Online Insights on FIVEaa Sunday January 10 2010

January 10, 2010

In this fortnight’s edition of Online Insights we listen in to the audio tour for the Great Pandas at Adelaide Zoo (yes, I made them which means one of my online ventures finally qualifies for Online Insights), look at a strange but intriguing clock, learn the truth about restaurants and what your waiter really thinks of you, and have some fun venting about a web2.0 removal tool called the suicide machine. Remember, your suggestions are always welcome via [email protected].

Giant panda audio tour

Well, after months of development and scriptwriting, we can finally share with you the audio tour for your visit to the pandas at Adelaide Zoo. Here is the introduction (you can download the full audio tour on the giant panda website)

In the process of developing and voicing these scripts, I gained a deep insight into the amazing work done by the Interpretation Unit at Zoos SA. These people have deep love for their work and the animals and have to tread a difficult line between honouring the zoological integrity of the work of the keepers and the latest scientific understandings of animals and conservation with our needs as ordinary visitors who don’t want the mumbo jumbo of latin names and fussy detail. What we want is a quick glimpse of something intriguing or important about the animals we are seeing, something to make us pause and consider, or smile with enjoyment – either way, something that fills us with wonder and brings us closer to the animals we share our planet with. They do an amazing job and need to have broad shoulders to deal with occasional criticism from zoo keepers for not being technical enough and members of the public for not being “popular” enough.

But back to the pandas. I believe they are on the verge of leaving quarantine conditions within the next week (at the time of writing, Jan 2010) and this means they will be freely roaming about their exhibit soon. Remember, visiting the pandas is free but you must book tickets for your panda tour so that you can enter the exhibit. You can book your panda tickets via the giant panda website.

Also, there is a children’s story called The Way Of The Panda which we voiced as part of the panda project. You can watch it as a video on the panda website. I have also included it here.

Clock for 2010

Here is one to see you through the New Year. It is a strikingly different way to display time.

1st Line is Seconds

2nd Line is Minutes

3rd line is Hours.

4th Line is Days

5th Line is Months

6th Line is Years

Just look at the green line – that is where the time is.

It will use your computer clock to ensure it adapts to local time.

The only unfortunate thing is that it runs out at the end of 2010 (at least in its current state, Dec 2009)

So visit this unusual timeline and share your thoughts.

20+ things your waiter will never tell you

I stumbled across this blog the other day, featuring confessions of waiters. This is US based but I fear that some of these things might be universal. Mind you, I sense that the atmosphere in restaurants is different in countries where waiters are paid criminally low pay and are forced to rely on tips, compared to countries like Australia where waiters are paid a more respectable wage and tips represent a truly-deserved gratuity, rather than being something expected or needed. Personally, I think the concept of tipping is flawed and a scourge on society. Here is why. The proprietor should take responsibility for hiring a paying good staff, providing consumers with good food and service, and have their livelihoods dependent upon their success or failure on these essential elements. Instead, where tipping is expected (almost demanded) without any sincere correlation with the actual service received, the consumer is the big loser. I believe it is a cynical cop out on the part of restaurant owners to pay staff nickels and dimes and shift responsibility for feeding the waiting staff onto waiters and consumers. If the waiters ran the restaurant, then I could stomach that scenario. However, there are too many elements outside the control of waiters which might work against them, making the system grossly unfair. As a result, waiters DEMAND their tips and are quite rude when poor service is penalised by an appropriately poor tip because there is no genuine link between tipping and service – restaurants in the US particularly are like mini welfare states with all staff feeling entitled to tips no matter how they treat their customers. It is quite ironic that in a country that despises such welfare state institutions as free public health, the masters of capitalism turn a blind eye to a decrepit part of their system that is failing everybody.

But who will have the guts to change that system? Just imagine a restaurant where tipping was discouraged or forbidden and waiters were paid handsome wages. Oh no, we return to the same dilemma of poor service and no link between service and reward. Not true. I think there would be such demand to work at this establishment that waiters would be on their toes (as everyone is service industries should be) to please customers and keep their jobs.

So, to the website, it really is a simple list of some incredible insights into the minds of waiters. Things like:

  • We’re not allowed to tell our customers we don’t like a dish. So if you ask your server how something is and she says, “It’s one of our most popular dishes,” chances are she doesn’t like it. (Waitress at a well-known pizza chain)
  • On Christmas Day, when people ask why I’m there, I might say, “My sister’s been in the hospital,” or, “My brother’s off to war, so we’re celebrating when he gets back.” Then I rake in the tips. (Chris, a New York City waiter)
  • If you’re looking for your waiter and another waiter tells you he’s getting something out of the stockroom, you can bet he’s out back having a quick smoke. (Charlie Kondek, former waiter)
  • If someone orders a frozen drink that’s annoying to make, I’ll say, “Oh, we’re out. Sorry!” when really I just don’t want to make it. But if you order water instead of another drink, suddenly we do have what you originally wanted because I don’t want to lose your drink on the bill. (Waitress at a casual Mexican restaurant in Manhattan)
  • If you make a big fuss about sending your soup back because it’s not hot enough, we like to take your spoon and run it under really hot water, so when you put the hot spoon in your mouth, you’re going to get the impression — often the very painful impression — that your soup is indeed hot. (Chris)
  • I knew one guy — he was a real jerk — he’d go to Costco and buy this gigantic carrot cake for $10 and tell us to say it’s homemade. Then he sold it for $10 a slice. (Steve Dublanica, veteran New York waiter)
  • In most restaurants, after 8 p.m. or so, all the coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffeepots. I’ll bring out a tray with 12 coffees on it and give some to the customers who ordered regular, others to the ones who ordered decaf. But they’re all decaf.

And there are a couple of other interesting bits to tease out, namely:

  • Many CEOs say the way a potential employee treats a waiter offers insight into that person’s character and ability to lead, according to an article in USA Today. And a 2005 survey of 2,500 members of It’s Just Lunch, a dating service for professionals, found that being rude to waiters ranked No. 1 as the worst in dining etiquette, at 52 percent, way ahead of blowing your nose at the table, at 35.
  • Studies indicate that waiters can boost their tips by lightly touching the customer, crouching next to the table, introducing themselves by name, and—believe it or not—drawing a smiley face on the check!

You can read more of these insights at Wicked Bugg’s live journal site.

Facebook blocks account deletion tool

A quirky, neo-luddite website got some news coverage this week when Facebook told it to cease and desist. The site am talking about is the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. The rather dramatic name is the front for a site that helps you delete your user profiles from some key web2.0 properties like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is a classic case of hitching on the coat tails of others’ success. I cannot tell how genuine the folks are behind the suicide machine. They take a stand against web2.0 properties by claiming they can suck your time, fill your life with fake friends, and make you prey for stalkers. Of course, for some people, this will be their experience in the same way that some people have issues with other technology (some people attract prank callers on their landline, some people grow fat because they use their car too much instead of walking to the shops or letterbox, some people have impoverished relationships at home because they let the television dictate their interactions and they compress family chatter to ad breaks).

If you want your 15 minutes of fame, you only need to do what the suicide machine people have done, hitch a ride on a popular technology and exaggerate some of the risks of use.

For those of us with a modicum of self control and an inclination towards connecting with other human beings, web2.0 properties will do us a great service. And, guess what, you can still mingle and socialise with people in the flesh. This might be startling news for the suicide machine folk, but human beings are capable of socialising online and offline, all from the one brain. Amazing!!

So cudos to the suicide machine folk. They have had their day in the sun.

Now, Facebook has blocked access to the site by the machine and other properties might follow. Facebook is doing this because it already has a system in place for deleting your account and it is a violation of the terms of service for an unauthorised company to be holding other people’s login details and storing their images on a memorial page.

Here is something intriguing – I had a look through the memorial pages and the overwhelming majority of users who used the machine to delete their profiles, had ZERO followers to begin with. Therefore, we have here a storm in a teacup. If you want to investigate much ado about nothing for yourself, you can visit the web 2.0 suicide machine here.