I was struck by the similarity of the plight and treatment of the BRYANT & MAY MATCHWOMEN in the East End of London, in the 1880’s, and the hi-tech assembly workers at the FoxConn factories in China.
I heard an interview with Louise Raw, Historian and Author, on this mornings Robert Elms, BBC Radio London show, talking about her new book, Striking a Light. The comparison was really only around the plight of the workers than anything else. Thinking about it afterwards the scale of the hi-tech workers is staggering, Wired estimates 1-million workers working on the iPhone alone, which beggars belief.
The clear difference between the two is not just the number of deaths, the illness, the treatment etc. but the nature of the society that allowed both to exist. In the 1880’s the Bryant and May Matchwomen had the ability to incite change and the ability to start a union like organization. In China, it’s not at all clear this is even remotely possible.
If you can catch todays Robert Elms show on the BBC iPlayer, it’s well worth a listen. It should be posted by 1pm Central time, and will be available only for the next 7-days. Unless I get time to rip that section of the show and post to soundcloud.
Yesterday I wrote about This American Lifes “What Kind of Country do you want?” at which as was surprised at how much disdain and distrust there was of the US Government. As if by magic, when I got home I had missed a certified mail delivery from the IRS. I collected the letter this morning, it was a demand for $2434.04 with no explanation.
After 18-minutes on the phone, I spoke to one operator who could tell me only that it was late fees and interest. I asked for a statement that I could file with my tax attorney ans she said she couldn’t provide that, she’d have to put me through to some advanced dept. After another 20-mins on hold, a man answered, was polite, asked if it was ok to hold, came back 6-mins later, said his software was slow, and then said “oh there you go it’s come back now I’m talking about it”. He asked if he could put me back on hold, came back eventually and said he’d have to submit a paper request and it would take 30-days.
Note, the fact that I’d only been given another 9-days to pay before the US Government would exercise their intent to seize my property, meant I should just pay it. I submitted the payment via a 3rd party for the $3.49 fee and gave the guy on the phone a payment confirmation number.
I told him I was the Director for Software engineering at Dell; I’d be happy to hang up my boots and come fix their software, my fees were a very reasonable $1,000 per day. He said they have lots of software but his computer was an HP, I passed on the chance to make fun of that. Total call time 58-minutes, 38-seconds.
I’m starting to see that if you grow up and these are the sorts of tales, inefficiencies and hopeless situations, you do indeed become skeptical about big government. I’m going to see the US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) tomorrow for my permanent immigration application. Wish me luck.
than do a real job”. Brilliant, sums up what I’ve thought for a longtime. No real examination of Apples products, no difficult questions, except recent coverage of their problems with manufacturing; the press would rather fawn over their products than do a critical examination.
Well this is a great summary of the upcoming Apple anouncement “Too many inky hacks pulled out to cover Apple instead. We, the Press would rather sit in a dark room, unable to ask tough questions or actually touch and test an Apple product, than do our job. We would rather serve as a gateway for Apple’s live action press releases.” You can read the rest here on Mat Honans’ Gizmodo blog.
Note in case this entry starts showing up on google search results, I’m not saying Apple has bad products, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never owned one and the press coverage doesn’t really tell you anything, it’s just an extension to Apples marketing operation, as Mat admits.
This will be worth watching, both from a usability and a pricing perspective. http://www.google.com/flights/
Facebooks’ eventually consistent database has been under real strain lately. It’s a great example of the difference between social media and the web 2.0 style architectures, and a banking application. In this example, facebook has notified me three separate ways that a conversation had been updated. Yet almost 20-seconds after the first notification, the data I can see hasn’t been updated. The facebook comment made by Mike in the top-right, should be appended to the bottom of the pop-out window.
Now, imagine this was your bank account. A transaction comes in that debits $10,000 from your account. Then a query comes in that shows the $10,000 is still in your account, another transaction is then initiated that deducts $10,000 from your account. What got debited, and if you only had $15,000 in your account, how much do you have now?
And that’s a great example of the difference between eventually consistent and ACID based transaction-based systems. Many but not all IT Professionals understand this. Make sure yours does. In this case it could be the backend database consistency, ie there are multiple copies and they don’t match, or there could be multiple backend copies and the copy in the browser cache, does or doesn’t match. Either way “Houston, we have a problem”.
It’s fascinating to watch, and participate in the change in America. Sometimes it starts to look like a distinctly 2nd rate country. I’ve met reasonable people who are out of work through no fault of their own, who can’t afford to see a Dr or a Dentist unless its a life threatening emergency. Period. Then I hear from Oli in the UK that he’s finally gone to the dentist and had his teeth fixed, two fillings, and a root canal, total price to him, 49 UKP or about $60.
In this weeks This American Life they ask the question, what kind of country? They cover a number of angles as always, again the most interesting is saved until the end. The question is should you pay more tax and does cutting services actually save money? It’s more a question of trust I think, and people seem intrinsically not to trust the government. Which is weird given they deliver so much.
If asked would I pay an extra $200 to keep the existing services going, or pay $300 to cut loads of services and just pay the annual bill for street lighting, I’d go with the $200, not because it was cheaper, but because I believe honestly in the commons. You’ll be surprised what a lot of people were willing to pay. This American Life, Episode 459 (mp3).
NPR has an interesting blog entry on “What ‘Mastered For iTunes’ Really Means”. I hadn’t spotted this since I’ve been a life long Apple avoider. It’s not that I think Apple has bad products, it’s just they always, always look for a way to lock users into their systems. I’ve felt for a long time that the music industry would eventually find a way to strike back at MP3. In this case it makes perfect sense. Pay particular attenion to the last two paragraphs.