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.

Moblogging without going out

Update: like practically every post of this vintage on my blog, the links here are broken and the post is, as a result, incomprehensible. And whatever the Memory Hole actually was, when I linked to it here, it’s now ‘a lifestyle blog to remember‘.

I’m blogging this for several reasons. First, since I can now (sort of) moblog from my camphone I’m trying out a visual blogging technique where I pointlessly apply the principles of moblogging to ordinary blogging and take pictures of web sites I have visited instead of just linking to them. Second, I very much like the idea of getting a cease and desist notice from Henry Kissinger and third, I admire the mission of The Memory Hole. Thanks to Danny for the link.

Blogging from my camphone

I wondered if I could ‘blog real life’ from my new camphone. Cynical Matt Jones says ‘don’t hold your breath’, optimistic Azeem Azhar says ‘watch this space’, clever James Cronin claims to have some code to do it, helpful May Woo points out that info-celebrity Joi Ito in Japan is already doing it. Thanks everyone. Meanwhile, I can’t actually get the phone to work…

A blogging injury

I’ve got some kind of RSI – pressure on a nerve in my neck makes my left arm numb (I’ve pretty much ruled out a stroke). My neck hurts and I can’t pick anything up. I’ve sort of fixed my stupid working posture and now I’m just waiting for it to get better. In the meantime, these things don’t work. They’re supposed to be mega-painkillers but they give me about an hour of relief maximum. This would be fine except I’m supposed to take them every eight hours. Worst of all, I think this might be a blogging injury. Incidentally, if you search for the words blogging injury at Google, you’ll learn quite a lot about Robert Schumann’s perplexing 1832 injury to his hand, caused by a ‘home-made mechanical contraption’ designed to strengthen his hands. The injury prevented him from becoming a concert pianist.

Normal service will be resumed…

The general weirdness and flakiness of Blogger lately (look at my lovely links!) has pushed me over the edge. I’m going to import the whole lot to Movable Type later today. Using the special temporary blogger template the MT people provide for this purpose I don’t even need to set up an RSS feed (thanks to Robin for the research). I don’t want to speak too soon but this could easily be my last day as a Blogger.com user.

and another thing…

What’s happened to all my links? All my lovely links over there on the right have stopped working (likewise the stylesheet for that bit of the page?). Blogger seems to have thrown away every single URL from my laboriously-entered anchor tags. I think this is the last straw. Movable Type here I come. It can’t be an OSX.2 thing can it? Or a Mozilla 1.0 thing (I just switched over from Explorer. Everybody going on about tabbed browsing was driving me mad)?