London Startup Weekend

I spent this last weekend with a group of 30 or so web developers, designers and entrepreneurs that I’d never met before as part of something called London Startup Weekend. The idea was something that had already been tried out in the US, but was a first for the UK: to get a bunch of strangers together and start a company over the weekend. It was great fun and a fantastic way to meet and work with lots of interesting and talented people. The idea we ended up working on (after a rapid brainstorming and group vote on the Friday night) was something we came to call – a portal to help us all shop a little more ethically with a focus on sharing thoughts about different products and companies. If you’d like to do your bit to help the world become a slightly better place, please visit the site now and rate a few household products that you use. If you get in quick you’ll probably even spot a few endearing little kinks in the site that are still being ironed out. Go on! This is your chance to make a difference!

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My Competitors get Dragons’ Den Funding

Half way through discussing my online takeaway idea with a friend, what should show up on Dragons’ Den, but two guys with a different online menu idea! We couldn’t believe it! are similar to and succeeding in getting £100,000 of funding from the Dragons in exchange for 50% of their company (although with the potential to earn back 20% if they hit their targets). Good for them. It will be interesting to see how they get on versus their (relatively more experienced) Danish competitors.

The entrepreneurs came out with a few interesting stats about the UK takeaway market:

  • Worth £1.2B in 2004
  • Growing at approx 6% per annum
  • Average orders are about £15

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PayPal’s Comedy Customer Service

Is it just me, or is PayPal’s European customer service laughably bad?

I wrote to them on 10th October about a problem I’d been having. Thankfully, I didn’t really need a reply from them as my issue was resolved. I say thankfully, because it took them until just now (16th November) to send me a reply. Yep, over a month to get back to me. And, to make it even funnier, their reply is a totally generic one:

Dear Matthew Collins,

Thank you for contacting PayPal by email. We apologise for the delay in responding to you.

We value your business and we want to address all your questions in a timely fashion. If you still have a matter outstanding, please either re-send your email or, if you would prefer to speak with a PayPal representative, contact us at 0870 730 1895

Thank you for choosing PayPal!

PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. & Cie, S.C.A.

Société en Commandite par Actions

Registered Office: 5th Floor 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449, Luxembourg

RCS Luxembourg B 118 349


Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address will not be answered.


Some wonderful lines in there…

“We value your business and we want to address all your questions in a timely fashion.”

“If you still have a matter outstanding, please either re-send your email…”

Thanks guys! Sure, I’ll just re-send my email and wait another month for you to reply with an identical response. Great idea :-)

The ‘no-reply’ email address is a lovely touch, too. Nothing like making things as convenient as possible for your customers.

To be fair, though, they do provide a phone number. At least that’s good to see.

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Putting Takeaway Menus Online

Alright, it’s time to talk about a new idea I’ve been looking at and have been putting through some initial market testing. It’s quite simple, really: put takeaway menus online. I’m planning to scan as many menus as possible and put them all on a website so that whenever you’re hungry you can find the menus for pretty much any sort of takeaway restaurant nearby.

Good idea? What do you think?

Check out the trial website:

Creative Commons License photo credit: wolfsavard

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Yet Another Localmouth Facelift

Yes, it was time for another round of CSS fun and some delving into istockphoto. I’ve been a bit freer with the colours with this version which I think makes the site look a bit more inviting. I’ve also added some graphical buttons to make the site look a bit more professional and hopefully encourage visitors to sign up and add content. I shall be monitoring the site through Google Analytics to see if the changes have any noticeable impact on visitor behaviour. Fingers crossed!

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How to add nofollow to links in Rails

It’s really very simple, but this one took me a while to figure out, so I thought I’d post it in case it helps someone else.

If you want to add a rel='nofollow' attribute to a link generated with a Rails helper, you just need to specify it in the html_options hash argument to link_to (or whatever link helper you’re using).

For example:

<%= link_to 'Vote', { :action => 'vote' }, { :rel => 'nofollow' } %>

Voila! This should discourage web crawlers (such as the Google search crawler) from following links they shouldn’t and generating false ‘clicks’.

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