Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Why blame Google?

I read an article on the BBC site recently about Google limiting free news access to sites where you normally have to pay for content. The idea is to limit users to a maximum of 5 free articles per site for sites that participate in the First Click Free programme. After that, users will be redirected to register or pay. Apparently, Google is doing this because the newspaper industry is concerned that Google is benefiting unfairly from newspaper content. How so?

Some readers have discovered they can avoid paying subscription fees to newspaper websites by calling up their pages via Google. This is because Google searches frequently link directly to newspaper articles, bypassing some sites’ subscription systems.

So whose fault is it that users are able to access content for free that they shouldn’t be able to? Is it Google’s because they link directly to articles? Or is it the fault of the news sites for not getting their web developers to create their sites more securely? Have they heard about password control?

What’s your view?



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The Japanese, it seems, have some of the best customer service in the world. Like this awesome story from Kotaku chief editor Brian Ashcraft. The story starts out with his wife buying sushi in a department store, and found a bug in it.

She called up Hankyu and told them she bought sushi there and there was a bug in it. The person she spoke with apologized and then offered to refund our money — by immediately driving to our house after we gave him our address.

It gets more awesome from there on in. Read, customer service departments of the world, and realize what utter, epic fail you all represent.

[Link: Kotaku – No, I was wrong, THIS is the best service ever]

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I am trying to do something I thought was easy: find out which trains run from Ealing Broadway to Woking.

Being a simple person I am, easily swayed by big billboards outside stations, I used a new train line web site instead of tried and trusted ones (d@mn Transport for London, fooling me into thinking that transport in and around London is simple!)

After a brief wait with flashing, reassuring messages that they are trying to help me out with my query, the following search results display:

Helpful error messages


This reminds me of any House episode, where the symptoms are analysed on the white board. They then try and try again to cure the patient, who suffers numerous cardiac arrest or seizure episodes in the process. Eventually, the diagnosis is found around the 35 minute mark of the episode, followed by a quick wrap up.

Why couldn’t this site rush forward to the 35 minute mark, and just tell me something, anything. Give me better choices, better results.

Deep sigh.

Oh, and I still don’t know how to get from Ealing to Woking.

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As from a BCC news article “Zimbabwe prices begin to fall“:

Prices of goods bought in US dollars, Zimbabwe’s new official currency, fell by up to 3% in January and February.

I blinked, and when I opened my eyes,  Africa started using the green back?

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Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about how people tend to value creations that they’ve labored over more than those that they haven’t.

When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations. We call this phenomenon the IKEA effect, in honor of the wildly successful Swedish manufacturer whose products typically arrive with some assembly required.

In one of our studies we asked people to fold origami and then to bid on their own creations along with other people’s. They were consistently willing to pay more for their own origami. In fact, they were so enamored of their amateurish creations that they valued them as highly as origami made by experts.

The article goes on to state that the effect extends to office politics, and managers might see ideas and processes that originate with them as more valuable than those that come from outside.

It contributes to the sunk cost effect, whereby managers continue to devote resources to (sometimes failing) projects in which they have invested their labor, and to the not-invented-here syndrome, whereby they discount good ideas developed elsewhere in favor of their (sometimes inferior) internally developed ideas.

Personally, I’d call this the “Mo” effect, but that’s neither here nor there.

Either way, it’s an interesting argument, and links to the psychological effect of people being blind to their own imperfections while criticizing those same imperfections in others. People seem wired to put worth in something where they understand the labor “cost” involved, whether that cost be monetary, work hours, or otherwise. I think that’s why people put a high price on art (or any creative work, really); it’s something that the man-on-the-street feels incapable of without considerable time and effort on their behalves (whether actually true or not).

How do you feel about DIY projects that you’ve put your heart and soul into? How about projects that you’ve seen as being similar to your own? My personal feeling is to put great worth in artistic works not because I’m incapable, but because I DO understand the labor cost, having produced artwork myself. On the other hand, I see that no one around me has any love for my jokes, but that’s because they think that they just pop into my head, and that I don’t sweat for hours trying to perfect the funny. They’re right, of course, but I’m lot letting anyone think I know that.

[Link: Harvard Business Review – The IKEA effect]

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People like to know what a certain amount of money will get you in different parts of the world (see the Big Mac Index, for example), and so this article that describes what A$500,000 (that’s Australian dollars if you don’t know!) will get you is interesting. It compares the prices of properties around different cities in Australia and the sheer difference in what you’ll get is very interesting. In big-city areas such as Sydney CBD, you’ll end up with a 1 bedroom apartment (albeit with access to a pool, gym, and more), while Central Coast in New South Wales, pictured above, will net you a 3 bedroom, 4 bathroom apartment with an ocean view. And yes, with access to a pool, gym, and a coffee shop.


[Link: MoneyCompare.com – Australian House Prices: What $500,000 buys]

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We all know what happened when Lala Land changed location. Now here’s proof that open-plan offices suck.

“In 90% of research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover,” said Vinesh Oommen of the Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

[Link to Times of India article.]

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