Hey Evil Google – It’s a WORLDWIDE Web!!!!

January 18, 2011

The DeliveryDemon now uses www.bing.com for web searches. Google is definitely out of favour. Why? Every time the DeliveryDemon tries to make www.google.com her home page, Google insists on forcing her to use www.google.co.uk  Not just that, they insist on noting her machine’s current physical location, which is none of their business and usually completely irrelevant to her web searches.

The DeliveryDemon has nothing against UK websites – it’s horses for courses, or in this case, URLs for searches. And when the DeliveryDemon does a web search she usually wants access to the riches of worldwide information sources.

Google claims that:

‘Google Web Search is customized for a number of countries and regions across the world. For example, Google.fr provides search results that are most relevant for users in France; Google.co.jp is the Google domain for Japan. We try to direct users to the site that will give them the most relevant results.’

Let’s question a few of the assumptions behind that statement.

  • Anyone doing a technical search wants the views of the guy down the road, not the expert working for a global organisation.
  • If you’re going to a restaurant, you’re more likely to need to be told about the restaurant you see every day in your local high street than about one in a foreign capital you’re about to visit on a business trip.
  • If you’re a local yokel living outside the .com region you don’t deserve to be given information about international brands at the top of your search results.
  • Search engines exist to enforce geographical limitations.
  • Google knows what everyone’s thinking, so it can make decisions on their behalf rather than offering options.

 Pretty stupid, yes?

Actually, even when it’s trying to enforce geographical apartheid, Google’s about as good at it as it is at making assumptions about what people want. Using Google’s enforced UK site, the DeliveryDemon did a search on the name of a famous Scottish location which is one of only two dozen global locations to be awarded World Heritage Status for both natural and cultural significance. What did Google’s UK localised search come up with? An entire page of results relating to a suburb of Melbourne, Australia!

If you find Google’s apartheid as annoying as the DeliveryDemon does, there is a workaround. Make your home page http://www.google.com/ncr and you won’t be forced into using Google’s substandard localised search engines. If you do this, Google installs cookies on your machine. The DeliveryDemon has yet to find out what those cookies do – she might just stick with Bing!

The DeliveryDemon Is Blogging Again – and thinking about the Supply Chain

January 17, 2011

The DeliveryDemon has been thinking abut delivery and technology. One of the benefits of technology is its ability to dematerialise goods and deliver them electronically. For music and videos and software that’s great. Where it falls down is when there’s a need for physical delivery. Interestingly, that puts at risk the delivery of the bits and pieces of hardware we need to exploit all this technology. We can use technology to place our orders, then it all comes down to sending stuff through the physical supply chain.

Two things happen once our goods get into the supply chain – they become unimportant and they become attractive.

  • The unimportance of our parcels

From the factory production line to the doorstep our parcel is just one of millions being thumped, bumped and dumped. No-one really cares about it. If it gets lost or damaged, it’s the sender’s problem, or the intended recipient’s problem, or an insurance company’s problem. Even at source, the supplier doesn’t care, it’s just another item off the production line. So goods get lost and damaged and no-one is answerable. There’s a cost to remedying the problem, of course, and inevitable the cost finds its way back to the end consumer.

  • The attractiveness of our goods

Many electronic gadgets and components are small, so easily lost, and just as easily fitted into pockets. Packaging, even if it doesn’t show explicit sender details, is often easily identifiable as containing some sort of technology. The value of such items can be high.

The DeliveryDemon has been told of many examples recently of people buying technology, only to have it beaten to a pulp on its way to its destination.

  • A card for a camera never arrived. The supplier came up with conflicting excuses, with one person claiming it was lost in the post while another claimed it should have been in the envelope with its companion which did arrive, but that it had not been packed.
  • A laptop arrived in a seriously battered box.
  • A mobile phone arrived in a sturdy plastic envelope which had been ripped open. An attempt had been made to slit the box inside, to remove items without breaking the seal on the box.

Of course, the costs of all this is being passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices, insurance premiums, and credit card charges.

Some suppliers are fighting back, attempting to make their packaging bash-proof. The DeliveryDemon knows a supplier of personalised beers who has taken it as a personal challenge to ensure that the full complement of bottles arrives undamaged – not a technology issue but the principles are the same. The packaging battle has its own cost, and not just the cost of producing and applying it. The more robust the packaging, the more likely it is to be persistent, and usually voluminous. Most often it will end up in landfill, perhaps via the complex recycling arrangements imposed by many local authorities.

Some companies offer tagging and tracking of goods in transit. For high volumes, manual checkin systems are likely to be error prone, even if with electronic detection of tags. For example, even if a box or jiffybag is tagged, that’s no guarantee that it still contains all its original contents. The cost of tagging individual components would be prohibitive, and would create electronic waste.

It’s often said that the main components of a solution are people, process and technology. From the DeliveryDemon’s observations, the money is going into technology (including packaging technology), the protagonists are hiding behind the theory of how the process should happen, but not nearly enough effort is going into delivering the people aspects of the supply chain. For many jobs in the supply chain, temptation can be high while rewards are low, and in a high transaction volume environment the effect of this is easily predictable. Yet it’s the aspect of e-commerce that no-one is getting to grips with.