Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Al Quaeda Training Day

Or so you would have thought.

We are dominated by Rules. Whether it's confusing parking restrictions, overzealous Governmental bureaucrats sticking to the letter of the Law or scumbags on Court asserting their Yuman Rites over and above the person they have just violated, Rules are everywhere, used and abused.

This post is prompted by someone unknown to me having a rant about the way that holiday companies yank up prices during holiday times.. Now, to me, that is on Page 1 of 'Economics for Dummies', namely Price = Demand divided by Supply. Increase demand and the price goes up. As a parent of school age kids, it grates, but as a Business owner, I have to see their point. Make hay whilst the rain falls less heavily.

You see that the problem lies, not with the Holiday Companies looking to turn a profit on 4% Gross margins, whilst the Airlines constantly turn the screw tighter, it lies with the Government, specifically Ofsted and the schools.

Ofsted sets the standards and the schools, wanting to shine, comply with them. One of these standards is attendance records of the pupils. If it drops, the school gets downgraded. As a result, the schools live in fear of the absent pupil and exert punishment on those that attempt to breach them.

Schools are so scared of Ofsted Stats that to get a day off school, you need a Death Certificate of a parent signed by three doctors,1 Magistrate and your MP unless you want your child's record folder to be stamped "Troublemaker" in red ink.
We asked for one day off to go to a 1st Cousin's wedding this term. You would have thought by their reaction that we'd asked to go on an Al Quaeda training day. We received back an A4 letter form the Head explaining that Voldermort himself would avenge any unauthorised time off.

This was my nephew's wedding. A one-off occasion, to which my children (his first cousins) were invited. Unfortunately, we're not all on Head Teachers' salaries and to meet the cost, it was held on a Thursday, which apparently reduced the price by 50% (Supply & demand again). If we'd have taken the kids, each would have had a black mark against the record (unauthorised absence) and we as parents would have been fined. As this was his first year in Secondary School we chose to not rock the boat. Apparently the fact that he scooped the Trophy for the best performing pupil in his year group that year held no sway. He would suffer with bad exam results and end up in some menial job for the Government. Ofsted Policy maker, for instance.

What a shame, no compassion, no flexibility and the kids miss out on a tremendously happy occasion through no fault of their own. Education is not just about learning from Teachers. It's the Birds, the bees, Social Skills and just enjoying being a child before it's too late.

One day, some liberated Head teacher will wake up and say 'Stuff Ofsted', we'll spit out well rounded pupils that may or may not cause the school to quite reach all these absurd targets".

It's the same with the Ambulance Service. The Government (some non-frontline Jobsworth) has decided that the targets for responding to the most serious of 999 calls are based on time of arrival, not patient outcome. Get there in 8 minutes and 1 second and the patient survives. Fail. 7:59, but the patient has popped his clogs. Wey hey, a pass! Anyone else see the absurdity in that?

It is so easy, from a distance to say 'No' and stuff up a project, an event, a Life decision. Let's toast those that take Richard Branson's approach - "Screw it, let's do it". Cheers.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Why does Yellow Pages still call me?

Once upon an Era, Yellow Pages was king. That doorstopper of a Directory dropped on my parents' doorstep once every few months, Trade vans prowled the streets with Find us in Yellow Pages'  on a bright yellow sticker on the back, semi obfuscated by 'Watford for the cup' and 'clean me' written into the grime.
Then a cat appeared on the scene. Thomson was his name, the cheeky upstart. The Virgin Atlantic to Yellow Pages' British Airways. Always thinner, but somehow trendier and more useful.
Then Tim Berners-Lee gatecrashed the game. His Internetweb thingy seems to have caught on. 'Google' is now a recognised verb and no-one uses Yellow pages any more.
Do they? Yellow Pages and Thomson are still around, but the tomes are thinner and - be honest - when did you last pick one up?
I cannot see why they still have a team of Sales Consultants to sell advertising space. OK, so they both have websites to complement the  Directory, but why not drop the Directories and Sales Staff? You have to move with the times and as many a bookshop has found out, mainstream printed media is declining as fast as Google's Tax bill.
Drop the hard copy and concentrate on online advertising - even then, competing against the Google juggernaut is uphill. You've missed that window. If Yellow Pages or Thomson had realised the power of the Internet, they could have made a great impact before Google came along and spoilt the party. Too late now.

What should we do? Get someone in your Business to advertise on every site going - but only for the free ads. Some sites have their SEO sorted and appear in Google, others don't, but with so many out there (the 'long tail') there is no point finessing it with paid listings. Google has, what is it, 80% of the Search market? Pay someone to get you results in Google, get a Business Tour to stand out and, if appropriate, use Adwords (but use an expert to prevent too much money being wasted).

Everything else paid for is just a waste of time. Don't believe me? What happened to QXL, the British equivalent of eBay? The number 2 auction site. Type it in. www.qxl.co.uk. It's now Danish. Would you try and sell anything on QXL? Would you try and advertise anywhere but Google? If you're thinking 'yes', then turn it around. When did you deliberately go to a non-google search engine to look for something? For 'you', read 'your customers'.
Yellow Pages Call Centre Staff. Move on. No-one pays for advertising in your catalogue any more. Why should they?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Ten things to think about on Facebook

Ten eleven things to think about on Facebook

1. Hoaxers get a kick on seeing how far things go. Think before you share.
2. Do you really think Walmart, ASDA, Apple etc. are going to give away $50, £25 vouchers just for 'liking' a page? Nah. It usually leads to a survey site, skimming your personal info. Don't go there.
3. Asked by your friends to perform obscure settings changes because of perceived 'privacy' issues? See '1'
4. Not every one wants to play Cityville, Farmville, e-ville and the like. Honestly. Some people play Realville. Don't keep sending them invites if the first was ignored.
5. Warnings circulating about malicious programs. Hoaxes. Google the word facebook and the first line before sending on. Or check Snopes. How many genuine ones have you heard about on the news?
6. Check Snopes and/or Google, anyway for Facebook or email warnings. Usually hoaxes and, let's face it, if it was that bad, we would have heard it on the news first. We're too far down the food chain to be the first to know.
7. Be mean with any personal info you share.
8. Ever wondered why the ads on the right seem to be amazingly relevant to you? Reread point '7'
9. Did I mention that you should check a 'share' before sharing? Takes 10 seconds on Google or snopes.
10. Should you share this? Yes? No? Only to people that keep sharing stuff without checking its veracity first? I dunno, it's up to you.
11. (never could count). If you think this is aimed at you, that is a possibility, but it's not personal, more an attempt to reduce the tat to interesting stuff ratio. Happy 2013.