Category Archives: travel

JetBlue Fails Their Own Digital Savvy Test

This morning I read about how JetBlue used Twitter to try and test the agencies pitching for their business.   I think it caught my attention as I had a Jet Blue flight booked for later in the day …  Well fast forward a few hours to that time and suddenly I’ve got a reason to reach out to JetBlue about my family’s experience today.  It wasn’t great.

On the way down to Florida, we were booked in 4 seats in row 1 and our last seat in row 18.  Not exactly stellar and something only a computer would do.  We had to actually forfeit the row 18 seat and checked our car seat once on the plane in order to make sure the whole family stayed together.  Traveling with three small kids can be stressful and not being together only amplifies the potential challenge of keeping everyone calm.  JetBlue has said (via the flight attendant) that they’d be looking to reimburse us for the lost seat … I guess we have to wait it out on that one.  I didn’t tweet it, but I’m posting it now.

Today was our return trip and while our seats were booked together, we were in the back of the plane.  Not ideal, but certainly acceptable -being together was the most important detail.  While waiting around for the boarding call, I tried to see if we might move forward a bit (we were booked 2 rows from the back).  I waited patiently and politely and stood quite when a passenger was called up from the back of the line to be helped first.  Her issue was apparently far too complicated and used up any available time for me.  Instead we got a gruff, there are no seats to move around (after the passenger ahead in line moved).  OK …

About 5 minutes later the pre-boarding call was announced and we immediately made our way over to the gate door.  The JetBlue attendant looked at our boarding passes and gave us an earful about not coming over sooner for the pre-board even though she had literally just announced it.  Instead of letting us on the plane, we were asked to stand to the side while other rows for main boarding started.  There were at least 3 other families who also found the same experience and all were surprised to find that there wasn’t a pre-boarding and that we were being scolded for not respecting the call (that had just happened).

I’ve traveled far too much to know getting angry with the person behind the desk never leads to anything good for you, but man the families were livid.  We all have small kids and definitely need more time to get on the plane, deal with car seats unpack etc.  Not today …   My family was cool.  We got on board eventually and I was able to get the car seat belted for my son, but one of the other families ran into an issue and started to get quite nervous about securing their child safely.  Joe (real name) from JetBlue came over to help but got testy with the nervous parent who was certainly pushing to get things resolved.  We heard Joe scold the dad by saying “I don’t come to your office and tell you how to do your job, so don’t tell me how to do mine.”  I can’t help but think that extra time we all wanted during pre-board would have been exactly what we needed right then.

Back to the original tweet test … I tweeted this as it was happening today – twice.  JetBlue?  No comment today … tomorrow won’t matter.  Let’s not forget this social media stuff is a two-way street, JetBlue.  Looking at you, @martysg.  Comcast and Zappos don’t need #sneaky hashtags, they pay attention and respond within a reasonable amount of time – sometimes surprisingly fast.

Google’s Favorite Places not quite that helpful

Today I caught a sticker in the sandwich shop by the office for Favorite Places on Google and decided to give the QR code a shot. Here’s what I got in return:

Sandwich Planet via Google Favorite Places

Reviews are helpful if I’ve never been t here before but needing to call or get directions (standing at the door) seems like a total waste.  Where are the daily specials, or perhaps a default to let me add my own review right away …   I was at least able to add it as a favorite, but I’ll need to open Maps on my desktop or Google Earth to get the benefit of saving it.  These types of services needs to be much more contextually relevant to matter.

Location, location, location!

In the past few years, I feel like I’ve tried just about every location service.  Some have certainly offered more than others, but one thing has been sadly consistent and that’s absolutely no consistency in access to your data.  If 2010 can bring one thing, I hope it’s a simplified and federated view into our location data.

Social location services are a very interesting area.  I’ve dabbled across various apps to try and find the magic but have come up short.  The potential is there, but because no one service or perhaps suite of tools enables

  • the right degree of privacy control
  • proactive friend notifications
  • base of users and importantly a way to contact each other either publicly or privately

A quick look back at the list of things I’ve tried in no particular order… Jaiku, Twitter, Latitude, Nokia FriendView, Loopt, Brightkite, waze, Stalqer, dopplr, tripit, fire eagle, Foursquare and Gowalla.  Of all these, only Fire Eagle and Dopplr currently talk and a quick check on Fire Eagle tonight revealed I am in Singapore yet I write this from Katonah, NY.  Dopplr actually knows that’s where I am but for some reason has not shared this info with FE … not that it matters for now.

There’s a clear issue with all of this.  There is no way to share my location data easily across services and situations.  Instead I have to explicitly state or open the app I want to use in order to have things update and shared across my social network.   Unlike status messages, location is not a subjective thing, it’s actual.  You can and should be able to share the degree of accuracy people see and Latitude does this well.  Even the two competing check-in services FourSquare and Gowalla do it differently… Foursquare requires and address if you want the place to be used by others while Gowalla places a pin on the map via GPS.  I prefer the GPS method personally as I almost never know or want to take the time to find the address to simply check-in.  If I fire Latitude up my location will be highlighted within a few moments, but that’s not something I can actually use.

Speaking of using … the three points I was initially making all clearly tie together.

  • I need to have total control over how my location information is shared.  I rarely want to show when I am in my home, but showing the town is cool.
  • With friends in the system, I want to know when they are close and see that as prioritized info in whatever view I’ve got within the app.  For some reason this is not the case with anything.  Latitude sorts randomly when you browse the map, Foursquare sorts by time and Foursquare, Gowalla and Stalqer give me updates on everyone regardless of where they are.  While there are some modifiable settings, it’s not even close to granular enough to be valuable in this context.
  • Having friends in the system is important and since this space is still fragmented there are too many options to choose from to find your friends.  Stalqer did an admirable job linking through Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t actually have a native location system.

Twitter and Facebook will probably duke this out in the end with some competition from Google.  Currently twitter supports location and you can geo-tag tweets via various mobile clients, but this information is so hidden from the main view, it’s essentially a waste to even bother.  Google has quite a few pieces behind the scenes, but so far has not taken them anywhere.  You’ll notice I’ve got a location widget on the sidebar of my blog which will show city-level views via Latitude.  Other than that Latitude is mainly a view only layer on Maps.

I’m sure 2010 will be a hype filled year for location services.  I’m really hoping we’ll see standards that will let these things work together.  I don’t want to entrust my location data to a single provider (yet) though if someone was able to develop the right open federation model it would make things very interesting.

Google Latitude Location Alerts

latitude location alert

On my way home tonight I fired up Google Maps to get an address and since I use Latitude, I was also activating my location.  I got an sms telling me my friend and colleague Will was “nearby.”  I received the image above in an email with a similar message …

I actually had forgotten I had turned on these location settings, and now that I see how they really function, I have a few suggestions:

  • 50+ KM is not exactly a practical range for spur of the moment meetups for starters.  Will was 52km away when the alert triggered …
  • There’s no contact number in the sms alert which forces a few more steps to contact (call or sms) the person

I love the idea of social location and if you follow me across various services I’m sure you’ve noticed as well.  What Google is doing is trying to make it easy through the use of location history, but it’s still unclear how that works without constantly opening Maps.  I can’t afford to let Latitude project my location in the background all day as GPS tends to eat batteries …   I’m wondering if there isn’t some sort of data partnership to be had with the various check-in services (or even Yelp!) to augment the more direct GPS tagging you do with maps.  The more data in the mix here the more valuable the results.

Btw – Will developed the Michael Ruhlman Ratio iPhone app – be sure to check it out!

gogo internet on american sfo to jfk

gogo internet on american sfo to jfk

That’s a pretty close to live speedtest coming from my flight from SFO to JFK and while the upstream is far from awesome, I don’t even care.  I’m cruising through mail, tweeting and (obviously) blogging with ease.  This is a completely game changing travel experience and something I hope goes to many more flights and airlines soon.

I should note the service costs $15/ flight but I am surfing free thanks to a summer promotion from American Airlines.

MetroNorth Bloggers

David Parmet just launched MetroNorth Bloggers which is a aggregator for the wait for it … MetroNorth Bloggers. If you are familiar with MetroNorth, you’d know that this is the primary commuter path for those of us living to the North of teh city in Connecticut and Westchester County.

The site looks like it will be a very cool way to see what’s being said in our local market and I’ve subscribed immediately. It’s great to track the conversations happening close to home. I hope this will actually encourage more discussion and even lead to some meetups as well. Thanks David!