Avoid Eye Contact, Scan in Silence

Good piece on the ‘internet of everything’ on The Economist. Technology will soon enable ‘the handles of umbrellas to glow when it was about to rain, wine glasses to tell us when we have had enough to drink; sugar bowls to warn us about our sugar intake.’

Exciting stuff, but what will be the social impact of this, the paper asks, and do we really want it? It worries about ‘turbo-charging the automation of the service sector’, pointing to the spread of self-service tills in supermarkets.

“The internet of everything will render millions of people who currently look after buildings or perform low-level medical services redundant. What sounds wonderful for the digital elite could be a nightmare for less-skilled workers.”

Maybe we do want automation, even it when it’s slower and more complicated than dealing with humans. There are two queues at the foodhall in Boots on Market Street on a weekday lunchtime, one for the self-service checkouts, the other for the ‘traditional’ tills. The latter is shorter and quicker, but still people join the self-service queue. It’s no cheaper.

Headphones on, head down, checking Twitter, sending a text…who wants to interact with a real person? For some, it’s scan and go.

Lie Star

Followed a link to the Billy Bullshit blog. I had a schoolfriend who, between 1982-85, could not stop himself from lying. But they were good lies; his Golden Years.

He claimed to have had dozens of 107 maximums on his 6×3 snooker table (it only had 10 reds). In all the years we played I never saw him score higher than a 25, a clearance of green to black.

He reckoned his dad was stabbed in the thigh at the 1983 Milk Cup Final by a Scouser with some scissors. I saw his dad the following Saturday and he was fine; never mentioned it.

He had the world record highest score on Pac Man on his ZX Spectrum. I said ‘how long did it take you?’ He said ‘26 hours’.

His sister’s boyfriend could drive from Crewe to Northwich in 7 minutes in his Vauxhall Chevette. It’s 12 miles, mostly B roads. You couldn’t fire someone out of a canon that quick.

He claimed the rubber butt on a three-piece pool cue I once owned could be used as condom. He’d seen such things in action in one of his dad’s porn videos.

His dad was a leading figure in the Post Office workers’ union, he claimed, capable of calling out a national strike. He wasn’t.

Never dull.

Micropayments & Museum Admissions

The Coalition Government wants to foster “an American-style culture of philanthropy to the arts and culture here in the UK”, according to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Plans are to be announced later today, the Guardian has a decent round-up of links/suggestions here on how they might tackle this.

In simple terms, the Government wants to spend less on the arts & culture (a blanket use of everyone’s money) and encourage more corporations and individuals to spend their own money directly. If that makes people think about, and value, the arts, then it is a good thing.

Admission charges are a bugbear. It seems the options are polar: either free or expensive. I’m a big fan of the Manchester Art Gallery, but why does it need to be free? There is a pricing chasm between free and the cost of a United matchday ticket, or the Royal Exchange, or Bridgewater Hall.

Micropayment technology is common enough (London’s Oyster cards), would it not be possible to make revenue off, say, a 50p admission charge (or 10p for Manchester Council Tax payers)? The system would link to the Lowry, War Museum North, Whitworth, MOSI, People’s History, etc., and beyond.

It encourages data collection (for mapping & analysis), seasonal incentives, loyalty schemes, and puts a value on a museum visit. To an outsider, modern museums seem to put the most effort into their coffee shops, restaurants and merchandising – possibly because they generate revenue. The tail wagging the dog, surely?

Enjoy The Trip

The concept: a week driving round the North of England with a mate, eating good food and staying in nice places, in six 30-minute episodes

The scenery: the ‘North’ section of visitengland should just say ‘watch this’ and link to BBC iPlayer. (Bolton Abbey, above)

The food: when was the last time you had a three-course lunch? With a good walk on your doorstep, and a comfy bed upstairs? Bliss.

The story arc: Rob Brydon’s impressions going from funny to annoying; Steve Coogan starting and finishing in his empty, London flat; Coogan as parent/Coogan as child.

The detail: ‘gonna write a classic’, mobile reception, the morning’s map directions, Michael Caine’s changing accent, foam, reaching for the bill, awkward hug.

Loved it. Nice work, Beeb.

Pizza Hut Burned

A Pizza Hut branch in Bournemouth asks five customers to pay upfront for their meals, because they were worried about the customers doing a runner, and didn’t like the way they looked. The customers were black. This appears to be have been the deciding factor.

Pizza Hut admits this is not company policy, leaving it to the discretion of the branch manager.

Full marks for wanting to empower your frontline staff, but how gormless is this? One store manager appears to make a call based on skin colour, a decision that now has the entire business scrabbling to deny racism charges. The customers were reasonably high-profile (young footballers at Bournemouth FC), and the story will be shooting up the Google rankings.

If you can’t stop your staff from making racist judgement calls, ask everyone to pay upfront; it works for Nandos.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers