What Not To Do When You Lose Your Mobile

Maybe this is just a pet hate that is exclusively mine, but there’s something that really gets on my nerves and it’s happened under one of the two scenarios below at least three times within the last month. It’s as if the very second you let people loose on social-networking site Facebook they immediately lose all common sense.

Here’s the scenario: you lose or break your mobile phone – I’m sure it’s happened to us all at some point or another – and as if that wasn’t bad enough, you’re stupid enough to not keep a backup of your contacts (virtually every phone can do this now, so there’s no excuse for the vast majority of people). Well, fair enough: like I said, this could happen to anybody, although you’re already due a talking-to by me about keeping your information backed up, and if it’s been stolen I’d quite like to know what information you had about me on there at the time. But in the most part you have my sympathy… so far.

How’re you going to get all those carefully-collected numbers back in your phone? Well, here are two wrong ways to do it. I’ll explain why later:

  1. Send a bulk Facebook message out to everybody you know.
  2. Create a Facebook group.

So why are they wrong?

Bulk Facebook Messages

The first and biggest reason that either of these methods are wrong is pretty fundamental, though: you’ve lost my mobile number, that’s your problem, so why don’t you make some of the effort to fix it. My mobile number is on my Facebook profile. I put it there so that you wouldn’t ever have to e-mail me if you wanted it. It’s there because improving connectivity between and sharing personal information with friends is entirely what Facebook is for. So next time you misplace your address book – which you failed to back up – why don’t you do some of the leg work and actually go to my profile and look it up for yourself.

If you can’t see it on my profile, it’s invariably because I’ve used Facebook’s (now-quite complex and powerfu) privacy tools to hide it from you because I don’t want you to have my mobile number. So there you are. If you’re on my Facebook friends list you should never, ever need to send me a Facebook message to get my mobile number.

Secondly, sending a bulk-Facebook message is wrong because it almost always leads to retards “following suit” like this:

I don’t mind getting James’ new mobile number over a Facebook message. That’s fine. I shan’t be responding, because he ought to be bright enough to get my mobile number for himself, considering it’s only one-click away. But by bulk-sending it to everybody he knows, he’s underestimated the stupidity of his other friends. About 50% of the people he sent it to sent their mobile numbers back to the list by using “Reply All.”

Reply All is the only option available, and so a new Facebook user could conceivably make this mistake. But then a handful of James’ other friends make the same mistake, having seen one of them do it already. Wait, did I miss something? Are these people all patients at some mental hospital that James used to volunteer at, or something?

I don’t know who any of these people are, aside from the fact that they’re James’ other friends. I’m only permitted to read the profile of one of them, and he isn’t sharing his mobile number with me there, so I can only assume that they don’t want me to have their number. But then they’ve just turned around on that idea and given it to me. What?

I’m half-tempted to set up a handful of fake Facebook accounts just so that I can send a message back to each of the idiots like this:

I Need All Your Mobile Numbers

Between You, An Identity Thief, A Stalker, Somebody You’ve Never Met, Their Ex-, Every Man, and His Dog.

I’ve lost my mobile (again!) and can’t be bothered to look up your numbers on your profiles or contact you individually. Please use the “Reply All” form below and tell me and all the other people in the list above exactly how to contact you and harass you whenever we get bored.

Facebook Groups

The other, even more irritating way that people handle this self-inflicted (let’s face it, paper and pen is a backup if there’s no other way) tragedy is by creating a Facebook group exclusively for the purpose of re-harvesting their friend’s numbers. I’m sure you’ve all seen this happen at least once.

And it happens a lot: log in to Facebook and search for “lost mobile” in the Groups list. You won’t ever find out how many idiots do this, because Facebook only lists the first few hundred results. But there are lots. Lots and lots.

The first thing that’s wrong with this approach is an issue which I’m sure I’ll be one of very few people to care about, but it’s not the biggest problem: Facebook “Groups” are, by definition, according to Facebook’s own documentation, collections of “people with similar interests” and “places for discussion.”

I’ve never joined one of these “I’ve lost my mobile!” groups, because:

  • I’ve never lost my mobile.
  • Even if I had, I wouldn’t realy say I have an interest in lost mobiles. I have no intention to discuss what having lost a mobile is like, or even what my friend having lost their mobile is like. And I’m pretty sure that isn’t what they want, either.

Not only is creating a Facebook group a mis-use of the service – this isn’t what groups are for! – but they suffer from all the same problems as Facebook bulk-mailing all your friends (i.e. if they reply, they all see each others’ numbers) but even worse. Most people create these groups but don’t make them “secret,” so anybody can join. Want a few hundred numbers to sell to an SMS-spammer? Just browse Facebook for awhile. Worse still, these groups don’t disappear until (after) every single member has left. So your phone number, which you stupidly put in the group description (if you’re the idiot who lost your phone) or on the wall of the group (if you’re one of their even-bigger-idiot friends), will be visible to pretty much any Facebook user, indefinately. Give yourself a pat on the back. I suggest using an ice pick.

What Little Timmy Should Have Done

Never let it be said that I’m overly negative when I criticise morons. I’m more than happy to educate them and I won’t even demand the right to use a heavy, blunt object to help the knowledge sink in.

Here’s what you should be doing in order to show off your uncommon sense. You can start today!

Back Up Your Mobile Phone

Just stop and think for a moment what your mobile phone is worth. I don’t mean the cost the insurance company will pay when you drop it in a pint of cider a week on Friday, I mean the value of the data inside it. How long would it take you to put all those numbers back in? If you’re a heavier user of the geekier features of modern phones: what about all the photos, e-mails, text messages, music, and the carefully-tweaked settings that make the icons have a purple background and that Crazy Frog video ringtone?

  • Most modern mobiles can be connected to a PC by a cable (which sometimes comes free with the phone) or by Bluetooth, and free software (often from the phone manufacturer’s website) will let you make a backup copy of everything on your device. It’ll take seconds, and doing it as infrequently as four or five times a year will save you a universe of hassle. Just look for a feature that will enable you to read all the data from the screen of your PC if you need to – for example, if your replacement phone isn’t compatible with the data from your broken old handset.
  • Pretty much every mid- or high- end Nokia, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson handset and some LG and Siemens handsets support a technology called SyncML (there are links to lists of compatible phones at the bottom of that page). Using this technology and a free on-line provider like many of these ones, you can back up your entire address book to a safe online repository over the Internet. Sure, if you’re on Pay-As-You-Go you’ll pay a few pence to do an Internet upload, but isn’t it worth it even if you just consider that the price of insuring your data?
  • Even if you’re using an ancient handset, consider keeping a paper backup (little black books are very affordable) or a typed-up list in a spreadsheet (Google Docs provides a free online spreadsheet). Or, if virtually all of your friends are on Facebook or another social networking site that allows the exchange of contact details, encourage them to keep their mobile numbers on their profile; suitably locked down to “friends only” (or even just to specific friends), of course.

What To Do When It All Goes Wrong

Everything goes tits-up from time to time. Suppose you lost your phone in a house fire that destroyed the PC the backups were on, too. Or maybe your phone got stolen and the new “owner” was so malicious he used your SyncML connection (if you’d saved your password on the phone) to overwrite all of your online backups with pictures of Lolcats. Or perhaps you didn’t keep backups at all (so long as you promise to keep backups next time, it’s not so bad – we all have to learn the hard way once, I’m sure, how important backups are). What should you do?

First: take responsibility. There is always something you could have done to keep a better backup. Therefore, it’s your job to do as much of the legwork of getting your numbers back as you can. Don’t make it your friends’ problem. Go through your friends’ Facebook profiles and retreieve as many phone numbers as you can before you start bothering them.

Second: get numbers in a sensible way. If you have a few close circles of friends, it’s pretty trivial nowadays to Bluetooth/MMS/Infared hundreds of contacts from phone-to-phone, and this can be a great way to get yourself re-connected. Call up Barney, and say “Hey, Barney; let me buy you a pint tonight and take a copy of everybody in your address book – I’ve been an idiot and I didn’t keep a backup before I lost my phone the other week.” Barney’ll drink his pint and press some buttons on his phone while saying things like, “Do you know Robin? Marshall? Lily? Have you met Ted?” and these people will magically appear in your address book.

There’s almost certainly be people you can’t re-get the numbers for in this way, but you can still be sensible about it. Send messages individually to those few people and ask for their numbers, but not before double-checking that you actually need them. If you can’t think of a reason you’ll ever call them within the next year, why are you carrying around their number anyway? Unless they’re somebody you’d call “in an emergency” you can always look them up when you need them. That way, you won’t spend you entire time with a number in your phone that could go out of date (people change numbers all the time) and you’d never know until you came to phone them, six years down the line, and you’d have to look them up anyway. Save yourself (and them) the bother and keep them out of your book. It’s a liberating experience to tidy up your contacts list.

And finally: if you get a new mobile number with your new phone, drop a text message to everybody who might want to know it, but make sure you say who you are because you won’t be in their address book with your new number, yet. The number of text messages I’ve got in my life from a number unknown to me that read “Hey there! This is my new number! Bye!” is staggering.

Some people are just too stupid to be allowed mobile phones.

The Danville Public Service Announcement

I don’t visit Facebook often. In fact, I usually only log on once or twice a month to clear out the billions of requests to install applications (and block those applications) that people don’t seem to have noticed that I never accept, or to check up on a mis-placed phone number or e-mail address for some infrequently-contacted friend. But in any case, I’m not up-to-date with what’s commonplace on Facebook any more. But this unusual bulge in my list of friends amused me for a moment:

That’s four friends, in a row, who all set their “statuses” to something resembling the lyrics of a well-known song. Kieran may well be the colour of the wind, of course, but he’s still a ginger. I’m not in a position to comment on Owen’s body odour, and I’m doubtful that Adam is the one and only (although it’s genuinely possbile that there’s nobody he’s rather be). And Gareth’s apathy is… well, pretty much standard.

But it doesn’t seem so regular that a block of people adjacent to one another on my seemingly-randomly-sorted (I assume there’s some kind of clever hashing going on at the back-end for speed, or something) would all independently (none of them know one another, to the best of my knowledge) choose to have their statuses inspired by songs. Nobody else on my friends list is demonstrating this.

Perhaps I’m seeing patterns where they don’t exist, like seeing the face of Jesus in a balding dog’s back, or something. Just thought I’d share.

It’s been a busy week or so. Last Wednesday I went out to the first night of the Ship & Castle‘s real ale festival with Penny and Ele, on account of the fact that (a) Yay! Dozens of cask-conditioned beers! and (b) I hadn’t seen much of either of them for an aeon or two. The pub was completely packed, but that didn’t stop us from sampling a good selection of the beers and ciders on offer. Once one became available, I stole a stool to sit on.

Now it seems that some strange wizard must have enchanted that stool on some previous visit to the pub, with a mysterious spell of popularity, because it suddenly appeared that every fucker in the pub wanted to talk to me. The folks I knew (one or two more turned up), the folks I barely knew (“I’m sorry, but I can’t remember how I’m supposed to know you?” territory)… even strangers seemed to know who I was or, failing that, want to. Two people said “hey, you’re that guy with the blog,” as if that in some way cuts it down in this town (abnib disagrees). One woman waved as if I’d known her for years but I can’t place a name to her face. Another chap – his flirtatiousness outdone only by his drunkeness – almost coerced a blush out of me with a particularly charming compliment. And it just kept on going, and going…

When the pub finally kicked us out (and we’d added Lizzie to our party), we hunted for another pub but without success, and so we scooped up beer and wine and took the party to the living room of The Cottage, where we talked all kinds of bollocks, drinking and listening to music – and joined for awhile by Tom, who came in looking drunk and stained with ash, drank half a bottle of beer, urinated in the back yard, and left again – until it was getting close to 4am and I thought it really ought to be time for bed, considering my planned early start at work the following morning. How Penny survived (she started work even earlier) I haven’t a clue.

A major difference between being in your late twenties and being in your early twenties, in my experience, is not one of having less energy for a late night (or early morning) of drinking, but one of responsibility. As a 27-year-old, I’m quite aware that I can still survive an all-night party (although it’s getting harder!). But when somebody spontaneously suggests something like “Let’s stay up and party and watch the sun rise,” instead of saying “Yeah!” I say, “Hmm… I’ve got work in the morning… maybe…” It’s easy to be made aware of this distinction when you’re in a student town, as I am, and it’s easy to be made to feel even older than I am. On the other hand, it helps to give every opportunity to pretend I’m less aged than I actually am.

So then Thursday was the anticipated long day at work, followed by a quick dinner before a rush up to the Arts Centre to see Steeleye Span, on JTA‘s recommendation. Steeleye Span are a “proper” folk rock band: y’know, they’ve had every single member replaced at some point or another and still keep the same name, like Theseus’s ship, and they’ve written songs that they don’t play any more, but that other folk bands do. That kind of definition. They were pretty good – a reasonable selection of songs from the usual slightly saucy and sometimes unintelligble varieties that they’re known for, and a particularly strong finish to the concert with a rousing sing-along rendition of All Around My Hat (which, I later discovered, they played as an encore the last time my dad saw them, about a decade or more ago – I guess that’s the third characteristic of a “proper” folk rock band: that your parents have seen them perform, too).

By now, I was getting to a point where I was tired enough to not be making much sense any more when I talked (as if I ever do), and I slept well, although not for long, because I had to make an even earlier start at work on Friday morning to make sure I got everything I needed to get done done before travelling up North in the evening.

So yeah: Friday evening we travelled up to Preston and had pizza with my folks, and then on Saturday morning I found myself taking my sister Becky‘s place in the BT Swimathon. She’d been suffering from a lung infection for a week or more, now, and had to pull out, so – despite having barely swum at all for several years – I pulled on my trunks and a swimming cap and contributed 1750m to the team effort. And then dragged my body out of the pool just in time for Claire and I to rush off to Formby for her godmother’s funeral, which is what we’d actually come up to the North-West to do.

Oh yeah, and I got a medal, which I’ve been wearing ever since.

I can’t say much about Claire’s godmother’s funeral, because I only met her once, and then only briefly. Her husband – she’d been married for 52 years; they’d been teenage sweethearts – was quite obviously finding her death difficult, yet still managed to deliver a beautiful and moving eulogy for his dear departed wife. Apart from the religosity of the service (not to my taste, but I suppose it wasn’t really there for me anyway) it was very good, and the church building was packed – this was obviously a popular woman.

Her body seems to be going “on tour”: she’s having a second service – the actual funeral – in Norfolk today. I wonder if it’ll be as full. Not many people get two funerals. Perhaps the popularity will wane after the first. On the other hand, you might get groupies… seems to be what Claire’s doing, as she’s down in Norfolk now and presumably went to the second funeral, too.

Later, we found ourselves in Manchester. We’d hoped to go guitar-shopping (Claire’s looking for a new one), but ended up there just barely in time to eat some noodles and go to meet my family, and each of my sister’s boyfriends, at the Odeon IMAX cinema to see Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones concert film/documentary. The film was… better than I would have expected, and the resolution of the IMAX filmstock really showed during long pans and high-detail closeups on the band in concert, although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the editing: too many cuts, too much crossing the line, and (on a huge screen) almost nauseating thanks to the bumps and bounces the cameras made. It was also a little too-much concert and not-enough documentary, perhaps because the band have never really interviewed very well. In one old BBC clip, Keith Richards is asked what has brought the band it’s initial success, and he simply shrugs. In another – in the early 1970s – Mick Jagger‘s only answer about the band’s future is “I think we’ve got at least another year left.”

A few games of Mario Party 8 with my family later (one of which, amazingly, my mum won!), and we were back on the road. Claire dropped me off at Birmingham New Street station so I could catch a train back to Aberystwyth, as I needed to be back at work this morning, and she carried on to Norfolk to visit her dad and to attend the other half of her godmother’s funeral.

My journey back to Aberystywth was pretty horrendous. Trains are cancelled between Shrewsbury and Aber right now, and replaced with a bus service, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a less pleasant bus journey in my life. Five-seats wide, I was squished into falling half-off my uncomfortable seat even sat next to somebody as small as Matt P (who I’d happened to bump into on the journey). There was barely any knee-room, and the air conditioning only had two settings, neither of which was particually pleasant but for reasons of completely different extremes.

We finally got back to Aber just in time to join in at Geek Night, where Ruth, Penny, and Rory were just finishing a game of Carcassonne. JTA arrived, too, and the six of us played the largest game of Settlers of Catan I’ve ever played. We also managed to have a couple of games of Hypercube Hop, Ruth’s dad’s first board game published under his new Brane Games label. For those of you that missed it, I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity to give it a go at some future Geek Night.

Then today I posed for topless photos for Ele. But that’s another story and I’ve got to go and eat dinner so I’ll leave it at that.