Gmail disarray

Can anyone explain why editing an email in the Gmail editor may look okay when you send it, but the recipient may receive it with altered editing – font, font size, broken lines, etc?

This is a general problem known since at least 2011 but never solved by Gmail.  It is so unpredictable that one should not use Gmail for serious emails.

The only safe solution is to send important documents as an attached PDF, although one workaround is to compose the email in Google Docs then cut and paste it into Gmail.

Another suggested workaround is to select the whole email message, change the font size to small and then change it back to normal, and it is claimed that it will read properly in the recipient’s email.

It is astonishing that Gmail has never sorted this in six years.


Jump to attention

Many public bodies think that their authority allows them to call the public to jump to attention.

Take the tax office.  One will wait weeks and even months to get a response from them, but they expect you to answer them within so many days, with the threat of penalties – even although you may be away from home when they choose to respond, or you have pressing business, etc.  You must jump to attention when they say so.

A business would soon lose its customer loyalty with such an attitude, and many do.  This attitude is common wherever there is authority.  Jesus spoke against this abuse of authority, but few people know nor pay any attention to what He says.  He said that we should use authority to serve, not to be served.  Authoritarians abuse their authority to give themselves a sense of worth.  Jesus gives a sense of self-worth without the need for abuse.

There are many areas of public life where the public are kept at arm’s length by those in  authority – the justice system, lawyers and police, the media, council officials, etc.  Most people do not realise this until those rare occasions when they must interact with them.  However the average person encounters it in their employment, from individuals at work, even if not from their employer as such.  It leads to much of the mental health issues and lack of productivity at work.

In fact it begins at 2 years old – the terrible twos – when little children want to control their little siblings and even their doting parents with screaming tantrums.  Some people never grow up and they continue to control and manipulate others as much as they can get off with.  What they don’t realise is that they must give account to Him Who has the ultimate authority.

BT and identifying cold callers

Following my blogpost on cold calling, another issue is the problem of identification.

Occasionally British Telecom (BT) phone me. The most recent call was to remind me to renew my broadband with them. This needs serious consideration because tonight I sent an email which did not go through. What was the reason? This is what the email said:
“Technical details of temporary failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the relay
The error that the other server returned was:
421 Too many messages ( from …”

So one email is ‘too many messages’. This is not uncommon, and it is sporadic and unpredicable. This deserves investigation and consideration before I renew my contract with BT.

So when the BT caller phoned about renewing my broadband, I was ready to ask some questions, but before we could begin, the caller wanted to go through some ‘security questions’ with me first. Could I confirm my name, address and postcode for identification.

So I reminded the caller that I would like to confirm their identity. She repeated that these questions were simply for security. So I pointed out: “If I answer them, you have a name, a telephone number and an address – very useful for cold callers and others.” So I repeated by question: “You claim to be BT. Of all people, you should be able to confirm your identity on a telephone.” As I probed who they were, I discovered that it was not BT but a sub-contracted business claiming to do BT’s work for them.

So I pointed out to them that as they cannot prove their identity to me, and I cannot establish their identity either, the call will need to end.

I periodically have this phone call with BT personnel, or their subsidiaries. If BT cannot address this issue, why should we bother? Telecommunication is their business, and it is their responsibility to prove their identification in their cold calls. Let BT and other cold callers address this.

Dealing with cold callers

Many of you have probably had cold callers wasting your time.

Rather than putting the phone down on them, you might want to waste their time. My most recent call (the second one today) went like this.

First, he asked about ‘my recent minor car accident’. So I asked him what made him think that I had a minor car accident.

Encouraged, he told me that he got my number from the Road Safety Authority and went on to ask me if I had a minor car accident. The inconsistency of his question was completely lost on him, so I wasted a few more of his minutes by pointing out that he just told me that I had ‘a minor car accident’.

After a while he hit on the line that he needed ‘to validate it’ to help me out with compensation. As he floundered I was writing down what he was saying so that I could compose this blog. Usually I simply carry on with my own work while they talk away into thin air.

Eventually he asked if he was speaking to the right person so I said: “Probably not.” So he asked if I would “find out who at this number had a minor car accident”. I said: “No, as I don’t see why I should do your work for you.” So then he wondered if this was a home number or a work number and when I would not tell him he began to realise he was getting nowhere and rang off abruptly, as they usually do – such is their love of helping people.

Another way of handling such calls is simply to put the phone down beside you and carry on working. Let them speak into thin air and eventually they will realise that they are talking to no-one and will ring off. Don’t put the phone down at that stage, for then they can simply phone someone else. Keep the phone off the hook as this keeps the line busy and prevents them making another phone call. In a short while the phone will begin to buzz, reminding you to hang up your phone again.

Have fun instead of getting annoyed. You might even find the opportunity to put across the Gospel to them – for free. It is all part of the Christian service.

Pollsters’ post-mortem

Opinion pollsters are organising a post-mortem on why the opinion polls were so completely wrong in the recent General Election.

There will be much huffing and puffing, money and time wasted in trying to reach a conclusion.

For my part, a good part of the answer will be found in the tick box mentality of our computer-dependent generation.

Many questionnaires are framed in such a way as to put answers in a box, so that computers can quickly process the answers.

The tick box questionnaires I have seen do not allow the options ‘I think this is ambiguous’, ‘I think this does not cover all the options’, ‘I think the question is irrelevant’, etc. If there were enough responses in these boxes, it would send the pollsters and all questionnaire-makers back to the drawing board in an iteration that should produce more positive, useful and accurate results.

BT Yahoo limiting the number of domestic emails

I have spent about 1½ hours on a BT help call to determine:

1. those wanting to move away from BT will have their former BT email address supported for free for one month; this has been recently reduced from three months. After that, it will cost £1.60/month to continue to use it.

2. domestic emails are limited by Yahoo to 100 emails per day. The maximum number of recipients per email is 25 otherwise there is a risk that Yahoo will block greater activity because of the risk that a hacker has compromised your account. Initially I was told by a level 2 Yahoo spokeswoman that the maximum number was five recipients, and it was only when I challenged this that she investigated and came back with the higher number of 25.

I know that other providers are better than this. This may be why BT is planning to move away from Yahoo. However, this does not alter the fact that a phone call to their help desk can take an hour or more as one is passed from person to person, sitting in a queue listening to apologies. So I am planning to leave BT because of its poor provision, its costs and its hour-long phone calls.