Rant: January 2008 Archives


I just received a credit card offer from Capital One in the post today. They offered me a credit card with a 34.94% APR. Yes, thats right, 34.94%. Lets put this in perspective.
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Lets say on your 18th Birthday your parents give you £100. Being sensible you invest this in a pension scheme which of course saves you tax etc. Over the next 45 years the pension scheme earns 34.94% interest annually. Guess how much you would be worth when you reach 65 years of age.

£670 Million

Lets say mum and dad could afford to give you £5000 pounds and you did the same with this. How much would you be worth at retirement.

£33.5 Billion

For our American cousins thats

$65.3 Billion

You'd be the richest person on the planet by a long margin. Bill Gates would be asking you to dinner.

To say I was dumb struck is an understatement. I had a look on their website and they are offering credit cards for 9.9% APR. So if you take their mail offer up they charging you 3.5 times more than on line customers. What customers are unlikely to check on line? Yes, the elderly and low income.

I don't know about anyone else but charging 34.94% interest seems morally wrong to me. I recently read the book Super Crunchers and to be honest I am pretty sure that I am just one of a random selection of customers they have sent offers to.

Capital One have been pioneering the use of random statistical tests to see where customer pain points are. It works like this.

100,000 customers get offered credit cards (the numbers following are just examples). The customers are broke up into random segments where

25% get offered the credit cards at 34.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 24.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 14.94%
25% get offered the credit cards at 9.94%

They then count how many people in each segment take the offer up. Capital One can then work out where the maximum profit point is. This sort of thing is going on all the time so I shouldn't be that annoyed about it but I just cannot help feeling it's wrong.

Note: For these people who scoff at me not including inflation try the calculation where we assume our enterprising little investor saves the same amount each year plus another 10%.
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I complained recently to Virgin Media about problems with my account. Well, it gets better. Have a look at the following two numbers, numbers are in bits per second:
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  1. 56000      This is the theoretical speed of an ordinary dial up.
  2. 147456    This is currently the average speed of my connection

Not bad.  Virgin Media is 3 times faster than a dial up. Wow, slow down. The really shitty part is that I am paying for the following speed.

  1. 2000000

If we apply some simple maths to this we get:

2000000 / 147456 == 13.5

This means that my Virgin media bandwidth is 13.5 slower than what I'm paying for. At the current rate I would have to pay about £250 to get a real 2Mbit connection. Should I complain again...... Whats the point, I get through to someone who can only check the cable modem. You spend ages on the phone and they tell you nothing is wrong.

I hate changing services but this is becoming insane.

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I was recently approached by a member of the St. Nicholas (East Dereham, Image on the right taken from Simon at the Norfolk Churches website) committee and was asked to go over a proposal from Daniel Gibbins. This committee member had some misgivings about the whole thing hence contacting me. He assumed that because I work for Yahoo! and bore him half to tears about websites a lot I might know a bit about websites, he was right.

dereham-st-nicholas.jpgAnyway, it took me about five minutes to realize that Daniel Gibbins is a novice posing as a professional. Professional web anything and Daniel should not be mentioned in the same sentence. This is not a particularly uncommon thing. For instance:

  • Honest Tradseman or Cowboy.
  • Car Dealer or Wheeler Dealer.
Sometimes people are just misguided, they have done a two month DIY course and they consider themselves plumbers, brickies or joiners. It's an ongoing war professionals in any trade or profession have.

The story gets better though.

I decided that rather than let Daniel take the money from the church I'd be prepared to do the thing for cost price (not charge for my time) which would be cheaper. I would also go through a proper requirements gathering process etc and provide them with a much more tailored solution. I am not normally that charitable, it just happens that the committee member that approached me is my future father in law and of course this makes his daughter my bosswife to be.

The problem I had though is, how do I tell the church committee that Daniel Gibbins might be a conman without sounding like a tosser.

I could tell them that his DNS servers are running on the same class C network, not necessarily a bad thing for toy websites but not exactly something you should be selling in a commercial package. Or I could list evidence pointing to him being a reseller for Heart Internet. I could list some severe flaws on his websites, tell them that I don't believe the guy is a Christian, at least by my definition, or that most of the websites he has done are awful. His content is mostly vapour. Most of this they would not understand. For instance if you do not understand what dynamic content is how am I meant to explain DNS and why you need two servers.

After a lot of discussion with the committee member it was agree that I would meet with some of the committee to go over some ideas etc. I walked them through some bits and bobs and the whole thing took a couple of hours. This was mostly to show them possibilities for the website and to try and show them just how much more could easily be provided over and above Daniels proposal. I was asked some very pertinent questions and a lot of good ideas came out of the meeting. I was also asked some questions about what I thought of Daniels proposal and I answered them honestly, I only wish I had not been so damned politically correct. A couple of the committee members gave me the impression they had some concern about Daniel but I got the distinct feeling that the whole meeting had been a waste of time and that the decision had already been made by a higher authority.

Shortly afterwards the committee met with Daniel, and as I suspected "they" (I am not sure if the committee was actually involved in the decision or not hence the quotes) decided to go with him.

When I think about it why believe me

  • I don't go to church and Daniel says he does.
  • I don't claim to be a Christian Daniel does.
  • I didn't wear a suit, Daniel did.
  • I didn't wear a cross on my lapel apparently Daniel did.

I knew something was fishy and I am pretty sure more than one member of the committee suspected something was wrong. I decided at that point to count myself lucky I had not been asked to do the site and not to push any further with it or it might be a bit embarrassing for some people. Besides, shit has a tendency to float so I decided to keep an eye on Google and wait for Daniel to cock things up. Well, I didn't have to wait very long. I searched Google for Daniel Gibbins today and the first entry read Daniel Gibbins LIAR. For those wondering the image on the right is Daniel Gibbins (Image taken from ezinearticles.com where Daniel has created an expert Bio by stealing copying content from books)
 
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I searched further down the results for entries about Daniel Gibbins and a lot of people have been giving him quite a pasting. Now, we all make mistakes, I'm as likely as the next person to cock something but what a pasting.

The basic story is this:

Daniel Gibbins Stole Content from other peoples books and sold this as his own. Is this dishonest? Hell yes, it's illegal. Daniel has infringed various copyright laws and in more than one country. He has been selling these articles to make himself look like a professional web designer. Of course this is not all he has been up to.

Off the back of his new found web professional status he sets up two companies/websites

  • cortinawebsolutions.co.uk
  • churchwebsitedesign.org.uk
Of course he's a Christian so the next logical step is to help the church, so he starts canvassing them for business. Now at this point we might think that Daniel is not very clever. But, if we dig deeper we would find that the price Daniel is offering for his services is suspiciously close to an amount each diocese was offered to build themselves a website. I can hear people saying that this is just being enterprising. I also found it odd that he offered huge reductions to get close to this price. Is he doing this genuinely because it's the church or has it more to do with thats all the church could spend.

In Daniels case I personally believe that this can only be attributed to one of two things.

  • Daniel Gibbins is a Conman.
  • He's not very net savvy and does not realize the severity of what he has done (hence Gibbon in the title).  
Now. If he is a professional web designer then he fully understands what he has done. This is schoolboy error stuff i.e. only someone under 12 might be able to claim it was a mistake. Even so, most schoolboys understand what plagiarism is. In either case this is not someone you want to be running your website for you.

My advice to Daniel:

First off, make a public apology. Especially to Rich. He should then start taking down all the copyright infringed content. I would also recommend he find suitable homes for websites he has already done on the back of a lie. I don't doubt that the other sites will learn soon enough about what has happened and the fall out could be quite bad. You don't want the church publicly blacklisting you or your business online.

My advice to the Owners of websites hosted by Daniel.

Get out before the shit hits the fan. Download all your content from the website and get it hosted somewhere sensible. Here are a few key points to get you started.

1. Don't confront him till you have all your content and control of your domain.

I am not suggesting he would take your site down but....

2. Get control of the domain name.

If you don't have the admin password to control the domain you need to get it and then change it. This is really important. You must have this to control your website.

3. Backup your website to your PC.

To do this you need to save each page or run a tool that will mirror the website. If you do not know how to do this let me know the website and I will download it for you and send you a zipped up file. Make sure you get all the images etc.

4. Find another hosting provider.

Hosting a website is cheap. You should not really be paying any more than £10 a month for a static website. You can get cheaper deals but if it's over a tenner they might be selling you a big white elephant. If you have a dynamic site (most of Daniels sites are static) then the hosting might cost more. For instance a wordpress blog. Again it still won't be very expensive. You can get reasonably reliable small hosting deals for £3 per month so shop around.

5. If you know other site owners using Daniel help them.

6. Put something on your website saying you are no longer associated with the church web design project otherwise he will be able to con more unsuspecting victims into giving Daniel their money.

Another thing for Daniel to bear in mind is that employers, particular in the technical area use Google and Yahoo! to research people so a job change might be a good idea.

I might add I am not a web designer myself. I'm a web developer, this means I tend to work at the back end of websites, this is part of what I do at Yahoo! If I have ever called myself a professional web designer, I meant professional web developer. Yes, there is a difference and I am sometimes guilty of using one when I should be using the other ;)
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