Thursday, December 20, 2007

Forums: Can we actually have intelligent discussions and debates?

I've seen this off and on since I've been a part of Internet forums and chat-rooms (I used AOL for DOS and BBSs before that). What I'm referring to is the fact that intelligent responses to a topic are often ignored in favor of emotionally charged ones.

I'm not suggesting that there is no room for emotionally charged responses in forums and the like, but they overwhelm the intelligent well thought out ones.

Being a Buddhist (though certainly not a requirement) I tend to shoot for the middle ground and offer thoughtful insight into the topic or defend one side or the other with intelligence. I keep the emotions in check as best as I can and do not encourage or start flame-wars. Yet my comments are virtually ignored and the thread continues down it's course. Usually these kind of threads die because other forum users derail the thread or moderators lock it.

I'm not the only one I've seen this happen to either. Other well thought-out comments are often ignored. I don't have to agree with an author to respect his/her thoughts but apparently I'm in the minority with that frame of mind.

It's easy to blame this all on the anonymous nature of the Internet. To a point that may be correct, but I've seen it IRL (In Real Life) also. Many people just don't want to think and are fine responding to events with virtually unfiltered emotion. People want their perspective respected but they have not earned it. Why should I respect a point of view that you cannot even adequately express?

I'm not guiltless of this I'm sure. There seems to be an unhealthy cultural shift here. Are we headed into a new dark ages where the intellectuals are largely ignored? I certainly hope not, but things don't look so good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Daily Soap Box - Salaries Vs. Increasing Prices

I keep hearing about how much the cost of normal every day goods are going up. Things like, food, fuel and shelter. Basic needs.

Then I hear about how salaries are not increasing at the same rate that these basic needs are.

This is simply ridiculous. As much money as there is flowing around Wall Street and other markets and we don't have enough to pay reasonable rates? When some CEOs are raking home millions in salary, options and other benefits?

This situation only increases the divide between the rich and poor and significantly hurts the middle-class.

Why do you think so many people are in credit pinches? Why did so many people buy homes as investments? Because they don't make enough money under traditional methods. Sure a lot of people spend money on stuff they don't NEED, we all do that, but the economy as a whole, as it's been built, hurts when people aren't buying those needs. So now what? Recession as everyone keeps saying...perhaps.

The cause? I believe it's the stock market. It focuses primarily on business growth and profitability at the expense of everything else. Customer service? Naw, too expensive! Pay reasonable rates? Why? These people need jobs and they'll work hard for what we pay them, because what other choice do they have?

We middle-class workers are nothing but serfs to the dukes and earls of big business. The only thing to change it would be for the stock market to completely fall apart and for people to be paid what they are worth. A recession won't do that though. The rich won't be hurt by that, only the lower and middle classes. The rich will allow us to suckle on a bit of their money until we get enough ahead to start making and spending our own money again. It'll start all over.

We need a fundamental change, but only something big and scary will make that happen. Who knows what and when that'll be.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Daily Soap Box - Pre-Orders and Gifts

The idea of pre-ordering an item prior to it's official release is not uncommon in these days of online purchasing. I've heard about problems with it in the past, but nothing too terrible. Typically it would be some company who was small and just being dumb. Unfortunately for me my first experience with a bad pre-order situation was with one of the largest online retailers out there---Amazon.

I won't say what I tried to pre-order because I may still be able to buy it at a local store and it is intended to be a Christmas gift. That said, it was a highly anticipated product that many people have had pre-ordered for nearly two months in some cases. The release date was pretty firm and many had planned this item as a Christmas gift.

So lo and behold...the release date comes and goes, I had just expected it to be delivered by the UPS man and not worry about watching the tracking number, and yet it never arrived. Then yesterday morning I get the following email:
We're writing about your recent order for the following item:
{snipped Product Name}

Unfortunately, we've learned that we will not be receiving the
quantity we expected from our supplier. As a result, we have cancelled
this item from your order. You will NOT be charged for this item, as
we only charge you for items at the time we ship them to you.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by this
cancellation. An unexpected manufacturer delay has meant that
availability of this title has been severely limited for all

However, we hope to be able to offer this game again during the first
two months of the new year.

No warning, no "Would you like to wait until stock has been replenished?"

The email blames the manufacturer but other local big-box stores say they'll have it next week. Personally I think they over sold and now are unable to full-fill their pre-order obligations.

It would have been much better to just own up to the mistake and try to make amends. Instead they alienate all of us.

I'll likely still order from Amazon again but I won't consider pre-ordering anything from them ever again. Clearly their sense of customer service under those circumstances is to pass the blame rather than try to keep their customers satisfied.

It's not all Amazons' fault here either. The manufacturer may have under forecasted demand. And the annual, "Let's release everything right before Christmas," marketing blitz always creates heavy demand. It also risks back-firing when the product is delayed, as in this case.

It's "On-Demand" economics for the retailers and manufacturers. No one wants to have over stock any more. It's too expensive. That requires very tight control of goods. Loose that control and it's a cascade of failure. This failure could hurt a lot of retailers, not just Amazon.

Bottom-line, I won't be buying any anticipated good like this right before a gift giving situation again. Better to buy something established and in stock.