Monthly Archives: December 2009

What is the name of this decade?

As New Years 2010 approaches,  I have to confess that I’ve been worrying about (maybe fretting or wondering are better words) what people would call this decade (200-2009) since 1997 or so. Attesting to the poor quality of the internet back then, which I searched, I even enlisted the help of the NYC Public Library research department at the time (seriously).  I remember that they presented the following options:

– Aughties/Oughties

– Naughties/Noughties

Now these sound just as silly and impossibly British now as they did then, don’t they?  I asked the question on Q&A service Aardvark, yielding the same suggestions.  I asked on Twitter , which yielded deafening silence.  Searching the web doesn’t yield anything new although one wonders what to search for. Seems newscasters/radio personalities say “this decade” or “the 2000s”, but can those work long term? Wikipedia says “Unlike previous decades such as “The Fifties”, “The Seventies”, and “The Nineties”, the 2000s never attained a universally accepted name in the English-speaking world”.

So what will people refer to this decade as in the future? There must be something that will catch on? Please contribute ideas in the comments. Amazing that almost 13 years later and I still have no good answer. Maybe I should call the NY Public library again?

Att: There’s a cap for that!

I was planning to write this post anyway, but At&t seems to have wanted to help by having a widespread data outage in San Francisco on Friday.

So this past week,  somehow the roar of dissatisfaction coming from the users in arguably the two most important (in terms of early adopters, tech media, etc.) cities in the US (New York and San Francisco) has finally pierced the veil of indifference of the At&t brass. The Wall Street Journal reported on the comments of At&t Mobility’s CEO:

Manhattan and San Francisco, particularly the city’s financial district, “are performing at levels below our standards,” Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, said at an investors conference.

Those two cities see especially high smart-phone penetration, which has put pressure on AT&T’s data network. The company expects to see gradual improvements in New York and plans to replace some microcells in San Francisco, he said.

“This is going to get fixed,” Mr. de la Vega said. “In both of those markets, I am very confident that you’re going to see significant progress.”

With about 3% of smart-phone customers driving 40% of data traffic, AT&T is considering incentives to keep those subscribers from hampering the experience for everyone else, he said. “You can rest assured that we’re very sure we can address it in a way that’s consistent with net-neutrality and FCC regulations.”

Many customers don’t know how much bandwidth they’re consuming, Mr. de la Vega added. When AT&T conducted a broadband test, customers often reduced their data use. Longer-term, he said, a pricing scheme based on usage is likely, though it will be determined by industry competition and regulatory guidelines.

In another article, the Wall Street journal quoted him further:

“What we actually found out is customers didn’t know how they were using data … but once you alerted them to it, they actually reduce their consumption significantly,” he said.

My response in short is “wow”.  The disconnect with reality is so absurd it almost seems unfair to point it out.  How could you create and promote an expensive product with an expensive service only to have it perform terribly and then blame the enthusiastic customers who used it as you marketed it for the failure?

I’ve been trying to think of the appropriate analogy and in the meantime came across this brilliant post by Fake Steve Jobs. He uses the analogy of a Beatles record, but you can really use anything.  Fundamentally At&t assumed that nobody would use their network and now they are flummoxed as to what to do now that they have a device that allows/encourages people to use it.  Why not build out a kick-ass network and offer people the ability to purchase higher data speeds for more money?  Incentives to use the product less? Really? Since when is wireless spectrum/bandwidth a  precious natural resource?

Anyway – I think I’ve written about this already before….  What do you guys think? What should At&t do?

Holiday Travel and My 3 Rules for Flying

It’s holiday travel time again.  Whether flying to see relatives, go skiing or escaping the cold to warmer climates, lots of folks will be flying in the next few weeks. Air travel has become so bad so as to prompt articles like the Wall St. Journal’s “How to Survive Thanksgiving Travel“.  Unfortunately it’s gotten bad enough that we use words like “survive”.  They have suggestions that go as far as paying for a day pass in an Airport lounge to escape the madness.  Well, here are my 3 golden rules for air travel:

1. No layovers – now while this sometimes can’t be avoided depending on where you live and where you’re flying to, I find that it’s worth the extra money to fly direct.  Layovers mean exponential increases in likely delays, particularly if you’re flying through cities like Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, etc. in the winter. Also (see #2) if you do check luggage, you’re then vastly increasing the likelihood of lost luggage.  Some people will endure layovers for cheaper tickets or to boost miles on preferred airlines, but other than extreme circumstances, I think direct trumps all.

2. No checked luggage – Now you might think this stems from the recent practice of airlines charging fees, it actually originated with my loss of trust in airlines actually delivering my bag. (United actually lost my luggage (forever) once on a direct flight).  Additionally, waiting for bags when you arrive at your destination is maddening.  Unless you’re traveling for a very long time, you should be able to fit your belongings in a carry-on bag. See below for recent issues related to this point.

3. No Red-Eyes – I get a lot of disagreement on this point, but I feel strongly about it.  The concept of a red-eye sounds great – no wasted daylight hours in airports or on planes, cheaper airfare (usually), and sleep away the excruciating time on the plane.  The problem is that most domestic red-eyes are 5 hours or less in flying time, which means that you’re at best going to get 4 hours of sleep but more realistically about 2 (if you’re lucky).  Now, some people don’t mind that, but that leads me to be non-functional the next day (they are called red-eyes for a reason) and likely get sick soon thereafter unless I actually sleep the next day away which then ruins the whole idea.  Now the obvious exception to this is long, international flights, particularly if you can fly business class and actually have a comfortable seat to sleep.

So these rules have generally served me well. However, recently, rule #2 has become more difficult…

Now that airlines are charging for checked bags, many more folks are following my rule #2 (albeit for different reasons).  This means the overhead bins are filling up and boarding has become a circus. This is compounded by the arbitrary boarding processes being used by different airlines these days. Almost every airline uses a different process and many don’t enforce their own rules. In most cases, if you choose a good seat near the front of the plane, you are forced to board last and may be forced to check your carry-on due to lack of space.  Even worse, airlines have tried to fix the problem they caused by enforcing size restrictions for carry-ons, also arbitrarily and capriciously.  Recently, American Airlines has gone so far as to have a special new role for an employee to stand at the gate and only enforce these size restrictions using the absurd metal demonstrating containers.  Now, we all know these are a joke.  You can fit these whole things into the carry-on space onboard and certainly bags much larger….So now every flight turns into an argument about whether or not one’s bag can/should fit and be allowed on-board.

As usual the airlines have created the wrong incentives IMHO. Instead of (or even in addition to) charging to check bags, they should charge for carry-ons.  I would be happy to pay a fee to bring my bag on board.  This would decrease the amount of bags brought on board and smooth the boarding process. It seems airlines are intent on casting their customers as the enemy and trying to make their customer experience as miserable as possible while extracting every last dime in the process. No wonder we have to look for ways to survive….