Wednesday, 30 May 2007

BlackBerry non-corporate email account setup

Took me a while to find this so I thought it was worth a post.

We use the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to redirect emails to our BlackBerries. I wanted to be able to access my personal email accounts on the same device.

Conceptual leap for me, apologies if it was obvious, was that I needed to setup the BlackBerry Internet Service with my carrier.

If you're on Vodafone UK then you go to mobileemail.vodafone.net enter your PIN and IMEI and you're away.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

State of the UK Mobile Content Market

Went to the MDA Member Forum this week. The subject was the state of the UK Mobile Content Market.

Saw some interesting presentations by analysts from Informa as M:Metrics as well as Graham Brown of both Wireless World Forum and Mobile Youth.

In short the ring tone and wallpaper market is dead, too many subscribers have fancy phones that allow them to share content, take great photos and play MP3s whenever someone calls.

Mobile Youth focus on researching the the mobile habits and views of children and their recent research came up with some interesting findings for the network operators. When asked what network they were on, many said 'Nokia' or equivalent. This could be terrible news for the mobile networks. If there is no association with them providing the services then where is the loyalty?

The mobile networks are desparately trying not to become a bit-pipe. If they let that happen they will essentially become mobile ISPs and there is no value in that for them. Unfortunately off-portal is where the growth in consumer spend is going to come, according to Informa.

In response to this demand for off-portal access they are placing a Google search box at the head of their portals, allowing people to leave their controlled, revenue generating environments and out into the frontier land of the Internet. The problem is how do the generate any money?

The Payforit scheme (sorry couldn't find a link) or Trusted Mobile Payment Framework is an attempt by the operators to provide a payment mechanism for this off-portal world. This was officially launched this week. Given the operator's propensity for significant margins on their payment solutions, see premium SMS outpayments, I think they're going to face stiff competition from services like PayPal Mobile.

An alternative is to keep the subscribers on-portal by providing compelling and exclusive content. This can be subsidised through advertising or sponsorship, repeating a business model that has operated for decades in TV, radio and printed media.

Mobile TV is the highest profile example of this new generation of services, although notably the subcriber is currently paying for the privilege in Vodafone's case. Check out my previous post Is Mobile TV the new WAP? for my views on the current offerings.

So the industry that has got fat on ring tones and wallpapers is trying to establish itself as a necessary part of the mobile internet. The problem is they could end up just providing the plumbing.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Is Mobile TV the new WAP?

Mobile TV is being touted as the next big revolution in the way we use our mobile phones. Wherever we are, we will be able to have live TV streamed to our handsets.

I'm seeing distinct parallels with the launch of WAP services on handsets. It was presented as giving us an Internet experience wherever we were. As we all know this was not the case and it fell very flat. Technical limitations on both the handset and the network meant the service was worse than Teletext.

Even today with the rise of 3G handsets and services, data from the MDA shows WAP traffic is stuck at around 16 million page impressions per month.

I believe WAP traffic will increase as discussed in a my previous post Mobile Internet, finally it's time has come but Mobile TV, are the networks really ready? Have they thought it through?

This came up on SMS Text News post recently where one of the contributors had found information that the Vodafone service can only support 15 users per mobile base station (BBC News - Mobile TV predicted to be a hit). That was fifteen, 15, midway between 14 and 16. Given how many people a mobile base station serves, surely that's a crippling limitation.

To top that the recent Vodafone ad campaign, 'Be a Train Potato' suggests we'll be watching TV on the train. Given that networks are unable to maintain a voice call on the majority of train lines around the country, how on earth are they going to maintain a stream video session.

Thirdly, and possible most importantly, people will naturally compare the experience with their televisions. Now I it's not fair to compare a mains powered, 28+ inch dedicated audio visual system with a 4 3 foot ariel mounted 2 stories up with a power constrained, multi-function device, but people will. Call it TV and they'll expect a TV like experience.

I understand the operators have a lot riding on this. People are becoming increasingly resistant to paying for mobile content so operators have to move to a subsidised model. Advertising and sponsorship around media content has worked for decades on TV, radio and more recently the Internet. People are comfortable with advertising around TV programs. But if the experience is a poor one they won't watch anything.

One option to improve the user experience would be to provide downloads that can be watched later like the Apple video iPods. This would greatly enhance the user experience. Data from m:metrics show increasing numbers of people are listening to music on their mobile phones so why not video. Unfortunately for the operator this is side-loaded, ie from a PC and not over the operators network.

In my opinion this is more in keeping with the viewer in control model that has been pioneered with podcasts. I'll download what I want and watch it when I'm ready on the train, tube, plane, wherever. The media owners should still be happy with this approach. They can offer their latest shows for online download, complete with sponsor's message or with a more direct revenue model. People may well watch them on their mobile phones but the operator isn't involved.

Removing the operator from the value-chain could actually increase the quality of the content available. One less entity taking the piece of the action means more money for creating the content in the first place.

So we have severe technical limitations, a user experience that is no where near the quality of the existing method of delivery and an alternative delivery mechanism that improves that experience as well as removing a link in the value chain.

What is it I'm not getting?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

SMS Alerts from Salesforce [3] - Send an SMS

I've realised two things writing this series of posts.

  1. I need a different template if I'm going to include code samples
  2. My blog host does not support uploading source code and projects for download

So, once I've complete this project, I'll collate it all and summarise it as a Code Project article. I'll post the link when I'm done.

So back to the matter at hand. We've completed the setup of the various elements, time to start tying them together. Today's post focuses on developing the code in the notifications method of the CaseAlert web service.

The first step is to retrieve the Case object passed through to the notification

CaseNotification caseNotification = (CaseNotification)notifications1.Notification[0];
Case caseItem = (Case)caseNotification.sObject;

I then setup the binding to the Salesforce API using a proxy I made earlier from the Salesforce WSDL. I passed in the Session ID contained with the notification. One gotcha, you have to specify the Url value which should be passed in by the calling service. This meant I had to add it in to the test harness application.

sforce.SforceService salesforceBinding = new sforce.SforceService();
salesforceBinding.SessionHeaderValue = new sforce.SessionHeader();
salesforceBinding.SessionHeaderValue.sessionId = notifications1.SessionId;
salesforceBinding.Url = notifications1.EnterpriseUrl;

Now I'm getting a lightweight Account object containing just the Name and OwnerID for the account. If you're new to the Salesforce API this retrieval of objects by specifying the fields and object type along with the ID can seem a bit arcane. It's actually really useful as by keeping the interface generic it allows you to request custom fields as well as those that are inbuilt.

sforce.sObject[] ret = salesforceBinding.retrieve("OwnerId,Name", "Account", new string[] { caseItem.AccountId });
sforce.Account caseAccount = (sforce.Account)ret[0];

Doing the same this time with the User object which corresponds to the Owner of the account.

ret = salesforceBinding.retrieve("MobilePhone", "User", new string[] { caseAccount.OwnerId });
sforce.User accountOwner = (sforce.User)ret[0];

The SMS message body is constructed using the data retrieved in the previous steps. If you want to include different parameters then just get more fields the Account and Owner objects.

string messageBody = string.Format("Your account {0} has opened a new Case ref:{1}. Call support on 0845 356 5759 for details", caseAccount.Name, caseItem.CaseNumber);

Now the really easy bit ;) sending an SMS. For this code snippet I've create a web reference called esendex to the SendService of the Esendex XML Web Service. You will need to have an account with us and enter the appropriate credentials to use this code as is. If you haven't got an account yet, then feel free to setup a trial.

esendex.MessengerHeader header = new esendex.MessengerHeader();
header.Account = "EX0000000";
header.Username = "user@company.com";
header.Password = "xxxxxxx";
esendex.SendService sendService = new esendex.SendService();
sendService.MessengerHeaderValue = header;
sendService.SendMessage(accountOwner.MobilePhone, messageBody, esendex.MessageType.Text);

Return a ACK response back to the calling service.

return new notificationsResponse();

Would you believe it, it worked first time! Well, after I'd set the EnterpriseURL property in the test client.

Next time I'm going to setup the workflow rule in Salesforce and see if the whole thing hangs together.

BlackBerry Salesman - easiest job in the world?

As an Orange Partner in the UK we get invited to internal product fairs to keep their sales teams up to date with our service offerings. Also in attendance were RIM and their very shiny, very latest handsets.

The stand was inundated during the breakouts from the product briefings with people admiring and stroking the 8800. I'll be honest, it was the first one I'd seen in the flesh and I think I've concluded it's not for me. It's like a big Pearl which looks great but I know that sleek exterior would be scuffed in no time at all if my record with mobiles is anything to go by.

Chatting to one of our sales team who was their yesterday, apparently what I saw was nothing compared to the clamouring scrum that developed when the produced a Curve.

Their product marketing and development has been fantastic. They've started with a ratherer utilitarian device that works very well and a lot of people want. These have now developed into shiny, sleek objects of desire that send grown men weak at the knees.

Now where's that barrel, right in I get, oink, oink!

Message Response Time : UPDATE

I posted recently about the 160 Characters survey on Message Response Times. Well results are in and their report can be found at Stats & Research: Five Minutes To Respond

Key points for me were:

  • 84% of people expect a response to an SMS in 5 minutes
  • a similar number said they would respond to a personal SMS within 30 mins
  • yet only 56% said they would respond to a work SMS in that time
  • 31% people would respond to emails the following day, I bet they weren't BlackBerry owners!

The conclusion seems to be that SMS remains the king of short communication requiring a quick response. There did seem to be an implication that people at work were becoming less responsive to SMS.

I'd be really interested to find out the industry sectors the respondents came from. Did the survery reach outside of the mobile industry and if not, are we the best people to represent usage of mobile messaging.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

SMS Alerts from Salesforce [2] - Creating the Web Service

Once you've defined the outbound message and specified and Endpoint URL, when you view the definition you'll see a link to the WSDL. This is the interface definition for the web service that the service generation tool will require to create the web service code.

The .net framework SDK ships with a file called wsdl.exe. This is most often used for generating web service client proxies but used with the /server switch, it generates an abstract server class that forms the basis of our web service. In the default installation of Visual Studio 2005, it can be found in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\SDK\v2.0\Bin.

So I downloaded the WSDL to a file call CaseAlert.wsdl and ran the following command line

wsdl.exe /server CaseAlert.wsdl

This created a file called NotificationService.cs containing the abstract service class and supporting data types to enable the service to receive calls from the Salesforce systems.

I then created a web project called salesforcelistener and dragged the NotificationService.cs file into the App_Code folder. My initial thought was to create a new WebService called CaseAlert in this project and inherit from the abstract NotificationService class.

Unfortunately this didn't work, the methods of the base class were not exposed as a web service methods. I'm guessing this is because of the reflection algorithms that are used to generate the WSDL. So I deleted the CaseAlert code behind page and turned the NotificationService into a concrete class for the CaseAlert web service.

[System.CodeDom.Compiler.GeneratedCodeAttribute("wsdl", "2.0.50727.42")]
[System.Web.Services.WebServiceAttribute(Namespace = "http://soap.sforce.com/2005/09/outbound")]
[System.Web.Services.WebServiceBindingAttribute(Name = "NotificationBinding", Namespace = "http://soap.sforce.com/2005/09/outbound")]
[System.Xml.Serialization.XmlIncludeAttribute(typeof(sObject))]
public class CaseAlert : System.Web.Services.WebService
{
[System.Web.Services.WebMethodAttribute()]
[System.Web.Services.Protocols.SoapDocumentMethodAttribute("", Use = System.Web.Services.Description.SoapBindingUse.Literal, ParameterStyle = System.Web.Services.Protocols.SoapParameterStyle.Bare)]
[return: System.Xml.Serialization.XmlElementAttribute("notificationsResponse", Namespace = "http://soap.sforce.com/2005/09/outbound")]
public notificationsResponse notifications([System.Xml.Serialization.XmlElementAttribute("notifications", Namespace = "http://soap.sforce.com/2005/09/outbound")] notifications notifications1)
{
return new notificationsResponse();
}
}

Fired up the project and success:

Test Harness

Rather than use Salesforce workflows to generate test messages, and potentially annoy the live users of the system, I generated a harness so test messages could be fired at will. As this is essentially a web service this is incredibly simple.

While the web service project was running, I created a new console application project. Created a web reference from this to my web service (called salesforceoutbind) so I can make calls as required.

Remember the Session ID, this is value returned in response to a successful login request to the Salesforce API and can then be used for all subsequent calls to the API. So I added in the proxy cs file supplied with in the Salesforce sample C#.net application which includes all the code required to set this up.

The code for my console app is below. Logging and error handling excluded for brevity.

static void Main(string[] args)
{
SforceService salesforceBinding = new SforceService();
// amend these with your details
LoginResult loginResult = salesforceBinding.login("user.name@company.com", "password");

salesforceoutbind.notifications n = new salesforceoutbind.notifications();
salesforceoutbind.CaseNotification cn = new salesforceoutbind.CaseNotification();
salesforceoutbind.Case c = new salesforceoutbind.Case();
cn.sObject = c;
c.AccountId = "00120000004SPkT";
c.CaseNumber = "001000";
c.Subject = "My New Case";

n.Notification = new salesforcelistenerclient.salesforceoutbind.CaseNotification[] { cn };

n.SessionId = loginResult.sessionId;

salesforceoutbind.CaseAlert alert = new salesforcelistenerclient.salesforceoutbind.CaseAlert();
alert.notifications(n);
}

I can now push messages to the listener with complete control over the data that is passed in. Next time I'll call back into the Salesforce API to get the contact details for the Account Manager and send them a message using the Esendex SMS XML Web Service API

Microsoft Visual Studio Plug-in for BlackBerry Application Development

Found this on the BlackBerry web site: Visual Studio Plugin. As a committed BlackBerry user and part-time Visual Studio developer I can't wait to give this a go.

My initial thought was that BlackBerry had ported the CLR to run on their platform. It turns out however, this is a forms based development environment designed to interact with web services with a bit of JavaScript thrown in for the detail.

Now this is reminding me of all the other dreadful 'simple' and 'fast-track' development tools that seem impressive in a demo scenario but don't give you any degree of control when you actually try and develop something useful. But I'll stop being cynical and reserve judgement until I actually get my hands on it.

It's currently in closed beta, not part of the in-crowd I guess ;-), so as soon as I get my hands on it I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

SMS Alerts from Salesforce [1] - Generating Alerts

This sample is going to generate an SMS alert to a customer's account manager whenever they log a Case. Alerts from Salesforce are generated as calls to external web services in response to workflow events. In Salesforce parlance they are called OutboundMessages.

Defining your Outbound Message

The first task is to setup an Outbound Mesage. When logged into Salesforce go to:

Setup > App Setup > Customize > Workflows & Approvals > Outbound Messages

The way outbound messages work, are to post an object to the external service. First step is to choose the object to post. In this example, we're going to choose Case.

Clicking next brings you to the definition screen where you specify:

  • message name
  • Endpoint URL (his doesn't need to exist while you're setting this up)
  • whether to pass the Session ID (checked, see below)
  • the fields from the Case object you want pushed to the endpoint.

The Session ID is important in our case becase we're going to need to call back into the Salesforce API to retrieve details of the Account (we've changed this to Customer in our installation so forgive me if I get this wrong going forward) against which the Case was raised and then onto the contact details for the Account Manager. Passing the Session ID, saves us from having to store username and password details elsewhere. I think it's a really neat feature of their API

Clicking Save gives you the completed message definition, mine's below.

We're now in a position to create the web service to receive the outbound messages, which will be the subject of the next post.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Mobile web is rubbish

Seems there is some work to do if I'm right and the time has finally come for the mobile internet.

Mobile web is rubbish, say students

Send SMS with APEX and PL/SQL

Recently I posted about some sample code for Sending SMS using Oracle Forms. It seems that this example prompted Patrick Wolf to provide a version for APEX and PL/SQL.

Check out his post here: Sending a SMS to a mobile phone.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Dell server power consumption

Had a comment on my post Power is the currency asking if I knew how many amps a Dell Poweredge 860 would draw on average. Funnily enough I did thanks to the Dell Datacenter Capacity Planner.

It's a useful tool that allows you to virtually build your rack(s) and estimate the heat generated and power consumed. Perfect for these power sensitive times.

SMS Alerts from Salesforce [intro]

We're currently evaluating Salesforce.com for use as a Customer Support system. All of our sales team use for it for managing their opportunities and it seems a natural progression. If nothing else it's one less system to integrate with and keep the customer records synched with.

One of the key requirements of any support system is SLA (Service Level Agreement) monitoring and alerting. We need to be sure we are meeting the SLAs we have in place with our customers.

The Salesforce.com pre-sales support team are assisting us with setting up the workflows. I thought it would be pretty useful to have SMS messages sent out when key stages were reached, for example:

  • SLAs were in danger of being breached for a particular case
  • A key account logs a call and the account manager want's to made aware immediately
  • The number of outstanding calls reaches a threshold value and the manager needs informing

I will be developing a simple system that receives notification from the Salesforce.com API, retrieves any additional data required and sends an SMS using the Esendex SMS API.

Full source code will be provided (C#.Net) so check back on progress and see how I get on.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Text over IP

I read an article about Text over IP on the The Inquirer recently. While this sounds like it could be the answer to SMS charges, for me it forgets some of the fundamental features of SMS that made it so successful, interruptability and push support.

SMS utilises the signalling channel on mobile networks a channel that is designed to support interruption. It's primary use is to control call setup and tear down so any messages sent through it must get through as soon as possible. SMS messaging has leveraged this feature to provide a very rapid delivery of messages to handsets wherever they are. Even to the point where you can be interrupted by an SMS message while you are on a call.

Push is also supported out of the box. For the signalling messages to get through to the handset, the network has to know where it is at any given time. IP in mobile networks on the otherhand is a layer on top of a layer with no constant, unique link between the IP address used by the device to access the Internet and the device itself. Multiple mobile devices will share a small number IP addresses for this purpose.

To circumvent this limitation, services like Hotxt require an application on the device that polls for messages on a periodic basis. The poll interval used is really a balancing act between the perception of immediacy and the inefficency of polling when, for the most part, no messages will be waiting.

The BlackBerry service on the otherhand has a centralised server and proprietary technology that allows them to push emails to devices only when they arrive. Great if you have a BlackBerry, but if you're like the overwhelming majority of mobile phone users not.

The AQL representative suggested that all Nokia had to do was to release the APIs and a new era in messaging would dawn. This does forget another powerful party in this market, the network operator. As demonstrated by Orange UK and Vodafone UK recently disabling VoIP on the Nokia N95, they're completely prepared to override a handset's capabilities to restrict how their networks are used.

If you can cope with the limitations of Text over IP then solutions are out there already. In my opinion, it's just not the complete package.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

BlackBerry Curve

Forget the BlackBerry 8800, that just soooo March 2007, I want one of these: BlackBerry® Curve™ | The New Smartphone That's Brilliant and Beautiful.

Still haven't had the prognosis on 8707v. Here's hoping it's not a warranty fix ;).

GPS on a SIM Card, LBS still won't fly

A UK company called Blue Sky Positioning have launched an A-GPS SIM, basically a SIM card with a GPS chip and antenna built in.

The pitch is that this provides GPS level accuracy for positioning for any GSM phone. No need to have the Nokia N95 or BlackBerry 8800. Stick this SIM in your old 6310 and you can be tracked accurately.

Open the floodgates you'd think. The naysayers of LBS (Location Based Services) complain about the accuracy of cell based positioning systems. With this kind of accuracy everything is possible, targetted advertising, traffic-flow control, emergency scenario management.

Unfortunately the mobile operators have yet to make this fly commercially. Their refusal to give up transaction based charging for location based services is forever going to stifle this market.

Basically, they charge for each location request. It is possible to live with this for what's known as an 'active' request, eg where is my nearest pub, cashpoint, taxi, etc. Generally there is a transaction charge in which this can be incorporated.

When it comes to passive services however it's a different story. Paying for every poll makes it prohibitively expensive to track something at anything like a reasonable frequency.

Maybe the trigger will be commercialising social networking services like Twitter. You can know who's near you and what's going on in their world so you can join in. Maybe it will be governmental requirements for lone-worker protection that force this.

Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon. At the moment LBS is just a interesting technology and it could be so much more.

Manifesto for SMS

This post was sitting in my RSS client waiting to be read. Seems that my Easyjet flight is delayed, again, so I've had a chance to read it. If you want to know why I'm in this business, I recommend you do the same.

Communities Dominate Brands: Letter to American Execs: Joining the future of communication, via SMS text messaging

Internet World 2007 - Web Marketing

The big 3 in search engines were out in force, almost in inverse proportion to the popularity of their search engines.

Google were tucked away in a little ante-room. We already are avid users of Google Adwords and Google Analytics for marketing and tracking purposes so I decided not to trouble them with a demo.

Yahoo had a very purple stand in the main exhibition area with some typically high quality elements. It is noticeable the stark difference between the companies that have makreting budget of which shows like this are a small part and those for which it's almost everything. Yahoo's sales pitch seemed to be all about what was coming in the next release of their ad management system, basically catching up with Google.

The Microsoft Live adCenter stand was enormous, monolithic in proportion. Had a good chat with a trendy young thing who showed we how I could target people who were searching for xboxes, well 3% of those who did an internet search.

What was interesting though was their demographic profiling. Thanks to the world and his wife having an MSN or Hotmail account, they can use the cookie that they leave on the computer to reference the demographic data associated with their account, primarily age and gender. Now that made me feel a little uneasy as a web user but as a web marketeer that's fantastic.

One of the issues we have with our SMS trial is the number of school children who sign up for some free messages with no intention of buying. Now we do block email domains like hotmail.com and yahoo.com but to not show our adverts to people under 18 would save the click through costs.

All they need now is to improve on 3% of searches.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Internet World 2007 - Mobile

The Mobile zone was the area in which we've been exhibiting over the past few years and the numbers of exhbitors was probably the smallest I've seen it. In the early days it was the only place businesses like ours could profitably exhibit to the buying community.

I remember Esendex,mBlox, HSL, Netsize, MX Telecom, Bango and a host of other smaller players crammed together into one corner of Earls Court. We were rubbing shoulders together like posturing males during mating season. It was an exciting time, everyone was trying to mark their particular territory while trying to work out what everyone else was doing.

Today it was left to the newer entrants to the SMS service provider market like PageOne, txtNation and Dynmark to keep the flag flying. One of the guys at Dynmark did a great job of launching into his pitch and then backing out gracefully as he read my badge.

Internet World 2007 - CMS (Content Management Systems)

We have developed our own CMS at Esendex. This was born out of the frustration of not finding a solution that met a requirements in the market. These requirements are:

  • Friendly URLs, not the usual 'content.php?id=1234' which means nothing to either search engines or humans
  • Multi language support
  • Static site mirroring, from our central site to satelite hosting around the world
  • Integration with our existing application platform

It looks like our search maybe over. If the demo and chat I had with the Neal Perry and his colleagues from EPiServer is anything to go by.

EPiServer CMS

The EPiServer system is a CMS focused on delivering web site content, but it's killer feature for me is that it's a set of Microsoft .net libraries that can be embedded into existing ASP.Net sites. Given that our web site, applications and web services are all based on the .net framework you can see that this could be compelling. Further, our in-house team has developed everything you see and use on www.esendex.com. So we have a team with the skills and the will to do the integration, allowing us to maintain a seamless web experience.

We then got onto discussions about the 'warm web-site' where interactions are tracked and categorised allowing content and service to be tailored to the individual. Customer service and sales agents to contact people live, while they are interacting with the site, knowing what they've been looking at or having an issue with. This also allows the web site to adapt it's content to the the user. So if a user generally looks at information on APIs, they can be shown more detailed, tailored information as they explore the site.

So the demo will be downloaded and the support evaluated. Here's hoping the search really is over.

Internet World 2007 - Earls Court

Spent the morning at Internet World 2007 this morning. This is an annual exhibition showcasing all that's essential and groovy for conducting business on the web. This was the biggest I'd seen the show in several years of exhbiting/attending. CMS (Content Management Systems) seemed to occupy a huge zone along with zones for email marketing, affliate marketing, web search and a much smaller mobile zone than previously.

Nice to see a couple of customers there. Solid State Group and M-Send have both been with us for a while. Experian were also represented in a number of guises

Also represented were EazyTiger who were launching their new EazyCommerce platform at the show. We are currently working with Gary and his team on a new version of our web site so it was good to see he had a legitimate excuse for not working on our project ;).

Other notables were the enormous stuffing and folding machines that were being put through their paces in the Direct Mail section. Pity the poor guys at Yahoo whose stand was right next to one of the noisier ones.

The offer of adding a dating channel to our web site form the very nice lady as I walked past the White Label Dating stand. Not quite sure how that would fit with the Esendex corporate web strategy but I welcome comments.

And this poor guy who didn't notice this error dialog on his large presentation screen.

Some more posts to follow on specific areas of the show.

The Best Tapas in Barcelona

I've just got into Barcelona, and thanks to the Spanish penchant for late night dining, I've made in time for supper at the best tapas restaurant in Barcelona.

Cerveseria Catalana (Carrer de Mallorca 236, 08008, Barcelona), is blessedly close to the Esendex Espa┼ća office as well as a couple of reasonable hotels that you can generally get a deal on through booking.com

Menu highlights for me are the Solomillo de Tenera (small steaks skewered with a pepper onto a slice of toast) and Pimentos de Padron (roasted chilli peppers with salt, only the occasional one is hot)

On a popular night you'll have to queue but it is definately worth it. Keep an eye out for spaces at the bar. Same food but a bit more going on.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

SpinVox service performance, update and thought

SpinVox have confirmed that there have been 2-3 occasions when the message delay leaving their systems has exceeded 5 minutes. Given the quantity of voice mails I have received then that is probably reasonable, although not desirable. I wonder if the problem is more around expectation.

I'm on Vodafone and if anyone has used their voice mail system, they'll know it's nothing if not insistent. Before I enabled SMS message alerting from Vodafone it's insistent, repetitive calls to me whenever someone left a message was extremely irritating. You daren't bounce the call because you know it's going to be calling you back in 5 minutes demanding that you LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE.

Look sunshine someone's gone to all that trouble to leave you a message, you can jolly well listen to it right now and see what they wanted.

The text message alerts to call in, made life bearable. The real benefit was when you just missed a call. The message arrival was the signal that the other person that called had left their message and you could just call them straight back.

We used to be with Orange and they have the fantastic call waiting facility so you could callback straight away. The other person would be alerted that you we're trying to call and would hang up on the voice mail system and speak to you.

With Vodafone you just get their voicemail because they're tied up leaving you a voicemail, infuriating.

Now with SpinVox, I find myself waiting for the message to come because it's my signal that they've called but now it can tell me what they've said without me calling into the voicemail. The problem is that this adds time, 3-5 mins, between them putting the phone down and me receiving the message. When you're used to seconds, 3-5 mins feels like an eternity.

Now I know I'm comparing apples and pears. All Vodafone is doing is sending me a dumb SMS message telling me to call the voicemail service. SpinVox on the other hand gives me some really valuable information in that SMS message.

Patience is never something I've had in abundance but I guess there are very few voice mails that can't wait 3-5 mins. Good things come and all that.

Global Messaging 2007, let the train take the strain

Just booked my ticket for Global Messaging 2007. Last year it was at the Business Design Centre in Islington, this year it's in Monte Carlo. I wonder how they'll compare!

Journey there should be interesting. My first thought was to fly but it meant I had to get to an airport, fly to Nice, then get a train (or pricey taxi). All of which sounds like aggravation, especially when you factor in all the waiting around you end up doing at airports.

An alternative occured to me, why not train all the way. So I did some digging and this is what I'm doing:

Price-wise it's pretty much the same as flying once you factor in the transport either end and the cost of two additional nights in a hotel. Plus, I get to leave later and arrive home earlier as well as assuaging some of the carbon debt I'm in for all my flying of late.

But most importantly, I get to pretend I'm James Bond. Just hope the Aston is waiting for me at the other end.