BA Miles/Avois

Avois (close to the word Avoid)For a long time I would struggle if someone asked me what my hobbies were. Luckily this was a rare problem as asking about hobbies isn’t part of 21st century conversation. But then I realised I do have a hobby. I collect loyalty points. Quite obsessively. I have the store cards, the credit cards and I go via Nectar’s website to get points for online purchases (you really should do this if you don’t already). The rewards have added to my other sort-of-hobby, holidaying through free flights and train journeys.

So I read with interest an email from BA saying their loyalty programme was changing and rebranding but I was reassured “Avios points will be worth exactly the same amount as your BA Miles”. This message was repeated in a follow-up email and on their website. So imagine my surprise when I read Airmiles customers lose right to free flights and ‘Free’ flights that now cost a small fortune. It turns out that from November I will have to pay taxes and fees on flights paid with points whereas before I didn’t.

BA’s response is that puts them in line with other airline loyalty programmes which is true. What upsets me is BA have hidden this from me, lied (although they’d have a good legal case around the use of the words “worth exactly the same”) and thought I wouldn’t realise. Why not pony up and explain this change? Did they not think anyone (ie the press) would notice? No BA passenger was going to like this change. Surely being honest and owning the message would have been better. I would have respected them for it. Now I don’t.

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When to get App Store promotion

BusMapper and Highlights
A while back the Off The Wall Post podcast talked about London BusMapper, a handy website and iOS app that tells you how to get from where you are to a place you point out on the map. It was obviously a work in progress from a small independent team. When I bought the app it couldn’t do interchanges so unless there was a direct bus for your route it was useless. But I figured they’d improve it over time. And they have done.

This week I bought Highlights for iOS which takes the check-in data and reviews on Foursquare and Gowalla, attempts to rank them in popularity and then plots them on a city map. The result is a crowd sourced map of the best places. I figured it would be good to get a measure on new cities I visit. I searched Tallinn and got useful recommendations. However Highlights isn’t quite there yet. The interface needs some work, there’s a few bugs and it would benefit from more data sources. But I figure they’ll develop it.

The thing is BusMapper was promoted extensively on the iTunes App Store, and Highlights is this week’s iPad App of the Week. In honesty I don’t think either were ready for this promotion. They’ve both picked up a number of bad reviews for not being polished but there’s a lot more love for them to cancel it out. More importantly though for paid-for apps from small teams this early promotion will have given them some money, an audience and the encouragement to keep developing.

So the lesson… You can get away with a minimum viable product in the app store. But it has to be a good concept people will warm to. And keep the improvements coming regularly.

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I went to two conferences over the past week. One was a (relatively) cheap inspirational event the other a (get work to pay for) expensive one where you discuss and learn your craft. Sadly neither left me feeling fulfilled and like they were worth the cost.

The first, dConstruct, promised to bring “together leading thinkers from the fields of interaction design, mobile design and ubiquitous computing to explore how we can bridge the gap between physical and digital product design” – a lofty ambition. The result was a mixed bag of presenters who divided the audience. The established presenters did their well rehearsed thing, new presenters showed off their knowledge and quirks, and one man read a strange fantasized history of books. I thought there was some great stuff in there but it didn’t hold together and some things missed the mark.

The second, CS Forum, brought together Content Strategists to talk their business. This is a new and exciting field and encompasses many of the skills I’ve picked up over the years. The problem here was it is such a new discipline most people wanted to talk about how important it was and the challenges they faced. Which meant it got a little repetitive but that wasn’t the core problem. I went in search of answers, examples, case studies and where CS had delivered. Sadly around half the presentations stopped short. Again there were some brilliant speakers – the ones who are at the top of their game.

I guess what I want to see is a conference agenda that takes the aspects and challenges of a field, splits them, finds the best speaker for each and challenges them to give real insight into the subject.

Of course both conferences were noted for their drinks parties afterwards because in truth everyone goes to network and meet their peers.