Friday, November 11, 2005


This started off as a diatribe aginst offshore, telephone based customer service/tech support lines, but Anita, our lovely Chief of Prose and Comms, has told me to make a nice a bit more, and as I struggled to think of something (being a grumpy old blogger is so much easier), it fell into my lap.

One of our printers just went in the direction of a pear, mangling stuff. We tried the help menu, and it told us only that we should be using paper hand rolled on the thighs of Columbian virgins. Or call tech support.

We now entered the world of 0870. And for about 10 minutes we paid god knows what to god knows who to listen to an American lady tell us we were important to them. Then we were in the domain of Trevor, who did not sound like a Trevor.

Sadly the conversation did not go well. We thought we pretty much knew the problem (a roller at one end was obviously not doing its job any more and was skewing the draw down), but this did not seem to get us anywhere near the advice we were seeking, which was how to fix it.

And at the end of a fairly frustrating circular discussion we were told it was not fixable, and to ditch the thing. 

It was a month beyond warranty. So ditch it.

Now, I am not only part Scot, which makes £87.50 a lot of money, but this was not in the spirit of

So I picked up the phone to our local PC-repairers and told them the problem, and they said pop it round. So I walked it up the hill. By the time I got back, there was a call to come and pick it up.

With much joshing about the worth in terms of expertise and cost of a new printer, I was shown the culprit: a Christmas tree bulb that somehow got in there and was blocking the feed. They'd turned it upside down and fixed it.

So,  as what goes around comes around, if you are in the Monmouth/Ross area, I am happy to give them a big up right here and now: (you may also one day find them in the HR/NP area diRE:ctory when the dozy sods get around to putting themselves on there).

But the most important bit was that they knew what it was. Apparently it happens a lot. So that makes it a tip that could save a thousand WEEEEeeee..kerplunk IT landfill contributions that need not be. Plus saved customer money, etc, etc.

So I'm figuring out how to get such things on the relevant category pages on, but not in a way that overwhelms the reader, and archived to be searchable. Not just for IT issues, but from a core of gurus that must have similar such experience to share, and don't mind sharing it to get a big up and a logo link - we're mutual re-ward-based, see:)

I think we'll call it FOC's, which is kind of an homage to FAQ's and until something better pops into my head, stands for Frequently Observed Cock-ups. And when you think about it, also can stand for Free Of Charge, which in this case it was. Thanks Ian. 

Hew close to the line, let the chips fall where they may

There was an interesting post the other day by the editor of Materials Recycling World, Paul Sanderson, regarding editorial integrity, from which I quote a small section:

"Over the last few years there has been a lot of debate in the media industry about editorial integrity. It used to be the case, and indeed it was how I was taught, that you should never admit to any mistakes you made.

But increasingly, many media organisations, with The Guardian at the forefront, are attempting to always put right any genuine mistakes that have been made through talking to those who have been affected and coming up with an agreement on how to do this. "

He sought some feedback, which I provided, and he has kindly published:

"It got me to thinking about a similar situation we found ourselves in. At some mysterious point  it struck me that was a medium, with all THAT entailed. We are sent information, or we go off and find it ourselves, and then we put up there for folks to access.

I guess I'd somehow not thought of us as a 'media' organisation in the classic sense, and in any case we were free, plus a few other notions that all seem rather quaint now. But we do have an audience who trust us, and hence many obligations to them, many of which carry professional if not legal consequences. So I am very glad we created the site with the advice of the very best media/copyright lawyers you can get.

[Here I'd like to give a 'big up' to Alex & Alex at BRIFFA, who helped us create the site to protect our public, our clients and ourselves in this over litigious world, and still keep us on the straight and narrow]

So even though we perhaps did not set out to be a 'news medium' or 'journalists' in the same way as did the publishers of MRW or yourself, there is not much difference in responsibility and accountability. Even in what we imagined (at first.... boy, were we wrong!) to be the fairly uncontroversial world we both inhabit. 

Not everyone (and certainly not us) has your level of experience of hands-on editorial training. There may even be rules we don't know about (and ignorance of these may be no excuse... yadayada... but the murky world of online at least presents us with certain precedents to carry on). But there are certain things that just seem worth adhering to in my very simplistic t'pennyworth feedback.  These would be:

1) Tell the truth 

2) If necessary, and it probably almost always is, put it in the context you learned it and now share it 

3) Be prepared to accept it may turn out to be inaccurate and have in place procedures to prevent, and continually check for this happening; and cope quickly if it does

4) Better yet, make sure everyone knows that you are so prepared (which forms part of 2)

5) If you are party to something incorrect, put it right, preferably with a 'weight' in excess of the initial story that needs to be rectified (I consider BBC's Newswatch to be a poor example of this latter, with a Sat morning mea culpa slot to deal with primetime howlers).

For us, other than the odd opinion piece where I may make someone grumpy with a twitching eyebrow, I don't think we're going to venture too far into controversial territory. But by placing or acting as a conduit for 3rd party materials we're given, we are of course in danger, if in good faith, in sharing information that may not be correct.

I hope it is enough, but somewhere we cheerfully try and explain this in our own way by saying 'If we know, we'll tell you. If we don't we'll say so, and then try to find someone who does.' But what if that person is wrong? I guess we have to fall back on number 5, and our metaphorical swords, too. We certainly are putting more opportunities to provide corrections at source all around the site.

So as a 'reader' of 'news' for a few decades, I am appalled to only now learn that it was taught in journalism never to admit to mistakes, and only recently that any effort was being given to actually putting things right should you do so. So good on you guys for having that as policy.

I wouldn't expect it any other way. Honestly."

I should stress, if it is not clear enough by my reply, that Paul and MRW are obviously very committed to a policy that I, and I would hope all right thinking folk (notice I didn't pop an 'other in there), would applaud.

But who'd have thunk? I'm still coping with his revelations about mainstream media, who really do have the power to influence our way of lives seriously. But it is also an eye-opener that such considerations are troubling editorial departments in the more niche media areas such as recycling. But then, this is all getting pretty serious. Not just the millions of pounds being 'used' in our (tax and ratepayers') names, with little or no real appreciation of how or why by the general public, but also the very real consequences such decisions and expenditures are going to have on our futures.

One final thought. Errors of inaccuracy are one thing. Errors of omission can be equally, if not more troubling. That is where trust in your medium really comes to into play. Will you be told something that may not fit the publisher's own personal agenda or commercial interests? Wooooo. Scareeeee.