10.16.2011 12:00 AM

In today’s Sun: no Blackberry was harmed in the production of this column

When disaster strikes, when mistakes happen, what’s the best corporate response?

Well, to respond, for starters. Not to pretend nobody’s noticed.

Last week, as you are certainly aware, was The Great Berry Crash of 2011, and plenty of folks noticed. Across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, millions of us peered at our inert BlackBerry screens for day after interminable day, cursing.

Cursing one of the all-time Canadian business success stories, BlackBerry’s Research in Motion (RIM). Cursing the company’s near-total silence about a system-wide collapse that inconvenienced — or hurt — countless businesses and individuals around the globe.

No e-mails. No instant messaging. No web browsing. For days, our BlackBerrys were great big digital clocks, and nothing more. An apology (of sorts) came from one of RIM’s bosses only after four days of corporate silence. It was beyond maddening — it was pathetic.

23 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    Gord,
    While you’re at the subject of corporate accountbaility you might also want to check in on the government you love. They passed an accountability act only to completely ignore it.

    I am a big BB user and actually survived the 14 hours mine was not working. I just used my computer to get my emails and used other instant messenger services on my BB playbook while the system was down. Its called HAVING backup resources but probably too complicated for a Tory.

    • JenS says:

      It’s apparently too complicated for this Liberal, too. I’m trying to get your argument straight, but essentially it would appear you’re saying, “You can’t count on a BB to provide the service it promises, so what you need to do is sink another several hundred dollars into another RIM device that is by most accounts a complete flop.”

      I, too, managed without my BB, which showed me maybe I don’t need it as much as I thought I did. Perhaps an adequate $15 a month data plan on my iPad and a basic cell phone with minimal data coverage is all I need. Either way, the end result isn’t a good one for RIM.

      • Pete says:

        Have you ever heard of MSN messenger or Yahoo messenger. Both of these worked and many of my contacts also have those backups.

        • JenS says:

          It wasn’t just BBM that was down. I actually rarely use that function. It was the not receiving BB mail that was an issue, as well as the fact that I couldn’t access email on a handheld device – I don’t want to always carry my iPad or laptop. So, what I learned is not to use BB mail, and not to count on BB to provide the mobile services I require in a handheld device. A good lesson, guess.

    • MCBellecourt says:

      Actually, Gord, I’ve seen many RCMP members with small laptops mounted onto the dashboard of their cruisers. I think some of them prefer the laptops simply because they’re more reliable and can hold way more data.

    • Pete says:

      I didn’t hear of any great crime waves as a result of the RIM issue. You’re a little too dramatic but then you are a Tory and see crime around every corner that should be punished wiith serious hard time.

    • smelter rat says:

      Whitewhine.com

  2. Cam Prymak says:

    You think the Tar Sands are the fossil fuel equivalent of polar bear diamonds? I disagree.

    From David Suzuki’s blog – http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2011/10/can-oil-be-ethical/

    “Canada is one of the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases. Our rapidly melting permafrost releases massive amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane, amplifying our contribution to the global crisis of climate change. Alberta’s tar sands require enormous amounts of energy and water to extract, further compounding Canada’s already excessive emissions. Is there not an ethical component to our demand for a greater share of the Earth’s atmosphere than most other nations? Rapid exploitation of Canada’s tar sands — by companies from countries including the U.S., Korea, and China — is not crucial for our nation’s survival or even well-being, yet we ignore the impact on the rest of the world. If that isn’t unethical, I don’t know what is.”

    • Pete says:

      To take your logic to its illogical conslusion Canada should scour the world and make sure we don’t import anything that is “unethical” for other Countries to export. You far lefties have no sense of the real world and the interdependence we all have. Canada is not an ISOLATED island.

      • Cam Prymak says:

        No, the issue is how a producer differentiates their commodity from others, you may want to read the actual blog before you go off on a tangent there Pete.

        Cheers.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      http://www.oilcrashmovie.com/ …….nuff said…..

    • Cam Prymak says:

      The issue, according to WK, is how companies react to challenges or self-created problems in the market place. In this case the co-CEO’s belated response to a global outage was a self-admittedly poor one. May not be your cup of tea but diamond mining and retailing has a worldwide market just like the global market for gold. Perhaps you recommend that Barrick and others shut down because it’s not as useful to you as crude oil?

      But you say developers of the Canadian tar sands need to market the product better to American consumers to create value. If you read the Suzuki blog I think that you’ll see that while the opportunity sometimes presents itself for natural resource companies to differentiated themselves, (a skilled and stable Canadian labour force vs outright exploitation of innocent people) the tar sands present no such option.

      The American consumer may have a hand in judging whether the environmental damage is worth the inexplicable, damn-the-torpedoes approach favoured by multi-nationals that want to exploit the tar sands. But it’s a stretch to say that tar sands are ethical oil despite attempts by Exxon and others to frame the extraction of crude oil from tar sands as a benign and integral economic process. Some are skeptical about those claims and the attendant need you cite to continue to push for faster extraction and more pipelines.

      Some favour a more balanced approach that recognizes while our dependence on oil is not going away overnight, we also need to weigh the costs of rapid extraction vs. our long term needs in a post-oil economy. Jeff Rubin has written about the disruptive effects oil has on our economy, it would be great if we could look to a post-oil economy with some confidence and frankly that’s one of the reasons I voted for the Liberals. McGuinty and Suzuki see the big picture.

      • allegra fortissima says:

        It doesn’t look good for a post-oil economical future – and Canadians might not even “sit in the driver’s seat”:

        http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/harper-government-allow-chinese-ownership-alberta-oil-sands-152525405.html

      • Cam Prymak says:

        Mr. Tulk – you said that Jeff Rubin is a ‘disgraced economist’ and was fired from his job. I couldn’t find any such references on the web so I thought I’d ask you directly for sources.

        What I did see on Mr. Rubin’s website was this background information – http://www.jeffrubinssmallerworld.com/

        “After twenty years as Chief Economist for a North American investment bank, it was time for me to seek a larger audience for the story I needed to tell.
        My predictions of steadily rising oil prices over the last decade, including my call for $100-per-barrel oil by 2007, had flown in the face of conventional wisdom.

        Among other things, my track record on predicting rising oil prices demonstrated that the traditional laws of supply and demand were no longer working for one of the economy’s most basic and essential commodities. And when they stopped working, the consequences for the economy would be severe.
        It wasn’t subprime mortgages but triple-digit oil prices that brought down the world economy.

        And unless that economy started to wean itself off an ever-depleting supply of affordable oil, there would be other recessions to follow as economic recoveries would simply push oil prices right back into triple-digit range. But weaning our economy off oil meant, at the same time, making fundamental changes in the way we live.

        This is not the kind of message investment banks want their chief economists delivering these days, to either governments or investors. But the urgency of this message grows with every passing day.

        On March 31, 2009, I resigned my position as Chief Economist and Managing Director of CIBC World Markets to deliver this message in my book, Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization.”

      • Cam Prymak says:

        Gord,

        I will say these points in response,

        – if you ask 10 economists in the room for their opinion, you’ll get 11 responses. I don’t know anyone that has a perfect record in timing the market. Notwithstanding that, the price of oil went to about $146/b, an unheard of amount to most other economists, prior to the crash of 2008.

        – that same global financial meltdown of ’08 led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and if that doesn’t force oil prices down, at least temporarily, nothing will.

        – emerging economies *and* oil producing states themselves are going to take an ever increasing proportion of available oil, driving prices up faster than we’re used to – this phenomenon will continue to shock the developed countries and their economies.

        Personally I think we need more Jeff Rubins in the world.

      • Cam Prymak says:

        Gord-

        I don’t dispute that pushing technology to reach the more expensive reserves or extend the lives of other wells will alleviate some of the demand pressure. I agree with you there.

        You bring up fracking, the debate over which is just now starting in the US at least. Like you, I have too much windshield time, so I do get to listen to the debate, http://www.npr.org/2011/08/02/138820966/worries-over-water-as-natural-gas-fracking-expands

        I think one province on this side of the border may have it under review, but basically US homeowners with fracking operations nearby, sometimes on their own properties, have no idea what chemicals are used. The potential implications for livestock and farming operations could be dire for these folks.

        Down south the energy companies cite ‘competitive’ reasons for not disclosing the kind of chemicals used but there’s equally lax oversight, courtesy of the Halliburton Loophole, for the whole process.

        Now before you cite the idea that fracking chemicals are harmless, I will say yes, I agree that some are indeed safe. There’s two things we agree on.

        But there’s a lot of chemicals that are dangerous and probably more of them that we don’t exactly know what they could mean to well water or ecosystems, concentrations notwithstanding.

        “Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

        The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – are SDWA contaminants and hazardous air pollutants. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five-year period.” This is from a report by the Dems on the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce.

        So it comes back to the original part of the conversation that WK put up: it’s how a company works to protect it’s customer base that determines long term success. The Fossil fuel industry seems to function on too much secrecy and little or no notion of customer care. Tony ‘I want my life back’ Hayward is a good example.

        Hypothetically speaking, if it was me and the province ok’d either a fracking operation or a wind turbine near my home, I would take the gargantuan windmill every time.

  3. MJH says:

    The strip minng at Sudbury and Voisey Bay should be stopped now!! They are a blight on the earth and are leaving our country looking like a moonscape.

    • Pete says:

      GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE. Nickel is a vital component of our economy and a few thousand acres are used and then eventually reintegrated intot he eco system. Also most nickel mining in Sudbury is done underground.

  4. Neil says:

    You forget a couple things that still worked.
    One all the games and stuff, worked fine so that means it was still as good as a iPhone
    And two
    The phone still worked so that puts it about a hundred years ahead of a iPhone.

    As I type this on my iPad, sigh.

  5. Welby says:

    I agree with Warren on this – think of the Tylenol issue and how that was handled as an example of how business should respond. I am in Dubai and so was Jim Ballsillie last week. There was a huge IT convention here and it must have been very difficult for the RIM people in the booth. I believe that one of the European networks was going to refund customers. Etisalat (who is the network of choice here ) is refunding 15 dhms ($5 CDN) on a 185 dhms ($62 CDN) a month charge.

  6. VH says:

    Warren, The phone still worked fine. That puts it better than a big digital clock.
    Sometimes you just gotta kick it old skool.

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