A headlight bulb went on the old Volvo the other day. Following my lazy new custom, I drove to Halfords and got them to do the job. It costs twice as much but saves on rooting around under the bonnet.
At this point the internet complicated matters. Now the internet is not required to replace a bulb; but it is necessary to tell the company how they did. Normally I ignore such entreaties, but the man who served me asked nicely, and also pointed out that he’d polished the headlights on our car and cleared the front number plate.
The car was very dirty – so filthy I drove in shame to the car wash in Acomb, where an efficient team of Eastern Europeans, at least that’s what they sounded like, flushed away the dirt and restored the car to its dinted glory.
Back home I logged onto giveusasteer.com and entered the details I’d been given. Here’s a steer for you, Halfords: have a system that works. All yours did was increase my antipathy towards internet surveys. Your colleague Paul B was certainly helpful – more helpful than your internet page. I filled in the details and a warning told me I’d done something wrong. Same thing second time, so I gave up. Sorry, Paul B.
Perhaps I should Tweet about it now instead. Or bore the arse off everyone I know on Facebook. There must be some modern retaliation available for this situation. Not that I care really or even remotely.
You can’t spend long online nowadays without some company or other urging you to share your experience. Everything is rated and then graded by algorithms or whatever they are. My new approach will be to respond to nothing. These companies only want to monetise the information in some way or other; they only want to know more about you, and – God knows – they already know too much about us already.
All the earnest entreaties to rate this book or that CD; all the faux-friendly messages to share your experience – they’re all just the way business works on the internet. We can’t escape the info-spies, but we don’t have to make life even easier for them.
The effect the internet has had, and is having, on our lives is something that interests me on my little ledge. Mostly my attention has concentrated on the threat to newsprint, but digital platforms have their problems too. Twitter is said to be in crisis, at least according to the financial headlines and the money-grabbing panic merchants of the global stock market.
In the final quarter of last year, Twitter had revenues or $710 million (£490 million) and a net loss of $90 million, according to John Naughton in the Observer; and he knows about these things.
Revenue was up 90 per cent, Naughton pointed out, and losses were down by 27 per cent.
In other words, Twitter should break even and make a profit soon enough. Instead of celebrating that, the Cassandras of what Naughton calls the “technology babblesphere” are gloomily predicting that Twitter might not have a future.
Because of all this, Jack Dorsey, the boss of Twitter, is apparently determined to ape the much more successful, and much more profitable, Facebook.
Now I like both of them, but making Twitter more like Facebook won’t work; it needs to be made more like Twitter instead – keep what makes it fun, and leave Facebook to its unparalleled success.
That said, me and my ledge-bound laptop would be lost without Twitter or Facebook – especially as Facebook is the closest thing to a daytime social life available to a person working from home.