1984

Eight January was both David Bowie’s and Stephen Hawking’s birthday. Bowie, who turned 65 had a hit in the 70s 1984 inspired by the George Orwell novel of the same name. An artist of many faces he remains an icon of rock and I’m happy to have quite a few of his albums in my collection. Hawking turned 70 but didn’t make it to his celebrations on account of recovering from a bout of ill-health. Hawking already is and will no doubt go down in history as one of the most remarkable minds we have been fortunate enough to have amongst us. His ability to turn the complexities of the universe into language we can all appreciate and marvel at is a gift.

Thinking about spacetime and the big bang can make you feel pretty insignificant and that’s probably correct.

Who really is out there!

It’s a strange thing being at home for a few days. I’ve discovered that people do indeed phone the home landline. Mainly looking for money but this afternoon Hector called from the “Microsoft Support Centre” – yeah right. Trying to play with Hector for a moment didn’t seem to work: “where are you based Hector? I’m wondering as you asked how I was this evening when it’s not yet evening”. “I’m from the Microsoft Support Centre, how are you this evening?” he repeated. You only get a few moments to play with Hector and his friends before they cut you loose and move on to the next potential victim. And it’s awful being hung up on so my inclination is to get the last word in then hang up.

Susan from LinkedIn has been communicating with me via email over a problem I’ve had with my contacts list. It seems I’ve invited too many people and hit some sort of scam alert – or that’s what I can deduce from the online forums – as Susan assures me that there is “no restriction at all on your account” and wishes me good cheer. But not before assuring me that the “Setting of being asked to provide an email address, while sending invitation will be disabled automatically. However, I’m unable to provide you an exact time frame for that to happen as its purely system generated.” So I enquired as to what the event or action was that had caused the system to do this to my account. Having once enquired of Google as to why my adverts had stopped running I knew the perils of asking specific questions of such an organisation.

The answer could have been straight from Winston Smith, the protagonist in 1984. Denial that anything had been altered on my account but a repeated assurance that the system would disable it. Followed by an upbeat appreciation of my being part of their network and an invitation to reply should any further assistance be required. WTF! I like LinkedIn and have got excellent value from it. I politely suggested that perhaps Susan might like to let her manager review our communications, if for no other reason than to help the organisation understand its clients better. More good cheer and an offer to complete a feedback form, declined, but still sent, curiously within an hour of one from Google! Winston is surely watching me.

It’s a new year and clearly I have too much time on my hands thinking about this stuff. Susan is sure to be a good person. Hector’s probably trying to support his family – shame he’s chosen an organisation that steals passwords and what goes with them. At least with Hector you pretty well know what you’re up for. But when it comes to large multi-nationals who spread themselves all over our little globe (think spacetime and it doesn’t feel so bad) then wouldn’t it be okay to just answer the question truthfully? Or maybe even say that they won’t answer it?

Thanking and general politeness can be patronising tools to avoid dealing with a real issue. A good lesson for all of us in leadership. How many times have you heard “I just wish they’d told me it as it is”?

That’s off my chest. If my LinkedIn disappears you’ll know why!

Stephen

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