Category Archives: tech

Apple Maps #fail : My own experience

I was quite pleased when Apple chose to break away from Google. The steady infiltration of sponsored, and inaccurate information on Google Maps really bugs me.

I also didn’t join the chorus of deriders of the new Apple offering, because I remember how woeful the Google maps were when they were new.

But now I have my own thing to whinge about.

The Dropped pinI was arranging to pick my daughter up after a theatre performance in the city last night, so as part of the text messaged arrangements, I dropped a pin on a map and shared it with her. All arranged, I thought.

Then, much closer to the time, I just had one of those moments of doubt, when you recheck your arrangements, so I tapped on the dropped pin myself, just to see where I’d said we’d meet. I was more than a little horrified to find that it was almost 200 metres (the red pin on the screen grab) from the spot I’d pinned. Even worse if I’d sent it by email, as then the maps.apple link loads google maps on a desktop, which just drops a whole mess of pins over a spread of about 5 kilometres! Utterly useless either way if you’re trying to meet someone in a busy city in the dark.

Curiously, the link actually includes the correct latitude and longitude coordinates, it’s just that it also includes automatically geocoded street details. Stupidly, both Apple and Google prefer the street address to the coordinates. Just changing the structure of the Dropped Pin link would yield a much more accurate result.

Hope they fix that one real quick, because it’s going to cause a lot of people to get very pissed off waiting for their friends on the wrong street corner!

@telstra #fail rant!

OK, so it’s easy enough to mock @Telstra, they are a pretty big target, but this most recent episode pretty much ticks all the bumbling, idiotic, #fail boxes, so I’m going to write about it. It’s long, but I hope it’s worth it for a smile or two.

Last Thursday Aug 2, a few strange things happened, we got some wrong numbers calling us, and our broadband connection died. I was pretty sure our ISP had somehow screwed up the broadband, my router clearly showed it was failing at the authentication server – did all the usual password checks etc. no joy.

I really didn’t have time to follow it up properly until the weekend, but by Saturday morning we were getting so many wrong numbers, we lodged a call to Telstra. Lo and behold, our lines were crossed! We were getting all the calls for the local Post Office, and they were getting all our calls! How does this even happen?
Oh well, the helpful lady with the weird accent told us that it was a programming error, and that it would be fixed within “9-15 hours”, which seemed a reasonable explanation, and timeline.

24 hours later, and we’re still off the air. You don’t realise just how much of your life relies on internet access. Study, travel plans, birthday wishes, workplace issues, they all go on hold while you thrash around trying to troubleshoot. Thank you Live Connected… your no nonsense approach to mobile data and personal hotspots helped us scrape by!

Anyway, I ring Telstra back, go through the tragic/comical voice prompts, and get another totally bizarre accent telling me that “a technician has been assigned and will be at the front of your house”, but that it may take until “Tuesday 7pm”! What?! …another 3 days? This does not tally with the programming error story, in fact, it sounds like complete nonsense – very angry now, but what can you do? Oh, I know, there’s going to be a satisfaction survey at the end of the phone call, I’ll be able to vent a little there… Phone call ends. Line goes dead. Hmmm, well that’s the second time that’s happened. I’m guessing they avoid a lot of negative feedback that way!

OK, so I try bleating about it in public… to Twitter! To their credit, @telstra respond promptly, and offer what assistance they can. Eventually pointing me to this URL: http://www.telstra.com/24x7help which loads on the iPhone in a reasonably friendly manner, and I proceed to tap out my complaint and hit submit: “Server Error”. Back to complain again on Twitter, where I get the utterly unbelievable response from Telstra: “Sorry form does not work via a phone”. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

OK, so I wander next door, and my lovely neighbour happily gives me their wifi password, so I’m at least properly back on the net. Out of curiosity, I try that 24x7help URL again on my desktop – this time it’s all: “Duplicate headers received from server. This problem is generally the result of a misconfigured website or proxy. Only the website or proxy administrator can fix this issue.“. So at least they’re not just blocking phones from their 24×7 help line, no, they’re blocking EVERYBODY! Win for Telstra!

Eventually, they get my email via DM and I send off the full story, hoping for a positive response, or even better, a resolution – you know, some actual help! Too much to ask?

Sadly, it seems so. The word is now steadfastly: “I am unable to have this appointment for tech visit moved forward”, Tuesday 7pm is, apparently, not negotiable :( Any wonder people get upset!

sorry, @path

So, I’ve read your ‘sorry’ post,
I’ve got the latest version of the app,
I’ve searched the settings screen on the app and the web.

Nowhere can I find any method of opting out of your secret contact siphoning ‘feature’. Does this mean that because you’ve already done it, it’s too late and you think perhaps I should get over it? No, I don’t think so.

Yeah – I missed it! Thanks to @benwest0411 for picking me up on it. In my defence, it never actually says exactly how the opt-in would work.

Your post says ‘If I accept, and later decide … to revoke…’, I should email you, but just because I never accepted sure as hell doesn’t mean I don’t now want to revoke. So, Please remove my stolen contact data from your servers. Yeah, you already did

…and… just while I’m full of righteous indignation,

  • put a button on your settings page so that I can have the satisfaction of doing it again all by myself, any time I want to
  • and another button that says ‘Delete Account’ – one that really deletes my stuff, whenever I want to!

I think that still holds

Really pissed off with this. I feel like I’m a pretty savvy user, and I like your app, but you really blew it with this episode. You need to do some serious rebuilding of trust.
and probably that too!

Google – more evil by the day?

I find this very troubling.

Someone at Google appears to be deliberately and systematically polluting and plundering the crowdsourced data of competitors. Two instances seem to have been all but proven so far (check this post about OpenStreetMap and Mocality), it seems unlikely that it stops there.

If ever an action was hypocritical and seemingly calculated to destroy trust, it is this. In fact, it’s an action which could be terribly damaging to Google, which relies so much on trust every time someone uses Gmail, sends a Google+ message, hosts a document, amends a map. Crowdsourcing is trust in action.

For these reasons, I can’t imagine the actions have any basis in official policy at Google, but are likely the actions of an over-zealous group or individual. Whatever, the case, Google need to come clean about this REAL FAST! full disclosure, and nothing less will do. We’re waiting!

Google, the street view trike came, and went

Update: 18 months now, still prodding google, but no answers yet :(

Google Street View is brilliant – in fact, the whole digital map revolution is largely driven by expectations set by Google. Their tech is amazing. Unfortunately, as an organisation, they often fail to come up to scratch. A shame… here’s an example:

Every now and then Google have a flurry of promotion about their street view partners program, most recently in March this year the blogs seemed to be getting the message out. It’s certainly a cool idea, and there are some stunning examples out there. Our University applied for this years ago, and after a few slips and trips, were delighted when the trike finally visited the campus (on May 9, 2010). Then we settled down to wait for the images to come online. The site said it could take up to 90 days.

The Google Street View trike visits the University of Melbourne

Today is the anniversary. Yup, 365 days later, and still no Street View on campus. Now, I’m sure they have their reasons – obviously, being very busy would be one of them. They have since released some excellent street view partner sites. I know we’re not being singled out or ignored, because I understand that the day before they came to us, they did the MCG… and it’s not online yet either! I guess what I find infuriating is [a.] that they are still soliciting for partners, when they’ve obviously got a massive backlog of images already, and [b.] that they never tell you anything – no communication, no progress updates, nothing. It’s always “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

So, Google is as Google does. It’s free, so one certainly can’t complain, but like a lot of people, I do wonder about the direction Google are taking. That they were so long congratulated as innovators, but now that innovation is contributing to a lack of focus for a business that was built on focus. I wonder how long before they do start to officially start to trim their programs, rather than just let them die of neglect.

And now they’re even going indoors! Don’t know if we’ll ever see our images online at this rate.

Yet more trumpeting about excellent new StreetView locations, but no response to any of my enquiries.

StreetView updates… eventually!

Couple of new things on Google Maps / Street View.

They’ve added some new imagery captured by the trike, Google Earth Blog has a good write up of the additions.

While I was there, I was alerted by user “Munden” that the blue dots of user generated photos had disappeared from the Google Maps when you dragged Pegman. Indeed! That does make it a lot easier to drop pegman on a ‘real’ bit of streetview. You can still access the photos by turning on the photo layer first, then dragging pegman onto a photo. Works OK, but I found it didn’t work in the little inset map that displays in the lower right corner. Maybe that’s on their list!

Google's Street View Trike

Speaking of “on their list”, at the start of May last year, the Google Street View trike visited my uni’s campus, but still no sign of the images online. The LatLong blog seemed to be using the recent additions to trumpet their partner program, but I have to say, if our experience is any guide people will have a looong wait for any results!

Big retail never got it

Gerry Harvey (and @harveynormanau ) has become the visible target of the online shopper recently with his comments regarding GST and a ‘level playing field’. Technically, he’s correct, but his approach and methods work best for a certain demographic on shallow, sensationalist popular television – in the faster moving, better informed blogosphere, he’s experienced a massive ‘suicidal‘ #fail.

I’m not going to add much to the comment that hasn’t already been said better already by others [1, 2, 3]. However, I will try to add a little insight from my own perspective.

About 18 years ago, I worked for a company that prepared film separations for print (crumbs! only 18 years ago – do film houses still exist?). It was highly skilled and exacting work, and the company, Show-Ads, was the acknowledged leader of the industry in Australia. Some of the work we produced was simply superb.

Anyway, we could see the internet was going to have a huge impact. We also had really close ties with the major ad agencies and direct links to the several major retailers (Target, Myer, Coles, Kmart). We produced all the artwork for the catalogues these retailers stuffed in your mailbox, and we held digital image files of all their product (we photographed much of it ourselves). In short, we were really well placed to give these retailers a huge head start into online sales.

So, in 1995, the company spawned a new division called Marketspace. It was going to be soooo cool – it was a virtual shopping mall where a visitor could enter, choose a retailer, browse products, and … well, they could browse products. To be fair, looking back now, it sounds like crap, and it kinda was (frames, animated gifs etc.), but 15 years ago, believe me, it was the shizzle!

MarketSpace logo

Funny thing though, the retailers were dead scared of it. They didn’t want to get involved, they didn’t want the risk, the didn’t think it would work, they didn’t want it to work because that would mean people wouldn’t visit their stores. It was an attitude that, even then, marked them as dinosaurs, trudging reluctantly down the long road to the tarpits of extinction. And here we are today, more then 15 years later, and we’re still hearing the same arguments!

So, Gerry (and your ilk). It’s too late. Not just a few weeks too late, not just a few years, but 15 bloody years too late!

Amusingly, one of the brands I remember from the Marketspace days was Myer’s failed venture into electronics: MegaMart (remember those?), and 15 of those stores were sold off to Harvey Norman! So, Gerry, you really did have your chance 15 years ago! Hilarious that now you can go to harveynorman.com.au and search/browse product, but not buy! Sure, there’s no animated gifs, but it’s still that 1995 mindset.

blackberry playbook ‘sneak peek’

OK, a second post about #MoMoMelb. I’ve already had a bit of a moan about Monday’s event so you might think I’m dead against them. No, wouldn’t want to give that impression – consider this constructive criticism ;-)

One of the generous sponsors of MoMoMelb is Blackberry, all these events have their sponsors – it just wouldn’t work without them. And the sponsors have to feel like they’re getting value for their dollars. All I can say is that they might need to adjust their message a little…

We were to be treated to a ‘sneak peek’ of the new Blackberry tablet, the Playbook. Since Apple’s release of the iPad, there’s been a steady stream of press predicting a range of usurpers… so far the predictions have failed to come to much. Anyway, Blackberry is a pretty solid player – a much more worthy adversary in this space than a bunch of OEM hardware makers cranking out cheap tablets and slapping Android onto them, and given the audience, we’ve all heard the reports and speculation, so there’s a fair bit of anticipation in the room.

So, with this captive, tech-savvy audience, what do they do? They play the promo video that accompanied the launch more than two months ago and talk through some specifications which were also released at the same time… that’s it! That’s the Sneak Peek! What a missed opportunity! To be fair the hapless company rep probably had no more information than that – the device isn’t scheduled to ship here for at least another 5 months – if they meet their targets!

Anyway – I had a little laugh to myself about the optimistic predictions they have for battery life, on a device that runs flash, probably in the background! Ha ha! seems I wasn’t the only one who didn’t swallow everything at face value.

Anyway, I don’t know about tablet computing – it’s one of those things that you’ll either find a space for in your life or you won’t. I’ve used an iPad a fair bit, and I love it for a few things; news browsing in particular, over breakfast! But you’re not going to carry one in your pocket. I certainly won’t be buying one. iPads are the darlings of the senior staff around our place, so I suppose there’s going to be a healthy take up of PlayBooks amongst people who don’t pay for their own hardware.

Actually, on that subject there was another hilarious moment when someone asked who had a Windows 7 phone – a surprising number of hands went up. The question was followed with “who bought it themselves”, ummm no-one! After all, IE7, what were they thinking?