E-tales: Make it local, make it real

Customised copy of Grand Theft Auto features Kiwi cops and their cars

Freecycling – a greenie dream

People are finally starting to get a bit inventive about recycling, and some clever souls have realised that one way to do it is online. The result: www.freecycle.org

The US-based international site already has over 5,000 Kiwi members and the idea is that if you’ve got something that’s still okay but you don’t need it and would like to pass it on to a good home this is one way to go. Of course, it works the other way too.

But what about Trade Me, you ask? Have you visited it lately? This e-taler was keen on buying an exercise bike and thought, hey, ‘let’s check-out the online garage sale’. What a disappointment.

Most of the bikes seemed to be of the dubious import variety — the kind one is warned are made of inferior steel, so buckle under weight — and the few second-hand items were decidedly over-priced and under-featured, and I don’t just mean they lacked the gee-whizz extras.

So, now I plan to check out freecycle, while it’s still relatively pure and unsullied. It’s got to be better than naively leaving the old PC by the roadside for someone who might need it, only to find it ripped apart by metal-stealing cowboys and left leaching dangerous chemicals into the grass.

Make it local, make it real

You know how it is, it’s great to consume overseas-made games and television programmes, but sometimes you find yourself musing: where’s the local content? It can be such an unusual treat sometimes to see a local cop car or street name on-screen at times.

Well, E-tales takes its hat off to Wellington youngster Stacy O’Callaghan who has customised his copy of Grand Theft Auto, so it now features Kiwi cops and their cars. New Zealand Police are a bit concerned about the use of police insignia, but young Stacy, 17, says he’s not out to make money, he just wanted the game to be more realistic.

He’s now planning to add in Kiwi landmarks like the Beehive and Christchurch’s Cathedral Square, and Auckland’s Sky Tower.

He’s obviously talented but, no, Stacy doesn’t want to be a games designer. He wants to be a cop in computer forensics — sort of CSI with a Kiwi flavour.

Gotta keep the customer satisfied

As Telecom slowly starts to lose its monopoly position, it might want to look at keeping its customers a bit happier, as once they have somewhere else to go, they might just do that. E-tales found this cracker of an example of how not to treat your customers, courtesy of television’s motivational speaker Debbie Mayo-Smith. She’s also into desktop efficiency — she’s got some simple but great ideas on handling email overload, for example.

Anyway, the redoubtable lady is so not impressed with Telecom. She recently described, in the NZ Herald, how she had been trying to use Telecom’s wireless hotspots earlier this month and they weren’t working. “It wasn’t until the second week that a notice came in the mail telling me it’s no longer free. Now we have to pay $9.95 an hour for a benefit that has been free for years.”

There are a number of criticisms one could make of this action, but the main one is a question: Is this how you treat customers you want to keep?

And how to keep them is something the telco giant may have to think about very soon.

Biometrics goes weird

One of our e-talers was intrigued by the government’s new igovt authentication service. It asks people applying for identity credentials to provide evidence of name, date and place of birth, and sex to a “high level of confidence”.

The phrase had our e-taler thinking about Boston Legal’s Denny Crane’s penchant for “down-trou-ing”. Such would certainly inspire a good deal of confidence but would be a bit “low level”, so, perhaps, a passport will suffice.

In case you’re wondering, a request for public comment did turn up a few replies from “intersex” correspondents (who identify as neither male nor female). There is likely to be an “other’ option on the form.

Nerdiest proposal ever

This has got to be the nerdiest marriage proposal ever — but oh so cute too. New Jersey's Bernie Peng, 26, proposed to girlfriend Tammy Li, 27, by reprogramming her favourite game, Bejewelled, so that when she hit a certain score she pinged a proposal — and ring.

Mind you, he did hedge his bets by setting the score pretty low, she she’d be sure to get the proposal. And, of course, there was a real ring too — a pink sapphire one just like the digital version, only so much more satisfyingly tangible.

Sounds like there’s a budding new trend emerging here, of personally customising games — see Stacy’s story above. But Bejewelled’s makers aren’t upset; they’re actually very happy, and have offered to pay for half the nerdy couple’s wedding.

“It won him a woman. As a bunch of geeks, we have to say: ‘Bernie, hats off to you’,” said PopCap company spokesman, Garth Chouteau, according to online news site Ananova.

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