Brendan Fraser is My Hero

I might be wrong, but I think Brendan is the only white man to beat Jet Li in hand-to-hand combat, albeit only on big screen.  Technically, Mel Gibson might be considered the first (Lethal Weapon 4), but unloading an AK-47 into an oponent skewered with a rebar isn’t all that impressive.

Ed (Brill), my response or more on customer service of airlines in general

Ed, your comment brought so much to my mind, that I didn’t think I could fit it all into a response comment of my own…

Every time I fly, which, I admit, is not nearly as often or as far as Ed, I can’t shake the feeling that since 9/11 most airlines have come to view their passengers as necessary evil, a nuisance of sorts, with first class and premier level passengers, perhaps, being the only exception.  I generally don’t fall into either of those categories and if United could make the same amount of money transporting live stock, they would rather give my ticket and my seat to a cow.  The overall goal of the airlines seems to be one of cutting costs and looking good to Wall Street analysts at the expense of passengers.  It’s like a giant human experiment with everyone an unwilling subject: how far can we squeeze the passengers without them rebelling?  I think if the airlines could get FAA’s approval, they would replace Boeings and Airbuses with Stolypin cars.

I understand that charging a premium for certain seats is the policy of some airlines and that they have to protect their revenue stream.  However, once the doors are closed – “armed” – it is not like the plane is going to dock mid-flight over Ohio and take on more passengers — those seats are going to remain empty and will generate no more revenue.  At that point, if the circumstances permit, i.e. the flight is only half full, and the airline cares about the comfort and satisfaction of their paying customers, they might want to offer at least certain passengers to take more comfortable seats.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to walk through the cabin and spot people who are the most uncomfortable: tall people, heavy people, people squeezed in middle seats.  Offer them to move somewhere else.  Some of the older passengers, for one, will certainly appreciate the offer to stay in the front and not have to schlep all the way to the back of the plane with their carry-on luggage.  To me, this would fall into the category of common sense.  Alas, common sense is anything but common and even less so when it comes to most of the airlines of today.

There are exceptions, of course.

Air Mexico automatically reserves front rows for their older passengers and minors traveling alone.  That’s common sense.

Southwest, which is my favorite domestic airline, on “empty” flights would anything but force extra snacks and drinks on its passengers.  That’s common sense.  Compare that with United sharing each can of Coke between 3 passengers.

(Perhaps, I’m exaggerating, but I don’t think I’m too far away from the truth.)

I hate United. Part I — getting there.

I try not to fly United airlines.  I believe that United is one of those airlines that deserves to go out of business and it has nobody to blame for it but itself.

The last time I flew United was to go to Orlando in January, for the Lotusphere.  On my way back home, they cancelled my flight and forgot to tell me.  I complained and ended with a 100-dollar travel voucher.  So in order to redeem the voucher, I flew them again.  Big mistake.  I’ll probably end up with another voucher out of this.

Getting there was OK.  Surprisingly enough, the flight left O’Hare on time and arrived to Washington on time.  However…

The day of my trip, was the first day United started charging for any checked-in luggage.  You want to check-in a piece of luggage?  Insert a credit card and get charged $15.

If you ever wonder if we live in a class society, go fly somewhere.  While the socialists believe that we live in a two-class society, United prefers a three-class model: First, Economy and something called Economy Plus. $39 buy you a seat at the front of the plane, which has a little more room than a regular economy seat at the back of the plane.  On my flight, there weren’t many people travelling to Washington.  Almost all of them ended up being sardined into the regular economy seats.  A few brave souls decided to venture away from their assigned seats and into the forbidden Economy Plus territory. Not so fast! The flight crew had immediately issued a warning: if you’re in an Economy Plus seat and you’re not supposed to be there, you better have a credit card ready or be so kind and move back toyour assigned seat at the back.   It is beyond me why the crew wouldn’t let us all scatter around the plane, giving each person more room: leg or shoulder or both.

Vacation is over — back to life

Last week I took time off work.  The grand plan was to visit my friends in Washington D.C. and see the capital itself.  Its been over a year since I last saw my friends and I’ve never been to Washington.

My first ever visit to Washington and it left a great impression: The White House, the monuments, the government buildings, the Smithsonian museums — I got to see, touch and experience all these places that I’ve seen in movies, read and heard about.  However, it ended up being a very working vacation.  As it happened,I worked harder during my vacation than in the weeks leading up to it.

A Blackberry is a great and a terrible invention, a blessing and a curse: emails and phone calls that find you anywhere — who came up with that?!  I must have been quite a sight walking with a messenger’s bag over one shoulder, a camera hanging off the other shoulder and a cell phone pressed to my ear, talking to a client and closing business.  Talk about mixing business with pleasure.

But a few words about Washington…

Washington is HOT.  And I mean HOT.  The temperature was in the 90s, the Sun was beating down mercilessly, there is not much shade around all those monuments and it is humid.  Wearing jeans in that weather is not the best idea.  I was amazed by all those government types walking around in suits.  Better them than me.

Monuments, monuments and more monuments.  After a while, I did not want to see another white-stone structure with names of states on it and tourists all around.

Washington requires lots of walking.  I don’t remember when was the last time I had to walk so much.  All the monuments are set quite a distance apart.  They look deceptively close, but they are not.  I never actually made it to the Capitol Hill, it seemed like the horizon — always close but you never actually reach it.

The Washingtonians are very active.  I was tired just watching all the people who were jogging, running and biking in this hot weather.

The museums’ security is not consistent.  At the Washington monument, my stuff went through a scanner and I walked through a metal detector and set it off.  At one of the art galleries, security just briefly looked through my bag and let me.  At another art gallery, security made me open and show every compartment of my bag.  The security guard never actually touched my bag.  At the museum of natural history, security poked through the main compartment of my bag with a stick and I walked through a metal detector, which, this time, I did not set off.  Some food for thought there.

Our government is busy with things that we take for granted.  A man sat down next to me on the subway.  He was reading minuted of a congressional meeting on truck weights and dimensions.  I never really thought about this before, but there must be someone who governs and decides those things and a million of others: how far apart should parking meters be placed, the type and color of flowers to be planted around the city, availability of public toilets, water pressure in the municipal water system.  Fascinating stuff.
Washington is like no other city — Also on the subway, I sat across from a man working in the Information Technology Security group of the Pentagon.  A group of people was discussing their Army contract and why the Air Force didn’t want to go through the same steps of signing a contract.  Where else do you get to overhear conversations like that?!

I hate United, but more on that later.

I need a real vacation.  I need a vacation somewhere where my BlackBerry won’t work, my laptop won’t connect and phone calls won’t reach me.  Any ideas?

Customer relations in the Web 2.0 world

When I wrote my review of Zoho’s MS Office plug-in, I did not expect anything.  I simply hoped that someone would find my post useful when thinking about using the plug-in.  Imagine my surprise when a couple of days later Ahmed from Zoho commented on my post. The main thing he said was that they will try to incorporate my suggestions in the next plug-in update.

The Zoho team is doing this right, using the web to their advantage.  There are valuable lessons that other companies can learn from this.

Take heed, people are talking.  But do you know what they are saying about you, your company, your brand and your products?  This doesn’t just apply to what’s being said in the various media sources.  Do you know what is being said in the blogosphere? On social networks?  Google Alerts can be a valuable tool when you want to know what is being said out there.  Configure your alerts to search for the names of your company, your products, your executives.  That way you’ll know if any of these are being mentioned anywhere.

If someone is talking about you, what do you do? If they are saying positive things and you can respond, thank them for their kind words.

If they are complaining, be sure to respond.  Don’t attack them, instead try to address the problem.  Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about his experience with your company. A dissatisfied customer will share their problems with 8-10 people and some will push that number to 20.  Now imagine how these numbers change in the Web 2.0 world of blogs and social networks.  How many people can I reach with a simple blog post?  And an unhappy customer will become a loyal consumer if you fix his complaint and do it quickly.  80% of these folks will come back to you if you’ve treated them fairly. That percentage rises to the upper 90s if you respond immediately. If instead you let the negative posts floursih out there, you never know how many people they will eventually reach, how many potential customers you may loose.

Good job, Zoho.  You got it right.

Much needed media coverage of Lotus

I can’t say it better than Ed Brill, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about…”

There is some pretty amazing media coverage of Lotus and its momentum in Network World and  The articles even name the products in question and Bob Picciano, general manager of Lotus, even went almost as far as naming the companies that are buying Lotus products.  This is truly much needed and long overdue.  For too many years we heard the promise of gloves coming off but Lotus seemed to have troubles figuring out how to undo the laces.  We, in the Lotus community, keep hearing of so many consequitive quarters of double-digit growth in the Lotus brand, but this message does not reach the general IT public, it gets lost in a cacophony of media beating the Exchange and SharePoint drums.  To illustrate…

Earlier this week I met wtih my client, a large retail chain, which, very Bob Picciano-esque, shall remain nameless, but which you would immediately recognize if you have a teen or a pre-teen daughter who likes to accessorize herself.  Earlier this month, the client hired a new CIO.  The first words out of the new CIO’s mouth: “Wow! I didn’t know anybody still used Lotus Notes.”

Lotus, how about an all-out, gloves-are-really-really-off-this-time media assault?  Please?  With sugar on top?

Why I will never win the lottery

The lottery?! Ha! I have no luck borrowing a book from the library.

Something strikes me to read this very particular book.  Last night I check my local library’s online catalog and they have this very book — 1 copy in Fiction.

I go to the library today, licking my lips in anticipation.  And what do I find? An empty spot where only yesterday the book had stood on its shelf.  What are the odds of that?! It’s not like I was planning to read the latest pulp fiction best seller.  It was a postmodern novel written in 1997.  Yes, it was nominated for the National Book Award and all that.  But how many people actually read those books? It must be on the required summer reading list in some local high school.