HTC – quietly brilliant? Maybe not…

I don’t use HTC Sense services but it’s something that comes with the phone and many people may. I received the following this morning: is undergoing a renovation to improve the services and value we deliver to customers like you.

Until the new services are ready, features previously available on will be shutting down. If you have been using to sync your Contacts, Messages, Footprints or Call History, you can download your data through April 30, 2012. After April 30, your data will no longer be accessible and will be deleted.


I imagine Footprints was a popular app for many people which seemed useful and was preinstalled in all HTC’s I’ve had (except my latest Sensation).

David Norris and Those Pesky Letters

What is David Norris hiding now?

So at last we have the final line up for the Presidential Election 2011 (#aras11) and Norris made it over the line. It seems the media have gone from following his roller coaster trip from council to council to – without  stopping for breath – pursuing him on the rest of the clemency letters he wrote for his former partner convicted of statutory rape.

To be honest. I wasn’t particularly interested in their contents. I felt letter-gate had been well aired and not forgotten – people in the privacy of the ballot boxes would make up their own minds’ on his explanation.

But then along came this legal advice crap. Speaking on the radio with Pat Kenny this morning he said:

I am absolutely restricted by questions of privacy,” he said. “I understand people’s interest but I’ve been told by my lawyers that these letters are subject to professional legal privilege and I’ve been told I cannot publish them.

Huh. Professional legal privilege. Professional legal privilege. What the hell does that mean? He’s not a solicitor advising a client. Nor a doctor advising a patient. Where does privilege come into it? I cannot possibly fathom how it could be covered by data protection.

He wrote multiple letters seeking clemency for his ex-partner – either in a personal capacity or abusing his position as a Senator. These are not letters to constituents who would have an expectation of privacy. I cannot see where professional legal privilege comes into this. So, I’m forced to wonder – is he protecting the recipients or himself? I suspect the latter. What is David Norris hiding now?

Publish the letters or publish the legal argument and advice in full. I’m sick of politicians quoting some intangible legal privilege to protect themselves. In that same interview, Norris claimed he was about the most transparent person in politics today. It doesn’t feel like it Senator, it doesn’t feel like it.

Porting Experience with Vodafone

This post could equally be called Why do Service Providers Make Their Problems my Problem?

I recently migrated my company’s mobile phone account over to Vodafone via The Carphone Warehouse. We had two numbers to port but when I got my first bill, there were three subscriptions on it – one for an unknown mobile number.

I rang Vodafone on 1907 and the agent’s first response was to ask me to return to Carphone Warehouse. This irked me. Yes, the sales agent in Carphone Warehouse most likely made the error. But I’m not their customer. They are not billing me. Vodafone are. This seems pretty cut and dry – there’s a subscription I’m not using, don’t have and don’t want and one that I did not receive any phone discount for on my bill. Just remove it and refund me. Take it up with Carphone Warehouse on your time, not mine.

So, after explaining to the agent that I am Vodafone’s customer and expected them to sort it, she said she would and put me on hold. Eventually she got back to me to let me know that she had left a message for the agent in Carphone Warehouse who would call me within an hour. I had a sunken feeling. This should just have been dealt with. The how and why and means of it being dealt with are not my problem and I don’t want to know about it.

As expected, one working day later and no word from anyone. I ran Vodafone up again. This time the agent checked the notes and let me know it was with the agent in Carphone Warehouse and they were waiting on them to get back to them.

I made some simple points:

  • I was promised a call within an hour which I did not get;
  • I made the point that I did not not want to call Vodafone every day for an update – I just expected that it would be done;
  • I was told that I could assume it would be done. To this I replied if I did that, I’d be looking at the same charge on my bill next month.
  • The reply was that I could then call in to have it really taken care of. I explained I’d then be €100 out of pocket and not €50.
  • I was advised to call in a week.
  • I explained this was not my mistake – can it not be diary-ed in there for someone to follow it up in a number of days and for me to be called when it was done. No, this is an inbound call centre only. WTF?!?

So, it’s still not solved and still my problem. Why?

Oh yeah, rather than asking if I’d like to take a quick seven question survey on your phone service, why not just answer the bloody phone by a human within three rings? Then you wouldn’t need to do surveys!

UPDATE (~4 hours later): I tweeted this to @VodafoneIreland after writing it up. They got back to me (here and here):

I’ve DM’d the details and gotten further replies which is great.

I just hope the real issue has not been lost in the quick resolution through the public forum of Twitter: Vodafone’s problems / procedures / relationship with agents / etc is not the customer’s problem. Don’t make it the customer’s problem and don’t expose it to the customer. Just fix it.

Preference Voting in the 2011 General Election

I came across a post on PlanetILUG this morning from teh bigbro blog (sic) in which the author was endorsing a letter as it appeared in the Metro-Herald yesterday morning:

I would like to point out an interesting observation regarding ballot papers.

When filling in your ballot, do not assign a number to someone you don’t want to see elected! Giving someone a 6 or 7 could get them elected! I’ve seen it happen, believe me.

If you only like two candidates just give them the 1 and 2, if you like three candidates, give them a 1, 2 and 3 – you get what I mean.

I’ve had a few candidates at my door saying ‘ah sure, give him a 3 or a 4,’ knowing full well that this could get them elected – don’t do it, people! You have the power.

Mr. Democracy (Metro-Herald, Wed 16th Feb 2011)

This is spectacularly bad advice from the inappropriately named Mr. Democracy. We use an electoral system called PR-STV – Proportional Representation – Single Transferable Vote. What this means is that when you vote, you number the candidates in order of preference (but are not required to place a preference against all candidates ).

When your candidate has exceeded the quota or has been eliminated then your vote may be transferred. By following the above advice, and especially in four and five seat constituencies where the latter seats come down to a small amount of votes, you are effectively giving up your influence on who may fill those final seats.

If we take the Dublin Central constituency (not mine) as an example (four seats). In 2007, this constituency elected Bertie Ahern (FF) on almost two quotas, Cyprian Brady (FF) (Bertie’s running mate where they quite literally ambushed Mary Fitzpatrick (FF) with a midnight hour leaflet drop influencing voter transfers which got Brady elected on only 939 first preferences!), Joe Costello (L) and Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind.) who won the by-election following the death of Tony Gregory (Ind).

Now, if for example your thinking in this election (not necessarily mine) is that you’d like the FG candidate win and would live with Labour as well, you may rank your preferences as follows following the above advice:

1. Donohoe, Paschal (FG)
2. Costello, Joe (L)
3. Clancy, Aine (L)

It’s a fairly safe bet to assume that Donohoe (FG) and Costello (L) will get elected. It’s unlikely Clancy (L) will.

Here’s the problem with the above advice – by not continuing your preferences you have given up any and all potential influence about who fills the remaining two seats. This is why it is spectacularly bad advice and shows a complete mis-understanding of PR-STV in multi-seat constituencies.

Very few people would not have a preference of the remaining thirteen candidates. Or certainly at least a reverse preference. We have for example seven independents. You may be an anybody but Sinn Féin (personally my head may feel like exploding every time I hear Mary Lou MacDonald (SF) on the radio). You may want to finish off the Ahern (FF) dynasty by giving a transfer to Fitzpatrick (FF) and not preferring Brady (FF) at all. You might be able to live with Kearney (GP) over the ultra-left candidates Steenson (WP) and O’Loughlin (CSP). O’Sullivan (Ind) took Gregory’s (Ind) mantle who was very popular and you may wish to give her a nod. So your ballet paper may now be shaping up as follows:

4. Kearney, Phil (GP)
5. Fitzpatrick, Mary (FF)
6. O’Sullivan, Maureen (Ind)

Voting is often as much about strategy as about preference. For example by continuing to preference candidates you don’t want but could live with over another, you keep them in the race longer and may force the exclusion of those you don’t.

However, it’s important to understand under what circumstances your vote can be transferred:

  • if your first preference candidate is the first to exceed the quota, then his surpluses will be proportionally transferred based on the next available preference;
  • if your (currently) preferred candidate is eliminated, then your vote will be transferred based on the next available preference;
  • distribution of surpluses after the first candidate is deemed elected is done proportionally from previously transferred votes only.

You only have one vote and it can only be applied to one candidate. If your first preference is not elected to the first seat but is elected to a subsequent seat, your vote will never transfer. I understand this is complicated – perhaps a dedicated blog post on this is warranted.

Remember, voting is a privilege. Candidates work hard to make themselves known to you. Walk into the polling booth informed with what the candidates in your area are advocating and preference accordingly. Without being too technical, if you do not preference all candidates and if your vote is transferred on your last preference then it is possible that you will have lost your influence in the proportionality of that bundle of surpluses (Christ I see how that reads – a new blog post on the process is required!). As you may guess from this paragraph, a good understanding of the process and strategy may increase your influence when others do not complete their ballet paper in full. Of course if you haven’t informed yourself of all the candidates and can’t genuinely preference candidates, only do so as far as you can. Don’t randomly preference towards the end of your ballot paper!

Cowen Fiddles While Ireland Burns – For Shame

To add to Martin’s resignation on Tuesday, yesterday Harney, Ahern, Dempsey and Killeen all announced that they are resigning from cabinet.

Martin resigned as he lead the soft heave against Cowen – proper order (more than can be said for the two-faced Hanafin who apparently has confidence in Cowen to run the country but not the Fianna Fail party – so for her it’s party first rather than country; and as for the cute hoor Lenihan… well I suspect some back benchers may wait in the long grass for him).

Harney announced that she will not contest the next General Election and hence felt it inappropriate to stay in cabinet. But it was appropriate to stay after her Progressive Democrats party collapsed around her leaving her without a mandate? It was appropriate that five years on from declaring the country’s A&E service a “national crisis”, this January there was a new record for patients on beds? It was appropriate after a number of diagnostic disasters? Despite her well aired declarations of achievements, Harney’s tenor at Health has been shameful and a disaster for the citizens of this country. But none of that was enough for her to resign. No, she waited until there’s about 40 days left in this disastrous Government to jump ship to make way for some other parish pump hack to try and build a profile in advance of the general election.

It then seems that through some background co-ordination, Messrs Ahern, Dempsey and Killeen all followed suit opening five positions at cabinet for Cowen to promote some loyalists as a reward for their vocal support during the heave. Besides the cynical and farcical nature of it all, one wonders what these new ministers can possibly achieve in 40 days? How much mandarin time will be wasted briefing them and bringing them up to speed? How many policy inititives in train by the resigning ministers (if any!) will be interrupted? And how much will new stationary for all the new ministers cost us so that they can blanket their constituencies with letters From the Office of the Minister of…

I don’t know if it’s constitutionally possible, but it would be nice to see President McAleese refuse the resignations. (Update: On a quick read of the constitution, it’s not possible. On the advice of the Taoiseach, the President shall accept the resignation of a Minister).

That’s unlikely to happen. What’s more unlikely to happen is for Cowen to realise that the game is up, save us the time and money, call the general election and let us vote in some TDs who can be chosen as ministers that we might have confidence in.

What will Gormless Gormley and the Green Party do? Nothing. But then that is what we have come to expect. To say that I’m disappointed in them is an understatement after I publicly declared for them and gave my reasons to vote green.