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28th April 1997
A Voice For Net Users
If you've been using the net for a few years you'll probably remember NetSoc - the Network Society, an organisation set up to represent the views of Net users and to educate the wider community. The catalyst to NetSoc's formation was the Trevor Roger's bill which sought to make ISPs responsible for the content they carried and make all sorts of noises about the mandatory use of "smut filters" on home-PCs with modems.

Fortunately the threat from this one MP's knee-jerk reaction to the Net seems to have faded somewhat and these days it appears that government has a far more "informed" approach to such issues - as witnessed by the perspectives voiced at the recent "Governance in Cyberspace" conference.

Since NetSoc's formation we've also seen the arrival of ISCONZ whose role has a degree of parallelism to NetSoc's stated objectives. As a result of the virtual disappearance of the Roger's bill and the arrival of ISOCNZ, NETSOC has been inert for some time and looked as if it was going to simply fade into obscurity.

Until a week or so ago that is. A move is now afoot to revive NetSoc (albeit under a new acronym) and revisit its original objectives.

It seems that there's a widespread (mis?)belief that ISOCNZ is too busy representing the best interests of the industry to act as an effective vehicle for representing Net users. The new organisation (tentatively called the "Association of New Zealand Internet Users" or ANZIU) could at last provide Net users with a unified voice and some clout when it comes to deciding the future of the Net in NZ.

A call for submissions has been made on the newsgroup nz.org.net-society so if you're interested in getting involved or having a say as to what form the group should take - please do so. A web site is also under development and when it's ready, Aardvark will post a pointer to its location.

Beware the "new" Net user
There's a very public battle brewing at present between Efficient Software (now part of IHUG) and at least one of their users who is complaining that the performance figures claimed in their advertising material were not met.

Having received no satisfaction from ES/IHUG's management, the user took the issue to the small claims court and won a partial refund of his subscription fees for the period in question.

Now I'm not going to judge the validity of his case (arguably the small claims court have already done that), but what I am concerned about is the fact that such a trivial issue should have reached the point of litigation. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to realise that this kind of adverse publicity is not good for business and that the small cost associated with "coming to an arrangement" with a dis-satisfied customer - especially when there is a technical breach of an implied contract, is a far cheaper solution.

Until a while ago, the average Net user was (through necessity) reasonably "savvy" to the technology being used. We all knew that the Net was a chain only as strong (fast) as the weakest (slowest) link. Of course we were frustrated when our 14.4Kbps modem only delivered 3Kbps on a file transfer from an Australian site - but we knew it was just a fact of life.

Well things are changing and service providers are going to have to be extra careful that they don't make claims on the basis of "everyone knows..." - because the new breed of Net users doesn't know squat about what they're getting into. The terms, conditions and claims about the service being sold will have to be exactly right and not open to "interpretation" - or litigation will become all too common. How long before the first ISP gets taken to Fair Go because a customer made a naive interpretation of a poorly worded advertising claim?

tell it like it is...
Too good to be true?
Beware 1stFamily?
I received some email this week from the NZ representative of 1stFamily, a flat-rate ISP which is selling its services in the USA by way of an MLM system. All sorts of claims such as the availability of satellite downlinks and other features make this sound like a pretty up-beat operation.

The service looks almost too good to be true - and I'm afraid it just might be. The proposed access rates here in NZ are $33/month - but I'm damned if I can see how they could offer this level of pricing - regardless of any overseas involvements.

So I did a little investigation using Deja News and other Net resources. It seems that 1stFamily is not getting good press anywhere. Just look at this message and this one for an example.

Another anomaly is that so many of those who are tied up in the MLM sales of 1stfamily don't use 1stfamily for hosting their web pages. I wonder why that is? Then you've got to also wonder at the type of person who'd buy anything from an organisation that allows its members to post web pages that are as BAD as these:

I've noticed that spam for 1stfamily has already started being cancelled in a wide range of newsgroups - it seems that more than a few of istfamily's "independent representatives" are also involved in just about every net-based MLM going. Prepare for a barrage of "Free ISP Access For Life" and "Use An ISP That Pays You" type postings to newsgroups and in your mailbox real soon now.

Of course I could be wrong - but I don't think either IHUG or Sinesurf will be quaking in their boots just yet.

Did you know?
While aimlessly browsing the DNS, I came across these interesting little bits of trivia:
  • Nobody's registered internic.net.nz
  • Nobody's registered isocnz.com
  • Nobody's registered isocnz.net
  • Nobody's registered isocnz.org

  • Don Stokes has registered nz.net
  • Pfeil Tobias has registered nz.org

  • Karl Stephens has registered god.co.nz but nobody's registered god.net.nz or god.org.nz

  • fart.com is registered to Silicon Valley Flatulence Prevention Services
  • belch.com is registered to Amit Yoran from RIPTECH.COM

  • iwi.com is registered to the Information Warehouse USA

  • maori.net is registered to Andrew Prast

  • bum.com is registered to B.U.M. equipment

  • booger.com is registered to Alexia co

Well I didn't know that!
still going...
Print-wars, they're not over yet
If you've been following the PC World / PC Magazine wars, make sure you check out the latest - they're not finished yet.

Not a new award - but...
No, I'm not starting a new award category, but I've been amazed by the following unbelievable examples of bad service recently. Here's an Aardvark "Shame" award to:
  • Gamma Computers who made me wait 20 minutes in a showroom that had one other customer and three staff - then who were quite rude when I asked if I could return a video card if it didn't do the job I wanted to use it for (not enough documentation to be sure prior to purchase).

  • Digital, who took several weeks to fix a laptop PC that was still under warranty and apparently had to be sent to Australia for repairs.

  • Dick Smith, who wouldn't even consider a $20 discount on a sale of more than $1,000. Seems they consider that their prices already represent good value for money so discounting is not their policy. (brownie points for sending out $30 worth of vouchers when I complained to the marketing manager though)

wake-up guys!

I Can't Believe It's True!
That IHUG would let a customer drag them off to the Disputes Tribunal over just a hundred bucks - and then consider an appeal to the District Court when the ruling goes against them.

Come on guys - just how much bad press are you looking for?

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