15 minutes of fame

18 08 2007

OMG! I got a pingback to my blog post yesterday about the Skype issues—from the “Blog of the Day” at WordPress.com. I’m listed as #98 in their top 100 posts for August 18, 2007.

To put that into perspective: In July 2007, there were some 2 million posts on WordPress blogs. If WordPress picks 100 posts per day, and there’s 31 days in August, that means that of those 2 million posts, only 3100 get picked as “BOTD” posts. Which is about 0.1%.

Who’da thought??





Sore ears and neck

17 08 2007

Earlier this week I was on a 90 minute phone call to Brisbane. Man! Holding the phone handset to your ear for that long really makes your ear sore and you get a crick in your neck! And you can’t type effectively (yes, I needed to type – the other person and I were discussing the development team’s Wiki and I needed to make changes there and then). If I’d realised the call would be that long, I would’ve used Skype.

Roll on to today… I get a reminder that there’s a 2+ hour meeting/conference call on Monday, so I decide to bite the bullet and purchase some SkypeIn credits. I already use Skype-to-Skype for computer phone calls, and SkypeOut for calls from my computer to landlines. SkypeIn allows landlines to call a standard phone number which comes to me on my computer. I get a real phone number for whatever country and area code I want, and all I have to do is be online to receive the calls. The big advantage is that I can use my headset, thus freeing up my head and so solving the neck pain and the purple ear problem, and freeing up my hands to do stuff on the computer at the same time.

What should’ve been easy to set up was thwarted by Skype’s pretty big ‘outage’ over the last 24 hours or so. It’s hit all the IT media, and even though Skype has kept people up-to-date, it’s caused a lot of people who rely on Skype to become pretty angry. So much so that it appears they’ve closed off the facility to comment on their blog.

It hasn’t affected me too much as I only just signed up for SkypeIn today. But it has meant that I can’t effectively test how well it works as the people I’ve asked to test the new number haven’t been able to get through as Skype is constantly connecting and reconnecting. However, they have been able to leave a voicemail and I’ve been able to set that up with my own message, and I’ve been able to set up call forwarding to my mobile phone – and that works!

Hopefully it will be fixed on Monday when I have the 2 hour conference call, otherwise it’s back to a sore neck and ear…

I do wonder about the people who rely on technology like Skype for EVERYTHING. Hello people! It’s technology over the internet. There are SO many ways it can fail. Relying on it for all your business calls etc. is a little stupid, in my not so humble opinion.

Update 21 August: Skype is now back to normal. Here’s their explanation, and an interpretation of that explanation forwarded to me by a good friend.





Crying over your work

16 08 2007

A fellow technical writer, editor, and all-round great person wrote this to me in an email today, and all I could think of was “How true!”. Thanks Suzanne for making me laugh.

I’m writing text for a website that deals with death. Whenever I research it I find a really sad eulogy somewhere that makes me cry. Not many writing jobs make me cry. Lots of editing jobs do …





Falling coffee

14 08 2007

Have you seen those ads or heard those stories where someone puts something on the roof of their car while they are packing it, then drives off with the thing still on the roof?

Well, I saw one in real life yesterday! I was waiting to walk across the main T-junction in town when a car turned the corner. The female driver was oblivious to the steaming take-away cup of coffee she had on the roof… which naturally tipped over and off the car into the road. Funny. But messy.

I wonder when—or if—she remembered getting the coffee and not drinking it.





Get rich slowly…

14 08 2007

Two months ago, I set up an Amazon Store with technical writing books I recommend. Since then I’ve added other personal recommendations of books, DVDs, produce, appliances, etc. to the store. It was never meant to be a ‘get rich quick’ scheme… in fact, I just wanted it to be a reference source for other technical writers out there. If I made a few dollars in the process, that would be a bonus.

Well, the “bonus” after 2 months is $10.01 from seven sales. Amazon don’t send me a cheque (they don’t do PayPal…) until my ‘referral fees’ reach $100. So I could be waiting a *long* time.





No quarry

13 08 2007

I forgot to give an update on the application for a gravel quarry that was to go close to where we want to build… The Shire received LOTS of objections, with only two public submissions in favour. Despite the Shire and the Environmental Protection Authority asking for clarification and more information from the proponent, none was forthcoming.

In light of all the objections, and the lack of an environmental impact statement, the Shire rejected the plan. Yay! This was about a month or so ago, so I was a bit slack in remembering to write about it…

Update: I spoke too soon! Five hours after writing this post, I got an email from one of the Shire Councillors telling us that the proponent has lodged an appeal against the Shire’s decision. It’ll be another 3-4 months before that is heard.





Bank update – good news

11 08 2007

I’ve been banking with Westpac most of my life, and all our loans have been through Westpac. After some incidents with loan restructuring ‘stuff ups’ in the past few years (the most recent was documented here), we were seriously considering shifting all our banking business to another bank and never using Westpac again.

However, since we moved to Bridgetown in February this year, we’ve had excellent service from the team at the local Westpac branch. One of the things that has contributed to this excellent service is the personal nature of the banking experience here. We are greeted warmly – and by name – whenever we go in to the bank, and nothing is too much trouble. Queries are answered, and issues are checked out and explained.

All “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” crossed in any paperwork we’ve had done. Nothing has been omitted. And the team behind the counter has made banking a pleasure now, instead of the painful and inhuman experience we encountered in the Perth branches and with the Mortgage Processing Centre in Adelaide.

The most telling difference between our previous experiences and the experience in our small country town is that the staff at the local branch take responsibility for making sure that whatever has to be done is done – and if it’s not done, they chase it up.

Such a novel approach; such great customer service.





Social Bookmarking in Plain English

11 08 2007

Another excellent video from the people at CommonCraft – this time on using Del.icio.us and similar social bookmarking sites.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x66lV7GOcNU)





Great error message

10 08 2007

I have a new title: “Wiki gardener”! It’s a term used on JSPWiki.org for those who have the responsibility of keeping a Wiki weed and bug free, and it’s what I’ve been doing the past two days with a Wiki that was set up a year or so ago but that nobody’s taken care of since then. Just like an overgrown garden…

Anyhow, while I was reading the documentation over at JSPWiki.org (yes, Virginia – technical writers *do* read other people’s work!) and testing some stuff out on the Wiki, I got an error message. Standard incomprehensible stuff followed by some possible solutions, followed by this:

And don’t worry – it’s just a computer program. Nothing really serious is probably going on: at worst you can lose a few nights sleep. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.

It made me chuckle!





Half is half – right?

9 08 2007

Wrong! Not at the local bakery it isn’t.

I popped in to pick up half an upright loaf of bread (you know—the ones the break nicely in the middle and have all that ‘pull away’ bread stuff that you used to gorge on as kids!). The full loaf was labelled as $2.70, so I expected the half (which was already split and on the rack) to be $1.35. Nope. It was $1.70!! I queried the price—twice—only to be told it was $1.70, no ifs or buts or maybes. That’s a 25% premium on the expected $1.35. For doing nothing—not even splitting the loaf as it was already split.

If I go in to a fabric store and the fabric is $10 per metre and I get half a metre, I expect to be charged $5; if I get a 10cm width, then I expect to be charged $1. And the person behind the counter has to use a lot more labour to cut the fabric—and cut it straight and accurately—than the bread shop person needs to use to split a loaf of bread in half.

As that great Aussie advertisement used to say: “Not happy, Jan!” (YouTube video of the ad that started this expression: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2akt3P8ltLM)