Economy

The Surveillance Threat Is Not What Orwell Imagined

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Shoshana Zuboff • June 7, 2019

George Orwell repeatedly delayed crucial medical care to complete 1984, the book still synonymous with our worst fears of a totalitarian future — published 70 years ago this month. Half a year after his novelʼs debut, he was dead. Because he believed everything was at stake, he forfeited everything, including a young son, a devoted sister, a wife of three months and a grateful public that canonized his prescient and pressing novel. But today we are haunted by a question: Did George Orwell die in vain?

Orwell sought to awaken British and U.S. societies to the totalitarian dangers that threatened democracy even after the Nazi defeat. In letters before and after his novelʼs completion, Orwell urged “constant criticism,” warning that any “immunity” to totalitarianism must not be taken for granted: “Totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”

Since 1984ʼs publication, we have assumed with Orwell that the dangers of mass surveillance and social control could only originate in the state. We were wrong. This error has left us unprotected from an equally pernicious but profoundly different threat to freedom and democracy.

For 19 years, private companies practicing an unprecedented economic logic that I call surveillance capitalism have hijacked the Internet and its digital technologies. Invented at Google beginning in 2000, this new economics covertly claims private human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data. Some data are used to improve services, but the rest are turned into computational products that predict your behavior. These predictions are traded in a new futures market, where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to businesses determined to know what we will do next. This logic was first applied to finding which ads online will attract our interest, but similar practices now reside in nearly every sector — insurance, retail, health, education, finance and more — where personal experience is secretly captured and computed for behavioral predictions. By now it is no exaggeration to say that the Internet is owned and operated by private surveillance capital.

In the competition for certainty, surveillance capitalists learned that the most predictive data come not just from monitoring but also from modifying and directing behavior. For example, by 2013, Facebook had learned how to engineer subliminal cues on its pages to shape usersʼ real-world actions and feelings. Later, these methods were combined with real-time emotional analyses, allowing marketers to cue behavior at the moment of maximum vulnerability. These inventions were celebrated for being both effective and undetectable. Cambridge Analytica later demonstrated that the same methods could be employed to shape political rather than commercial behavior.

Augmented reality game Pokémon Go, developed at Google and released in 2016 by a Google spinoff, took the challenge of mass behavioral modification to a new level. Business customers from McDonalds to Starbucks paid for “footfall” to their establishments on a “cost per visit” basis, just as online advertisers pay for “cost per click.” The game engineers learned how to herd people through their towns and cities to destinations that contribute profits, all of it without game playersʼ knowledge.

Democracy slept while surveillance capitalism flourished. As a result, surveillance capitalists now wield a uniquely 21st century quality of power, as unprecedented as totalitarianism was nearly a century ago. I call it instrumentarian power, because it works its will through the ubiquitous architecture of digital instrumentation. Rather than an intimate Big Brother that uses murder and terror to possess each soul from the inside out, these digital networks are a Big Other: impersonal systems trained to monitor and shape our actions remotely, unimpeded by law.

Instrumentarian power delivers our futures to surveillance capitalismʼs interests, yet because this new power does not claim our bodies through violence and fear, we undervalue its effects and lower our guard. Instrumentarian power does not want to break us; it simply wants to automate us. To this end, it exiles us from our own behavior. It does not care what we think, feel or do, as long as we think, feel and do things in ways that are accessible to Big Otherʼs billions of sensate, computational, actuating eyes and ears.

Instrumentarian power challenges democracy. Big Other knows everything, while its operations remain hidden, eliminating our right to resist. This undermines human autonomy and self- determination, without which democracy cannot survive. Instrumentarian power creates unprecedented asymmetries of knowledge, once associated with pre- modern times. Big Otherʼs knowledge is about us, but it is not used for us. Big Other knows everything about us, while we know almost nothing about it. This imbalance of power is not illegal, because we do not yet have laws to control it, but it is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Surveillance capitalists claim that their methods are inevitable consequences of digital technologies. This is false. Itʼs easy to imagine the digital future without surveillance capitalism, but impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without digital technologies.

Seven decades later, we can honor Orwellʼs death by refusing to cede the digital future. Orwell despised “the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment.” Courage, he insisted, demands that we assert our moral bearings, even against forces that appear invincible. Like Orwell, think critically and criticize. Do not take freedom for granted. Fight for the one idea in the long human story that asserts the peopleʼs right to rule themselves. Orwell reckoned it was worth dying for.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editor

Will Social Selling create a global economic revival?

You will probably get bored of hearing that people do business with people they know, like and trust! Actually I believe a better sequence would be trust, know and like, because by using social channels and especially LinkedIn we have the perfect opportunity to build trust first. I know it doesn’t roll of the tongue as well, but in my humble opinion it has to come first each and every time.

But how can you build that trust

By being active and by being interesting and interested. With 400 million (and counting) professionals on LinkedIn it really has become super easy to find the exact and relevant contact (buyer) for you to get in front of.

And most still get it completely wrong, because most of what I see and experience on social media and especially LinkedIn are promotional posts (adverts) and impersonal invitations to connect. 

Definitely not ’interesting’ and not ’interested’.

If we have a desire to see global economic revival on the planet then you need to start changing your behaviour on social media, especially LinkedIn and take a few minutes out of your busy day to think through and formulate a detailed strategy.

Here are just 3 quick things you can adopt to move in the right direction and set the right intention.

  1. Decide specifically and in incredible detail your ideal buyer (client). Identify the industry sector, the location, their seniority, their age, personal ambitions (assumed), interests, skills, sports team and anything else that will assist you to narrow down a shortlist of individuals. You have to become laser targeted. Being general is so from the previous century.
  2. Develop search and alert criteria on google, twitter and LinkedIn to explore and potentially uncover the individuals that match up with your ’ideal buyer’ profile. Keep looking daily, weekly, monthly until you become totally absorbed with who that person is, so much so that you can understand and predict their behaviour. LinkedIn is totally the best network to do much of this on, especially now with their Sales Navigator tool. It has never been a better time right now to access data for your research.
  3. Develop and curate appropriate and great content that will be super interesting to your ‘ideal buyer’. Over time you will develop a reputation for sharing great and ‘interesting’ content and your network will start to realise and appreciate that you are the person they are interested in learning from.

In addition LinkedIn have just released the ’Social Selling Index’ for every English speaking LinkedIn member. Have a look at my index below. You can see that this is a great measurement tool to help you and your teams drive forward and develop ’trust’ on LinkedIn. A better title would probably be the ’trust’ index.

Go ahead and grab your index via https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi

I have also shared below details of how the index is calculated, which confirms that by being active and developing the right strategy you will develop more trust. Trust leads to interest, interest leads to a conversation, a conversation leads to a meeting and a meeting leads to business.

"Taken from LinkedIn's Sales Navigator support section as at August 2015"

"Taken from LinkedIn's Sales Navigator support section as at August 2015"

Just imagine if LinkedIn professionals focussed on getting their index higher they automatically will be seen more, develop more trusting relationships on LinkedIn, gain greater exposure and develop more opportunities.

Now just think for a moment, if just 1% of the 400 million LinkedIn members adopted a great professional approach for developing their network, do you think this would make a difference to the economic prosperity of individuals around the world?

By you and I changing the way we behave on social channels, especially on LinkedIn, I believe we would collectively have a major impact on the global economy. Not just by developing better and closer relationships with our networks but also by growing our enterprises, whether we are micro, small, medium or a large enterprise. 

Now it's your turn.  Please share below what your views are on Social Selling, Trust and the Global Economy. I'd love to hear your stories.

Are You a Milkman?

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I was awake at 4.30am the other day and heard our milkman drive up outside our house and deliver a pint of milk on the doorstep.

At that precise moment, I felt a lot of appreciation for our milkman and I am also very impressed for his dedicated customer service.

Clair, my wife, tells me that he has been her milkman for 11 years and when she moved house 7 years ago, he continued to deliver to her new house, because his depot wasn't far from where we now live.

That means we are the only customers in the street he delivers to. That is unbelievable customer service and I can't think of any business that would even consider doing that!

What a great example the British milkman sets for business leaders far and wide.

He has NEVER missed a day of delivery, he has never phoned to say that he was sick or he is going on holiday. He has never stayed away when the country has come to a standstill because of snow or flooding.

This guy, the trusted British milkman, ALWAYS delivers, without fail!

Can you imagine that?

What if, just what if every leader, every worker, every self-employed person, could behave and deliver like the British milkman.

What country would we be living in today? A successful one? A brilliant one!

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Do You Follow The Crowd?

If you are in business or working for a business, you are more than likely examining the results for 2012 and wondering what 2013 will bring. Reinvention? Examining the offer? Going in a new direction? Looking for new partners, sales channels, sales people?

These may all be questions that are being asked at the moment and maybe your business coach or business consultancy is asking you to think about those too?

Last question, why do we do this now when we have crossed this magical December 31st into a new year?

Shouldn't we be examining these questions each and every month? Maybe some of you do, but...

There's something in our human nature that causes us to be creatures of habit and we have a habit of following the crowd and when the world at large is doing it as well.

flickr | nationaalarchief

David Bowie decided to not follow the crowd. On the 8th January he released a new single and announced a new album, after a decade in the dark. OK so what is special about that? Well nobody in the music industry or press knew about the fact that he was recording, and they had no idea that the single was being released until it was done on the 8th January. So it made the national and international news instantly.

designspiration.net

Why follow the crowd? We do it most of the time and research confirms that we are hard-wired to follow the pack.

Gregory Berns [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Berns ] is an American neuroeconomist, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, psychologist and writer. He did some experiments with the ABC network in the US and below is a summary of one of the social experiments that he researched.

They invited a group of strangers to Jean George's Asian restaurant in lower Manhattan for a fabulous dinner -- and a surprise.

Party planner Colin Cowie and his friend, Donna D'Cruz, were in on the experiment. Their role was to exhibit outlandish behaviour most people wouldn't dream of while out at dinner with a group of strangers.

Cowie and D'Cruz licked their fingers, a dinner table no-no. Cowie picked his teeth. The guests initially seemed not to take the bait -- until dessert rolled around.

D'Cruz told everyone they should pick up pieces of mango face first, using their mouth. Eventually, people who were total strangers at the beginning of the evening were passing fruit back and forth, mouth to mouth.

Only Harold and Maria, a Canadian couple, passed on the gustatory familiarity. Finally, Harold was the only one who dared to ask, what is the point of the dinner?

Cowie explained the experiment to the group. "I think because we broke the rules, and we made things possible at the table, several of you followed suit with it."

One woman at the table said: "I think the majority of people will look to see what others are doing and follow their example."

Conforming Can Have Dangerous Consequences

This test is an example of our human need to conform. In fact, Berns' experiment is a variation of one done many years ago by another scientist trying to decipher an extremely vicious instance of conformity -- why so many Germans followed Adolf Hitler down the path to death and destruction. Berns says there are two ways to explain conformist behaviour.

"One is that they know what their eyes are telling them, and yet they choose to ignore it, and go along with the group to belong to the group," he said.

The second explanation is that hearing other opinions -- even if they are wrong -- can actually change what we see, distorting our own perceptions.

Berns wanted to see what was happening in the brain during his experiment. Using an fMRI, Berns found that, during the moment of decision, his subjects' brains lit up not in the area where thinking takes place, but in the back of the brain, where vision is interpreted.

Essentially, their brains were scrambling messages -- people actually believed what others told them they were seeing, not what they saw with their own eyes.

flickr | library_of_congress

"What that suggests is that, what people tell you -- if enough people are telling you -- can actually get mixed in with what your own eyes are telling you," Berns said.

And for those who went against the group, there was another intriguing result: Their brains lit up in a place called the amygdala, which Berns calls "the fear centre of the brain."

"And what we are seeing here, we think, is the fear of standing alone," Berns said.

So why do people follow the pack no matter how ridiculous it seems? Perhaps it's not so much about good and evil, right and wrong, smart or stupid. It might be, as Berns' experiment suggests, that our brains get confused between what it sees and what others tell us.

Just knowing that might help us guard against it.

What product or service are you planning or considering that can be kept a secret until you are ready to launch it to your prospects and customers?

Keep your powder dry, have less fear about rejection and more resolve about success.

Stop following the crowd and be DIFFERENT in all areas of your business.

Success!

What does Ben want for Christmas?

Meet Ben…

Ben lives in Worcester, had a tough time with his girlfriend, who had his baby and a paternity test confirms he's the father (OK so that's his story), but she'd rather go back to her ex boyfriend claiming that he's the father, so kicks Ben out. His now ex girlfriend is back with her ex, who does drugs and now she can go back to drugs too. Wondering what kind of life that baby will have? Ben in the meantime loses his job, loses his car and now has to go on a waiting list for a hostel, as its already full.

If he raises enough money, he may be able to get into a B&B for £25 per night, but only if he's really lucky. So far everyone is passing him by and not paying any attention to him, because they're busy buying Christmas presents for their families and rushing through the crowds, snarling at anyone who gets in the way. Ben reckons it will be the cardboard tonight, which he stores behind the yellow grit bin. That's his bed, the pavement is his home, his desk, his kitchen, his front room, the bathroom, oh I forgot to say his hands and fingers have this black and dirty appearance, you know the ones that look like they've really not seen water for a few weeks.

So I share a few pennies and wish him luck, walking away with my shopping bags and wondering and wishing if Ben will ever get that warm bed tonight or whether he will be under his cardboard bed sheltering from the cold.

If you are visiting the Worcester shops, look out for Ben, you'll only miss him if you are rushing selfishly around the shops, thinking only of the presents you still have to buy.

I know Ben isn't alone, there are many others. Happy Christmas Prime Minister!

Have you ever stood up for something?

I am sure you have.  I found myself angry when I saw a notice in the local paper that the council (Wyre Forest DC) was increasing the car park charges in my local area. Wyre Forest Carpark Charges Increases Table

So I decided to write a letter to the local paper, see below. They actually ran the story on their website on the 17th September, but published the letter in the paper on the 27th September.

Please sign the petition now:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-carpark-charge-increase-in-wyre-forest

Car park charge increase - a very silly approach to regeneration (From Kidderminster Shuttle) 17th September 2012

 

I also reviewed their financial strategy document and noticed their strategy for increasing car park charges. Note that car parks are deemed as low risk and high impact in their risk matrix shown in this document. It also shows that the increase in car park charges will deliver an extra £35k in 2012/13 and £70k in 2013/14.

Also have a look at their Wyre Forest Forward document and note the council's aims. It is commendable especially the statement "help me with my financial situation". Obviously someone forgot to look at this chart when increasing the car park charges.

Wyre Forest DC - Financial Strategy 2012:15 | Carparking Extracts Summary

I had requested under the 'freedom of information act', the actual financial data on the income and expenditure for the car parks and was astounded on how much money they actually make from the car parks.

£1,000,000 from car parks alone and a total of 1,400,000 of income, delivering £500,000 of profit for the council.

Click the link below to read the data for yourself.

Wyre Forest DC | Carparks Income and costs 2009 to 2012 - Oct 16th 2012

 

Please sign the petition now:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-carpark-charge-increase-in-wyre-forest

Thank you for your support to get these increases overturned.

Michael

Are You Supporting Your Local Economy?

If you believe the journalists, you'll be cutting your expenses right now, if you believe the politicians, ah forget that one, I know you don't, lets try that again, if you believe the IMF (International Monetary Fund), then like most of us, you'll be apprehensive of economic recovery any time soon. I know, I know there are always exceptions, but in the main, most people are worried, anxious and cutting back.

Now what does that do for the local economy? You're right, it slowly and gradually kills it. Why? You and me start looking for discounts, bargains, 2 for 1, petrol vouchers etc etc. And because only the giants are able to provide these deals, we're all flocking to them, so they don't really feel the pinch that we're feeling right?

But let me ask you another question! Who would you rather support? The small business on the high street (charities excluded) or the giant supermarket and massive retail chains?

I thought so, cue OnlyUncle.com. I only became aware of OnlyUncle.com a few weeks ago, when I connected with Paul DeCouto, their business development manager.

I became curious because I watched this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r13IdnBEaIo

I became even more interested when I read their Manifesto and after signing it and showing my support, I asked to meet the founder Vinny Hira.

He explained to me how this was a project 24 months in the making, how he has a vision to reignite the local economy by getting local shoppers to support local business and by being a conduit for this.

And how's it done? Very simply by providing a “deals” site for small businesses;

  1. businesses can post their own deals
  2. for as long as they like
  3. with their own terms and conditions
  4. their own social media sharing options
  5. have their own consumer fans
  6. have a profile with images, videos, payment terms, hours of operation etc
  7. a series of tag words that allows for fast discovery and SEO

And the best part of all of this, is that OnlyUncle takes zero commission, not a penny, all the profit stays with the business.

Of course there is a cost but it's tiny compared to what you get. What do you reckon the value of this would be to a small business?

I reckon the value to a small business would be in the region of £250 - £500 per annum as a minimum and some small business owners have even suggested it might be as high as £1,000!

Well, Vinny, Paul and the team at OnlyUncle.com have decided to launch the service for just a tiny, very tiny £29.99 per annum. Watch Steve explain the deal;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QlRwTgdjGQ

That's a ridiculous price and well actually that's for free then! Because I can make that money back on just one deal and generating some extra sales in the process. The fact that I don't need to share any revenue with them means its a no-brainer, not just for me, but also for the millions of other small business owners out there.

The moral of this story is more than just getting a cheap website for putting your deals on.

The purpose is to get all of us to consider small businesses in our local economies and start supporting them.

How can you support?

  1. Sign the OnlyUncle.com manifesto pledging your support
  2. Sign up as a consumer on OnlyUncle.com
  3. And if you are a business owner, sign up for the 15-day trial with them and try it out. You could even make the £29.99 in 15-days to pay for the subscription.
  4. Spread the word to others. And yes you could earn through that too. Sign-up to become a referral partner and earn £10 for every business you refer. And if you're a business owner and introduce just three businesses, you could get your subs for free that way.

And why am I sharing all this with you? I've decided I want to support the local economy regeneration as well and I am assisting Vinny and Paul by making that happen and doing my bit. And besides I like the Uncle character too!

Let's do this together!

Success!

Are You Interested in Cost Saving Tips?

Are you a Consumer and also in Business? Then you will be interested in knowing how I have found some excellent suppliers, delivering some excellent savings.

Whenever I research a supplier I evaluate not just the cost but also the customer service ethos, including how they have dealt with my complaints. I am not really convinced that UK suppliers know how to deal properly with complaints, so I will just say that all of them have been satisfactory on that front, apart from one who has been truly outstanding. And yes I do have very high standards when it comes to dealing with customer complaints. I think it comes from my many years in the Textiles Industry and my training within it, which means I am very critical when it comes to receiving customer service, especially when you are connected to foreign call centres, and are given the runaround.

Anyway let's get on with it;

Supplier no.1 is Plusnet

They are a telecoms and broadband company, supplying landline rental, calls and broadband. For the purpose of this article, I am only going to discuss the broadband.

BT have recently upgraded broadband services in the area where I live (Wyre Forest, Worcestershire) and have installed fibre to the green boxes on street corners. It's still copper from there to the house, so it's not cable like Virgin. I have kept looking out for fibre for a while and when I got confirmation that I could get it, I went for it.

So I have fibre broadband for the home/business at £19.99 per month, delivering 55mb download and 18mb upload with an allowance of a massive 250gb per month. This doesn't only satisfy my personal and business requirements, it copes with everyone in the household as well, including accessing internet with iPlayer through the TV, all my video education and my business requirement to upload a lot of videos quickly.

Plusnet are actually owned by BT and only use the BT network. Therefore any upgrades that BT make Plusnet will immediately benefit from this.

If I introduce customers, I can get discounts, so if you are interested, please follow this link.

Click here for information on Plusnet products.

Supplier no.2 is GiffGaff

GiffGaff are a mobile network and run by it's customers, an interesting concept, so as far as I know there are no call centres, but an excellent forum to post questions and interaction via the web with agents.

Freedom from the contract lock-in, when you buy a sim only agreement with a monthly top-up. Your phone does need to be unlocked. So this is what I went through.

I was with T-Mobile, who I haven't had major issues with, but I have just found them too expensive an not very forthcoming with deals. I have been with them for many years and loyalty counts really for nothing when you are in a lock-in contract with a mobile phone company.

  1. I requested T-Mobile to unlock my phone.
  2. I ordered a sim from GiffGaff.
  3. Phone was unlocked, which did take far too long with T-Mobile (30 days and it should only take 10-28 days and costs £15)
  4. I gave T-Mobile also 30 days notice and requested a PAC code, which they gave me straight away.
  5. I activated the SIM online with GiffGaff.
  6. I synched my iPhone with iTunes, plus changed some other settings, which GiffGaff sent via text, which was for MMS settings, although you can do those manually very easily.
  7. I gave GiffGaff via their website the PAC code and when I wanted my number ported across.
  8. They moved my number across on the day I requested and job done.

GiffGaff runs on the O2 network and I know you'll all be thinking, well that went down, but as you will agree that doesn't happen very often, well part from blackberry that is, oops!

Anyway the package I have got with them is just £10 per month, with 250 minutes, unlimited data and unlimited texts, which is a bargain!

If I introduce customers, they get some discount upfront and I can earn points too for discount.

Click here for information on GiffGaff.

Supplier no.3 is 1&1 Internet

1&1 are a hosting company, who provides hosting for my wordpress website, plus domains.

There is not a huge amount to say really apart from the fact that it's easy to use, great support and I mean great support and very good prices.

I also use them for my email against my own domain name and because I use and iPhone, iPad and Mac and they support IMAP for my emails (Internet Message Access Protocol), which means wherever I read my email or delete, its instantly updated on all my devices, which is brilliant.

Same with them, if I introduce customers, I can earn some discount on what I pay.

Click here for more information on 1&1 Internet.

It's really interesting how these companies are very clever in suggesting introductions to others and thereby getting some discounts.  With the advent of Social Media, this is really easy to do, as people like to investigate personal recommendations, as supposed to having to investigate from scratch.

I hope you check them all out and receive the same support and savings I have been able to achieve with these companies. Let me know how you get on!

Success!

Have You Complained Recently?

We don't like complaining much in Britain, it's not the done thing, we prefer to moan about a company or a service we have received to each other, but not actually go to the company and complain and request compensation. Let me share with you three examples that it pays to complain. And...in this current economic climate and the existence of social media means most companies are now well aware what can happen with negative comments, they can go viral and it will most certainly hit them where it hurts. 20120820-210806.jpg

Example number one is Tesco Insurance. 12 months ago I needed to find a new car insurance policy and as we are Tesco shoppers, we have a club card and like to earn points too. So we found Tesco compare and were delighted that not only did we find an affordable policy, they were throwing in club card points and a free MOT. Excellent just what I needed. Except the MOT voucher never arrived and when queried, they needed my proof of no claim bonus before they could send it. So I did this, but still no voucher, chased them again and then completely forgot about it until...now!

I need to get my car MOT'd and so called them 3 weeks ago where they apologized for not sending it and it would arrive in less than 10 days. But it didn't arrive...so I called again and after some investigation and to my horror the answer was...you don't qualify for the voucher...what???

Allegedly I came via an aggregator and not direct via their site, so I didn't qualify. BUT the aggregator was a Tesco site!!! Yes but it's not run by them...well tough!!! I demanded to speak to someone else, who completely understood my feeling and after a further debate, agreed to send me a £50 voucher. Great that will cover the MOT adequately.

UPDATE: And here is the gift card, which arrived in the post!

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Example number two is T-mobile. I am in the process of leaving them and need my phone to be unlocked in order to move to another network. I requested this to be actioned on the 12th July and the promise is 10-28 days, which has now passed. After several calls to UK and Philippines service staff they agreed that it should have been done by now. I also had to pay £15.32 for the privilege of them sending and email to apple, to get the phone unlocked. Anyway finally they agreed to compensate me and added £15 to my account.

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Example number three is South West Water. I was on holiday in Cornwall and doing some cycling on the road. A South West Water van nearly knocked me off my bike and I sent a message via their website to complain.

And here's their response;

Dear Mr De Groot

Thank you for your email received on the 8 August regarding dangerous driving by a South West Water employee on the A3074 between Lelant and Longston, I am sorry you have had to contact us about this matter but I am pleased to have this opportunity to reply to you. In keeping with South West Water’s correspondence policy, I have attached to this reply, copies of our Complaints and Compliments and Customer Promise Leaflets, which offer information about the level of customer service we aim to provide.

I tried to speak with you today and I do hope you received the answer phone message I left. I would like to apologise on behalf of South West Water (SWW) that you experienced dangerous driving and appreciate you taking the time to inform us. I would like to assure you we take these matters very seriously and have strict policies on how we expect our workforce to behave whilst they undertake their work.

Our Transport Department has investigated this further using the sophisticated measures we have in place which allows us to monitor all our vehicles movements and the manner they are being driven, the van in question has been successfully identified and we have provided feedback to the Manager responsible for these employees.

The employees have been made aware that a complaint has been made towards them and have been reminded about how they should conduct themselves in the future. We have highlighted they should always be vigilant for cyclists on the road and to drive in a safe and responsible manner at all times.

I trust my reply has been helpful. If you require any further advice on this matter, please call me. For all general enquiries, please call our free Helpline on 0800 169 1144.

Yours sincerely

Henry

Customer Manager

I was delighted to receive this response from them.

So my message to you is that complaining does deliver results and often in favourable ways, plus you may even change the world a little bit too.

Success!

Is Facebook the new Apple?

Well Facebook have done it. They have silenced the naysayers, the doubters, the fund managers who are still smarting about the dotcom collapse, the users who curse Facebook every day for making changes to the user interface without any regard for them, and the app creators who rely on their business fortunes and hoping for the continued growth of Facebook.

Facebook went public and made billions. Yes indeed someone wrote a cheque to buy loads of shares to make the owners very very rich indeed. (and Priscilla Chan is a very happy girl too!)

If you are reading this then it's an 85% certainty that you have a Facebook account. You may only have one to spy on your kids and then again, you may well be using it to stay in touch with "friends".

How many "friends" do you have? The average suggests you have somewhere in between 100 to 190 based on Facebooks's own research back in November 2011. http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859

And of those you probably only interact with a maximum of 6 and of those there are probably only 3 that you have a regular conversation with.

Facebook's growth has been phenomenal and unprecedented and there is no sign of it letting up. The power of personal recommendation has just got a 'whole lot' more important with their IPO.

The other day I was reading my newsfeed when I spotted this amazing image of cookies. Yes cookies! And someone had posted a thank you to the 'Campervan Cookies Co.' (http://www.facebook.com/CampervanCookiesCo) for making a great box of cookies for their client. And I loved them (well the look of them), the only thing was the company who had posted the thank you had actually forgotten to put their Facebook business page, so I had to ask for it and of course they obliged, so that I was able to find their page and like them.

So within in the space of a few seconds I was able to connect with a company I had never heard of, didn't even know existed, was so impressed with the recommendation that I was motivated to go and like their page, actually without even having tried the product!

So what do you think? Are you a business owner, consumer, student, charity or parent? Does the fact that Facebook went public affect the way that you will use the service?

Do you feel that you are going to be bombarded by adverts some time soon and will that turn you off?

Are you fed up of the amount of changes they make to the user interface every 6 months?

I would love to hear your views. So feel free to post them in the comments or if you fancy doing this inside Facebook, please go to http://www.facebook.com/stayingaliveuk

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Raise your glasses to Facebook and say Cheers!!

Have you Embraced 'Social Learning'?

The term 'Social Learning' in current days, doesn't mean the same as it did when Bandura did his experiments in the 60's. It encompasses a theory that individuals enjoy learning in a social context, when our learning is discussed and debated.

After all 'everyone has an opinion', and this means that we actually learn more about a topic, news story, event, training intervention, when we can reflect on it and interact with it.

Learning & Development (or training) at school and at work has and will continue to be the holy grail for all education professionals. We're always looking for better ways to engage students and drive a change in human behaviour.

Trouble is millions of $'s & £'s are spent every year to achieve these objectives. And it's so painful to see when the results don't match the spend.

Think about it. The world is at War somewhere in the world and always has been. Consider the economic conditions in most countries currently. If education, training and development works, we would not be in this state of flux. But really think about it. We as humans haven't evolved as much as we like to think. Our nature is closer to animal instinct then we give ourselves credit for.

If we are truly sophisticated and used more of our frontal lobe, which is the part that separates us from animals, then surely we wouldn't be carrying out wars, we wouldn't have an issue with CO2 emissions and global warming, the economies would be running smoothly.

Surely it would? Am I mad? I don't think so, I believe I am quite a rational kind of person, who can usually see both sides of the argument and yes I do see the best in most humans, because after all they should be educated, rational, intelligent and loving beings. And you also know that this isn't always true, but we have to start somewhere and I start with everyone's good until proven otherwise.

Anyway where is this leading us towards?

Oh yes, 'Social Learning'.

Consider the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the latest kid on the block Pinterest.

What do they all have in common? Any idea?

Humans connecting with humans, that's the common thread through all of it. So why is this so important at this time in the world? It has allowed millions of us to have a voice, to discuss, comment and debate on news stories on major world events and on individual stories and their life events.

My theory and its only my theory and it makes perfect sense to me is as follows.

Remember the war? Which one you will say, because there have been so many.

Well let's just talk about World War II.

The War brought people closer, they looked out for each other and they knew more about each other's lives compared to any time in history. Well it's nearly 70 years since the ending of that major war and ever since then we as humans have drifted apart and have become more unconnected.

Social Networking is not an accident or a happy coincidence, it isn't either the creation of a Harvard University graduate or silicon valley's entrepreneurs. Their invention would never have worked if there wasn't the appetite for it.

The old saying ’people buy people first’ applies in social networks too, not just in business. We like to connect to like minded individuals or people that interest us and maybe we can learn something from them!

And yes we do like to learn, we are always learning, the brain collects millions of impressions every day, without us even realising it. If we don't learn we will die. As humans we have an inherent need to grow. But when we think about learning we think about, classrooms, teachers, exams, pressure, stress and recall many unpleasant memories.

We don't perceive consciously that reading tweets, Facebook posts, articles, blogs, watching YouTube videos as learning and of course it is, you are learning all the time.

The learning methodology of 70-20-10, is showing us that actually we learn 70% on the job or in our daily lives, 20% from our colleagues or family members or friends and 10% formally, so that's when we sit in a classroom, either at school or in the workplace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtdHZQ2VXhE

The development of social networks, will and is changing the world of learning forever. Millions of teachers and trainers are having to adopt these new technologies as part of their delivery methods.

This requires the teacher / trainer to become proficient in these new tools and get their own knowledge of these networks up to scratch. After all their students are using these to learn, so now we better embrace these too and make use of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc#!

Those that do, will succeed in helping to change the landscape of learning for themselves and students alike. A more engaged student will mean a more connected world and a more connected world will mean a world with more compassion and understanding for our fellow human.

Success!

 

#wfsota Wyre Forest Question Time - Kidderminster Town Hall - 7th March 2012

Ready for an ethical planet?

20120213-200830.jpg

You may have noticed recently that autocratic and dishonest behaviour is being rewarded by resentment and demands for justice. And everyone on the planet is involved. The human drama continues to unfold in front of our eyes on a daily basis. And what has grabbed the news headlines for over 12 months are the battles, whether physical in terms of fighting or verbal against the regimes, journalists, police, banks, senior individuals in charge and many more institutions and individuals that have been allowed to get away with thinking of just themselves and their own personal interest.

Actually we are selfish race, we don't really like other fellow human beings unless they are our own off-spring and then even we struggle to get on with them.

We are all aware of the family feuds that happen between siblings and not to speak of the arguments during family gatherings.

So why can't we be more unselfish and decide to support others? Why can't we put the importance of our own happiness and satisfaction on hold for a bit and instead think of others?

'But we do!' I hear you say, we support charities, we give money to them every time there is an appeal and true the UK are one of the most charitable nations in the world. But we do this out of guilt, because we feel we may not have done enough during the past 12 months, so giving some money to 'children in need' or comic relief' or one of the other 'telethons' makes us feel better, like we have given something and that means we have done our 'bit'.

Genuinely do you feel better or does your conscious actually know that you only did something because you have a condition, which I like to call 'spontaneous guilt'?

So how do we change our behaviour to become more ethical, more community focussed, more charitable, display more integrity, be less greedy, supporting of our fellow human beings, inspired to volunteer?

I don't intend to answer this question for you, it's for you to answer this for yourself.

I challenge you to look into your soul and decide whether you are doing enough for your fellow human.

Oh and I nearly forgot happy Valentine's day!

Success!

Honesty is the best Policy...or not?

I have been having a great time uncovering, albeit by accident, some interesting practices by Broadband Providers. The companies in question are Plusnet and Sky.

You will all know Sky, because they are very famous and owned by the Murdoch Empire, but Plusnet only emerged a few years ago and not many people know that they are owned by BT! Yep BT broadband trading under a different name, just to fool us all.

Anyway it all started when I wanted to challenge Plusnet, why they haven't been able to give me lower prices as per their advertised rates on their website and also in their advertising on bill boards and TV. It's something I have challenged them on, from time to time, and the last time actually was over a year ago. But more about that in a bit.

Firstly I needed to do my research and as I detest Talk Talk the other leading broadband provider, (just had enough of their door to door cold calling techniques) and we are Sky TV customers (and I don't really want to be), they are showing some great offers on their website (Sky).

So I did my research and to my absolute amazement they are offering existing Sky customers £7.50 for Unlimited Broadband and 3 months free! But you have to purchase Sky Talk line rental as well, which includes free evening and weekend calls, so that's ok and they are showing that at £4.75 per month.

And here is the picture of my basket to prove to you that it's very very clear. A total of £12.25 per month and on top of that 3 months free!!

Are you still following me?

Basically by moving to Sky, we could save ourselves over £200 per year, OMG that's an amazing deal, or so I thought!

I nearly hit the purchase button, I was very close, but I decided to get one stage further in the checkout process and saw this...

As you can see it's still showing me the same figures £7.50 and £4.75, but can you see that other statement at the end 'when your offer finishes', suggesting that the price increases to £49.50? (It does include our Sky TV, don't worry about that it's the increase of £7.50 that is important to focus on.

So how was this calculated then?  Cut a long story short, I decided to call them and check it out and after 20 minutes getting nowhere in India, they transferred me to the UK and the agent confirmed to me, after speaking to 2 other colleagues as she had a tough time figuring it out as well, that they had discounted the Sky Talk by £7.50 per month to allow for the free broadband for 3 months.  So they had hidden the discount inside the Sky Talk rate for 3 months.

Why the ... did they do it in this way?  This is surely completely misleading the customer!  Making me think they I am going to get a really low rate but really after 3 months the Sky Talk rate goes up, which means the original £12.25 per month become £19.75.  Not such a great deal after all!

'Honesty is the best policy', so why did they not show honestly how the calculations work?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Q13-poFBg

OK, on to Plusnet. Back in August 2010, I asked them why I was not able to get their cheap rates as advertised everywhere. They told me (a bit technical now), that my exchange was in what's called a market 1 and it needed to be market 3.  Basically it means that it needed more suppliers at the exchange and at least 3 of them need to have their equipment installed. All of this info I learned is available on www.samknows.com.  A great site with loads of detail about your exchange, and well worth reviewing in order to challenge your provider.  See the video a little bit further below.

Ok so then I asked them, when were they planning to put their equipment in the exchange and of course they were not, as they use the core BT network, after all they are owned by them!

So probably no chance of getting a cheaper rate then, so I left it.

Until now that is. See I decided to share with them the fact that Sky are able to give me unlimited Broadband for £7.50 per month and Sky and Talk Talk do actually have their equipment installed at the exchange.

Now instead of me writing what was said, I thought it would be interesting for you to read the full text of correspondence that went on between us.

22.11.11 2.48pm

I have noticed that you are offering some amazing deals at the moment. And although I have been in touch with you previously, we continue not to be eligible for these prices!  We are paying £17.99 for 60GB Broadband, plus £11.99 line rental. You are offering the Broadband now for £11.49, that's a saving of £6.50 per month and over the year of £78. I really believe that we are at a significant disadvantage staying with you.  As I am a Sky TV customer, I can get unlimited monthly broadband for £7.50 per month and line rental for £4.75 per month.  That is just £12.25 per month compared to your £29.98 per month. That is a massive saving of £212.76 per year! £17.73 per month!  Can you think of one reason why I shouldn't switch away from you?  I am really looking forward to hearing your recommendation on how I should proceed.

22.11.11 3.04pm!

Thank you for getting in touch. I can confirm you are now eligible for Plusnet Extra at £11.49 per month due to market area change. You were previously in a market 1 area meaning your price was higher, you are now in a market 2 area reducing costs.  To find out how this affects you please visit - http://www.plus.net/support/broadband/products/low_cost_areas.shtml If you choose to take up this new lower price service your monthly costs will be: Line rental - £11.99 (£12.99 as of 06/12/11) Plusnet Extra - £11.49 Total cost - £23.48 (£24.48 as of 06/12/11)

22.11.11 7.03pm

Thank you Kelly for coming back so quickly.  That's really interesting. In the past I was advised that I was not able to get cheaper prices. Here is one of the responses I received from Nick Godbehere, back in August 2010, when I tried previously to get cheaper prices from you.  "Thank you for your query. An exchange has to have at least 5 suppliers to be in a market 3 area. The rule is set in place by ofcom that lines with less than 5 available broadband service providers".  So it's now interesting to learn that a market 2 area now can give me cheaper prices!  Would you please be so kind as to confirm, when the exchange when to market 2?  If not I can find out from Samknows if need be.  Obviously you will be so kind as to give me a refund for the length of time that I could have had cheaper prices.  And you will obviously change the account on the cheaper prices immediately.  Looking forward to your response.

A short video explaining how to make use of Samknows and to learn about the differences between market areas and the resulting prices that you will pay for your Broadband.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k-5K9Ycxco

23.11.11 9.35am

Hello, I just received confirmation from Samknows that my exchange went to market 2 in December 2010.  According to my calculations, that will be a refund of: 10 months @ £6.50 = £65.00 providing that today's bill will be at the cheaper price.  Looking forward to your confirmation.

23.11.11 11.21am

Thank you for getting back to us.  The most we can refund regarding market changes is 3 moths. We can either provide you either a 3 month discount of £6.50 or a refund of £19.50. Please advise how you wish to proceed.  Please do not hesitate to get back in touch online at http://contactus.plus.net or by phone on 0800 432 0200 if we can be of further assistance.

23.11.11 11.33am

Please advise why you are only able to provide 3 months refund?  I have been asking about a discounted price since August 2010, without success.  Surely it is down to you to advise your customers that there was a market change and change their prices, as otherwise you are effectively stealing from your customers.  I wonder what Ofcom will have to say about this?  I look forward to a more positive response please advise who else does this need to be escalated to?

23.11.11 2.49pm

Up until July this year the only areas we had the lower prices in were those designated as Market 3 exchanges. From July 2011 we allowed new customers signing up in Market 2 areas to obtain the lower price too. Your exchange is currently set as Market 2.  As we've only been offering the lower prices on Market 2 exchanges since July, this is the maximum period we can backdate any discounts to you for. The changes took effect in the August bills so that's 4 months discounts we can give you at £6.50 per month.  I've applied these to your account for the next 4 months on top of ongoing reduction you're now entitled to following the Market classification change in July.

23.11.11 4.16pm

Thank you and of course I am grateful for the 4 months instead of 3. It does beg the question though why I was not offered 4 months by Phil and zero by Kelly?  My I remind you that the only reason you are now offering me cheaper rates is because I advised Plusnet yesterday that I was looking to move to Sky.  Now I am no expert, however I am being advised by Samknowsbroadband that the change to Market 2 took effect in December 2010. And they sent me this link as reference: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/wba/wba-statement/.  I have today spoken with Ofcom and lodged a complaint about this and have written to your Customer Services Director, of which letter is attached. You can look through tickets that I have raised back in August 2010, where I have been asking about why I was not able to receive cheaper rates, so you can look in the archives to read all those.  As a company you are really not portraying a good image for the Broadband supplier market and I thought Plusnet were different to all the others and clearly you are not.  I am not satisfied with the 4 months refund and if indeed the market 2 rules changed in December 2010, I expect a full 10 month refund accordingly.

23.11.11 5.24pm

Your exchange did indeed change to Market 2 back in December 2010, however at that time our prices for Market 2 customers were the same as for Market 1 (the higher value).  It was only in July this year that we made the decision to move Market 2 prices to match those of Market 3 (the lower value).  This is the reason that I've only offered 4 months as this is the timescale that Market 2 customers have had the cheaper price.  With regards to rules for the pricing in each Market area, that's up to us (Plusnet) to set what we sell these at to our customers and as I've said in my previous reply and this reply we didn't lower the price for Market 2 until July this year.

And it continued on Twitter too...

Plusnet's slogan 'Good Honest Broadband from Yorkshire' is very far fetched indeed, don't you think?

Sky's slogan 'Happily ever After', yes indeed after we have misled you and increase your rates 'after'!

Please share this article with all and every broadband user, so that they too can challenge their supplier for the best possible rates!

Good luck...

Lord Digby Jones | Fix Britain and Standing for Mayor

John Duckers reports on a speech by Lord Digby Jones on whether he intends to stand for Birmingham mayor. LORD Jones of Birmingham says an elected mayor for the city is not enough – we need an elected mayor for the West Midlands.

Speaking to Birmingham Business Breakfast Club at the Botanical Gardens, he insisted he had not yet decided whether he would stand because of the lack of clarity over the powers available.

"I am not too sure an elected mayor for Birmingham is what we should be campaigning about," he told the 120-strong gathering.

"We should be campaigning about an elected mayor for the West Midlands. The issues are about the region; not just Birmingham."

An elected mayor should govern for Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, with each of the constituent cities able to elect a representative to the mayor's cabinet.

What would the powers of an elected mayor be, he asked?

Would a mayor be able to go into schools and say 'This is how it is going to be' in a bid to address poor literacy and numeracy standards?

Controversially, Lord Jones would stop the benefits of parents whose children failed to reach basic levels, offering them only food coupons so they wouldn't go hungry.

Would an elected mayor be able to implement an integrated transport system to reflect expansion of the airport, HS2 and possibly a Crossrail for Birmingham? Or would elected mayors be mere "glorified council leaders"?

"They should have the same powers as Boris Johnson in London and Alex Salmond in Scotland. There are 5.3 million people in the West Midlands, the same size as Scotland.

"I want these questions answered before I make a decision on whether to stand. I genuinely don't know. I have not made up my mind."

But he quipped: "I would make a lousy politician.....because I tell the truth."

He said he was in favour of HS2 but only if the route was changed to go through the existing "pollution corridor" along the M40 and Chiltern rail line.

And if that meant spending a bit more to sort out bends and inclines, then it should be done.

But he was cautious on how many jobs would come to the region as a result.

"It will create jobs here but it won't create long term sustainable jobs. Birmingham, and particularly south Birmingham, will become the northernmost suburb of London. A lot of work will go down south."

Lord Jones was one of the four founders of the BBBC in 1983 and was quickly bantering with old legal mate John James.

To get the club running, it was decided the four would all bring a chum to the next get-together and Digby invited John.

"It was a case of either JJ got up and came to the breakfast or he got up and went home."

To read John Duckers blog follow this link: http://www.duckersanddiving.co.uk

To hear the full speech, please listen to the recording below.