Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 10/06/2004I get back to base at last, to find some curious stories floating around the office. BT invited 'Scoop' Wearden to the launch of its 21st Century Network project -- the huge upgrade it's selflessly putting together to give us all lovely fast connections at next to nothing.

Thursday 10/06/2004
I get back to base at last, to find some curious stories floating around the office. BT invited 'Scoop' Wearden to the launch of its 21st Century Network project -- the huge upgrade it's selflessly putting together to give us all lovely fast connections at next to nothing. In the spirit of all this high teckery, BT has implemented a system for visitors to its BT Centre HQ: you walk up to a touchscreen, find your name from a list, click on it to printout your label, and then stick it to a badge. Access granted.

Like all good technology, it knows that mistakes can happen and there's a "can't find my name" button for people lost in the system or unable to actually recall their name. This takes you to a screen saying "Contact a member of staff", and the old meet and greet method of getting in takes over.

Makes sense so far? Over to Scoop for the full story: "That screen also includes a hidden button that goes to a further page with a full onscreen keyboard where you can enter any details you like. One BT spokesman mentioned that he was disappointed that no journalists had taken the opportunity to call themselves "Mickey Mouse". Perhaps the next reader to enter BT's hallowed portal should have a go at this?"

Interestingly, this system can even be hooked up to the invitations that BT's PR hounds send out. If a journo clicks the URL in their email to accept, this info is somehow automatically transferred to the touchscreen system. Our info, though, is that this process isn't faultless -- and that somehow the machine devoured the whole invitation list for online journalists. A PR spotted this a week before the event, when nary a single online hack had replied to the invite: new invitations were rushed out and everyone made it.

Everyone? Apparently not. We can't name names because of (a) a deep respect for the integrity of our friends on other online IT news services and (b) a deep fear of being sued (delete as appropriate), but one outfit failed to turn up. In some desperation, the overworked scribblers on the site phoned up BT's PR and promptly offered fifty quid to the chap who answered the phone if he'd write them a swift piece on the launch. "My rates are higher than that!" sniffed the PR to our source later.

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