Have you ever been caught short?

I guess we’ve all had a moment like that sometime. Whether it was finding ourselves short of cash for some unexpected expanse or just needing to find a toilet. Fast.

Two entirely different situations, yet they both share the same need to be resolved quickly. This is the whole point about services. And that’s value – the value they are to you.

Like buying a bottle of wine at your local shop, finding you’ve no cash and being charged a fee for using your card. Or the 50p charge for using a public toilet, when its free at home. That’s what I mean by value to you at the time.

Imagine a friend loaning you £50 to pay an unexpected bill. You’d pay them back – and may be give them a £12 bottle of Scotch for helping you out. That’s appreciating the value.

I wrote about Wonga when it first launched and got a lot of abuse for endorsing a product with such a high interest rate. But it seems that I wasn’t the only one who saw the value. Wonga’s just won a string of awards, like a Webby for their website and for their service.

Wonga are a great bunch of guys as well – So well done and good luck for the future!

A cryptic question for you. When’s a webpage not a webpage, or a browser not a browser? The answer of course is when its not doing its job properly.

The web’s big thing is that it began standards-driven and is constantly refined over time. Whatever you want to code, there’s a right way to do it. If you don’t stick to this, that’s OK. But don’t expect anyone to read your content or use your browser.

HTML as a markup language does its job pretty well. Everything works as it was intended, which considering how much is there and how long its been going is amazing, really.

Sometimes someone comes along and for whatever reason, decide to do their own thing. But world domination aspirations apart, Whatever you view and wherever you view it on, you’ll see what the author intended you to see.

Microsoft screwed everything up with Internet Explorer. It used unbelievably sloppy coding. But they finally fixed it and with Version 8, its not too bad. But then along comes Opera.

So how does Opera manage to get everything so wrong?

Sitting on my desk I have a wide-screen, 24-inch monitor. Good for you. I can hear you say. Stick with me on this one. there’s a point to me telling you this.

My web statistics show that 90% of visitors are using 1200×800 resolutions as a minimum. Tablets like Apple’s iPad have similar broad screen landscapes.

But that’s only half the story. Lots of my visitors use SmartPhones, like iPhone or Android. Resolutions for these is similar, but they use a sliding window.

Web design follows user hardware, that’s why most sites used an 800×600 screen canvas. This layout is now less common as we move to wider displays.

A website’s real estate has a value, which roughly follows the page layout of a newspaper. What you see first is premium, what you have to scroll around to, less so.

So to keep visitors happy, how big should a website be. Just how big is your world?

I love the stuff that comes my way through Facebook. Its a regular part of my daily routine, just as much as checking my post, answering my phone or opening my email.

What’s cool about Facebook is that it’s actually reflecting us. We’re shaping it every day. Facebook is as we are.

But you know, there’s another side to this. No, I’m not talking about some clandestine plot, What I’m suggesting is that Facebook is actually shaping us, too.

OK, so what do I mean by that. Do I mean its changed our habits, like fashion or television?

No, I’m saying it goes beyond that. Way beyond it. I’m saying its changing us as a society.

Imagine this scenario. You’re living in a nice house, but the window frames need replacing.

You have a good look round and find a new window company offering you a great deal. Lower maintenance, more light, much better looking and adding more value to your home. Your neighbours down the road have switched to them and really love them.

But your window cleaner doesn’t want you to have them. So he says no.

What, he’s your window cleaner. You pay him to do what he does. He’s actually saying no?

You’d fire him, wouldn’t you. No way you’d accept a decision of yours questioned like that. But if he’s your IT outsourcer, that’s exactly what he thinks he can do. And you let him do it.

An outsourcer wants to make money from supporting you, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is anyone trying to hijack your company’s future.

First off, my apologies go to Sir Isaac Newton for ripping off his long-running science series. But by only having three laws, I think he may have missed some more, crucial ones.

The Fourth Law of Financial Motion

“For every commercial process, there is a ridiculous and disproportionate cost.”

And nowhere does this ring more true than in the dingy, dusty world of High Street banking. Nowhere is quod erat demonstrandum more absolute. Except of course, the Public Sector.

But its banking I want to concentrate on here. And specifically, opening bank accounts. Because this is truly, eye poppingly, unreal.

The sheer amount of bureaucracy, paper pushing and inquisitorial process could not have been conceived by one person, just doing what’s necessary to acquire a new customer. Clearly not. No, to do things this badly demands a committee.

Before all those bankers leap to the defence of process, let me say one name. Metro Bank.

Credit unions. Always a bit of a mystery to me. An obscure part of some urban sub-culture. Almost the corner-shop of the lending world.

But a flyer dropped through my letterbox yesterday, one of those local news-sheets still produced in this world of websites and digital media.

A second credit union has just set up shop in the little rural town where I live, apparently. News to me. I wasn’t even aware of the first, so I kept reading.

I’ve just written about Zopa, the rapidly growing social lending site, I wondered how credit unions compared. After all these are local community driven, low overhead enterprises.

Would they be as competitive as Zopa?

Its funny how tech just sneaks up on you. You saw all those people wandering around like a mobile version of the John Lewis electronics section and thought to yourself “Not me”.

Yeah, right!

Then one day you get a PC. And a phone. Next, you upgrade the PC and that iPhone or the latest Android’s looking good. And netbooks are pretty cool. Suddenly, you’re a techy.

Welcome, my friend. To the machine.

Everything goes well until you begin to create data on this stuff. A document on your PC, email attachment on your smartphone or that spreadsheet from accounts on your laptop. Now you’re in trouble.

Well, I’ve found just the thing for you…

Watch people with smartphones. They seem engrossed. But they aren’t talking, or texting. They’re playing with them.

Its the applications. People are downloading stuff and exploring this latest cool technology. Suddenly the means has become the end. Again.

What do I mean – again?

What I mean is, it seems just like PC’s were when we first discovered them. Exciting, cool. Until Microsoft made it all the same and well, boring.

But this is different. There’s diversity. We’ve got iPhone and Android. Nokia’s joining in, too.

We’re learning stuff, not just using the shiny bits. Could this bring PC’s back to life…?

You’ve updated everything, read your Dummy’s Guide, Googled everywhere for answers. But it still your Windows software doesn’t work properly.

Maybe you’re sick of laying out money for software that promises but never really delivers. Maybe there’s a better way.

You might even be wishing you’d spent a bit more in the first place and just bought a Mac. Well, you can get that good feeling about your PC again without spending anything.

Download Ubuntu. Its a cool version of Linux – that’s right, the stuff that drives the Internet.

Ubuntu will have you doing great things with your PC again. Not only will you work better, but you’ll want to do more.

There’s a whole world of great software out there. Ubuntu. Go and get it.

Memory makes liars of us all. Social networks with all their familiarity, feel shiny and new. Facebook, YouTube, LastFM, all super-clean Web-two-dot-zero design shout 21st Century. And the content certainly reflects that.

But click that browser’s back button enough and you’ll enter a shadowy, less inviting world. Yes, friends. I’m talking about uncharted Forum Land.

Forums hosted the very first Internet dialogues. The place you sought to discover The Truth. Well, someone’s often twisted interpretation of it, anyway.

And despite advances made elsewhere, they stubbornly remain routed in the last century. Curiously, they’re home to a lost race of nerds and the disenfranchised.

In fact, the term enter at your own risk may well have been coined for them…

No, come on, think about it. Is the PC dead?

Yes and No. Ages ago, experts proclaimed the end of the PC and long live the X terminal. Yet it never happened. Why?

Because applications still needed to be run on the PC as the network infrastructure was not up to delivering them across the wire or the air. Servers didn’t have the capability to run hundreds of users.

But now things have changed. Networks are faster and have greater reach, online storage is a reality and readily available and applications run from servers. Google Office anyone? So why do we need a PC?

The telephone is 150 years old. We’ve grown up with them, arranged our lives using them. Few of us would be where we are today without them. It’s familiar home technology.

But mobile technology has totally changed the landscape. Driven by a competitive market, development is rapid and costs are tumbling. And mobile’s killing home phone lines.

With 99% of the domestic phone infrastructure and over 80% their revenue derived from it, home phone decline is a major issue for BT. And a testament to their failure to innovate.

BT, like all publicly owned utilities failed to embrace change until privatisation introduced competitive pressure. But it was a case of too little, too late.

Home broadband services have thrown BT a lifeline, but these need a phone line to run on. So with fewer lines and mobile on the rise, where next for the UK’s dominant telco?

Here’s an interesting news item for you. Zopa has just grabbed 1% of the UK loans market. Now if you’re still brushing off the dust from the banking collapse and looking around you, you’ll be seeing a very different landscape.

The old banks are still shell-shocked and fumbling. But the new guys, leaner, more agile and more innovative are pulling the financial carpet out from under their shaky feet.

I’d just finished writing about Metro Bank and saw the Tweet about Zopa’s market share. And that news got my interest.

Zopa is a loans provider. But instead of just reselling finance at a stupid rate from some finance house, Zopa connects people with money to lend to customers who want to borrow. That’s called Peer to Peer lending, or P2P if you prefer cryptic sound bytes.

It may sound a bit left-field, not something that many would bother with. But consider this. Zopa has now arranged £100 Million of P2P loans for their customers.

Now that’s serious money. Maybe Zopa’s worth a closer look…