Facebook Chat and More

This is in response to Mike Stopforth’s recent post about Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat also has me on Facebook again, but just a little. Facebook has definitely lost its lustre. There’s just too much crap I have to scroll through on most people’s profiles simply to leave them a Wall post.

I really want to do the following:
1. See what you’re up to
2. See your photos!
3. Write you a quick Wall note
4. Poke you, but NOT hug, kiss or slap you

What I’d like to see:

* Show me HOW I’m connected to someone, ala LinkedIn.
* Everyone on Facebook putting their phonenumbers up. I use Facebook as an address book. If your phonenumber is not up there, it probably means your Facebook friends aren’t your friends at all.

For crying out loud get rid of:

* Applications that serve absolutely no purpose, e.g. Zombie invites
* FunWalls, SuperWalls, OffTheWalls

What do you think?

Nudge! Making the Right Choice


I just read an interesting book review on Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness in Time Magazine that relates to my previous post about the ReVolt Movement on how to solve the Power Crisis in South Africa.

From the Time article:

If you want people to use less energy, you could make it very expensive – or you could just let them know how much they use in comparison with their neighbours.

When that bit of information was added to electric bills in San Marcos, Calif., heavy users quickly lowered their consumption, even though no one had asked them to. … the good people of San Marcos had been nudged.

Isn’t that incredible?


I did a workshop this weekend at Podcamp SA to try and solve the South African power crisis. We had a group of about 40 intelligent and well connected individuals in a room and I thought that if we simply put our heads together we could realistically arrive at a solution.

And we did!

You see, to alleviate the power crisis, at least in the interim, all we need to do is use 10% less electricity. Why is this so difficult then?

Surely all of us are capable to switch our geysers off for a few hours a day and stop running our swimming pool pumps in the winter? And not keep our PCs running through the night nor have 2 plasma screens constantly on even though we’re not watching?

The problem seems to be that we simply don’t believe that saving 10% is going to make any difference. It’s a classic study of humanity: “Nobody else is doing the right thing, so why should I? In any case, even if I did save, I will still suffer blackouts because no one else is saving!”

Now, of course, we could individually ration households, and in that way reward people individually for saving. The problem is that this is technically more difficult, time consuming and costly.

But what if we incentivized individual neighbourhoods, instead of individual persons? Municipalities already do rolling blackouts, in which they switch off electricity to certain suburbs, but not to others!

The solution is simple: If a certain neighbourhood manages to save 10%, in a certain time period, then simply continue to provide electricity to that neighbourhood.

This will empower people at the community level and also create a spirit of healthy competition between neighbourhoods, but without any losers! Imagine dinner parties where friends boast about their neighbourhood not having suffered a blackout in months because they managed to save!

Neighbourhood Power Watches could be established to distribute flyers to raise awareness (and occasionally go knock on doors of folks running Christmas lights in June)

Jon Tullet suggested that we use SMS broadcasting to warn people in any particular area of impending power cuts. (An SMS broadcast is a message sent to all phones in a range of a particular cell tower, regardless of what network you are or what your number is). This will allow recipients to switch off appliances and instantaneously reduce consumption to avoid a power cut!

I have set up a website, www.revolt.co.za, to be the centre of this campaign. (Do you get the double-meaning? Thanks to Simon for coming up with the name during a Blogger Community brainstorm session on Skype!)

So what can you do to help right now? Easy: If you’re a blogger, blog about it. If you’re a journalist, write about it. If you’re not a writer, talk about it. If you’re a politician, campaign about it!

Right now, right here, YOU can make a big difference in helping to bring South Africa back on track, to help save lives, jobs and 2% of GDP growth!

WiMAX vs WiFi


I spoke last week at First Tuesday in Johannesburg. Read ITWeb’s coverage here.

Ironically, on the very same day that I say that we won’t be seeing WiMAX on consumer devices for a long time to come, Nokia decides to release the WiMAX enabled N810 Tablet PC. Note, however, that there is no actual WiMAX network you can use it with, yet.

Here are my speaker notes:

WiFi vs WiMax vs 3G

I’d like to talk briefly about how WiFi is positioned in relation to WiMax and 3G, from the perspective of an end-user.

Firstly, a brief overview of 3G and why it’s not sufficient in itself.

3G is the main technology being touted by Vodacom, MTN and other mobile networks around the world.

3G is a data transfer technology that is essentially an enhancement of GSM. The good thing about this is that we already have a large GSM network available. And even though 3G speeds might not be available across the country, you can use the same 3G phone or 3G data card to access the internet via GPRS, which you’ll find even in Pofadder and many nearby farms where there is no ADSL service.

The bad thing is that it suffers the same limitations. In the same way that Dial-Up internet is limited by the telecoms network!

Who could tell me what day in the year sees the most telephone calls being made?

(Mother’s Day).

The moment that you have a lot of voice traffic, data traffic simply gets sidelined. So although 3G is a convenient and highly ubiquitous service, it’s simply going to suffer a massive coronary during the World Cup. The data access needed by millions of people phoning home and uploading millions of photos per match to Facebook and Flickr is simply beyond the reach of 3G technology.

This answers the question: Why WiMax?

It is clear that a better technology is needed than 3G broadband.

But now that we know that 3G is not going to work, the question becomes: Is WiMax going to work?

The idea of WiMax is great: Cheap, High – Speed, Long Range.

However, in practice it compromises on these in one way or the other.

Although WiMax IS capable of high speeds, it can only deliver high speeds at short ranges.

And although it can deliver data at long range, it can now only do so at really slow speeds!

And WiMax is definitely NOT cheap, with a base station costing north of a R100,000!

However, even if you could solve these problems, by having 100s of government sponsored WiMax base stations per square kilometre, the problem is fundamentally still the availability of consumer devices.

The closest thing we have to WiMax on the market is iBurst’s wireless service. As you know this involves a funky orange modem (show modem) that needs to be plugged into a wall and that costs R2000 to buy.

WiMax consumer equipment is much the same. It’s bulky, expensive and very power hungry. This means we won’t be seeing WiMax built into consumer devices any time soon.

And once we do, we’re going to find that WiMax is being implemented on different frequencies by different providers. So a WiMax device you buy from MWEB, for example, will not work on a WiMax network provided by, say, WebAfrica.

At the end of the day, WiMax is a bunch of hot air, and I don’t think we should spend any time planning government funded initiatives for providing rural access until the technology itself is proven.

So what we’re really left with is WiFi.

The reason we chose WiFi as a technology is because of its open nature. Anyone can build WiFi equipment that is compatible with all other WiFi equipment.

The really great thing about WiFi as a technology, as opposed to 3G or WiMax is that it is already built into a multitude of devices.

Besides for laptops and Macbooks, WiFi is also built into Smartphones, iPhones, the new iPod Touch and even Refrigerators and Washing machines.

It is an inexpensive and robust technology.

However, it’s openness is also its curse. There is no way for Vodacom to tie you into a WiFi service, thus they haven’t really put resources into promoting it.

As a result we have lots of small players providing vastly different service levels at very different price levels.

This is starting to change, and very soon you’ll be able to use a single, automated login, to connect to WiFi hotspots around the country.

It won’t be long before your streetlamps get upgraded to provide WiFi access.

The greatest thing is that you won’t need to upgrade your phone or buy an expensive wireless modem to access it. Simply use your iPod!

SAA Response to Complaint


I received an email today from Robyn Chalmers, SAA Head of Corporate Communications. (My original is below her response).

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Dear Henk


Thank you very much forwriting to me relating your experience at OR Tambo International Airport(ORTIA), I really appreciate it.

Travel can at the bestof times be a stressful experience and please accept my sincere apologies forthis unfortunate incident and for your treatment which was completelyunacceptable.

We understand howupsetting such treatment can be and for this reason we are embarking on a freshdrive to improve our customer service. We are starting at the top and recentlyran a workshop with managers in the airline who pinpointed the crucial areaswithin the airline where we speedily need corrective action.

ACSA, the owners of the airport, took adecision about three years ago that ORTIA would be a “silentairport”, where no announcements will be made. When we have a delay ACSAthen activates the system and SAA can use the PA system within a specific framework.For us to function to our full capacity we depend on service providers such asACSA, which is also responsible for listing flights on the display boards. These boards may havemalfunctioned on the day in question.

I would like to thankyou for your loyalty to SAA and hope that you will remain a loyal SAA customer.

Should there be anyother way we can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate tocontact me. We can also facilitate any Voyager requests, should you wish us todo so.


Kind Regards

Robyn Chalmers



From: Henk Kleynhans[mailto:henk@skyrove.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 200812:42 AM
To: Robyn Chalmers
Subject: Please help withaddressing an unfortunate and unnecessary SAA experience


Dear Robyn,

I write to you directly after a journalist friend suggested I speak to you andas I think my experience with SAA today might be symptomatic of an underlyingproblem that could easily be solved, thus preventing further harm to yourclients.

I am a fervent supporter of SAA, am a Voyager card holder and recently receiveda Voyager Credit Card as well. (Getting through to Voyager’s Call Centre forsupport is a different matter for a different day…)

This evening, April 1st, I was scheduled to fly with Flight SA369 at 8pm.

I had had a long day in Johannesburg,but managed to get to the airport early, and promptly checked in and clearedsecurity just before 18:30.

I found a location to sit where I could both keep my laptop charged as well assee the information screens and clearly hear any announcements. (There is verylimited seating at Gate C10 and no place I could see to plug in a laptop, evenif I were to sit on the ground)

The boarding time was scheduled to be at 19:30. However, when there were stillno announcements on the screen and no boarding calls for the flight by19:45, Iwent to find out why the flight was delayed and how much longer it would take,in order to make arrangements for my arrival in Cape Town.

However, I discovered to my amazement that the airplane door had just beenclosed!  According to the girl at the desk,  this was because all 75passengers were on board.

I asked her why there were no boarding announcements. And she matter-of-factlysaid it wasn’t necessary and that I should check my boarding pass.

I told her that I sat in front of the info screen since 18:30 and looked outfor the boarding announcement.

She then said something about it being ACSA’s fault. (She was wearing an SAAuniform).

I then asked her who was responsible for making boarding calls, but she refusedto answer this question. (Why is this?)

She said that she could take me to her supervisor, and kindly walked with me meto the check-in counters to explain to her supervisor. At this time I wasextremely distressed at the possibility of having to stay the night in Johannesburg and beingaway from my wife for another day.

While we were walking she told me that it was policy to only make boardingannouncements when flights were delayed.

She told me that I would have to pay extra to upgrade my flight. I said that Iam not happy about this and that I would contact SAA and asked her for hername, which she refused to give to me. I find this surprizing if indeedprotocol was followed.

I explained my situation to the supervisor, who rudely admonished me for notstanding at the exact boarding gate (C10) at 19:30 and furthermore told me thatSAA hasn’t been making boarding calls for the last 3 years! She sent me to thereservations desk where I had to pay an upgrade fee. (I paid approximatelyR2300 for the original return flight)

Is this really true then? Does SAA simply not bother to update the informationscreens? Shouldn’t there then be a notice in large text on the screens to saythat the information for SAA flights cannot be trusted? Is this perhaps thereason I often sit on an airplane to be told some customers didn’t pitch afterchecking in and that their luggage would have to be offloaded?

I am not so upset about the R345.00 that SAA has charged me to”upgrade” my flight, although, to my mind, this is really done in badfaith.

What I am really upset about is the entirely unnecessary inconvenience caused.

And although I really looked forward to seeing Althea, my wife, this evening, Iam saddened that she had to stay up much later than she is used to, to pick meup from the airport. She currently works as an Occupational Therapist at atertiary hospital in Cape Townand on top of that is doing her Masters in Disability Studies. It should beSAA’s mission to bring people together as quic
kly as possible, whether forbusiness meetings or to rejoin loved ones.

I have been a staunch and continued supporter of South African Airways. Buttonight I felt mistreated and disrespected by your staff. I am incredulous atyour policy of not informing passengers through the info screens placed allaround the terminals. What is their purpose then?

I would love to see SAA turning a bad experience into a good and long lastingrelationship. (It managed this once before, though unfortunately only aftermany hours of phone calls.)

 In 2006 the company I founded, Skyrove, received the Technology Top 100award for the Most Promising Emerging Enterprise. (You may have seen our logoat the airport information screens as it was flashed at airports around South Africa).And although we’re still a small company,  we have since then tripled ournumber of employees and our executive directors fly on a frequent basis, andalways with SAA.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,


p.s. Skyrove recently got good exposure because of its efforts of activelyengaging its community (the Web 2.0 word for customers). Please have a lookhere: http://www.mikestopforth.com/2008/03/21/skyrove-starts-a-conversation-and-saves-thousands/#comment