Category Archives: Random

On being a dodgy international business empire

Recently I got an email from a company that I hadn’t heard of with an invoice for a month of electronic fax services that I had supposedly signed up for.

Now normally these sort of emails go directly to my spam folder and never see the light of day. But this one rang a bell and also they claimed to have my credit card details and were going to debit automatically!

You see, I had signed up for a service similar to the one mentioned (the ability to send faxes via email) but I certainly hadn’t agreed on any sort of monthly service fee. What I had signed up for was a pay-per-use fax service. If I needed to send a fax, I sent an email, and the cost of sending the fax would be debited from my credit card. But that wasn’t this company, or the service I was being billed for.

A trawl through the unread emails in my inbox found another email from the company now trying to bill me. It seems that they had purchased the small Australian company that I had previously made an agreement with, and had “upgraded” my account to one with a monthly service fee.

So unilaterally they had changed the terms and conditions of my agreement, and only given me notice of this through an email (that very much looked like spam marketing.) It seems that they also had sent another email which came from the company I had an agreement with, but had spoofed the from address – so I had assumed it was spam.

The biggest problem – the company I had originally had an agreement with had passed on my credit card details to this mega-corporation ( just type email fax into your favourite search engine, they’ll be at the top – and probably own the other top ten results too, it seems they are pretty much cornering this business.) So now they had my credit card details and were going to bill me.

Fortunately for me, the credit card I had used for the original service has been cancelled for some time – somewhere along the line, its details were stolen and it was used fraudulently which HSBC thankfully informed me about and I cancelled the card.

So I’m now having a nice email exchange with mega-corp asking them kindly to stop invoicing me for services I did not sign up for and have no intention of paying for. Also asking them to immediately and retrospectively cancel any service that they believe I have signed up for. Whilst they keep asking me for new credit card details (like that’s ever going to happen!) I’ve read on other forums that they can get pretty nasty about this, bringing in debt collectors and the like whilst not cancelling the service and invoicing more and more. So we’ll see what happens.

This said, the nice lady I spoke to when I phoned their customer service department was quite helpful in apparently arranging cancellation of my account. We’ll see how this pans out.

This raises for me some concerns. How is it that a company can be purchased and the new owner is able to make unilateral changes to existing contracts? Surely that is illegal? If not – it should be!

How can an email sent from a different domain than the purported sender (in this case an email from support@faxmate.com.au was sent from cpro30.com) 1) not automatically be assumed to be spam marketing/phishing 2) allow or justify unilateral contract modification.

Should it be legal that a company that purchases another automatically has access to all the purchased company’s records including customer credit card details? I guess to a certain extent that this has to be the case, but in the case where an Australian company is purchased by an international shouldn’t there be some protection about our personal details suddenly being transferred overseas?

I’m glad my credit card was already cancelled, but I’m sure there are many others out there right now in Australia who are trying to figure out whether or not to just pay a few dollars or fight this seriously dodgy business process.

 

 

Lies to Children – Simplification for the sake of easy explaination

simplicityI was so close to tweeting this:

The earth & sun orbit around their combined centre of gravity. simply explanation isn’t the same as accurate, just a lot easier to explain

It even fits in 140 characters, but I don’t think it does justice to the point I wanted to make.

Michael wrote:

and I commented:

Michael replied:

I lol’d.

However, it raises a point I’d like to address, we often hear some very compelling stories about how thing are. One of those stories is about the earth orbiting the sun. If you look closely at the details, what the earth orbits is the sum total of gravitational influence in the solar system. It happens that sum total is pretty much smack bang centered on the sun, but it certainly isn’t always.

The simple story is compelling, and it may even be true for most use cases, but were I trying to calculate the trajectory of an asteroid potentially on a collision course with earth it wouldn’t be.

Likewise if Michael took my story about SaaS meaning the end of upgrades to his business it would be a very compelling and simple one. After all, someone else is managing that in a SaaS world aren’t they?

Look into the detail however and you might find things like APIs that you’re using for integration getting depreciated over time, certainly you’ll hope to find that the UI/UX changes, and so your training documentation will need updating. New functionality will come along and you may well adopt it.

Beware any simple and seemingly logical statement – especially if it comes from someone trying to sell you something.

because:

 

Twitter tightrope

Influence this you <removed>

Walking on a tightrope with the birds

Recently I passed the completely arbitrary mark of 1000 twitter followers. Yeah! Woohoo! Well done me! (Please note points with exclamation mark are meant to be dripping with sarcasm.)

And around the same time, I unfollowed – shock horror – two folks I had been following for quite some time. Now, I know I’m not the social media guru who can use twitter perfectly with lots of lists, following back people and then analysing where the links in my post have been successful and all that bs. But, I stopped to think about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and whether the same could/should be done to me by the wonderful bunch of idiots people that follow my twitter handle.

Unfollow 1 – Where is my personal space?

The first person I unfollowed, is great at sharing interesting content, and has some really useful things to say about some stuff that I’m interested in. However, they also have a LOT to say about politics. It might even be a political view that I agree with and sometimes I’ve had fun following some of those links. However, sometimes it went beyond fun and started getting nasty. Now, I strongly support people’s right to have a political viewpoint (I have one) however, if I’m going to include you in my feed of people that I want to listen to, please don’t make me uncomfortable by going all extreme on me, regularly.

Unfollow 2 – Wake me up to smell the coffee!

The second person I unfollowed was the polar opposite. They tweeted some interesting stuff occasionally. But generally their sharing of info was following the company line so intently that I never had the view that the stuff they were sharing was more than their company’s carefully edited press releases. I decided that in balance, press releases disguised as personal viewpoints was just a bit too boring, and I didn’t really want them in my timeline.

Walking a tightrope

Clearly, being too extreme is bad, but being too timid, is just as bad. So where one earth does one go? And this is the tightrope I guess that we walk. I’m certainly not pretending to know the answer and if one analyses the question it’s clear I’ve made some perhaps unsupportable assumptions. Is it really that bad if your audience is tightly aligned your viewpoints? If you’re gaining kudos in the eyes of your employer, is that a bad thing?

From my POV

I think in the end, the tightrope you walk is the one of your own making. It’s the choices that you make to go in the direction you want to go and associate with the people that you want to associate with. So for me, that means being slightly (but hopefully not offensively) irreverent, and keeping a T-shaped focus on the stuff I share. What it also means to me is that some things that I do care quite deeply about, for example climate change and the way that our generation is screwing the planet for my kids, I’m probably a LOT quieter about that I sometimes wish I was. Self censoring is a pain in the butt, however, it might just get me along the tightrope I want to walk. Just grab me after a few beers, and then I’ll tell you what I really think. 🙂

Building a card robot

Today was a very relaxing day, where I tried not to involve myself in any work related stuff at all.

So I asked the kids what they wanted to do this morning. They said, build a robot.

Robots made from construction paper

So we did. Unfortunately, they (the kids) are probably still a little to small to get into Lego Mindstorms or programming and wiring my Raspberry Pi to run some servos, so we went for the next best thing. Cardboard.

robots made from paper

I made some nets (a net here being a 2d diagram for a 3d shape) for the different parts of a robot, we printed them out onto some card, cut them out and stuck them together. The kids decorated the robots with some great creative flair.

It was a great fun day that I would recommend to anyone who finds the weather not suitable for playing outside and want to do something a little different.

Just in case there is anyone else out there in a similar situation I have attached (linked below) the print-outs that we used to build the robot. Cut the solid lines and fold (in most cases) the dotted lines. I printed these onto construction paper and it worked really well. Scoring the to be folded lines using a ball point pen and a ruler is highly recommended to ease making the folds in the right places. A decent quick drying glue is a good idea too – glue sticks just don’t work for this stuff.

card robot legs net card robot head net card robot body net card robot arms net

They look like:

net for constructing a set of legs for my paper robots - see PDF for high quality version

I’ve licensed the the plans/net/images (however you want to refer to them!) under the a very unrestrictive creative commons license so you use them and play around with the safe in knowledge that I’m cool with that.

Creative Commons License
These works by Chris Paine are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Although the linked PDF versions are higher quality 🙂 They are designed for printing out onto A4 paper. Although you could/can fit two of the head nets onto one piece of A4 if you fiddle with it.

I hope someone, somewhere, sometime reads this and finds it of use. I know I tried searching the Internet for “robot card net”, “paper robot diagram”, “build your own paper robot” and other such in the hope that someone else had already done the hard work. Perhaps with the magic of Google someone else will search and find this… (if you do, please send me a note, I’d be most happy to find out! 🙂 )

Cheers!

Keeping it real

Anti-Social social media

As many of you who might read this know, I like social media. I spend a reasonable amount of my spare time following and trying to keep up with the information that is available about SAP, cloud and HCM topics. Many of these social media discussions (a majority I’d suggest) take place over twitter. Now recently I’ve found a few tweets that have really got me irritated. But before I explain what got my back up, it’s probably worth pointing out that there is a simple option for me, and it’s put the phone/tablet down and walk away. This really isn’t that serious! Secondly, don’t ask me to name names, I won’t and I don’t think it’s helpful anyway, and I’ll get to why not later.

What’s wrong?

I’ve seen two types of behaviour that I’ve disliked. Firstly has been where people have been using social media as a tool to strike up a conversation. But rather than continuing with the conversation, just make a couple of snide remarks and tried to spark up a fire. In some cases these have been extreme storm in the teapot scenarios, where some information misunderstood, or not at all researched or understood has been used to derive wild scenarios that are great link-bait but do not actually help drive the conversation forward. Conversations are two-sided, if you refuse to engage in a manner that engenders discussion then you don’t have a conversation, you have a battle. In battles the only people that win are the arms manufacturers.

The second type of behaviour is where people represent themselves as “individuals” but start broadcasting what can only be described as advertisements for the products that the company that they work for sells. Now this is a fine line as you’d expect people to be interested in and excited about the products that they company that they work for sells. But when it is done across a whole group of employees and sometimes with a common message/format  then it really starts to smell bad. Even worse when people start tweeting info and then add link to some sales website or their company twitter handle when the content of the tweet isn’t about that! It’s like they are branding their tweets! But when they then refuse to engage on the marketing type tweets to clarify details (possibly because some of the marketing bs is actual bs?) it gets really irritating.

The problem.

Well my real issue is that the response I want to give the tweets of the second type would just make me an asinine tweeter of the first type. Keeping it real and respecting myself involves not walking either of these two paths. And that’s tricky. Not to mention frustrating! This is why I don’t what to name, it’s just behaving like a spoilt brat and isn’t doing anyone any favours. Don’t be evil!

My solution – not “the” solution

I believe that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously, it’s one of the reasons I still keep the ridiculous twitter image that I have whilst pretty much all those that I engage with have sensible portraits. To remind myself not to think overly of my skills, abilities or influence, as I’m just a silly looking guy who’s biggest achievement was becoming a father. Remembering what is important and valuable to me then drives my behaviour. Yes I’ll post this up to vent a little, but the anti-social social media that winds me up, hopefully you won’t see that coming from this direction. 🙂

Seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously. Photo was taken at my son’s 1st birthday party.

On building your own brand

Today I was lucky enough to attend a SAP Mentors web meeting where someone from SAP (I’m not sure if they want to be named so I’ll leave them their anonymity) presented about building your own brand.

It was an excellent session, but probably raised more questions for me than gave me answers.

 

I am lucky enough to be in a position where I directly influence how the company I work for is run. As such I would like to think that internally we do not (yet) have the need for employees to need to raise their own profile in order to get noticed and rewarded. If we end up in that space, we should probably start looking at our talent management processes as a matter of urgency. And if that comes to pass, I will be doing just that. (Hopefully by then using something like SuccessFactors will be a possibility for small to medium businesses beyond what the current Professional Edition offers).

However, perhaps self promotion is needed whatever size your company? Even if there are just two of you! I’ll discount the single person companies, if you don’t know what you’re doing yourself you’re in trouble! Whatever size you are unless you effectively communicate what you are doing to the others in your company, you are doing yourself (and the company) a disservice. But is effective communication about what you’re doing the same as self promotion? I’d guess, Yes and No.

I think there is a fair bit more to self branding – which is why I started writing this blog outside of the SCN space. But I think it’s important not to confuse that with ensuring your company has effective talent management processes and encourages communication.

Anyway, better do some work.

 

 

Personal link shortening and tracking

<RANT>

Is it really required to use link shortening services everywhere? In twitter or other places where space is premium – sure, I’m happy. But where it doesn’t matter, the only reason they are being used is so that the publisher of the advice about the endpoint can track the number of clicks that they are getting.

I’m not particularly happy about this sort of tracking. To the extent I’ll use a search engine to find the content rather than click the link. Also I’d prefer not to click on the link if it’s just going to take me to a press release – which is obvious when you see the URL, but not so much when it’s hidden by a click counter (oh I mean link shortening service).

Perhaps I should just get over it and let those people who want to crow over the number of clicks their posts are getting get high on their own self importance. I’d rather just share than worry about that and that should be enough.

</RANT>