Monday, October 25, 2010

Speedy Gonzales

The Speedy Gonzales TV advertisement that debuted during the X Factor at the weekend can be found here on YouTube:

Thursday, October 21, 2010


We had a billboard made entirely of cheese installed in Covent Garden today to promote our broadband services with 100Mb on the way.

With it being around the corner from the office I had to drop by for a look:What I didn't see though was a supply of cream crackers nearby. I'll have to have a word with the PR team in the morning.

As a customer said on Facebook today:
"Virgin media gone into the carpet business? 'Underlay, underlay!'"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My issues with Apple

This week Apple appear to set to make their latest consumer product announcement with plenty of speculation all over the web as to what it might be.

Personally I couldn't care less as I won't be buying it whatever it is.

And before I go on to explain why, I'd like to remind you that this is my own personal opinion and doesn't form the opinions of anyone else, including my employer!

The issue I have with Apple is the fanboy mentality that their products have generated amongst a certain niche of the population.

This type of person is perfectly summed up by a BBC TV news story when Apple launched the iPhone4 in the UK in June.

A teenage girl in the Apple store in London who'd just purchased one was asked by a reporter why she needed one. Her response was:
"I dunno really, I just do"
This was mere seconds after she had spent hundreds of pounds buying one - and this was on the device's first day of launch - in fact she was probably one of the disciples that I saw queued for one when I walked past the Apple store at 830am on launch day:
'Disciple' is not a word I use lightly, as there is an almost Jones-like slavish devotion to buying their products (at whatever the cost) from those who queue for hours (even days, as in one report in the US on the iPad launch), buy every single version of every Apple product as soon as they come out and go on and on and on about how great they are and how everyone should have one.

I wouldn't mind if people were buying them on merit as the best product to suit their needs based on having researched the product and found it to be the best in the market.

Some do (such as my colleague and friend Nick), but a heck of a lot don't - people want to be seen with the white headphones, so they buy an iPod. They want people to see them with an iPad so they get it out on the train and hold it up in a way where everyone on the carriage can't help but have it thrust down their throat - almost saying "I have a new Apple product, look how great I am".

When one version of the iPod first came out I was in the market for an MP3 player so I asked around for some recommendations and tried it out in a shop along with a Creative one and an iRiver. The iRiver had the best sound quality of those in my price range, so I bought that. I don't care what colour the headphones are or how 'cool' I look with it - I'm interested in the storage space, the user interface and the sound quality.

The Apple 'sheep' (as I call the devotee) doesn't, and will only consider the Apple product regardless of its quality, functionality or cost. If an iPod cost £10,000 they'd buy it. This way of thinking is well summarised in the below not safe for work video:

Plus Scott Adams has a good take on the same mentality via Dilbert:

The other thing that annoys me about the sheep mentality is the suggestion (by the sheep themselves) that the Apple way should be applied across everything.

In my day job I get to work on bringing products to market and making sure they deliver the correct end user experience. Countless times I have heard phrases like:
"You should design it like an Apple product."
People who say that are generally the same, self selecting users who have the company's products coming out of their ears. And that's the point really - they're self selecting.

The 84 year old in my local pub wouldn't use an iPod and designing a product for him that works like one isn't going to be of any use whatsoever. While the products they design work well for people they design them for, I doubt they would for those who would never use one - so I do need to think differently.

At this point I have a confession to get off my chest.

I actually purchased an iPod once as a gift for someone, but did bore them to tears in ensuring that they had done due diligence and were buying it based on its merits rather than its 'cool' factor, so I didn't feel quite so bad. To me it's a triumph of marketing over functionality (as The Telegraph so succinctly put it), but it did the job for them and they were happy.

The sheep mentality is not for me and I won't be buying whatever this week's new product is for myself ... I'll stick with doing my own research and choosing my tech on merit rather than marketing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Good time today lol

I've just been having a look at my Twitter wordcloud over at tweetstats (the below screenshot was after I imported it into Wordle) and, other than reminding myself that I do tweet quite a lot, I also managed to make a sentence of 'good time today lol' out of some of my most commonly used words:So I seem to have the perfect antidote to a friend who accused me of being miserable on Twitter this morning :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our discovery channel

Recently we launched what we are calling the 'Broadband Discovery Zone', which is a section on our website that looks like this ...
... and can be found here.

So why have we done this? From all the feedback from our broadband customers (as well as with a bit of research thrown in) the messages that we hear loud and clear are that the most important things to them are: their speed, the reliability of their connection and their security when online, especially when news like this appears in the press.

We set up the Broadband Discovery Zone to give some top tips on the common problems people might experience with their broadband and what they can do to fix them. With well over half of the speed and connectivity related problems our customers experience being down to their own equipment (hardware, software, wireless routers etc) there's plenty that we've learned that we are happy to pass on.

As well as tips, tricks and useful information about what to do when you have a speed or connectivity problem, there's a section in the Broadband Discovery Zone about ensuring you're safe when online with advice about how to secure your wireless network included. Given this can be quite complex to do, our Digital Home Support Team are also there to help (this is a chargeable service – more details on this can be found here).

Also included in the Broadband Discovery Zone are some help videos for our customers and news on developments to our network – including the increased upload speeds we announced last week.

While we've deliberately kept the Broadband Discovery Zone focused on the most common queries we get from customers and advice on how they can help themselves without needing to give us a call, we’re interested in any and all feedback on what else we should put into it in future – do please let us know your thoughts.

For another blog ...

This isn't what I would call a 'proper' blog posting (I'm working on another of those at the moment) but is an opportunity for me to upload a Twitter conversation (from TweetDeck) between our fab Twitter team (see here for more about them) and a customer as I want to correct some misconceptions on his blog about how they work and need to be able to upload a screenshot of the conversation.
So apologies for the unusual blog post!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


A service improvement initiative our networks and change teams have been working on rolling out is something called Advanced Spectrum Management or ASM for short.

ASM is intelligence within our access network (well it sits at the bridge between the access and IP networks) that identifies problems that would otherwise result in customer affecting outages, and by flicking a clever switch in the background ensures that customers maintain service while we get working on fixing the root cause of the problem.

Any particularly tecchie people out there might want to read up more about what it is and what it does on the Cisco website here.

Many outages have been prevented as a result of the rollout of ASM, which recently completed and is showing to be a great success in terms of keeping our customers’ broadband and interactive/VoD services connected when things do go wrong on the network that need to be addressed.

So how well has it actually done? Well thankfully (for people like me), I've been sent a presentation on it that distils the oodles of technical detail that I know is behind this into a high level summary – and I think the graph below of tickets (faults) raised speaks for itself:
[Click on the image for a larger version, scale removed as it’s commercially sensitive]

ASM is helping our networks team do a better job and ensuring less customers are affected when we do have problems and also helping us focus on areas where further attention is needed to improve things even more in future, so overall it’s been a great job well done by all.