82ASK Get it Very Right

I’m very impressed. A few days ago I wrote about how 82ASK had screwed up the answer to a question. This evening, totally unprompted, I get an email:

‘I have been passed details of your unsatisfactory response from 82ASK…‘

‘We have given you two free credits in the hope that you will continue to use the 82ASK service, and to apologise again for your unsatisfactory response.’

‘It appears in this instance our usually reliable sources have let us down, and we will endeavour to find a better source for questions of this nature in the future.’

Not only are 82ASK over-compensating for their error, they are obviously also actively seeking customers, such as myself, who are unhappy. This is fantastic customer service, but is also a good example of how to exploit new technology: many people who previously complained in private, or simply didn’t use a service again after an unsatisfactory experience, are now blogging about it, as I did. 82ASK are obviously actively searching for such comments. Although they were still wrong in their answer, 82ASK have been very generous and humble, and I almost feel bad now for complaining. I will use them again.

Copenhagen vs. London

_Why Copenhagen Is a Bit Like London _

  • English is spoken fluently.

  • It has its own wacky money.

  • Lots of public infrastructure is just a little bit more run-down than you’d like.

  • Nothing is particularly efficient.

  • It has a mix of modernity and cuteness in its architecure.

  • It is tolerant and multi-cultural.

Why Copenhagen Isn’t That Much Like London

  • It’s much smaller.

  • Food is nicer but more expensive.

  • Very few things, beyond tourist material, are written in English.

  • Its most famous attraction, The Little Mermaid, is utterly feeble.

  • Pretty girls are to be seen riding bicycles, as opposed to driving.

  • Danish pastries (called Wienerbrød) are actually really tasty.

The Kaospilots

Henrique’s recent comment reminded me of another interesting bunch of people I met at euroGel 2006: the incoming class of the Kaospilots, ‘The most unusual school in the world’. They sound like an indie band, but Kaospilots is actually a private university, teaching business and related creative subjects. They are partly self-funding, and the concept seems novel - all teachers are external consultants. The most striking thing I found in the students I met was their drive - it’s obviously not a university course you drift onto. I think this university model is worth keeping an eye on.

SOA for Dummies

I’ve just received my IBM special edition of Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies. It’s shorter than the regular book, but is free - so you can use this link and order one yourself. It only covers the basics of SOA, and doesn’t dive into depth on ESBs, SCA, or any particular product, but despite being so general, it’s nevertheless worth a read if you’re looking for a good introduction to what SOA is all about.

Of course IT fads come and go, and many people have been saying that SOA is another one of these. In fact, many of these fads do last - they just lose the buzzword feel (e-business being a striking example). SOA certainly has some of the hype associated with a fad, but the book does highlight one of the key points that could play in its favour and allow it to persist - that keeping old IT infrastructure is A Good Thing, and that SOA is iterative and about reuse. This is a more realistic business IT model than throwing everything away and starting again, and thus it may see more practical success than some models that have been consigned to the dustbin because they demanded too much up-front.

Of course SOA still has some way to go, particularly with some of the -ies: scalability, security, usability, reliability, and so on. This special edition doesn’t really delve into those topics. But it’s a good start. I’d encourage anyone interested in SOA to read this book - it concludes with an promising example of how Delaware Electric are using WebSphere ESB to build an SOA.

Update 2006-09-22: I’ve been informed that we’ve run out of copies of the IBM special edition of this book - sorry! You can still pre-order a copy of the full book on Amazon by using the first link above, however.

82ASK Get it Wrong

I’ve had superb experiences with 82ASK up till now. It’s a very simple but useful service; text any question to 82ASK (82275) and they send you the answer back for a pound (or don’t charge if they can’t answer). I’ve found it’s very useful when out and about and you’re trying to answer a travel or shopping query.

After flying back to Heathrow Terminal 4 the other day, I need to get to the Central Bus Station, which is right next to Terminals 1, 2, and 3. On the way out I’d caught the free Heathrow Express to T4, but I thought it went in a loop round Heathrow, like the tube, so wasn’t suitable for the return hop. I wanted to get to the bus station quickly to see if I could catch an earlier bus home. So I sent this to 82ASK as I was getting off the plane:

‘What’s the quickest (preferably free) way to get from Heathrow T4 to Heath Central Bus Station?’

and I got back:

‘There is a free bus between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Hatton cross. No other free buses. To central station take National Express route 200.’

Nope - bottom of the class. Hatton Cross isn’t even relevant (this is related to the tube closures on the Piccadilly line). Taking the National Express involves paying money and therefore faffing. It turns out I was wrong, as both the Heathrow Express site and the Heathrow Airport site make clear in only a click or two from their homepage - the Heathrow Express can be used to get back from T4 to the Central Bus Station, for free. Luckily I didn’t trust the answer, so checked it myself.

This is a disappointment - this is my fifth question to 82ASK and the first that has had a wrong answer (or at least an unhelpful one). But having said that, they’d done perfectly up till then. They also offer ten free answers if you sign up on their website (as well as seeing all your past Q&A;), so are still worth a try.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with 82ASK in any way.

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