Archives For April 2013


April 25, 2013

Route 3: Flying from Miami International Airport to London Gatwick.

first kiss?

April 25, 2013

Forget my first kiss, my first drink or my first cigarette. Let’s talk about my very first e-commerce experience.

This must have been in about 1992 and I had been playing around with Compuserve for a while. Used it a lot to do background searches on companies for some reason. No idea why, but you could so I did…

Anyway. I had heard about this thing called EasySabre. Apparently it was a way to book flight tickets using the computer. You could get into it using Compuserve, so one night I decided it was a good time to try it out. I needed a flight to Amsterdam to visit the family. I logged on and went through the entirely text based process of finding and booking the flight I wanted. I even managed to pay for it using my credit card. At the end of the process I had a very cryptic print-out with all the details. It looked very official, but soon I had doubts. I wasn’t sure this was actually happening and as the flight was for the next day, I had to make sure. So at about 9 in the evening I got in the car and drove to Heathrow. When I got there I found the BA desk and offered them my print-out. Low and behold, my booking was all confirmed and on the system. I collected my ticket and went home in a mild state of ecstasy. I had just booked a ticket online and it worked!

Little did I realise then, that for the next 10 years we would have a front row seat while massive changes were taking place in the travel industry as a result of the growth of the internet. Our work with Amadeus and later with PhoCusWright gave us a fascinating insight in the transitions that took place during that time.

A piece of string is

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watching radio

April 12, 2013

Some of the most compelling television I have watched in recent years has been radio… And if that’s not scenic enough for you, I don’t know what is.

Stay with me.

Radio visualisation is everywhere now. From Radio 1 to Five Live to the Today programme, cameras in radio studios now mean that we can regularly drop in online and see the faces that go with the voices.

What makes it so compelling to me is that radio is a fantastic communication medium. It is all about storytelling, conversations and music. It’s always acutely aware of it’s audience. Radio talks to you. The cameras merely offer us a glimpse behind the scenes, while radio carries on doing what it does.

Unlike television, radio talks to us while we can get on with other things. Television and video demand our full attention. We can have news or music TV on in the background for the sound, but we have to stop what we are doing to watch it. With radio you can engage in the story or the conversation while driving the car, doing the washing up or browsing the web.

Can this be a pointer towards more effective virtual or digital events?

We replicated some simple, but key elements of radio and used them as an experiment during a virtual event and guess what? It transformed the experience. It was immediately more engaging and focussed. It started speaking to the audience. Watching video on a computer is often a very different experience than sitting down to watch television. There are a lot of distractions. To make virtual events really work we need to look at them differently. Radio may well give us a clue or two.

foggy Friesland

April 12, 2013

Route 2: the A6 from Joure to Lemmer through the Tjeukemeer in Friesland, The Netherlands. In fog.

my dad’s road

April 12, 2013

Not really “my Dad’s road” of course, but he was project manager on the construction of the section of the A6 through the lake called Tjeukemeer. It was the biggest project he was involved with and he was very proud of it. Looking at it now, it is a surprise it was ever built. A motorway section that runs through the biggest lake in Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands. It cuts the lake in half, even though halfway across, the road crosses a bridge to allow boats through. It is both a thing of beauty and an extreme example of the Dutch tendency to control the land and the water and also of their pragmatism. The most direct route for the road was through the lake, so through the lake it went.

I remember as a child visiting my dad at work. A day on site involved a trip in a boat to cross over to what is now the bridge and was then two small islands in the middle of the lake. Sand was hoovered up from the middle of the lake, mixed with water and pumped through a pipeline to be sprayed where the road was going to be. The sand settles and very slowly builds up the bridge ends and later the whole road. Careful management of the settling sand and the addition of stones keeps it all in place and once the sand and earth base has settled properly, the road can be built on top. In the early days we used to play on the quicksand and had hours of fun with walky-talkies.

My dad was acutely aware of the environmental impact of the project even though I don’t recall that being a big issue at the time. He introduced a number of innovations that helped blend the finished road into it’s setting. Traditionally Dutch motorway construction involved very clean and stark finishing. In some key places, they ended up leaving nature to create it’s own transition from constructed reality to its surrounding, by leaving areas alone to heal naturally. He was particularly proud of this and the resulting soft edges.

To this day, every time I drive this section of motorway, I think of my dad.

Een brug is een stukje weg waar de weg weg is.

(Dutch saying, popular with engineers. Translation: “A bridge is a stretch of road where the road is gone”. It loses a bit on the way…)