Author Archive

Goodgaragescheme.co.uk: how do you respond to this?

Is Goodgaragescheme a dishonest way of shifting car treatments masquerading as ‘honest’ feedback?

Quite some time ago I noticed ‘The Good Garage Scheme’ when waiting at my local garage. I asked the owner about it. He told me straight that the only way a garage could be ‘in’ the scheme was by agreeing to stock certain engine treatments. What???!!? Being a fan of honest, credible feedback, this naturally made my ears prick up.

I did some research at the time and, sure enough, he appeared to be right. I blogged about it (generously NOT using the name ‘Good Garage Scheme’ in my title to give them the benefit of the doubt) and then left it alone. Today, however, alerted by a Google search bringing traffic to this site, I found the following recent online review:

“If you’ve never heard of the good garage scheme …well it’s a scheme that any garage can join as long as they sell certain products endorsed by the company behind the scheme. They have a website where you can find good garage scheme garages and also , the most important I thought, leave reviews about the garages you visit. Now if you check their website it would be impossible to find any negative reviews posted for any garage that belongs to their scheme. On the other hand most people would probably think that this is because all the garages are good indeed and that’s why there is no bad reviews. That’s not the case though.

I live in St Albans and I decided to visit xxxx xxx x x xxxxx in St Albans to do a simple wheel alignment. The service I got was horrible. There was a 17 year old kid doing the wheel alignment while the boss ( the mechanic) was sitting in his office with his feet on his desk chatting on his mobile phone.Needless to say that the kid messed it up big time and my car was driving in a straight line with the steering wheel at an angle of 20 degrees!!!!! I complained to the mechanic who immediately tried to blame it on my car and a faulty steering wheel. That was not the case though. He did the wheel alignment and he got the car perfect which proved the point that the kid didn’t know what he was doing and in fact he put my life in danger.

Anyway , this is not a review of xxxxx x xxxx xxxxx who are completely irresponsible and dangerous. I tried to leave a negative review for this garage on the good garage scheme website but of course there was nothing posted and my review will never be posted. This is just a scam scheme. What is the point of posting only positive reviews and ignoring negative ones.

I think that trading standards and the watchdog should have a look at this scheme. In the meantime just run away from any garage under this scheme.”

As I discovered the first time I looked into this, the scheme is operated by Forte – a company supplying high-price, high-margin ‘emission-control’ fuel additives to the garages in the GoodGarageScheme system.

We think this is fundamentally dishonest.

The results? Standards of customer care and quality of work that are worse than non-participating garages!

Yes, in a recent Which? survey Good Garage Schemes performed WORST of all in a test in which cars with a list of basic faults were presented at a range of garages. Check out the Independents’ report on this here – and note the poor GGS performance.

Little video site guides. Really, really not very welcome. Honestly.

I don’t even know what these things are called…but I sure do hate ‘em

I clicked a link left by someone on this site and arrived at this. Out pops a little man to help me.

Now I don’t know how to tell him this (literally): I don’t want his help.  In the nicest possible way. I don’t want his intrusion onto my desktop and I don’t want the shock of his loud voice suddenly blasting from my MacBook in this office.

There are many ways I could explain why this approach doesn’t work for me.

Perhaps the simplest is to quote myself verbatim as I frantically hit the volume-off button on my keyboard.

“FUCK RIGHT OFF!”

I’m sorry to be direct but in the interests of honest feedback, I hope you’ll forgive my uncharacteristic forthrightness.

I think I’d be concerned if the marketing gimmick I put at the front of my website sent people away with such a strong negative reaction.  Perhaps they don’t know because people like me don’t tell them.

Would you?

SiliconGranny: watch out young techno twerps

Here comes The Silicon Granny

Take one talented 65 year-old woman (my mum) and point her in a different direction where her skills can make a difference.  Result? The Silicon Granny.  She’s web-savvy, digitally-equipped and mad as hell that older people don’t get to enjoy all that technology has to offer.  Yet.

We’re going to have some fun with this site. We might as well.  Life’s too short.  Given her age – and I don’t mean to be insensitive about this – SiliconGranny is something of a time-limited proposition :-)

London Eye pictures prove London’s got ‘an ‘eart

Pictures courtesy random act of kindness at London Eye

I met my mum at Waterloo this evening to go for a walk along the river.  We came to the London Eye and decided on the spur of the moment to go on it.

I’d never been on it in all those years.  Amazingly, there was no queue at all.  Perfect spontaneous idea!

Until we asked one of the guys on the gate how much it was.  “£15 for adults, £12 for seniors” said the man.  Not originally planning to take a flight on the eye, I’d only brought £25 with me.

“Ah,” I said “I didn’t bring enough money” turning to walk away.

“Come here” said the man, motioning to the gate he was opening “On you go.  Enjoy yourselves”

Just like that.  What what a wonderful gesture.

BA London Eye, if you’re reading this, that man made our evening.  Thank you.


How to get extra traffic to your blog / site

Responding to what’s going on with the right titles is key to driving extra traffic to your site

Would you like hundreds or thousands of extra visitors to your site? It’s not that hard to do. Here’s how:

1) Set up a blog. Either add one as part of your existing site or create your site AS a blog (we did).

2) Keep your eye on what’s going on in the world so you know what people are searching for in Google. Google Trends will tell you the top 100 US searches. Watching TV will give you other clues. Breaking news will create waves of search traffic.

3) Write posts about the things people are searching for – with the keywords upfront in the titles. Make sure you re-iterate those keyphrases / words in a header at the start of your post.

Here’s a real world example.

Late December, someone sent me an invite to a free music streaming service called Spotify. I signed up, downloaded the player and dived into enjoying the music. It was clear that Spotify were marketing this service via ‘invites’. Each new sign-up got 5 or so invites to share with friends.

[ding!] Opportunity [ding!] It was obvious that invitations were limited but as soon as people heard about Spotify, they would be searching Google for invitations.

So I posted here to ‘harness’ that traffic.

To arrive at the keywords/phrases I asked myself what people would be searching for. “How do I get a Spotify invitation?” was my choice of phrase. So that was my title. I followed that with a header: “How do you get a Spotify ‘free account’ invitation?”

The result? Top of Google for that search question. So lots of visitors – including Spotify who gave me loads of invites to give away on their behalf. Benefit to them? I did their marketing for them.

Benefit to me? 2000+ extra music-loving visitors a week.

So that’s the principle. It’s mechanically quite easy. There’s nothing magical about this site or the posts I make. Now you can see that the mysterious – and dreaded – ‘search engine optimisation’ (SEO) simply means putting the right keywords in your post title.

If you’ve got a blog, go away and play. If you haven’t, get one started and play. Spend a few weeks just hooking into Google traffic to see how easy it is.

The next thing we’ll look at is how to use the same technique to get extra traffic from your target market to your site.

Satellite crash: oh, no the sky’s full of shotguns

News just in of a crash of two satellites in orbit above the earth.

But just what were those satellites carrying? Hmm?

“This is an event that really makes us realize that things are not so straightforward as we originally thought,” said Francisco Diego, a senior research fellow in physics and astronomy at University College London.

“The problem with collisions like this is that they don’t destroy satellites, they just create smaller ones, like fast moving shotguns, that are potentially much more damaging,” said Diego.

A sky full of fast moving shotguns.  Surreal.

Sony camcorder with external mic input jack?

Anyone else getting nowhere looking for a Sony video camera you can plug a mic into??

I’ve spent over an hour doing Google searches trying to find a Sony camera (actually ANY camera) that has an external microphone input.

Why?  Because as any online media producer knows, most video cameras will give you acceptable image results, but none will give you the audio quality you require.  That’s not because the onboard mics are bad, it’s simply because you need to mic from up close to get acceptable quality.

So. You go to the web and search for what you need.  And you use every combination of words you can think of: video camera, camcorder, mic input, external mic and so on.

Do you think that any of the sellers or manufacturers out there leap out to satisfy that need?  Nope.  Nothing but thousands of tangential, inconsequential references – mostly from people as frustrated as me, looking for the same thing.

So I called Sony UK customer service.

“I’ve got a need that your website isn’t satisfying” I began to the bored front-line Customer Services girl. “I’d like to speak to someone in marketing about it.  It’s a missed opportunity because I know there are quite a few people looking for the same thing”

“I’m sorry” she said “We don’t pacifically (sic) have a marketing department”.

“Oh you do” I told her.  “Yes but they don’t have a customer facing role” she answered back.  At this point I lost the motivation to teach this corporate giant the basics of a customer-focused (as opposed to ‘product-obsessed’) marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, at least she tried to do her best to meet my need.  After 10 minutes on hold listening to horrible music, she returned to say “We do have one – it’s the DCRVX2100E”

Ah yes. This one.

Isn’t it idiotic that I KNOW there are other, cheaper cameras in their product range that have mic inputs.  I JUST CAN’T FIND WHICH ONES and nor can they when asked.

Save yourself 1hr searching online and call Sony UK Customer Services on 08705 111 999.  Be warned, you won’t find out what you need to know – just what they’re geared up to tell you.

Sony, if you want to talk to me about how to make your marketing more customer focussed, I’m available on a consultancy day rate.

Do I need a TV licence to watch TV on my laptop?

According to the BBC, you need a licence to watch ‘live’ TV on your computer

If you go the BBC website, you can watch a fair selection of past programmes via the ‘iPlayer’.  Great idea.  It caters for just about as much TV as I can be bothered to watch.

But this morning, I clicked on the ‘watch live’ button on the BBC website.  Actually, no I didn’t (and this has a bearing).  I clicked on a link labeled ‘Live BBC News channel’.

I went through to page playing BBC Breakfast news in a player, just like iPlayer.  Only at the bottom, it told me that I needed a licence to watch ‘tv as it’s being broadcast’.

Interesting.  So, assuming I didn’t have a TV licence already, that would mean I’m already breaking the law by following that link?  How long do I have to watch it to be guilty?

And does it also mean if I have one of those Tivo-style things and I watch everything with a 10 second delay I’m not actually watching it ‘as its being broadcast’?

Plenty to think about, while I listened to the BBC Breakfast presenters and posted on my blog. Has the  law changed regarding ‘TV receiving equipment’?  Is my MacBook really a piece of equipment capable of receiving TV pictures?  And of course, the fun part – how could anyone ever enforce this?

Try to imagine the grey men arriving at the door: “Good afternoon, Sir.  Our records show that someone watched 15 minutes of live BBC TV from the IP address associated with your ISP account registered to this address”?

And the reply: “Probably.  This is Starbucks…” .

And here’s an additional thought: given that the warning isn’t located at the point where you click the ‘Live BBC news channel’ link but on the page with the ‘live TV’ picture, isn’t this some form of entrapment?  By the time you’ve read the message, you’ve broken the law (according to the BBC).  I can’t see this standing up in court, can you?

Oh, and finally.  It seems its ‘licence’. With a damned ‘c’ ok?  A ‘c’.  Remember.  I had to go through and change it.  Which will knacker up the Google indexing of this post (not to mention miss out half the people searching this key phrase with the other spelling). But at least I’ll get it right the next time it comes up in one of those infuriating ‘how thick is everyone?’ spelling tests. :-)

Zeitgeist The Movie and ‘truth’ (Edward L Winston keep up the good work!)

A friend sent me a link to ‘Zeitgeist – The Movie’ and said I should take a look. I did. It’s worrying stuff.

Why?  Because it reveals that far from helping us transcend our historical tendency to control, distort and manipulate the ‘truth’, the internet is accelerating this process and ‘Zeitgeist – The Movie’ is a perfect – and frankly scary – example of how.

In her podcast a few months ago, Nancy Williams quoted someone defining truth as ‘information about which there is no serious dispute’.

It’s not important who it was. What matters to me is that definition has been burrowing around inside my thinking for the last couple of months… worrying me.

Why? Let’s consider that definition carefully. Truth is information about which there is no serious dispute.

That means, first and foremost, things that people agree on.

But it means more. The definition also includes things that people can’t be bothered to dispute. And things that people aren’t able, or allowed, to dispute. This is chillingly familiar in our experience of the 20th century. After all, it’s the first principle of controlling information applied by any government – good or bad.

And this is where we return to Zeitgeist (without even critiquing its content, as Ed Winston does brilliantly here). The first problem for me with this kind of internet documentary is that it is propaganda – a single-viewpoint-communication designed specifically to produce an emotional response.

The second problem is that it is streamed into our homes in a way that is hard to dispute. 2hrs of powerful and seductive visual and sonic experience, a relentless flow of information designed to dissuade the viewer from stopping, considering, researching or challenging. We know this to be true. It’s how television works – and why advertisers pay so much money for TV companies to deliver your uncritical, stupified brain to them for marketing.

Zeitgeist The Movie vs. Ed Winston’s puny little text site for the minority of viewers who are interested in disputing the information. No contest :-)

All of which, rather worryingly, according to our definition, makes whatever Zeitgeist has to say effectively true.

Funnily enough, at the level of its content, the fact that our capitalist culture is founded on, and fuelled by, greed, corruption and moral bankruptcy comes as no surprise to me – and if this video actually helped people come to that realisation (in the same kind of way that Eckhart Tolle does in his amazing new book ‘A New Earth‘) I’d be encouraged by it – and encouraging about it.

But it doesn’t, because it’s about conspiracy and conspiracy is always couched in disempowering ‘us v. them’ terms, setting us up as ‘the manipulated’ against them, the ‘manipulators’. It’s a victim story we find powerfully familiar and comforting – materially and spiritually. Other people doing stuff to us.

Why do we enjoy conspiracies so much? Perhaps Zeitgeist shows us the answer to this. Maybe its because belief in a wicked ‘them’ allows us to believe in an innocent ‘us’. It’s not our actions that have brought about the meltdown of our global economic systems or the destruction of the global ecosystem. It’s theirs! Theirs and those of their evil conspirators!

“International bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair, so that they might emerge the rulers of us all”.

Forget ‘international bankers’. How much of your own life is shaped by it? Where, exactly, in your pursuit of wealth, your dreams of fame or success are you so different? When are we going to climb out of the ‘win-lose’ trench?

The big scary conspiracy stuff is just a way of focusing the destructive greed and corruption of capitalism away from ourselves into some kind of external ‘other’ that we can make into a scapegoat for all that’s wrong with our world. It’s never been any different, whether we’ve pointed our fingers at heathens, Jews, Communists or, more recently, financial speculators. Our continuing unwillingness to take personal responsibility is probably the biggest barrier to our evolution – and Zeitgeist just an example that unwillingness.

Remember this definition for the internet age: truth is information about which there is no serious dispute – and as the wholesale swallowing of Zeitgeist proves, truth is becoming that which nobody has inclination – or the faculties – any longer to contest.

Dosomethingaboutit? What, exactly?

George Monbiot champions ‘dosomethingaboutit.org.uk’


A friend sent me a link to George Monbiot’s passionate and powerful article about political apathy and disillusionment in the UK (Guardian Feb 3rd 2009). It captures what is possibly now a majority view in this country today: that British politics is bankrupt and there’s no meaningful difference between the parties.

Monbiot is right – it IS time for a change. His optimism comes from the example of a US movement called ‘MoveOn’ that has harnessed the internet to exert pressure on mainstream politics from what would otherwise be politically inactive people.

Monbiot hopes that the time is ripe for a similar movement here in the UK – www.dosomethingaboutit.org.uk – a site created by British academic Nick O’Donovan in the US and which copies the ‘MoveOn’ principle.

Being one of the people that Monbiot’s article was clearly aimed at, I was keen to have a look but what I found was something of a let down. No means to do anything about anything. No real passion, no ideas and nothing to inspire confidence. In fact, nothing but an invitation to give my email address away.

I’m not knocking someone for trying to ‘do something’ about politics. Far from it – I’m all for change. The problem with dosomethingaboutit.org.uk is that the site reduces ‘change’ to an inane and palatable equation:

doing something about it = giving you my email address

The result is that it fails to engage me – or ‘convert’ me.