Ah well, just as i thought O2 had started to clean up their act as far as filtering, this episode, which, in a nutshell, illustrates just how difficult the addition of filters makes things.
Not – necessarily – because they get things wrong. But because the moment you start to filter, you need to put a whole support infrastructure around: and if you don’t get the latter right, chances are you are going to be making mistakes.
The story begins on the premises of a well-known chain of coffee shops. Free wi-fi! A good place to pause and catch up on world events.
Check Facebook, Twitter. Check the newspapers. Oh: and then fire up cliterati – an online mag somewhat more reminiscent of the now defunct Scarlet than Red or Cosmo – but equally one whose healthy mix of feminism, smut by and for women, reviews, blogging and fiction does not exactly strike me as uber-porn.
Oh, OK: in a world in which some peeps can object to Boots selling sex toys, “because, children”, perhaps a site that provides women with reviews of same is always going to be viewed as somehow risqué. But that’s a whole other can of worms and NOT what this is about.
Computer says no
I expect you’ve guessed. I clicked on the link that just happens to be stored in my phone memory. I was actually interested (honest!) in reading a piece i’d clocked earlier on the overlap between feminism and evangelical christianity and up pops a finger-wagging message telling me i’ve been a bad girl and access to that site is blocked.
Never fear, though: all i need do is click on the link they provide and their computer will instantly engage the team of happy O2 helpers to investigate and maybe – shock! horror! – lift the block.
Overwhelmed by process
But you’ve guessed. Or maybe you haven’t.
Back into my inbox pops an email explaining how O2 are being even more helpful than before. (Though how having to have an online chat with someone is more helpful than just sending off a message and waiting for a response is not entirely clear to me). They wrote:
“We’re sorry, we’ve replaced email support with LiveChat, the quicker way to speak to customer services without having to call or wait up to 24 hours for an email response. Please click here to chat with one of our
Still, i clicked. And was promptly deposited not into the arms of a friendly guru, but onto the O2 contact page. Not entirely clear who i am now supposed to talk to. But there is a heading labelled “Live Chat” and another link to click there.
Which i do. Only now i am offered an “Engagement window”, where i must provide some information before i may proceed. Three items: Name, O2 mobile number and…”How can i help you today?”
Lovely! Albeit a load more fuss and faffing than we set out with. And unfortunately, none of the help options – which i MUST fill out in order to proceed to the next level in this increasingly tiresome game – include speaking to someone about challenging a block.
I can track my order, get help with an account or a device. But nothing at all about filters or blocks.
I suppose i COULD have just clicked one and then suffered the conversation that followed. But by this time, i had lost the will to go on.
And that, i guess, is the point. Either by accident or design, O2 have put in place a complicated system that deters people from questioning online filtering. This will help to minimise stats for user coomplaints, and undoubtedly help massage down figures when they report on how little consumer resistance there is to the practice.
Dishonest? I’d like to think it’s not intentionally so. Just an inevitable consequence of systems creating process – and process creating more process, until the whole thing collapses under its own weight.