December 31, 2003
Systems and companies may make some relatively small amount of money now by using collected information from and about users, for purposes other than the users intended, for use outside of their relationships with those specific companies. But instances like those discussed below cause users to feel worried and sometimes outright scared, where they then refuse to participate in a system or with a company at all, or find themselves shocked after the fact by the results of their interactions with a company or entity. Unless people feel comfortable and protected, those profits resulting from systems currently selling or manipulating user data in ways the user doesn't intend will remain small in comparison to the tremendous amount of money to be made in web services, social networks, and with all sorts of other information technologies were most users to participate because they felt safe.
Most users will not now participate in information technology systems that require a lot of personal data unless there is something they get in return, and even then, it's a subset of the total internet user population. If users really trusted that they were in control of their own data, so they knew when their data went beyond those specific company systems and relationships, and could decide when and where to participate, instead of operating in a state of uninformed fear as companies currently now offer with no or little privacy policies, and little in the way of overall government protection, those companies (and many new ones based on new technologies) using exactly this kind of personal user data could make many times over what they do now. It is short term greed that keeps companies operating as they do, which keeps users from participating, which leads to few participants out of the whole of those using the internet. And yet, one company's policy to the next is confusing and unreliable, and not something people can or want to keep track of, and the resulting confusion also contributes to far less participation. I believe the only route to real information technology development with personal data and the profits that will follow is a blanket policy that every company will have to follow assuring customers of their own data privacy. Users would feel secure and many many more would participate, and those companies would make far more than they have seen under the current (no) privacy regime.
The discussion Ross catalogued partly centered around this: Danah Boyd responded to Wendy Seltzer (responding to Cory Doctorow saying that the last twenty years have been about technology and the next twenty will be about policy). Wendy suggested that originally, she thought that technology developments bringing about privacy tensions might ease as people became more sophisticated users, but instead she saw the gap as a critical mass of users would always lag behind technology developments as they learned a new information technology well enough to overcome, accept, steer away from or rearrange the privacy breaches, and so social norms developed as a result of these new technologies lag behind. Danah replied that social norms weren't falling behind, they are instead going in one direction while technologies are developed in another, and it baffles the social norms trying to cope.
I think in a way they are both right (both scenarios can exist with the same technology depending on use and result); it's not only lagging user competency and then the attendant reactions from users that will adjust, making some mental calculation with a new technology in order to get the amount of privacy or control they need, and it's not just diverging social norms, but also other issues on the design and development end that might solve this, like notice, good interface and user control, that allow for users to know immediately, and then deal with the privacy issues as they use the new technology, instead of finding out about their loss of privacy when it's too late, that will counter these kinds of issues. Technologists can do much better with design, as could corporate policies for privacy be much better, as could users in learning new technologies and protecting their own privacy as needed. But for most people and companies, the benefits will come when users know they are protected, understand a basic structure of privacy across companies and websites, which all interested can rely on, leading to users releasing information. Interesting uses of people's data will follow while still maintaining privacy and user control.
And yet instances of technology development seem to move in exactly the opposite direction at times, leading to scares with users, resulting in less participation with systems that might benefit us all if many participated, and well designed, with privacy built into the architecture, and privacy as a given right between users and the entities with whom they deal.
Similar issues exist with your cell phone keeping tabs on you. There's good and there's bad in systems like that, where some users want to keep track of their kids, which may not be objectionable, but others including the companies that buy the phones for their employees may do it for reasons that are totally unacceptable. These kinds of information technologies can allow uses that previously didn't exist, and therefore, there is a lag before a critical mass of users understands what is happening and does something about it, or at least has notice that the shift has occured and can then make choices about when to allow it, or self-censor.
December 23, 2003
Porting Your Number?
I did. Took 10 days. No cell service during most of that time (I had outgoing for the first two of those days - and then no service the rest). AT&T Wireless was my provider, first for analog, then digital, the past few years. I used to really like them, and not mind paying an extra $5-10 a month over comperable cell service because they had such good customer service and they were flexible about everything. But the past year was one crazy clampdown in service after another, at every deceptive turn, trying to trap me into a renewal contract I didn't want, like a stalker who won't let go. I'd paid my dues already, with one year each analog and digital contracts. The tipping point for me came on December 10th, when they screwed up my billing, and in the 100 minute phone call arguing with them to fix it, they managed to reset my contract to, you guessed it! December 10th, 2003. That was it. Those people are nuts. A billing event resets the contract? No way, I'm outta there.
So, I researched, 8 hours, asked a friend who has been working on a GSM/GPRS study about the best GSM and data transfer rates (they haven't published yet but I got the scoop) and found out that with my own phone, I could do Cingular GSM and data, with NO contract, and roll-over minutes. And they apparently have the best service, and it would cost me less than AT&T for the digital only service I had before. Okay, I'm in! And if I hate it, I can go. I want a company with good enough service that they don't have to trap me like a fly on a spiderweb to keep me.
Signed up at Cingular and then called AT&T to see if there was anything I needed to do for the porting of the number on that end. First the AT&T person said I couldn't leave because my contract was still in force. I said I'm leaving and you can't stop me, and I just want to know if there is anything that needs to be done on the ATT side to make the port work. Apparently, this resulted in my service being terminated. I didn't ask for this. They just did it. So when the Cingular request came through a couple of hours later, it was rejected by AT&T because my service was not "active." The next morning I called Cingular, who told me the request had been rejected. They didn't know why. I called AT&T and after three hours on hold with the Port Administration Group (PAG), they told me I had been rejected because I had not pre-paid my early termination fee. I argued I didn't owe it, but I wanted to get away and after speaking with several people, paid the fee with credit card, and figured I'd dispute it later.
On the same call, I was then transfered back to AT&T PAG, which was another three hour wait, where I then spent several hours conferenced together with ATT PAG and Cingular PAG, both trying to get the Port Request to work. It failed twice. I was on the phone until 11pm Saturday night with one or the other or both of them. They finally told me to call the next morning to see if the last attempt went through.
Sunday at 7 am I called to see what had happened, after another three hours on hold, the AT&T PAG person told me that the early termination fee I'd paid yesterday was actually for billing issues (my bill was paid in full) and that I'd have to pay again. I asked why I had to pay two early termination fees, when the FCC website said they couldn't reject me at all for this, and that I totally paid up with billing. She said I had to and before I could protest, she flipped me over to billing, where they told me the bill was paid, I was right that the early termination fee was not supposed to be prepaid, and I didn't have to pay twice. Back on hold with PAG for three more hours.
It went on like this daily for 8 more mindnumbing, frustrating days. Every call and every new ATT person would mean I would explain what had happened, say I needed to get my number to Cingular, and spend on average 10 hours a day, mostly on hold, with AT&T, with three hour wait times for PAG, and then another hour and a half wait time for PAG tech support, and then another two hours for the Resolution group. They would sometimes say they couldn't call me back. Sometimes they would say they had to, and then not do it. Days went by like this. I was trapped sitting at the speakerphone, unable to go out. Though after a while, I got the hang of the patterns, and one day, called on speaker, then drove to Oakland, met people for lunch, went grocery shopping, ran errands, and three hours later upon my return, I was still on hold. They picked up a half hour later.
All the while, following the FCC website directions, I was cataloging the holds, the names and departments of those who picked up, and what they said, trying to fix this problem, constantly reexplaining the problem to each new person, after repeating my number, social security number and zip code "for my security". I had done nothing wrong, and so, now and then when some AT&T PAG person would say, just forget it, the number's lost. I would reply with my view that I'd had my number for years and wanted to keep it. That's why I started porting it to begin with.
In the end, a supervisor with AT&T PAG fixed it, on a 12 hour phone call 10 days into this oddessy, but after she dropped the call we were on with Cingular PAG. Cingular PAG (whose hold time to reach them is about two minutes) and I were on hold for three hours to get AT&T PAG back, and that supervisor was trying to call back but my line was busy, trying to get her back. Finally, that call ended with AT&T and Cingular PAGs confirming that the number was put back to AT&T and we would start all over the next day with a new port request. I called AT&T billing to confirm this and they said my number was active with AT&T. I was to call Sunday morning to Cingular sales to build this new request. But wait. I called my cell number. And guess what? It no longer had the AT&T "this phone is not working" message, but a new Cingular "this phone is not working" message. Hallejulah!!! Success!!! The goal has been met. I'm with Cingular!
I went out to the movies with friends and it felt like I'd emerged from a tunnel. My whole life had been reframed in the context of waiting on hold with AT&T, listening over and over to "Whatever you needs are our goal, just ask us, and we'll make it happen. Thank you for your call." Alternating with this: "Our goal is to please you, our staff is here to work with you, thank you for your call, someone will be with you in just a moment,." All of which was absolutely false in my experience. Over 80 hours over ten days spent on the phone with AT&T, mostly on hold. About ten hours with Cingular, often with us together waiting on hold for AT&T PAG.
Sunday, I take a trip to the Cingular store, where they attach the phone number to the billing account, and the phone works! Hallelujah! 10 days and over 80 hours with AT&T on hold. And now I have a ported number, and actual service. I'm no longer tied to my landline. Freedom and a working cell phone number, no contract, and so far, very good service in all ways.
But if you are thinking about this, I'd wait, if you have AT&T. They are about as screwed up as it gets, and in fact have had to explain themselves to the FCC last week because of their PAG issues.
UPDATE 12/31/03: The Cingular GSM service and data transmission rates are wonderful. And I'm saving money and have far better terms. I guess it was worth it. But I'm still fighting with ATT to get my early termination fee back from them. Hopefully that will be over soon.
December 22, 2003
Howard Kurtz Blogs Dean
Kurtz is a Washington Post Reporter. With a new blog. Dean is using the internet to connect to his supporters and connect them to each other, as well as blogging his campaign. Kurtz is blogging about the Dean use of the internet and other strategy aspects of the campaign, among other campaign issues.
Two different uses of the same technologies to do two very different things, with similar results: the disruptions of the old media guard, and the old political guard.
Jay Rosen talks about the Frank Rich article (from yesterday, Napster Runs for President in '04), where Rosen takes apart Rich's analysis of the napsterization of politics, and those who cover those politics.
December 21, 2003
Lisa Rein Sings Too!
She just posted free music and video from her December 13th show in SF here. Man, is there anything she can't do? Writer, video blogger, XML/RDF programmer, teacher, rocker-babe and musician, political activist, and true believer! Check out the In The Spirit video. Lisa is so hot!
Here's the flyer from the show, in the greatest of SF art rock poster traditions:
Napster Runs For President in 'O4
- ...Dean online followers collaborate on organizing and perfecting the campaign, their ideas trickling up from the bottom rather than being superimposed from national headquarters. (Or at least their campaign ideas trickle up; policy is still concentrated at the top.) It's almost as if Dr. Dean is "a system running for president," in Mr. Johnson's view, as opposed to a person.
- Should Dr. Dean actually end up running against President Bush next year, an utterly asymmetrical battle will be joined. The Bush-Cheney machine is a centralized hierarchy reflecting its pre-digital C.E.O. ethos (and the political training of Karl Rove); it is accustomed to broadcasting to voters from on high rather than drawing most of its grass-roots power from what bubbles up from insurgents below.
- For all sorts of real-world reasons, stretching from Baghdad to Wall Street, Mr. Bush could squish Dr. Dean like a bug next November. But just as anything can happen in politics, anything can happen on the Internet. The music industry thought tough talk, hard-knuckle litigation and lobbying Congress could stop the forces unleashed by Shawn Fanning, the teenager behind Napster. Today the record business is in meltdown, and more Americans use file-sharing software than voted for Mr. Bush in the last presidential election. The luckiest thing that could happen to the Dean campaign is that its opponents remain oblivious to recent digital history and keep focusing on analog analogies to McGovern and Goldwater instead.
Homemade DVD vs. Official Release
This story of a budding new form of fan commentary (by Emily Nussbaum/NYTimes) hints at something people would love to see: what other's care about, what it means to them, and why it affects them so deeply. Firefly, a Fox show that had a loyal following, but was often shown out of order (apparently Fox confused the audience by showing episodes 2-3, 6; 7-8, 4-5, 9; 10, 14, 1; with 11-13 still unaired) and then axed it, has been traded around on the fansites. Though it has also just been released officially as a collectible DVD (12/9/03) with three episodes never shown, extra footage, interviews, all the stuff people buy DVDs for besides the content.
But a fan, Philip Gaines, a grad student at UW in digital media, made his own fan-documentary, a two DVD-set (catch this sample) with excerpts of the show (small, fair use length), and his commentary, but offered not for sale, just feedback. It's not the slickest most sophisticated commentary, though the media clips are well done, but it's pretty interesting to see what he likes, what matters to him, "...the exquisite part about Firefly is in the bits of hope that trickle down in these character's lives."
- Now, as for 'fan-documentaries', I haven't seen this yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was quite a good documentary. Who better to write about a show than one of the people who loved it?
Roger Ebert is quoted from his old Yahoo column that he'd like to see a track on a DVD where someone who hates the movie rips it apart. But the creator of Firefly, Joss Whedon thinks if he did his own negative commentary for another project where he didn't like the final results, it might spark a lawsuit by the owners of that work, and I think it would take creators with a lot of confidence to release something critical on their own DVD.
Oh, and one more thing, the NYTimes has started linking outside its own site to all sorts of idiosyncratic spots, and this article is full of them! Very cool.
Things Working Now
RSS and categories are working now, thanks to Scot Hacker! Thanks Scot!
December 19, 2003
Legal MP3 Blog
Check out LegalMP3Downloads. It's a blog devoted to posting legal mp3 download info. They've aggregated links to a blogload of artists and music, but they are very anti-piracy (see the latest post, an open letter to DVD-Jon). However, the great majority of posts and links go directly to music, and if you want legal mp3 content, they probably link to it.
Nice job on getting so much content together and organizing it (scroll down to see a nav system on the right side).
December 18, 2003
Trends According to PR Newswire
Though I wouldn't normally mention something like this, because these predictions of trends are usually rather silly, futurology (it's like astrology for tech), they did mention an interesting social trend, among the pronouncements about blogging and localism and eWear (clothing with special spots for your gadgets), which is the result of technology disrupting the analog social barriers we have known in the past that keep people with differences physically further apart than the closeness they can achieve now with internet technology:
- - Us vs. Them: The flip side of going local is a greater sensitivity to what's not local -- in other words, a stronger sense of Us and Them. Globalization and interactive technologies have brought a lot of people around the world closer together and furthered international trade, but, contrary to hopes and expectations, greater exposure has come to mean more scope for negative perceptions to develop. In some parts of the world, the coming year is likely to see deeper divisions across existing fault lines-Muslim/non-Muslim, conservative/liberal, urban/rural, pro-life/pro-choice, pro-gay/anti-gay.
This is a "trend" that has been happening for years, where TV shows like Dynasty, got exported to poor areas of the world, where the result is often hatred for wasteful, self-indulgent lifestyles of the American's shown. More recently in the last 10 years, the internet has allowed people to get closer. An example might be what has happened with online social networks, like Friendster, where in the past few months, white-supremacists have targeted racial minorities with hate speech, and those targeted have simply jumped off Friendster (no links, this has not been reported that I know of in the media, but is something I was told from a person who is connected with the company). Other examples might be those in poor areas react to the wealth apparent in other locations with their associated internet sites, or those who are of one belief-system react negatively to those who show activities on the internet that are in conflict, resulting in discord.
Course sort of thing, this also works in reverse where those in wealthier areas see things in less wealthy areas that are upsetting. Example: when American's find out that Indians can get unlimited data through Hutchison/Orange for $2.00/mo (99 rupees/mo), they may want to place their data cell service in India, and then use their VoIP software to use their American phone number over that data connection.
In this case with phone prices, however, those who pay expensive prices for information services, and see cheaper services offered in other countries are more likely to get upset with American companies charging the high prices, than with the people themselves in the poorer countries. Whereas the Us - Them situation in the first paragraph has to do with people in one area upset with people in another, which is different and more socially discordant across regions. In otherwords, the situations between people seeing information across the internet about others, and getting upset due to this new information is symmetrical, but who they are upset with as a result not necessarily symmetrical.
The napsterization of the phone biz continues as does the disruption to the analog social barriers that kept us from finding out about each other as intimately as we can with the internet, across social groups and around the globe. While generally breaking these barriers down is a good thing, because we get more direct experiential information about things happening in other places, there is a darkside, and we need to be sensitive to this aspect.
December 17, 2003
Take Your Home Number Anywhere On PDA or Laptop with VoIP
Om Malik has an exclusive: Vonage, the disruptive voice over IP company, is going to offer, for $15 a month, your home number over IP and then you take it anywhere, with laptop or pda. And it will run with just a piece of software. The phone companies really are no longer in the minutes business. Guys, you've been napsterized. You're in the information business now. Unfortunately, most of those at AT&T I've been endlessly on hold with the past 5 days have no idea.
The weblog is just getting going officially (though we've had posts in draft for a while, but didn't publish them), and I do appreciate the nods from a couple of folks today. However, still fixing one or two technical glitches here: the RSS is still not working, and neither are categories. Sorry. Will try to rectify that pronto.
Aaron Swartz Does Two Good Deeds This Week
Well, the Linkerator is already in use around here daily. But I just noticed yesterday that there is an additional tool on his site, to make a bookmark, which, when an NYTimes article (dated from June, 2003 to the present) is open in a browser, and the bookmark is then clicked, will cause the Linkerator to generate a Userland link (courtesy of Dave Winer). So great!
Update, and apology: I corrected the misspelling of Swartz. My apologies.
December 15, 2003
Creative Commons 1 Year Celebration
Last night, Creative Commons marked their first year anniversary with a party where Larry Lessig, Glenn Otis Brown and Chris Lydon among others talked about the many, many accomplishments over the past year, and played a wonderful flash animation about CC, particularly emphasizing the export of CC worldwide. They mentioned was that all content online from the radio show, Tech Nation, will now be under a CC license, and they have had more than a million uses of the licenses over the past year.
The party was a great time to meet up with Stanford and Berkeley folks, artists and geeks, and those who support having balance between copyright and the public domain. I got to meet Joi Ito, whose sister I met at a conference last spring, and since she spoke about him in such a sweet way, I have wanted to meet him ever since. So that was fun. Also, the videoblog goddess (and otherwise all around goddess), Lisa Rein was there, taping, and presumably will have the video up on her blog soon.
Also, considering donating to Creative Commons here.
Update 121903: Check out Christopher Lydon's interview with Larry Lessig done just after the event (you can hear the last of us in the background of the audio interview). I gave Chris a ride back to Berkeley and he said he said he would get it up quickly, though he's been traveling, and he did!
December 14, 2003
Just caught this example of interesting personal publishing on the Creative Commons site (their annual party is this evening and I'm off to it in a bit):
Where they do entertainment industry satire, and have put the content under a Creative Commons license. Check out Saddam Hussein Novel for TV Miniseries.
My Nightmare with AT&T Wireless
I have had a terrible experience with AT&T wireless, and now have tried to change to Cingular. Cingular does not require a contract (month-to-month service) if you bring your own phone (my Treo 600 is my own) and otherwise, they have wonderful terms, as well as reportedly three times the data transmission rate over any other GSM carrier in the Bay Area. To date, AT&T has rejected four requests for porting the number.
The first rejection was Friday night, apparently because I had not prepaid the early termination fee of $175. Note that I have been a digital customer for 2.8 years (along with 2 other years of AT&T analog service), and do not consider myself under contract, though they do, most recently because in the process of correcting a billing error they made last Thursday, they reset my contract to December 10th, 2003. I then paid the early termination fee upfront, and had all other bills paid, over the phone with credit card, upon which they rejected three more Cingular requests to port the number, two while I was on the phone conferenced together with Cingular and AT&T port administration guys for over two hours.
This morning, after an hour on hold, Peg in AT&T Port administration told me that they would reject any subsequent requests, because I was under contract until March, 2004, and couldn't leave until then. I said no way, I'm leaving, and I paid an early termination fee yesterday for this purpose. She told me that was for billing fees, and that until I prepaid my early termination fee with billing, I would continue to be rejected. I said my bill was paid in full, and I'd paid the early termination fee yesterday, and I didn't see why I had to pay the early terminiation fee twice. She insisted on putting me through to billing, who told me my bill was paid in full, with an additional $175 early termination fee showing as paid. The billing person and I together waited on hold for an hour to get Peg back, to discuss this together, will all three on the phone to confirm the fully paid bill, with the additional early termination fee paid in advance.
Meanwhile, my AT&T phone is "active" in that I can make outgoing calls since Friday night after the first Cingular request, but I cannot receive incoming calls, though AT&T has told me that I am "required" to pay the bill through December and cannot terminate the bill mid-month. So I am still paying for this half-way cell phone service.
According to the FCC, when leaving one cell company for another:
- Review your existing contract to determine what fees or charges apply. However, once you request service from the new carrier, your old carrier may not refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee.
See the letter I sent to AT&T Billing Disputes and the FCC below under more.
UPDATE 121503: Apparently AT&T has had to explain itself for this kind of behavior to the FCC, today.
[my address and phone number]
AT&T Wireless Billing Dispute Team
P.O. Box 79075
Phoenix, AZ 85062
RE: wireless account #********** under Mary A. Hodder: payment dispute over the forced pre-payment of Early Termination Fee and payment for service to the end of the billing period while the number will be moved midmonth to another carrier.
I have had this wireless digital account with you, from 02/16/01 until today, 12/13/03. Before I had digital with you, I had analog service for about 2 years under a different phone number. The first year of both the analog digital service, I was under a one-year contract. During the analog era of my cellular service, I used AT&T service such that, in any particular month of service, I could call, while still within the month, and based on the timer on my phone showing the usage, change the type of plan or level of plan, without extension of any contract, as part of the good customer service you offered then. Subsequently, my digital service worked the same way. At some point, while under the digital plan, I changed the billing to have Adobe, my former employer, pay the bill directly, instead of reimbursing me. When I left the company, I changed the service back to personal billing on December 12, 2002.
Up until that time, I experienced nothing but wonderful customer service from AT&T wireless, and would constantly tell people that while your service cost $5-10 more per month for comparable service over any other wireless company, that you were so wonderful to deal and flexible in moving the plans around month to month without resetting the contract, that it was worth the extra money. You terms were reasonable, in that any month my situation changed due to travel, personal or work usage that was extra heavy, or whatever, I could change the type and number of minutes in my plan, with no hassles, as many times as I wanted, and you were wonderful about changing, with no strings attached. I encouraged dozens of people to change to your service over the years, and was one of the people strongly encouraging [my company] to use your service as the corporate plan.
Come to find out about 4 or so months later, that after putting the bill portion of the service back into ONLY my name, from the jointly held [my company]/Mary Hodder Account, that you had changed me into some sort of one year contract. Why? I asked. You responded that because I had changed the billing, I was
"required" to have a contract. Why? I asked. Well, it's in your terms of service agreement. I said, I agreed to a contract for the first year of original service, but DO NOT agree to a contract now, simply because the billing has changed. Subsequently, during the late winter and early spring, the same period where I was unaware that I was under contract due to the billing change, I had been changing around the types and levels of service as I had always done with you, and as per our original agreement, that I could do. I also subsequently found out that that you placed me, for some inexplicable reason under contract due to these plan changes. In other words, you had unilaterally changed our agreement, putting me under a contract I had neither agreed to, nor signed, nor ever saw in the mail nor was aware of as the services were shifting each month. However, when I found out, I would tell this to various representatives in subsequent phone calls in the late spring and summer, and asked them to note this in their notes. They told me they would, though Friday on the phone with one of your representatives, I was told that those notes didn't exist. However, THERE WERE NOTES that said I had agreed to a contract. Again, I repeated, I neither agreed to nor signed a contract, and had never received anything in the mail with any new contract language, since the original information in February 2002, other than the bills.
Eventually, I found out that "promotions" as you call them, or "offers" as they were communicated to me, such as "nights & weekend free minutes" (BTW, you offer those "free" with every plan) was actually a "promotion" and that using the word "promotion" allowed you to put my account under a new one year contract. Since changing the service from say, a national plan at $39.99 to a national plan at $59.99 on your website shows that nights and weekends are included, I assume this is just part of the plan, as I slide up and down the plans, adjusting for usage each month. You apparently consider this a "promotion" event, and therefore, reset my contract. Also, you consider an "offer" of "300 anytime minutes" just randomly offered one day last spring while I was on the phone adjusting my plan with you, to be a "promotion," again resetting my contract rate, though the word "contract" was never used in the conversation.
In fact, in the month of November, 2003, based on your reporting of my minutes used on your website (which is a service I signed up for from you), I adjusted my plan down to $29.99, and then found in December on the bill, that actually you had not reported most of the minutes I'd actually used for the whole month, causing an overage at $.40 a minute, totaling hundreds of dollars. Since I had relied on your reporting, and confirmed this with your representative on November 30th when I called in to slide the plan level down, I assumed you were right, and relied on your information. Therefore, the choice of a plan for $29.99 was made based on your erroneous information (and your bad software, according to one of your customer service reps told me over the phone later), meaning that I did nothing wrong, and in fact, you were at fault with the reporting. No less that 98 minutes (per my phone timer) were spent with six AT&T representatives, on 12/10/03, arguing about getting you to fix this problem. In the meantime, in fixing the problem, your representatives managed to RESET my contract yet again, even though the billing error was YOUR fault (see the attached print out of the AT&T plan for my account).
You reset me to my original plan level in November, at $59.99 for the month, and fixing your error, which had nothing at all to do with accepting anything or getting any "promotions," my contract was reset to December 10, 2003. However, those 98 minutes did give me the opportunity to find out from your representatives that "offers" such as the "offer of 300 anytime minutes" as well as the "offer of free nights & weekends" ARE technically considered "promotions" and therefore reset the contract, which is why you have baited me in the past with an "offer", and then "switched" my month-to-month status to a one-year contract based on this "offer" which was really a "promotion". Though you should know that the word "promotion" doesnít mean anything to me either, and I had no idea that this CODE WORD meant you were referring to RESETTING my CONTRACT. It is clear from my conversations with you in the past few days that you use these words intentionally to confuse customers, so that they agree to "offers" or "gifts" without knowing there are heavy penalty strings attached. If I had know the strings had anything to do with the contract, I NEVER, NEVER would have agreed to the offers.
In fact, in the phone calls the past few days, your representatives have deceptively "offered" a free month of service, and when I ask what the strings are, they say, well, we would reset your contract for another year. Itís a scam.
I have been with you for 5 Ĺ years. I had enjoyed your service, until the last nine months, when you started screwing around, weaseling around, trying to trap me into a contract without my knowledge, letting me know way after the fact of a new contract date, and only when I was complaining about something else that appeared to be causing a problem, when in fact it had to do with the contract status. I donít appreciate paying a service provider $800-900 a year for this kind of treatment.
This bait and switch method of yours, where you UNILATTERLY change the terms of our original agreement: one year contract, month-to-month after that, change the service type and level whenever I want as long as we are still in the service month getting changed, into some other plan, where EVERY event, including a change of billing payer, and including fixing your own billing/reporting screw-ups, causes the contract to be "reset," even though I am not aware of it until subsequent calls and DO NOT AGREE TO RESET THE CONTRACT is a scam.
I cannot stomach the bad service you have given over the past nine months. It has been awful. So, as of purchasing at Treo 600, and needing GSM service, I have decided to go with Cingular. They WILL NOT put me under ANY CONTRACT, they WILL NOT force me to reset the contract as I change levels of service, they WILL allow me to roll over minutes which means I won't need to change the service level much anyway, they WILL have inexpensive text-messaging and data (unlike your expensive $.10 per message charges and $.01/k or $10/mb data charges, Cingular offers TM for $.02 per message and data at $.007/k), and they will give me all other services for free. It's ALL MONTH-TO-MONTH from day one. In addition, a new major university research paper I just read that compared GSM and data transfer rates for cell phones shows that Cingular has three times the rates of data transfer, and significantly better GSM service, for the Bay Area. I want to be with a company that is confident enough in it's own service quality as well as customer care quality, that it knows it doesn't have to lock me in to keep me, or scam me, in order to trap me a customer.
In fact, in order to move my number to Cingular, I found out this afternoon that AT&T had rejected Cingular's 10/11/03 request for porting the number, because I had had to PRE-PAY the contract cancellation fee of $175.00, which I did after calling into AT&T on 10/12/03, and finding out about the rejected request, and the required prepayment for cancellation fees. I then immediately paid via credit card under duress, in order to get the number ported. Since I am no longer under contract, since February 16, 2002, nor do I agree to any of the machinations you have unilaterally imposed via bait and switch mechanisms used to force me under contract, though I have not signed any new contracts, nor have I agreed verbally to any contract, I DISPUTE this fee I was forced to pay, in order to get away from your company.
You should know, that in keeping with your lousy customer service, you have managed to reject the porting requests made by Cingular, THREE ADDITIONAL TIMES yesterday, 10/12/03, AFTER I paid the required pre-pay early termination request. You should also know that your representatives have told me on the phone today, after paying the pre-pay early termination request, that I will also HAVE to pay the service through the end of the month (yet another person even said that in the notes yesterday, they saw that I had requested an end to service on January 4, 2004??? I never requested this. I want to get away now!). This is despite the fact that in looking at your written contract, provided at the beginning of my digital service in February, 2001, I can find nothing in it that requires payment to the end of the month upon cancellation, and believe that you made this up arbitrarily. Therefore, I dispute paying to the end of the month as well.
As of the posting of this letter, my phone number, 510-701-1975 has, for two days, blocked INCOMING Calls, with the recording on your system saying, "you have reached a number that is no longer working" while allowing me to make outgoing calls. In the meantime, you have neither allowed the number to go to Cingular, nor have you kept it turned on so that I have a functioning digital phone. I even called into you Port Administration 800 number at 8am PST on Sunday morning, and was kept on hold for an hour, in addition to the three hours on hold with them on Saturday. I spoke with "Peg" in Port Administration, and she told me that I the $175 I paid you Saturday was for billing payments, not early termination fees (though my bill is already paid in full) and that I had to pay ANOTHER, SECOND early termination fee for $175, before a 5th request from Cingular would be accepted, to port my number. She also told me I the four previous requests had been rejected because I couldn't leave until my contract was up in March, 2004. I responded that I COULD, and would, and had paid the early termination fee in advance of cancellation on Saturday for this purpose. I was then sent to billing who told me I owed nothing, and in fact they had a $175 early termination fee credit on my bill waiting for the end of service. Billing sent me back to Port Administration, where I waited on hold again, for an hour, only to be told by "Kalandria" that in fact the request had been accepted by AT&T, and so we together conference in Cingular to see what was going on. The upshot: Cingular had to resend the request again. So we are now waiting for this to go through, and I will check with Cingular and AT&T later tonight to confirm the status of the new request, which will again have to come from the Cingular store, to Impact, the third party vendor for porting numbers, and then onto AT&T.
As an early adopter, I often am asked by others about what technologies I use and will continue to report your bad service, and the terrific service offered by Cingular. Your customer service is so bad, and your people so ridiculous, working without logic or consideration, lying to me in some cases, that I will do everything I can to keep people from your service.
I hereby make this letter my 30-day request for return of the early cancellation payment of $175.00. If you do not repay me for the early cancellation fee, I will take you to small claims court, and you will receive service of that court action in about 35 days.
cc: Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
attachment: web copy of AT&T service statement showing reset contract date to 12/10/03.
December 13, 2003
Political Shifts Because of Technology
Speaking of technologies that disrupt old systems (well, that's pretty much all we speak about here, or the disruptive media output), Jay Rosen, who writes the outstanding Pressthink blog about changes in journalism and media, is the editor of a new blog called The Blogging of the President. There are several folks on the blog including Chris Lydon, who does those long but very interesting interviews with people like George Lakoff and Dave Sifry where both the interview audio record as well as Lydon's article are available together and play off each other, like an ocean, and a painting of a ocean. Both have their value, and what is reflected back is both the art, and the life of the person. David Billings, Matt Stoller, Stirling Newberry, Oliver Willis, Rick Heller and Joshua Koenig are also contributors, though I am not as familiar with them. But Rosen and Lydon's work is first rate and so to extrapolate....
Check out the blog, which focuses on both the ways new media are changing politics overall, as well as the changes in specific campaigns.
December 12, 2003
Digital v. Analog Cameras, or Why We Must Think More Explicitly About Public and Private Social Spaces
The NYTimes today has an op-ed piece on cell phone's with digital cameras. They totally don't get it. Yes, these phones can be invasive, but any camera could take the kinds of pictures they are complaining about. The real issue is that each time a new disruptive, and often digital, technology arrives, we, the slow moving humans who need time to adapt, have to adjust our social norms. And a critical mass of this adjustment needs to happen before most people are on the same page, in this case making a distinction between public and private places where is either is appropriate, or not, to take photos that may violate people's privacy.
In other words, a gym changing room is a private space. We don't take pictures there now, so why would we do it with a phone camera? A sidewalk is a public space, so if a picture is taken, well, you were out in public. I realize these phone/cameras make it so much easier to take pictures, etc. but the real controversy is whether people get to control the pictures taken of them. Right now, the law says the picture taker owns the picture. Paparazzi anyone? However, do we now regulate this in private spaces, such as workspaces, private business spaces such as gyms and gym locker rooms, offices and homes? Verses say, the street, the park, the city council meeting, the little league game? Some privace spaces are regulated simply because some people are kept out, becasue they represent private property, workplaces restrict certain behaviors, etc.
Without thinking about it, we humans wander in and out of private, semi-private and public spaces, and now the phone/camera is confronting us in a few cases by violating the implicit social norms we were used to before, without realizing it. My suggestion? Rather than regulating, we use peer pressure to acclimate people to respect the differences between these spaces, so that people understand explicitly why some behaviors are anti-social and inappropriate in particular kinds of spaces.
Update 12/15/03: Digital vs. Analog Photography
Glenn Reynolds has a comparison of digital verses analog photography regarding quality of the images and flexibility of use. He also suggests that if Ansel Adams had had Photoshop, he would have used it.
December 11, 2003
Mediapost On Music, Gets It Wrong In Multiple Ways
Yesterday I got an email from Mediapost with this article: The Record Industry Continues To Crush the Life Out Of the Fans By Cory Treffiletti. I read it, and was interested in seeing the SFGate article (the backup) and in replying to the author.
- Here is the reply I tried to post through their email reply box at the bottom of the email column, which didn't work in getting this response into their forum even after multiple tries, here:
- Hi, You are a site, and email notification service, devoted to online media, and yet I cannot email the writer of this article (in case you are worried about posting email addresses, there's code to scramble online email addresses to keep spambots from getting them... and there's spam assassins to catch the rest of the spam) and you've emailed me an article without links, so that I cannot directly read the article at SFGate myself or connect your words to that exact link, if I want to blog it or somehow continue the conversation online.
- I suggest that you open up your network to the whole internet, so that information is free and flowing, and your conversants can connect with and to you easily. Thanks,
The article itself is on the ASCAP lawsuits filed against an SF tavern owner (Skip's Tavern, on Cortland Avenue, Bernal Heights), who hired bands to play there, and ONLY bands who play original music where they did not have to pay the licensing fees. ASCAP sued, not once but twice, but because they hired a private investigator, who says the bands played covers, though the bands deny it, and specifically have said that they don't even like the cover music ASCAP claims they played. The Mediapost article gets this whole thing completely wrong, and by not linking to the article, makes it hard for readers to get back to the SFGate article, which is the source, to figure this out.
In fact, the real controversy is that the Skip's Tavern doesn't want to keep fighting with ASCAP to have original music playing bands play on their stage, even though ASCAP has no business here, because the music is ORIGINAL, not covers. And the other controversy here is that Mediapost got it wrong, and wouldn't link to the article that sets the record straight.
Treffiletti/Mediapost also assert that the reason the music industry is losing money is that the quality of music has declined, and live performances are good marketing toward this end. The second part is true, but the first is questionable: I'd say there are five or six factors that have all in part caused the decline of the music biz: instead of releasing 38.9k separate titles (like in 2000) the RIAA now releases around 27k per year so there is simply less product (see George Ziemann, owner of Azoz and MacWizards Music, who has analyzed RIAA statistics on music sales), people are done replacing old records with CD's so the intense buying for that reason in the 90's has dropped off, the recession the past three years, piracy on things like KaZaa, general hatred of the RIAA, and the expense until recently of CD's at around $18.99 meant people would by less. These are in addition to the lowered quality of music.
Treffiletti/Mediapost are playing like old media, where they assert things, and then make it hard, or technically impossible, to comment as my multiple attempts to use their comment/forum system show, as well as giving no author email, so that my email reply attempt to the original email, which was never responded to and since it was sent from Mediapost's general email address, probably went to spam hell.
Nice conversing with you, guys! How 'bout some new media conversing, where the audience has both eyes and ears, as well as a mouth.
In a related note, see this BuzzMachine post on comments useage in blogs. He, and Fred Wilson, are all for the conversation that is open, and involves the writer, and the audience and lets the links from one writer to the next happen to create the conversation.
THE EMAIL EXCERPT:
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
The Record Industry Continues To Crush the Life Out Of the Fans
By Cory Treffiletti
This is indeed MediaPost's Online Spin, but since I sometimes use this space to critique the music industry (positively and negatively), I wanted to make you all aware of something that recently made the pursuit of illegal downloads look like pre-school behavior.
Have you ever patronized a bar to see a local band consisting of your friends and colleagues? How many times have you sat and listened to a relative unknown sing covers of your favorite songs, with a sprinkling of some originals? Well, it looks like those days may be on the way out if the record industry has their say.
Over the last three years we have all heard repeatedly about the steps the music industry has taken to curb illegal music downloads, but it seems their greed knows no boundaries. In a recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle, a tavern owner was forced to stop featuring live music due to lawsuits filed by ASCAP. The lawsuits held the tavern owner responsible for unauthorized covers of ASCAP copyrighted music by local musicians who were playing in the bar. These bands obviously played the music in homage to their favorite artists, and to showcase their own musical talents, but "spies" from record companies and ASCAP were placed in the crowd and subsequently filed two lawsuits against the owner of the tavern in less than a year. Rather than dealing with these lawsuits, the bar was forced to retire the live music in favor of a jukebox or silence....
What are your thoughts?
To respond now, enter your comments below and click 'Post Reply.'
>>>And then there was a "box" to post my reply, which I tried three times, and it never appeared here: "see what others are saying."
Rageboy Writes A Book Online
Chris Locke is using his blog and the internet to write his new book. One section, with the image linked above, is full of compelling expressions that turn back on themselves. His images are really interesting. Stuff I haven't seen elsewhere.
December 10, 2003
NEWS: Telling The Story, Getting It Out There, In Unconventional Ways, No Matter What...
Reporting in nontraditional ways, relying on digital media and new technologies for gathering the information and conveying the messages, that we don't see elsewhere is happening all over -- there are supposedly 100,000 bloggers in Iraq alone. Jeff Jarvis has this and this on Zeyad's reporting of the Iraqi anti-terrorism demonstrations in Baghdad (held earlier today).
Three albums of photos by Zeyad are here, here and here. To date, the 192 comments on his post have many Americans thanking him for his work reporting these issues. Jeff sent him the camera last week, FedEx, and it took about a week to get from NJ to Iraq. Others helped before that to get the blog set up. He's been reporting for a few months on his experiences that are often different than what American reporters show in mainstream media. Or in this case, non-existent, at least so far.
Update: Canada is apparently reporting it this evening on CTV. And the NYTimes has now done a story. As the Rocky Mountain News has also.
Update 12/15/03: The Weekly Standard has used Zeyad's reporting of the Iraq demonstration including photos. Glenn Reynolds says this incident and the ensuing reporting by bloggers and the Weekly Standard shows that this is the end of big media stranglehold over news. Also, check out Zeyad's report on capturing Saddam. Yet another scoop over big media, and the difference in reporting between that, and the NYTimes, is huge.
The difference in viewpoints between bloggers like Zeyad, who communicate that this is a huge difference over the last year where the demonstrators would have been putting their lived into their hands by demonstrating, compared to traditional media, like those mentioned above, who just referred to this as a small gathering of men, is pronouced. Different perspectives by alternate sources to traditional media through forms of personal journalism, blogging in this case, with digital camera and other tools to get those perspectives out, means disruption to traditional media outlets. And better information, choice of a range of perspectives, for those in the audience/readership is the key to this disruption. People want choice, and these technologies lead to choice of information and loss of editorial control for big media.
Iraqi Women Against Terrorism:(12/10/03 by Zeyad)
Chris Allbritton Goes Back-to-Iraq!
More about telling the story, and telling it in a new way, with new technologies:
Chris Allbritton, of Back-to-Iraq blog and disruptive journalism fame, has decided to go back next March 24, 2004, the one year anniversary of his first trip. This time, he's staying longer, and going to do more. He's been teaching at NYU - digital media (I was a guest speaker one night), but has decide this is his calling. And it is.
He went last time with $15k in donations, and now he's asking again, and folks are giving. He told me the story of how he got in, through Turkey, with another guy, and guides who the two of them were entrusting their lives to, for $3k each, though the money was being held until a phone call was received that they had made it.
Chris is heroic and if you can, donate to him! News for him is a conversation with those who comment on his site, or post elsewhere. He's doing a journalists job, with a blog and donations. He's taking direction from his readers. He's using the internet, and digital technologies for communications, receiving donations, computing and conversing about what he feels needs better reporting. And we should support him.
December 08, 2003
New Media Campaign And New Media
Jay Rosen on Dean:
- With Dean, the campaign is somewhere... out there. It is not at headquarters any more, but it talks to headquarters. This is a de-stabilizing premise, and a reporting nightmare. But Samantha Shapiro in the Times magazine this week had a notion.
- ...What attracts so many believing people to Howard Dean is that discovery-- wow, we can shape this ourselves. What attracts a lot of thinking people to the unfolding Dean phenomenon is that politics can be thought about again. New patterns are there to be figured out.
- Somehow the American nation remembers civic traditions eclipsed by the strange system we have for electing presidents. This system has been building strength since 1952, when television was new and the state primaries began to take nominating power out of the hands of party chiefs.
But Doc Searls does the roundup on the Dean Campaign, and the parallel media universe they have created, in his post that started off talking about the NYMag cover story suggesting he consulted for them (he didn't) where he rifs through the writers who get the Dean Campaign's new media use and their development of an online community, verses those that don't.
Earlier this week, Searls talked about LoÔc saying that Blogging will have the same effects to journalism as Napster & P2P to the music industry.
- Traditional media sources are no longer the primary source of information. Internet news sources, especially non-mainstream sources like "blogs", are challenging the traditional rules of journalism.
How is the media landscape evolving?
What are the implications of this revolution for traditional media suppliers, producers and viewers?
How should the mainstream media respond if it is to remain competitive in the future?
And check it out: the first congressional rss feed.
On The Radar
- The big companies need culture change; especially the cable companies which need to learn the concept of digital media.
This new networking service is not very subtle; type in IBM and its useless. Only small networks that you know are small would be useful. They need a more nuanced way to derive networks.
While these blog survey results might be less than scientific, it's interesting nonetheless to see how people responded.
- Are you an artist -- musician, writer, painter, or other type of artist? We would like to know how you use the Internet and your views on copyright issues. Specifically, what's your opinion about file-sharing programs and their impact on the artistic community?
Historical Copyright Has Clues for Digital Copyright
Chris Barton at the New Zealand Herald: Copyleft may become the new copyright
- Imagine a world without copyright - where there is no legislated right to prevent copying. A recipe for anarchy? Maybe, but that's how it was in the early 18th century and before.
- The British Statute of Anne in 1710 was the first copyright act. On the face of it, the legislation was to protect the rights of authors, but in reality it was a deal to protect printers.
- ...We're in the midst of a technological revolution that's really upset the apple cart. The printing press is a fine piece of copying technology. But it has been well and truly usurped by the far superior copying (and distribution) technology of the internet and personal computers.
In other words, he's saying the printing press has been napsterized by the internet and personal computers. And that old, freer media model may be what's needed to deal with it.
December 07, 2003
A La Carte TV
Dan Gillmor's column on the future of TV. In Hongkong, NowBroadbandTV (and PCCW) is offering each channel separately, using broadband distribution, for pushing TV to their customers.
- Unlike the United States, where DSL customers are limited to speeds well below a megabit per second, the vast majority of Hong Kong's DSL subscribers have connections at 6 megabits per second.... Channels range in price from about $1.30 to $5 a month, and higher in a couple of cases. PCCW and its content providers share the revenues in a formula that isn't disclosed.
However, there is no recording allowed:
- But for all the possibilities, PCCW's service is burdened by some of the most stringent control-freakery I've seen in the TV world. If you want to tape one of the TV programs to watch later, forget it. You can't. Period.
I wonder if they asked the customers about this, or just did it. Apparently, they are fairly paraniod about copying, and the programming providers refused to offer content unless recording was turned off.
- PCCW's lockdown prompted a letter of complaint to the editor of the South China Morning Post. The correspondent wrote: "Recording is essential to many viewers as it is generally difficult for busy Hong Kong citizens to watch TV according to broadcast schedules."
And the ending:
- I'm afraid the "big guys" in both entertainment and traditional media may end up restricting themselves out of the business, if they're not careful. I really think the day of the blockbuster novel, the movie "everybody wants to see," and a few limited voices reading/producing the news, is drawing to a close. The next few years is going to be really interesting, as major corporations come to grips with customers who want variety and instant availablity of their preferred items, with minimum unobtrusive advertising.
December 04, 2003
What Will Consumers Pay for Digital Downloads for Albums Verses CDs
Sweet spot for CD's? $11.99. Sweet spot for an album's worth of digital downloads? $7.99. Gett'em while they last.