Friday, September 21, 2012

Streetlife in San Francisco

I've been in San Francisco for the Dreamforce conference.

The conference was amazing - I might even try to write up my thoughts.

But what I wanted to talk about now, is the terrible number of beggars, crazy people, and homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. Many of these poor souls seem to fall into multiple of these categories.

I don't understand how the greatest country in the world, blessed with so much, can abandon its weakest members to a pre-civilisation existence.

Worse, it's easy for the constant stream of the rest of us, as pedestrians and car passengers to avert our eyes. Every time that happens I think a bit of our own soul is chipped away. We can say that it's about choices, we can say that no-one needs to be in this situation, we can say whatever we like. But they are trapped in that suffering. And while we stand by and let it happen - so are we trapped in a different kind of suffering ourselves - one where a hardened heart prevents us from fulfillment.

What to do? Let's start by thinking about what a society is supposed to be. A civilised society protects its weakest members, it redistributes resources in a way that ensures that, although effort is rewarded, no-one is left behind on the journey.

Clearly San Francisco has failed in this duty. I do not want a New Zealand that follows this model.

We have a responsibility to look after each other and to protect the vulnerable.

It's a shame that in New Zealand the political system is set up so that the parties that should best offer to address these issues are unpalatable in so many other ways.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I'm sorry, but it does matter where the poppies are made.

Ok, I totally get the RSA position. They have a limited income that is effectively fixed,

The more cost they can take out of the organisation, the more money there is available for providing benefits to their members.

If this were a case of, say, staff flying Jetstar to save money, we'd all be applauding.

But some decisions have a hidden cost, and a moral dimension.

Imagine a continuum with one end highly moral and satisfactory, like making the poppies in a sheltered workshop in earthquake ravaged Christchurch. It would be difficult to think of a more worthy supplier.

Using the cost justification argument means that next year the poppies could be made by slave labour in North Korea.

If the RSA executives are not prepared to do that, then they are saying that there are considerations that override cost saving.

So what we are discussing is how far we are prepared to go down that slippery slope before we cry off.

Making the poppies in China goes too far along that scale for me, and apparently for a bunch of people in Queenstown .

What's really interesting in that article is that the RSA president criticises the public because these weren't actually Chinese poppies, they were left over stock from last year.

I'm unhappy that the RSA has put me in the position where donating endorses the decision and boycotting hurts the wrong people.

I am donating this year but I won't take a physical poppy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

An apology to Jetstar

I've flown a few times recently with Jetstar, and my son also used them to fly home for Christmas.

Things haven't gone well, and I've been tweeting a bit about the disappointment of traveling with this airline.

After thinking about it though I've decided that I'm not being fair, and that Jetstar is undeserving of the complaints I've been making.

To recap, I used them for a business trip last week - on the way up the flight was 45 minutes late, and they lost my bag. On the way back the flight was delayed twice (after we boarded), in total about 60 minutes late. My son's flight was cancelled due to the CHC earthquake (on Friday), and the next available seat was 9pm on Xmas day.

So, not a good experience. Probably not going to happen to all their passengers all the time, but a pretty bad sample.

I usually fly with Air New Zealand, which is a world class airline. It has lots of planes, lots of crew, and a lot more options. When the earthquake struck, their flights were cancelled too, but they put a 747 on to the AKL-CHC route to help clear their backlog - because they COULD.

Bad things happen to both airlines - weather closes airports, crew get sick, aircraft break down - the difference is that Air New Zealand has more depth, so when things go wrong they can re-route aircraft, call in more crew or whatever.

But Jetstar is a lot cheaper.

And that's the key.

We have a choice. Jetstar could probably provide a better service, by having an extra aircraft and more crew that weren't allocated to the schedule, but just sat waiting to provide cover. Who would pay for that?

Complaining about delays and cancellations from Jetstar is as ungrateful as complaining about the price on Air New Zealand. In fact, looking at it logically, Air New Zealand is always going to be more expensive, but Jetstar sometimes flies on time - so there's only upside to choosing them, sometimes you get your cake and eat it too!

I should also say that when they did lose my bag the ground staff were extremely friendly and helpful and couriered it to my hotel before bed-time so no real harm done.

So I take it all back. The benefit of having competition on routes helps to keep prices down, we have real choice, and  both airlines deliver what they promise. The only problem comes when our expectations don't match what the airline is selling.

Jetstar offers very cheap flying (we flew 6 developers to Auckland in September for less than what it would cost for 2 on Air New Zealand).

Air New Zealand offers a reliable, premium service at a higher cost.

Our choice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Haiti rates us!

Don't know whether to laugh or cry!

Our Jade website has been totally copied by a firm in Haiti for their website!

A real tribute to iMagic - our talented designers.

Here is our home page:

and theirs:

Spot the difference!

It's hard to be too upset about this, but I hope the end-client didn't pay too much for design services!

We found this through analytics, an unusual amount of traffic from a Caribbean island that isn't usually one of our traffic sources. Thanks to Ryan our Social Media Analyst for this.

Let's hope our new website for JOOB is as inspirational for budding designers in the developing world. I hope we get a few more clones when it is launched in a few weeks!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A tale of two hotels - power to the guests

I should preface this by saying I actually enjoyed staying at the Langham in Auckland, the service was excellent and the hotel itself is very comfortable. I would consider staying there again.

Two hotels I have recently stayed at were the Langham in Auckland and the St Kilda Parkview in Melbourne.

In the Langham, there were no free power sockets! Not one! The small number available had hotel appliances such as lights plugged into them. To plug in my PC I had to grovel under the desk and unplug a light. There was nothing to charge my phone unless I unplugged my laptop.

Are they catering to the time travel trade where guests turn up from 1975?

In contrast, the Parkview (which actually feels older) has a power multi-board mounted above the desk. OK, it's ugly - but it gives me four power sockets right where I need them. I can plug in my phone, laptop, iPad (I wish) and still have one over. There is a spare socket right beside the wardrobe where the ironing board is (in the Langham it was almost impossible to plug in the iron).

I'm with Tim Taylor, there's no such thing as too much power, and if I were picky, I'd also like a spare socket by the bed so I could have my phone there instead of on the other side of the room, but that's minor.

The Langham is an extreme example of how bad things can be for the business traveller, but a lack of sockets is not that uncommon. We all complain about it but no-one does anything.

Well, that's going to change. From now on, I promise to fill in a feedback form every time I have to grovel under a desk or make a choice about which appliance to plug in.

If the people that design the rooms don't understand how they are used, we should educate them!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A fresh look at Visual Studio

I have just installed Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate on my brand new laptop.

Brickbat first!

It failed to install. A brand new machine, a fresh copy of Windows 7, all 64 bit and the Release Candidate install fails!!! - Guess what guys? It's not ready yet, maybe some more testing.... turns out to be a known problem - unsurprising - I can't have been the first person to try to install it.


It looks great - I love the look and feel

It's snappy
Everything seems really responsive - I've most recently been using NetBeans which suffers from the usual Java problem of sluggishness when actually asked to do something.

It has a JOOB plugin available
So we can define our Joob data model either textually or graphically, with full intellisense and autocompletion.

So now I just need to brush up my VS skills and transition from Java to C# (how hard can that be?), and I'll be (more) dangerous.

You see more about what we're doing with JOOB and VS at the JOOB Facebook page or the website.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

GMail - I like this

We are doing a trial of Google apps at Jade, you might remember this came up from the positive experiences with BaseCamp I mentioned in an earlier post.

There is a lot to Google apps, especially considering how inexpensive it is for corporates. I am not surprised it is being adopted by large high profile customers. Looking across the suite, there is mail and calendar as well as a set of Office replacement apps, and a few other odds and ends.

But this is about Google Mail.

I have had a personal GMail account for years, but never really used it. It always seemed a bit toy-like and I didn't like the Labels vs Folders concept.

I was wrong.

Now we have had the training and the proverbial penny has dropped. This is magic stuff.

Google mail is (perhaps unsurprisingly) based on very fast and easy search.

One of my main frustrations with mail has disappeared instantly. I can find stuff now!

Even the most organised email user (not me) tends to lose mail for two reasons.

Firstly, deletion. In other mail systems you read a mail in your inbox, then you need to decide whether to keep it or delete it, If you delete it, then you will not be able to get it back if you want to later. If you keep it, then you generally move it to a folder (see below). There are some people who just let their inbox grow and grow, but this does not work well for lots of reasons. With Google you don't need to delete!!! In fact, I understand that the first version of GMail didn't even have a delete option!

Secondly, folders. In other mail systems a mail can only be in one folder, so you have to keep making choices about the most relevant folder to use. Then when you want to find it again you have to re-make the choice of which folder to look in and hope you come up with the same answer. To make things worse, Outlook, at least, does not let you search over more than one folder.

How Google mail works.

All your mail messages are in a huge bucket called (logically enough) 'All Mail'. You can search this at lightning fast speed and find any message you want.

Messages can have meta tags (labels) applied to them, which puts them in the set of messages that have that tag. So, for example, in Google the Inbox is not a folder, it is the set of messages that have the Inbox tag applied to them. So when you have finished with a message, you don't need to delete it, you just remove the Inbox tag. Messages can have multiple tags which lets them appear in multiple sets.

Under Outlook I had about 100 folders set up for my customers and used to laboriously file messages under the right customer. With Google I have one label, Customers, and just tag all my customer messages. I rely on search to find the messages for a specific customer.

By relying on search, you need far fewer labels than folders, I think I'll manage with about 10 Labels, versus probably about 200 folders in outlook. Isn't that simpler?

There are a few other nice things built in, like a good Instant Messaging system, including text, audio and video, but the mail is the killer app for me.

And it's all cloud based, so it's the same when I'm at home on the netbook, when I'm at work, and in April when I get my iPad it will all just work.