Tag Archives: Just

Southwest's Apology to Passengers on Flight 1380 Is Brilliant, and It's Not Just the Cash. Here's Why
April 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

For the passengers who survived the emergency landing on Southwest Flight 1380 this week, on which Jennifer Riordan died, the flight must have been a horrifying experience. 

The pilot and copilot have had been hailed as heroes, and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly was praise for the fast apology and condolence statement he offered via video. But you can imagine that the airline might want to continue to respond to the affected passengers quickly.

Apparently, it has. Even as the federal investigation into the incident continues, Southwest reportedly sent letters with personal apologies and quick compensation to passengers from Flight 1380 just a day after the emergency.

Obviously, any big company that faced a debacle like this needs to do something similar and quick.  Many do, but only in exchange for people offering to drop all claims against the company (more on whether that’s happening here, in a second).

But there’s something interesting in how Southwest handled the issue–a combination of what they offered, and how they worded the apology letter, as reported, signed by Kelly:

We value you as our customer and hope you will allow us another opportunity to restore your confidence in Southwest as the airline you can count on for your travel needs. … In this spirit, we are sending you a check in the amount of $ 5,000 to cover any of your immediate financial needs.

As a tangible gesture of our heartfelt sincerity, we are also sending you a $ 1,000 travel voucher…

Our primary focus and commitment is to assist you in every way possible.

What leaps out at me is, oddly, the smallest financial part of the compensation: the $ 1,000 travel voucher. (Although, it’s funny: psychologically people sometimes put a higher subjective value on a tangible thing valued at a certain amount, then they do on cash.)

Even in the wake of tragedy, Southwest is taking steps to try to keep these customers–as customers. 

As some commenters have pointed out, while the uncontained engine failure aboard flight 1380 was terrifying for passengers, and resulted in loss of life and injury, it’s by no means the first time a flight suffered a similar catastrophe and ultimately landed.

Commercial airlines like a 737 are designed to be able to fly with one of the engines disabled, and professional aircrew train and drill on what to do in this kind of situation. The emergency was deftly handled by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and first officer Darren Ellisor.

Part of why this story was so widely reported however, is that passengers were immediately sharing it on social media. One passenger famously paid $ 8 for inflight WiFi even while he thought the plane was going to crash, so that he could broadcast on Facebook Live what was happening and say a farewell to friends and family.

So, connect this to the travel vouchers. Beyond taking a step toward repairing the relationship with these passengers, what better PR result could Southwest hope for than some positive travel experiences and social media posts from one of them, as a result? 

I wouldn’t expect Southwest to articulate this rationale; that would actually undercut it. And, I do have a couple of other questions about how this all works, for which I’ve reached out to Southwest for answers. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

For example, I would assume that the family of the passenger who died on the flight, Jennifer Riordan, would be treated differently, and maybe also the seven passengers who reportedly were injured. 

There’s also the question of whether these are really just goodwill payments, or a way to quickly settle 100 or more potential claims against the airline. If it’s the more traditional, transactional legal strategy of just trying to settle claims quickly, then that undercuts a lot of this.

However, I’m judging based on the experience of one passenger, Eric Zilbert of Davis, California, that this might not be the case. Zilbert reportedly checked with a lawyer before accepting the compensation,” to make sure I didn’t preclude anything.” Based on the lawyer’s advice, went ahead and did so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean every passenger is happy with the gesture. For example, Marty Martinez of Dallas, the passenger who became famous after he livestreamed the emergency landing over Facebook Live, said he’s not satisfied.

“I didn’t feel any sort of sincerity in the email whatsoever, and the $ 6,000 total that they gave to each passenger I don’t think comes even remotely close to the price that many of us will have to pay for a lifetime.”

Even so, Southwest sort of got what they’d probably like to see in his case, anyway: a tangible demonstration that despite the experience aboard Flight 1380, he’s willing to fly with the airline again.

The proof? He gave his quote to an Associated Press reporter, the account said, “as he prepared to board a Southwest flight from New York.”

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Technology Meant to Make Bitcoin Money Again Just Went Live
March 15, 2018 6:32 pm|Comments (0)

A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday.

The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.

Bitcoin has become digital gold — or a viable investment alternative — to many, but it has been harder for it to fulfill its original purpose of becoming digital money, as transaction fees have skyrocketed to as high as $ 50, while confirmation times took as long as a week at their peak. Enthusiasts say the Lightning Network will solve these problems with fees at a fraction of a cent and instantaneous transactions.

The Lightning Network rolls out, another technology meant to speed up transactions, Segregated Witness, gains traction, with the number of transactions using it doubling to more than 30 percent of total Bitcoin transactions in the past month. Bitcoin transaction fees have plummeted in part thanks to this, but the total number of transactions has also declined. Lightning Network is also meant to help lower fees on the main Bitcoin network.

The Lightning Network allows Bitcoin users to open payment channels between each other. The parties can than conduct transactions without having to post them to the Bitcoin blockchain, avoiding delays and costs that result from recording those transactions each time. Once the channel is closed, only the resulting balances are recorded on the blockchain, not the full transaction history of the channel, and only then are Bitcoin fees paid. There is no required time or transaction limit required to close a payment channel, so they can potentially remain open for months of years.

Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs founder and chief executive officer, says merchants and especially online businesses will be the most likely users as it facilitates a high volume of payments and its near-zero fees allow for micropayments. Cryptocurrency exchanges could also use the software to accelerate deposit and withdrawal of funds, she said.

The network is currently able to process transactions in the low thousands per second, according to Stark, which is still far from Visa Inc.’s maximum of 56,000, but an improvement on Bitcoin’s five transactions per second. More than 4,000 payment channels have been opened since the technology was released in January 2017, and even though it was in testing, some merchants already started using it. Block & Jerry’s, an online ice-cream store playing on American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, is one.

“Bitcoin enthusiasts have gotten excited about this, merchants are excited about this,” Stark said. “It feels like we’re right on the edge of mass cryptocurrency adoption.”

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In a Few Words, Marriott's CEO Just Offered a Statement That Screams a Lack of Emotional Intelligence
December 18, 2017 12:48 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I’m writing this in a hotel room.

But that’s only because I’ve stayed at this hotel for more than 20 years and I’m a sentimental fool. 

Oh, and I once had an indifferent Airbnb experience here in Miami. And the price difference between my hotel and the local Airbnb’s is negligible.

Usually when I’m booking a trip, I look at Airbnb first these days. 

I’ve now had many good experiences, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Indeed, I’ve had truly wonderful Airbnb hosts — and apartments — in Oslo and Lisbon, especially — that made me never want to stay in a hotel again.

This doesn’t worry Airbnb CEO Arne Sorenson.

I know this because he told the New York Times’s delightful Ron Lieber that he’s never even tried Airbnb.

In my naïveté, I’d always thought that one of the principal jobs of a CEO was not just to know your competition, but to get your hands on its product. 

Yet Sorensen explained that “his daughter has [tried Airbnb]. She told him he had nothing to worry about.”

What a relief.

Whenever I wonder about a product, all I do is ask one of my Starbucks baristas. If they don’t like it, I know it’s no good. 

Sorenson, though, expanded his views on Airbnb: “They were the toughest competition when they were offering a true sharing-economy product. The more they get to offering dedicated units, which they’ve done as they’ve grown, the more they look like the competition we’ve faced for decades.”

However confident you might feel, the reek of complacency can incite the flames of arrogance.

It’s true that Airbnb has strategic challenges.

It may be that ultimately it becomes something different from its current persona. 

What it surely does have, though, is millions of users who have been only too happy to get away from the disturbingly inflated pricing and the nauseating nickel-and-diming of too many hotel groups. (Hey, don’t you just love resort fees? In New York.)

These Airbnb users now have an emotional relationship with the brand. Yes, just as they might have once had with certain hotel brands.

I used to seek out the W Hotels (now owned by Marriott) in cities. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in one.

Airbnb guests are still prepared to forgive its occasional errors, partly because, as they travel the world, they find hosts becoming friends and apartment life becoming far more enjoyable.

Even if they have to make their own beds.

On my last stay in Lisbon, we had a gorgeous 800 square foot apartment in the middle of the city that was one-third of the price of nearby hotel rooms.

Still, some people at Marriott have apparently tried Airbnb. 

The company’s global brand officer Tina Edmundson told Lieber that it was “OK” and “fine.”

I know that when my girlfriend tells me something is fine, it means it’s anything from dull to disgusting, depending on her precise intonation.

Edmundson expanded on her thoughts by admitting that “her standards might be particularly high.”

Or snooty, you might fear. Or just a touch OCD.

“I like the notion that someone professional has been in and cleaned it,” she told Lieber.

Coincidentally, here’s a disturbing headline I just read: “COURTYARD MARRIOTT. YOUR BEDS REALLY BUG ME …Allegedly Bitten Guest Sues.”

Here’s another one along the same lines

Marriott isn’t, of course, the only hotel group to be subjected to such issues. Even Airbnb isn’t immune

The point, though, is a simple one. 

A new competitor comes along. It’s doing something different. People have warmed to it. Learn from that by really getting to know it and why people love it.

New competitors can be easy to dismiss. Ask then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Yes, that iPhone thing was a real joke.

Imagine what Microsoft shareholders and employees thought about those words a few years later. 

Imagine, too, what Marriott — and newly-acquired Starwood — customers might think of Sorenson’s, um, (over?)confidence. 

If you’re the boss, it’s incumbent upon you to experience, not just read or hear about, your competitor’s offering.

You never know what you might discover. 

Humility, for example.

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Burger King Just Did Something Amazing Purely To Help McDonald's (Or Did It?)
November 27, 2017 12:12 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a day like any other.

Customers streamed into Burger King and asked for a Whopper.

Except this wasn’t a day like any other, because Burger King’s staff told their customers that, on this particular day, they weren’t selling Whoppers.

Some customers were angry. Some even used extremely flame-grilled words. 

What on earth was going on?

This was November 10 in Argentina. McDonald’s had designated this day as McHappy Day. 

On McHappy Day, all the money made from selling Big Macs was given to kids suffering from cancer.

So in every one of the 107 Burger Kings in Argentina, staff were instructed not to sell Whoppers and to direct customers to their nearest McDonald’s in order to buy a Big Mac.

It felt so public-spirited and many were seemingly impressed.

Burger King was, though, walking an extremely thin line here.

By making a video of its apparent good-heartedness, it was clearly trying to pat itself on the commercial back.

In the video, you might notice one Burger King employee make a disparaging comment about McDonald’s: “The place where they don’t flame-grill their burgers.”

Moreover, the sight of Burger King’s King character going to McDonald’s to buy a Big Mac smacked of, well, marketing.

Clever marketing, you might think. But marketing, all the same.

Burger King could have simply made a donation of its own to the good cause. It might have decided to give all the profits from Whopper sales to the same charities as McDonald’s.

Instead, some might conclude that it piggybacked more overtly on McDonald’s day.

This isn’t the first time that Burger King has tried to engage with its larger rival.

A couple of years ago in New Zealand, Burger King suggested that it and McDonald’s share a Peace Day and jointly create a McWhopper.

At first, McDonald’s wasn’t moved. And then, it still wasn’t moved, but created its own campaign to help refugees. 

Who benefited most? Well, Burger King enjoyed worldwide publicity.

It also won a lot of awards from the advertising industry for its idea.

Some good deeds are just that. Others, well, there’s a gray area.

Especially when there’s marketing involved.

Tech

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Roku’s IPO Price Just Gave the Company a $1.3 Billion Valuation
September 28, 2017 10:30 am|Comments (0)

Video streaming platform Roku has raised $ 219 million in its Wednesday initial public offering.

Priced at $ 14 a share, the company sold 15.7 million shares from Roku and some of its private shareholders, valuing the company at $ 1.3 billion. The stock will make its debut on the Nasdaq exchange today under the symbol “ROKU.” The IPO was a success for Roku, which had initially proposed a $ 12-14 a share range.

Read: How Advertising Could Be Roku’s Growth Engine

Roku’s boxes allow users to stream content from a variety of video services, including Netflix, YouTube, and HBO. As of June 30, the company has 15.1 million active accounts, with users streaming more than 6.7 billion hours in first half of the year.

While the growing streaming trend has made Roku popular, the company has had largely unprofitable growth since it was founded in 2002. Last year, the company brought in $ 399 million in revenue, but lost $ 43 million. In the first half of this year, it lost $ 24.2 million.

Read: A New Phishing Scam Is Targeting Netflix Users

According to TechCrunch, Roku had previously raised more than $ 200 million in capital since 2008. Menlo Ventures was the largest stakeholder prior to the IPO, owning 35.3%, and Fidelity owned 12.9%.

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KFC Just Started Letting Customers Pay In a Way That Could Change Everything
September 4, 2017 3:43 am|Comments (0)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek

Many traditional fast food restaurants are slowly being left behind.

It’s not that customers don’t crave their greasy goodness.

It’s that many fast food restaurant brands feel a touch old-fashioned and new rivals have come along, offering a heady recipe of a more exciting brand and better food.

This has led the likes of McDonald’s to experiment with, for example, touchscreen ordering.

Never, though, has one of the monolithic fast food brands tried what this KFC is doing.

As the South China Morning Post reports, a KFC-owned restaurant called KPRO — an oddly healthy place that serves salads, panini and fresh juice — is allowing customers to pay with a smile.

I tried getting away with something similar in one or two restaurants during my teens. It didn’t work well, as the owners quickly demanded, well, money. Or else.

Here, though, you walk up to a large screen. You use a touchscreen to select the very healthy food you’d like to quickly consume.

Then you click on the Smile To Pay feature.

It uses facial recognition to decide who you are.

Then it asks you to enter your phone number, for a little extra authentication.

This could be a little awkward if there are people standing behind you.

Don’t these technologists care about privacy? Oh, you know the answer to that one.

Once you’ve ordered, you go and sit down and your food is magically delivered by someone who, one hopes, doesn’t say: “We know where you live.”

KFC worked with Ant Financial, part of the vast Alibaba Group, to create this system, one that will surely make people feel so very modern.

Some might look at the video and think that all this button-pushing and pausing to take a picture isn’t all that fast.

It’s also gloriously impersonal.

Then again, isn’t that what technology would prefer we become? A face and a phone number, rather than, say, a living, breathing, purse-bearing, picky-eating human.

From finger-lickin’ good to face-bearin’ payin’.

This is progress.

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Amazon’s Top-Selling Egg Cooker Makes Breakfast at the Touch of a Button – Just $16 Today
May 31, 2017 7:35 pm|Comments (0)

Cooking eggs isn’t exactly rocket science, but I’d say the ability to make soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs, plus omelettes and poached eggs at the touch of a button is worth $ 16. The Dash Go is Amazon’s top-selling egg cooker, and carries a truly stellar 4.5 star review average from nearly 3,000 customers, so get…

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Twitter Just Told Users How To Block Your Brand Forever
April 8, 2017 7:45 am|Comments (0)

Twitter just realised an array of tools to limit abuse on the platform – the trouble is they can also be used to block your brand.


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What Did Google Just Buy?
October 24, 2016 9:00 pm|Comments (0)

This is a consequence of many confluent trends in software, data centre management and cloud computing. Today, it’s all about containerization.


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Facial Recognition Software Lets You Find a Camgirl Who Looks Just Like Your Crush
September 30, 2016 2:35 pm|Comments (0)

Megacams.me, a site that touts itself as a “live sex search engine” has just introduced its latest feature: a search function that lets you upload pictures of your crush to find camgirls that look just like her.

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