Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why This Distrust of the Internet?

These days I spend two or three hours each day reading email. By reading I mean, I delete a lot of emails that come from Africa, written by women who say she is the heiress of a big diamond mine in Sierra Leone, and need me to come urgently to her country with a lot of cash to rescue her from a bad uncle who had killed her papa and embezzled all the cash. Then I cautiously open the mails, which I think, maybe, of some use and find that they are some scheme like the above and am disappointed at the time I wasted. I once lost some money being a member of a pyramid scheme which promised to make me a millionaire. You guessed right, the solicitation came from the net.

The result is: I don’t take the net seriously though I am addicted to it. I take everything I read on the net with, okay, I will use the cliché, a pinch of salt. That doesn’t mean I don’t take my own writing here seriously, I do, but that’s my own, isn’t it? What I am trying to get across so circuitously is: why is it that though the net is a wonderful invention and is so full of potential to reach across, it is such a cesspool of credibility, a junkyard of wasted effort?

A friend, a dot com entrepreneur recently asked on Facebook “everyone knows its potential but no one wants to agree to use it.” I once worked for a dot com entrepreneur who made US $ four million a year selling products online but had to face overwhelming disputes with the payment gateway and had to close it down. I also worked for another dot com enterprise which project, billed as another Facebook (No, even better, because the company promised to make you money if you wrote things on its pages), actually, the project never took off and he lost around US $ ten million and nobody made any money except the employees.

The really successful companies on the net like Yahoo and Google have no customer interface at all. Whatever happened to the age-old wisdom of the customer being king? Facebook did some changes on its website which we all thought were arbitrary and, protest we did! It’s heartening that they listened and, rather reluctantly, have put the suggestions to vote. The result: the overwhelming majority is against the policies they implemented and for sweeping changes. At least Facebook listens!

I have been trying to get the attention of Google for an Adwords campaign I intend to do. I have dropped the cheque in their drop box in some bank’s office and, over a few months, am anxiously waiting for the account to reflect in my Adwords account. No luck. A bit disconsolate, if I click on the customer support section, I am directed and have to perforce scan several FAQ pages, the study of which doesn’t throw up any solution to my problem at all. Then I write my complaint in a text box and submit and wait another month. Along comes an email (a standard one) quite helpfully suggesting that I go to another section where I might get an answer to my question.

They don’t care for us down there in Mountain View. Quite bitterly, I am led to guess, that’s what internet success is all about and they are high on success. Still disconsolate I try to locate the office address of Google in India and write them a letter attaching the Xerox copy of the cheque I had sent, still there’s no reply.

The net is evolving; it is a phenomenon much unlike anything anyone has ever seen. Even comparing it with the advent print and publishing doesn’t seem appropriate because printed books weren’t really cheap and widely available in those days, as the net is nowadays. Should we therefore pause and rethink our strategies before running to launch dot com companies and websites? Well worth the thought.

En Passant...

The aspiring Prime Minister of India, known for his volubility, made an inadvertently hilarious play on words when he called Osama Bin Laden as Obama Bin Laden, not realising the faux pas. Agreed, it is only a substitution of one letter, but isn’t this a big gaffe for the PM-in-waiting who would have to meet Obama if he is prime minister? Agreed, in India it’s Chalta Hai. What if he refers to him as Osama once again in an international forum? An aide had to send him a note pointing out this gaffe when he said, “I seem to have made a mistake...” meaning he hadn’t even realised that he had made a mistake.

No comments: