Trying to Comment? Sorry About That. At Least You Have a Mobile Version Now…

It’s been pointed out to me that somehow the swanky template here is missing the link to register a new WordPress account so you can post comments. Yes, posting a comment requires an account registration – to allow anonymous commenting would be to invite hordes of spam onto the site. I had the blog mis-configured at first and that’s why no one could register for an account and post a comment. That’s now been fixed. I’ve also installed a slick mobile template plugin that, while ultra-basic (it’s XHTML which is like WAP 2.0), at least allows you to read the posts on this site using a Pocket PC or Smartphone.

Dell Semi-Horror Story

I’ve had some really bad experiences with Dell, and a couple of great ones. A couple of weeks ago was a “medium bad” experience with Dell. I ordered a 19″ LCD monitor for my mother-in-law on October 11th at 10:39 AM CST during one of Dell’s “10 Days of Deals” – the monitor was normally priced at $329 CAD and it was $80 off, making it only $249 CAD. I placed my order, got to the point where I had an receipt, which I printed off. A week passed, and when I went to check on my order, I realized I hadn’t heard anything about the monitor. I logged into my account on, and there was no record of my order being placed. HUH? I checked my email receipts folder (where I keep things like Dell electronic receipts) and I had no record of an email from them. I dug up my paper receipt, and unfortunately there was no order number on it. Yet I had the receipt, presumably meaning I was going to be charged for it.

I called Dell customer service – it seems their entire online sales group is based out of India – and tried to explain my problem to the agent. I’m not one of those ultra-patriotic types who believes that every job should stay in his own country – I believe that if a company can be cost-effective with a call center, while still providing excellent service, they should out-source. The problem is that the Dell call center does not, in my experience, provide excellent service. I quite often have to explain my problem over and over again, and the agents don’t seem to grasp the concept of “customer service”. It’s not a language issue most of the time, it’s a cultural issue, which isn’t something that can be put in database. At any rate, after explaining the problem to the agent, he explained to me that the problem was that the Dell Deal of the Day I ordered was no longer valid because the day was over. I explained that I had a receipt indicating that Dell had accepted my order. He explained that I had no order number because the monitor I wanted was out of stock. I explained that I had a receipt indicating that Dell had accepted my order, and that I wanted the product.

We went back and forth for a few minutes, where I explained that if Dell runs out of stock on a product but continues to sell it and take credit card numbers, then it’s their problem not mine. Eventually I asked to speak to his manager, which always makes the Dell sales agents very nervous – they must have some sort of performance metric tied into call escalation. He put me on hold, came back, and made me an offer: he’d sell me the monitor for $269 CAD, $20 more than the Deal of the Day. It was a good offer, and $20 isn’t much, but the principle of the issue was still the day: the big corporation offered a product at a certain price, and now they were trying to change the rules. I persisted, asked for his manager again, and he finally offered me the monitor for $249 CAD.

Here’s the kicker: after jerking me around and making the entire thing difficult, he had the nerve to give me his sales ID number (#1308) and ask that I’d use that ID number whenever I placed online orders. As if he had done me a huge favour and I should feel grateful for getting the product for the price I expected in the first place. Needless to say, I will not be using his sales ID number. As much as well frustrates me sometimes, their prices are hard to beat, and I really like the design of their monitors. Got any Dell horror stories of your own?

Sometimes I WANT To Be Marketed To

Most of the time, we all dislike advertising – but that’s usually because it’s not targeted toward our interests. When I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons in the ’80s, the commercials were an integral part of the morning – what new toys were out there, what new food did I want to ask my mom to buy? [she rarely did, she loved her kids enough to feed us healthy food] As an adult, I’m constantly bombarded by advertising that’s so far off base I do everything in my power to avoid watching it. Yet sometimes, I’m stunned at the way I’m NOT marketed to…case in point: a few minutes ago Ashley (my wife) called me to say that she heard an ad on the radio that Evanescence was coming to Calgary for a show in January and that tickets went on sale today. I’m a huge fan of that group (and Amy Lee in particular – what a voice!) but I’m not enough of a groupie to know that they were even on tour. I somehow assumed that the marketing machine would take hold and somehow I’d be exposed to an advertisement that a band I’d pay almost anything to see was coming to my town. That didn’t happen. I ordered tickets five hours after they went on sale, and ended up getting seats that aren’t all that great. Crap.

I found out after the fact something that I should have been signed up for: House of Blues Canada. A friend of mine knew Evanescence was coming, had access to early ticket sales, but didn’t buy tickets – and he didn’t tell me because he didn’t know I was a huge Evanescence fan. Doh! I’d gladly give up some non-aggregated personal information about my interests if it meant that I’d be presented with advertisements that really appealed to the things I’m interested in. There’s a lot of money to be made by the company that can figure this out.

Welcome to My Personal Blog…

So here’s the funny thing about creating and running Web sites for a living (which is what I do): you end up having really high expectations for each site you launch, and you want everything to be perfectly in place before you launch. Let’s take a brief inventory list here on this site. First, we have an easy to use CMS – WordPress, all set up and ready to rock as of two months ago. Check. Next, we have a killer template, courtesy of Mr. Darius Wey, finished more than a month ago. Check. My matching photo gallery template is also completed, as of two weeks ago. Check. So what was left? Nothing – yet somehow I was obsessing over the smallest details the way I do with a Thoughts Media site. Then I was reminded of a simple truth a few days ago: the entire reason I’m launching this personal blog is to give myself a no-pressure, talk-about-whatever-I-want place that has no connection to my “real” job. So what the hell was I waiting for exactly? And here we go – launched!

I wanted to talk a bit about the template that Darius designed for this site: when I work with Fabrizio (our resident developer/designer at Thoughts Media) on a site design, we strive for maximum usability, readability, brand impact, blah blah – all the usual marketing stuff. With a completely personal blog, I had much more freedom to create something bold, unique, and designed to make me happy, not necessarily everyone else on the planet. I love the deep reds, the bright oranges, and the simplicity of the design. Oh, and not a damn advertisement anywhere. How nice is that? If only all of my sites could be ad free!

The characters up at the top of the page are Japanese kanji meaning “Samurai” – I have a tremendous admiration for Asian culture and many of the precepts of Bushido (with a Christian view of death of course), even if the version popularized by modern thinkers never quite existed that way in history. The characters going down the right hand column are a Chinese characters. From top to bottom, the characters are faith, hope, love, courage, and honour. All are traits I strive for in my life. If you can’t see them all properly, it’s because you’re using Internet Explorer 6. There are some tragic flaws with CSS rendering that IE6 has never fixed, but the site looks great in Firefox or Internet Explorer 7 (which all you IE users should download immediately, though I recommend you give Firefox a try, it’s an awesome browser).

So what will you find here at Well, first and foremost this is about my life, the things I discover, the things I find interesting. In the early years of Pocket PC Thoughts, since it was my one and only blog, I quite often talked about personal matters, posted holiday greetings, etc. Over the years as it evolved and grew, the focus also became more defined, and I found that some readers were not very tolerant of things that were off topic. They came there for Pocket PC news, and if it wasn’t about that, then why was I posting it? I don’t blame them for wanting a site that was on-topic, but by the same token I’ve felt a bit restricted in not having a place to post whatever I felt like online. I don’t expect this blog to be updated on a regular basis – more whenever the mood hits me or I have something I want to share – so the best way to keep updated is to subscribe to the feed. I also make no pretence that every single entry will be worth reading – this is a purely personal project that will run the gamut from cool tech tips I discover, to updates for family and friends, to pure ranting and raving on subjects I find compelling – including religion, politics, and other subjects too hot to handle on my professional sites. You’re welcome to join in the fun, but remember it’s a personal blog, so the first person to say “Hey, that’s off topic!” gets a virtual poke in the eye. 😉 And here we go…