Archive for the 'Web Technology' Category

Fabulous Scrabulous

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I spent a while this weekend playing Scrabble on Facebook. I love how the internet enables me to spend time playing games with my friends. I imagine that it would have been much more difficult to settle in Japan if I my communication options had been limited to phone calls and letters.

I was surprised that I have been playing online with Marty as we have a scrabble board in the game’s cupboard. But playing online means that we can take longer over our moves and we don’t have to set aside a specific time to play the game. We also get to be lazy as the computer is checking the words and adding up the scores for us. I just wish I hadn’t pointed out to him that it is a strategy game as I was doing much better when he thought it was a “make cool words” game. Our current game is really close as he managed to place “mega” on the board giving him a triple word score with “megabytes”. In Marty’s book this means he’s already won the game, as he doesn’t seem overly concerned with conventional rules for winning, as anyone who’s ever played Risk with him could testify.

What is a Professional Web-site?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

In his most recent post Barbie mentions a programming contest. The thing that interests me is his reaction to the word “professional”. What exactly is a professional web-site? For some people it’s going to be Amazon, Google or Ebay but for others it’s merely going to be a web-site that was paid for. Of course a professional web-site for a small business can be produced in 30 hours with a team of three people. Just think about how much that would cost. If we give a low price to each member of the team – say £35 per hour – that brings the cost of the site to £3,150. Most design companies I’ve worked with charge closer to £50 per hour – giving us a site that costs £4,500. This is nothing if you consider how much it costs to build something like Amazon. But for a small business it’s a lot of money and most of them would not agree to spend that much on a web-site. There are so many companies now claiming that they can build professional web-sites that it is not shocking for someone to pay around £1,000 for one and at prices that low they must be producing them really quickly. I’ve even come across a company claiming that they can build a web-site for a small business for around £250.

The other thing that interests me is that amount of time it would take to reproduce some of the large professional web-sites such as Amazon. It’s much easier to copy than it is to create. Lots of the time involved in building any software system is taken up with requirements, analysis and finding ways to make the interface useable. If you already had all that how long would it really take?

Love Film, Hate Customers

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

I really like using internet based services because I rarely have to talk on the phone to people in call centres. Last night I tried to cancel my subscription for ScreenSelect. Before ScreenSelect became part of LoveFilm it was possible to cancel the service by filling in a form on their web-site. Now, when you go to the cancellation link, you are presented with the following message:

“A member of our Customer Services team is standing by waiting to speak to you they will be able to take you through the rest of the cancellation process as there are a couple of questions we need to ask you.”

So instead of clicking on a button and filling in a cancellation reason on a form I have to ring them. It was after midnight when I wanted to do this and I really couldn’t be bothered so I made a note to cancel the service this morning.

When I rang today I had to wait 6 minutes before anyone was able to take my call. When my call was finally answered the person I was speaking to couldn’t understand me. Mind you I had difficulty understanding them as they asked me if they were talking to Alicia. Once we established that I wasn’t Alicia and they actually bothered to ask me what my name was it took another 4 minutes just to explain my name and address. The only other thing I was asked was “do you have any positive feedback” which is an interesting way of asking why I’m cancelling.

I can understand why businesses don’t think it’s a problem irritating the customers who are trying to leave as they won’t be making any more money from them. But I think it can backfire. I didn’t leave because I didn’t like them; I would have considered using them in the future, until I tried to cancel. And my cancellation isn’t finalised yet. Now I’m going to have to make sure they don’t take any more money and also check that they acknowledge receipt of the disks I’ve sent back. I also won’t be recommending their service to any of my friends.

Wikis – for fearless information entry

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Tony’s recent post regarding using a wiki as an accounting system details some of the problems we have had with traditional accounting software and how we have been able to use a wiki to overcome these.

The thing I love most about having information on a wiki is that I can see it from multiple locations. I no longer have to go into the office to use the one machine that holds the accounting information or to check a folder full of paper when I want to know which suppliers need to be paid. Of course the web has given me this ability for years so there must be more to the wiki than that. And there is. I believe the power of the wiki is in how easy it is to use. People actually take the information we receive in the post and put it onto the wiki instead of leaving it in files with a note to work out what to do with it later.

Financial information falls into a class of information that no-one wants to touch. If you want anyone to update your accounting information they usually require specialist training. And some accounting software makes it really hard to change data once it’s been entered. If we had created a web-based accounting system we, like so many others, would probably have ended up recreating something like Sage only with the ability to use this remotely with multiple users. Although this would probably be more useful than the system we used to have we wouldn’t have trained all our staff in how to use it. As we use wikis to store all information all members of staff are comfortable with them and can enter the financial information. We have removed the complexity that used to be involved in entering financial information because it’s no longer seen as a special class of information. It’s just more data about the business that it would be useful to have on the wiki.

It still requires specialist knowledge to understand and make use of the data we are storing to improve the business but now information can be entered easily without the wiki user having to understand how to use nominal, purchase and sales ledgers or to even know what a journal entry is.

What is Web 2.0?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

At FOSDEM, during one of the Web 2.0 talks, Dean and I started to try to guess which Web 2.0 buzzword the speaker would use next. Although we found this amusing nothing we heard gave us any real indication as to the meaning of Web 2.0. I really lliked Tim Bray’s description of Web 2.0 that I came across on Robert Kaye’s blog article – What is Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the writable web and the Web 1.0 was the read-only web.

JavaScript – an emerging technology?

Friday, March 10th, 2006

After reading about JavaScript last night I was amused that it was the first thing I came across this morning. There seems to be some buzz around Simon Willison’s E-tech tutorial on JavaScript. By now everyone knows that JavaScript is cool again but it’s going to take me a while to get used to seeing it being listed as a hot topic everywhere. I haven’t read through Simon’s slides yet but I did quickly read through his notes which are well worth a look.