August 2007

Don’t make me think…

“In order to access the Direct Debit service you will need to be enrolled for the VAT Online Return Service. You access Direct Debit via the ‘submit returns’ link on the ‘My Services’ home page. This will take you to the VAT Online Return home page where you will have the option to set up a Direct Debit Instruction (DDI) online.”

Yes, it’s vat return time again – and these are the instructions for setting up a direct debit. There’s two problems:

1 Why not just add a hyperlink to the relevant page?

2 Perhaps because, if you follow these instructions, they don’t take you to a page with a direct debit signup button.

Now, I’m all for preserving the values of civil service bureaucracy, and this is a fine example of transferring old working practices to new media. Please, Mr/Mrs/Ms Civil Servant, Don’t Make Me Think. (it’s a fine book, and an easy read.)

The interwebnetthingy is a transparent place: even banks have to bow down to its power. The Guardian got the HSBC: Facebook story first – and it was their technology team that covered it. When the rest of the press got to the story it seems their education staff covered the story. It’s not an education story: it’s about how online social communities make the web transparent, and change the balance of power between customer and company.

How long before we get a revolt over government services… oh yeah, we had one already 🙂

Mashups crossing the chasm

BEA’s pan-european business survey includes this news (as reported by Silicon):
The survey also found that the demand for mashups,
where a website or application that combines content from more than one
source into an integrated experience, was set to treble from its
current level of 6% of organisations to 18% within 18 months.”

Have you got an adoption curve to hand? Then we’ll begin!
At 6%, mashups are playful fun for early innovators: at 18%, they’re heading rapidly for the mainstream, in 2009.

Trouble is, at the same time elsewhere in Silicon today, they’re reporting on IT skills shortages – with retail organisations and banks unable to fill 40%-50% of vacancies… Now, maybe the skilled workforce doesn’t exist in the right parts of the country. Or maybe companies aren’t paying enough – in spite of IT’s year on year pay inflation. Genuinely useful online features save business money by reducing cost while making it easier to perform a task: that’s just the sort of high-bang-for-the-buck customer content that mashups provide. Perhaps some of those cost-efficiency gains need to be diverted back to their source – IT teams’ pay packets?

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New York Times to halt online subscriptions?

“(Reuters) – The New York Times Co. plans to stop charging Internet users for access to its columnists and Op-Ed pieces on a section of its Web site known as TimesSelect, The New York Post reported on Tuesday.”

An interesting development. The New York Times has been at the leading edge of developing its web content – as you might well expect of one of the world’s great newspapers. It has in the past been reported as being among the first papers to profit from its online edition. Presumably now the online readership has grown – and the advertising rate card costs have risen – to the point where the additional free readership & ad revenue will more than compensate for lost subscription revenues.

And of course it’s a very strong competitive move.

Collaboration, customer, community

TomTom GO 520 satellite navigation toy allows customers to update maps while driving, correcting their device’s information with what’s actually on the road. And then, of course to upload that update to a community, in exchange for corrections from other users.

Potentially this lifts the huge burden of updates from mapmakers – when TomTom and other satellite navigation manufacturers achieve a critical mass of customers. Service providers’ role changes to ‘verification’ rather than sourcing the update information, which is always a delayed process. Presumably, over time, an agreed verification standard will establish how often a map error needs to be reported before it’s considered verified.And the next step is to have this information reported back live from the vehicle, rather than delayed, from the owner’s office. That would allow for routing around roadworks that might cause delay for a few hours.

/ edit

Yesterday in Berlin TomTom announced their updated range all of which include Map Share. The range includes TomTom GO 920T and a 3d generation TomTom One