When mobile services are failing...

The story
About 3 months ago I switched from mobile provider Proximus to it's competitor Mobistar because of lower rates and special deals for self employed people. Because we were close to New Year, I asked politely to make the transfer after New Year.

It all started on December 24 when all of a sudden, my old provider dropped the connection. They received the paper declaring I was switching providers. So, as instructed I switched SIM cards and I was now Mobistar customer.

But although I was able to make outgoing calls, I couldn't get incoming calls or messages. Being the day before Christmas, this is a major issue. Calling the service desk, didn't really provided me with a solution since they blamed Proximus for not transferring my number correctly.
I then called my dedicated agent, but he was already packing for his Christmas holidays and not having time to figure it all out. So I was unreachable until December 27.

All services were allright until December 31st, when I received my first "No service..." message. Again calling Mobistar service desk was a failure, they referred me to a local Mobistar shop to have my SIM-card replaced. So I did, replaced my SIM-card and had to wait for activation, which actually occured on January 3rd 2009. Since then, things started to look brighter and services were up-and-running.

But on February 16, I noticed again a "No service..." message on my iPhone. When I called the Mobistar help desk, all they did was referring me to a local Mobistar shop saying something was wrong with my SIM-card. I've come to think of it as being a default answer for all issues.

Again, today I experience the same issue with my iPhone. Again a "No service..." on top of my screen. So, while visiting Mechelen city center for lunch, I visited the Mobistar shop and had my SIM-card replaced again. Having to wait about half an hour, and all services should be up-and-running again.

Waiting for more then an hour, I first checked if my iPhone wasn't broken by using a SIM-card of another provider (Vodafone NL) before deciding to give Mobistar support desk a call. And now I know the true story behind all misery:
  1. Mobistar is having issues with their provisioning system, so new SIM-card activations cannot be processed correctly (I shall have to wait)
  2. Mobistar is experiencing network issues in my area (Mechelen North) and are working hard to solve it
  3. Mobistar does not want people to read about it, so they only tell this to people who call in (very convenient when you're mobile services are out)
  4. Mobistar does not inform their shops either of failures, since the Mobistar shop I visited checked for systems, services or network failures.
The punch
The Internet is a great way to communicate to your customers. You can mention successes to the whole world... but you can also provide information to your customers for moments when things aren't going as they are supposed to.

Mobistar could have made me (and other customers) happy if we were able to check if services were down or not working at all. This would leave us at least with an explenation of why our service is unavailable so we could inform the people who are now trying to contact us and getting a system error.

Mobistar, if you care to read my post here, talk to Cal Evans about using internet services like Twitter as communication tools for your company. Your customers are using it to mention your failures as well.

Also, inform your customers. It's not difficult to set up a "Network status" page where you integrate you NOC information. If still in doubt, give me a call... I make you a special offer.

And one last thing: tell your call center agents not to blame others (it's their fault), because I'm a customer of Mobistar and how you internally run things is not my business. I'm only interested in when my service is up-and-running again.

Feedburner move to Google error

This morning I checked my feedburner stats and I got a message I should move my feeds over to Google, and so I did.

I should have read Chris Shiflett's blog post first to prevent my feeds spamming the entire aggregated internet, in particular Planet-PHP.

So, I want to apologize to everyone for my massive spam on the various aggregation sites and a hint to Google: make sure you don't spam the internet while moving stuff from one place to another.


Fosdem 2009 in review

Last weekend I was at FOSDEM'09, Free and Open-Source Developers European Meeting, in Brussels (Belgium). Together with co-founder Felix De Vliegher and co-organizer Patrick Allaert we were promoting the mission of PHPBelgium, the largest PHP user group in Belgium.

Besides promoting PHP and the activities of the user group, we also promoted, an international organization for women involved in PHP development. Men are also welcome there.

On days like these, we're a central point for information and people used the opportunity to ask us a lot of questions regarding PHP. Here is a top 5 of most asked questions:

1. Where can I/our company turn to for advanced PHP training courses ?
I believe Ibuildings, the PHP professionals, located in the Netherlands and UK, are the best sources to turn to regarding training courses for advanced PHP and certification.

Ibuildings provides standard PHP training courses, including courses from php|architect, but can also provide custom training courses that meet the requirements of your company needs. Training courses are given by Zend Certified Engineers (ZCE's) with years of hands-on experience in complex PHP projects. More information can be found at

2. Is there a certification program for PHP developers (like for Java, .Net, ...) ?
Yes, there is. Zend Technologies, Inc. has two sorts of certifications: Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE) for PHP developers and Zend Framework Certified Engineer for Zend Framework developers.
Training courses are provided by Zend Partners or by Ibuildings in the Netherlands and UK.

3. Is PHP enterprise ready ?
Yes, PHP is enterprise ready. As of PHP 5.0 the language is object oriented, scalable and available on many platforms (Linux, Microsoft Windows 2008 Server and IIS7, IBM's i5 Series, ...).

Especially now with the credit crunch and the unclear (financial) future for many industries PHP offers a lower budget solution for many web based application needs.

Professional PHP services and consulting for enterprises and governements are provided by companies like Ibuildings, AUSY, OmniTi, and many more.

4. I'm from ..., is there a PHP user group in my neighborhood ?
Well, it's hard for us to know each and every PHP user group in the world, so I suggest to turn to Google, Yahoo or Live Search to locate a PHP user group in your area. Usually "php user group " would do the trick.

5. Where can I get more information about PHP ?
There are many great sites and blog posts on the internet about PHP and is thus impossible to list all of them here.

A few good resources to start with are: