Jane Wakefield: The silly season of surveys

Do too many surveys spoil the summer? Is it raining statistics when it should be sunny? Jane Wakefield comments

Summer is the silly season -- when streakers show us their balls at Wimbledon and men in suits take off their ties and lie in Soho Square. An unofficial wind-down as everyone attempts to do as little as possible to stave off jealousy at the fact their managing director is lying on a beach in the South of France.

Few companies make major announcements in July and August, instead we get a glut of surveys and reports and statistics about how wonderful or how terrible our Internet industry is. So security firms commission surveys to tell us there is fraud on the Net, e-commerce firms commission studies to tell us that we quite like shopping on the Net and BT issues reports telling us how well they are doing at eating up the giant's share of the mobile phone cake.

So let me take you on a little journey into survey season. First we have the mobile phone stats, and for those sick to death of listening to William Tell on their train journey home it is not good news as mobile adoption in the UK hits 50 percent.

(People who regard the cost of an airplane ticket as a small price to pay for getting away from the incessant ringing of mobile phones can wipe the smile off their faces too as Virgin announces you can now talk to your boss/mum/lover from the clouds.)

For real trendsetters I figure it will soon be cool -- like cars -- to have two; a sensible one for work and a wacky yellow one for leisure. And with half of us already sold on wireless communication it can't be too long before the other half get jealous of our ability to have pointless and inane conversations on trains and jump on the bandwagon. Proving -- alongside our fondness for beer and fags -- that Brits are so fearless they aren't even scared of cancer. In fact, we just can't fry our brains quickly enough.

Unsurprisingly it is not WAP that is causing us to rush out and buy mobile phones. In fact, sales of Internet phones have been "disappointing". Perhaps that could have something to do with the fact that the handsets are generally large and ugly, the sites often don't work and you have to have the patience of Job to wait for them to download. For once it would seem that we have seen through the hype and BT can put as many people on surfboards in their ads as they like but we won't be fooled that WAP is really bringing the Internet to our phones.

Next we have the inevitable e-commerce surveys. So we have a company that makes shopping software telling us that current technology is alienating people from shopping. And we have a security firm telling us that online shoppers are a gullible lot, unable to spot fake Visa logos and happy to believe that a company called Halifax & General really exists.

I find it quite amusing that we have become so blase about shopping on the Net. This time last year we were clutching on to our credit cards for dear life, refusing to let e-tailers have any of our personal details. Now we are happy to give them to any cyber Tom, Dick or Harry. Oh, how contrary we are.

And finally we have news that online banks like Egg are not all they are cracked up to be (get the yolk?) as a report questions whether customers would be able to get refunds if their accounts were tampered with. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) is more normally associated with finding fault with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill but it turns its attention this week to online banking.

One of FIPR's biggest gripes with RIP is the fact that -- in its original form -- it reversed the burden of proof and so too it claims do many of the terms and conditions of online banks, putting the pressure on customers to prove it was not them who withdrew the entire contents of their account.

The banks, of course, deny that online contracts are any different from offline ones and promise to refund our money if accounts are tampered with. Wait and see if they are that amenable when your account is raided.

Silly season would not be silly season without a heart-warming story about an animal. Perhaps you can remember how the news always ended with a story about Foo Foo the panda failing to mate again (why is it that pandas are so crap at sex?). So, to put us well and truly in summer mood (as the weather is certainly not prepared to play that role) ZDNet brings you the tale of Ziggy the richest dotcom moggy in the world.

Ziggy was the office cat of dot-com firm Intersaver and following the tradition of giving employees a slice of the dot-com pie his employers decided to give him his very own stock options. I just hope Ziggy doesn't get carried away and remembers that Internet stock is not the hot property it once was.

If the market crashes, Ziggy could attempt cat suicide -- although with nine lives I guess he has plenty of chances of living to see Internet shares rise again.

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