Should have been labelled...

The aftermath of the recent IT fiasco at British Airways reminds me of a funny story which should be filed under the "should have labelled it" category.

In my early 20's I took a trip to Edinburgh and stayed in a cheap guesthouse. I also took my "games console" (a Philips CDi, if anyone remembers those!).

The room was a bit sparse on sockets, especially near the TV, but there was one with a 12 volt adaptor already in it... I looked to see where is was going and what it was powering, but it didn't seem to be anything in the room. So, i turned it off, and nothing seemed to change, so I unplugged it, plugged in my CDi, fired up the TV and thought nothing more of it.

Next morning, I was rudely awakened by a knock on the door and a TV engineer asking if my TV was working. I'd played my video games with no problem, so "yes" was the answer. There was some confusion, as every other guest in the guesthouse had reported their TV not working.

It transpires they meant there was no signal - and the TV company had been out since dawn clambering all over the roof to trace the fault, starting from the aerial backwards.

Well, you know where this is heading.

It turns out that adaptor powered the TV booster box in some cupboard somewhere - so I had killed everyone's terrestrial signal by unplugging it. 

The proprietor was fuming and wanted to charge me the whole call out fee. Despite being a nervous 20-something-year-old, I refused. He said we were not entitled to use the electricity in the room. I said there was a TV, kettle in the room, so he was talking nonsense. And if he had critical infrastructure powered from a guest room, it should be labelled.

(In the end I gave him everything I had in my wallet as a gesture of goodwill, which was about 28 quid; I think the call out fee was 60 something)

So - a 10p label would have saved a £60 cost to the business...

BA, take note.... 

How to make election stats say anything you want

I'l be honest - for the first time in my life I've been gripped by the UK 2010 election and the workings of the politics.

We live in such a different era to when I was first able to vote: wall-to-wall blanket media coverage, 24 hour opinion and speculation, and something I've found particularly interesting, helpful, amusing (and silly at times): the whole social media channel - which in a sense has given real-time interaction and access to opinions that are not edited by TV moguls with an agenda.

However - that's not to say all this coverage has been excellent or impartial - far from it. Nothing is more annoying to me than selective use of facts simply to create spin - and there has been plenty of that.

So, I thought I would list out some of the key facts from the outcome of the election and list some of the possible statements that can be made - all true - but selected depending on what spin you wish to give.

If i had more time I'd turn this into an interactive tool that allows you to construct any statement you wish, but for now, here are the guts of it.

Quantity of votes

(Con ~10.7m ~8.6m Lab LD ~6.8m) source bbc



"labour did not win"
"lib dem did not win"

CON ~ >1/3rd vote
Lab ~ <1/3rd vote
LidDem ~1/4 vote

"~2/3rds did not vote for con"
"~2/3rds did not vote for lab"
"~3/4ths did not vote for Lib dem"

+ "and yet they are getting their policies implemented" etc.


when it comes to seats

CON < 326 (the number required for an outright majority)
LAB < 326
LD < 326


"con does not have a mandate to govern" or "con did not win"
"lab does not have a mandate to govern"
"ld does not have a mandate to govern"
"we have a PM that was not voted for"
"we have a Deputy PM that was not voted for"



a con + LD coalition represents the majority
a lab + LD coalition represents the majority
a con + lab coalition represents the majority

Because both coalition parties have to compromise on policy:

"con no longer represents their voters / has sold itself down the river"
"LD no longer represents their voters / has sold itself down the river"

and so on..

I've not even covered level of turnout, which means something like ~35% of the populations' views are unknown and thus can be used to reduce the mandate of all the above figures.

You can do this stuff all day.. :-)

How I baffled a cold-caller with one easy statement...

Cold Caller: Do you think people should be paying less for solar energy

Mr. Nik: I don't know - I mean I don't know what they're paying at the moment

Cold Caller: But people should be paying less, right?

Mr. Nik: Like I said, I don't really know, what are they paying now?

(repeat for several minutes)

Cold Caller: Well, but they should pay less?

Mr. Nik: Honestly, I don't know if they should...I have no idea about the costs.. maybe what they're paying now is ok?

Cold Caller: <silence>

Cold Caller: <more silence>

Cold Caller: <about 12 seconds silence; sound of tumbleweed>

Cold Caller: Ok, thank you for your time.. <click>

In Mr. Nik's head: No, thank YOU. My day wouldn't have been the same without this insane conversation

Oh no! They gave me a scrapberry!?

A bunch of not-so-endearing nicknames I have for the hideous horrendous mobile computing device I have been given for work - otherwise known as a blackberry. I would never ever buy one of these terrible things.

They are very popular in business - and sadly that usually means the people who buy them are not the people who use them. Sadly this means that usability appears to have taken a back seat. Such simple errors of usability still about on these appalling devices. 

For example, there are two "convenience" keys on the side of the device. These are right where I have have to grip it when using it as a phone (for which, incidentally, it is a terrible form factor). So, inevitably these keys are always getting pressed when i try to hold it like a phone.

Whereas other manufacturers have learned to make the most of their keyboard real-estate with multi-function context keys (the ones that change function as you navigate through the menus - usually two just underneath the screen) - the blackberry designers felt it unecessary to provide such convenience to us business users. Instead practically every single function has to be accessed by first pressing a single menu button to pull up the list of functions and options - sometimes as much as 3 screens long! It's so tedious it's untrue.

And don't even mention all that wasted real estate on the main front screen....

so, some nicknames - feel free to suggest more:

  • scrapberry
  • crackberry (seems generally popular, though not sure why)
  • splatberry
  • whackberry
  • crapberry
  • quackberry
  • blockberry
  • bolokberry
  • shatberry
  • hackberry
  • slackberry
  • drawbackberry
  • lackberry
  • sackberry
  • setbackberry
  • smackberry
  • thwackberry
  • blankberry
  • blattberry