Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Thanks, Gulf News!

BlackBerry 8800 (Cingular VersionImage via Wikipedia

Nice to see Gulf News' Abbas Lawati covering the BlackBerry software patch story today - great reporting, from surfacing the story and 'getting' what was going on in the first place right through to finding Qatar- based progammer Nigel Gourlay to comment on the actual functionality of the patch. Great journalism, top marks for effort and really cutting through to the heart of the story.

Thanks, BTW, to the lads at the most excellent Stuff Magazine for the link back they included in their story!

It's going to be interesting seeing how Etisalat deals with this one now from a communications perspective. The company could choose to clam up and fillibuster any journalist unwise enough to pursue the story further, ignoring the howls of pain from customers while it quietly fixes the problem. Or could institute a wide-ranging reaction to the unfortunate incident, apologising for the inconvenience the move has caused, communicating effectively with customers, explaining what has gone wrong and how they can restore their devices and performing as clean and efficient a 'roll back' as possible.

There have been reports of users buying new Dhs200 batteries for their BlackBerries as a solution to the sudden battery-drain they experienced - and performance of the handsets has also reportedly been affected. So there is a strong argument for a smart, transparent customer service push that redresses at least some of the key customer irritations.

Meanwhile, if you want to get into the security software business, here are some handy hints and tips.

Make sure that nobody knows you're trying to install a security or monitoring patch because they might be scared or protest. Tell them it enhances teddy bears or something. Having done that:

  • Do make sure that your software is called something scary, like 'Raptor', 'Destroyer' or 'Interceptor'. Name the subroutines you are using after the software so that users can see the name and be spooked by it.
  • Do make sure you install all software into a directory clearly named after the security company that is providing the solution. This helps curious customers, bloggers and yes, even journalists, quickly and easily find out more about what you're up to.
  • Do try and work with a security company whose website shrieks 'Be Scared! Be Very Scared!' or at least trumpets how it makes interception and monitoring software that allows intelligence agencies to monitor and analyze targets. Nothing makes consumers happier than being referred to as 'targets', except possibly the sight of red laser dots on their chest.
Meanwhile, I'd just like to say that my Nokia battery has ground to a virtual halt, supporting no more than 20 minutes of talk time before failing. And that didn't even need a patch from Etisalat to achieve!
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Derrick Pereira said...

Agreed! GN gave the story a front page teaser and dedicated half a page to the story... and mind you, holding no punches.

Hopefully with this story reaching the press there'll be more Blackberry owners out there hammering the call centre to get more info/fix out.

While I'm not a Blackberry user, I can sympatise with folks out there. Etisalat's typical wall-of-silence stance on screw ups & rubbish call centre have got to change.

It'll be interesting to see what they revert back with. By admitting to the issue (which they should), they open themselves up to the fury of customers who've replaced batteries/handsets/etc. Or they may get sly and pass the buck to an 'outsourced' company that developed the update for them.

Either way, I think they should compensate all Blackberry owners with a free month (or two) of service, etc.

Christopher Allbritton said...

God, am I glad I no longer live in that POS country. You guys aren't disturbed by an attempt to snoop on you?

Anonymous said...

Christopher. You don't think that your government spies on you? Go visit the SS8 website and see how many 'free' governments they hook up with. Go look into the code of software like Windows and see if there is a back door...

etisalat's screw up was in messing up the code so that users could notice.

Anonymous said...

Ethnocentric Christopher, you really think your government doesn't snoop on you?

Good riddance.

Graeme Baker said...

Well there was that unorthorised wiretapping stuff but no, it is absurd to suggest that everyone is as bad as each other.

The UAE is not a free country in any sense and certainly theinstruments of power are arranged for the dictators rather than the people.

Anonymous said...

Graeme - whether the UAE is a free country or not is irrelevant to the issue. Government's all over the world monitor comms. no matter if the country is free or not free, they all do it, and they all do it in secret (although bizarrely in India their deal with SS8 made it to the media).

A quick browse of SS8 site shows that they work with the Canadian and Indian governments and more than 20 other countries.

What they do is not illegal. Most governments (especially the US) have a clause in the telco licences which means these operators have to provide the ability to allow comms to be intercepted.

etisalat basically messed up by bungling the code or not having big enough servers in place to deal with the traffic.

Graeme Baker said...

I haven't got time to check the Canadian contract thoroughly but I very much doubt it is employed to spy on individuals - let alone an entire customer base - without a court order obtained on the basis of reasonable suspicion.

The UAE is a repressive dictatorship that obviously distrusts its people. Accept it.

Anonymous said...

skype and flickr are against the ethics and morals of the people of the UAE. riiight. etisalat will screw things up, charge you for it, and give you the finger time and time again.

and dont try to protest this in the uae because protesting is illegal. just be quiet, install the new spyware update, and pay your bills on time.


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