Ryanair vs the world

Pic by Jayfresh.

Ryanair’s miserable, humiliating customer service (this grizzled 45 year-old seasoned traveller was reduced to tears by a nasty piece of work representing Ryanair at Cork Airport a few weeks ago) isn’t the problem. Offering O’Leary and his staff advice on how to improve it or how to respond better to bloggers and Twitterers is pointless. The crappy service is Ryanair’s USP (on Twitter the other day someone called it the airline’s Purple Cow).

Passengers make a conscious trade-off – deliberately swapping a pleasant journey for a cheaper flight – and, most of the time, it works (I’ve done it many times myself and only cried once). The trashy in-flight experience and the cheesy web site are deliberate and quite sophisticated marketing – they’re supposed to be like that. “Anything this crappy must be the cheapest” you think as you tuck into your prawn sandwich (itself a clever quotation from the retail geniuses at M&S in the eighties). If Ryanair started adding freebies or courtesies we’d get suspicious.

Ryanair has prospered in explicit defiance of emerging customer service norms. While the rest of the world has been investing in better customer service and more elaborate experiences – concierges at the bank, car hire firms who bring the car round to your house – Ryanair has cleaned up by going where no one else has the stomach to. Ryanair’s race to the bottom has been driven by O’Leary’s remarkable bargain basement imagination, something no one has been able to copy. I say this with some admiration. He just goes further: Cup-a-Soup, scratchcards, checking luggage, paying to use the toilet. And who’s to say, in the current climate, that he’s not right?

So the question is not when will Ryanair fall into line with the rest of the customer service world (never going to happen) but how long will it be before they’re catastrophically caught out? How many of these highly entertaining but essentially trivial social media storms can they weather before one of them actually does some damage. The increasingly belligerent and self-confident blogosphere has evidently met its match in Michael O’Leary and his uniquely low-rent operation but I can’t help thinking the stand-off can’t last forever. You can take on a few hundred bloggers but as your customers move online and become active users of social media (“idiot bloggers”), can you take on everyone?

Pic by Jayfresh. Thanks!

The Anglosphere defined

This is what I pay my licence fee for. Dennis Sewell with Jonathan Freedland from The Guardian, Anne McElvoy from The Evening Standard, Stephen Pollard from stephenpollard.net and Michael Gove from The Times on the BBC’s Talking Politics (RealAudio). The first time I’ve heard blogging mentioned on a BBC political programme and a fascinating discussion of UK anti-Americanism, US neo-con thinking and, particularly, the shiny new concept of ‘the Anglosphere’ that seems to be animating the policy bloggers lately.

(I think you have until next Saturday 26 April to listen to the programme before the archive is overwritten – how stupid is that?)

Guardian.jpgA temporal web?

The semantic web is a powerful thing but it’s… well… semantic. Trying to imagine the net in the future, it becomes obvious that we’re going to need a temporal web too. Living, as we do, in the first moments of the web’s existence, we haven’t needed to think much about time. It’s as if everything that’s taken place so far all happened in a single, cataclysmic moment.

Once the web’s lifespan starts to stretch – across generations and centuries – we’re going to need an accessible historic record. Something that’s ‘online’ (as in ‘not offline in a tape library’) and preferably ‘inline’ (continuous with the current content). In this article for The Guardian I visualise this as a ‘giant rewind knob for the web’.

My example is the war in Iraq. Imagine the benefits to humanity in the future of being able to rewind to any point in the rolling popular history we call blogging and take a snapshot of the state of the war and opinion about it. More to the point, with so much information, conversation and collaboration moving onto the net, imagine a future without it.

In the article I also wonder if we, in the UK, shouldn’t be pressing the BBC to take on this task. Lots of people think the BBC’s proper role on the net should be to boost connection and participation (and there is some ambitious work going on already). Perhaps, as well as promoting communication, the Beeb ought also to be promoting recollection.

(Maybe the techies out there can tell me if this kind of work is already going on. I’m pretty sure Kahle’s Way Back Machine is going in the right direction but it’s a long way from being fine-grained enough and it certainly can’t present historic content ‘inline’)

Blogger injured, cameraman killed

On Monday night I blogged BBC Producer Stuart Hughes’ excellent Northern Iraq weblog. This is from the BBC the following day:

“A cameraman working for the BBC in northern Iraq has been killed after stepping on a landmine. BBC correspondent Jim Muir and producer Stuart Hughes, who were working with Kaveh Golestan, were also injured in the explosion. The incident happened when the three men and a local translator were driving near the town of Kifri.”

His last post before the incident is scarily prescient. Matt sent me the story.