On the buses: this week's most stupid Web idea

And its only Tuesday. Where does this stuff come from?

Following the sewage stream of Net ideas (often from reputable companies) is like watching an episode of Alan Partridge ("Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave? Inner-City Sumo? Cooking in prison? Youth Hosteling with Chris Eubank?
Monkey tennis?"*).

This week someone at that bastion of UK retailers, WH Smith, has panicked and sent a report to Minister of Transport and unintelligible northern bloke John Prescott, suggesting that by putting Internet terminals on buses, we can solve the public transport crisis.

That's right, putting Internet terminals on buses.

Great idea! The new technology would "transform the bus industry", it would allow customers on double-deckers to work and shop on the way into town, giving buses a "clear advantage over car travel". Terminals will also be set up at bus stops, called "bus shops" - geddit? Of course, it would require buses to be completely redesigned, but that's small fry when you consider how much working and shopping you could do on the bus.

It's hard to know where to begin with this. Most people with these daft new Net ideas forget one thing: people have got better things to do that buy bloody CDs all day. People are on buses for four reasons. One, they are going to work. Two, they are coming back from work. Three, they are going shopping. Four, they are coming back from shopping. At what point will these people want to do some extra working and shopping? Give them a break for God's sake.

Then, two scenarios: You're waiting for your bus. You see a poster for Britney Spears' new single. Being the simpleton you are, you realise you must buy it because that is the only way to be truly happy. Thank God for "bus shop". But just as you are putting your credit card through the machine, your bus turns up. Do you get the bus or buy the CD? Either way, you're distressed. Scenario two is the same but on the bus. Missed stops, people getting angry because they have to stand up (or you do) to let people out, the problems just go on and on.

If John-boy really wants more people on the buses, here's a three-point plan.

  1. Buy newer, better buses

  2. Run them more regularly

  3. Charge less

Easy. So until the next stupid Net idea. ®


  • This comes from Episode One of I'm Alan Partridge. Alan meets up with the BBC exec responsible for commissioning chatshows. He informs Alan that he doesn't want a second series of his show but asks if he has any other ideas. Alan gets out a folder and reads out some (very poor) ideas. When they are all turned down flat, he starts panicking. The script is here.

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