Computerworld

Novice cooks get food advice from Aunt Daisy’s helpdesk

Every good idea needs a marketing presence, and who is better known for New Zealand home hints than the late Aunt Daisy - Maude Bashem - doyen of women's programmes on radio through the 1940s and 50s? That's what IT planner Carol Phillips decided when she launched a service for the 'domestically challenged'.

It all began with a lemon butter recipe that turned into a mess.

“Despite raising three children, I’m domestically challenged,” says Carol Phillips, a former IT contract planner for Telecom, Unisys and Fujitsu.

“I made such a mess of the lemon butter that I began looking at the helpdesk scenario, looking at putting technology and the home together.

“At dinner one night, we started to realise how big a topic this was and what a big need there was for help.”

Every good idea needs a marketing presence, and who is better known for New Zealand home hints than the late Aunt Daisy — Maude Bashem — doyen of women’s programmes on radio through the 1940s and 50s?

Phillips entered into a licensing agreement with Barbara Bashem, Aunt Daisy’s daughter.

“The more we looked at the specifications for cooking, the more we realised how very complex were the relationships,” Phillips says.

“We were getting no joy from off-the-shelf software products, so we put out feelers through a broker.”

A contract was eventually signed with Relational Technology (RTI), though, says Phillips: “When I first rang them, the reaction was ‘there’s a mad woman on the phone’.”

RTI’s development choice was Delphi on SQL Server.

“Our criteria was that speed was of the essence,” Phillips says. “RTI were marvellous; they’ve given us everything we needed.”

Ask Aunt Daisy, as the service is known, went live on March 1. There are 40 part-time staff answering 0900 calls (0900-52222) about anything to do with food: from how you cook, through the correct etiquette, what wine to choose, the right utensils, how to use the microwave. The service currently operates seven days a week, from 9am to 9pm.

The business is also running a 10-minute slot on the Good Morning show on TV2, featuring its executive chef. In an uncanny coincidence, its first showing was on the anniversary of TVNZ’s first test programme, featuring Aunt Daisy.

Phillips has plans to extend the service to the Web once billing issues are sorted out. It may be wrapped around something like Woolworth’s interactive shopping mall.

Full documentation as 20 modules are rolled out over several months will lead to franchising for overseas use.