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Delta Is Being Accused of Sneakily Tricking People Into Booking Much Worse Seats Than They Think
September 3, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

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

When I book flights, I try to be patient.

Perhaps like many people, I go to Kayak or Google Flights, and hope to find everything that’s available. 

Then, I might wait a few days to see if prices go up or down, depending on the urgency of my booking.

It’s like playing with your cat, really. Most of the time, Tibkins is quicker. Just occasionally, though, you get him. 

The accusation was that Delta Air Lines made ordinary Economy Class flights appear as if they were Premium Economy when booked via Google Flights.

Or, as the Points-Saving God puts it: “Delta displays economy prices for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, and at no point during booking does it actually specifically tell you you’ve got the wrong deal.”

In essence, if you go through the Google Flights search process, wanting to book, say, return flights from London to LAX, you get what seems like a wonderful deal.

If you book via Delta’s site rather than its partner Virgin Atlantic’s, that is.

The price difference is more than $ 1,000. Which is clearly the very definition of a steal.

Because you like saving money and feelings clever, you click on that deal and still believe you’re booking Premium Economy.

It’s just that, if you look closely, it has a novel and delightful name: Economy Delight.

This is actually Virgin’s fancy name for something that’s slightly better than so-called Economy Classic, but is still very much Economy Class and not the wider seats and more pleasant experience of Premium Economy.

Which Virgin calls, oddly, Premium Economy.

For all you know, however, Economy Delight is what Delta calls Premium Economy.

There are so many names these days.

And nowhere, said God Save The Points, is it clear that it isn’t. After all, why are you being shown this option when you searched for Premium Economy fares?

I asked Delta for its view.

An airline spokeswoman told me: 

Delta recognizes the limitations of some current shopping experience on third-party sites may not be ideal. That’s why we are leading industry collaboration to ensure customers have access to all of Delta’s products, no matter where they shop.

Ah, so it’s Google Flights’ fault?

Delta seems to think so. Its spokeswoman continued: 

It’s time for third-party displays, including Google Flights, to invest in the technology necessary to display the various products available so customers can view all their options clearly, just as Delta has done for customers on delta.com. 

An airline mocking Google’s technology? That resembles entertainment.

So I asked the Silicon Valley company for its reaction and will update, should I hear.

I remained perplexed. If Virgin Atlantic’s fares are accurately depicted, why aren’t Delta’s?

I was so moved by all this that I tried the search for myself.

I got very similar results to God Save The Points. 

Not exactly close.

I clicked through to Delta’s site and there it was, the Economy Delight designation.

Only if I scrolled down would I see that an upgrade to Premium Economy would cost an additional $ 257.75 each way.

This all feels a touch unhealthy. 

Delta says it’s the champion of the people, but airlines aren’t always so keen to play with third-party sites, where many people go to make comparisons.

Risibly, the airlines’ lobbying group claims this is all intended to increase, please wait for it, transparency.

It might even, say the comparison sites’ lobbyists, threaten the ability of fare comparison sites to operate.

Worse, the airlines seem to believe that third-party sites should deliver all the detailed information that airlines have, yet those same airlines refuse, in some cases, to give those sites that very information.

Which all should make emptors do a lot of caveating.

And we thought technology is going to make things easier. 

Easier for corporations, perhaps.

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Are Flags Just a Piece of Cloth, or Are They a Powerful Symbol of Something Greater?
June 14, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

This week is Flag Day, June 14. To Americans, the US Flag is an evocative image. It’s a symbol of our freedom, and of what others have sacrificed to ensure it. It can also be a symbol of protest. The US Supreme Court famously confirmed the right to burn the flag as an act of free speech, and nearly no one has missed the recent debate over standing versus kneeling during the national anthem at sporting events.

Non-national flags are powerful symbols, too. They represent ideals, movements, and aspirations. Even national flags can come to represent controversial issues, as the recent kneeling controversy in football reminded everyone.

No one can deny that flags are powerful symbols. Here are quotes that reflect on the power of flags to rouse passions, one way or another:

1. “The stars and stripes were fluttering bright against the rain, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

2. “I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love.” ― President Barack Obama

3. “I believe our flag is more than just cloth and ink. It is a universally recognized symbol that stands for liberty, and freedom. It is the history of our nation, and it’s marked by the blood of those who died defending it.” ― Senator John Thune

4. “A true flag is not something you can really design. A true flag is torn from the soul of the people. A flag is something that everyone owns, and that’s why they work. The Rainbow Flag is like other flags in that sense: it belongs to the people.” ― Gilbert Baker

5. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” ― Colin Kaepernick

6. “Every red stripe in that flag represents the black man’s blood that has been shed.” ― Fannie Lou Hamer

7. “I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars.” ― Joshua Chamberlain

8. “I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” ― Craig Washington

9. “The American flag represents all of us and all the values we hold sacred.” ― Adrian Cronauer

10. “Standing as I do, with my hand upon this staff, and under the folds of the American flag, I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it.” ― President Abraham Lincoln

11. “I don’t judge others. I say if you feel good with what you’re doing, let your freak flag fly.” ― Sarah Jessica Parker

12. “There is a strong tendency in the United States to rally round the flag and their troops, no matter how mistaken the war.” ― George McGovern

13. “America has been the country of my fond election from the age of thirteen, when I first saw it. I had the honour to hoist with my own hands the flag of freedom, the first time it was displayed, on the Delaware; and I have attended it with veneration ever since on the ocean.” ― John Paul Jones

14. “I just bought a Jeep painted like an American flag. No one better question how patriotic I am.” ― Blake Anderson

15. “When I see the Confederate flag, I see the attempt to raise an empire in slavery. It really, really is that simple. I don’t understand how anybody with any sort of education on the Civil War can see anything else.” ― Ta-Nehisi Coates

16. “I’m proud of the U.S.A. We’ve done some amazing things. To wear our flag in the Olympics is an honor.” ― Shaun White

17. “Burning the flag is a form of expression. Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words. It could be semaphore. And burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea – I hate the government, the government is unjust, whatever.” ― Antonin Scalia

18. “I can understand if you think that I’m disrespecting the flag by kneeling, but it is because of my utmost respect for the flag and the promise it represents that I have chosen to demonstrate in this way.” ― Megan Rapinoe

19. “If a jerk burns the flag, America is not threatened, democracy is not under siege, freedom is not at risk.” ― Gary Ackerman

20. “I savored my time on top of the podium by watching the American flag rise up out of the crowd as the anthem played, thinking about how every single second of training I’ve done was for this minute and how many people played a role in my achievement.” ― Hannah Kearney

21. “In most countries, you have a monarch or some other principal person to whom its officers and its military swear their allegiance. Our officials in this country and our military swear allegiance to the Constitution. We say that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag”. ― Edwin Meese

22. “For any athlete growing up, the Olympics is the one thing you watch with your family, and it’s the one thing you dream about. Seeing your country’s flag go up as you get a gold medal is the best thing you can achieve.” ― Abby Wambach

23. “I can take the steel guitars and fiddles off, we can make it a little more pop, cover ideas that are a little less cowboy. But you got to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, whose flag you are under? For Garth Brooks, I’m steel, fiddles, red, white and blue.” ― Garth Brooks

24. “If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him – it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known – the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

25. “Our flag means all that our fathers meant in the Revolutionary War. It means all that the Declaration of Independence meant. It means justice. It means liberty. It means happiness…. Every color means liberty. Every thread means liberty. Every star and stripe means liberty.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

26. “There is not a thread in it but scorns self-indulgence, weakness and rapacity.” ― Charles Evans Hughes

27. “We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth, peace, security, liberty, our family, our friends, our home… But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.” ― Calvin Coolidge

28. “‘Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag,’” she said. ― John Greenleaf Whittier

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Delta Passengers Are Outraged. They Say Those With the Cheapest Tickets Are Getting Nicer Seats
May 13, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

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

“You’ll enjoy the best elite travel experience whenever you fly.”

That’s how Delta Air Lines describes the blessed privilege of being a Delta Medallion member.

Not just elite, but the best elite. The elite of the elite. 

I worry, therefore, that some of these Delta elitists are concerned that their eliteness is not complete.

And, indeed, that they’re being cast aside when it comes to upgrades, in favor of the riff-raff who bought the cheapest tickets.

Points, Miles and Martinis describes the pain: “On a recent trip, I noticed that the flight went from 6 Comfort Plus seats an hour before the flight, down to just 1 seat, 30 minutes prior as a result of the gate agents clearing Basic Economy passengers into Comfort Plus.”

Indeed, on this occasion, Points, Miles and Martinis insists that only one Medallion customer received an upgrade to Comfort Plus, while five Basic Economists were slipped straight into these more comfortable seats.

Others  commenting on this accusation said they’d seen similar events too. 

Goodness, this is like pulling people in off the street and giving them a table at the French Laundry. (Well, almost.)

It’s like giving lower-paid people a tax break that’s bigger than that poured upon the rich.

These Medallionists are peeved that Delta appears to be favoring the Basic Economists, who are only given a seat at the last minute.

The idea of Basic Economy — or Sub-Cattle Class, as I prefer to call it — is to shove these low-fare passengers into the middle seats that are left over. Not the Comfort Plus seats that are, well, a little more comfortable.

The suspicion is that, on some flights, gate agents are giving the nicer seats to these low-paying customers in order to get packed flights out on time.

I contacted the airline for its view. 

“While the situation described does not align with Delta’s upgrade procedure/policy, there is not a way to determine the Medallion level of other customers or the fare product another customer purchased via gate upgrades or standby displays,” a Delta spokesman told me.

So what are these aggrieved Medallionists supposed to do?

“Any customer who feels they were not given the correct seat assignment should share their concern with customer care, who will review their inquiry,” said the airline spokesman.

Some might fear, though, that this could be another painful assault on an airline’s most important customers.

Last week, I wrote about how United Airlines was angering its First Class passengers, removing some favorite menu items from its premium offerings.

Just, it seems, to save a little lucre.

Still, this alleged Delta move might encourage some passengers to buy the lowest fares, in the hope that they’ll actually get far lovelier seats.

Don’t airline passengers realize that the concept of Something For Nothing is precisely the one that airlines are fighting against?

Their principle these days is Everything For A Payment.

If this alleged Delta generosity toward the Sub-Cattle Class is true, it casts a pall on the image and modern purpose of airlines.

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Facebook's Latest Fix for Fake News: Ask Users What They Trust
January 20, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Mark Zuckerberg promised to spend 2018 fixing Facebook. Last week, he addressed Facebook making you feel bad. Now he’s onto fake news.

Late Friday, Facebook buried another major announcement at the end of the week: How to make sure that users see high-quality news on Facebook. Facebook’s solution? Let its users decide what to trust. On the difficult problem of fixing fake news, Zuckerberg took the path with the least responsibility for Facebook, but described it as the most objective.

“We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that’s not something we’re comfortable with,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.”

The vetting process will happen through Facebook’s ongoing quality surveys — the same surveys it uses to ask whether Facebook is a force for good in the world and whether the company seems to care about its users. Now, Facebook will ask users if they are familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust the source.

According to Zuckerberg, these surveys will help the truth about trustworthiness rise to the top: “The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly.”

It’s tempting to read a lot into Zuckerberg’s words, especially when the missive was so short on details. The perils are evident: Bad actors can game the survey! This only increases filter bubbles! After the year Facebook just had, how can you possibly think the masses can be objective?

Relying on users “lets them sidestep allegations of bias and take steps to fix it without directly becoming the dreaded ‘arbiter of truth,'” says researcher Renee DiResta, a technologist who has been studying the manipulation of social-media platforms.

Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment. There’s a good chance the new policy could cause as many problems as it solves. For the best known media brands, the survey could be a leg up. But what about niche publications that have narrow, but credible readerships? Does this mean that National Review or Slate are deemed untrustworthy because they have definitive points of view? Do they get put in the same bucket as Fox and MSNBC? What about BuzzFeed, where fun distractions and deep investigations all show up under the same URL?

Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association representing content companies, likes the idea of using brands as a proxy for trust. “But the details are really important,” he says. “What matters most is how this is being messaged. Facebook is clearly scrambling as the industry, Washington and the global community are losing trust in them. There is nothing worse to a company long-term.”

Zuckerberg also seemed to be in scramble mode last week when Facebook said it is reorienting the newsfeed to show users “meaningful interactions.” Only Friday, eight days later, did Zuckerberg explain the scope of that change for news publishers: the percentage of news on Facebook’s newsfeed will drop to 4 percent, from 5 percent.

This isn’t Facebook’s first attempt to address fake news. It’s previous effort flopped a few weeks ago. Facebook thought putting “disputed” flags on fake news stories would help out, but people only clicked more. Despite Zuckerberg’s reluctance to work with outsiders, experts probably could have warned him about human nature.

The survey strategy may fall prey to the same misunderstanding of people. Chris Tolles, the CEO of the media site Topix, is familiar with the problem. “As a news aggregator, we wrestled with this,” he says. “People who actually share news, news is a weapon, it’s not to inform, it’s to injure. It’s a social-justice identitarian, a person with an ax to grind, or it’s a journalist. They are not sharing news to inform, they are trying to convince you of something. It comes with a point of view.”

The root of the problem, according to Tolles: Trust is not objective. The interpretation of objectivity varies wildly between Democrats and Republicans and internet users themselves may not be a trustworthy bunch. Zuckerberg’s post also mentioned refocusing on “local” news, which Tolles says is just as fraught. “It’s vicious all the way down to the local crime report. I think that they’ve got an impossible task.”

Last week the company said it was stepping away from news. “This week, they said we’re going to try to do the hardest thing in the world, which is to try to decide which narrative is true,” says Tolles.

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Twitter is incorrectly guessing the gender of trans users — and they aren’t having it
July 14, 2017 9:15 am|Comments (0)

TwitterFacebook

Transgender Twitter users aren’t here for the platform’s gendered assumptions. And they sure aren’t hesitating to make that known.

Here’s the deal: Twitter released a new set of tools on May 17 which allow users to see and control the data advertisers use to target ads on the social media platform. While the move was a clear effort to increase transparency and trust between users and the social media machine, the actual data Twitter has collected is giving many users pause. 

Notably, many trans and gender-nonconforming users are troubled that Twitter has been guessing the gender of users based on the gender most strongly associated with a user’s “profile and activity.”  Read more…

More about Twitter, Gender, Social Good, Transgender, and Lgbtq


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Do Not Watch These Two New Wonder Woman Clips, Because They Are Too Awesome
June 14, 2017 1:15 am|Comments (0)

Given these tumultuous times, there’s a real comfort in knowing that WB/DC somehow managed to get a live-action Wonder Woman movie right while hilariously flubbing Batman and Superman. We should all be immensely looking forward to the film, which is why I very recommend you don’t watch these new, completely amazing…

Read more…


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Don’t Worry, They Are Not Perfect
March 23, 2017 9:05 pm|Comments (0)

This post is meant to show users the editing that goes behind an image they might see in a magazine. These images should not make you feel beautiful because not everything you see is real.


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