Friday, 27 August 2010

Has Barnardo's lost its way?

I note this morning that the children's charity has chosen to pass comment on the school selection criteria. This venture into the political area is dangerous ground for the charity. The schools policy is something for the government to resolve. The government which was recently elected by the UK electorate. The Barnardo charity was set up by Dr Barnardo to look after the welfare of orphans and abandoned children. The charity no longer provides orphanages for these children, but has chosen to designate itself as as an un-appointed mouthpiece for all children. It is now largely an irrelevance which sucks in charity donations to keep itself running. They should either revert to their roots and focus on orphans/abandoned children or close down.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Lewisham Council - Park land care

I've just visited my publisher's home for a coffee. It is located in a pleasant part of South East London (SE4) and is blessed with a large open park area nearby. The park is called Hilly Fields. He took me for a walk in the park with his dogs. Our peace was disturbed by the noise of large mechanical diggers and graders gouging out the ground in the middle of the level ground used by football players. At weekends the local soccer club uses the area for providing training of around 50-60 children. That soccer club has been active for at least 15 years. During the week a lot of people use the area for casual football playing. The place is a valuable social asset for the crowded urban area. 

So why has the council allowed the football area to be dug up? Well, at the end of the school summer holidays and the real start of the soccer season, they are allowing the construction of a cricket pitch! No doubt to avoid damage to the cricket pitch they'll ban the use of the area by footballers. Football is far more popular than cricket at the site. I wonder who was consulted before the work was allowed to destroy the football area?

My publisher tells me the Council has also given the local girl's school to annex part of the public park land on Hilly Fields for the purposes of building "temporary" classrooms. In fact it is not the school but a limited company who own the school who have been granted permission to move in the bulldozers and take over the public parkland. Good for their profit potential, not so good for the public park land obtained for the whole community over 100 years ago.

It seems to me that Lewisham Council are being rather careless in their management of this public land. Once lost it will never be recovered. There will be some feeble excuse like "We'd really like to restore the land, but unfortunately there is no budget this year.."  The public money was probably wasted on building a cricket pitch, which few people want, over the ground used by the much more popular football.


Note: 13th May 2012
The "temporary" class rooms remain on the the park land with planning "permission" extended to December 2013.  As of today the "Cricket Pitch" is unused, footballer have to play around the area..

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Google Adwords

We've been running a Google Adwords advert for the second book Company Mole. The click-through response rate has been low and even those click-throughs have had a poor conversion into sales. It's been costing in the region of only $30 a month, so we let it runfor a few months to see if things improved. It hasn't. We thought we'd improve the advert by providing a direct link to the Amazon Kindle page where the book is on sale.. 
The Google editorial staff have decided that the shown URL link and and destination URL link are not related, though if they'd taken the effort to actuually check they would rapidly realise there is a very strong link.
Given the poor performance of the Adwords and Google's careless rejection of the revised advert we've as a business have decided to give Google Adwords a miss for a while. It's their loss, not ours. We're diverting the advert funding for this and our other Adword adverts to other marketing.

Dumnosity Quotient

At the start of the year some elderly relatives were visiting the UK. One of them suffered an injury which necessitated an immediate operation and a hospital stay. Fortunately reciprocal government health cover arrangements covered the cost of the treatment. What wasn't covered was the cost of the accommodation whilst this elderly relative had to fully recover before being able to fly home. The couple had sufficient funds, but no credit history in this country. To help out I purchased, on their behalf, a SIM only monthly mobile (cell) phone contract. It avoided the complexity and expense of setting up a land line for a phone to their rented accommodation when they had no credit record. I gave them a spare mobile phone handset.
Things progressed well and the couple were able to return home about a month ago. I was in the position of being able to cancel the mobile phone contract with 30 day's notice. I tried to log onto the mobile phone company web site to cancel the contract. Even though I'd regularly been able to use the site before I couldn't because they'd chosen to impose the requirement to enter a verification code which they'd sent to a switched off mobile phone buried in a suitcase the other side of Europe.
So I telephoned the Help Desk at the mobile phone company and said "I want to cancel". After a couple of security questions I explained the background and said I was giving 30 days notice. "No problem Sir. We'll send you a final bill in 30 days. By the way would you be interested in Broadband to your home?"  In reaction to their polite handling of the query so far, I said: "Not really, I already have two DSL links, but your guys can contact me and discuss. My own personal mobile phone is still remaining with you guys." The Help Desk clerk said someone would call me the following day and we finished the transaction there.
I didn't receive any calls about broadband from the mobile phone company, not on my home phone, my business phone nor my main mobile phone. The mobile phone company has all of those numbers.  No! The dumb sales guys called the mobile phone I'd cancelled. How do I know?  I called the relatives and asked them to switch on the mobile phone for ten minutes. It reported five "missed" calls from the mobile phone company the day after the cancellation. It looks like their dumb Help Desk system ignored/couldn't record my warning I'd not be using the temporary mobile phone again.
It deserves a high Dumnostity Quotient Score.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Amazon Kindle - publisher commission

I've just noticed the commission rates on Kindle If we load up an e-book in Kindle format on we can retain 70% of the sale price. The remainder goes to Amazon. As a consequence we were able to bring the e-book price right down and still maintain a reasonable margin. However if someone from outside of the USA downloads the same e-book we as publishers are only given 35% commission on that sale.
The "effort" on the part of Amazon for the sale is no different if the customer is based in the UK or the USA, there is no logic with their pricing.

Ho hum, I guess we'll have to increase the price of the Kindle versions of the book to make a reasonable recovery rate. So the customer suffers. There are other e-book distributors who do not play games with commission rates, we'll make the lower price version available there in other e-book formats. Amazon should learn that in the digital book world the logistics equation is rather more flexible.

Similar Terms

It looks like David Cameron touched a nerve with his comments on Gaza being turned into a prison camp by the Israeli blockade. The ageing Shimon Peres has shown a similar lack of diplomacy when he confuses anti-Israeli sentiment with anti-Semite activities. They are similar terms, but have very different meanings.

I have a number of Jewish friends, but the activities of the Israeli's in Gaza and other occupied territories appals me. No amount of Israeli spin is going to change the evidence on the ground.


Sunday, 1 August 2010

Notes on Dangerous Donkey

Dangerous Donkey will be loose on the streets soon. No doubt it will attract reviews. Some of those reviewers may have read the two earlier books in the Adam Cranford series; Teen Valour and Company Mole. One of the first things to note is Dangerous Donkey is considerably shorter than the two previous volumes. It is not for want of plot ideas in the book. There were many more concepts and scenes I wanted to add to the book. However feedback from the readers of the two earlier books was that the younger readers would prefer a shorter book. We decided to meet those observations.
As always, a lot of research went into this book to find some of the tools and apparel used by Adam Cranford. I’m considering writing a separate companion book giving a lot more detail on the underlying technology and the design of some of the buildings, but as always that will depend on reader reaction. If there is enough interest I’ll do that.
In this third book we see a darker side to Adam as he becomes more familiar with his new power and wealth. Toward the end we see the Council of Elders beginning to wonder what kind of beast they have created in the shape of Hermes. In the book I examine how a teenager might react if his family was subject to attack from his enemies. Finally you see Adam manipulating other people in order meet his view of the world. In a way he is beginning to lose his innocence. I also take another swipe at the Banks, their rocky business foundations and lack of morals.In the victory of good over evil I suggest ways we could help the poorer countries of the world avoid producing more carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

Add to the plot the greater exposure of his female friends as heroines.