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Friday, March 26, 2010

Organising the mess

So first of all I want to talk about public transport. I'm trying not to get political, but of course when you talk about anything that's publicly controlled it's very difficult. Specifically on the public transport subject, the issue last night was this: A good friend of mine joined us on the public transport (namely the number 10 bus to Cheltenham from Gloucester) and asked for a return ticket. Like any normal person he didn't check the ticket in great detail, assuming that he would be given what he asked for. We (meaning his fellow passengers) all heard him ask for his return ticket, so it was in no doubt.

However, upon is return journey, it transpires that he wasn't actually issued with a return ticket, but actually just a one-way ticket. At the time, he didn't think anything of the £2.50 charge because that is what you pay for a night rider ticket which allows you to travel backwards and forwards between Cheltenham and Gloucester. So after a little argy-bargy with the bus driver my friend agreed to pay for the return ticket (as a one-way) to his stop (the Cross Hands in Brockworth).

When he joined his fellow travellers (namely me and another bloke) upstairs it became apparent that he'd now been sold a ticket to Elmbridge Road (my stop) which is about 2 miles further on than his destination. Naturally he took umbrage with this, and discussed it at length with the bus driver on his departure from the bus at the Cross Hands. The driver was having none of it, and would gladly have argued black was white all night long. In fact the only reason I'm home now and able to write this entry is down to the fact that my friend conceded and merely asked for an apology instead of a refund. The entire episode is of course on the bus CCTV and could be admissible as evidence in a court of law if it wasn't for the fact that we're only talking about 75p!!!

And there is the problem with public transport. The public (and others) are more than happy to make use of it, as long as they're treated like paying customers. It seems obvious that a bus driver running the post 11pm shift treats all his customers as drunken buffoons (an aspiration that I and my esteemed friend would not be comfortable with) and feels free to charge whatever he sees fit without paying attention to his customers request. This on top of the failure to have issued a return ticket in the first place only leads to a massive level of customer dissatisfaction.

Fix the customer satisfaction issues and you'll go at least half way to fixing the public transport issues. (We can talk about the smell, and cleanliness of said transport on another occasion)

On to other subjects... There really is a massive amount of pointless, useless and arcane information in the world. What's worse is it leaks into the really useful information and mudify's our understanding. That was a bit just there... mudify ?? Clearly not a word and yet we all know what it meant. Useless, but creeping in on the real action.

So the question is, what do we do with all this "information" ?? Easy.

Stick it on Wikipedia. This has become the de facto storage system for all things useless. Admittedly there are loads of useful articles, some of which even have accurate information in them but every now and again a newspaper article turns up full of facts lifted directly from this hallowed resource and it's utter tosh.

For many this is a worry, but not for me. Think about it. How many times have you heard the phrase "Don't believe everything you read in the papers" ?? Plenty I'm sure.

Nothing has changed. Some information is easier to get hold of, but reporters still have to do their job properly and research their story, regardless of the source of the data. My favourite illustration of this in practice occurs in the film "All the President's Men". In particular the amount of effort that both Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford (as Woodward and Bernstein) put in to getting the elements of their story confirmed before they go to press.

They are consistently shown (and in fact this is a key dramatic premise of the movie) attempting to get both the story and confirmation of the story from multiple sources before being allowed anywhere near a printing press. As anyone with any knowledge of the historical facts is aware, this story led to the down fall of President Nixon (and just putting my movie critic head on for a moment - is one of the best political thrillers of all time).

But the point remains. Here-say is not enough (see wikipedia for lots of that). Confirmation of heresy on the other hand, is a different matter and of course is considered fact. As long as wikipedia (and you) remember that, then feel free to trawl it for "facts" all you like.
 

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