Voting with my wallet

Back in August I had one of the most frustrating customer experiences of my life. I won’t get into the great gory details, but suffice it to say Rogers really, really pissed me off. I told the unhelpful phone rep who spoke to me that I’d be canceling my (rather substantial) cable services in protest. He said he could do nothing. The folks manning Rogers’ Twitter account tried to help, and did solve one of the problems, but not enough to save my business. My white-hot rage had cooled to regular old anger, but I wasn’t staying with them after how they treated me. A few weeks ago I finally pulled the trigger.

So, as I sit here typing this, I’m watching the Montreal game in the corner of my monitor, piped through Bell’s new Fibe TV. Nellie’s in the other room playing with the new PVR, which uses the same interface as Windows Media Center. It’s all pretty slick and it looks great, so…so far so good. Meanwhile, I’ve just called Rogers and explained to them that I’m canceling my service…this agent seemed horrified that I’m leaving after thirteen years with Rogers, especially when I pointed her to the history of that conversation in their CRM system.

Of course, even though they’ll shut off my service in 72 hours, they’re still going to charge me for a full 30 days. Just because they’re douches. And so, one final time: eat a dick, Rogers.

TED

I don’t normally just re-post video, but I found these two TED talks particularly enjoyable and thought I’d share.

Sean Gourley: the mathematics of war

Clay Shirky: How social media can make history

I went down to the river to scan

Finally overcoming the irony, I managed to summon enough attention to read “Information-rich and attention-poor”, an essay in last week’s Globe and Mail. It’s really quite insightful, and makes clear what so much abundant information is doing to the way we view knowledge:

“Knowledge is evolving from a “stock” to a “flow.” Stock and flow – for example, wealth and income – are concepts familiar to accountants and economists. A stock of knowledge may be thought of as a quasi-permanent repository – such as a book or an entire library – whereas the flow is the process of developing the knowledge. The old Encyclopedia Britannica was quintessentially a stock; Wikipedia is the paradigmatic example of flow. Obviously, a stock of knowledge is rarely permanent; it depreciates like any other form of capital. But electronic information technology is profoundly changing the rate of depreciation…Knowledge is becoming more like a river than a lake, more and more dominated by the flow than by the stock. What is driving this?”

The essay describes very well a problem I’ve been feeling. Well, a change more than a problem per se, but something I’ve sensed. In fact, the author deals with the perception that the shift from a lake to a river is problematic.

“Those of us who are still skeptical might recall that Plato, in the Phaedrus, suggested that writing would “create forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it.” This is a striking example of a particular kind of generation gap in which masters of an established paradigm can only see the shortcomings, and not the potential, of the truly novel.”

I’m very comfortable dealing with this river of information. I’ve jumped right in, obviously, by scanning hundreds of news feeds every day at home and at work and picking out the relevant bits, but I feel like I’ve trained for that my whole life by being a generalist…I like knowing something about a lot of things, and knowing a lot about some things, so all this access to information is kind of like mother’s milk to me. I’ve never been the kind of person who memorized things, I’ve always assumed I could look them up or just figure something out again when I needed to. Now it sometimes feels like I can’t remember enough, especially when I’m at work and dealing with people who still value institutional knowledge.

It is frustrating sometimes, that I can’t sit down and focus on something very often. I find that needing to focus for an hour on conceptual work requires that I move to an empty meeting room, or even a Starbucks, just so I get away from the computer and the need to watch the river. That often means printing something so I can work offline, which I hate. So I figure I have three options:

  1. Build a nice, easy ‘dam’ switch on the computer that lets me disable Outlook, Twitter, Google Reader, IM and my phone for an hour or so
  2. Find a way to work on a paper-like form that doesn’t require killing trees. Maybe it’s time for me to get a tablet?
  3. Quit my job and find something that never requires any original thought or conceptual analysis, just parroting of the information I see which adds little or no value to it. But I’ve never really wanted to be a newscaster, so I guess that’s out.

The guys dressed in brown are just ridiculous

I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging more lately. I have interesting topics lines up, really I do, but Wii Sports Resort is sucking up ALL MY GODDAMN TIME!!!!!1! More specifically, level 19 of the Swordfighting showdown. I cannot beat it. I got to 94% once, and have never gotten that close again. I’ve been hurling a lot of curse words in general direction of the TV/Wii, and am constantly on the verge of throwing the Wii remote through my window in a fit of anger.

Your regularly scheduled blogging will resume once I figure out a way to kill all these cartoony little bastards. Stay tuned.

It's a freaking mall, people.

BlogTO yesterday raised an interesting topic: the differences in travel styles. Emphasis is mine.

Yesterday, the New York Times published yet another one of their great travel articles on a Toronto neighbourhood that doesn’t get much play from the powers that be who promote our city. Titled Skid Row to Hip in Toronto, the article isn’t a comprehensive look at the area, missing favourite spots like Crema Coffee, Smash and The Beet to name a few. Here are the ones they did mention:

Which is to say that it’s a good start and exactly the sort of story the city should be trying to get out instead of the crap about Ontario Place and Casa Loma.

I’m of the same opinion as BlogTO on this: for Toronto, or any tourist destination, the real soul of a place isn’t in the big tourist attractions, it’s between the lines of the Fodor’s guide. For many cities, and especially for Toronto, it’s in the neighbourhoods.  That you could wander from Chinatown to Kensington Market to Little Italy to the Annex to U of T (to take just one example) in less than an hour is fantastic because they’re all such different neighbourhoods. That’s what I want from a city, to get a real feel for it.

Obviously lots of people want to see the big attractions. When I lived at Dupont and Spadina I had tourists ask me every other summer day how to get to Casa Loma (which was always fun ’cause I could just point to the giant castle on top of the hill) and now that I live downtown I’m often asked where the Eaton Centre is. It always horrifies me that this is what tourists want to see, but that’s what’s in the guide books and, as BlogTO points out, the tourism promotions.

Should there maybe be two sets of promotion materials and guidebooks? Or is this the kind of thing that guidebooks just can’t keep up with, due to the rapid emergence and decline of neighbourhoods? Is this the role of the internet now? Until now a guidebook has just been an easier thing to carry around a city, but GPS-enabled devices could change that. I’m sure there’s already an iPhone app that points out cool insider tips about the neighbourhood you’re wandering through. If not, there should be. Damn, I wish I knew how to write those things…

Twitter and the Monkey Man

Since I stayed home sick today and had little better to do in between nose-blowing than read, I just finished A Fine Balance. I can tell it’s going to stick with me. It’s too bad I waited so long to read it, but I’m glad I finally did. I even learned a little history along the way. I knew precisely nothing about The Emergency in India in the mid-70s, likely because I was a month old when it began, but it’s a fascinating period in time, and Mistry spun within it an equally fascinating story with wonderful, tragic, inspiring characters.

.:.

You may have noticed some odd blog posts recently. Since I find my thoughts more scattered these days, a situation which lends itself more to Twitter than to the blog, my blog will automatically consolidate my daily (sigh…) tweets into a single post. Just in case you’re wondering.

iWaffled

I need a new MP3 player. Just a small one to hold my newest music; I find that my new music disappears into the depths of my player — which I usually have set to play all songs randomly — and I need a small one I can use for the ten most recent albums, plus a few hundred other songs.

Normally this would be an easy exercise. Ever since I bought my first MP3 player nine years ago, I’ve been a loyal Creative user. They’ve always been solid devices that never break, don’t force DRM or native file formats and are incredibly easy-to-use.

Lately, though, Creative just doesn’t seem to be keeping up. Their players have always been utilitarian (read: ugly), which was fine because (unlike most people) I don’t buy an MP3 player to be a fashion accessory. But their new players look almost comical, their features are falling behind and their models don’t seem to fit what I need.

Now, there’s an obvious, ubiquitous suggestion: the iPod. Problem is, I’ve never been an iPod fan…they’re expensive, I don’t like the wheely interface, they occasionally require ridiculous fixes like being dropped on the floor, iTunes sounds like a nightmare and, I’ll be honest, I’d hate feeling like a sheep every day when I passed fifteen grandmothers and tweens shaking their Shuffle on the subway.

But goddamit, their devices seemed like the only viable ones still out there. I started to wonder if anybody was even left in the game, or if all the other manufacturers had simply ceded their ground to Apple. I’m not getting a Zune, especially not after that whole ‘every 30GB device in the world blew up at the same time’ incident, and besides they look like they were produced in the Cold War era Soviet Bloc.

I had started to resign myself to the iDea of being an iPod oWner, but then I found anythingbutipod.com…and all was right with the world once more. The 8GB Samsung P3 looks pretty nice…maybe I’ll check one of those out.

Dear TTC

Hey there Toronto Transit Commission. Meet me at camera two.

I love that you now have email alerts for service disruptions. I know now when a subway stops running so that I can avoid the station, stay at work, call a cab, etc. Been getting them for a couple of months now. Very helpful.

However, it would be just a tidge more helpful if you would also email when the disruption ends, so I know when I can start using your service again. For all I know these outages are lasting hours, or even days. Might want to keep us in the loop. Just a thought. Cheers.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand there goes the paycheque

Oh yes, this is just what I need: unfettered access to Canali.

Just a few years ago, Harry Rosen Inc. found that consumers weren’t ready to buy its luxury men’s wear online. They worried about using credit cards on the Internet, and didn’t like to purchase clothes without trying them on first.

Lately, however, the retailer’s research has found attitudes have come around, so by next April the chain plans on finally launching an e-commerce site. One factor working in the company’s favour is that new, younger customers are already comfortable purchasing online and they’re at ease buying shoes and jeans, items that used to be a hard sell owing to sizing standards. Perhaps the most compelling thing Harry Rosen’s research came up with was that it could generate up to 10-per-cent more business with an e-shopping site.

That last sentence has a mistake in it. It should read ‘…it could generate up to 10-per-cent more business from a single IP address in downtown Toronto with an e-shopping site.’

Oh, and…’e-shopping’? What is this, 1996? Maybe Marina Strauss should’ve mentioned how Harry Rosen plans to get on the information superhighway.