Professional Geek
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  • Digital Discrimination

    I originally started another post that would mention this but I’ve decided it deserves a post all on it’s own

    Over the last few days I’ve been playing with the new Xbox features (that’s the post I started, it’s on the way!)

    When I first turned my Xbox on there was a handy little video displayed to explain what all the new features are so I fired it up

    Mrs P was sat next to me and asked

    “Don’t supposed it’s got subtitles has it?”

    If you’re a new reader, my wife is profoundly deaf, she’s currently being assessed to get a cochlear implant next year. You can read about it here (www.thedeafone.co.uk) as well talking about her experiences around the CI process she also discusses what it’s like to be “the deaf one”

    I pulled up the display menu and as expected there were no subtitles. If she wanted to find out about the new features either I had to explain them, she’d have to go to the website, or look through the online help

    I’ve blogged on here a couple of times about the lack of subtitles in Xbox Video Marketplace, even though it looks like the system supports it, the video description usually lists “subtitles: none”

    Since Zune Video was one of the new features I jumped into that to see if anything had changed

    Again I was disappointed, where under the old system it looked like there “may” have been subtitles, this time around the was no mention of subtitles at all

    What irritates me a lot about this that I can’t get any definitive answer as to why this is the case or if it’s ever going to change. Most Xbox games are pretty good when it comes to subtitles, in just about every game I’ve played cut scenes and the like have optional subtitles so that the story can be followed. I’m not sure what it’s like on the PS3/Wii though

    While on this, www.deafgamers.com reviews games from a deaf standpoint so that as well as talking about the game itself it will highlight if you need to be aware of any issues where a lack of sound would interfere with playing the game. If a game gave instructions on how to control your character via voice over with no visual cues for example

    Access for people with disabilities is a problem in the digital world as well as the offline world, when regular people upload videos to youtube they don’t think about adding subtitles. I’m not saying everyone should but one of the most popular sites on the Internet is generally unavailable to anyone with a hearing problem (or a visual problem for that matter!)

    Did you know you can add subtitles to youtube videos?

    You can add a complete caption file which specifies exactly when each line of word should be spoken or you can upload a transcript and youtube will try and figure out where it should all fit

    There is a nice explanation of how this works here: http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?answer=100077

    However, the tutorial video is on a tiny little screen and has no subtitles…..the irony

    I could create a very long list of areas on the Internet that are just off limits to certain groups

    I do appreciate this isn’t something that has an easy solution. Broadcasting companies in this country are legally obliged to provide subtitles for 90% of their content. What if the program you want to watch is in that 10%. (The BBC are committed to 100% subtitling of content) If we can’t get that sorted on a platform that is under complete control how does a system like the Internet stand a chance?

    This is where I think the Xbox platform doesn’t have any excuse. Microsoft 100% control the system. They set standards for the type of content that is and isn’t allowed on their platform so why can’t we get subtitles set as one of those standards?

    Zune marketplace in my opinion has NO excuse at all. They are streaming major cinema releases. They have subtitles created for them for use in cinema (again I’ve blogged about this in the past!) and for the DVD releases. 

    Having not tried Sky Player on the website or on the Xbox I can’t comment on their ability to display subtitles. (again, I’ve got an opinion on this too) Does anyone know if they can? This another area where there really shouldn’t another reason not to do it

    Just for balance there are some technologies that have been a great leveller for deaf people

    Email, SMS, Instant messaging, twitter, forums, blogs, facebook, etc, all these services are based around visual functionality first. Some them do have video and audio but it’s the core functionality that means you need the keyboard to communicate means deaf and hearing people alike are on an equal footing

    If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the issues a deaf person can face when the digital and analogue worlds cross check out the the “Pesky People blog”. This blog first came to my attention when it’s writer Alison attended the “Hello Digital” event in October. She had tried to make provisions to attended the event but was badly let down by the organisers and she talks about various disability access issues in depth on the blog – it’s worth a read!

    So will anything change? I don’t know, going on my past experience around deaf issues probably not which is a terrible shame

    It would be good if I could get some information from Microsoft as to what there policies are for disability access around the Xbox, especially where Video Marketplace is concerned

    Also any opinions you have are welcome. Very few people come across disability issues on a day to day basis because it just doesn’t effect them. What lots of us take for granted as just regular day to day stuff is hard work for people with disabilities.

    Did you hear a traffic report on your radio on the way into work today? If you were deaf you would have just driven straight into that five mile tailback

    What about calling your credit card company as you’ve been incorrectly billed? Just a five minute call to get that straightened out? Not if your deaf, you either have to use minicom or type talk or get someone to call for you (then they insist on speaking to the account holder)

    Just a couple of examples but it happens every day

  • Customer Service and Service Delivery – Get it right!

    I’ve not written a post like this in a while!

    I’ve had a couple of experiences over the last few days that reinforces how customer service and service are not mutually exclusive

    You need to get them both right if you want your business to stand out from the rest. This sort of thing is highlighted to me when dealing with larger companies

    In my last post I talked about my shiny new HTC Touch 2 Windows Phone. Well guess what, it’s broken 🙁

    I was out watching my Sunday football team at the weekend (watching is all I’m doing at the moment as I need a knee operation) and I’d forgotten to charge my phone. By the time I got home the battery was dead so I hooked it up to the charger and left it

    When I checked on it few hours later the phone started up and shortly after the home screen was displayed the whole thing locked up. None of the buttons worked nor did the touch screen. I couldn’t even power it off and had to either pop the battery out or press the soft reset button

    I performed a hard reset (press both the volume buttons and turn it on) but it was still the same

    So the following morning I called T-Mobile and braved their telephone menu system

    I spoke to a customer service agent who asked what the problem was

    I explained the problem, told her that I’d tried a hard reset and said that the phone was unusable

    She asked if the problem occurred in specific menus on the phone or all menus. I said that I couldn’t get into ANY menus. The phone locks up before then

    She said ordering a new one shouldn’t be a problem and it would arrive tomorrow. So far so good I thought but it turns out there wasn’t any stock. Service delivery fail!

    I needed to know where this put me as I was now without a phone

    She seemed surprised at this

    “Are you not calling from the phone?”, she said

    my perplexed reply was, “No. I’ve already said the phone is unusable”

    “You said that the problem only occurred in certain menus”

    “No. I said that I couldn’t even get into ANY menus, the phone is unusable”

    Customer service fail! You really need to listen to the customer when they are describing a problem

    She basically then said I had two options, wait for stock or take it my nearest service centre

    I asked where the nearest centre was and she gave me the address before adding,

    “If you take it there the repair could take up to 28 days”

    Multiple fail! This isn’t doing anything to solve my problem. I have phone I’m paying for and can’t use. Waiting 28 days isn’t really an option I want

    She then told me that she would monitor the stock and call me the following day to let me know the phone was dispatched so I’d get it the following day

    That was Monday, I didn’t receive a phone call at all on Tuesday so I’m not expecting any phone to show up today.

    Yet more fail! If you promise to do something for your customer, make sure you actually do it. If they hadn’t received any stock so I wouldn’t have been getting a phone today, at least keep me informed to that fact!

    In contrast I had to take my car to the garage recently. It’s something I always dread as you hear lots of horror stories about people getting ripped off for work that doesn’t need doing.

    However, the garage I go to have really good customer service, they did the exactly the work they said they were going to at a reasonable price and even sorted out a problem with car they probably should have charged me extra for

    In their reception area they have a notice board full of letters of thanks from previous customers. Recommendations from happy customers are always a good thing to see

    What’s the difference between these two companies?

    Size

    As a small business it’s really something that’s critical. There are tons of garages I could have taken my car to so by making me into a happy customer they get my repeat business. It’s a real differentiator

    For big business it’s difficult to keep a high level of service across your whole company, there is also less competition and they all have similar problems

    So now I’m off to ring T-Mobile again..that’ll be fun

  • My Windows Phone – HTC Touch 2 and Mobile Madness

    Let’s get something out of the way – I don’t want an iPhone :-p

    No that’s out the way back to the post…

    Our mobile contract recently expired so I try to approach this in a reasonably simple manner

    1) Is the price plan fitting our needs? If it is then I don’t really want to pay anymore per month, if anything I’d rather pay less

    2) The less we have to pay for devices the better! Windows Mobile is our first preference.

    So even after our recent “billing issues” with T-Mobile we went to them first to give them the chance to keep our business. I told them our preferences and asked to see what they could do

    What was really frustrating here was the first person I spoke to didn’t really know exactly what they were selling. I was told that our price plan didn’t exist anymore and if we wanted Windows mobile we had a choice of two devices, one we could get as a free upgrade and one we’d have to pay for. The price plan choices were also confusing and it wasn’t clear how much data we’d be getting (which is important!)

    Annoyed I left it and decided to come back as Windows Mobile 6.5 had just been announced so I wanted to see how quickly the devices would filter through

    I then went to look at the competition and looked through their offerings on the websites first and initially I found

    Three don’t appear to sell any Windows Mobile based devices

    02 and Orange have price plans that are higher than what we’re paying now and it was very very unclear about data allowances

    Vodafone had price plans that were slightly more than we were currently paying with less minutes, texts and data but had a greater variety of devices

    I then spotted the HTC Touch 2 Pro which I liked the look of so spoke to Vodafone’s small business team. The upshot of it was that i was correct in that we’d be paying slightly more per month for less features on our package and would have to pay for each device

    So I went back to T-Mobile see what they were doing on the Windows Mobile 6.5 front

    I spoke to three different people and not one of them was 100% sure about the devices they sold! The good news was that our price plan does still exist and we don’t under or over use it so it’s the correct plan for us

    So if we were going to stay where we are it was just a matter of trying to pick a device

    There are two on the website, and like the other experiences I’ve had with the other mobile providers trying to get clear and concise information wasn’t easy

    By the time I’d been backwards and forwards and tried to figure out who actually knew what they were doing I didn’t care about the version of Windows Mobile!

    It then transpires that T-Mobile have recently started to stock the HTC Touch 2 (though it was no where to be found on their website) which does run Windows Mobile 6.5 (again the staff on the phone weren’t entirely sure of this!) so that is what I went with

    It arrived a couple of days later (no thanks to the Royal Mail postal strike!!)

    So after all that…the phone!

    image

    Image from HTC.com

    Compared to my HTC TyTn II the phone weighs nothing at all! That keyboard makes all the difference.

    When going for this phone my one worry was the lack of keyboard and was the reason the Touch 2 Pro caught my eye as I used it quite a lot. A week in and I’m just about getting used to it

    The touch screen is nice and responsive and the few people I’ve shown it to said they liked how the device looked. It also has an FM radio built-in, I’ve never had a phone with the capability and haven’t had the chance to try it out yet. I’ve put an 8GB micro SD in though so was planning on using MP3s more than listen to the radio

    The quality of the calls I’ve made have been decent and it plays nicely with my hands free kit

    I’m not going to do a full blown review of Windows Mobile 6.5 (Windows phone!) as there are plenty of other people who will do a far better job but just some thoughts

    • The new start menu is very nice. On my old 6.0 device using the start menu with anything other than the stylus or the device navigation buttons was a no go
    • The threaded conversations for text messages is interesting. I’m still getting used to it but it’s keeping my inbox a lot neater
    • The new onscreen keyboard is pretty cool, now i’m getting used to it I haven’t been anywhere near the stylus
    • Internet Explorer is nice. Though I’m currently testing Opera mobile that came bundled with it as it just too many good features (tabs and password management are my current favourites)
    • While it’s generally more “finger friendly” there are still some areas that very obviously are the same as in previous versions of Windows Mobile so i think this is more of an incremental upgrade.

     

    I’ll need to read the manual for the TouchFlo stuff though. The areas on the front screen for text messages and emails have changed since the day i turned the phone on. I may be misunderstanding it’s use though

    Overall I’m really pleased with the phone. At the moment I don’t have any immediate regrets for ignoring the Touch 2 Pro. I do wish we could do away with the version madness though

    When you buy an iPhone that’s exactly what you get. Regardless which generation of handset you buy you always get updates so you can take advantage of the latest features. No such thing with Windows Mobile as you are at the mercy of the handset manufacturer and the mobile provider. It was immensely frustrating dealing with the sales staff who just didn’t know their products