Tag Archives: Mecca

The Ugly Backside of Online Backup

I was just showing off my new Gmail/Remember the Milk marriage, which is truly a cool tool and worth checking out, to my slightly less new wife. Her response was: but it’s online. How can I use it if I’m offline?

I slapped her about verbally, of course, because you can’t be doing with that kind of defeatist talk at Loose Wire HQ, but she’s actually right: The great Achilles Heel of online is that it’s, well, online.

A shining, and sobering example of this problem is online backup. Of all the online backup tools that looked the most serious, Omnidrive was ahead of a big pack. Until recently. This from Webware: 

We got an e-mail earlier today from a Webware reader and Omnidrive user who told us the online storage service has been out since early this morning. We sleuthed around a little and tried to get in touch with Omnidrive CEO Nik Cubrilovic, whose personal blog is also down, although we’ve heard nothing back yet. As of publishing this, the service is still down.

That’s still true. I don’t have stuff stored there, but I feel for the guys who do. The problem with asking consumers to entrust their stuff to you is that it’s about trust: Lose it and you’re lost forever.

My blog has become a minor Mecca (can you have minor Meccas?) for those disenchanged with Xdrive since it was bought by AOL, so much so that somone claiming to be Robert Blatt of AOL posted a comment yesterday trying to repair some of the damage and get people back to the service.

His comments reflect a rare honesty from AOL about the size of the problem (whenever someone corporate uses the word “challenges” you need to replace it with something very much stronger. It’s the corporate equivalent of self-flagellation and an acknowledgement of having screwed up big time):

First of all, a disclaimer, not only do I work for AOL but I am responsible for both the Xdrive and BlueString products.

With that said, over the last year we have made tremendous efforts to improve the reliability and performance of the underlying infrastructure that drives both Xdrive and BlueString. We use Keynote monitoring 24X7 to measure consumers’ ability to login, upload, and access their online assets. Over the last six months these numbers have consistently been above 99% availability. If consumers who use this blog are continuing to have problems please post so that we can understand and rectify.

With respect to customer support, we both understand and agree with the challenges that people have been having. We have recently increased our focus and our resources to address this issue. Changes like this always take a bit of time but I am confident that we will have the same kind of success that we have had in improving the product.

Finally, look for a new, easier to use interface for Xdrive during the first quarter of 2008. We are working hard to erase the boundary that currently exists for consumers between their desktop and the internet.

I’m sure Robert doesn’t need to be told that in the world of online storage it’s a case of once bitten, twice you’re far, far away and would only be lured back by the promise of vestal virgins and free Porsches. Would you ever entrust something as valuable as your backups to someone who lost them the first time around?

The rule of thumb of online backup is, sadly: Think of it as a sort of luxury. Not as something you can rely on. Because of that, I can’t imagine why someone would pay for it.

Wire Mesh and Lost Souls

You have to love the Internet. It brings you into contact with all sorts of unusual people, the likes of which I haven’t encountered since my days of being driven by tuk-tuk around the sois of 1980s Bangkok. Here’s Linda, for example, who just asked to be my buddy on Skype, introducing herself thus:

Me! A Chinese girl! My main work is to sale wire,wire mesh and wire rods!If you need my service, please contact me unhestantly!

I just don’t know when I’m going to need wire, wire mesh or wire rods so I’ve added her to my contact list. Now I can see the commercial benefits of Skype.

And then there’s my blog. Frankly, it drives me nuts, but two years ago I wrote about how awful some Nokia service centers were, and now it’s become the Mecca for any Indian resident looking for a service center. Why me? And why India? Heaven knows, and I’ve tried to explain I’m not a Nokia Service Center, but still they come. This, for example, just now, from Sreedhar Durbhakula:

I purchased NOKIA 3120 handset before one year. Now it has created me some problem like some times I am finding the device Switchd Off. I need to switch on the set to work with it. Some times it is showing blank screen and again loading the signal lines and feature.Some times when I press some key for my operations it won’t respond and will get switched off showing me the blank screen. Please let me know what caused the problem? How much would be the cost for getting repaired.. I am in India Bangalore..If possible let me know the good customer Care Center in Bangalore..?

This is one of more than 100 comments left on that page, nearly all complaints or moving accounts from India of failed bids to get Nokia’s care and attention. Frankly I am developing a warped view of the subcontinent, as this place criss-crossed by lost souls bearing malfunctioning handsets, desperately looking for salvation in the form of a glowing Nokia logo.

Anyway, maybe I should introduce them all to Linda. A wire rod or two may be just the answer.

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Dancing Queen and the End of Popular Music

The other night, as I lay sweating in my mum’s flat in boiling England in the early hours, a crowd of 20 somethings spilled out of a nearby club. The usual hubbub of indistinct chatter ensued as they prepared to disperse. Then the females (I assume; I couldn’t actually see anything) started singing something together, and, gradually the song they were singing emerged: “Dancing Queen”, by Abba, released as a single in 1976. The lassies, who can’t have been born when it first came out, all knew the words (no big surprise, perhaps, given it’s been covered by 20 other artists and was rereleased by Abba in the early 1990s) and sang it long after I felt the moment had passed and they should all go home.

Apart from keeping me awake, I realised something more important: I was listening to the last hurrah of popular music. And today marks, at least in the UK, the death of this era. That’s because today is the last edition of BBC’s Top Of The Pops, the long-running television show that broadcast (usually mimed) performances of the top selling single artists of the week. Everyone here in the UK is waxing nostalgic about the show, which first went out in 1964, and has been running pretty much every week ever since. But perhaps its greatest significance will be in its demise, as it reflects the end of popular music as a unifying force.

Ironic, really, given that folk like me weren’t allowed to watch ToTP as kids, at least with the sound on. Even as a late teenager my dad would make a point of walking in to the lounge when I was watching it, to mess about with the grate, or the wine cupboard (necessitating a move of the TV) and would make some sarcastic remark about whoever was on — and his entry always seemed to coincide with a particularly outrageous display by Roy Wizzard or Noddy Holder or Gary Glitter (turns out he was right about him, come to think of it). ToTP was a divisive force in our household, but nationally, culturally, it united. In an era when pop music remained fringe — only a couple of radio stations played it, one of them pirate, and there was scant pop music on TV outside ToTP — the program was a Mecca for anyone who wanted to know what was what. We really cared about who was number one; seeing bands and artists play on ToTP was sometimes the only chance we got to put a face to the voice we heard on the radio. And then there were Pan’s People, the dancers who “interpreted” songs to help fill up the show. They, dancing to the Chi-Lites’ “Homely Girl”, were my first glimpse of sensual womanhood and for that alone I’m hugely grateful.

The point about ToTP was that it gave everyone a cultural reference point. Watch ToTP and we knew all we needed to know to bond with friends, chat up those we wanted to chat up and to sing along at parties. We all knew who The Rubettes were, and while we may have hated ‘Sugar Baby Love’ we all knew it was number one, and hearing it on radios as we went on holidays or tried to steal a French kiss or two at a party, provided a cultural anchor that would forever make that the soundtrack of the summer of 1974 (or was it 1975.) The point? ‘Sugar Baby Love’ meant different things to different people, but it meant something. Listen to it now and I am transported back to the smell of hay (yes, those kinds of parties), feel the excitement of flashing lights and the electrifying presence of females through the gloom.

Of course, a lot of people will see the demise of ToTP as a good thing, the victory of the Long Tail of pop music (or whatever we have to call it now, given it’s not really popular any more.) They’ll say that the Big Head of mass commercialisation of popular music, where a few acts get disproportionate air play, promotion and media interest to the detriment of others, was never what people really wanted, and that now, with the Internet fostering better distribution and an increasingly sophisticated medium of recommendation, we can now listen to what we really want to, rather than what big business wants us to.

That’s true. But when are we going to be able to stand in car parks at three o’clock in the morning all drunkenly singing “young and sweet and only 17” because we all know the words? Or commenting on the silly hats that the Rubettes wore, or complaining about the number of appearances of Status Quo? And it’s not just about the Water Cooler culture — where we all stand around discussing last night’s TV, where we all saw the same thing because there was only one thing to watch — but of something else: cultural reference points that provide a shared soundtrack to our lives. Not a reason to keep Top of the Pops, necessarily, but perhaps food for thought about the world we are entering without it.