05 November 2010

When Google Gets It REALLY Wrong

Yesterday the Professor did a post on the Qantas A380 uncontained engine blow out.

One of the sharp readers Professor Alex contacted me immediately to tell me that when he displayed the article - google inserted an ad

I present this to you so you can see what I mean.

Now will someone learn to give Google perhaps JUST A LITTLE sensitivity.

Every airline on the planet has a disaster policy that no ads will be displayed. This is an example where Google should have the same policy.

Tsk Tsk

03 November 2010

The Professor's 2000th Blog

Shortly - very soon - I will be celebrating 2000 Blog posts.

So I thought it would be nice to hear from you - via comment of privately what you would like to see me discuss.

It has been a long road and an unexpected one... thanks to you my dear readers for your support and encouragement


With special thanks to the XXIII Scandinavian Congress of Mathematicians for the image.

QF 32 - Bits Fell Off But No Crash

In the first reported incident regarding an A380 - QF32 today returned to Changi after an explosion and bits fell off it.

For a video of the debris that landed in Indonesia go here.

WIT V6 - The ADD version

For those of you unfortunate enough not to attend WIT2010 in Singapore last month - you missed a treat.

So here is the condensed version - larger more in depth is available on the website including some of the speeches and presentations.

I highly recommend taking some time and viewing this.


Global Entry's Charm offensive

For those of us who are world weary frequent road warriors - time is the most precious commodity.

So getting into the USA is obviously a great hassle even if you are a US Citizen. I have been signed up for Global Entry for over a year now and used it about 15 times. Its great. Currently available in 20 airports and allegedly expanding - its simple and straight forward ONCE you get it. The process is easy just time consuming. You have to apply (can do it online) but then gathering the paperwork and going for the interview is a bit of a pain. Once done - I am glad to say I did it.

Global Entry is now running a charm offensive. They have ads running on several international airlines (e.g. Delta I had a picture but cant find it). They have also been running other media campaign. They have even solicited the WSJ to run a piece in the Middle Seat Column.

If you do travel (and are not using MSP as the gateway where it is not currently available) then I can highly recommend it. Here is the currently list of airports:

* Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS)
* Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
* Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW)
* Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
* Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
* George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)
* Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
* Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
* John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York (JFK)
* Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
* McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (LAS)
* Miami International Airport (MIA)
* Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
* Orlando International Airport (MCO)
* Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB)
* Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
* San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
* San Juan-Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
* Seattle-Tacoma International Airport-SeaTac (SEA)
* Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Check on the website. http://www.globalentry.gov/


The Mark Of The Devil @BA

This is pure coincidence - so I hope BA will not be too mad at me.

I went to visit them last month and they have the famous Olympic count down clock.

I love count down clocks - I always thought they were cool. But this one sent shivers down my spine.

Still it only goes to show that even the Professor has to be vigilant against the Evil One.

UK: Google Broke The Law


And still the UK wont actually smack the wrist of the Googleplex.

BUT now we have precedent that Google has broken the law in at least one European country. Rest assured there are other countries who are clearly going to be looking at this in a far more critical fashion

Stay tuned


02 November 2010

Google Buzz: Oh And About That Privacy Thing....

The Googleplex received a wrist slapping yesterday with an out of settlement court action regarding the launch of its wonderful service called Buzz.

Basically it's new service forgot to acknowledge that some things are meant to be private and acknowledged as such. And this included the default situation. Google was sued and settled out of court for about 1 minute of its revenue.

So do we think Google will play nice and stop collecting data - nope. But they better play nice and stop making gross assumptions about what we want.

Google - we be watching you, 'cos we know you be watchin' us.

01 November 2010

Facebook Personal Data For Sale.!

So my good friend Mr Cringley and his crew from Infoworld have a wonderful piece this week. I can do no better than to reprint it in full.


November 01, 2010
Surprise! Your Facebook data is for sale
And not just to advertisers -- some app developers are selling Facebook's user info to data brokers. Where will it end?

Facebook's privacy problems are like a centipede with footwear issues. "Other" shoes keep dropping, and there seems to be no end of them.

Lately Facebook's problems have been fueled by Wall Street Journal reporters peeking under the sheets to see what kind of shenanigans Facebook has been up to. That's how we learned Facebook apps have been inadvertently sharing user identities with advertisers, and the personal profiles culled from Facebook data by companies like Rapleaf can get very specific -- including names, locations, politics, and religious beliefs.

[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or war tale from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

Imagine our surprise, then, when we turned to the InterWebs this morning and discovered that not only were Facebook apps sharing user identities (UIDs) inadvertently, but that some were also doing it advertently -- which is to say deliberately, on purpose, for money. Worse, app makers were selling user information to data brokers, which is a little like Charlie Sheen offering up his most intimate secrets to Perez Hilton. It won't stay in one place for long.

Once again, Facebook turned to blogger Mike Vernal to reveal the news. Vernal might be the most boring blogger on the planet; he's certainly one of the most obtuse, which is probably why they gave him the job. It takes him six paragraphs to get to the meat of the matter:

As we examined the circumstances of inadvertent UID transfers, we discovered some instances where a data broker was paying developers for UIDs. While we determined that no private user data was sold and confirmed that transfer of these UIDs did not give access to any private data, this violation of our policy is something we take seriously. As such, we are taking action against these developers by instituting a 6-month full moratorium on their access to Facebook communication channels, and we will require these developers to submit their data practices to an audit in the future to confirm that they are in compliance with our policies. This impacts fewer than a dozen, mostly small developers, none of which are in the top 10 applications on Facebook Platform.

We have also reached an agreement with Rapleaf, the data broker who came forward to work with us on this situation. Rapleaf has agreed to delete all UIDs in its possession, and they have agreed not to conduct any activities on the Facebook Platform (either directly or indirectly) going forward.

OK, a handful of app developers sold user identities to data brokers -- not good, but not the end of the world. If data brokers really wanted to, they could cull these same IDs manually by trolling through Facebook and collecting them. (Of course it's a lot faster and easier to simply buy them.)

Give Facebook points for bringing this to public attention before the media got to it first. Now subtract those points for giving us as little information about this matter as humanly possible.

Here's what I want to know:

* Facebook has in the neighborhood of 550,000 apps. Has the company really checked the data-sharing habits of all of them? If not, how many apps have been vetted? The top 100? 200? 1,000? Which ones have been vetted, and how would anyone else know?
* Which apps are guilty? Telling us that "fewer than a dozen" developers were involved, without telling us which ones, merely protects the guilty -- and does nothing for the people who've installed those apps and have a right to know. Even other app developers are calling for this information to be made public, because otherwise they're guilty by association.
* What data brokers bought this information? To whom did they sell it? Are people getting targeted ads (or spam, junk mail, and telemarketing calls) as a result?
* What does that "6-month full moratorium on their access to Facebook communication channels" mean exactly? That they will disappear from the Facebook apps pages? That they will go dark? And why six months? It's like Facebook is sending them to bed without dinner.
* Will Rapleaf continue to scrape data from Facebook pages and include it in its profiles? Will it continue to share its data with Facebook advertisers? How cozy were Rapleaf and Facebook in the first place?
* Where does this end? (See centipede, shoes above.)

Now contrast Vernal's statement with one of the comments attached to his blog post, which accuses an unnamed app developer of actively trying to sell Facebook users' private information to the Washington Times:

Please check in with the Washington Times about the developer who was approaching in them [sic] in early 2008 to resell Facebook user data. I ended up at a table at a conference, as this facebook app developer was trying to sell them a contract for data. I never got his name or the app---but the Washington Times' web/media team might remember him. He was specifically selling demographic information and IP addresses/locations of users to media companies so they could correlate age/sex/demographic/location for their advertisers.

This is the real issue. Is this a common practice? Does Facebook even know about this incident?

This is why I don't use Facebook apps and discourage others from doing so. I've seen too many that seem designed entirely for this purpose -- regardless of Facebook's written policies and pious statements to the contrary. I don't think the company has a clue of what's going on. For a service that claims 500 million+ members and wants to change the very nature of the Web, it's well past time Facebook got one.

Does Facebook have a clue? Weigh in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

Farewell Southwest LCC King (And Easyjet too)

The old saying of it ain't over till the fat lady sings may ring a little hollow over at LUV field this week.

News reports are stating that WN will now start offering partnerships with foreign airlines in order to expand the WN brand to international markets.

At the same time - U2 is going to abandon Easiboarding in favour of (shock horror) assigned seats.

So that makes two of the leading stalwarts in LCC defectors to the conventional model.

For Southwest this has been coming for a long time. Over the past 3 years it has removed all the barriers to its becoming a regular airline. Anyone who says otherwise must examine the facts:

GDS - check
Boarding pass - check
Interline - check
Meals - check
Business Products - check
Complex fares - check

So not much left to do...

Cheers and a little sniff....

Trust What Consumers Do - Not What They Say

If this theme sounds familiar - it is. I believe firmly that consumers lie when asked questions. Not deliberately but well its because people find it very hard to express what their behavior will be in certain circumstances. Indeed time and time again people when questioned give different answers from their actual behavior. This week Gerry McGovern tackled the subject head on in his weekly piece.

I have to say I agree with him. One of my friends is a professional focus person. He is paid on a regular basis money to participate in focus groups. Some times 4 times a week. He makes a nice bit of pocket money for a retired person.

Interestingly that Erick Schmidt of Google said "People want Google to tell them what to do" did he gather that information from behavior - possibly, did he gather it from surveys - absolutely.

In Gerry's view, the worst way to design a website is to have five smart people in a room drinking lattes. The longer you leave them in the room the worse the design becomes. The next worst way is to have 15 customers in a room drinking lattes. What people say they do and what they actually do are rarely the same thing.

Why? Mostly because they say one thing and behave differently as a result of trying to be good. People will verbalize the higher more proper result but still behave differently. Its a bit like saying you will go on a diet....

And that my friends is the truth, or at least what I am saying....

With thanks to gotsole for the image.

31 October 2010

Alliances… good or bad?

There is currently a spat going on between the airlines of the traditional variety and the airlines of the non-traditional variety. On the traditional airlines group are the likes of Air France, British Airways and several US airlines. They are complaining that Emirates is abusing its position and getting preferential pricing from the manufacturers such as Boeing via the US Government’s Exim Bank. The traditional airlines are now also very concerned that Emirates is going to start eating their lunch in a lot of markets. Indeed when you start to look at the order book from Emirates it becomes hard to imagine that the UAE Carrier is not going to take a significant chunk of world’s global traffic. In a few weeks they will announce a bumper profit – my sources tell me it will be quite pleasing to the cash strapped Emirate of Dubai.

But perhaps the traditional airlines are complaining long and loud for reasons that don’t always make sense. I have been looking lately at what the world is coming to in Airlines. The latest trend is merger in all but name aka the Marketing JVs. In my view these are back door mergers and are not really thought out well. What seems to be so incongruous is that supposed champion of the consumer the US government has been the biggest supporter in the merger process. The US DoT has effectively rubber stamped all the JV requests. Over the severe objections of its own Dept of Justice, the US DoT has approved these anti-trust immunity agreements: BA+AA and co, A++, TransPac Star and Inner Skyteam. What were they thinking! They are clearly anti-competitive. Just look at the fares.

As a direct result of these new JVs, I believe that Airline corporate management have moved further from the customer. Consider this. One of the key components of the JV alliance model is the move to local home airline serving all the alliance members in that geography. So that in the case of A++ (LH, UA, CO, AC) Lufthansa handles everyone in Germany and UA/CO handles everyone in the USA. The local market staff for LH have been fired, retired or reassigned. And vice versa. However this assumes that the JV has a strong team at the top who operate effectively a unique business. My friends – I can assure you that this is not behavior that we have seen from airlines. JV Alliances have pointed to the success of the KLM/Northwest JV that actually worked. However I think this was an exception rather than the rule. An alliance of equal partners worked because of a number of factors. Not least of which was the streamlined management structure and the ease with which the two players complemented each other. But not so the new batch.

The complexity of these arrangements is almost mind boggling in their complexity. Sadly in my view having experienced just about all of them from a consumer perspective – they do nothing to improve my travelling experience. In fact I would say that actually it has worsened the situation because remedial action out of your home market results in laughable service if you are trying to get service in the non-home market. Air France is not going to even give me the time of day when I as a Delta customer ask for help. Trust me this has not changed – its still awful.

I believe that the unwieldy management of the JVs will harm everyone’s brand involved in the JV. The service quality will fall all round. The responsiveness of the airlines to market conditions will worsen. The arrogance of some players will become acute. But perhaps the most perplexing part of all of this – is that the JVs are not going the whole hog. It seems that no one is asking the one question that would seem to be obvious. If the world falls now into effectively 5 airline types. Skyteam, Star, OneWorld, Pure LCCs and unaligned independents. So why do we need GDSs?

Now that’s a good question… anyone care to give me their answer?


(Image courtesy of the good the bad and the ugly)