29 November 2008

V-Jam mood maps

Oh yes, I forgot. (I twittered about this yesterday but not much space to describe it)

In one session we had lots of fun with a simple, but not very realistic idea.

Every seatback terminal has a mood selector. Where you can set your mood: Tired, Hungry, Irritable, Happy, Calm, Perky, etc etc ...whatever.

The resulting colour-coded digital map on the bulkhead or in the galley (for the benefit of Cabin Attendents) would be great fun. :)

Imagine the solitary green guy who finds himself sat in the middle of a miserable all red section!

Brainstorming on how web technology can improve flying

There were some interesting ideas at yesterday's V-Jam - an all-day brainstorming session organised by Virgin Atlantic and Nesta at which 60 guests (techies, air travellers, bloggers, etc) were invited to do some blue skies thinking on ways air travel could be improved, particularly by technology and social media.

IMHO too much time was wasted on the traditional 'families v travellers' debate (how can you separate families with young children from adult travellers who want a peaceful flight). Greater minds than ours at longhaul airlines all over the world have been pondering this for years. Other than a bit of tweeking on schedules, pricing and seat allocation, there's very little airlines can do. Like cats & dogs, motorists & cyclists, roundheads & cavaliers, they'll just never get on!

I thought a couple of ideas were "flyers", but that's largely because I thought of them.

Social logbooks for aircraft (to compliment their maintenance logbooks). Virgin Atlantic already name their aircraft - Sweet Dreamer, Bubbles, Lady Penelope, etc. So they already have identities/personalities. Each aircraft should have its own digital log book rather like a blog which lists the social history of the aircraft - eg. posts by staff moderators about famous guests or incidents - but the main contribution would be from passengers themselves. Like a guestbook, passengers can write (and read) posts when they are on board.

Flights are often about the big things in life - going to weddings, going to see long-lost relatives, going on the first teenage backpack adventure, going to secure that mega deal in New York, going to LA to make that movie, going to Miami for that operation - and coming back from those things. There's lots of time to write about those things, and to read them. A grandmother flying to Sydney to meet her grandchildren for the first time might search her aircraft's social logbook for "Australia + grandchild" and read about other people's experiences.

Passengers might learn that theirs was one of the aircraft sent to rescue stranded Brits from Hurricane Frances, and maybe read some of the experiences written up by passengers returning on board. Or a search for "football" (tag?) might reveal that Becks flew on this aircraft to his new life at LA Galaxy. He might even have written about it himself.

On a practical level, each social logbook would need a moderator (eg. you wouldn't want seedy passengers leaving sexual fantasies for youngsters to read). They should be available as an option on the v-port entertainment system. It would be good if there was a wireless interface with the on-board server so that could write using their own laptops (a bit hard to write anything lengthy on controller keypads). It would be good/interesting if all social logbooks could be available to read externally through the Virgin website. Maybe passengers could use a unique ref on their boarding card to login and add extra comments or images days or weeks after a flight.

Travel inspiration search engine. (I didn't entirely think of this one! Jeremy Head started a train of thought on where we get travel ideas. I've been refining in my mind my idea for a customised search engine to aggregate inspirational ideas for travellers.) Instead of working in the traditional way, using rational algorithms to produce SERPS based on authority/link popularity, it would be manually biased towards particular travel sources (based on human-edited authority ratings) and produces a 'SERPS mash' comprising x% newspaper articles, x% travel forums, x% review sites, x% travel blogs, x% social network posts, etc.

One of the other ideas (not from me) that straddled several other thought lines and ran throughout the day, was about enabling social interaction on board. There was a lot of interesting talk about opt-in systems that allow passengers to register their interests and find others on the flight that they might meet, sit next to, chat online with, or engage with in some way.

It's based on the 'six degrees of separation' concept. Put another way, in any group of thirty people it's an almost mathematical certainty that two of them will share a birthday. On a flight of 350 people it it inevitable that many will know people in common, or more practically, will share similar interests or professions. Put even another way....wouldn't you want to know if there are other Arsenal supporters on board - all right-thinking people would!

26 November 2008

Disappointing use of Tripadviser muscle

Surveys are a pretty standard PR tool, and Tripadviser have just published a pretty standard survey that I'm sure will get some coverage because it appeals to our baser instincts.

It's on Travel Annoyances. 

Apparently the top ten are..

1. Children kicking your seat back 31%
2. Rude seat recliners 21%
3. Loud mobile phone conversations 16%
4. Passengers taking too long to stow overhead baggage 12%
5. People getting up before the seatbelt sign is off 5% 
6. Armrest hogs 4% 
7. Passengers consuming smelly food 4% 
8. Travellers blocking moving walkways 3%
9. “Shoulder surfers” reading over your shoulder 1% 
10. People wandering in front of airport service carts 1%

That'll get coverage because because it immediately taps into our own experiences in a 'Yeah, I've been there' kinda way, but here comes the clincher... The Top Ten most annoying travellers...

1. Americans 18% 
2. French 12% 
3. Germans 10% 
4. British 6%
5. Chinese 6%
6. Russians 5%
7. Japanese 5% 
8. Italians 5% 
9. Indians 2%
10. Emiratees 1%

Yeah! Now we're talking! That pretty much guarantees coverage in our hate-brigade tabloids who can use it to reinforce all those stereotypical images of other nationalities. 

And it works everywhere else too. American media can indulge in outrage, French media can relish in American discomfort, the Germans can delight in being less hated than the French, and so on down the line. (Oh, that reminds me of an anecdote. I'll stick it in a comment down the bottom *)

Anyway (getting to the point) the reason I clicked on the press release from my news distribution service was the opening line...

"A TripAdvisor® survey of nearly 9,000 worldwide travellers has revealed the British are amongst the most annoying travellers in the world. "

Nine thousand! That's serious! That's a real sample! Normally PR puffer surveys are based on samples from 100 - 2000.

With that kind of resident audience to sample, Tripadvisor could do something worthwhile. A travel survey that actually adds to our knowledge. 

Listen up Tripadvisor guys, 'Most Annoying Travellers' is un-worthy. Add to the conversation or shut up.

16 November 2008

The truth about endangered broadcasters

I've just watched a trailer on ITV for a series of reports by ITV news science editor, Lawrence McGinty,  about polar bears.

He'll be viewing them from a tourist tundra buggy, seeing how an Intuit community fend them off, and watching helicopters drug them & fly them to safe areas.

What irritates me is we've seen all this before on specialist nature programmes. It's ok to go over it again, but the series title is "The Truth About Polar Bears", as if it is an 'exclusive'.

What arrogance, they just don't geddit! It's 2008 and they still think they are one of only a handful of  gatekeepers broadcasting to the nation.

What's that sound? 

It's the sound of a cluetrain running over an ancient relic.

12 November 2008

Farewell QE2... but not from me

Back around 1993 somebody offered me a competition prize to run on my radio programme - a trip to New York out on Concorde & back on QE2 (or the other way round). 

"A pity", I told my boss the Programme Controller when I happened to mention to him that I was turning it down, "because I could use a good prize right now."

"Why are you turning it down?" he asked.

"Well, it's all so dated now. Concorde & QE2 may have been sexy icons back in the 70's when the concept of luxury travel was personified by Alan Wicker, or Leonard Rossiter & Joan Collins pouring Cinzano over each other, but it's the nineties now, for heavens sake!"

"Don't be so sure", he said, "watch..."

In those days we had a big open-plan office. He raised his voice. "Anybody want to go to New York on QE2?"

A comprehensive forest of hands shot skyward.

He turned to me. "See? They're still sexy!"

I realised then, fifteen years ago, that I was out of touch on this one. And I still am.

To be fair, I admired Concorde and was sorry to see it go, but in my book QE2 was/is an old relic and I'm astonished it has taken this long to get rid of it.

11 November 2008

easyCar growing

easyCar is celebrating 10,000 car rental bookings in Cyprus over the past three years.

I wasn't sure whether to be impressed by that. It doesn't sound like a lot, but then (gets calculator out) that's 278 a month...just over 9 rentals a day, seven days a week, summer and winter, on average. I suppose that's quite good.

The "Obama effect" on Kenya

Kenya's tourism industry has been in the doldrums recently but now all that is over, according to the Kenya Tourist Board. 

Not only did the government create a new national public holiday on 6 Nov, but in yesterday's press conference at the World Travel Market in London, Kenya's Minister of Tourism, noted that they are anticipating a 10-15% increase in visitors from the United States.