A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 20 July 2015

Hooptedoodle #183 - The Revenge of The Typing Pool

This morning I have nothing to offer but a brief rant. I shall make some token attempt to pick my words carefully, because it is a subject area where I have little intuitive feel for the expected degree of political correctness, and I fear that I may be guilty of providing insufficient balance in my views. I seek no comfort, and I offer no solutions – I wish merely to let off steam for a moment and then move blithely on, and let us hear no more about it.

When I was a young man, setting out on my professional career, I was required to be courageous and wise – sometimes beyond my years and experience. That in itself was a little stressful, but by far the most terrifying thing I used to have to do was to venture into The Typing Pool. In there, the smoke pollution and noise levels were very high, and the chatter was approximately a musical fifth above the pitch I was used to elsewhere. None of this in itself was too dangerous, but if you had ever caught even a hint of the conversation in there you would have rushed out screaming. If your brain was not actually destroyed on the spot you were still likely to run away to sign up for some silent order or other – preferably on a remote island.

The chatter was completely – and I do mean completely – without any import or redeeming merit. It was talk of shoes, and shampoo, and the trashiest of TV programmes, and endless, outrageous, poisonous gossip about anyone and everyone. I still shudder to think of it.

Well, the years pass, and one writes these things off to experience, and after a while I didn’t have to go in there any more. Rank does have its privileges. Eventually, technology changes actually meant that The Typing Pool was a thing of the past, and I began, in idle moments, to wonder:

(a) could it really have been as bad I remembered?

(b) whatever happened to the people who used to work in there? – what else could they possibly do? – were they all right?

I still ponder this occasionally, but as time passes I have become convinced that the people from The Typing Pool (or their direct descendants) are doing very nicely, thank you, and they now run the newspapers and the TV companies. It is now beginning to dawn on me that they have taken over my Internet Service Provider too.

My new-look email service from BT Internet now opens up with the glories of Yahoo News – there is no escape. If someone put a tabloid newspaper through my letterbox bearing the same trash I would chase them down the path with a garden hoe, but I am expected to grit my teeth and live with this as part of my everyday email presentation. I realise that BT (or Yahoo, or probably both) make advertising money from this garbage, and I’m sure they have some clever marketing people who know exactly how to optimise customer satisfaction and ad revenue, but it is also worth remembering that I do pay rather a lot of money for the service, and their choice of news and adverts does not sit well with me, given that our rural broadband speed is struggling to cope with the things we actually want.

Could you possibly have Schwartzheim’s Disease? – Doctors make shock discovery – that is a damned lie.

See intimate shots of Kate and William at Garden Party – no – give me a break.

This cute kitten was rescued from the Thames – it will probably die anyway.

Guide to 10 things your body language says about you – take our test – no – my body hasn’t said anything for years.

Watch the worst open-goal miss in the history of Egyptian league football – no.

Would you wear this £10 dress to Ascot? – no – bugger off.

See the 20 biggest dress mistakes from the BAFTAs! – no – bugger off.

Watch this video of a motorcyclist falling into a vat of glue – no – bugger off.

See this 50-year-old-woman who has discovered astonishing anti-wrinkle trick – no – bugger off.

And much, much more. You can’t fool me – it was long ago, but I have had glimpses of this level of sophistication and good taste before, in the distant past.

Just out of interest – is there an ISP out there with any class at all? I am very much afraid that mine is one of the better ones. No wonder I get depressed.


  1. First rule - don't use their e-mail. If you leave BT Internet you lose the e mail account. Go for a free G Mail or Hotmail. account - easy to set, you don't lose everything if you go elsewhere. I have got a BT Internet e-mail account. Have never used it or looked at it.

    1. Hi Rob - that would be a terrific idea, except that I need a time machine to implement it. I have hotmail accounts and gmail accounts, but my principal email address is my btinternet one, it has been for 10 years, and it identifies me to my banks, the tax office, PayPal, every online account I have, etc etc. The old-style BT Mail was OK - it was just a bit slow. It is only recently that it turned into a cross between the Daily Star and Hello! magazine. It's still a bit slow - in fact it is even slower, since we have to wait for all the new crud to download.

    2. It took me about 5 years to wean myself off my old email to gmail so I could have 1 account to access from any device anywhere. I just set my old email to forwarded all mail to gmail.

      I do remember having to venture into a typing pool at a youngish age (still 20 something but I looked younger and ;lacked experience of the world, esp civilian world). Many of the women stayed with the company when the pool became obsolete and later they turned into normal people as I got to know them. I'm not sure if that is less scary or scarier!?

    3. My first instinct is to feel pleased for them, but then I start to worry about where they are now, what they are doing - who are they bad-mouthing, and is it on a social or an official standpoint?

  2. Living in the 'burbs of Manchester, we're absolutely spoiolt for chioce for ISPs. Nevertheless, I still use my old NTL (now Virgin Mediochre) email address, but I use Thunderbird for emaiils and Firefox as a browser. My browser's home page is BBC News. I have emxil accounts with Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, all because of old work demands, but I rarely bother with them now. Thankfully considerations of access while mobile are no longer my concern.

    I don't often read newspapers and generally ignore their websites unless I'm directed there (usually by my son-in-law) so I lead a pretty much unsullied life. However, even a cursory glance at any magazine stand makes me acutely aware of the bilge somebody somewhere must read. A cousin of mine insists on dropping off 'women's periodicals' for Chris, for which she receives a bollocking from me for saving space in her recycling bin at the expense of ours. Even throwing the damn things back into her boot hasn't deterred her: she thinks it's just me being amusing. Yes, she's that thick - which probably explains why she buys so many of the bloody things.

    Typing pools (and don't forget the lair of the comptometer operators) were places all men feared to visit. When I worked at GEC Traction, the only man for whom the typing pool held no fear was Ivan who was gay (or 'a bit of a nancy' in those days). With the advent of word processors and calculators, all the typists and comp operators (and maybe Ivan too) were redeployed to good jobs at which they had only a slim chance of success and duly left or had nervous breakdowns. Senior management were delighted; they'd outflanked the unions and shed bucket loads of staff at minimal cost.

    1. I think it's important that I should keep in mind that The Typing Pool was a feature of an age with different values, and wildly different career profiling. We all identify dreadful sexist job discrimination as a No.1 evil of those unenlightened times, but the fact remains that very few of those girls had any prospect (or the slightest intention) of working after they could leave to start a family. Obviously somebody stayed on to run the Pool, but most of the typists were just passing through - they had no clout and no prospects, they didn't get paid much money - maybe spreading dirty rumours was the only perk they got - at least they knew they wouldn't be taken seriously.

      I remember a period in the late 1980s when my boss's secretary was off sick for a while, and we got one of the more efficient women from the secretarial area to stand in for her, to take minutes at management team meetings. At first the stand-in was a bit intimidated by all these boring older men, but eventually she relaxed a bit and it all became a bit more interactive, until one day she produced a Typing Pool style revelation about the private life of some hotshot we were considering for promotion, and all sorts of alarms went off. I got the job of taking her to task (always lucky at cards...) - did she realise that she was not expected to contribute to this particular discussion, that discretion and professional ethics were important, etc etc, and if what she said was true - even if it wasn't - did she realise she might have just wrecked someone's career? She broke down in floods of tears (I am still traumatised to recall), and said she "had just heard something somewhere, but it might not be true". She recovered after a cup of tea, but we never saw her at the meetings again.

      Deafening collision of different worlds - I hope we have sorted that sort of thing out now, but that was a scene from a very bad movie.

    2. On the subject of ISPs, and despite myself, the choice of BT in this part of the world is something of a no-brainer. Simply because we are a long way from our nearest exchange, and because the low population density makes it unlikely that I will live long enough to see fast broadband or fibre-optic connection here, the only viable provider of infrastructure in these parts is BT - in the guise of Openreach. A number of other firms have guaranteed to improve our current broadband performance, but they have no stake in the actual kit - that is all down to BT. A neighbour of mine has flirted with TalkTalk, Orange and Zen(?), with no good result - not only was the communication speed no better, but he now found himself as piggy-in-the-middle in a counterproductive blame-shifting fight between infrastructure provider and ISP. Crap though our situation is, at least the argument is with a single supplier.

    3. I've just had a look at local Wi-Fi availability: 6 Vurgin, 1 Sky and 1 I've never heard of. However, I see lots of BT Openreach vans about so somebody must be using them. We were cabled to death several years ago and subsequently fibre-opticked into a coma, so our service levels ought to be somewhere in orbit, but it doesn't stop the network crashing periodically. I think choosing an ISP is a bit like moving a bee hive: youu know you're gonna get stung, but you don't know where or when.

      As to the employment/work issue(s), I'm not at all sure we've actually crossed that bridge. The public sector has moved a good way (but not all the way), mainly because of public accountability, but the private sector is still a very mixed bag.

  3. I am only passingly familiar with the internal workings of the computational engine, but would it not be possible to set up automatic forwarding of mail from the BT account to another email platform (either another webmail such as Gmail or to an email client)? You wouldn't have to abandon the address but wouldn't have to look at the webmail page any more.
    Of course this dreadful arrangement may not last. I use webmail provided by my ISP here in Oz, too (Optus, a subsidiary of SingTel, the Singaporean government-owned company). For a while they also insisted on routing webmil login via a page that featured "stories" about kittens experiencing amazing weight loss. Then, for reasons they never explained, dropped the whole portal idea and went back to direct access to webmail and a simple account management page. Apparently the experiment was a failure (yes, I'm surprised too). Perhaps you just need to wait them out.

    1. Hi Steve - I live in hope that this will eventually calm down. It's hard to tell what is happening, because BT keep promising changes that eventually creep into the light months late, so I never know what we've been told is going to happen and how far we've actually got.

      The automatic forwarding trick works well, but only one way - if all my emails get diverted to my gmail account then either I reply from gmail or have to open up my BT account to reply in a less confusing way, and I'm back in the same hole.

      The most alarming thing about the Yahoo-clone front end is that it features interest stories which are actually well known scams - e.g. "stories" about Raspberry Ketones (or similar) which will make you thin and rampant and smooth skinned for a very cheap introductory offer, which automatically gets you into a lot of small print and a standing order for £100/month for a regular supply of something you don't want. Classic scam - i would have thought that reputable ISPs could not get afford to get implicated in this stuff, however much the ads pay. Maybe that is what will sort things out.

      Present form of my email is that the top line of each folder looks like a new email, but it is actually a scam ad for "Doctors don't want you to learn this trick..." and similar. Presumably someone makes money every time some poor sod opens one of these in error.

      Excuse me while I vomit.

      Cheers - Tony

    2. I should imagine you are in good company here.
      Alarming though it is to discover that your ISP (to whom you pay a fee for the "service" they provide) is peddling scams and other clickbait, I have noticed a tendency for the web versions of supposedly reputable news outlets to do the same. You won't see it on the main page, but lurking at the bottom of an article will be links to other things to read, which often turn out to be external sites of extremely dubious character (and often grossly at odds with the apparent editorial stance of the newspaper). The money people clearly manage this side of things and have nothing to do with the editorial side, leading to strange juxtapositions such as links to grossly sexist stories about "the most amazing women you ever saw" at the end of an op-ed lambasting modern sexism, and the like. Apparently nobody understands irony any more and the excuse that an activity makes money is considered sufficient to justify anything.
      I used to make my living conducting research into and providing advice about professional and organisational ethics. I have given it up as about as productive and rolling rocks up hills.

  4. David sent a comment which appears to have fallen down the plughole somewhere, but it reached me as an email:

    >>Re: the typing pool, I was wondering if you could simply avoid the ghastly yahoo page by using an email program ( e.g. outlook ) to download your mail, rather than having to go to webmail? A bit old fashioned, I admit, but would presumably cut out the tabloid twaddle... <<

    That would do it, but alas I am committed to webmail, and using the horrible Yahoo-derived BT browser is (on balance) better than switching to gmail or similar as my primary email service.

    I can't believe I'm the only freak in the world that doesn't like this stuff - I can only hope that eventually the service gets a bit more customisable - at the moment I can change the colour of the screen, but can't turn off the tabloid gunk (though I don't have to read it, of course).

    What happened to REAL customer service?

    1. "I can only hope that eventually the service gets a bit more customisable"

      This is a hell of a confession, but my brother-in-law actually is Mr BT Openreach :O/ It would be truthful to say that his flaw has a personality - he has all the charisma of Dr Mengele. We always suspected that his sons' friends were based on their parents' Acorn rating. Bear that in mind when you think about BT's attitude to customer service . . . .

    2. Look, it's a hell of a thing to have to admit . . . :O(