iPhones are the bane of my life.
No offence is intended – two of my children own those infernal (and expensive) gadgets.
But when it comes to customer service issues, there’s often an iPhone involved.
For example, someone wants to subscribe to EasyItalianNews.com.
You enter your email (let’s say it’s a Gmail but you normally read your emails on your iPhone) in the box on the subscribe page with the promise that we’ll send you each new thrice-weekly bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, free!
What a deal, huh? Free like ‘gratis’, like ‘no cost’, no credit card details required! Unsurprisingly, over six thousand people have managed to subscribe so far.
There’s just one snag – to be sure we have permission to send the aforementioned thrice-weekly bulletins of ‘easy’ Italian news, we need you to click on a link sent to your email address. Sound familiar?
You may have noticed that Gmail (and other email providers) has a tendency to treat ‘please confirm’ emails as spam/junk and so put them aside, along with the other things it thinks you won’t want to see, in a specific folder named Spam or Junk.
But hey, you weren’t born yesterday! You KNOW that important stuff can end up in Spam/Junk, so if you’re waiting for something you’ll have to click on, so as to get lots of free material for improving your Italian, then you’ll check there, too. Right? But suppose you’re an iPhone user? To your surprise, you find there’s nothing in the Spam/Junk folder either!
So you email me to complain politely that the ‘please confirm’ email never arrived and that you really would like to read/listen to the three ‘easy’ Italian news bulletins each week.
Emails like that cause me to curse out loud, froth at the mouth, and spit. Family and colleagues exchange knowing glances – another iPhone user who isn’t aware that the default setting on their chic bit of kit is to NOT to waste potentially expensive data bandwidth by synching the Spam/Junk folder, only the important messages like the ones that make it to your Inbox. So when you look in Spam/Junk using your iPhone, there’s nothing there!
Use a COMPUTER, I write back, and you might find the ‘please confirm’ message. But people don’t, or won’t. Instead, they try again to subscribe, completing the form a second, third, fourth time. But each time the subscribe request is blocked, which must be very frustrating, but after all, you never gave us permission to send you emails when we asked for it the first time… And down the customer service rabbit hole we all go!
Another one I really, really loathe? How Apple deals with attachments to emails, which is how I send ebooks when people buy them. Basically, you just click on the attachment, which works SO WELL that you can just start reading and listening, which is so much fun that you totally forget to actually SAVE A COPY of the ebook some place on your phone where you’ll be able find it again when you need it.
And then, just to be tidy, you go and delete all the emails you’ve already read. You’d be amazed at how many people do that. Search your email for my address, I tell them, and you’ll find the ebook I sent you. No, there’s nothing, they assure me, without mentioning their obsessive-compulsive tendencies. “No comment”, as Italians would say (they really do.)
Also with attachments, when people buy something really BIG, say a multi-pack with ten or twenty ebooks in it, instead of sending ten or twenty separate attachments, I bundle them up into a compressed (zipped) folder and attach that. All you need to do when you receive one is to download it to some place where you can find it again when you need it, click on it or right click on it, and save the contents in the now uncompressed form. Bob’s your zio! You can even delete the email the zipped/compressed folder was attached to, but don’t do that, please. Surely it’s better to have a backup of your backup than a tidy inbox?
But iPhones are so easy to use (I’m told… you’d have to pay me big bucks to try), no one ever downloads email attachments. Because you can just click on a zipped/compressed attachment to an email and instantly see what’s inside, right? So why bother to learn how to download the files? Except…
1.) The email attachment ‘preview’ feature in the email app on an iPhone has a file-size limit. Remember we’re talking about, for example, ten ebooks all packaged up for convenience? So it’s going to be quite a weighty attachment? You click on it, and… WTF? There’s only NINE ebooks in it, not the TEN you paid for! Write to me and moan!
No wait, don’t. What happened is that the ‘preview’ function has a maximum size of files it can display, and so only shows you files up to that limit – the first nine ebooks, say. And nothing more. Naturally you assume you are seeing all the contents, but you’re not, because this is only a preview, remember? And a crappy one at that. Download the attachment ‘properly’ (as I never fail to resist advising), right click on it to extract the contents, and all the ebooks will be present and correct.
2.) Zipped attachments that contain different types of files, like our Italian Workout series of grammar workbooks, are another source of grief. The ‘preview’ function looks inside and sees a .pdf (that’s the ebook) and a bunch of audio files. Which to open? The .pdf or the .mp3? DOES NOT COMPUTE… DOES NOT COMPUTE… DOES NOT COMPUTE… Instead of showing you your shiny new (and very useful) ebook and accompanying audio files, the iPhone displays a message to the effect that the attachment must be broken or corrupted and why don’t you contact the person who sent it to you and make his life miserable?
Did you download it ‘properly’ I ask? You assure me that you did, and I reply that you probably just clicked on the attachment to preview it, which you deny, and at that point mutual incomprehension takes over and I give up and send the .pdf ebook and the nine separate audio files as separate attachments. Which pleases you, because now they work fine (but you wish I’d got it right the first time…)
Anyway, all this by way of introduction to the news that I have REFORMATTED the first eight episodes of our free thirty-part series ‘La storia di Roma‘, so as to reduce the risk of me hurling myself beneath the unforgiving wheels of a Bologna bus after receiving yet another ‘how do I listen and read at the same time?’ email from an iPhone user on my way to work.
Insomma, if you open THIS email using an iPhone, and click on ‘La storia di Roma, Episodio 9’, you will see a new page on the club website. And on it, at the top, under the title, you will now see an embedded SoundCloud audio ‘widget’. The text of the article is immediately below (scroll down to take a look.) Click on the audio play thingy in the Soundcloud widget, which is a white triangle (but don’t click the ‘Listen on Soundcloud’, because that will complicate things by taking you to their website rather than ours, where you will risk becoming confused, lost, or both.) It SHOULD be simple – click the white triangle in the widget to listen, then scroll down to read.
What was happening before that didn’t work? Click a link in an EMAIL on a smartphone and what you get shown looks like a webpage viewed in a normal Internet browser (Safari on an iPhone). But things like links behave differently in the email-app webpage viewer.
So in the first eight episodes of ‘La storia di Roma‘ we had a link to the audio file that you could open and play on the Soundcloud site (as we do in our ebooks). But people clicking that link on their not-so-smartphones found that, while they were taken to the audio, the page with the text closed. And that hitting the ‘back’ button would take them to the original email rather than the webpage they wanted to read. And that they would go around and around in circles, never managing to both listen AND read at the same time. And so email me…
Simple solution? Close your email app, open your Internet browser (Safari if you’re an iPhone addict) and navigate to https://onlineitalianclub.com/.
There you should see two menus showing contents. The lower one links to the new ‘History‘ page. Click on that, and you’ll see all of the articles in the ‘Roma’ series so far. (If you just clicked on either of those links directly from this email, as you read it on your iPhone, you are not paying attention…)
Choose the episode you want to read/listen to and click on that. And finally, click on the audio link, which will open in a new window (as when you’re using one of our easy readers). Juggle the two windows, the one with the text and the one with the audio to listen and read at the same time.
But that’s no longer necessary nor possible, as I’ve replaced the links with the widgets, which also work for iPhone users, poverini. Thus hopefully saving myself further hassle.
Anyway, anyway, Episodio 9. Un nuovo ordine e molto disordine (II-I secolo a.C.) is ‘pronto’, for your education and delight!
But before you write and tell me, yes I am fully aware, as I’ve just read/listened to it myself, that it is a.) long, b.) hard, and c.) rather confusing.
Those Romans, huh? All the similar-sounding names, constant warring, and ever-changing political institutions! Nevertheless, it’s all out of copyright and none of the featured characters are still around to sue me, so at least there’s that.