In a struggle to be happy and free

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CBC News is a joke

On The Sunday Edition this morning, host Michael Enright sat down with Stéphane Dion, the Liberal critic for Canadian Heritage, to discuss the Liberal vision for the CBC. What struck me is Enright’s introduction to the story. He brought up the dilemma of how the CBC should report on itself.

This inspired me to write a comment on the Sunday Edition web site:

I’m surprised you’d even ask about the dilemma of how the CBC should cover itself. Having been a longtime CBC News watcher/listener, I’ve seen it first-hand. The answer is to cover the CBC only to distance itself from any problematic people (Jian Ghomeshi) or ignore the real stories entirely (Rex Murphy, Peter Mansbridge, and Amanda Lang). More than anything, the CBC’s reaction to the Lang affair is what ended my nearly thirty-year reliance on the CBC as my primary news source. CBC News, as an organization, has forgotten its purpose and cannot be trusted to uphold basic journalistic integrity.

A couple of years back, the CBC reported that the Royal Bank brought in foreign workers to do jobs that Canadians could have done. Canadaland reported that Amanda Lang unsuccessfully tried to get the story scuttled. Later, Lang wrote an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail about how the story was a non-issue. She did this entirely of her own volition, and broke CBC News rules in the process. Then, she had Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon on her show for a softball interview. What really blew my mind is that while she reported on the Royal Bank, she was in a serious relationship with W. Geoffrey Beattie, who also is the chair of the Royal Bank’s Risk Committee, on their human resources committee, and member of the Royal Bank board.

Once this story broke, how did the CBC handle it? By circling the wagons. CBC Head of Public Affairs Chuck Thompson told CanadaLand,

Amanda did declare her relationship with Geoff Beattie to her executive producer (Robert Lack) and he has the appropriate processes in place.

What were these appropriate processes? We have no idea. I’d suggest that there are no appropriate processes for this situation. She should have not been involved in the reporting of the story, period. Her working to influence the story tells me she doesn’t have any idea what journalist integrity means.

You’ll recall Gordon Hewart’s famous words about justice,

justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done

I’d suggest the same is true for conflicts of interest. Not only must there be no conflict of interest, but there must not be even the perception of any conflict of interest. Putting some alleged backroom control into place isn’t nearly enough. Reporting the news is entirely about trust. Every time I see Amanda Lang reporting the news, I am reminded that the CBC is not worthy of my trust.

It saddens me because I genuinely like the CBC, but also for all the other reporters and worker who strive to do the right thing. They’ve been betrayed by management and some of their co-workers.

What really closed the book on my trust in the CBC was the response Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News, posted about this mess. In part, she said,

It is unfortunate that our internal processes are fodder for external debate by people who have their own agendas.

Can you believe the cluelessness? She’s running a publicly funded organization and calls it unfortunate that taxpayers are learning about what their tax dollars are funding. Further, the business of news organizations is to do exactly this sort of thing! I suspect she thinks it’s unfortunate Lang was caught rather than it being unfortunate we learned about their internal processes.


Sunday Edition image © CBC

Crashplan, no longer

Crashplan,

After three or four years as a customer, I cancelled my subscription to your online backup service yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, you offered a 50% discount to loyal family plan members who renew, and to single computer customers who upgrade to the family plan. I tweeted and asked if you had any deal to loyal single computer subscribers. Your response to me was to try to get me to upgrade to a family plan. Specifically, you wrote,

You don’t have parents, siblings or cousins with computers? #cheapholidaygifts

That isn’t what I asked, and I also note that including cousins seems to extend the family plan beyond what you allow. Regardless, when I replied that the single computer subscription fit my needs and I wasn’t interested in expanding it, you didn’t think me worth a reply.

In the nearly two weeks between that exchange and the end of the promotion, I saw many tweets referring to a 50%-off subscription rate to existing customers. At least 75% of them made no mention of this deal being limited to the family plan. Perhaps you expanded the offer? I wrote to ask. No reply. This happened three times. Never a reply.

Then late last night I checked again, and your Black Friday sale kicked in. Both plans discounted, but for new customers only.

I get the hint. You want single computer subscribers to upgrade to the family plan, and you want new customers. Raving for two weeks about a 50%-off renewal is great, but if you usually fail to mention that it applies to only a subset of your customers, you’re going out of your way to annoy those to whom is doesn’t apply.

While these other two issues aren’t directly related to my cancelling, they definitely made it easier:

1. Your service is great in that it offers support Windows, OS X, and Linux, but doing this by using a common Java codebase is less than ideal. Backup software using a gigabyte of RAM is ridiculous. I’m glad to have that RAM back!

2. The Twitter campaign you ran over the summer was a disaster. You have 30,000 followers who are interested in Crashplan news and updates, and you saddled them with tweets like this:

Oh, jeez. The Wolf King just showed up. And he’s wearing that I‑wanna-get-back-together face. ‑MadMaxine #FutureWithoutBackup

You build a following, and then rather than offer what they came for, you tweet this kind of thing? I’ve never seen so many complaints, and for good reason. I wrote, asking if you had a feed for only Crashplan news and you told me I was already following it. When I suggested that this ‘campaign’ was ill-conceived, you explained that more like it could be coming.

I wondered how clueless could you be. I’m through wondering. You seem to have trouble understanding how to treat paying customers.

If you offer something, and repeatedly snatch it away, and then ignore me when I ask about it, I get the impression you aren’t terribly interested in my being a paying customer.

Message received, Crashplan.


Logo © 2014 Code 42 Software, Inc.

Business blunders IV

If you’re going to use technology to help your business, make sure you know what you’re doing, and don’t be half-assed about it.

I make it a habit to change my passwords periodically. Not as often as I should, but periodically. I also look at web site accounts with a critical eye and close those that I don’t use any more. Having a bazillion passwords to change encourages me to reduce their number! With this in mind, I went to the Camera Canada web site a few weeks back. For the life of me, I could not find how to change my password so I wrote them and asked. To my astonishment, the general manager replied with this gem:

Thank you for your interest in Camera Canada. I have reset your password to cam6325. If you have any further questions please feel free to call or e‑mail.

A weak password, and sent plaintext via e‑mail, no less. I replied, again asking if there was a way I could do it myself, and requesting that my account be deleted if there was not. He replied stating that they have no way for customers to change their passwords, and that he had my account deleted. I promptly went and confirmed that my log-in credentials didn’t work.

If your site has no way for a customer to change their own password, I question how secure the site is, and I didn’t want my personal information on it.

On a different front, my credit card expired a while back and I received notices from a few companies who use my card for regular payments, requesting updated information. Alarmforce in particular drew my notice. They sent a letter in which they suggested three ways to deliver my new credit card information to them. I could return the form they provided by postal mail, by fax, or I could send them the information by e‑mail.

They should know better. I’ve heard it stated that regular e‑mail is roughly analogous to sending a postcard through the mail. It’s not exactly right, but close enough. At a minimum, the folks at my ISP, and the folks at their ISP can easily read the information I send them. And it’s not impossible that somewhere along the line there’s some routing through other servers which only serves to increase the exposure. Alarm force may know about physical security, but their suggesting I send my credit card information via e‑mail is terrible advice, and tells me they know nothing about data security. You might say that an alarm company doesn’t deal with data security, but they have my credit card information and I expect them not to let others have it because of their (lack of) data security practices.

If you’re going to use the Internet to help your business, make sure you know what you’re doing. If you don’t have experienced people in-house and aren’t willing to hire, contract it out. It’s cheaper than rebuilding your reputation after a security breach.

Business blunders III

Dear businesses, don’t make me work to become a customer. Seems obvious, but my experience indicates otherwise.

I’m always on the lookout for a sale on Coca-Cola. A supermarket called Fresh Co. has a flyer out that advertises just such a sale. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? No, not so much.

My mom commented, “Fresh Co.? I don’t know where that place is.” I thought it would be simple enough to find out. Newspaper flyers typically list the store locations and small-print at the bottom of the back page. Flipping to the back page, imagine my surprise when they boast, “87 Fresh Co. stores now open in Ontario,” and then follow with the locations, “See FreshCo.com for store details.” I don’t think so, Fresh Co.

Even worse, I always look for any limitation on quantities. Fresh Co. tells me, “We reserve the right to limit quantities.” That’s it. So I may go and discover they’ll only let me buy three. That’s plenty for some people, but not everyone.

If you’re going to try to get me into your store, and then not even tell me where they are, I’m not going to go hunting for the information. I’ll just go elsewhere. I understand they’re trying to save money by using the same flyer in multiple markets, but when your saving money requires me to do extra work, your ad failed. Enjoy your savings, but I’m not buying anything from you. Happy?

If you think I’m the one missing out, think again. Sobeys has Coke on sale as well, and for the same price.

So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. In wanting to make sure things are as I expect, I had a look at the Sobeys flyer to make sure it does indeed list store locations. But it doesn’t! I do think the point stands however, as the larger incumbent companies are better known. In this case, I already know where the Sobeys is. Still, they risk losing potential customers, but it’s less a risk for Sobeys than for Fresh Co.

It doesn’t end there. In searching their respective websites for the logos I’ve included here, and to properly assign trademarks where they belong, I check the ‘Legal’ links. The legal page on the Fresh Co. site begins, “This Website is owned and provided by Sobeys Inc.”

I’m still not going to Fresh Co. and in fact, I’m even a little bit less likely to go to Sobeys, but I don’t think this will tip the balance. I’ll still buy the Coke, and likely nothing else.


Fresh Co., Sobeys, and the graphics shown above, are likely trademarks of Sobeys Capital Incorporated. I’m not exactly sure because both web pages state, “The content shown on the Website is protected by copyright, trademark and other laws” but they give no specifics on what terms are trademarks. 

Politicians and their idiotic ways

Remember in January when the Joyce Morocco for MPP campaign kept calling me despite my repeated instruction to not call me? She didn’t have the votes to make the leap from city councillor to MPP so she’s running for a seat on city council again.

Guess who called this evening? I heard the phone ring so later in the evening, I asked my mom if my sister had called. She said it was “that Joyce woman” for city council. Amused, I asked what she said. My mom answered, “Oh, I don’t know … and the woman wouldn’t stop talking so after a few minutes, I just hung up.” I’m still amused.

I also dashed off a quick message:

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: joyce@votejoycemorocco.ca
Subject: Do not call.
Date: October 8, 2014 at 10:16:54 PM EDT

Greetings!

My phone number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx and I’m asking you politely not to call again.

When you ran for MPP, you called and I wrote you requesting that you not call. You called again. Then you called a third time. Seeing that you were unable to listen to my simple and reasonable request, you did not make the list of candidates that were in the running for my vote. If you won’t listen to my request, how can you possibly represent me?

Perhaps this time you can find it within yourself to not call as I’m requesting.

Rick.

I’m hoping she’s turned over a new leaf. I’m also not holding my breath.

These politicians kill me. They’re all about how they’re representing you and they’re there for you … until they want something, then they don’t want to hear what you want.

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