net.wars: The 2005 wish list

by Wendy M Grossman | posted on 31 December 2004

Ah, New Year's. A time for individuals to make resolutions, only to break them a week or two later. (This is actually a sign of bad planning. You should only make resolutions you can stick to.) A time for us to make resolutions on behalf of companies and other public entities who don't make them to our tastes, hoping to make them stick.

Wendy M Grossman

First, of course, for the tsunami-battered countries, all the aid they need to recover from the catastrophe. And the same to everywhere else in need due to fire, famine, flood, or pestilence. Take a day off in Iraq, Shrubya, and send the money the US saves thereby to help out. Most things seem pretty trivial compared to that. But still.

For Microsoft: some perspective. As in Robert Burns, "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us/To see oursel's as others see us!" You get the sense that the company still doesn't understand why other people think it's a monopolist or why governments keep picking on it. (Hint: it's the market dominance.)

For the American Democratic party: an electable candidate. Surely there's someone in the ranks who doesn't look like Lurch and can give the Republicans a run for their money? For the British Parliament: a credible opposition party. Kind of has to be the Liberal Democrats, now that Labour and Conservatives seem to be united on the security and surveillance fronts. But that, these days, makes no sense.

Death to all automated voice response systems and voice menus that pretend to be customer service. British readers may not yet have encountered the next-stage demolishment of American customer service. Try phoning a company like Wells Fargo (who bought the company that supplies one of my credit cards), and you can spend an hour shouting single words into the phone as if you were Inspector Clouseau trying to communicate with a deaf person.

For Google: technology to eliminate all shopping "search" services and aggregators from its search results pages. In my experience, this is less of an issue in .com searches, but the frequency with which they pop up in product searches is the bane of most .co.uk searchers' existence. Shopgenie, Kelkoo, Dealtime, and all their hideous ilk can bite me.

And while Google is at it, could it please add some preference settings to the .co.uk version such as being able to permanently set that .co.uk searches should be limited to pages originating in the UK. Why should I have to set it every time when if I want to do a Web-wide search I can just use .com?

A couple of real people to work in Yahoo!'s customer support department. A friend recently emailed them about a problem with the online portfolio he keeps. On successive days, he got the same autoresponse email, first signed by "Holden" and then by "Neo". Who's next? "Trogdor"? Clearly this company needs help - first in the form of people looking for jobs, and then in the form of someone who can think up less obviously fictional names.

Web designers who do not perpetrate useless Flash introductions (with looping Muzak), sites that do not work unless you're running Internet Explorer, or sites that are inaccessible to those using the Web via screen reader software or slow, expensive connections. You know who you are. The end of spam. All right, it's probably not going to happen soon. Getting rid of spam could include getting rid of phishing scams and email viruses, too. Spam in fact is more likely to grow to encompass mobile phones, just as it's already beginning to overwhelm popular blogs ("comment spam") and has long been a problem in some types of instant messaging. But a person can dream, can't she?

Balance to return to our copyright laws, coupled with a sense of perspective for the MPAA and RIAA. As recently as last year, people were writing articles about the film and television industry suggesting it was going to be a lot smarter in its approach to file-sharing than the music biz. Wrong. They just weren't scared enough then. Now, they are, and the lawsuits are flying. A modicum of common sense would tell these folks that it is really, really dumb to attack your customers. Build a better way of watching television and we will come, as TiVo has proved. Learn to accept a little less than ten minutes of commercials per half hour. And nerts to Cliff Richard, who wants music copyrights extended from 50 years to 95 years (PDF).

In Britain: reasonably priced calls to mobile phones. At the moment, British phone companies seem to be trying to make up for the long distance and local landline calling revenues they've lost with connection charges to the mobile networks. Even VOIP services wind up charging more per minute for calls to mobiles than I used to pay to call the US before long distance began plummeting to zero.

Cheaper, faster broadband. OK, it's not water, food, shelter, or health. But isn't it next on the list?

And, finally, a healthy and happy New Year to net.wars readers.Tags:

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Wendy M. Grossman’s Web site has an extensive archive of her books, articles, and music, and an archive of all the earlier columns in this series. Readers are welcome to post here, at net.wars home, follow on Twitter or send email to netwars(at) skeptic.demon.co.uk (but please turn off HTML).