Posts Tagged ‘sfo’

From Where 2.0 To Just Where; With Meh 2.0 Somewhere In The Middle

And so, as Where 2012 draws to a close and the lobby of the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco fills with a slew of geo’d-out delegates waiting to check out, it’s time for the traditional post conference retrospective writeup. If you were at Where this year or in previous years you’ll probably want to skip ahead to the next paragraph, right now. Where, previously called Where 2.0, is one of the annual maps, geo, location conferences. Though it’s very Californian and eye wateringly expensive, it’s still the place to go to talk, listen and announce anything related to the nebulous industry we call Geo.

After skipping Where 2.0 last year, this year I returned as part of the Nokia contingent and found out that some things had changed.

Firstly, Where 2.0 was no more. O’Reilly have rebranded the conference as simply Where, with the strapline of the business of location. The conference had also moved from its traditional San Jose venue, via the soul desert that is the Santa Clara Convention centre last year, to a new home at the Marriott Marquis slap bang in the middle of downtown San Francisco.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, whilst Where was as slick and well put together as it’s always been, something was missing. It’s not easy to put my finger on what precisely was lacking. There seemed to be a lack of … buzz, for want of a better word. It felt … muted. Numbers were certainly down from previous years but that alone can’t account for the feeling, or lack of it, this year. Granted, the venue was excellent, the food was as well too. The coffee was … Starbucks. We can’t have it all. The wifi almost held up. I met up with a lot of old friends and colleagues, including some from Yahoo! and the after show parties were edgy and the bar was open, free and copiously stocked.

But it did feel more Meh 2.0 (to be said out loud with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders) rather than Where 2.0, and from speaking to other people, I’m not alone in thinking this.

So enough introspection, to the point of this post, which is retrospection. Let’s start with the high points.

Read On…

TSA WTF

It’s Friday, December 9th 2011 and I’m in the TSA security line at San Francisco International Airport. Shoes off. Belt off. Watch off. Laptop, iPad and Kindle out of my bag and into the trays.

TSA guard: “New rules. You don’t need to take your Kindle out anymore. It’s small enough for us to see it on the X-Ray machine in your bag

Me: “That’s good; one less thing to have to take out of my bag

It’s Thursday, March 1st 2012 and I’m in the same TSA security line at SFO. Shoes off. Belt off. Watch off. Laptop and iPad out of my bag and into the trays. Kindle in my bag. My bag goes through the X-Ray machine and I manage to avoid getting the full body scanner treatment.

TSA guard: “Is there something electronic in your bag?

Me: “Yes, my Kindle

TSA guard (forcefully): “You know the rules. All electronic equipment needs to be out of your bag and in a tray

Me: “I was told that there was the new rule that Kindle’s didn’t have to be in a tray

TSA guard: “Who told you that

Me: “You did, in December

TSA guard: “I would never have told you that

TSA … WTF?

Photo Credits: Niels Heidenreich on Flickr.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Near Instantaneous Trans Atlantic Travel

I’ve been tracking my journeys again and in doing so appear to have discovered the secret of near instantaneous trans Atlantic travel. Apart from the sporadic bad GPS locks, watch as I travel from home to the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale California and manage to travel from Heathrow to San Francisco in a blink of an eye.

It’s all an optical illusion of course, revealed if you watch the timer in the top left hand corner jump from around 11.30 AM to 3.00 PM; due to the lack of Latitude updates whilst I’m in the air.

Written and posted from Yahoo! campus, Sunnyvale, California (51.5143913, -0.1287317)

Mental Note to Self

I’d been told that the lesser spotted flight upgrade does happen. But despite travelling the Heathrow to San Francisco route on British Airways roughly once every three months for the best part of four years, despite knowing at least three members of the BA cabin crew who put me down on the upgrade list (but no promises, it’s at the discretion of the Captain you know) and despite frequently travelling with a colleague whose best friend is not only a pilot but a BA pilot, the elusive upgrade had never happened. Until today.

The BA Club World Experience

So what have I learnt from the experience? Firstly that Club World on BA is very, very, nice. Now nice is a much abused and cliched word but Club World is the sort of nice that makes me ponder what the rarified heights of First Class are like; nice staff, nice food, nice wine (Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” 2007 Zinfandel plus three other red choices and four white choices if you’re interested), just … nice. Secondly that the seats (which put themselves into all sorts of configurations, from bolt upright to totally flat on your back and all points in between, at the touch of a button) are a world apart from the BA World Traveller Plus seats (AKA premium economy) that I’m used to.

On Board Power

But first and foremost, the lesson I’ve learnt is that Club World seats have power sockets. Proper power sockets. Power sockets that actually charge a laptop. Not an airline seat power outlet that needs a special adaptor, but a proper, plug it in, power socket. Which for some reason takes US power adaptors not UK. This could have meant disaster; good as the battery life is on my MacBook Pro it’s not up to some 9 and a half hours of usage including PowerPoint deck wrangling and watching a movie or two. But luckily the day was saved by a nice lady in a BA uniform who rummaged in her personal luggage (which isn’t a euphemism by the way) and loaned me her own UK/US adaptor for the duration of the flight. Now that’s service in my book.

But mental note to self … upgrades do happen so sticking a US power adaptor in your hand baggage next time is probably a good idea.

Written on BA 285, somewhere between LHR (51.47245, -0.45293) and SFO (37.61476, -122.39178) and posted from Chateau Bell, Campbell CA (37.2655445, -121.963743).

The Airport Security Ritual

Post 9/11, post the Shoe Bomber and and post, for want of a better description, the Pants Bomber I’ve had to travel to the United States in the aftermath of a security incident and have had the dubious privilege of witnessing at first hand the incrementally heightened security procedures that have been put in place. Witnessed as a passenger I might add, so I can only pass comment on what I’ve seen and not what may or may not be going on hidden behind the scenes and out of site of me and my fellow passengers.

Even pre 9/11, airport and airline security seemed to rely on a degree of ritual, of knowing the right incantations and of knowing the right answer to give to certain key questions; “is this your bag?“, “did you pack it yourself?“, “could anyone have tampered with your luggage?” and “has anyone given you anything to carry?“. Answer the previous questions with “yes, yes, no, no” and you would be granted the honour of being able to check in and pass to the mysterious land of “airside“. Answer them incorrectly or get the yes’s and no’s in the wrong order and your life would become very interesting.

At Heathrow yesterday morning, prior to getting on my (much delayed) flight to San Francisco, I remembered to give the aforementioned answers in the right order (this is critical to success), took off my belt and shoes, took my laptop out of my bag, put the whole lot in large grey plastic trays and while they passed through the x-ray machine, I passed through the metal detector with nary a beep.

Lulled into a false sense of security (no pun intended) I made it to the departure gate in time, to be greeted with a large, slowly shuffling queue with the prospect of a bag search and a more personal search when I reached the head of the line. Now granted, the personal search of my person was thorough, verged on being ticklish and might have been liable to cause offence to other people but my bag search was a search only in the loosest possible sense of the word.

A nice security lady (I know this for a fact because she had a badge on saying Security) opened my bag, took a cursory look inside, commented “that’s a lot of computery stuff” and then proceeded to not actually search my bag at all. More ritual one assumes, the mere act of presenting my bag for a cursory poke and prod being enough to satisfy this particular one.

I was asked to empty the pockets of my jacket, which yielded an iPhone, a BlackBerry and my wallet. These weren’t checked or looked at and neither was my jacket looked at to make sure that I had indeed actually emptied the pockets. Yet more ritual; providing something from my pockets seemed acceptable and left me wondering what would have happened if I actually didn’t have anything in them.

Did any of this make my (much delayed) flight safer? Maybe, it’s difficult to tell. But overall the whole experience seemed to be about doing something for the sake of security and being seen to be doing it.

So has any of this made my travel to the US any different? It’s certainly made it slower, more intrusive, more frustrating and more laden with things I’m not allowed to do and not allowed to travel with. But has it made it any more secure? Taking the evidence of both the Shoe and Pants Bombers into account, both of whom made it through security and onto a plane which subsequently took off, it doesn’t really appear so.

This ritual of security isn’t restricted to the airline industry. Last year I paid a visit to UK headquarters of a technology company who were hosting an event I was to speak at. Half way through security, I was asked to sign a non disclosure agreement, which required me to promise not to reveal anything I heard or saw whilst on the premises. Which seemed a bit pointless seeing as I was one of the speakers; did this mean I wasn’t allowed to repeat my talk ever again? The security lady was insistent. I wouldn’t be allowed into the building without signing the NDA. Heels were well dug in by this point and I refused to sign it. She didn’t bat an eyelid and rather than being escorted from the building I was handed a security pass. More ritual, the point of which seemed to be that she had to insist about the NDA and then hand me a security pass regardless of whether I signed the NDA or not.

But existing rituals had been satisfied, and new ones called into being, so I guess that’s something.

Photo credit: Ned Richards and Milo Willingham on Flickr.

Written somewhere between LHR and SFO on BA285 and posted from the Sheraton Hotel, Sunnyvale, California (37.37159, -122.03824)

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

Avis: They’re Trying Harder

It’s probably due to the amount of time I’ve spent in the States this year but I seem to be more and more incensed by the crap customer service that companies in the UK seem to think that their customers should accept. I may have blogged about it once or twice or, as Guiseppe Sollazzo commented on Twitter recently “your blog today looks like a customers’ rights advocate“. To be fair, it’s not just me; there are other people I know who are equally strident about this, be it directed at the Apple Store or O2. Most of the time, the companies concerned just ignore complaints but sometimes, they try harder and given my recent experience with Avis at Heathrow, trying harder is rather apt.
Just after my experiences with Avis at Heathrow, I turned up at the Avis garage at San Francisco International to pick up a rental car. I’d never had any problems here before but was prepared for the worst. Which failed to materialise as I bypassed the inevitable queues, went to the Preferred board and found my name in lights. Less than three minutes later I was out of the building and heading for CA-380 and CA-280, a much more pleasant way to get to Silicon Valley than the I-101. But I digress.
“On behalf of Avis, I would like to extend my sincere apologies for any inconvenience that this situation caused you.  As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to send you Free Day Coupons to assist on your next rental in the U.S.  Please let me know the best address to use when mailing these.”
So fair play to them … but. All of the rentals I tend to use are when I’m travelling for Yahoo! so Day Coupons, whilst a nice touch, aren’t of that much use to me, so slightly emboldened by success I tried an alternate tack.
“Whilst I really appreciate your offer of Day Coupons, all of my car rental is on company business and so these aren’t of much real use to me; would it be possible to convert these into, say, an upgrade for my next few rentals?”
I knew I was probably pushing it but was even more pleasantly surprised by the reply.
“Yes, I can send you coupons for an upgrade.  Please let me know the best address to send these to.”
So fair play to you Avis; you took a really bad experience and a deeply cynical customer and turned the experience right around. Mind you, I’m not picking up any cars from Heathrow for a while … just to be on the safe side.
Photo credit: X-travalueMeal#2 on Flickr.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

Paperless Boarding Passes

Now that the so called smart phones, such as the BlackBerry, the Nokia N series and the iPhone, are becoming more and more ubiquitous, so airlines are ramping up their paperless or electronic boarding pass programs. I came across this recently when flying KLM out of Amsterdam Schipol when returning from the State of the Map conference; I’d checked in online from my hotel room but had no access to a printer. KLM’s online check-in system offered me the option of having my boarding pass on my iPhone, which duly arrived as a link in an email.

British Airways allegedly offers this service out of London Heathrow though I’ve yet to see it being used and there’s no evidence of any scanners at the gates at Terminal 5 or Terminal 4. British Midland and Lufthansa are also operating trial programs and now Continental Airlines are offering a trial at San Francisco. When moving around Schipol the system worked incredibly well even though some staff seemed not to have heard of it and looked a bit confused when I showed them my phone after being asked for my boarding pass.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous