Is it just me or could we all do with a universal BS filter?

Comment

Is it just me or could we all do with a universal BS filter?

Happy holidays, one and all. During the slow drift into the warm fuzz of overindulgence and blissful alarm clock ignorance that occurs at this time of year, a press release in my inbox has somewhat cut through the haze…

As a copywriter for major global brands, friend to those employed by a range of hefty corporations and with a girlfriend working for a well known US firm, I have come to a simple conclusion - The bigger the company, the more bollocks its employees talk.

I’ve heard it all: People want to “touch base” about the “message” they need “wordsmithed”. Others simply want to “reach out” regarding an “idea shower” on “verticals” so we can “get all our ducks in a row” (the latter is often a confused pond of ducks that appear in both lines and rows and sometimes simply “in order”. Sometimes they’re not even ducks).

To put it simply, using a wanky piece of jargon when NORMAL ENGLISH will do pisses me off. You could also say that I don’t have the “bandwidth” for the way people “cascade” their “out of the box thinking”, but that would have me reaching for the noose.

It’s not just that the use of this pointless terminology is annoying to me, it actually makes my job harder. Working from a client brief, especially in a B2C scenario (Shit. I mean “when I’m writing for consumers”), I’m forced to weed out all the “end-to-end” crap and “solution-focused” fuckwitery and develop meaning in plain English before I even get to translating the “vision” into “layman’s terms”. It’s a waste of my time and, if you catch yourself uttering one of these sphincter-tightening blights on natural speaking, your time too.

 

It’s a waste of my time and, if you catch yourself uttering one of these sphincter-tightening blights on natural speaking, your time too.

So... back to this email.

The chaps over at Houston PR, a public relations company based in London, appear to be very much on my wavelength with their jargon removal tool, PitchGlitch.com. While this fun little site is more aimed at ridding the world of tech jargon (I deal with my fair share of this kind of “next-gen” arse babble as well), it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The site simply receives a passage of pasted text and, after a simple click of the knowingly-titled “Disrupt” button, purges it of all expendable tech vernacular. 

Of course, I tested it for myself:
“This is the game-changing response delivered by PitchGlitch when I wrote a groundbreaking paragraph to check its revolutionarysolution-driven approach to reinventing the ludicrous language of millennials who think jargon makes them sound like modern day gurus.”

Don’t you just love how it even attacked what it thought was the abbreviation of “application” to “app”? It’s like its algorithms can read my inner thoughts.  

Just imagine a world where this technology could be applied ubiquitously. In my experience, these worthless words damage an explanation rather than enhance it, leave potentially hot prospects cold and serve more to disrupt attention than the market they refer to. 

But, with the ultimate bullshit filter in place, the flick of a switch could bring clarity to even the most complex sounding sentences:

From:
“The revolutionary intra-structure conveyor technology delivers a seamless approach to your in-home family transit. Its endlessly configurable styling provides complete synergy with your internal décor”. 

To:
“Our doors come in a range of colours and designs”.

This simplification could be applied to both the written word and speech, maybe through an app…lication on your smartphone (not your “personal media consumption tool”) or laptop (not your “portable workstation”). 

But alas, the people with the clout, know-how and budget to bring this type of technology to market are the very people who purvey the kind of idiotic idioms it would block. 

Ah well, it seems the job will remain in the hands of people like me… I guess that makes sense. 

Comment

"Dear Delivery Driver..." An Open Letter To A Careless Man

Comment

"Dear Delivery Driver..." An Open Letter To A Careless Man

Dear Delivery Driver, 

When I clicked “Buy Now” I set in to motion a process of military precision within an Amazon Fulfilment Centre.

At a time chosen and offset in order to correspond with your arrival at the depot, a picker diligently located the serial number for my purchase, scanned the product and put it in a special orange box to denote its purpose. 

The box then travelled on an automated conveyer belt to the packing area. Here, it was expertly wrapped, scanned and marked for size, then aligned with a suitable Amazon box to eliminate wasted space before being packed for shipping. 

Another conveyor belt journey completed and the package had its barcode scanned and my home address stamped on it (remember this bit). The package was then weighed to, once again, maintain accuracy and confirm its contents. 

Yet another conveyor belt ride, this time directing the package to a location specific to my address and the courier used (that’s you my friend), before heading down a chute at the precise moment your truck pulled up and opened its doors. 

No doubt there was then some sophisticated logistical mapping of your route, enabling you to reach each destination in the most efficient way possible (I know this because I voyeuristically tracked your every move online). 

You, the cherry garnishing this cake of connected consumerism, the gleaming beacon atop a lighthouse of logistical legend, fell at the final hurdle.

Your little, battered, handheld whatsamy-dooda then gave a cheerful chirp as you jumped out of the van outside my house and located the correct parcel, once again by way of barcode and automatically stamped address label. 

You crossed the street, dutifully fulfilling the final steps in a process of finely-tuned, calculated and cutting-edge parcel delivery, and reached the threshold of the ultimate goal all this seamless scheduling and pinpoint planning had led you to. 

An email… my parcel had been posted through my letterbox. 

With a single click, my purchase had transformed from binary 1s and 0s to a wrapped gift in my hallway within 12 hours.

Except the parcel wasn’t in my hallway. 

No, Mr Driver, you, the cherry garnishing this cake of connected consumerism, the gleaming beacon atop a lighthouse of logistical legend, fell at the final hurdle. 

Despite all the checks, the weighing, the address stamping, barcode scanning and scheduling, when presented with two doors, Number 86 and Number 88, you opted for the one that was NOT printed on the box. This isn’t a game of Deal Or No Deal, there’s no Russian roulette gamble when it comes to picking which path to take. The clues are all there, right in the palm of your hand. 

I checked the tracking again. I checked my front porch. I even looked in the area behind the bins that you sometimes feel is a suitable location for an item susceptible to damp and dirt. I found nothing. 

Instead, actions from a time before computers and people bereft of pride in their work were forced into practice. 

My neighbour, upon returning home, did what you failed to do: 

He picked up the box, read the address label, confirmed the correct location and posted the parcel through MY door. 

He even did it with a smile. 

So the next time you simultaneously ring my bell, flap the letterbox AND bang on my door with an urgency that can only suggest that the apocalypse is upon us, or passive aggressively suggest I should sit expectantly on the door mat throughout my designated delivery day in order to avoid your arrival coinciding with the call of nature, remember this story. 

Speed is only a single part of this equation. Accuracy plays just as important a role. 

Sincerely, 

Ben Harvell, Online Shopper

 

"Research" for this post was shamelessly stolen from Pocket-Lint
 

Comment

The man who won't shut up: Is it time for a ban on Donald Trump?

Comment

The man who won't shut up: Is it time for a ban on Donald Trump?

 

Hello to you all in the blogosphere (or the handful of you who visit and my Mum). Just a quick post today, primarily due to the fact that I couldn’t sum up my feelings in the 140 characters of a Tweet and that nobody likes screen-filling Facebook posts.

So, before I dive into the world of US politics, let me highlight that, beyond watching every season of The West Wing at least three times, I know little about it. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to see the bloody terrifying threat that Donald Trump represents. It’s my sheer abhorrence of his ideas and rhetoric that I want to get off my chest here. Yes, I'm venting. Hey, be thankful it's just my blog and not your social timeline! 

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Germany. Those in tune with foreign affairs in the 30s likely worried about the rise to power of an emo-looking Austrian with extreme views and a side parting. This New Yorker with frankly inexplicable hair is now the one causing winces the world over as he battles his way toward the Republican nomination with controversial sound bites and proposals that become more radical by the day.

Now you, my well adjusted, reasonable friends, might think comparing Trump with Hitler is a bit of a stretch. But when someone suggests blocking those of a certain religion from a nation, tracking their movements via a database and ID cards, even going so far as to hint that internment camps aren't such a bad idea, there are terrifying parallels. In fact, let’s not beat around the bush (the proverbial, not Jeb), it has all the hallmarks of persecution. 

I fully appreciate the threat jihad-wielding extremists pose, but that doesn’t mean it should give rise to just as reactionary and remorseless a force via a Trump-led government.

This chest beating and so called “Americanism” plays right into the hands of ISIL and its goals: to create an “us versus them” scenario where increasingly marginalised Muslims are forced to face off against the rest of the world. No good can come of it.

Being politically correct is one thing, being correct politically is another.

Similarities also exist between Trump and the very organisation he wants to wipe out at whatever cost. Preying on the fear of a public wracked by an uncertain economy, ongoing war, terrorism and civil unrest is nothing new. Both Trump and ISIL are making the most of it in their respective corners of the world.

Of course, some will argue that it’s just this kind of “desperate times” thinking that the world needs. That we need to throw off the muzzle of political correctness and take a stand. Being politically correct is one thing, being correct politically is another. 

While other frontrunners in the Republican race, along with the White House, have been quick to criticise Trump for his statements, another pertinent question arises: is it not more worrying that he got into this position at all? 

The freedom that Muslims would be barred from in Trump’s America is the same freedom that enabled him to step on to his current soapbox, with the presidency in sight, without ever holding a position in public office. His weapons of choice are money, influence, scare tactics and an outlandish ideology that captures the hearts and minds of the pissed off and disenfranchised. Sound familiar?

This week we heard of a ban that should be put in place “until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses…” - That’s Donald Trump’s view on Muslims. It should also be America’s view on Donald Trump.

Comment

Responding To The Paris Attacks: A New Hope

Comment

Responding To The Paris Attacks: A New Hope

Have the Paris attacks marked a turning point in our collective response to terrorism? My thoughts and the videos that inspired them.  

It appears that air strikes and enhanced surveillance are the hot topics, in political circles at least, following the evil in Paris. While the virtues of both are for those more informed than a humble copywriter to decide, what has struck me is the level of reasoned, peaceful, intelligent and even soothingly comedic reply to this latest bout of supreme violence.

Unlike the embittered cries for an aggressive response, seen as recently as the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris this January, it seems the public and, in some respects, media sentiment has shifted.

Having watched waves of coverage, from the heart breaking and empowering to the ugly and misguided, the common theme is now far more weighted toward thought before action. Yes, there are the traditional “we shall not be moved” acts of stiff upper lip solidarity across major locations, sporting events and on the streets of Paris itself - but the wording has changed.

It feels, at least to me, that rather than just saying we’re united with Paris and dedicated to stopping the hatred, we finally mean it. Perhaps through weariness, despair or a feeling that the old ways don’t work, people seem genuinely focused on new ways to bring about change over pre-programmed lashing out.

Whether it’s opening new dialogues, thinking differently, fighting fire with flowers or literally laughing in the face of this global adversary, fewer people outside of government buildings are talking about retaliation with the same fervour.

People seem genuinely focused on new ways to bring about change over pre-programmed lashing out.

Perhaps it’s those attacked: the young, free and innocent.
Maybe it’s the location: the café window of modern culture shot through with non-conformist foam and shavings of defiance.

It feels different now.

Below I have gathered a handful of videos that I hope sum up the range of sentiment I’ve seen that has lead me to this opinion. Similar to the fallout from previous global outrages but with a new glow of optimism.

Presidents and prime ministers talk of proportionate response and tactical strikes. Donald Trump can question why we shouldn’t all be armed in case this happens again. We have the luxury, as plain old Joes without an electorate to answer to, of being able to take a step back. To understand and analyse.

Call me a hippy. Call me soft. Tell me this is just what the media wants me to see or what I want to hear. That’s fine. It’s all subjective.

However, a world that contains more hope-filled hearts and flexible minds can never be a bad thing. Especially when that's exactly what's at stake. 

Warning - Video below is NSFW. 

This final video wouldn't embed here but is probably one of the most important. A young man subject to the full horror of the attacks in Paris promoting peace and harmony no more than a couple of days later: http://bbc.in/1QsCbN9

 

Comment

10 Ways Technology Can Make You Feel Old

Comment

10 Ways Technology Can Make You Feel Old

Age has a way of catching up with you when you spend your life online. Introducing the minor yet monotonous digital dents in your youth. 

I’m not that old. As David Brent once put it: “I’m thir… - I’m in my thirties”. However, using a computer all day can slowly eat away at that image of the hip young buck you once thought you were. If you nod at any of these ten scenarios it may be time to consider starting that pension plan...

1.     Meme misconception 

I thought “Netflix and Chill” meant House of Cards and Cabernet. Apparently it’s teenagers having sex.
 

2.     Seeking simpler times 

That satisfying dial-up hiss and the comforting click of a CPU provided much needed time for bathroom breaks, luxurious stretches or kettle boiling. Faster technology affords no time for reflection.
 

3.     Punishing personal details 

Signing up for a new account becomes depressing as you scroll further and further to find that birth year. There’s an odd joy in selecting a low age bracket but, when you’re forced to choose a range that includes your current vintage and one dangerously close to that of your parents, things get painful… 
 

4.     Pop culture confusion

A$AP Rocky sounds like a demand for immediate viewing of a Stallone movie. T-Pain is what happens when you sip Earl Grey too soon after boiling.
 

5.     Facebook families 

Even worse when it’s a schoolfriend’s second child or a significant event in that child’s life - like a graduation.
 

6.     Paranoid android 

Black Friday ads are eyed with supreme “too good to be true” suspicion, providing personal information elicits tuts about privacy invasion. The only time you fail to question motives is when your interest is piqued by an email from the son of the late King Kwa Nini offering you a percentage of his father’s fortune.


7.    Physical fallbacks 

When things go wrong you miss the safety net of a set of twelve install disks in a drawer or that dusty, encyclopaedia-sized user guide at the back of a cupboard.


8.     Increasingly digital interactions 

Evenings used to involve shots, bar banter and bargain buckets. Now you enjoy beef bourguignon and a box set while liking the status of those who did make it into town.
 

9.     A consumption shift

Where once your shopping cart brimmed with PlayStation games and Red Hot Chili Peppers tickets, that steam mop on Groupon now seems like a must-have.
 

10.  Pending priorities

It’s Sunday evening. An empty bottle of wine and the remains of a roast watch on as you click through a to do list that doesn’t start for another ten hours. Tick. Tock.

 

Comment

Don’t You Dare “Inbox” Me…

Comment

Don’t You Dare “Inbox” Me…

A particularly annoying trait has crept into common parlance in the last decade. Friends and colleagues might mock my pedantry but, today, I’ve had enough.

En route to buy a sandwich, I overheard a woman squawking into her phone. She used the term I’ve come to loath so casually, so confidently, brazenly getting the English language wrong. It felt like she knew how much its utterance would get my goat.

“I got inboxed…”

Inbox. Used as a verb.

Despite sounding like a particularly invasive punishment (it always is to my ears), the simple fact remains that one cannot be “inboxed”, nor can you inbox someone.

An inbox is a receptacle for messages, not the act of messaging itself. You don’t ask people to “letter box” you with a postcard.

I blame stupidity, laziness and Facebook.

An inbox is a receptacle for messages, not the act of messaging itself. You don’t ask people to “letter box” you with a postcard.

Take a look on your News Feed and you’ll see it, from those you respect as well as the morons you can’t quite bring yourself to unfriend:

“Rare first edition Oxford English Dictionary for sale. Inbox me for details”.

Unlike text messaging, WhatsApp, email and even voicemail, all of which have inboxes, Facebook had an inbox before launching its Messenger service. You sent a message on Facebook to a person’s Facebook Inbox. That’s where I believe all this “inboxing” nonsense came from.

Facebook had an inbox, however. It no longer exists, yet “inboxing” still pervades otherwise sensible communication terminology.

As a writer, I should be lauding the evolution of language. Marveling at the way a new verb has been formed via consumer technology and trotting out hackneyed arguments about Shakespeare’s contribution to the dictionary we know today. 

But I can’t.

Where new words like Dadbod, Manspreading and Bingewatch are truly new and mean something unique, the word Inbox already has a place in the English language. Its meaning is so closely related to the bastard verb formed from it that its use simply implies ignorance.

People know they mean to say “message” or “IM” when they say inbox, they just choose not to. And that’s the bit that bugs me.

You may disagree. If so, send me a message on Facebook, email or call me but, please, never inbox me. 


Comment