Less

Country: United Kingdom
Postcode: ox27 xxx

Now I’ve hidden some of the details but there are 3 important things to bear in mind here, given the issue at hand.

Firstly, I may have given them this information in the initial “registration” required to access the portal – frankly I can’t remember if there was one but I’m presuming that’s where they got it from – but irrespective of that if they aren’t prepared to accept my email conversation as proof of who I am then they damn well shouldn’t be displaying any additional information than that email to someone who might, if we’re following their logic, not be me.

Secondly, if they already have my email, my home phone number and my address surely that’s enough to be able to identify me from their records – I have a sneaking suspicion those details are collected at the time of purchase.

Thirdly transmitting data over the internet is not always secure and who are https://privacyportal-de.onetrust.com I’ve never heard of them before – and why is my data being transfered outside of the UK?  Will this change when Brexit happens perhaps Richard Purdy Counsel – (CIPP/E) at OneTrust can answer…

So why do they now need the following – isn’t that enough already?


From: Approver 10/01/2018 4:52 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear

Thank you for your request.

For us to continue with this request we need to validate your identity and require the following:

One proof of identity – we can accept an unexpired copy of either your passport or your driver’s licence

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once we have received a form of identification and a proof of your address, we will proceed with processing your request.

You will be able to attach copies by clicking on the paperclip when responding to this message. We will delete all copies on completion of your request.

If you have used multiple email or postal addresses on your account then it will help our searches if they are provided to us at this point.

The 30-day time period to complete your request will start when we have received all documents requested.

If we do not hear from you within 14 days then we will withdraw your request from the process.

If we can offer any further assistance then please reply to us through this secure portal.

Yours sincerely

Jack Clarke

SAR Team

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/01/2018 5:05 PM GMT
I responded to the email YOU sent ME. Remove my details from your database immediately. The very fact that i am using this email should be sufficient. If your original email allowed responses we wouldn’t be in this position now.

From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear ,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:06 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/10/2018 4:54 PM GMT
Its me you ****wit. Now remove my details or i will report you to the information commissioner.

From: Approver 10/12/2018 1:50 PM GMT

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your email.

Please be advised that we will require the information my colleague has requested to progress further.

If it helps, I am happy to accept:

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once you provide this, I will be able to further this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Nabil Patel

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/23/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Right to Forget

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your request.

We have previously attempted to contact you to request further information to enable us to proceed with your request.

As we have not received any method to validate your identity we have made the decision to withdraw your request.

Please accept this as confirmation that your Right to Forget request has now been withdrawn.

If you have any further questions or issues with your request, please visit our privacy policy and submit a new request.

Yours sincerely

Jade Pritchard

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


Frankly I’m not happy to provide that sort of “additional” information – my passport or my driving licence indeed – they didn’t need that when I purchased whatever it was I purchased from them – nor did they need a credit card statement with my address on it – just the bloody credit card!!! “Just give me the money”
So I shall be forwarding the details of this conversation onto the Information Commissioner and asking her for a response.
I may also share this post with her via her twitter feed – https://twitter.com/iconews
..and her Facebook page – facebook.com/ICOnews
Equally in the spirit of sharing personal information, as they have done so, I have no compunction of using the names of the people who have been communicating with me – that’s only fair – don’t you agree?
Plus, in this highly competitive retail landscape, where customer loyalty is hugely important I can honestly say that Dixons Curry’s will get nothing more from me (apart from poor reviews and general abuse that is).  I shall transfer my purchasing to other organisations that are not run by or in the image of dictators (remember Stanley Kalms, the man who founded Dixons was a total *******!)
Finally, the issue of GDPR is really proving to be a complete pain in the ass for us consumers – it seems that rather than protecting our information it’s making it easier for companies to hold onto it – well if my experiences are anything to go by!!
…and 10 out of 10 if you guessed the title of the blog post is a play on words – and if you didn’t realise that – c’mon – get with it!!

Scotland – beautiful yet bound to suffer from Brexit

When the clouds finally cleared, and the rain stopped falling horizontally Scotland shows you why so many love her.

Our recent trip around the country, from Glasgow to Dornoch, from there to the NW coast and back down to Auchiltibuie, then to Skye, then Pitlochry and our final stopover in Edinburgh, provided a mere glimpse of the abundant jewels that await.

The scenery is jaw-droppingly stunning (when you can see it! – see above..and below)

Castles in varying states of repair (this is Eilean Donan castle near the Kyle of Lochalsh), lochs of every size and shape (no we didn’t get a glimpse of Nessie) and every shade of ginger known to man (or woman) adorning the hillsides and trees.

I have to make special mention of the food. No deep fried pizzas anywhere. But beautiful, succulent seafood perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Lunch at Michael Smith’s, Michelin starred, Loch Bay restaurant in Stein, on Skye was a personal highlight – but then the Scotch Broth at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum was mighty fine too!

Ok this isn’t from the Loch Bay restaurant, c’mon, who photographs their food in Michelin starred establishments? You do? You’re weird!

Anyway its food that brings us to Brexit, well the hospitality industry to be specific…

At each of the locations we stayed the bulk of the team of people serving were not Scottish. A few were English but the vast majority were from Europe and predominantly eastern European at that. Even in Auchiltibuie at the Summer Islands Hotel the staff were a mixture of Spanish and eastern European. BTW do stay there. Accommodation was great, food fantastic, service impeccable and I reckon, in good weather, the views are to die for. And you might see this chap round the corner…

But my point is this.  Where are hotels and inns going to find the staff they need post-Brexit? Clearly the locals aren’t interested in working there…so who will be?

 

no-reply@ email addresses – should they be banned?

Well obviously the answer is yes – but let’s understand why that’s the case.

For starters let’s take a quick look at just at what experts in the field of email have to say.  So here are a selection of articles on why you shouldn’t use them…

For starters I thought that Chris Arrandale – the author of the first article made a very good point about the legislation:

Post GDPR, it is more important than ever to take the time to evaluate whether you should use a no-reply address for your marketing campaigns. How can you expect your subscribers to contact you to claim their rights if you don’t allow them to do so?

This is a bit like those irritating post GDPR cookie policies that don’t give you an option to refuse to accept them – see my previous post on this matter!!  And the situation is made a whole lot worse when they deliberately (oh c’mon you know they are doing it on purpose to reduce your ability to contact them!) either hide or actually don’t make an email available for you to contact them – unless you call them first – that’s you Scottish Power that is!

Apparently, according to  in article 4 – in many countries sending emails with a no-reply address is not allowed. In some European countries for example you have to have a working address people can reply to if they have any kind of question about your email – sadly it seems not in the UK – don’t tell me that’s another Brexit ****up!!

Julia Gulevich who wrote the second article list as her first reason for not using no-reply email addresses as it makes it appear that, by not allowing the recipients to reply to your email campaigns, you don’t care about them or their responses or problems.

Oh boy, that is so true.  And I don’t give a rat’s arse what the sender may say that’s the way that I, the recipient, of the email perceive the situation to be.  If they cared they’d make it easy for me.  I reckon the absolute master of this approach has to be RyanAir which has applied this no-reply ethos to it’s entire operation- what a bunch of *****!

The third article points out the issue of people auto-filtering no-reply emails as spam in their inbox.  This is something that I’m shortly going to be instigating.  Personally I find it insulting, demeaning and dehumanising to receive a demand for money (a bill/invoice) from someone who is providing me with a service….yet clearly isn’t interested in customer service.

As an aside here it also irritates me when companies send me invoices (in pdf format) at work and have locked them so I can’t electronically sign them and forward them for payment.  I’ve adopted a policy of simply ignoring these emails now – I have written back and explained the issue but they don’t seem to care so, sod ’em!

 in article 4 also raises the issue of people complaining about spam – some people don’t look for an opt-out link (which if they’re there at all are in very small pale print at the foot of the email) but hit the reply button when they want to unsubscribe from your emailings.  And when people get that “Message Undeliverable” response – hackles will rise, of that you can be sure.

Ryan Phelan  (article 5) is a respected thought leader and nationally (Canada) distinguished speaker. Ryan serves as Chairman Emeritus EEC Advisory Board, and member of the board of directors for the ESPC.  His view is that:

Your brand has a personality, a face. The face might be your logo, but it’s all part of your brand equity. When you send an email with “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” in the sender line, you’re really saying to your customers, “I am never going to look at the email that you want to send me. Never.”

It’s true – think RyanAir’s boss man = Arrogant Twat, Virgin’s boss – Goofy, wacky but innovative, Scottish Power’s Linda Clayton – ah sorry she’s a figment of their imagination – even the image used for her LinkedIn “profile” is called “ghost-person” – I rest my case.  A classic example of just how easy it is for a brand to go wrong – and then just ignore the fact and carry on regardless – doh!

Ms Clayton allegedly signs all of their customer service communication but does she actually exist?   If she does, or doesn’t, by jove she still manages to irritate people.  I’m still getting comments and tweets from a post about her/ I wrote years ago!  So get this brand personality thing wrong at your peril!!

And here’s where we get to the meat of this.  How am I likely to react to receiving these emails?  Well dear reader, how do you think?

…and you’re not wrong!

Yup! In a world where there is so much competition a key aspect of customer loyalty is providing good customer service and making it easy for people to do business with you – including contacting you to sort out any issues that might arise – small or large.  So to adopt a policy of communicating through the medium of a no-reply email is tantamount to a business shooting itself in the head!

Am I likely to do more (any!) business with them?  Not a cat’s chance in hell!

So you marketers and communications professionals out there working for these large (and increasingly small) companies listen up – not just my musings but those of the respected bloggers and experts above.  To be brutally honest there were a lot more links to stuff, in fact Google identified 1,200,000,000 results on the subject of “no reply email addresses” in only 0.40 seconds – yes that was 1.2 billion links!

This is obviously a major issue yet there’s lots and lots of guidance for companies to rectify the issue – I don’t know why they haven’t but let’s just hope that they do get their collective **** together.

Should no-reply email addresses be banned?  YES!

Oh by the way here is just a selection of the no-reply email addresses I’ve received, and organisations that have p***ed me off recently – ok I got bored so stopped adding them!!

  • Auto Trader <noreply@autotrader.co.uk>
  • Adobe <account-noreply@adobe.com>
  • ASM Auto Recycling (Oxford) <noreply@partshark.co.uk>
  • Bannatyne <noreply@bannatyne.co.uk>
  • Cirrus <no-reply@s.backerkit.com>
  • Coinbase <no-reply@coinbase.com>
  • confirmation@easyJet.com <donotreply@easyjet.com>
  • Dyson <do.not.reply@dyson.com>
  • Aegon <DoNotReply@aegon.co.uk>
  • ‘Google Analytics’ <analytics-noreply@google.com>

As a postscript here’s another example of shoddy practice – this time it’s from LinkedIn, or rather it’s from Angela from LinkedIn Premium.  This is allegedly Angela.

Hi paul,

Thanks for being an active member of LinkedIn. To show our appreciation, we’d like to give you a special offer: one free month of LinkedIn Premium.
Get your free month. Cancel anytime.

~Yeah right…here’s my response…

Dear Angela from LinkedIn Premium Give me a free month WITHOUT the requirement for me to enter my credit card details and I might try it. But I’m NEVER going to accept a FREE offer which puts the onus on me to stop it becoming NOT FREE!

And another thing Angela from LinkedIn Premium, why is your email really ‘Angela from LinkedIn Premium’ <donotreply@e.linkedin.com>?

I think that’s pretty shoddy marketing myself – but hey what do I know after a lifetime in marketing 🙂 hashtagmarketing hashtagemail hashtagscam hashtagclickbait

Have a nice day 🙂