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October 2012
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February 2013

That’s how it works

The South China Morning Post, of course

Cabbies now snubbing tunnel trips

There is a growing problem in Hong Kong with drivers of red taxis not being willing to cross the harbour.

I have been caught several times in Wan Chai, Tsing Yi and Mong Kok, not being able to get a taxi to take me to the other side.

Since when does a red taxi have the right to refuse to take someone across the harbour?

I have lived in Hong Kong for six years and I have noted that this problem has been getting worse in the last two years.

John Gye, Chai Wan

So… has he lived in Hong Kong for six years without discovering that there are some “cross-harbour” taxi ranks (both official and unofficial), and a few taxis driving around with an “out of service” sign to indicate that they are looking to cross back to the other side?

It’s true that some other taxi drivers will take you across the harbour if you ask, but it’s a long standing practice that most will not.  Possibly they were more willing to do so when the economy wasn’t quite so good, but that’s a general problem - if the economy’s bad it’s easier to find a taxi.

And, yes, there should be a better system for this, but generally we have an excellent taxi service at very reasonable prices.

Championship merry-go-round

There have been three managerial changes in the Premier League this season, two of which were rather puzzling (Southampton sack Nigel Adkins and name Mauricio Pochettino as manager  Rafael Benitez replaces Roberto Di Matteo as Chelsea manager), and one rather less so (Mark Hughes sacked as Queens Park Rangers manager), but there have been far  more in the Championship. 

Steve Kean was the first casualty of the season, saying that he had been “forced to resign” as manager of Blackburn Rovers.  It seemed an odd time to get rid of him, but this week he had to pay “substantial” damages to Sam Allardyce after he was caught on video (in a bar in Hong Kong) saying that "Big Sam" had been sacked because he was a crook.  Blackburn decided that after one inexperienced manager had failed, what they needed was someone with six years of managerial experience in, er, Norway - former player Henning Berg.

Then Bolton sacked Owen Coyle and appointed Dougie Freedman from Crystal Palace, who in turn recruited Ian Holloway from Blackpool, creating another vacancy, which was filled by appointing Michael Appleton (from struggling Portsmouth). 

So what happened next?  Henning Berg, was sacked after only 57 days, and Michael Appleton become Blackburn’s third manager of the season.  Yes, that’s the same Michael Appleton who had joined Blackpool just 65 days earlier.  He said that he made the move because Blackburn “is a club that is steeped in history”  and “the ambition of owners Venky's persuaded him to join.”   That’s Indian poultry giant Venky's, and their global adviser Shebby Singh (former pundit on ESPN Star Sports).

But Michael Appleton hasn’t had as many managerial positions as Sean O'Driscoll.  In the summer he quit his coaching role at Nottingham Forest to become  manager of Crawley Town (newly promoted from League Two to League One), but almost immediately turned round and headed back to Nottingham Forest as the replacement for Steve Cotterill.  That lasted until 26th December when he was sacked (to be replaced by Alex McLeish*).  However, he didn’t have long to wait before starting his fourth job of the season, at Bristol City, as replacement for Derek McInnes, who was sacked on 12th January.

* Yes, Alex McLeish who had failed at Birmingham and Aston Villa.  No, I don’t understand it, either.

In other Norwegian manager news, Stale Solbakken managed to survive for just over six months at Wolverhampton Wanderers before being sacked on 5th January and replaced by Dean Saunders.

It’s less surprising when a club at the bottom of the league fires their manager: Paul Jewell left Ipswich Town “by mutual consent”  and they appointed Mick McCarthy, who had a distinctly uneven start - his first six matches included three wins, one draw, and two heavy defeats (5-0 and 6-0), but they are now out of the relegation zone. 

Barnsley sacked Keith Hill just after Christmas when they were bottom of the table and replaced him with David Flitcroft. 

That’s 11 changes out of 24 clubs in just over half a season.

LinkedIn endorsed for being annoying

LinkedIn is the “professional” equivalent of Facebook, and - up until recently - rather less annoying.  Yes, there are some people who try to use it to promote their company’s services, and, no, I really don’t need to know about tiny changes to my contacts’ CVs, but I can ignore most of that.

It also offers some small amusement value.  Do people ever add more skills to their profile except when they are looking for a new job? 

But now it appears that LinkedIn are determined to test their users’ patience.  They have a shiny new feature that allows people to endorse each other for the skills they are claiming on their profiles.  In the last few weeks I have been endorsed for several skills that I don’t have, by people who know next to nothing about my real-life experience.  I’ve also been endorsed for expertise I did once have, but which is no longer relevant, again sometimes by people who are not qualified to judge.

Recommendations are a different matter, because you actually have to write some words (and describe your working relationship with the person you are recommending).  However, it’s not unusual for two people to recommend each other, which makes them meaningless.

But endorsing someone is as easy as clicking a button, and it is almost impossible to verify whether it has any value. So why would any potential employer take any notice?   John Naughton has a theory about this:

LinkedIn endorsements turn you into the product

John Naughton | The Observer |  Sunday 30 December 2012

Recently, baffling emails from LinkedIn began to trickle into my inbox informing me that so-and-so had "endorsed" me. What it meant, apparently, is that so-and-so had affirmed that I do indeed possess the skills that my profile claims I have. Not having asked anyone for such endorsement, I was initially perplexed.

Then the trickle turned into a steady stream. It seemed that everyone on my contact list had, somehow, been badgered into confirming that my online CV wasn't fraudulent. I began to feel like some kind of electronic mendicant, trespassing on the goodwill of friends and colleagues alike. Finally, I became really irritated by the presumption of a service that, in an idiotic attempt to drum up activity, had been annoying people into effectively giving me a reference that I do not need.

It turns out that I'm not the only person to be annoyed by LinkedIn's gambit. As my colleague Dr Quentin Stafford-Fraser acidly observed in a lovely blog post: "Frankly, I wouldn't, in the first place, link to anyone I thought was likely to lie on their CV. I'm old-fashioned enough to remember the days when a LinkedIn connection was meant to imply some sort of endorsement in itself."

Interestingly, it turns out that one can "endorse" people for skills that they never knew they had. "I never listed any on my LinkedIn page," writes Stafford-Fraser, "until some kind friend said I was awfully good at 'architecture', which I assume they meant in the sense of 'computer systems architecture', but, who knows, perhaps they had seen my old garden shed modifications? Hoping for some interesting job offers from that one."

In a neat postmodern joke, Stafford-Fraser then added "LinkedIn endorsing" to his list of skills and was gratified to find that several contacts had generously endorsed his skills in that field. "So maybe," he mused, "by way of bringing a little festive cheer, I should be endorsing their LinkedIn-endorsing-endorsing?"

Touche! What obviously lies behind LinkedIn's fatuous wheeze is an attempt to drum up page visits to its site. Each endorsement email is clearly designed to trigger a site visit by the gratified recipient, where he or she is invited to add the unsolicited endorsements to their profile. In the end, therefore, LinkedIn merely confirms once again the first law ofinternet services: if they're free, then you are the product. So here's a new year resolution for all netizens: try paying for online services and rediscover the liberation of being the customer who is always right.