Wedge: the loyalty card

It seems my idea for a generic, small-retailer loyalty card has been launched, in the form of Wedge.  In a sentence, it’s a loyalty card for smaller-scale retailers in London.

Its take-up by retailers will be dependent on take-up by consumers, which in turn will be dependent on take-up by retailers.  It’s a hard one to crack.  But it’s already advertising stores using the card in 134 categories, and a random click on Babies yielded 16 participating retailers.  And a further seven companies categorised under Bicycles.  Not bad.

iPhone 3G [S] vs. BlackBerry Storm

I’ve had my iPhone 3G [S] for eight days now.  So I felt compelled to write up a comparison with the object that it replaced: the BlackBerry Storm.

There is simply no comparison.  The iPhone kicks the proverbial shit out of the Storm.  And this is from someone who thought the Storm was pretty good.  Here’s the story.

Since returning from the States in May 2006, I’d been using MDA Varios.  I got the Vario II, and 18 months later, stupidly, replaced it with the Vario III.  Now don’t get me wrong: I hated the first one—with a passion.  It was big, bulky, the Windows Mobile O/S was slow.  Its only redeeming feature was a proper keyboard that I used regularly.  But in a moment of stupidity, I fell for some sales spiel about its infinitessimally-thinner successor, and walking into the shop with my out-of-contract Vario II, I came out of the shop with a new 18 month contract and a reduction in pocket bulge indiscernible to the naked eye—courtesy of the Vario III.

This replacement device gave up the ghost thanks to the force of a 32″ TV, so I adopted a BlackBerry Storm as a temporary measure.  And for the three months or so I used it, I liked it.  I liked the fact that the screen gave a physical response.  And the O/S was a huge improvement over Microsoft’s.

But now I have the iPhone 3G [S].  And there will be no turning back.

The user interface is simply sublime.  Everything is so logical, so expected, so beautiful.  There is a consistency between the way in which applications are navigated that makes everything so familiar.  And, just like Apple’s computer OS, there are little touches that make everything so sleek.  When you get to the bottom of a list, for example, the screen tries to go slightly further than the end of the list, before jumping back just a tad when you lift your finger—a tiny feature, but one filled with beauty.

I thought I’d miss the physical response of the Storm’s keyboard.  But I don’t.  The iPhone comes with a much more intuitive and intelligent auto-correct feature to cater for typos, and the fact that the “keys” on the iPhone jump up in front of you each time they’ve been hit means that you know what you’ve typed.  Rarely do I need to go back to correct mistakes I’ve made.  And on the few times I do, the interface for backtracking is logical and easy to use.

And, most importantly of all, you’ve got the App. Store: a wealth of applications, free and otherwise, to download at your leisure.  Something that was severely lacking in BlackBerry’s RIM world.

My only gripes are as follows:

But all in all, it’s absolutely lovely.  And I thoroughly recommend the Griffin Wave to keep your little bundle of joy safe and sound.  £10.50 on Amazon, as opposed to Carphone Warehouse’s “£20 reduced from £27”.

Don’t regroup

What is it with people?

Phone numbers are grouped certain ways because they are.  Don’t ask questions. Just obey the rules.

For mobile numbers, they’re structured such: 07123 456789.  London numbers: 020 7123 4567.  And for more traditional provincial towns like Halifax: 01422 123456.  Sheffield: 0114 123 4567.  And Freefone numbers: 0800 123 4567.

With the exception of mobiles, the first bit is obvious.  It’s the bit of the number that you don’t need if you’re dialling locally.  Hence why the 7 is part of the second grouping, not the first.  As for the rest, it’s merely convention.  Convention that’s not open to debate.  OK?

Just because your number may look prettier and more memorable grouped 0712 34 567 89, don’t do it.  It grates, and looks ugly.  Just as you wouldn’t change the grouping of your postcode.

And if you continue to do so, you’re comparable to those twunts who regroup their car registration numbers in a vain attempt to form something that, if you squint heavily, loosely resembles their name, with a couple of letters missing.  More on them another time.

Diminished responsibility

I read an article yesterday about a 15-year-old boy who allegedly beat to death a toddler girl.  A harrowing tale in which the child suffered 68 separate injuries.  Below is an excerpt from the BBC’s article.

The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, denies murder. The defence will say he suffered an abnormality of mind which impaired his responsibility.

Surely almost all murders require some form of mind abnormality.  And given this, I often wonder about why such a defence can be used in an attempt to reduce the resulting sentence.

Charity poker: FTW

Tonight I played poker.  Texas Hold ‘Em.  For charity.  It was fabulous.

I was playing for the Home Office–Defra consortium, joining my “colleagues” Alan, Denise, Simon and Jimmy.

Although billed as a team event, we were all five placed on separate tables, each of around eight players.  There were no buy-ins. You were simply given 2,000-worth of chips and had to do your best.  As people dropped from various tables, people were re-positioned to keep the tables roughly even in numbers.  When the tables got light on numbers, a table closed, its remaining players moving on to the other tables, until at last there was a single table of nine players, all loaded with chips (comparative to what they had at the start of the night), and all vying for first place.  It was a fight to the death, the winning player choosing the charity to which all of the donations at the beginning of the evening would go.  Plus an extra slug from our hosts, Field Fisher Waterhouse.

I started a little shabbily, losing a couple of relatively big hands, taking me down to around 700 chips—a 65% drop.  I rallied a little before winning a couple of big ones.  And the more chips I amassed, the more power I had over other players, and the easier it was to wipe others out of the game, both on my original table and the one I was subsequently placed at.

I seemed to be doing quite well, ignoring much of the activity on the other tables, when suddenly I found myself on the final table.  Nine players vying for the win.  And I was second in terms of my chip-count, Jimmy, on my own team, beating me by a small country-mile.

So we played a few hands, 41 bystanders spread evenly behind us, making the act of keeping your own two cards secret somewhat of an art-form.

And the nine were whittled down to seven, then to five.  Then four.  Jimmy and I were still in the game, so the 10% odds of a member of our team winning the tournament at the beginning of the evening had risen to 50%.  Then Jimmy went big, and lost out.  A real shame and the loss of a comrade in battle.  And the odds sunk to 33%.  And I was our only hope.

But chips-wise, I was doing well compared to the other two.  I bided my time before confidence built with a Jack and a Queen in my hands.  I ante-d up, and took the betting a fair way, raising things further when a straight looked likely.  The straight came off, with 8, 9, 10 appearing within the five tabled cards, and I held my composure.  I bet enough to take both of the other players out of the game.  And I won.  With around 100,000-worth of chips to my credit.

The exhileration was immense.  At first, I knew I’d taken one of my opponents out of the game, but I had no idea that the other had gone too.  I’ve played poker a number of times before, but betting with my own money (usually amounting to few £10 notes) didn’t compare to betting for such a relatively huge pot for charity.  Now I knew the pot was going to charity, but how I played the game determined which charity it would end up with.  (As Simon pointed out shortly after the win, maybe I should feel guilty about all the dogs that might die at my expense, or all the good work for cancer research that might have been done.)

My whole upper body was sweating.  My face was clammy, as were my hands.  And my heart was racing throughout the last few hands.

I loved winning.  I loved winning because I got to determine that the £1,200 pot (including the kind top-up from FFW) would go to the NSPCC.  (Thank you so much, Denise, for offering me the choice.)  And I loved winning because of the exhileration that my team-mates showed both at our individual win, and our team win.  (Our team took the trophy off OGC, last year’s winners—it’s currently being engraved.)

The adrenaline was pumping throughout the latter stages, and it felt like a real sense of team accomplishment having won both the individual and overall event.

Thanks, team!  And roll on next year.

How do you like them Apples?

My first proper piece of Apple kit is due to arrive on Friday: the iPhone 3G [S].  (I don’t count the iPod.  Everyone’s got one of those.  Or more.  Even my two-year-old daughter has one, albeit my hand-me-down.)

And I’m afraid I’m guilty of love at no sight.  Just reading about the product in beautifully-crafted emails, and imagining the scrumptious packaging arriving at my door, is enough to start me salivating.

But I’m worried.  I’m worried that this represents me teetering, wholly unqualified, at the top of a black-run, ready to venture down a slippery slope into the world of Apple.  An expensive world, by all accounts.

Yet the thought also delights me.  I think I’d look great with a 17″ MacBook Pro in front of me.  But my bank account would look less healthy, being £1,849 lighter.  And I am hugely envious of the emotional attachment that people have towards their MacBooks.  This morning, @NinaSpringle tweeted such.

Owwww taking the MacBook out to the new office! Very exciting!

And this evening, @DaveBriggs was vociferous in his anger at an incident involving his MBP.

I do not f*cking believe this. A TW*T has just emptied a can of lager into my mbp. Can today end now, please?

(A couple of asterisks inserted to protect your innocence.)

Now I too would have been pissed if someone emptied their Stella on my PC laptop (accidentally, it turns out), but I can’t help but think that I would have been slightly more tempered in my response.  Only slightly, mind.

And Nina’s MacBook outing sounds more like one for her new Chihuahua than one for her new laptop.  (Are we allowed to call them laptops?)

It’s a world I’d love to be a part of.  But one that I can’t afford to join.  And if asked “Are you a PC or Mac?” I respond reluctantly that I’m a PC.  I’m not proud of it.  It’s not cool.  And it won’t get people talking to me at the party.  But it’s the truth, and that’s the way it is.

So I’ll embrace the loveliness that is the iPhone come Friday and, for the time being at least, that will be the extent of my venture into the world of Apple.  And I’ll look enviously across at my Mac-using colleagues and friends, maybe joining them when my daughter finishes university.  Maybe.

Post #1,503

So.  This is post #1,503.  Post #1,500 was the one about the postcode data.

My 500th post (about my choosing a mobile number ending “128” on returning from the States) arrived 688 days after the birth of Tangential Ramblings, on 25 May, 2006.  532 days later came the 1,000th post, on 8 November, 2007, an exhaustive analysis of the previous 999 posts which I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading just now, complete with amusing comments from Steve and Art.

Another 586 days later comes post 1,500 earlier this evening.  Roll on #2,000.  I’m enjoying it as much as I did on 6 July, 2004.

Lingerie iPhone case: anyone?

While on the phone with the Carphone Warehouse earlier in the week, the lady taking my iPhone 3G S order tried to cross-sell a Griffin Wave case.  She offered to reduce the price from £27 to £20 for me, a gesture I appreciated but politely declined given that I could get the very same case on Amazon for £10.50—free delivery.

I was amused that in waxing lyrical about the case’s attributes, she likened it to lingerie.  Apparently, it looks sexy but it feels like there’s nothing on.

Still I declined.

Oh.  Did I mention that I’ve ordered an iPhone 3G S?

Google AdWords: #fail

I’ve received a couple of pieces of direct mail from Google recently.  I have to say, it’s quite odd getting snail mail from the unequivocal giant of the internet.

Although thinking of signing up anyway, I reacted to an offer for Google’s AdWords service recently, prompted by the promotion code offering me £30-worth of free advertising.

This was fabulous.  And immediately having registered using that promotional code, I received two emails: one confirming my registration, one with a further promotional code offering me £75-worth of free advertising.

On attempting to redeem this second code, I was informed it had expired.  I questioned Google directly about how I might, at best, obtain the full £105 credit on offer, or at worst, exchange the £30 credit I had already redeemed for the £75 on offer.  Their response was weak, informing me that the £75 could not be redeemed owing to the previously-redeemed £30 code.

So I would have been better off not getting the direct mailshot in the first place.  It’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.  #fail, Google.

Unzip the postcodes, just like the zips

Courtesy of @AlexPuig in Barcelona, I read on Twitter recently a post about the zip code database project.  Quite simply, it’s a project that keeps the US five-digit zip code file up-to-date, providing for each zip code its latitude and longitude coordinates correct to six decimal places, the city, state and the state abbreviation.  All 33,179 of them (correct at time of publishing, including the 130 PR (Puerto Rico) codes.

And quite simply, it’s beautiful.  Making this data publicly available is hugely important.  It allows people to do hugely powerful things with geographical data, using the currency that everyone uses: zip codes.  (My only slight gripe is that it doesn’t go down to the nine-digit postcodes.  Maybe the limited additional value provided by the additional accuracy doesn’t justify the hugely bloated files and additional effort it would involve.)

Meanwhile here in Blighty, there’s no such luck; nor foresight.  Joe Harris informs me that the postcode–latitude/longitude file is available for download for a fee.

This sucks.  People are left reliant on the likes of Google to determine postcodes’ coordinates, as opposed to having self-contained solutions.  Instead, the data should be made freely available, surely making it much more useful than the value that can be driven from its sale.

The same is true of train status data.  And Ordnance Survey information.

So please.  Follow America’s lead.  Open up access to the data.  And allow people to use it in beautiful and creative ways.

(I couldn’t help but smile, btw, at the zip code download file being called zips.csv.zip.)

Next Page →