Social Networking

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Social MediaAs Blogs are a part of “social networking” and as I follow several blogs like the German Tourismuszukunft, I thought to share some thoughts. As usual, I do appreciate your feedback. This blog is meant to trigger thoughts and make you ask me. My statements are thoughtful, but not necessarily the only truth. Often enough, I do learn better from the exchange with you.

In November, I finally signed up for Facebook and Plaxo, finding old and new friends active in these networks. As of my “troubled history” with Xing and as a majority of my friends are international, I moved my private activities to Facebook and focus professionally on LinkedIn. Oh yes, and my reviews I add to Qype, though I did not have much time for that either lately. I publish once a week in this blog, try to think a bit about the philosophical blog on Sapphilosophy, try to answer on LinkedIn and communicate with my friends and update them on Facebook. Now I want to install WordPress on my website to move my blogs away from Big Brother Google, and my website needs some updating too… Information Overkill…

In an interview, I was just questioned that I do so much “business related activities”. But don’t we all have our hobbies? Business Development, Aviation and Hospitality are my business. And my hobby. My life. But we need to find the time first we can then invest into business and hobbies alike. On- or offline. And in honesty: I appreciate being a lot easier in touch with you than 20 years ago. And I appreciate a phone call (Skype?) and e-Mail. But isn’t a personal meeting definitely more valuable than any electronic exchange. Isn’t that, why we all appreciate opportunities like ITB to meet face to face with many in a short time? Isn’t that the same true for Sales? Yes, once a contact is established, e-communication is okay. But it does not forever substitute for personal meetings.

Food For Thought! (Share your thoughts with me)

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Paranoid: Big Brother’s Watching Me

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE)acte is requesting that the use of a controversial identification document reading device, being deployed at U.S. borders, be temporarily halted until thorough testing can determine if it is a potential source of traveler identity theft. According to published reports, the new device can remotely read highly personal data as an individual approaches U.S. border crossings. If traveling in a car, the device can read data on every individual in the vehicle, using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in passports, passcards, and drivers licenses.

ACTE is concerned that unauthorized individuals could either resort to electronic eavesdropping at the border, or use similar devices that could extract data from RFID chips at other locations,” said the association’s Executive Director Susan Gurley.

hackerSome of you remember my ASRA-presentation 2007, where Christoph joked about me being paranoid? Yes, I am! Not paralyzed, but careful. My life is largely “online”, I use Social Networks, have my own websites and blogs. But yes, I do consider who gets access to what and I do distrust companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo & Co. I have to use them. Some of their stuff is simply great (Google Earth + Maps), but these corporations have stronger power today than a president of the United States. Do I use Facebook or does Facebook use me?

Food For Thought!

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“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

qype/yelpHolidayCheckLately major discussions in Germany and online are the various public “rating” sites. Using Qype myself and HolidayCheck for the hotel ratings and reviews, I am a mature online user, able to read as well between lines as when I read the catalogue of a tour operator…

From many of my replies here the extract: It’s hyped. So to get the right perspective, sit back and think about it for some minutes. As you hopefully know Shift Happens, we are facing an information flooding. Where in the “good old days” it was necessary to know the restaurant and hotel critics, the authors of the major travel guides, it is now necessary to also know the major online portals. But it is not necessary to search and review all and any blog entries somewhere. That is “lost in the noise”, just as it was without Internet, where the noise existed (called “word-to-mouth-propaganda”).

Where in the good old days, the books and critics published in print had the main impact to day-to-day operations, the Internet offers another advantage. If you had a bad reputation in the past, it took you at least a year to get an update (new management, renovation, …) into the next edition. In the Internet, this can be promoted much faster.
But as fast, a bad rating can be outsmarted by good customers. If you have a problem with service, it is not the rating that sucks, but you better improve the service quality and proactively market it. Like the good old “We listen to our customers”…

Everything becomes public (and published) these days. But the users resort back to “trusted brands”, of which some (like HolidayCheck) are new, but don’t ignore the value of printed travel guides. It’s a shift from “search available information” to “select”. Where information was rare, it is now flooding us: “Select” means to be able to qualify the valuable information from the noise. And for the rated company to learn, what information has impact on the customers – and which are “just another one” with minor impact.

GartnerHypeCycleDo not ignore them. But don’t let the makers of these sites qualify their importance for you. The only ones who can are your customers and you. So if approached by another of these important experts telling you what you have to do: Don’t let them unsettle you. Sit back, think about it. But keep in mind: These tools do have their value and after a hype peak and a disillusionary phase, they’ll be here to stay…

[Update: I did not move from Qype to Yelp, there’s many other such “tools” meanwhile and I was unhappy with the user management of Yelp]

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Information Overkill

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

FVW Blog just mentioned a senior travel industry manager asking, who has time to read all that information published “Web 2.0”.

Classic Books vs. Digital
Classic Books vs. Digital

In the good old times, we had no control on who said what. But it did not matter much, as the word was forgotten quickly. Today, thoughts are not voiced, but published. So word reaches more people. But similar as in the good old days, the word gets lost. In the noise of flooding information, to find the interesting part becomes valuable.
Consultants recommend to keep control on what is said and published about your company. But where do you start, where do you end? Inflation of the value of the written word. So the good old paper publishing companies recover their value. Not limited to the printed issues. But to have editorial teams that built a reputation of “quality”.

Shift Happens » It’s all about control of the information flood. Information overkill. If I seek one information, I limit myself before on how much time I invest in it. I use a timer. Usually the time is gone by faster than I anticipated…

Google was founded in 1998. Before Google, there was Yahoo. I do miss the old Yahoo. I do miss a solution that qualifies the information that I get. I get too much crap searching Google. So as Google revolutionized Internet search, what will come after Google? In 1998, Google started with 24 million indexed pages. In 2004 they had already 8 billion pages in their index. (Source: Wikipedia) That means: These pages existed. How many today? Google doesn’t tell…
[Update 2016, Wikipedia says: “In 2012, Google has indexed over 30 trillion web pages, and received 100 billion queries per month”]

So if a consultant recommends you to keep an eye on the information published about you in the Internet, better ask him/her how. To date, I have not received a decent answer. So I keep 10 web pages and 10 Blog Feeds as my personal maximum. You want me to read your blog? If I do, I ask myself, which other blog I delete from my RSS-reader (Thunderbird). Interesting, more and more friends tell me they do the same. The more IT-focussed their business is, the earlier they limit their monitored information to the valuable ones
And on top of that list are: The company’s own website. The renowned, famous references. Blogs or independent websites? Only if I don’t find the information elsewhere…

Food For Thought.
How do you handle it? What’s your experience? I’m curious. Let me know 😀

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Do you still enjoy privacy or do you Google already?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

A German saying asked “Do you still have sex or do you play golf already?” (Hast Du noch Sex oder golfst Du schon?). Adapting it this week to “Hast Du noch Privatsphäre oder googlest Du schon?” (see title).

Following the general and naive media hype (can the media be truly that naive?!) about the new Google Chrome, German ZDF and some other more reputable news media took a closer look. Do you remember the public outcry when Microsoft was found “phoning home”? Google’s Chrome does not just call home. Your browsing history (aside others) is stored right on the Google servers. Interesting enough, despite ability to develop tools cross-plattform, the Chrome browser is only available for the Windows environment.

Another report did address the fact that Google builds “The Cloud“. As most my readers are travel industry related, you may recall that Amadeus Germany (“Start”) replaced the last “dummy terminal” in 1993 with a “PC”. Enabling storage of information locally. With “The Cloud”, you need to be always online, but you do not need a large hard drive any more, as all programs and data is stored on the servers in the web. The Google servers that is if you ask Google… Welcome back to our roots!

1 ½ years ago, at my anual ASRA presentation (4,1 MB), I addressed data security. The friends in ASRA joked about me being paranoid. Last weeks the “loss” and misuse of private government data (in large style) is all over media and politics in Europe, especially U.K. and Germany. In Germany even the official registration office (where any citizen must register one’s address) sells the data quite publicly. So paranoid? Or just realistic? Or underestimating the case?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reported to actually pick laptops from travelers without a particular security concern (“spot checks”). Too bad, if that happens to an Airbus official, who denies to give the passwords to access the encrypted data. And there is no official information, how the data is secured by the DHS. So the data may end up at Boeing quite “legally”. And yes, sure there are many ways to ensure the DHS not getting access to any privacy data. The Cloud Computing can also be set to communicate not with Google but with your own server(s) and a nice, unobtrusive special login allows you to invisibly purge (not just “delete” recoverably) all private data including server accesses in case that becomes necessary. Then you login in via VPN (access details not on the computer) and just restore your work environment. On this or just another PC… Details on request 😉

Hmmm… The DHS and politicians sure know that terrorists are not so stupid as to answer “did you pack a bomb” with “yes” (still “normal” question at U.S. airport check-in) or that they are usually organized good enough to secure their backs better. So if they know that, am I paranoid to believe them to not be interested in terrorists but to increase their control of us, their citizens?!
It is a radical change of the legal paradigm that one is innocent until proven guilty. Today we are all presumed terrorists and have to proof we are innocent citizens! All that under the argument that an innoncent person does not have to hide anything? What a complete farce!
George Bush, Wolfgang Schäuble, read my lipps: You will be going into history for having brought down freedom and established the surveillance state. Oh, sorry George Bush, you did better, you’ve become the president leading the U.S. into global wars being proven lier, using faked proof for “weapons of mass destruction”. Your “holy wars” have as much justification as the holy wars of the mideval ages! What was that movie? Wag the dog… Good to start a war to cover up the real business – such as to establish a surveillance state? The land of the free… The what? … Well done Mr. President!

So as a summary: Be careful with your private data and start to consider preference of non-commercial Open Source software, such as Mozilla, Open Office and Linux instead of Windows – it becomes increasingly a (vital) privacy issue! Not only privately, but increasingly also for corporations…

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Data Security

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

Best Western hit the media this week being reported to have been hacked and 8 million customer datasets being stolen. Best Western objected the news, mentioning they have no proof for such hack and they would delete their data anyway frequently.

Say WHAT? Corporations spend millions acquiring customer data and Best Western deletes them? Hmmm…

asra2007datasecurityNo matter, if this has been a newspaper hoax, there is something good in this. Who knows today, where data is collected, how it is stored, kept secure, who has access to it? How “secure” is “secure”? The Internet by definition is insecure. An old – even pre-WWW saying in IT: To have a secure system, remove all input… If a user in old DOS entered “format c: /u” the drive was formated irreversably. Oops, I forgot to backup that file? Too late. In my 2007 ASRA-presentation on Airline Sales & e-Commerce, my friends in ASRA joked that I would be paranoid… Today they know better, thanks to media coverage of data insecurities. I get increasing inquiries.
Most large corporates have a faulty and flawed security. Most even do not use encrypted communication with the most sensitive data they send through the web. Discussions on LinkedIn confirm the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to pick Laptops. Where does the data on them end up? Maybe your U.S. competitor has access to it?

But now we talk about personal profiles. Where is what data stored electronically about you? Have “they” told you they store the data beyond the immediate transaction? No. We only learn by security breaches becoming public that such behavior is not the exception but the rule. And thanks to the global networked world we live in, data is no longer limited to “my hotel”, “my supermarket”, “my anything”. But the hotel reports some or all of the data to the central server somewhere. Next you arrive in another city, they do have your address data on file. Hmmm… What else do they have???

And then we come to the new laws in the U.S., Germany and sure elsewhere, legally forcing providers to collect data and make it available to their government representatives. Said what? What is a “government representative”? Do I trust him or her? Not the government – I don’t trust “government”. But worse, “the representative”. Who controls the controller?

So sorry for the bad publicity Best Western, but thank you for another example to make people aware and think about their personal information. Did you ever read 1984? George Orwell did not even imagine what exists today!

Shift happens! Internet meet World. World meet Internet…

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CRM… Say what???

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

CRMWhat is “CRM” all about? Mostly, it”s a hype word, used by IT-companies to sell you (their) “off the shelf”-software, forcing you to their ways to qualify a customer. Back in 2000 at ITB congress, I was asked to address ad hoc CRM taking over a slot from a noshow-speaker. My question was – and is: What is CRM? It”s Customer Relationship Management. It”s about how to manage your relation to your customers. So what”s new?

But with all such hypes and other fairy tales, there”s a true core in them. A good CRM-software must support your existing processes. If it does that, it usually is a valuable tool! Off the shelf does usually not meet that criteria. The smaller your company, the more individual your (personal) relationship management with your customer. The only solutions I saw succeed where custom build or implemented in large, multinational corporations where individuality is not that much the issue any more.

So CRM-software is not the panacea for bad customer relations, it is a tool to enable access to your information. As such, it”s a good way to integrate information from the different departments communicating with the customer: Everbody knows at all times what is going on.
But that can be achieved very often by simply changing your existing address book and calender software to a centralized storage, i.e. with Linux, Exchange, …

Two side notes:
1. Don”t underestimate the work to “normalize” your data. Each and every data source that you must convert from it”s “native” or “export” file format to an “import format” usable for the CRM adds to the complexity of this vital job. And automatic matching is faulty (details on request). That”s a one time job, but a mission critical issue.
2. Don”t forget your customer. With travel increasingly becoming a luxury again, personal sales and support becomes a necessity again. Software may support the sales process, but (to date) that”s it!

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Revolution arising?

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]
Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed [L. Long]

Richard Eastman lately forwarded a mail to me: What is a Billion

It started to trigger a thought. I started to discuss with friends. I got … frustrated.

Having started with “a clean account” after World War II, Germany is now Third globally in state indebtedness. Paying off 1 Billion a year and no interest on the debt, it would take Germany 130 years to pay off. It took the politicians only some 55 years to reach that point.

nationaldebtOkay. So our national debt is unmanagable (or so the politics tell us), but instead of consolidating our national household, we spend +12 billion for development aid in other countries? That is a +140% increase compared to 2003 and is more than 50% of what the (somewhat larger) U.S. spend. If we keep the pace, we surpass them in 3-4 years… Austria and Switzerland together spend about 3,5 billion. China or Russia do not even show up on the chart. So we have the luxury to further increase taxes (Germany”s tax rules exceed the tax rules of all other worldwide countries together), add on to bureaucracy – but we have no money to provide child day care centers?

With the WIG-project, I also learned that such development could not be financed in Germany. Sure, I did not believe it – all basic technology has been developed and brought to prototype, aside the know-how, there are funds available. What a shock to learn (from DLR!), that these funds are “meant for basic research, not for R&D to convert existing technologies to products”…

Germans emigrate. We become an emmigration country – while Ireland or Portugal, the former poorhouses in Europe convert to immigrant countries.
An “unword” in Germany is the “migrator”, people trying to come to Germany. No, they are not immigrants in the eyes of the politicians – they are neither integrated.

I saw a report lately on the Weimar Republic (the one that lead to the Third Reich). I don”t know, if I was the only one, striken by the similarities. Oscar Lafontaine is called a demagogue even by the respected press and he mentioned on TV lately he feels that to be a compliment (I compare to Weimar Republic!). People vote for extremist parties – because the Grand Coalition in power today fails to address any of the peoples needs. Polititicans wonder, why the voters get tired of voting? Extreme parties increase their influence. From what I hear on the streets:

We are sitting on a tinderbox … with a short and already burning fuse.

¹ I am a fan of space travel, get this right. I doubt, NASA being very effective, so I love commercial projects, such as Mars Direct or SpaceShipTwo. I believe NASA has become a bureaucratic dinosaur needing commercial competition.
² Humantiarian Aid is not in question. What I question is “monetary aid”, known to end up anywhere but where it”s needed. And to increase the amount spent (by +140% in five years) when consolidating the national household is said to be a top priority.

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