21 August 2010

Where Do You Get Your Social Media Information?

Most of us are pretty harried and very busy people. We are drinking from a large number of fire hoses. Just staying current in our dedicated fields is challenging enough. But what happens when we get lots of new stuff coming down these pipes?

Well we rely on friends and those we respect to help us out. We read - a LOT. Authoritative publications and websites are what we are used to. Humans are creatures of habit and we actually don't really like change all that much.

But something has happened. Our traditional sources of trust for knowledge are slowly eroding. They are disappearing from the landscape. Newspapers are a prime example. But also trade journals have moved away from standard paper to more on-line medium. Great for the forests but not so good for our brain cells I believe.

So who do we trust and where do we go to get our information about social media. Surprisingly most of us eschew actually gaining the experience from well Social Media itself. The very people who used to be the determinators of our adoption of all media seem to find Social Media "Challenging". So says a study by the Creative Group. But actually it gets worse. They dont even go to these tools to learn about them. Regular readers know I am not a huge fan of Twitter. I am also not a FBA (Facebook Addict). I recognize the value of these tools but I am also realistic in my consumption and usage.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, "How challenging is it for you to stay current on social media trends?" Their responses:
Very challenging 9%
Somewhat challenging 56%
Not challenging 35%

The same group of executives also were asked, "What do you consider the single best resource for staying current on social media trends?" Their top responses included:

Conferences or seminars 23%
Networking events or industry association meetings 18%
Webinars or online training 17%
Trade publications 15%
Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn posts 14%
Blogs 7%

So by just reading the Professor's rantings - you become members of an elite group.

In my day job - I have been asking people I work with and interact with where they get their information on. One group of bloggers are - not - surprisingly ALL OVER Social Media. But in the main most people (barstool research) have really little direct interaction with Social Media.

This is dangerous. Everyone needs to know what is exactly going on. Even if a lot of the material being pumped our can be absolute drivel.

And then of course their are the addicts... How did they end up that way?

Same way all the usual suspects did


19 August 2010

Who Is Fooling Who?

This post is going to be a bit self serving - but I have been waiting for a long time for someone to ask this question. Since no one seems to be doing the honours - looks like I will have to ask it myself.

The question is directed specifically to the legacy GDSs. Each of them has a new product that promises to connect to the other GDSs.

Amadeus One
Sabre Red
Travelport Universal Desktop

(I am not showing favoritism - this is purely in alphabetical order by vendor and by product name).

The promise of multi access content by a GDS based tool complete with access to third party content INCLUDING other GDSs is quite interesting. Surely it is not a technical restriction. Even going back to the good old days of ALC this has been possible with ALC boards from companies like Lanyon, IBM, Emulex etc etc. So it's a commercial issue or is just bloody mindedness? Perhaps something even more sinister?

So far I have yet to see a single announcement of these new tools actually coming to a commercial agreement where the user is free to access third party content on these new agency desktop tools.

GDS contracts now (frequently) contain specific exclusion clauses that expressly forbid the use of a GDS provided tool from accessing third party content of any sort without the specific permission of said legacy GDS.

For those of us old enough to remember when GDSs used to provide agency automation. There was the ludicrous situation of the provider trying to prevent a user from not accessing the web via the terminal to access another GDSs content. Being the sort of person I am - I used to sneak onto stands at Tradeshows and call up a web screen and have a different GDS screens displayed. It would drive people nuts. A Sabre Screen on an Amadeus Stand, A Worldspan screen on a Galileo PC (before the shotgun marriage). I almost felt like a graffiti artist!

Many of my clients have been actually accessing multiple systems for years. it was to enable them to be commercially competitive. If you take Europe where the largest (by passenger) international airline is Ryanair - there is no possible way to prevent a good travel agency from accessing non-GDS content. But there are GDS specific contract clauses which either expressly forbid it or place punitive terms for engaging in that behavior. In the view of what my clients provide as solutions on the technical side - they provide open access tools that enable access to any content through common interfaces for B2C or B2B applications.

So let's cut the rhetoric shall we and call a spade a spade. GDS open access is a marketing ploy and a nonstarter in any form of reality.

But let's see if anyone tries to do it. I have actually seen demos of all 3 tools with access to other GDS content. Too bad the commercial nature of the legacy GDSs which is to restrict the access to having them be the gatekeepers (complete with ever rising toll charges).

But let me make a prediction.

This is going to be swept away. The control of the access to content by anyone - will make that player go the way of - well let's say AOL.

Predicting when it will happen is somewhat hard - but happen it will.

Just as the Fool on the Hill.


How Stupid Are You?

Yes YOU!

The Frequent Flyer Geek.

Actually probably all of at some time have succumbed to a proposition we know is really bad but it just sounds good enough.

Sadly there seems to be a lot of suckers out there who are willing to buy Frequent Flyer Miles.

Scott McCartney this week has done an excellent piece on FF miles and how valuable they really are.

Check it out - and then if this really is you - enjoy your guilt - I am not telling anyone, well almost no one other than the lot of you who read this blog.


18 August 2010

Can An Airline Do This?

I consulted one of my learned colleagues who is also a Professor and asked him whether the following statement is legally allowed, desirable or even lawful:

"This email is intended solely for the addressee(s) and the information it contains is confidential. If you are not the intended recipient, (a) please delete this email and inform the sender as soon as possible, and (b) any copying distribution or other action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance upon it is prohibited and may be unlawful."

She described the statement as useless gobbledygook. In particular the last phrase is incomprehensible.

For obvious reasons I am not going to embarrass the airline concerned with naming them - but they know who they are.
And by the way the email arrived as part of a solicitation for me to fill out a customer survey.

This is how the email started:

Dear Professor

Thank you for being a loyal XXXX Club member. Because your opinion matters to us, we would like to invite you to take this short five-minute survey that will help us enhance our future marketing programs.

etc etc

This is not girls gone wild - its Lawyers gone off their trolleys.

Another candidate for the Queen of Hearts favourite epithet....


17 August 2010

Hipmunk - Too Hip Can't Go...Yet

A bit of buzz around Hipmunk today because of a post in Techcrunch. I personally refuse to be drawn into TC's drive to become the arbiter of cool in web stuff. So I don't read it everyday. I try only to read things that are pertinent to me... we are of course all drowning in way too much information.

However - this is travel and so I spent a little time with the new site. I did however like the idea that there are other forms of interface - and particularly the simplicity angle. I think many of the Professor's regular readers know that I believe there is an evolution to natural search coming - and coming quickly. It happened before Google and ITA started dancing. But a pretty interface is not natural search. There are some nice features and its a work in progress so I will defer holding judgement on this part of it.

This is a worthy attempt. From what I can see they are using ITA's usual service and just representing the data. I don't think the information can be manipulated once its presented in this form so the information is - just static and therefore of little upgrade value. Some of the filters are weird. Why would I want to sort on agony value - at least not as the first choice. (Perhaps I am being too critical since I read right to left).

I don't like the way they handle code shares. Its plain dumb.
One feature I REALLY like is the Live Help - this is something that is exceptional value to a user - too bad they just ignored my request for help.

And for the name? I still have somewhere a SIGNED copy of a Chipmunks red vinyl signed. David Saville is spinning in his grave.


And Another One Down - KISS

After a lot of hullabaloo around KISS - the airline in a box - it went belly up today.

Sadly this has again grounded thousands of passengers around Europe. Kiss started as a business to replace the seat only flights of the collapsed XL Airways and Fly Globespan. It was founded by Michael Smith and Paul Moss, who had previously worked at failed tour operator XL Airways which also went into administration in September 2008

Through an intermediary they had their aircraft provided by Viking Airways who put a note on their website today to show they are healthy - despite having a portion of their fleet devoted to Flight Options (the actual company that was KISS).

So this marks yet another major collapse in the UK travel market this year.

It doesn't seem to be so clear why the regulatory bodies are not doing more to protect the consumers.

The ATOL bond pool is going to be pretty empty by the end of the year.

Delta Air lines Makes Upgrades Even Nicer - Not Necessarily Easier

Fresh off their new website upgrade - Delta is upping the value of the Medallion Program.

There are two major enhancements on the books and in effect immediately.

1. Upgrades on award tickets. I guess this makes higher value award ticket prices theoretically redundant.
2. Upgrades on companion tickets even down to the lowest U,L and T classes.

Delta has done a pretty good job in making its medallion program better and better particularly for the Silver and Gold levels. At the same time they have made the differences for the Platinum and Diamond members a little less special.

Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And here is where the rubber and the road meet.

In the case of the Senior classes - Platinum and Diamond - this will mean that flying Delta will be less special. The changes mean that every domestic flight will be full in the front no matter what.

If I can make one suggestion to Delta - make the international upgrades JUST a little bit easier for the higher grades. The change for the 2010 year resulted in a loss of value for the Platinum members - 4 upgrades down from 6. The system wide upgrades are now of little value except in the case when a full fare passenger can use it for International travel. Its highly convoluted and almost impossible to use.

All in all the Skymiles program is one of the best in the business. What will the other guys do?

We shall see


16 August 2010

LATAM 2 - Keep Updated

The new airline LATAM has launched a dedicated website:


Check it out!


15 August 2010

Real Flying

They call us Kerosene junkies. We love flying and airplanes. Most of us are frustrated pilots - absent the mentality and skills to be come one. Other lesser forms exist like Anoraks - you can't miss them they hang around at the end of a runway.

When I was in college I tried really hard to become a pilot. I took all the right courses and then failed consecutively in the following places:

The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
The Army Aviation
BOAC/BEA intake at Hamble in Southampton.

At least in the latter one they agreed to interview me. Must have been a slow week. So I traveled along with other potential cadets. As we took the bus to the dorm room for the night my heart sank.

"Yeah I have my IR (Instrument rating) last year - had my PPL for 2 years already." said one clean faced chap who looked like he was 12. "It's such a bore - I love flying but Balliol and rowing are such a rush..." said a Sean Connery look alike with slick back hair. Most of the others had already done things like being in the Air Cadets. My claim to fame was a piece I had written largely modeled on a PR package from Boeing in Paris.

I managed to hold my own during the day - the old Link Trainer was cool. The written tests were very straight forward. I think I did the interview OK. So the last test of the day as the sun had already gone down was the hand eye coordination test.

In this you have two maps of circles connected by lines. You have a pen in each hand (Biro!) and you have to listen as clicks and snaps are in your ear and a sound that indicates to change direction on the paper. Well that didn't last long before I lost it. So too did almost everyone else. Except some of the guys were extremely calm and just started again. After less than a minute I ripped off the headphones and gave up in disgust.

I still had one more attempt, I tried to join as a Steward (that's flight attendant to you and me - a la Chute Slater). I think I failed because I told the interview lady - a rather stern spinster with graying hair but immaculately turned out like she had just come off the set of Mad Money - that I wanted to get into management and how this was just a stepping stone for me. Two of my friends who went with me got the job and actually flew as Stews for a number of years.

And the point of this story? Well this week's New Yorker has two great pieces on it. One by David Sedaris - who is a VERY funny guy is not visible online. If you ever get a chance to hear him on NPR or in person - go - he is just funny. The other is a story about a New York based photographer who likes to literally fly free form. I tried this once. What a rush... jumping off into the air - in my case onto a bed of snow - was one of the coolest things I ever did as a 20 something. For some reason never did it again but I have a strange poloroid of me literally flying.

And you know... Flying is cool. Really Cool.


MakeMyTrip Pops a Big One - Travel Is Hot Again

Ah yeah baby...

Travel is HOT HOT HOT.

The 89% first day pop on Indian OTA Make My Trip should give a lot of people confidence that travel is back and back big time. In what the Motley Fool called one of the hottest in years... there is a lot for the industry to smile about.

So let's see - is this just the consumer market or is there good stuff that can occur elsewhere in Travel Technology?

In my view this should give the Gnomes of Langley and Atlanta some comfort as they struggle to find ways to put a little lipstick on the porcine Travelport. For Sabre this will undoubtedly revive the debate as to whether they go wholly out as an entity or if they go down the Blackstone path and push Travelocity out separately. While Travelocity is a great property - it has lost its luster like any of the big four with the notable exception of Priceline.


Google On the Future. Will It All Be Good In the Googlesphere?

The nice people of Rupert's world sat down with Google head man - Eric Schmidt. The Wall Street Journal team peppered Eric with lots of interesting questions. Some of his answers would make the usual PRHHM (Public Relations hacks handlers and minders) squirm.

In the Googlesphere it has become clear that all information should be held sacred as long as Google has a copy and is in charge of what gets shown and not shown. As Schmidt noted in the Techonomy conference on August 4, 2010 , all information should be subject to "much greater transparency and no anonymity." ... because he assumes that (Google) technology is ultimately good (as opposed to evil). I think that makes me very nervous. And thank you, I vote for my Government which I think is called a democracy.

Going back to the WSJ article, Schmidt continues - "Most people..... They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

In general I believe that personalization is part of the mix. My view is that 'context' is better term than 'personalization'. I don't think that everything needs to be/should be uniquely or personalized. That is not how we are in our work and personal lives. To assume that this is the case is blatantly arrogant in my view. What happens if you get this wrong? And yes people who should know better do get these sort of things wrong - frequently. Just look at credit reports. But Google doesn't seem to want to think about that because.... Mr. Schmidt is a believer in targeted advertising because, simply, he's a believer in targeted everything: "The power of individual targeting—the technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them." ....This is a direct quote from the WSJ. Too bad that Big Brother Google will be the arbiter or this and thence directly or indirectly control and influence our tastes.

This reminds me of the way the legacy GDSs have acted up till now. You can have your content anyway you like as long as they are the gatekeepers to the content and can charge you a toll, and that they control the form of the content.

So when these worlds collide, as they will if Google completes its purchase of ITA, then we will have an interesting battle of epic proportions.

And yes - I want to be around to watch it. But I am not waiting. In my world we have developed independent solutions which we are deploying to make our world independent and user controlled. I believe that there should be free and independent markets. I do not want to be curtailed by censorship or by any form of Big Brother deciding what content I can consume. No matter who you are.

I now firmly believe that Google has crossed the line from universally doing no evil. As we have seen and I have commented before. Evil does not have to come from an overt act. It can just as easily come from an inadvertent act of carelessness or laziness. If I don't drink the CoolAid and can see that Google's commercial direction does conflict with my freedom then I am prepared to join the rebel battalion.

And what do you think?

Are you nervous yet? Bring back Andy Grove so we can ALL be paranoid.