How to Look Impressive and Like You Know What You’re Talking About

Have you ever been thrown off course during a conversation where someone drops in an obscure acronym? It often happens during conversations with teenagers as new abbreviations pop up on social media every second and leave you feeling lost and confused. A few that I recently learned the meaning of include:

  1. TL;DR: Too Long; Didn’t Read. Indicating a passage of text is too long to invest the time to digest.
  2. BAE: Before Anyone Else. Not just an acronym, this has now become the name of the thing it is referencing e.g. “My BAE and I are staying in tonight”.
  3. NSFW: Not Safe For Work. Signifying that a post or article is considered inappropriate for the workplace e.g. contains nudity.

However, I’ve also found myself stumped when mixing with certain professionals such as accountants or lawyers. In any industry there are a number of acronyms that become part of that industry’s language but leave the rest of us wondering what on earth they’re talking about.

In the directory enquiries and tech industry we have an endless list of such abbreviations. Here are a select few that are used regularly in the Simunix offices:

  1. DQ:Directory Enquiries. A telephone service used to find someone’s telephone number e.g. ukphonebook.com.
  2. XD: Ex-directory. When a person chooses not to have their telephone number listed in a telephone directory or available through directory enquiries.
  3. ER: Electoral Roll. An official list of people in a district who are entitled to vote in an election.
  4. TPS/CTPS: Telephone Preference Service/Corporate Telephone Preference Service. A register of telephone numbers whose users have indicated that they do not wish to receive sales and marketing calls.
  5. TBR: The Bereavement Register. A central database that acts as the main register of deaths with the aim of stopping direct mail being sent to the deceased.
  6. PAF: Postcode Address File. A database which contains all known postcodes in the UK.
  7. OSIS: Operator Services Information System. This database holds directory listings for all UK Communications Providers.
  8. OS: Ordnance Survey. The national mapping agency providing large-scale detailed maps of Great Britain.
  9. GPS: Global Positioning System. A satellite navigation system that allows land, sea and airborne users to determine their exact location.
  10. API: Application Program Interface. A set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application or other service.

So next time you find yourself in the company of a directory enquiries expert, you can impress with your knowledge of industry acronyms. If you really want.

TTFN

Confusion over new UK Calling charges for 118 numbers

YORK – July 24, 2015 – 118 365, one of the UK’s cheapest directory enquiry services, is aiming to clarify the new charges for 118 numbers that came into effect on 1 July 2015, amidst growing consumer confusion.

When Ofcom announced a new system that would make the cost of calling these numbers more transparent and easier to understand, many people were still left confused. The cost of calling a service number is now split by a service charge and access charge. The access charge is set by caller’s phone service provider and the service charge is set by the service provider.

However, many 118 services are still charging an amount per call, plus their own service charge with the access charge added on top of that. In addition, it is not immediately clear what the access charge will be and callers are having to contact their phone service provider to find out.

For example, a one minute call to 118 118 from a BT landline costs £2.75 per call plus £2.99 per minute with an access charge of 9.58p, totalling £5.84.

John Lewis, Managing Director of 118 365 says, “We aim to make our charging as simple as possible and do not charge customers per call. Our service costs 55p a minute plus the cost of the access charge, that’s it. Although the total price of a call has gone up slightly due to the introduction of the access charge, we remain one of the cheapest directory enquiry options out there.”

To help callers determine what their access charge will be, 118 365 has included links on its FAQ page to information pages provided by the main telephone companies that bill their callers. Access charges appear to be varying from 5p for TalkTalk landline calls up to 25p for O2 calls.

118 365 is urging its callers to remember that the access charge is paid per minute and is not just a one-off charge.

People can find more information on the cost of calling directory enquiries by checking this daily updated infographic which charts the cost of a one minute call to different 118 numbers.

-ends-

Clear Call Rates for 08, 09 and 118 Numbers

Numbers beginning 08, 09 or 118 are known as ‘service numbers’ and the cost of calling these numbers can vary from a few pence to several pounds. It is not always clear just how much you are being charged for calling one of these service numbers.

This is all set to change from 1 July 2015. Ofcom has announced a new system that is being introduced to make the cost of calling 08, 09 or 118 numbers much clearer. The changes apply to both consumer mobiles and landlines.

The cost of calling a service number will be made up of two parts: an ‘access charge’ going to the caller’s phone company (e.g. BT), and a ‘service charge’ set by the organisation or service you are calling.

So what does this mean for our 118 365 number?

The cost of a one minute call to 118 365 will increase slightly. We will continue to charge 51p a minute but the access charge will now be added to the total cost of the call. For example, a one minute call to 118 365 from a BT landline will cost 51p for the service charge plus 9.8p for the access charge, making that about 61p for the whole call.

Remember, the access charge may differ slightly depending on your phone company.

Also on this day, calls to Freephone (0800 and 0808) numbers will become free from all consumer phones – including mobiles, making this the biggest overhaul of phone calls in more than a decade.

#Mobilegeddon

Google will start penalising websites that are not mobile-friendly from April 21st. The search engine is making significant changes to its mobile search algorithm to promote sites which are responsive to different browser screen sizes.

A Google survey found that a staggering number of people browse the internet from mobile devices, even if they can get to a desktop computer. Websites which are not mobile-friendly will appear much lower down in Google search results.

It is generally recommended that web designers make use of Responsive Design when developing websites. This type of design dynamically adapts content to suit the size of the browser window, changing menu layout, scaling pictures and reducing the number of columns displayed.

A recent article on TechCruch reported that almost half of the Fortune 500 websites are not currently mobile-friendly. Simunix has been working to make sure all of our websites adapt to varying screen sizes.

Ten Easter Eggs

The Easter weekend is over and the more restrained amongst you may still have some chocolate eggs lurking in your kitchen cupboards. However, did you know there may also be some Easter eggs hanging about in your favourite films, or even on your computer?

I’ve rounded up a few of my favourites:

1. There’s a Starbucks cup visible in every scene of Fight Club.

2. An X appears before the death of someone in The Departed.


3. R2D2 and C3PO appear in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


4. The Chrome “unable to connect” dinosaur turns into a game when you press the space bar.


5. The Spotify app updates – look at the last one in “What’s New”.

6. A strange bug in the Windows calculator – find the square root of 4, then subtract 2, the answer isn’t 0.


7. This product page – just wait.


8. On IMDb, the rating for This is Spinal Tap goes up to 11.


9. The Facebook globe icon changes depending on where you are in the world.


10. Enter the Konami code on Buzzfeed.com (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a).

Cold Calling Clampdown

The government announced last week that it intends to clamp down on cold call companies, leaving them more vulnerable than ever to potentially massive fines.

Penalties of up to £500,000 can be imposed on telemarketing companies if they are considered to be making nuisance cold calls. Currently, firms can only be punished for this if it can be proved that the call has caused “substantial damage or substantial distress”. However, the government are making changes to the law which will remove this legal requirement and make it easier to impose fines on offending companies.

People can opt out of receiving unsolicited sales calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Telemarketers must TPS check their call lists against this register at least once a month as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can issue fines to organisations that cold call TPS registered numbers.

Organisations making automated marketing calls are required to have the individual’s consent before making a call or sending a text to that person; a breach of this regulation can also incur a hefty fine.

Funny Directory Enquiries Calls

Anyone who works in a call centre will get their fair share of challenging calls to deal with but, as a number of directory assistance operators have experienced, some of these calls can be downright bizarre! We found a few entertaining transcripts showing some interesting queries and some very patient operators.

A caller asked for a knitwear company in a place called Woven…

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Woven? Are you sure?

CALLER: Yes. That’s what it says on the label: “Woven in Scotland”.

CALLER: I’d like the RSPCA please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Where are you calling from?

CALLER: The living room.

CALLER: The Water Board please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Which department?

CALLER: Tap water.

CALLER: I’d like the number of the Argoed Fish Bar in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: I’m sorry but there’s no listing. Is the spelling correct?

CALLER: Well, it used to be called the Bargoed Fish Bar, but the ‘B’ fell off.

CALLER: I’d the number for a reverend in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you have his name?

CALLER: No, but he has a dog named Ben.

CALLER: The Union of Shopkeepers and Alligators please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you mean the Amalgamated Union of Shopkeepers?

Rule Breakers and Record Makers: 10 Facts About the Oscars

The 87th Academy Awards will be taking place this Sunday evening (or 1:30am Monday morning for us Brits). Here’s your chance to brush up on your awards trivia:

1. There are only three films in the history of the Oscars that have walked away with the “Big Five” awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay): It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest (1975) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). 

2. Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the first and only X-rated (as per American film ratings) film to win the Best Picture Oscar (the rating has since been reduced to R). The only other X-rated film to be nominated in this category was A Clockwork Orange (1971).

3. The only actor to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar winning actor is Cate Blanchett who played Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.

4. John Williams has racked up a staggering 49 nominations to date (45 of which are for Best Score). However, he is beaten on this record by Walt Disney who was nominated 59 times with 26 wins!

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Since then, animated films Up (2010) and Toy Story 3 (2011) have been nominated in this category. Beauty and the Beast lost out to Silence of the Lambs but did take home the award for Best Original Score.

6. The sealed envelope was first introduced at the 13th Academy Awards in 1941 after the Los Angeles Times had leaked voting results in 1939.

7. Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards 18 times between 1940 and 1978. The next most frequent host is Billy Crystal who has hosted 9 times between 1990 and 2012.

8. Seat fillers are employed at the Awards Ceremony to make the place look full if people either haven’t shown up or someone has temporarily vacated their seat e.g. to accept an award. The only people who can apply for this position are relatives of people who work at the Academy or employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers (the accounting firm that counts the votes).

9. There are many rumours surrounding Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress win in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. Few had anticipated that the relative newcomer would win against the other veteran actresses in her category. There was speculation that the presenter, an elderly Jack Palance, had misread the name and the Academy were too embarrassed to correct the mistake. Another claim is that the other four nominees split the vote to such an extent that the only solution was to allow an underdog (Tomei) to take home the award.

10. The number of blondes to win the Best Actress Award is 18; the number of brunettes is 45.

My 5 Most Recently Downloaded Apps (iPhone)

1. Sleep Time – £1.49

This is an alarm clock with a difference – it monitors and analyses your sleep cycles by sensing your movements throughout the night. It then uses this information to wake you up when it knows you are no longer in the deep  stage of REM cycle. So no more waking up feeling groggy!

 

2. TwinPics – Free

A simple but nicely designed memory game. All you do is match up as many pairs as you can within a limited time, avoiding obstacles along the way. The colours and photography used are stylish and attractive and it’s easy to dip in and out of making it the perfect game for when you just have a few minutes to fill.

3. BBC News – Free

This is more of a recent update than download as I have had the app for a while, however, about a week ago, the BBC released its first major redesign since the app launched in 2010. The app now offers a much more personalised view of the news as it includes local news content and you can select the topics that interest you the most.

4. SkinDeep – Free

Do you know what chemicals are in your personal care products? EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is the world’s largest safety reference tool for personal care products and the app provides information on more than 72,000 products. Enter the product name into the app and it assesses the ingredients and how they may affect your health. It then calculates a hazard score allowing you to make informed purchasing decisions.

5. Serial –  Free

This is actually a podcast, not an app, but I felt it was well worth a mention. The 12-part series (you can now download all the episodes from the website) follows journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates a murder case from 1999 in which a high-school student was found dead in a Baltimore Park having been strangled. Her ex-boyfriend was charged with her murder and sentenced to life in prison but has protested his innocence ever since. The podcast is totally addictive and a great way to pass the time on your commute.

Pulling Apart Two Phone Books

There’s a rumour around these parts that two interleaved (yes that’s a word) phone books are impossible to pull apart, so I decided to investigate.

It didn’t take me long to get to the bottom of this, and no I did not sit and methodically interleave two phone books. A quick Google search unearthed a Mythbusters YouTube video where it took two military tanks weighing in at 30 tonnes to separate the phone books. So, difficult yes, but not impossible.

What is it that creates such a strong link between these two stacks of paper?

Apparently it all comes down to weight and friction. Interleaving the pages of the phone books significantly increases the weight on each of them as the bottom pages have the weight of two phone books pushing down on them in addition to gravity. Add to this the force of friction, which is also increased by the act of interleaving the pages, and you have a bond that takes 3629 Kilogram of force to break as demonstrated by the Mythbusters.

If you do have some spare time (and are really, really bored) you can try this yourself. Just lay the pages of two phone books on top of each other one at a time, then try and pull them apart.