Is Screenscraping Legal? Ryanair Versus Bravofly

Creative Commons License photo credit: mattbuck4950

Out-Law had an interesting article yesterday about how Ryanair is taking a Dutch fare comparison website to court in Ireland for screenscraping.

If I understand rightly, Ryanair’s case hinges on whether or not the terms of use of their website count as a contract; they say they do whereas the scrapers argue that they don’t.

There are lots of similar price comparison aggregator sites like Bravofly out there and a few of them may be getting worried at this. Most of the time companies are quite happy for their product information to be scraped in this way because it can generate more business, but Ryanair and Easyjet seem to be against it. Why? Could it be a PR stunt?

As an aside, it’s interesting to read in the same article that big players and have also allegedly been using screen-scraping (and have been asked and/or warned not to by the low-cost airlines).

Government Launches Competition to Mashup UK Public Information

Creative Commons License photo credit: alexliivet

It’s time to put your thinking cap on.

The UK government’s Power of Information Taskforce last week launched a £20,000 competition for good ideas about how to use a raft of public information. Alongside the launch, the government is making available a number of new sets of data and APIs, including a database of schools in England and Wales, public notices from the London Gazette, health care services information from the NHS, transport information from Transport Direct and a new API to access neighbourhood statistics from the Office of National Statistics.

To enter, all you need is an idea for now. The competition is open until the end of September and the winner is to be announced in the second week of October.

It’s great to see more public data being made available in this way!

Will the UK Start Regulating Social Networks?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Urbankudos

“Nine out of 10 say rules should govern social sites”

According to Bobby Johnson in yesterday’s Guardian (Facebook Information Should be Regulated, Survey Says), “89% of those surveyed by the Press Complaints Commission said there should be a set of widely accepted rules to help prevent personal information – such as private photographs – being abused.”

ReadWriteWeb has more coverage.

Are we going to see a big clampdown?

How to Find a Technical Co-Founder

Credit: Robert Scoble

So you’ve got a great idea for a killer Web startup but you’re not a techie yourself? You’re looking for a technical business partner or CTO; someone who understands business but can pull the technical side of things together and make your ideas real? This kind of person can be hard to find. The right people are in demand by established web development firms and other startups. Here are a few ways you might go about finding one:

  1. Start hanging out at web/startup events such as Minibar (if you’re in London). It can be a good way to get familiar with the big technology trends of the moment and start making some contacts in the web development / startup community.
  2. Put the word out to your extended network through Twitter, email and Facebook.
  3. Go along to a weekend event such as StartupWeekend, BarCamp or Social Innovation Camp. You’re likely to meet a few startup-minded folk who know what’s what in Web technology.
  4. Attend web-related Meetup events. These can be a good opportunity to pick up some handy Web know-how and ask around for contacts.
  5. Find some local startups with websites you like and get in touch with them to ask for advice. They may have friends or other contacts who would be interested in working with you.

Good luck!

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!

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

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.