Will G+ Eat RSS, or Insist on Sole Ownership?

Thursday, July 21, 2011 

Weird: I have yet to find a way to import an RSS feed into G+. This is one of those things that significantly undermines Google’s “your data” cred. Anyone know of a way to do it? I haven’t found an “import RSS feed into your feed” the way facebook kinda does and the wordpress/facebook plugin does.

I’m a very strong believer in “he who owns the hardware, owns the data,” so, for example, posting this on G+ means that this text is Google’s (note, this was originally published on G+, then I stole it back!). And since it didn’t originate on my personal wordpress installation (free as in speech, free as in beer) running on my server at home (free as in speech, not absurdly expensive as in cheap beer), it isn’t mine.

My server also runs my mail server, my file server, my web server etc. all from my garage meaning that’s my data and my hardware and fully protected by law, while any data on Google’s server is effectively shared with every good and bad government in the world and my only legal recourse if it gets hacked or stolen or sold or given away or simply deleted is to… write an angry post on my blog and swear never to trust a cloud service again.

This is, obviously, exactly the same at FaceBook and every other cloud service. I use Facebook as a syndication service: I post on my own servers and syndicate via RSS to FaceBook, which becomes, in effect, the most frequently used RSS reader should people who haven’t gotten around to blocking me in their streams might find and by which perhaps occasionally be amused. This means I still own my data and my data has no particular dependence on FaceBook’s survival.

This post is visible only as long as Google wants it to be.  If Google changes the rules, I lose the data.  OK, I can download it – as long as they choose to let me, but it isn’t my data. When I post on my server then give FaceBook permission to republish the data, I control my data and they get only what I decide to give them. When I post this on Google and then ask “please, sir, may I recover my post for another use?” the power relationship is reversed: Google owns and controls everything and my rights and usage are only what they deign to offer me.

That almost everyone trusts the billionaire playboys who put king sized beds in their 767 party plane as “do no evilparagons of virtue is odd to me, but nothing better validates Erich Fromm’s thesis than the pseudo-religious idolatry of Google and Apple.  Still, even the True Believers should realize that the founders of these Great Empires are not truly immortal and that even if Google is doing no evil now, it will change hands and those that inherit every search you’ve ever done, every web page you’ve ever visited, every email you’ve ever sent, every phone call you’ve ever made or received, the audio of every message ever left for you, the GPS traces of every step you’ve ever taken, every text and chat and tweet might think, say, that Doing Good means something different than you think it does.  One should also remember the Socratic Paradox that renders tautological Google’s vaunted motto.

Unfortunately, at least so far, Google won’t let me use G+ to syndicate my data – they insist on owning it and dictating the terms by which I can access it. If I want to syndicate content through my G+ network, it seems I have to fully gift Google that content. I’m hoping there’s a tool to populate my “posts” from RSS so the canonical will remain on my server. Because it is the Right Thing To Do.

(Shhhh..  I’m going to copy and paste this into my own wordpress installation, even though I wrote it here on the G+ interface.  They probably won’t send me a DMCA takedown, but I do run the risk that they’ll hit me with a “duplicate content penalty” and set my page rank to 0 thus ensuring nobody ever finds my site again.  Ah, absolute power, so reassuring to remember that it is absolutely incorruptible.)

Posted at 11:47:35 UTC

Category: politicsself-publishingtechnology

Taking a risk…

Sunday, July 17, 2011 

Sushi from the JFK RCC int 1st club before a transcon. Hmmm…

edit: lived, but may have caused some gastrointestinal distress, but that could also have been the shrimp, which seemed even more sketch.  The turnover is pretty low at this club.
Posted at 13:02:29 UTC

Category: photoplanesPositivereviewstravel

Back in the US

Sunday, July 17, 2011 

Lovely day in Washington Square Park.

Posted at 07:32:32 UTC

Category: placestravel

Cinque Terre

Friday, July 15, 2011 

We had a visit to lovely Cinque Terre. A bit touristy and too many SF types in the crowd (including the owners of the Atlas Cafe) but otherwise quite cool.


Monterosso al Mare







Riomaggiore at night
Posted at 00:38:08 UTC

Category: photoplacestravel

FB vs. G+

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 

An interesting artifact of the FB vs. G+ debate is the justification by a lot of tech-savvy people in moving to G+ from FB because they believe Google to be less evil.  It is an odd comparison to make, both companies are in essentially the same business: putting out honey pots of desirable web properties, attracting users, harvesting them, and selling their data.

Distinguishing between grades of evil in companies that harvest and sell user data seems a little arbitrary.  I’d think it would make more sense to use each resource for what it does well rather than arbitrarily announce that you’re one or the other.

However, if one is making the choice as to what service to call home on the basis of least “evil” and assuming that metric is derived in some way from the degree to which the company in question harvests your data and sells it, then it is somewhat illuminating to look at real numbers.  One can assume that the more deeply one probes each user captured by the honey pot, the more data extracted, the more aggressively sold, the more money one makes. The company that makes the most money per user is probing the deepest and selling the hardest.

From Technology Review May/June 2011, annual revenue per monthly unique US visitor:

Facebook: $ 12.10
Google:     $163.60

Google squeezes out and sells more than 13.5x the data per user. Google wins. But Facebook is gathering $12.10 worth of user data, why should Google allow Facebook to have it? If Google wins that last morsel of data to take to market and takes out Facebook, Google can increase their gross revenue by 7%.

I’ve also heard people argue that Zuckerberg seems more personally avaricious, mean, or evil than Google’s founders, comparing Google’s marketing spin to “The Social Network”

Zuckerberg’s only newsworthy purchase was a $7m house in Palo Alto. Google co-founders were in the news over a lawsuit between them over whether their 767 “party plane” (Eric Schmidt) could house Brin’s California king bed. This is in addition to their 757 and two Gulfstream Vs they talked NASA into letting them park at Moffet under the pretense that the planes would be retrofit with instruments for NASA. When they couldn’t do that (FAA regs, who knew?), they bought a Dornier Alpha, but still get to park their jumbo jets and gulfstreams inside NASA hangers for some reason. Suck on that, Ellison!

Posted at 01:25:13 UTC

Category: technologyvanity sites

Italy at Night

Friday, July 8, 2011 

I was playing with long exposures with the NEX5. I got a cool picture with a shooting star in the background – it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but showed up on the image (almost typed “film”). It was a 30 second exposure at ISO 6400, very cool that it resolved the color of the trees and tower by starlight.

The village was is an automatic HDR composition which reports 3.2 seconds at ISO 1600.


Posted at 17:32:25 UTC

Category: photoplacestravel


Tuesday, July 5, 2011 

I remember when I was a kid we used to fill jars with fireflies believing we could read by them – and while they weren’t quite that bright, it is now quite cool to find even a single firefly. What happened to them?


Posted at 15:31:29 UTC

Category: photo

Singapore Air: Nice planes, Crappy customer service

Saturday, July 2, 2011 

Singapore Airlines sucks… OMG.   Not only do they seem to have real trouble handling bags, they have absolutely no customer service at all.  None.  Zilch.

I flew SFO-JFK on a UAL PS flight first class on the 1st; JFK-FRA on Singpore Air, first class on the 1st-2nd; FRA-FLR on Lufthansa business the 2nd.  When I arrived in FLR, no luggage.  I waited for the next FRA-FLR flight to arrive, no luggage.  There had been 3 FRA-FLR flights before mine my luggage could have taken, no luggage.

I had a 3 hour layover in JFK, somehow Singapore did not get my luggage on my flight, despite flying first class and having one of those “priority” tags on my bag (as if). United’s scan showed they delivered the luggage to singapore on time, but that Singapore just hadn’t boarded it, and rather than find the fastest way to get it to me at my destination, put it on the same flight (SQ25) 24 hours later.  They hadn’t bothered to try to contact me.  At all.

Now that’s lame, lame for coach, pretty much intolerable for first, but to make matters worse:

Their online luggage check tool at http://www.worldtracer.aero/cgi-bin/fileframe.exe?tran=XXXsqXXXXXl1=enCB=Y does not have current information, but United has more recent information – FOR SINGAPORE. If they could give me some information, any information about the luggage, I’d be more confident, but that the only useful information I could get at all came from United, and from them only as a courtesy, is just astonishing.

I was given this number by united to call: 800 742 3333, it is a call center that could do nothing at all to help but sound vaguely apologetic and give me the Local airport number.

I called that number, 718 751 3832, and got voice mail. Of course I left a message, of course nobody called back.

I called their lost and found number at 1 800-2244243 and got fast busy every time (during daylight hours Singapore time, daylight hours EST, daylight Europe time… the number seems disconnected: WIN SQ!).

I wrote them at sqbaggage_enquiry@sats.com.sg, no answer so far.  (update, 12 72 hours later, no response at all).

I found the JFK office number on the Singapore site, which is actually their “traffic number” at +1 (718) 751-3830 and called and got voice mail, no answer, no response. (update, no call back 12 hours later UPDATE again – still no contact at all from Singapore – 3 days).

I found the JFK baggage office email at JFK_LostNFound@singaporeair.com.sg and sent a note there, of course no response.

I filled out the form at https://www.singaporeair.com/baggageFeedBack.form and at https://www.singaporeair.com/customerServiceFeedBack.form, but of course got nothing back – so far not even an automated response (update: got an automated response, but no real response 12 72 hours later).

I called the 24 hour call center in singapore at +65 6223 8888 and their phone tree system had real trouble recognizing DTMF signals and they had no default to human operator. It’s a reservations system and has endless hold problems, but at least I eventually got hold music. No help, but hold music. Update – I did eventually get someone but they were as useless as the first number. I had serious trouble explaining that I needed to speak to a human being and that it wasn’t useful to give me a number to call where nobody answered.

I demanded that the operator connect me, and she finally connected me to someone who said “hello.” I said “hello.” He said “hello.” I said “hello.” Excuse me, who are you? No “can I help you?” No “I’m sorry we screwed up and didn’t get your luggage on the flight?” But finally, finally, someone at Singapore who could, if not entirely politely, at least look up the status. I had to correct him when he said “you lost your bag” to me: “No YOU lost my bag, you failed to board it on my flight. Where is it?”

People rave about Singapore Air and while the flight was comfortable enough and the food excellent… and the FAs the nicest and most attending I’ve experienced, their baggage handling and customer support is horrible. Unbelievably worse than even a discount airline in the US. And the thing that pisses me off most (and this is the same with UAL): they KNEW my luggage didn’t get on the plane before my flight took off – certainly long before I landed. Why wait until I get to my final destination to file a claim before fixing it? Flying first class on a transcon flight they should have had someone waiting for me at FRA with a toiletries kit and an apology and an update as to where my luggage was so I didn’t have to waste 90 minutes at the airport filing a claim and another hour or two following up to find out the status of their screw up (Update: 4 days later and Singapore has yet to take a single step to rectify their mistakes or apologize).

UPDATE 1: 12 hours after arrival, UAL is still the only airline that is willing to answer their phone or check on updates.  I haven’t tried to track down Lufthansa, though they haven’t yet answered  their email.  UAL is at least polite and responsive on the phone and can track the bag for me, even though they didn’t lose it, Singapore did.  Note that Singpore has known my bag wasn’t on my flight for almost 36 hours already and has not bothered to contact me (update: 4 days later and not a word from Singapore)

UPDATE 2: 24 hours after arrival, Singapore’s web site still says “Bag 1 Status TRACING CONTINUES. PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER”   But FINALLY got through to Singapore Air and spent some time teaching the bag guy there how luggage scanning works at different airports and why it is reasonable for him to be able to answer whether my bag had made it to FLR yet or not (shaming him a bit by explaining that if he couldn’t answer, I can call UAL and they DO know because their computer WORKS).

He kept telling me he was the one who “rushed” my bag to FLR.  I’m sorry, using the word “rushed” for putting my bag on my same itinerary 24 hours late isn’t “rushing.”  Just like making me call HIM to find out the status when he knew my bag was misplaced isn’t “customer service.”  In a moment of honesty he said “I don’t know why your bag didn’t get on your flight.”  SQ simply screwed up, but hasn’t done anything to fix it at all.

He finally managed to look it up after I basically explained how to do it over the phone and confirmed it was in Florence, but had made no arrangements for final delivery.  At least he knows how to check on the status of a missing bag now, so if anyone else loses their bag out of JFK on Singapore and wants to find the status, call +1 (718) 751-3830 during regular daytime hours and if you’re lucky the same guy will be there and know how to look it up for you.  You’re welcome.  I forgot to ask him to add a local cell number to the record, but that was too painful, I’ll call UAL and ask them to do it, even though this is all SQ’s fault.

UPDATE 3: 36 hours after arrival, Singapore’s web site now says “Bag 1 Status ITEM LOCATED, PENDING CONFIRMATION”  According to Singapore Air the bag was actually delivered to FLR last night. I called the airport and they were very polite but couldn’t give me any information other than to take my number and offer to call tonight.  As it might be out for delivery, I won’t drive back to the airport yet.   Singapore still has yet to call me, message me, or respond to any email. UPDATE – they were wrong, the bag had not made it to FLR.  They were either lying or incompetent.

UPDATE 4: 48 hours after arrival, still can’t reach anyone at Singapore at any number.  I’ve taken to calling sequentially all of their listed numbers in the entire world trying to reach someone, anyone, with 1/2 a clue… or who will even answer the phone.  As that was complete FAIL I called UAL again.  Of course they knew exactly what was going on.  My luggage seems to have gone on SQ 25 from JFK a day late, and flown to FRA… but…  it seems they FORGOT TO UNLOAD IT.  WTF?  OMFG.

So UAL tells me it is now actually on SQ 326 from SINGAPORE to FRA.  It is supposed to connect tomorrow on LH308 arriving on the 5th.  They lost it on the 1st.  That’s 4 full days Singapore has known they screwed up, and two MAJOR screw ups, and not a single contact from them, not an email, not a phone call, not an SMS, not anything.  I’ve written them maybe 6-8 emails and called every number I could find and actually talked to two people, including the guy in NY who insisted that he RUSHED to get my bag on the same flight 24 hours later (but didn’t bother to contact me or assist me in any way to either locate my luggage or offer to assist with the absence of luggage) and still not one single proactive step from them at all.

I finally got some poor guy at the LA office and gave him a bit of a chewing out for their corporate incompetence.  He promised to tell his manager and try to get back to me.  We’ll see, but what can they say?  “Um, sorry we forgot to load your luggage.  Sorry we didn’t bother to say anything at all about it.  Sorry we forgot to unload it in Frankfurt and took it on a world tour instead… I guess we’re just incompetent morons?”

UPDATE 5: 60 hours after arrival.  Still not a word by any means from Singapore Air. They have yet to even apologize for losing my luggage, not once, but twice on the same trip.  That’s just inexcusable.  I called FLR’s automated luggage line and they told me the luggage has been found and will go out for delivery as I arranged with them.  No call yet to arrange delivery, but at least it is no longer in Singapore Air’s incompetent hands.

UPDATE 6: 72 hours after arrival.  I got through to someone at FLR.  Their automated line in English and Italian is at +39 055 3061 302.   The information they provide has so far proven correct, so it is a fairly reliable system (unlike Singapore Air).  They also have a direct line, though the people there are quite hassled and busy, but if you need to update your record, you can reach them at +39 055 3061 680.  Still not a word, not an email, not an SMS, not a call from anyone at Singapore.

UPDATE 7: 84 hours after arrival.  I finally got an email from Singapore Air – first contact from the company.  It reads:
Dear Mr Gessel,

thank you for your e-mail sent to our baggage enquiry department in SIN.

According to your Missing Report FLRLH82547 raised in Florenz with LH, the bag was received in Florenz yesterday, on the 05th of July.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the status of the delivery as I´m at Frankfurt. But I´m confident that our colleagues from LH will arrange a fast delivery to your mentioned adress in Italy.

We apologize for any inconveniences caused to you because of this unfortunate incident.

Best regards,

Silke Ruthotto
Senior Customer Services Agent

Gebäude 201 HBK 277
60549 Frankfurt/Main

Tel.: 069-690-32881
Fax.: 069-690-54681

I appreciate the apology, but it has been 5 days since Singapore first discovered they lost my luggage and this is the first they’ve bothered to say anything, and that thing is “OK, we’re done screwing it up, Lufthansa can sort it out.”   Still no delivery advice. Perhaps he could have taken the time to find out what the delivery timing will be and let me know.

UPDATE 7: My luggage was just delivered, at 0710 ET July 6.  Singapore Air first became aware they had failed to board it on SQ 25, presumably shortly after takeoff at 2125 ET July 1.  It took them 100 hours to contact me at all, and then only after I sent them dozens of messages and called every number they had to try to track down my luggage, and my luggage finally go to me 92 hours late.

It has been all over the world since I checked it in at SFO 5 days ago.  The Singapore reroute tags tell the tale: they start on the 2nd, and are crossed out and updated with 4th and then 5th.  Nice work!  Once it got to LH, it was delivered quickly.

My Luggage travels more than I do

Conclusion: Singapore Air gives a great front office experience, but their back office needs some serious work.  With the amount I’ve flown, I’ve had my luggage misdirected plenty of times, but never twice on the same flight – never misdirected in the effort to get it to me.  That is a special category of fail.  I’m particularly annoyed by Singapore’s astonishing lack of responsiveness: they provide no functional way to track down luggage they’ve lost.  None at all.

If you’re lucky and you’ve connected with another carrier, a responsible one, you can get updates and keep track of what is taking so long, but not through Singapore.

Singapore’s in-cabin reputation is well deserved, definitely one of the best in the business, but their back office is one of the worst.  Discount airlines do a better job.  I would not trust them with my luggage again.

Posted at 16:15:59 UTC

Category: planestravel

Frankfurt Finally Gets Civilized

Saturday, July 2, 2011 

For a decade a I filled out complaint forms every week at United Red Carpet Clubs explaining that they were being short-sighted charging for internet service, a service they could provision for a few hundred dollars a month and would have drawn customers to them. They finally got around to fixing their stupid contract about the time airports started giving away wifi for free in the concourse, making the lounge the tier 2 place to be for a business traveler.

Finally, Frankfurt has realized the same thing. Oddly, Munich has been giving away access cards for years now, but Frankfurt was always a dead zone for an international traveler. today I was very pleased to see this slightly oddly worded greeting.

Lufthansa makes you a gift.JPG
Posted at 02:50:36 UTC

Category: -