Initially reading the article, one would blame the NZTA. I blame their Swedish supplier.
This isn't the first blunder with the tolls; it's been plagued with issues from day one.
January 09 had the payment section of the tollroad.govt.nz site shut down while "internet security flaws" were quickly fixed up - that same month, the kiosks broke down on the weekend, with the call-centre shut at the same time. In March, $200k was refunded to 424 motorists who were overcharged 23 times each. A week later, 2,000 motorists were overcharged by $45k. At that same time, it was discovered that the system didn't support overseas credit cards.
Sound ridiculous? It sure is.
NZTA gently encourages motorists to use their online system, as if you use their kiosk you are stung with a $0.40 admin fee - use the phone, and it's even higher: $3.70.
This mistake by a staff member really is gross incompetence from their provider. Why would you even suggest for them to send an email to everyone who is overdue? Why does the software not handle this internally? Any developer with any clue would advise you that using BCC is just asking for trouble.
NZTA: fire the Swedes and find a local company who actually knows what they're doing.
Stuff has an article about how One Direction have made music history:
One Direction have made music history by becoming the first British group to top the US charts with their debut album.
The boyband - comprising of Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson - have been making waves in America with their first album Up All Night, which recently claimed the top spot on iTunes in the country.
One Direction have now seen their popularity rise and have made musical history with their Billboard chart success.
(One Direction came about from X-Factor 2010)
This news, which was announced yesterday in the States, reminds me of the blog post 12 extremely disappointing facts about music - it outlines what some of today's artists have achieved when compared to artists from the past. My favourites include:
- Ke$ha's "Tik-Tok" sold more copies than ANY Beatles single
- Flo Rida's "Low" has sold 8 million copies - the same as The Beatles' "Hey Jude"
- The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" is more popular than any Elvis or Simon & Garfunkel song
- Katy Perry holds the same record as Michael Jackson for most number one singles from an album
- The cast of Glee has had more songs chart than the Beatles
Why is it so easy for artists today to break music records? I think it comes down to two main points:
- Ease of distribution - never before have we had the internet on more devices (smart phones, iPads for example) and we are able to easily view, listen, buy and download music in more places (iTunes, YouTube). Add to this, all the reality TV shows (X-Factor, American Idol, America's Got Talent) which are all advertising platforms for the music labels, you can reach a wider audience, and get music to them quicker.
- Music formulas - labels know what makes a successful song, and they are now applying it harder than ever. Don't believe me? Ask yourself, why do popular songs last around 3.5 minutes, only consist of four chords, and have the same basic structure (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge/rap, chorus). Ever notice how popular dance/dub step is now? The labels do, and that's why it's being included (for example, see Nicki Minaj's latest song, Starships).
My test for a "real" artist is someone who sounds live exactly as they do on their recordings - very hard to apply digital tweaking (think airbrushing in Photoshop) in a live environment.
(Had to admit it, but I'll still happily rock out to one of these crappy pop song.)
Look forward to your thoughts in the comments below.
Is social media relevant? If it's current popularity as anything to gauge it by, then the answer is yes.
A recent article on VentureBeat gives some fascinating insight into how popular the different social media platforms are. In a mere 60 seconds the following happens:
- 2 million videos viewed on YouTube
- 700,000 messages sent on Facebook
- 175,000 tweets on Twitter
- 7,610 searches on LinkedIn
- 2,000 check-ins on Foursquare
As a business, if you aren't getting your name out there socially, you really are missing out on a very cost effective advertising platform.
UPDATE: After some feedback from readers about being charged even with NZ Best Mate, I spoke with resident Vodafone guru johnr. NZ Best Mate and best mate don't apply to redirected calls. The only way to get this for free is to have it come out of any free minutes you receive per month. Thanks to everyone who emailed me about it, and to John for clarifying. Apologies for errors in this post.
I loathe Vodafone's (Telecom/2degrees are just as bad) voicemail system. I have no issues with paying $0.20 to access it, it's just navigating it using a phone's keypad seems so antiquated. Smart phones are now more prevalent than ever so there should be an app/menu that allows you to easily navigate voicemails, save them, delete them etc. Pressing 1,2,3 # to navigate messages, remembering which message you are on, and jumping between messages is as hard as getting sbiddle to shout you a beer.
The closest I could get to an improvement on the voicemail system was messagePage, where an operator answers your calls and sends the details in a SMS. It worked well for some time, but the costs rack up quickly if your calling volume is high.
The best solution is voicemail-to-email. You can store them, delete them, and forward to a colleague if required. Until johnr and his boys enable this in the Vodafone core, I have a dirty hack to get this going. You will need NZBestMate enabled on your mobile.
1. Sign up to 2talk's Go Free plan.
It'll cost you nothing a month as we are using them purely for inbound calls, not outbound. Keep track of the 028 number, we'll need this later.
2. Enable Do Not Disturb
Login to the 2Talk portal, and under the column marked Inbound Calls click Do Not Disturb.
Under Do Not Disturb tick Enable Do not Disturb Service and click Save Options. This will force all calls to your new 028 number to go to voicemail.
3. Setup voicemail service
Now that 2Talk will be handling your voicemail, you need to setup your greetings. You can either have 2Talk call you to record, or upload an MP3.
In the field Send a copy of my voicemail messages to the following email address: enter the email you want your voicemails to go to.
4. Call Vodafone to setup NZBestMate
Call 777 and give them your new 028 number. This will zero rate any calls made from your mobile to your 2Talk number.
5. Setup voicemail redirection on your phone
This is tricky as it varies from phone to phone. On my Galaxy SII, it's under Settings > Call > Call forwarding > Voice call. Modify busy, unanswered and unreachable to be your 2Talk number.
Do a couple of test calls to make sure it all works. I've had this setup for a few months now - mine is slightly different as my 028 number registers to work, and my voicemails go through our VoIP PBX, but exactly the same concept.
The best thing is: I never have to use Vodafone's voicemail system ever again.
The Vodafone Sure Signal is a femtocell, which is a small cellular base station that you run at home/work to improve your Vodafone coverage (you must have Vodafone ADSL). I run one of these at home, as I have good coverage outside, but no coverage inside. The Sure Signal means I don't have to run outside at all hours, to make and receive calls.
About two weeks ago I received this email (I've shortened it somewhat):
Great news! You will soon receive a Sure Signal upgrade. This free upgrade means you'll enjoy the great mobile reception you're used to with Sure Signal in a sleek new device, plus it'll prepare you for quicker data speeds on your mobile with our next network upgrade in the new year.
The new device will be couriered out to you in the next couple of weeks. So keep an eye out for the courier and you'll soon be enjoying all the benefits of our new and improved Sure Signal service.
The courier pack arrived at the glorious hour of 8am this morning. The new Sure Signal is a much nicer looking, and a much smaller unit (new one on the left):
The new one is manufactured by Alcatel-Lucent (old one was Sagemcom), and has a Ethernet pass through port if you're not running a switch. The new one also doesn't sit upright, with the stand making it lean back slightly:
The unit was dispatched from Brightpoint, with a return courier back to send the old unit back.
The best thing about upgrading to the new Sure Signal is how quick and painless it was - unplug the old unit, plug in the new one: done. No port forwards on the router or any other configurations, the unit just works. Surprisingly, it works with my Draytek modem, even though it's not the standard Vodafone ADSL modem that was provided.
If you have one of the old Sure Signals, and haven't received a new one in a few weeks, it might pay to contact Vodafone - the cover letter indicated the old Sure Signals won't be supported past April 2012.
I'm a big fan of the Sure Signal, and have recommended them to friends and family who have coverage issues. The investment in one is not much, it uses very little power and the data it uses is zero rated.
Thanks Vodafone for the free upgrade!
Have a great break over Christmas/New Years everyone.