How Southwest Airlines Treats Passengers

I just had a great experience on Southwest Airlines and it is worth writing about considering that most airlines passengers are back flying their favorite horrible low-cost carrier. Southwest is not perfect: no seat assignments, full flights, and very limited food options, but they are mostly on-time, treat passengers well, and don’t “nickel and dime” with hidden fees such as checked baggage. Maybe a seat assignment doesn’t matter considering what people have to put up with on other airlines? Besides who on earth flies to enjoy a good meal?! Plus their frequent flier program is without equal with no blackout dates and generous rewards for their credit card.

Now they are flying to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and will soon add Hawaii. It’s the best time ever to make the switch and start building up miles.

Finally, after complimenting the flight attendants during a recent trip, I found myself being handed this gem of a card as I walked off this plane, “Thank you, for being an amazing customer.” Thank you Southwest, for being an amazing airline!

Cuba Is NOT Covered in Your T-Mobile Data Plan!

But over 140 other countries are included at no charge and wow, thank you T-Mobile for this honest and useful text message!

It is amazing how mobile communication has unified the world. A T-Mobile customer can take their phone from Argentina to Venezuela in South America and from Bahrain to Zambia in the Middle East / Africa enjoying free 2G data and texting at no charge. Voice calls are only $0.20 a minute.

To be fair, T-Mobile has its share of problems. Some truly terrible customer service, overloaded networks, a lack of coverage outside of major cities, and a load of salespeople in stores that could benefit from adult supervision top the list, but overall they are pushing the industry toward more open and fair access for all. They have also forced the duopoly of AT&T and Verizon into cleaning up some of their horrible business practices.

Some people think the world gets worse and worse every year, but in truth some of the changes brought about by technology are for the better. Global communication is one area that is critical to creating a better world. On a side note, one of our fellow travelers pre-paid AT&T $5,000 for unlimited voice / data service in Cuba. Ouch!

A Lesson in Greatness from Meryl Streep

“The sense of truth, the character, the relationship with objects, and the body language.”

At almost the two hour mark during the Academy Awards last weekend, Javier Bardem introduced these attributes as “the four miracles of acting” and explained them through the performances by Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood in the 1995 movie “The Bridges of Madison County.” In a larger sense, they can also be considered keys to all great work. A chef who creates a delicious and healthy new dish, an airline that provides an extraordinary inflight experience, and companies that build particularly powerful products or services are all artists expressing a combination of these traits.

First, the Sense of Truth is the most critical factor and is also known as right intent. Is there an intent to develop a great product that inspires and enables creativity or is the focus to make something not so bad that customers will go elsewhere? A creator’s passion is a magical force that can influence everything from a single work of art to a complex piece of technology made by thousands of people.

Corporations are not run by artificial intelligence, they are run by The Characters, i.e. people. Managers have a special responsibility to lead in creating and maintaining a healthy corporate “personality.” Narcissism, immaturity, power trips, and other neurotic behaviors can quickly contaminate a company’s culture.

The Relationship with Objects refers to how a product or service interacts with the intended user. An airline can provide inexpensive flights, but still be on-time and award valuable perks to good customers. A consultant can be paid on a fixed fee basis, yet still go the extra mile to provide the best service possible to clients.

Finally, body language is the non-verbal part of how a company presents itself to the world. Beyond the glossy marketing materials, special promotions, and written promises is a grey area of customer service, technical support, complaint resolution, and community involvement. Some companies are arrogant, charging for every little extra and focusing on “keeping costs down” through shoddy customer service. Others are generous yet sensible, providing a good product at a fair price while still making a healthy profit.

In an age where more and more customers are quietly making a statement with their wallets, it pays to take notes from the best in the most competitive occupation, acting. Who knew that a slow dance between Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood could be so inspiring?

Original poster designed by Bill Gold

Sound Matters: Booting Up My Old Computer

Here’s a blast from the past to end the week thanks to an article in The Verge this morning, “Happy fourth anniversary to my favorite tech video, ‘Booting up my old computer’,”

While the techno nostalgia is fun, The Verge article focuses on the power that the sounds convey in the associated YouTube video: a spinning hard drive accessing, the high pitched whine of an old CRT, the CD tray opening and closing, the sighs of the user trying to recover files from an ancient Acer computer, and the finality of decreasing pitch at the moment of shutdown.

While “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” sounds evoke emotional content like nothing else can. As The Verge writer beautifully concludes, “Next time we review a new Chromebook, smartphone, or VR headset, I’ll think more about what the experience is like for the ears, not just the eyes and fingertips. Because four years later — or 10 or 20 — it will be the sound that’s still stuck in our heads.”

Sound matters…

Monthly Recap: Wired for Sound – The Times They Are a-Changin’

What a month! It started with the vocal backlash of the tech community against the new MacBook Pro which prompted my post, “The Rise of the Incompetent Experts,” continued with the elections, and culminated with our fascinating trip to Cuba which I photographed with the new iPhone 7+. Along the way, the post, “Acoustics – Apple’s Future is ‘Ear’” explored the interesting acoustics related idea that Apple may be paving the way for an audio user interface accessed through the soon to be released Apple AirPods.

nokiaaudioDespite what might seem like missteps, Apple definitely has a well thought out plan and acoustics will continue to play a major role. How could it be otherwise? They made the first commercially viable MP3 player with the iPod and pioneered the first digital music ecosystem with iTunes. Also, many people don’t remember that cellphones used to have proprietary audio connectors. Apple was the first manufacturer to standardize on the 1/8″ headphone jack. The BBC News post, “The 19th Century plug that’s still being used” is wonderful if you want the full story.

As for the title of this post, it comes from another major change in the world of audio recording that’s all but forgotten: the wire recorder. This is strange because it is still the recording format with the longest history, over 70 years! ArsTechnica wrote an excellent, in-depth article about it recently, “Forgotten audio formats: Wire recording.” Along the way, the article revisits Woody Guthrie’s recordings, the first audio bootlegging, and its impact on the language in phrases such as “wire tap,” “on the wire,” and “wired for sound.”