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Posts Tagged ‘sms

I am thankful to have received my first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

I am particularly thankful to the education partner who nominated me. I work with more than one partner and the others did not do so even though I conduct courses for their educators or students.

Now I have a rant about a first-world problem. 

I received email notification from my education partner on 16 March that I was on a shortlist. I had to wait for an SMS that would invite me to schedule the two injections.

Eight days after that notification, I read the news that vaccinations were open to those aged 49-59 in the general population. Those who wished to get vaccinated could register here to get the same SMS.

As I had not received notice for the first (nominated) registration, I decided to try the general route as I belonged to that age group. The registration system at the time required me to verify my mobile number via a one-time password (OTP). 

The problem with that was the OTP took longer to arrive than they were valid for. This meant I could not register via the general invitation. My guess is that the registration system was swamped with requests.

I waited two days and tried again. This time the OTP requirement was no longer on the registration form and my request went through (see first SMS, below).

Later that same day, the nominated invitation arrived (see second SMS, above). I scheduled my vaccinations immediately and received the SMS confirmation below.

Strangely enough, I received another SMS six days later thanking me for my interest and assuring me that I would be notified if there were slots for booking. This was jarring given that I had already reserved my slots. 

We have a Smart Nation initiative. Have the administrators of the vaccination notification system read the memo? This was not the first round of invitations, registrations, and confirmations. According to this news report, 80% of 50,000 workers in the education sector had previously registered for vaccination appointments. How smart is the sub-system if it did not learn from the previous experience and improve the next one?

A week ago, I received an SMS from my health insurance provider. It was a reminder to pay my annual premium.

NTUC insurance SMS.

Yesterday I received snail mail saying the same, except with more words and paper.

What is the problem?

I had already paid my premium in October. I went to a branch to confirm this and the representative even made a Singaporean “double confirmed” declaration that my policy was in place and paid for. I even reminded them that I was not supposed to receive snail mail since the adoption of e-notifications. I reflected on all this earlier and linked this administrative nincompoopery to a lack of empathy.

How so? The provider was not able to see how blind policies and habits were affecting individual customers. A week ago, I mentioned how teachers also need to empathise with students — they need to remember what is was like to learn before trying to teach.

Today I focus on the “if” statement in the SMS: If you have made payment on 02 Nov 2020 or thereafter, please disregard this message.

If you had first bothered to check that I had paid, you would not have sent me the SMS or snail mail. If you did that first, you would not cause me distress or waste resources. If your systems actually communicated and synchronised with one another, you would not come across as incompetent. The onus is not on me to respond; it is on you to take due diligence.

Ditto for teachers and school leaders. Do not assume that students have not submitted work. Check the submission system first. Do not craft warning letters and spout policies and threats. Check with the students first.

A cheap phone plan has hidden costs.

I have two phone accounts for my family that are under a special MyRepublic phone plan. I could pay for three accounts and they would still cost less than one low end plan with a competitor.

So what is not to love?

Phantom international SMS charges by MyRepublic.

Over the last few months, I noticed that some bills had mysterious international SMS charges. When I inquired, I received a link to a newly minted FAQ. It looks like I was not the only one worried about phantom SMS charges.

It turns out that activations of iCloud or iMessage incur international SMS charges because these are sent to UK servers. Since one might have more than one device, this can add up.

The new FAQ does not provide advice on how to avoid this charge. Apparently, a service provider does not have to be helpful by providing that service. So I searched online.

A few minutes of searching revealed two things: 1) This problem was more common than I thought (customers the world over railing against their telcos), and 2) the solution might be right under our thumbs.

Hot Cancel instead of OK.

When prompted to activate, tap on Cancel instead of OK. Apparently the service will still be activated. I must remember to try this the next time this invariably happens.

My reflection starts with an Apple Pay verification process and ends with lessons on teaching and assessment.

When Apple Pay launched in Singapore in May, I jumped on the bandwagon by verifying one of my credit cards. The process was quick and painless: Scan the card details into the Wallet app and verify the card by SMS.

I tried the process with another eligible card, but did not receive SMS verification. I put that down to early implementation issues.

However, I tried about ten times between the launch in May and this month and was still unsuccessful. The Wallet app provided the alternative verification process of calling the credit card issuing bank’s customer service.

I dread using such customer “service” because the process make me feel like a rat being tested in a maze.

I had to get through several layers of number pressing before getting the option to speak with a human. Once there, I was informed that they were “experiencing a high call volume”.

I missed having an old phone that I could slam down on the receiver.

This particular bank provided the option of leaving my contact number so that I would receive a call-back in four hours. That must have been some really high call volume!

I received one shortly before the four-hour mark and explained how I did not receive SMS verification for Apple Pay from that bank’s system. I also mentioned that I had done the verification for another bank’s card quickly and seamlessly with the same process.

The customer service representative (CSR) was puzzled, checked the messaging records, and told me that SMS had been sent to my phone. I wanted to reply that I was not an idiot, but I bit my tongue. I repeated that I did not receive any despite several attempts over two months.

The CSR then advised me not to use my bank-issued security dongle. I told him that the dongle was irrelevant because it was not a verification option in Apple’s Wallet app. So he said he needed to look into my case and asked if he could call me back in an hour.

As soon we disconnected, something connected. A long time ago, I blocked a few of the bank’s SMS numbers because I kept getting marketing messages despite telling them I did not want any. I wondered if the SMS verification shared one of those numbers.

I figured out how to unblock the numbers and tested the SMS verification for that bank card. It worked as quickly as my first card.

The was not the fault of the bank. It was mine for blocking numbers, irritating as their messages were.

I reminded myself of two lessons on teaching:

  1. You should not just stick to a script. It is important to first listen to the learner’s problem before suggesting a learning solution. The CSR’s advice to not use the dongle was obviously part of a recommended script, but it was irrelevant in this context. Mentioning the dongle not only did not help matters, it added to my frustration.
  2. Thinking out loud is one of the best ways to learn. I knew what the symptom of my problem was (no SMS from the bank), but I did not know its root cause (I had blocked some SMS numbers). Speaking to someone helped me pull thoughts to the surface and helped me find my own solutions.

When the CSR called back, I explained how I had solved the problem myself. He was relieved. I was relieved.

Right after we disconnected, he triggered an SMS to me to rate the customer service by text. It was like being pranked.

Bank SMS.

I did not respond to the SMS because the ratings were too coarse: Below, Meet, Exceed.

The phone service took place over more than one call and had multiple components. Averaging the experience was not meaningful. Detailed feedback on what was good or not good about the experience and analysing a recording of the exchanges are more tedious but better options.

I thought of two lessons on assessment:

  1. The administrative need to collect and collate data drives such bad practice. Just because you collect these data does not make the data meaningful or help CSRs improve. Administrative needs should not drive assessment.
  2. The average rating approach is a hallmark of summative assessment. It is grading an experience. If the CSR received “Exceed”, did he get a pat on the back? If the feedback was “Meet”, would he just keep reading from scripts? If the grade was “Below”, what can he do with that information? Good assessment is based on quality feedback, not just grades.

It does not take special events, teacher observations, prescribed professional development, or even a personal learning network to learn how to teach or assess better. The lessons and reminders are everywhere, even in the Apple Pay card verification process. You just have to pay attention.

I change my passwords at least once a year. This is a personal security precaution that sometimes has unforeseen consequences.

For example, after changing my Apple account password, the SMS forwarding feature from my iPhone to other devices like my Macs got disabled.

When I reactivated the feature, I should have been prompted to enter a four-digit code generated on the target device into the iPhone. However, the code did not appear.

Here is a workaround. To enable text message forwarding and get four-digit confirmation codes after changing my Apple password:

1. Disable and then reenable iMessage on the iPhone (Settings -> Messages).


2. Ensure you are logged in to iCloud on the iPhone and target devices.

3. Enable forwarding on the iPhone to other devices (Settings -> Messages -> Text Message Forwarding). Do this one at a time, that is, enable the device, get the code, enter the code. Then repeat for other devices.


Other information I found online was a start but inadequate. So I am adding more currency to the pool of information.

I think the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) cannot be implemented fast enough.

According to the PDPA site:

Provisions relating to the DNC Registry came into effect on 2 January 2014 and the main data protection rules will come into force on 2 July 2014.

DNC is Do Not Call. It also covers Do Not Text and Do Not Fax. I wish it had Do Not Email.

Like most people in Singapore, I still get spam text messages. I did not subscribe to any of them nor did I agree to receive them, but I am always told I can unsubscribe from them.

My son has his own smartphone and he gets messages informing him of ATM withdrawals and advertisements to attend courses or to buy condominiums.

I assume that since he has a prepaid SIM card number, the previous owner of the number set up the ATM withdrawal alert. These texts are from a bank we do not have an account with and the alerts are for $1,000 withdrawals. From the frequency of the withdrawals, my guess is that the previous owner has a gambling habit.

How now, PDPA?

My son attends Primary school and is too young to attend accounting and other courses the texts tout. He is not interested in them either. Nor is he rich enough to buy a condominium.

Maybe he has money squirreled away somewhere. According to other text messages, he makes frequent $1,000 withdrawals.

But I digress.

When my son asked me why he should not reply or unsubscribe, I told him that was a sure-fire way of letting the marketers know that he existed. He would get even more text messages as a result.

When he asked me why they would send such messages to a kid, I told him that they did not know that he was a child. And in this case, I do not really hold the marketers responsible.

The mobile operators are guilty of being loose with their databases. It is not enough that they make money out of the services we pay for. They also want to profit from our information.

But I digress again.

Learning to deal with spam texts is an early 21st century competency. It is about managing your personal information.

We cannot expect most schools to teach kids this competency because most schools ban or restrict the use of smartphones, particularly among the younger kids.

When schools do make an attempt, it might be an e-learning module led by Garfield (that fat orange cat) that even young kids know has nothing to do with reality. Kids can tell if a situation is not real or the consequences not dire.

Parents can put their hope in schools or wait for the PDPA to come into effect. They can also choose to categorize this as a small issue and ignore it. Doing any of these are mistakes. These are teachable moments that are authentic and meaningful.

Every now and then I receive unsolicited SMS from unscrupulous companies hoping to make a quick buck.

But this is one I would like to see to believe, particularly the blind-folded cycling item!

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