Lucy Kellaway: Puncturing egos and praising good service

Lucy KellawayI have been a fan of Lucy Kellaway‘s columns in the Financial Times for many years. Her humour, usually at the expense of corporate gobbledygook and management fads, would often brighten up a dull day in the office.

I now get to hear her columns via the wonders of podcasting as I walk to work, which adds a personal element to her columns.

A recent target was Accenture’s group chief executive for management consulting in a column entitled “Accenture’s next champion of waffle words“. This gives a good indication of the content of the item, but I can’t resist including a short quote:

“The memo starts with some background to the announcement: “…wanting to give you continued visibility of our growth platform agenda…” it says. Visibility is the latest thing in business. Companies and executives all crave it but, until last week, I didn’t know that growth platform agendas were after it too. What is he saying here, I wonder? I think, though couldn’t swear to it, that he wants to tell his colleagues how the company plans to make more money.”

However it would be a mistake to assume all of her output consists of (well deserved) barbs aimed at self-important executives. A more recent article concentrated on (an admittedly rare) case of customer service that created a warm glow inside, rather than an icy chill, or getting hot under the collar. Unpolished exchanges put soul into shopping, concentrated on the rare experience in today’s consumerist world of having something repaired, in this case shoes. As Lucy points out:

“An immaculate, luxurious shop gives pleasure the first time, but after that diminishing returns set in. By contrast, having something mended has become an exciting novelty, a nostalgic return to how things ought to be.”

Customer service with a sense of irony

RoseI recently joined the loyalty scheme run by my local plant nursery and was rather surprised to receive a letter with the following introduction:

“Greetings, Oh Most Highly Esteemed Green Card Applicant (letter composed by Wych Cross Hype Ltd a wholly dis-owned subsidiary).

We are delighted to announce that your application for a Wych Cross Green Card has been entirely successful and your expensive looking, gloss green card is enclosed with this letter. Please try not to lose it before you have at least tried it out!

As you know, your card is to be used for scraping ice off your windscreen, wedging that wobbly coffee table leg that’s been irritating you for years, flicking paper pellets at work colleagues and impressing gullible people at parties. You will also be aware that cutting your card into little pieces for security reasons is the recommended way to make your scissors very blunt very quickly. In between times you can also use your card to collect and redeem points (and we all know what points mean!) every time you shop at Wych Cross.

We wish you many hours of happy and rewarding activity with your new Wych Cross Green Card and anticipate your next visit to us with particular pleasure.

With Warmest Felicitations,
Ray Kennedy
Managing Director

.
It certainly appealed to my funny-bone in this age of over-egged marketing letters.

wych-cross-logo

Egypt ‘to copyright antiquities’

One thing I have learnt from my exposure to the subject of copyright since joining the British Library is to quote an expert, “it’s complicated”.

Which makes me wonder how the Eqyptians plan to implement this new international law.

According to the BBC news website, Egypt’s MPs are expected to pass a law requiring royalties be paid whenever copies are made of museum pieces or ancient monuments such as the pyramids.

Zahi Hawass, who chairs Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the BBC the law would apply in all countries.

sphinx with copyright logo  Pyramids and Sphinx Retroactively Copyrighted

An unexpected sight at Online Information 2007 Conference

I arrived rather late to one of the sessions at the Online Information 2007 Conference so stood at the back. I was somewhat surprised by this sight amongst the various bloggers and  ‘Twitterers’ in the audience. Even in these days of metrosexual men, the hairy arms (which are hard to make out in my blurry phone video) were unexpected.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=fCaiUHIIDNU]

British Standard for a cup of tea – BS 6008

1018292_cup_of_teaI have been attending some of the workshops we provide at the Business & IP Centre. I think it is good to sample one’s own products from time to time. Rupert Lee’s workshop on Science & Technology Information for Business provided some unexpected information. For instance I didn’t know there was a British Standard for a cup of tea (BS 6008 to the cognoscenti). I suppose it is the logical result of something the British do best, tea and bureaucracy.

However, more usefully I did learn that standards are a useful source of business information which is often overlooked.

If you are really keen you can read all 11 pages of report from the British Standards Institution

1 Scope and field of application
This International Standard specifies a method for
the preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory
tests, by means of infusing the leaf.
2 Definitions
For the purpose of this International Standard, the
following definitions apply.
2.1 liquor
the solution prepared by extraction of soluble
substances from dried tea leaf, under the conditions
described
2.2 infused leaf
tea leaf from which liquor has been prepared
NOTE In the tea trade in the United Kingdom, the term
“infusion” is used with the meaning of 2.2, but, to avoid confusion
with the more general usage of this word, the expression “infused
leaf” has been used.
3 Reference
ISO 1839, Tea — Sampling.
4 Principle
Extraction of soluble substances in dried tea leaf,
contained in a porcelain or earthenware pot, by
means of freshly boiling water, pouring of the liquor
into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl,
examination of the organoleptic properties of the
infused leaf, and of the liquor with or without milk
or both.
5 Apparatus
5.1 Pot, of white porcelain or glazed earthenware,
with its edge partly serrated (see Figure) and
provided with a lid, the skirt of which fits loosely
inside the pot.
5.2 Bowl, of white porcelain or glazed earthenware.
NOTE Various sizes of pot and bowl can be used, but it is
recommended that one of the two sizes shown in the annex, and
depicted in the figure, be adopted.
6 Sampling
See ISO 1839.
7 Procedure
7.1 Test portion
Weigh, to an accuracy of ± 2 %, a mass of tea
corresponding to 2 g of tea per 100 ml of liquor
(i.e. 5,6 ± 0,1 g of tea for the large pot or 2,8 ± 0,05 g
for the small pot described in the Annex) and
transfer it to the pot (5.1).
7.2 Preparation of liquor
7.2.1 Preparation without milk

Fill the pot containing the tea with freshly boiling
water1) to within 4 to 6 mm of the brim
(i.e. corresponding approximately to 285 ml in the
case of the large pot and 140 ml in the case of the
small pot described in the Annex) and put on the lid.
Allow the tea to brew for 6 min, and then, holding
the lid in place so that the infused leaf is held back,
pour the liquid through the serrations into the
bowl (5.2) corresponding to the pot selected. Remove
and invert the lid, transfer the infused leaf to it and
place the inverted lid on the empty pot to allow the
infused leaf to be inspected. In the case of fine,
powdery dust grades, special care should be taken
and a sieve may be required.
7.2.2 Preparation with milk
Pour milk free from any off-flavour (for example raw
milk or unboiled pasteurized milk) into the
bowl (5.2), using approximately 5 ml for the large
bowl and 2,5 ml for the small bowl described in the
Annex.
Prepare the liquor as described in 7.2.1 but pour it
into the bowl after the milk, in order to avoid
scalding the milk, unless this procedure is contrary
to the normal practice in the organization
concerned.
If the milk is added afterwards, experience has
shown that the best results are obtained when the
temperature of the liquor is in the range 65 to 80 °C
when the milk is added.
While addition of milk is not essential, it sometimes
helps to accentuate differences in flavour and
colour.

A packet of crisps in a bar

Today was my second annual visit to the The British International Innovation & Technology Conference and Exhibition (of which more anon). As someone with a relatively limited imagination I have to confess I just can’t understand where inventors get their ideas from.

For instance I would never have thought up the idea for Crisp Bars. In fact everything about it just sounds wrong to me. But, as is so often the way with inventions (and this one is patented) the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or in this case in the crunching. I approached the product with great cynicism but was proved wrong once again. The ‘bars’ not only taste like standard crisps but somehow manage to maintain the crispiness of a crisp.
As with almost all inventors I come across, the idea sprang from seeking a solution to a problem. In this case, how to continue to consume crisps when you have a babe in arms, and so only have one hand to spare for eating purposes.

Their website doesn’t seem to be working at the moment but you can watch a video where Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame tests them out on the 5 o’clock show.

Watch this space to where this product goes…

A thumb drive by any other name would…

Since introducing selected downloading from selected databases from the Business & IP Centre we have been faced with the dilema of what to call those those little portable storage gizmo’s.

Below are just some of the names I have heard bandied about:
USB flash drive
USB drive
Keychain drive
Memory key
Memory stick
Jump drive
Key drive
Flash drive
Pen drive

One way to solve this problem would be to adopt the term widely used in the U.S.A…. thumb drive. As you can see below, by using this name it is possible to generate a strong visual reminder which might reduce the amount of confusion.

thumbdrive.jpg

Essential Humour

I am a great believer in the importance of humour (both in home and work environments). At work we have a talented limerick writer who keeps us amused on a regular basis.

In this spirit I enclose this YouTube ‘fake David Blaine’ video. Having had to fight through the crowds on my daily commute due to his ridiculous Tower Bridge Park 44-day starvation stunt, I find these two satirical videos particularly apt.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYxu_MQSTTY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGrTvNzGCZE]