Thursday, March 27, 2008

0871 numbers

I've been updating the Random Pub Finder to include phone numbers for the pubs on the site and during my Internet searches I've discovered that a few pub websites are showing 0871 numbers, rather than the actual pub's phone number. The phone call costs 10p a minute and the website gets a cut of the money made.

I don't have a problem with advertising on websites as a way to cover costs, so long as it's low key and relevant to the site. Certainly some sites over do it, but mostly it's harmless. The Random Pub Finder has never had advertising because our running costs are pretty low and we prefer not to have ads. Getting several hundred visitors a day is enough to rock my boat. If we ever got so many visitors that we had to pay significant hosting costs, we'd almost certainly have to get some advertising.

But something seems wrong about making money out of phone numbers. For a start, if I use the 0871 number I never actually find out the pub's phone number, so I'm stuck if I need to call it again (unless I use the 0871 number again). Second, why make money out of something that should be freely available? (and yes, directory enquiries should be free as well)

Fortunately, most sites still provide the pub's real number. If you agree with me, I suggest you vote with your feet and start to frequent these sites instead.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Property Bee

If you're obsessed with house prices, this is a lovely little add-on for FireFox that keeps track of any changes made to property ads on Right Move, so you can keep an eye on the impending price crash.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Free the postcode

It seems quite ridiculous that if you want to find out how UK postcodes relate to their geographic location you have to pay the Post Office for the privilege. Of course it's possible to pull this data out of Streetmap via a bit of screen-scraping (like I've done with my partial list of London postcodes) but this is almost certainly breaking copyright, although the Post Office haven't chased after me yet...

Anyway, it would appear there is a group of people trying to rectify this situation by getting everybody with a GPS device to find the location of any postcode area they happen to be in. I hope it works out for them, although it's insane that it's necessary.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nothing more to say

For two and a bit years I've not had any trouble posting things here, ideas have sprung into my mind almost constantly. But over the last month or so, I've not had much inspiration. This may be a temporary problem, it may be a longer term issue, at the moment I don't know but I suspect things will be quiet here for a while. As Depeche Mode said 'Enjoy The Silence'

In the mean time, read Joel Spolsky's latest post, which just goes to show that you can regain your mojo, which he had seemed to have lost for some time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A picture

I thought I'd add try putting an image onto my header to see how it looks. It's a picture of Darwen Tower, and the view is quite similar to the one from my bedroom window for the first 17 years of my life, although the tower was much further away from our house. The view from my current abode is much less impressive, unless you're a fan of looking in people's windows across the street.

It would appear I can use this image as long as I credit the original photographer, one Andy Pagett, whoever he may be. You can find the original image on Flickr.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The big BPM lie

I've been looking at a few Business Process Management tools on and off and I've noticed something that most of them share in common, they like to brag that no coding is required to get your BPM solution in place.Whilst a laudable aim, I doubt very much that it can be met, especially when integration with other products is required. And integration is one of the key ingredients to a successful BPM implementation.

The stock answer to integration is the use of web services. And they could be the answer. They are a standard after all, but unfortunately each development platform seem to implement these standards slightly differently. I've had much fun calling web services authored in Perl and Java from .NET. And that was using code, rather than any web service integration abstraction piece provided by a BPM product, which would almost certainly have made other assumptions about how web services work. Almost every abstraction is leaky. And when an abstraction is leaky, it is necessary to drop down to the next lower abstraction, which is code in this case. And if the abstraction isn't leaky, then the BPM vendor must have produced some kind of general integration technology which is actually pretty damn useful on its own, so why aren't they selling that?

And when a BPM vendor says no code is necessary, it means that it's likely its story for writing code in their development environment is probably not going to be as good as it could be. After all, you'll never need it, right?

To a certain extent I can understand this emphasis on a no code solution. After all, if code was required to implement even a basic BPM solution using their product then the BPM software wouldn't be providing much value.

This is one reason why I love Windows Workflow. It is unashamedly a development tool and doesn't shy away from code. OK, it's not a fully-fledged BPM tool, but it is certainly possible for a BPM product to be built on top of it. Workflows can be designed without code, but when it's needed, a developer can come along and produce a custom activity to do whatever integration is required. This seems like the perfect solution and I hope this is how BPM products will be designed in future.