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Thursday, 10 August 2006

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Is there such a thing as a free comic?

I've just been sent an email by wowio, an ad-based service offering downloadable e-books - including comics from UK publisher Markosia and others.

It all sounds fine and dandy but the stumbling block came when I tried it out, only to discover they want your credit card details to 'prove your identity'. Hmm... I think this is an interesting idea, but if it's really free, why do they need my credit card details at all?

Incredibly they advise that if you don't have a credit card, you can "have a parent or friend set up an account and vouch for you". Well, that's not exactly checking your identity, is it?

I don't really know who wowio are, even though they do publish a land address on their site. It just dosen't feel right, I'm afraid. This one gets a miss.

To their credit, I expressed my concerns in an e-mail and they get top marks for instant customer feedback. Here's their response in full:

"We use credit cards as a simple and practical means of authenticating a user's identity. This is important for a number of reasons: (1) it allows us to give advertisers accurate metrics--i.e., when we claim x number of unique people have downloaded their ad, we can be prove that it's true, (2) it allows us to limit the number of downloads per person per day, which allows us to manage the burn rate of the ad pipeline and ensure the continued availability of titles, and (3) it allows us to label the book with the user's name and other markers, which is important from the perspective of minimizing illegal file trading, etc.

"We use encrypted SSL to transmit all information securely, and we do not store your credit card number or related information. We check it once to make sure you are who you say you are, and that's it. We also will not share your personal information with anyone -- ever -- without your written permission.

"We understand the apprehension of many users to put in credit card information. It takes time to build trust. We hope we can earn yours."

Stupid Cycle Lanes

Just been sent this great site ( with a plethora of examples of silly cycle lanes. The one above is in York (pic creditted to one Ian Bromsgrove). You can click on the left arrow at the top of the page on the site to go back through the months...

One for gas guzzlers to enjoy at the thought of all those wretched cyclists having a hard time, while the cyclists can simply either laugh or despair at the stupidity of councils everywhere.

No local examples (although there is a classic from Blackpool): I'm sure they would be appreciated. Obviously, since Lancaster is one of Britain's "Cycling Towns" (and getting shedloads of money to be so) local cyclists don't want similar stupidity to happen here. Given that the council's usual concept of road planning for non car users seems to consist largely of building pelican crossings at locations only where (and after) people have been killed crossing the road, you can see they have every right to be worried...

I'm sure there must be an equivalent site for stupid road layouts, but I haven't found it yet. Of course, the funny side of this evaporates when you realise just how much all these civic works cost...

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