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HMRC fails to self-assess reaction against tweeting tax inquiries

05 Jan 2015

Looking through his mountain of emails, Sneak believes that plenty of virtual hot air could be condensed down into the 140 characters of a tweet.

But as a weathered and scarred veteran of tax return navigation, Sneak draws the line at trying to fit inherently obtuse tax inquiries into a format suitable for social media consumption.

After all, you try persuading the tax office that 20 bottles of single malt Scotch are a legitimate tax deductible in a single tweet.

Yet, according to the BBC, Stephen Hardwick, director of communications at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said that Twitter could be used to "supplement" the department's phone service.

Sneak has used Twitter to supplement his dealings with the HMRC but believes the content of such tweets should not be revealed before the watershed.

Presumably, Hardwick is the type of communications specialist who prefers to save words by carrying out all interactions in a form of verbal semaphore.

The direct director is championing Twitter use owing to the long waiting times associated with calls regarding tax self-assessment. With a veneer of the shambolic surrounding the HRMC helpline, Sneak can imagine that callers are having their patience taxed as well as their income.

Despite Hardwick thinking that Twitter is the solution, he has met opposition from Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who described the idea as "laughable".

Presumably between her guffaws, Hodge said: "No customer-based service should tolerate such a poor service and ministers and senior management should simply sort this out."

Sneak would like to note that Hodge's call to action was stated in under 140 characters. She could have tweeted that, but the MP appears to lack a Twitter account. Sneak wonders whether she is best positioned to be criticising the use of Twitter while a not tweeter herself.

Further derision came from Treasury minister Shabana Mahmood, who said that it "beggars belief" that the government would encourage people to "publically tweet about their tax affairs".

Seemingly ignoring the wordier shadow politicians, Hardwick stated that the HRMC does not want people to tweet their personal details.

Sneak believes if you listen carefully enough you can hear a collective sigh of disappointment from lazy groups of identity thieves and cyber criminals looking for an easy mark.

Not one usually to side with sniggering politicians, Sneak has to agree with them this time. Given the average tax return is 10 pages worth of text, to tweet complex inquires would be akin to writing War and Peace on the back of a stamp.

With peak periods of tax returns and credits seeing a spike in inquiry calls, Hardwick compared HRMC with the Post Office during busy periods.

Sneak can confirm that a similarity certainly exists when it comes to experiencing long waiting times and rising frustration, but at least with the post he can watch his dog terrorise the postman every morning.

Rupert Murdoch redefines irony with Google privacy attack on Twitter

19 Aug 2014

Sneak loves to spend his lunch hour lurking on Twitter, scrolling through the tawdry thoughts of bored IT execs and publicity-hungry tech corporations.

But sometimes, when the hum of the server room is getting too much, Sneak stumbles upon a wonderful gem of bile, hypocrisy, anger and opinion.

Today's nugget of controversy comes courtesy of Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted: "NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google."

Sneak's hypocrisy alert sounded so loudly that he nearly choked on his cheese and pickle sandwich.

Sure, Google may have courted criticism over privacy issues, and the NSA has basically been sniffing through emails like a spaniel with a nose for binary, but Murdoch wading into the argument is such a dose of irony that Sneak can taste ferrous metal.

Given that Murdoch was all but forced to put the century-old News of the World out to pasture over phone hacking, to call out Google's approach to privacy is so hypocritical that a new catalogue of pot and kettle-esque idioms needs to be written.

Then again perhaps one could consider Murdoch to be an expert on such issues, given how far the News of the World went to destroy the concept of privacy for so many.

Sneak also finds it ironic that a quick Google search of Murdoch reveals a litany of information on the mogul, much of which digs down into his position in the hacking scandal. Perhaps Mr Murdoch is pushing an agenda, but Sneak doesn't speculate on rumours unless he can tap into a source.

Of course, Sneak doesn't necessarily trust Google either and has taken advantage of the Right to be Forgotten ruling to a new level. Sneak can't even remember his own name; he's sure it was something that sounded like Dave.

Nor is Sneak a big fan of the NSA, but that's probably because the No Strings Attached agency refuses to return his calls. Sneak is forever alone.

BBC broadcasts bizarre breaking news alerts

25 Jun 2014

Strange BBC Breaking News push test notificationsIt's always tempting, when you're testing out a service or  setting something up, to write funny messages in the place where more serious communiques should appear.

Sneak has seen many a journalist write 'blah blah blah' in the place where a more witty, informative headline will go later, while developers the world over probably have fun writing "Bob Smith declared King of the Universe" or other such light-hearted nonsense when testing out an app.

However, the risk is that if something goes wrong, it makes you look rather foolish.

So it was that the BBC ended up with a lot of yolk and albumen on its face on Wednesday when its BBC Breaking News service sent out some rather odd messages.

Pictured left is the notification Sneak received. Sneak will now guide you through his thought process as he looked at the message in bewilderment.

The NYPD Twitter hashtag story sort of makes sense, although Sneak was a mite confused. It is hardly breaking news, as he covered it months ago.

Reading on and the "Push sucks! Pull blows!" comment, while possibly accurate, doesn't seem to warrant a notification to millions of BBC app users.

Then, the claims that the latest episode of Game of Thrones has no nudity is definitely not right. Not only did the latest season finish only a week ago, but there never has been, and never will be, an episode without some nudity.

Then all becomes clear. "IIIIII like testing." Ah, it's all a big mistake by a silly developer who probably forgot to tick the test box before sending out the alert. Oh you fool.

The BBC apologised and we can all go about our lives again. Except that dozy developer, who's probably been banished to work on the My Family Quote Generator app. Shudder.

BBC apology for weird breaking news messages


Congrats internet, you just made adorkable an actual word

10 Jun 2014

A new word is being added to the Collins English Dictionary and it is adorkable.

Sneak does not approve of the word adorkable because despite wearing bottle thick spectacles and more tank tops than a munitions outfit, no one ever associated the word with him and his sartorial work.

Adorkable, you see, is a spin on adorable that nods in the direction of dorkish geekery. But don't take Sneak's word for it, let's hear it from dictionary corner.

There, specifically the Collins' Dictionary pages, we read how to spell it, how to say it, and what it means. We also learn that it has been around for seven years but really sparked its way into the collective consciousness in 2012.

adorkable (əˈdɔːkəbəl) adj slang
socially inept or unfashionable in a charming or endearing way

"With 30 percent of the vote, and despite a strong rally by ‘felfie' fans, adorkable will be entering the 12th print edition of the Collins English Dictionary! We loved reading the #Twictionary votes, debates and tweets from around the world, as ‘nomakeupselfie' devotees tackled ‘fatberg' fans," says the word firm.

"However, adorkable - a strong contender from the start - came through to win the coveted dictionary spot. The winning word is a more than worthy addition to any dictionary."

Felfie, which was second, is what happens when farmers take selfies, and a fatberg is what builds up in drains and sewers when grease and oil goes down the plughole.

Duckface, which Sneak can get behind - mostly to avoid seeing it - came in rather low with just a six percent share of the votes.

Adorkable will make its way into the 12th edition of the dictionary.

Central Intelligence Agency joins Twitter and Facebook

09 Jun 2014

Sneak finally has some decent people to talk to on his social networking accounts, the venerable chaps, and ladies, at the US Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA to close friends.

Sneak is often found to be on the receiving end of a mute or blocking order, he hopes that the new social CIA will embrace him and his own brand of unclassified disclosure.

Certainly it looks like the CIA is open to the social experience and it has promised to share outwards. Sneak hopes that it will be equally open to responses.

While looking at the CIA account Sneak realised that other people have the same hope, and he noticed that a chap called @Wikileaks has promised to respond to official disclosures with some of its own. Sneak is looking forward to that.

However, while he is hoping for messages that are juicy like so many peaches, the truth is probably - and this is often the case - that things will be very boring indeed.

Take the CIA on Facebook. Sneak was expecting to see a video of a monkey sniffing something, a picture of some lunch, or hell, even a selfie, but none of that is in place. Instead there is a message that promises no fun at all.

"CIA welcomes your comments, however we wish to maintain the decorum appropriate to a taxpayer-funded organisation, we will moderate, and delete as necessary, comments deemed inappropriate. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in the author(s) being blocked from this page without notice," it says in a cat-free early post.

"Do not post graphic, obscene, sexually explicit or racially offensive comments or content. We also will not tolerate comments that are abusive, hateful, slanderous or that are intended to defame anyone or any organisation. All content must be unclassified. Do not post any content that may be considered classified, sensitive, or that would cause immediate and undue harm to a person or organisation."

Twitter users hijack #myNYPD hashtag campaign in latest social slip-up

23 Apr 2014

Sneak is saddened to see that New York's finest have grabbed the dirty end of the Twitter promo stick.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) took to Twitter to elicit what Sneak assumes it thought would be a positive reaction to a call for photos of people and police interaction under the 'myNYPD' hashtag.

Unfortunately for the boys in blue Twitterers spun the photo request in the sort of direction that no-one in NYPD PR department will have enjoyed.

The NYPD seems to have taken all this on the chin, and said that this is just the kind of wide ranging chat that makes the internet what it is.

"The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community," said NYPD deputy chief, Kim Royster in a statement posted to the social networking site. "Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialog good for our city."

The NYPD is not the first outfit to get caught out by the internet, and Twitter users will often leap on any slip up or error and ride it to its ultimate conclusion. Still, a little forethought about ways the campaign could go wrong would have helped.

It's not the first time Twitter has landed an organisation in hot water, that's for sure. Sneak can't be sure if this Twitter problem is worse than a rather dreadful one committed by US Airways last week.

In that instance an employee responded to an online message with a pornographic image.

Man has @N Twitter name stolen in modern digital heist

31 Jan 2014

Twitter @

These days, getting a good username on a popular service is like trying to run to the moon: impossible. Realistically, to get anything close to your name, or an identifiable moniker, you have to leave plenty of leeway and have a bit of creativity.

Sneak, for example, had to settle for Sneak10000000 for his email address (don’t think I’m telling you which service, though, oh no). And the Twitter account – now long since abandoned – had to be @SneakIT3Vblog just to get anywhere near to the terms you all know and love Sneak by.

For some early bird sign-ups, though, the joy of pithy, eye-catching usernames has given them plenty to boast about. But while Sneak’s jealously is limited to small fits of seething rage in his basement, others are more determined to get their own way.

One chap, Naoki Hiroshima, managed to secure the name @N on Twitter, having joined the site in its very early days. However, despite being offered huge amounts of money for this account, he’s always politely said no.

Others, though, were less polite, and went through the rigmarole of hacking his various social media accounts and web-hosting services, to be able to blackmail N into giving up the account, which he promptly did.

The case has proved some of the perils of the new digital age where seemingly harmless activities such as registering for a username on a website can lead to stress, hassle and, ultimately, blackmail.

Perhaps the old MySpace naming style of xxxSneAk!xx100 was for the best after all.

Sarky and anonymous White House Twitter user fired

25 Oct 2013

Image of a horrible online troll at a computer

The great thing about the internet is you can act anonymously without any fear of being found out, meaning you can moan and whine about your colleagues online all day long without...oh hang on, what's this?

Oh dear, it seems a senior White House official who was engaging in some undercover insulting of his colleagues and public figures has been found out and fired. This is of cause for concern.

It seems that an official by the name of Jofi Joseph, 40, was fired from his job on the National Security Council nuclear non-proliferation team. Using the Twitter handle @NatSecWonk he was said to make all manner of nasty comments.

These included insulting the attractiveness of wives of politicians and the political achievements, or lack of, of many major bigwigs in Washington, such as Hilary Clinton.

"So when will someone do us the favor of getting rid of Sarah Palin and the rest of her white trash family?" he wrote last October, the BBC reported. "What utter useless garbage."

There's a lesson here for Sneak, but he's not sure what it is. One thing he did take on board though was the fact Joseph reportedly apologised for his "inappropriate and mean-spirited comments".

Sneak certainly doesn't condone this - stick to your guns man and go out in a tirade of insults, one-liners and score-settlings. Oh dear, some people in suits have just turned up and they don't look pleased. Right, before they haul Sneak away, Ballmer you're first...

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