I was not surprised by your article (PC Week, 17 November) saying that the Web fails at customer care. Too many Web designers are still too obsessed with form over function.
I recently visited the London Theatre Web site (www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk) where I found a table listing faxback phone numbers for London theatre seating plans. It was cleverly rendered as white text on a pretty blue background. When I tried to print it, however, it printed as white on white, which was rather less than useful.
When I contacted the Cable & Wireless Web designer who looked after the page, I was told that others had also complained, but that I could get around the problem by reconfiguring my Web browser.
I use Netscape with the standard, out-of-the-box settings, so it isn't as though I've created an unusual environment. Do Web designers seriously believe that users are going to laboriously reconfigure their Web browsers every time they visit a new site?
While I have a certain sympathy for the difficulty of coping with a wide range of display environments, surely it isn't too much to expect that data which is likely to be printed should at least be displayed in a printable form?
Perhaps each morning before they start work, all Web designers should be made to chant (to paraphrase Bill Clinton) "It's the content, stupid."
Via the Net
Is there no ending to this problem? Yes, we're talking about IT training again. I think I can safely say that this subject will be with us for a long time yet and a clear-cut solution to this problem is not possible due to the conflicting schools of thought.
Every week, well-thought out solutions and arguments are presented and each are justified and very correct. However, there is no one solution that can be applied to the problem as a whole.
Each case, although similar, can be unique due to differing views. With reference to systems analysis, a hard systems approach such as the straightforward denial or provision of training is not the solution to the problem. A soft systems approach should be considered to study the problem and root out the underlying cause.
The different views offered stem from different management styles or views we have on the workplace. To understand what we expect to gain from the workplace, we have to establish what kind of person we are. In the late 18th century, F W Taylor gave rise to Taylorism or Scientific Management.
His view was that the motivation for work is based on monetary incentives.
He described people as "economic animals".
Critics of Taylorism soon followed with the Human Relations Movement lead by Elton Mayo. His view was that people were motivated by many needs such as job satisfaction and other social factors. He described people as "social animals". There we have it, the two animals in the work place.
Using the above information in another context, both animals do exist and the employers' attempts to entice them are reflected in recruitment advertisements. The economic animals are attracted by words of "career advancement" and "regular performance-related salary reviews". The social animals are attracted by "excellent training" and "friendly and pleasant working environment".
I do, however, believe there is one more, the "technological animal".
Closely related to the social animal in terms of job satisfaction, this animal is rare in number and will become restless if technology at the workplace does not advance. They are attracted by adverts using the words "you will be using leading edge technology".
The dominant species, by far, is the economic animal. The social animal will continue to exist assuming its environment is preserved and the on-growing trend of the "Investor in People" award. The technological animal, although not threatening, will continue to grow in line with technological advancement. Over time these animals will evolve to become "superior economic animals".
There are those who do not fit into this simple classification, the "nomadic animal" if you will. At first, they appear to be social animals, but after receiving training their true nature will be revealed - that of an aggressive economic animal. Their aim is to become the superior economic animal by side stepping the natural evolution process faced by the other working animals. They can be spotted by their nomadic movement and short period of rest before migration.
There we have it: through the stages of evolution the ultimate state is that of the "superior economic animal", which isn't a bad thing apart from the method in which it is reached.
Nomadic animals are the ones we fear, those who may drive social animals into extinction by indirectly removing their natural environment. Although few in numbers, lasting damage to themcannot yet be assessed. It is important to know what animals we are or have in the workplace. Do not naturally assume the presence of a nomadic animal, otherwise you risk losing the potential of a true economic or social animal.
The human animal is highly adaptable, especially when armed with a manual and Internet access. But there are times when training courses are required to help enforce the knowledge gained from self study or when project time scales are short.
Please note, the word "animal" was used in the best possible context.
I, for one, would rather be thought of as an animal who can adapt to its environment than a computer that needs rebooting twice a day to get the work done.
Anyway, I'm going to take a week off as annual leave and buy a book on Java to see what that's all about.
MRC Clinical Trials Unit
Via the Net
Adopting an amusing tone
Am I missing something or what ? The article (PC Week, 3 November, page 14, "Setting the tone") starts with the surprising paragraph: "The next time you pick up the phone, listen carefully. That tone you hear enables you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, any time. Only natural disasters can stop it; the dial tone lives on even if a line is physically broken."
I first thought about the second sentence: "I can speak to anyone, anywhere?" I thought a good proportion of the world's population, probably about 80% at present, had never even seen a telephone, let alone had a number I could contact them on whenever I wanted to. And even the people I know who do have telephones sometimes don't answer them when they ring, so being able to communicate with someone "any time" is surely stretching things a bit?
But then when I saw the last sentence, I thought to myself, what has this person been doing, to write such stuff? Are they really talking about the telephone system here? "Only natural disasters can stop (the dial tone)?" I'm sure that comes as welcome news to BT and Cable & Wireless, that they can now blame all their system faults on natural disasters.
And as for "the dial tone lives on even if a line is physically broken" - is this telecommunications in some strange metaphorical sense, or are we really talking about a buzzing noise in the ear and a pair of wire cutters? I think I'll have some of what this correspondent's been on, please.
I hope you can see the amusing absurdity of all this too.
Via the Net
Ken Gillett may be confident that his Macs will run on 1/1/00, and, in fact, all our corporate-critical stuff is on Macs, such as accounts, project plans and copies of PC source code.
But both of us are dependent on the electricity supply on that and subsequent days. While London Electricity may be confident, is it sure that it can still deliver ? The government may decide that water and sewage pumping has first call on any electricity that is going in the event of an emergency.
At least, I hope thay are thinking that way.
Via the Net
Your page 8 story on 17 November, "Nowhere to run", about the use of mobile phones to trap slack workers got my paranoia levels rising dramatically.
Why do we have to adopt every stupid idea that the US comes up with?
The US government may think that its mobile phone users are too stupid to know where they are when they dial 911 but it seems the thinnest of excuses to base a legal requirement on.
What next? An EU rule that you must drink the local wine of your region while lunching?
Via the Net
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IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
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PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23