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May 21, 2022, 02:27:28 PM

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Your vote will not be counted but you may still be charged

Started by Gurke and Hare, May 14, 2022, 11:03:23 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Gurke and Hare

Is this a rip-off? Surely, with modern comms technology there must be a simple way to take a number offline when a voting period closes, or even not to put the one for the UK Eurovision entry online. Is there, and is it a choice they're making to still charge for a late vote? Or are they not actually, but they say it as a bit of compliance in case there's a mistake?

I wonder if there's anyone here who may be able to answer this with some authority due to their experience of telephone technology?

MojoJojo

Quote from: Gurke and Hare on May 14, 2022, 11:03:23 PMI wonder if there's anyone here who may be able to answer this with some authority due to their experience of telephone technology?
I don't know details, but it's an intersection of technical, law, and manufactured outrage at the BBC.

It's similar to why mobiles got universal voicemail very quickly, while it had been possible with landlines for decades.

touchingcloth

Quote from: MojoJojo on May 14, 2022, 11:39:24 PMIt's similar to why mobiles got universal voicemail very quickly, while it had been possible with landlines for decades.

I can't work out what this means.

mjwilson

Quote from: Gurke and Hare on May 14, 2022, 11:03:23 PMIs this a rip-off? Surely, with modern comms technology there must be a simple way to take a number offline when a voting period closes, or even not to put the one for the UK Eurovision entry online. Is there, and is it a choice they're making to still charge for a late vote? Or are they not actually, but they say it as a bit of compliance in case there's a mistake?

I wonder if there's anyone here who may be able to answer this with some authority due to their experience of telephone technology?

I have actually worked in that area but don't have a definitive answer. I would think it's probably that there are two separate systems involved in the billing and the voting and they don't talk to each other. But you were probably already assuming that.

Thursday

I think it's good. Punish and profit from stupid people who don't listen.

Sebastian Cobb

I can't speak for the telecoms side but I can tell you that television companies are disjointed messes.

When I worked at one I actually had to write some code to detect and remove these stings from another broadcaster, when broadcasts went out from their feed on our channel (at the same time) our idents were inserted automatically by our playout system, but for the catch-up service they delivered the assets electronically with their branding and and these optional stings. We had to remove them because they refused to supply the subtitle files to go with them, and we had to capture these off the broadcast feed, which meant the stings made everything go out of sync.

If you think that's bad, we populated the tv listings on our own website by calling api's belonging to the freeview system because the jabronis in the scheduling department refused to tell us.

Ambient Sheep

Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on May 15, 2022, 06:02:34 PMIf you think that's bad, we populated the tv listings on our own website by calling api's belonging to the freeview system because the jabronis in the scheduling department refused to tell us.

That's hilarious!

Paul Calf

I worked for a broadcaster on a project that automatically scheduled ads according to how much time the advertisers had paid for. You'd think that this would be one of the low-hanging fruits of automation, but up until then they'd paid part-time casual staff to sit in a room watching TV, counting the ads in the break.

Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: Paul Calf on May 16, 2022, 02:20:13 PMI worked for a broadcaster on a project that automatically scheduled ads according to how much time the advertisers had paid for. You'd think that this would be one of the low-hanging fruits of automation, but up until then they'd paid part-time casual staff to sit in a room watching TV, counting the ads in the break.

Vod has really modernised that, because even with very basic demographic filtering (e.g. asking your age and gender) during sign-up means the ad-server knows not to show you, a man, tampax ads etc.

The people in charge of those systems were a bit fly-by-night, the system is supposed to have 'collision detection' so that it doesn't show you a string of competing services (e.g. RBS followed by HSBC followed by Halifax) but I know for a fact if they had spare ads that needed to be shown to complete a campaign that got turned off.

Paul Calf

Yeah, this was in the days when most people got their TV via cables, aerials or satellites. To give you a taste of how long ago, the previous project I worked on was to translate teletext into WAP for mobile devices.

I always presumed it was due to them using the same handful of phone numbers across all their shows, so even if you were to try to vote for someone to win Strictly once the lines were "closed" you might happen to do it when the same line was open for another show and therefore be charged.

dissolute ocelot

Even the slightest risk of someone being depicted in The Sun with a sad face, missing 10p, and bemoaning their inability to influence Britain's Got Talent, is too much to bear.

I'd guess that even with a tip top system, stopping vote counting and disabling lines at the exact same pre-publicised time would be impossible, and with 100000s of calls, it's likely some will be unlucky. There's a finite time and series of steps needed to make a connection, and if you break partway, it's not going to roll everything back nicely.

Gurke and Hare

Quote from: dissolute ocelot on May 19, 2022, 09:14:26 AMI'd guess that even with a tip top system, stopping vote counting and disabling lines at the exact same pre-publicised time would be impossible

Why would they be separate things? You disable the line at the end of the voting period, then count the number of calls successfully connected to the line.

MojoJojo

The problem is, with catch up and repeats, you'd never be able to use the number for anything else.

steveh

Telecoms kit often has a really long life so I can easily see the voting system actually being some ancient system where at the end of the voting period it isn't straightforward to switch the lines to unobtainable or whatever. Could also just be the broadcasters playing it safe as the regulations over premium service lines are quite strict.

Buzby may have a better answer.

buzby

There are 2 systems involved in televoting - the telecoms networks (which provide the connections and handle the billing) and the vote counting system (usually provided by the broadcaster, or some company contracted to them - sometimes this is also one of the telecom network operators).

I can't say much about the vote counting systems, but can tell you about how the telecoms networks are set up to handle televoting (or the TDM-based PSTN networks, at least).

A call to a televoting system uses an Intelligent Network Services (IN) destination number (DN) to route it. These are numbers that don't map to a fixed, physical destination in the network and normally have an 03xx or 08xx prefix (e.g. freephone, fixed local rate numbers, premium rate numbers etc.).

When an exchange sees one of these numbers has been dialled, it does a lookup in it's decode tables for the prefix digits and sees this number has the 'IN' flag against it. It then contacts it's nearest IN server (some networks have one on each exchange, called an IN Adjunct, some have a few centralised ones) and asks it a) the real DN to route the call to, and b) what the billing rule for that destination is so it can bill the caller appropriately (exchanges have their own internal look-up tables of billing rules used for regular calls).

The exchange will then route the call to the next suitable node in the network that it has a connection to that is suitable to get to the destination. For televoting, that might go to an IN voice platform somewhere in the network (which connect directly to the trunk network, just like an exchange), to an interconnect pojnt to another operator's network, or if it's a service being run by a non network-level operator it might get routed to a trunk hunting group (a number of Primary Rate ISDN lines connected to a large PBX, which the exchange(s) hosting them cycle through to find the next free circuit to take the call). Increasingly these days it's more likely to go off to a TDM to IP gateway, get converted to the SIP protocol and the destination televoting system can be hosted anywhere in the world as long as it's got an IP address (voice quailty will go to shit, mind, but that's asynchronous packet-based telephony for you).

The important thing to remember in all this is that it's not just one telecoms operator that has to deal with this. For large events, all the network operators in the UK will have to be notified of this by the TV company regardless who is hosting the real destination of the televoting system - for example, if it's BT that's hosting the destination, Vodafone, Virgin Media, Kingston, 3, O2 etc. all have to be told about it and set their IN systems up appropriately to route the calls.

These things take time to set up and deactivate once the event it over (especially where you have a network with an IN server in each exchange and the changes have to be propagated through the network) and all the network operators will be doing this independently, hence why the 'you may be charged but your vote will not be counted' discalimer is put up.

When these things first started to be used, it caused chaos for the network operators as you ended up with millions of short-duration calls being funneled to a small number of destinations and interconnects, which clogged up all the trunk routes between networks and exchanges and stopped things like emergency calls getting through. In extreme cases it also crashed the exchanges due to sheer amounts of call traffic being handled (we still refer to these events as 'Pop Idol', as that was the first time one of these caused us big problems).

To solve this, 'Call Gapping' algorithms were introduced in the exchange call control engines. These are set up at the same time as the IN rules for the event and look for calls to be routed to the real DN (which it gets from the lookup result from the IN server). Once the gapping algorithm is activated, If the rate of calls to one of these DNs exceeds a certain number per second, the exchange will start discarding 1 in N call attempts to that destination, with N increasing as the traffic levels increase. This then protects the destination exchange from overload, and leaves circuits free on the inter-exchange trunks and network interconnects to carry other call traffic (there is a further threshold that is used to protect trunk circuit capacity for emergency calls, but it rarely gets activated these days).

touchingcloth

Buzby might know the answer to this, but how do you send a text to one of those weird short donation/voting numbers ("Text WantTitMilk to 55378008") from outside of the UK? Adding +44 to the start of the number never seems to work, and I'm not sure if that's because the numbers never start with the leading 0 you're supposed to drop after entering the country code.

buzby

Quote from: touchingcloth on May 19, 2022, 02:39:47 PMBuzby might know the answer to this, but how do you send a text to one of those weird short donation/voting numbers ("Text WantTitMilk to 55378008") from outside of the UK? Adding +44 to the start of the number never seems to work, and I'm not sure if that's because the numbers never start with the leading 0 you're supposed to drop after entering the country code.
Mobile stuff so outside my remit really, but they use a similar IN routing system as described above (except for SMS there are no circuit connections required, it's purely signalling). They are usually set up to refuse call attempts originating from overseas* due to billing complexity issues.

* When the call signalling enters the national network via an international interconnect, it has an 'International' flag set in it that the destination can use to reject the call

touchingcloth

Quote from: buzby on May 19, 2022, 02:49:02 PMMobile stuff so outside my remit really, but they use a similar IN routing system as described above (except for SMS there are no circuit connections required, it's purely signalling). They are usually set up to refuse call attempts originating from overseas* due to billing complexity issues.

* When the call signalling enters the national network via an international interconnect, it has an 'International' flag set in it that the destination can use to reject the call

Ah, so it's irrelevant whether the sending number is a UK one which was placed from abroad, as it will still be flagged as international. Makes sense, I guess, like hearing a jaunty French dialling tone from a GREAT BRITISH MOBILE FROM EEngEErland whose owner is on holiday.

Sebastian Cobb

On a mobile thing something that interested me recently was I got a new phone with 5g capability and had to turn that on in my network portal to enable it. This was a at around half 10 at night and the portal told me I couldn't do this because it was only able to accept changes between 04:55 and 21:55. I'm guessing it might be a maintenence period for the operator although given I'm with a virtual network (mvno) it could be that the host network doesn't accept changes and the mvno can't be bothered queuing the requests.

5g seemed to kick in more-or-less immediately though which was a pleasant surprise.