Motion Charts in Google Spreadsheets

Slightly old news, but anyway …

Motion Charts are now available in Google Spreadsheets.

These were originally made famous by Hans Rosling.  If you haven’t seen his TED talks please start here:

This seems like a solution itching for a good problem.  

These charts can easily handle five dimensions of data: x-axis, y-axis, bubble size and bubble colour + time scale.

Does anybody have an interesting and available data set like that which we could all use to play with?

Bonus points for NZ data. :-)

Credit, where credit is due

I was quick to complain about Contact Energy when I found their online billing frustrating.

How about something more positive …

Here is an email I got recently from Telecom:

The best thing about this? 

I don’t have to visit the website because the email contains all of the information I’m most likely interested in – the amount I owe and the date that the payment is due. 

As long as that looks right, I’ll delete the email and move on.  If not, the most prominent link takes me straight to the online bill, rather than dumping me in a maze of a marketing site.

The email is also signed by a real person, which is nice.

If I wanted to be really picky:

  • They could use fewer words – i.e. the first sentence only needs to say “Your latest online bill has arrived”. 
  • The URL for the link to the bill could be more human-readable – interestingly the link they provide direct to the bill at the bottom of the message is much nicer, so why not use that I wonder?
  • They could include the standard text that appears on the bill to explain that a direct debit is setup for this payment.

But, those are all small things. 

This is a much nicer user experience.  Full credit!

And, what’s really interesting about this … I’m now much more likely to be receptive to appropriate marketing messages that might be included in the future in this sort of email, or on the associated web site.

Thou shall not

Earlier this week I found myself in the Koru lounge at Wellington airport waiting for a delayed flight.

I was using the time to arrange an upcoming trip, and was quite surprised to see this brick wall when I tried to access TripIt.com:

Koru Club Fail
 

The “Your organisation…” is a bit misleading. I was just using the free wifi point.

If anybody from Air NZ is reading … what?

I realise it’s been a few years since I worked in a big corporate, so I might just be unaccustomed to being treated like a little kid by an IT department, but seriously what are you trying to prohibit here. You don’t want me to visit travel related websites while I’m in the Koru lounge?

What’s worse, you actually allow me to do it, but you want to make me feel naughty in the process? As it was I just clicked the “Use Quota” button and it let me straight through. What other sites you don’t think are acceptable, I wonder?

Quite weird.

By the way, speaking of Air NZ and TripIt…

Has anybody else run into problems with the new format e-tickets emails that Air NZ have introduced recently? I’m using Mail.app on OS X and am having a problem with the attachments:

The item in the inbox has 9 attachments, but the message itself has only 6. The 3 that are missing are the PDFs with the booking details.

When I forward to TripIt it is no longer able to automatically add the booking as it has in the past.

When I look at the same message through gmail.com it has all 9 attachments and works fine when I forward to TripIt, so it would seem to be a Mail.app problem.

Is this just me, or have others seen this too?

UPDATE (13-Oct): 

Kim from AirNZ added this comment.  Good news!

“Air NZ recently updated the design of its e-tickets, at the same time upgrading the system which generates the email and attached documents. The PDF and calendar appointment missing from the email when viewed in the Apple Mail client is a teething problem which is being actively closed down. We hope to have a fix in place later in the week.”

Getting seagulled

This series from Bokardo is excellent:

Common Pitfalls of Building Social Web Applications and How to Avoid Them

I especially like #10 from Part III: Failure to see the larger war…

“Techcrunch is not word-of-mouth. Getting Techcrunched or Slashdotted or getting Dugg…is like being involved in a drive-by shooting. I’ve also heard it described as getting seagulled…they swoop in for the attack and are gone in a second.”

Rather than chasing that sort of fleeting glory, he recommends instead building an audience that really cares one user at a time.

You should read the whole thing.  It’s full of advice that is much better than anything you’ll find here.

Work it

I can’t believe that this isn’t already more common:

The Green Microgym, which just opened last week, is a 2,800-sq-ft neighbourhood gym that generates a significant portion of its own electricity through the sweat-producing efforts of its members. … The Green Microgym uses a combination of solar and pedal electricity for a chunk of its energy needs.”

— via Springwise

I’ve always thought that they should have monitors on each bike and a display at the front of the RPM classes showing the total amount of work that everybody has done – a kind of leaderboard to spur people on.

Displaying the number of watts generated would take that to a whole new level.

Perhaps gyms could offer discounts to members who were net generators of electricity?

Or, maybe they could make you earn your warm shower, literally?

What do you think?

iPhone Upgrade

I picked up a 2G iPhone when I was in the US earlier in the year.

I’ve been meaning to write a review here for a while.  

Here is the short version: I love it!

Upgrading to a new 3G model doesn’t really interest me for now. I’ve added 200MB of mobile data to my existing cheap plan, and have never come close to using all of that.  So, I don’t need to upgrade to get on a better plan … in fact, it would cost me more and I’d be locked in, so I don’t really see the incentive there.  

And it doesn’t really seem to me that there are any really compelling functional, or even aesthetic, reasons to switch.  

Am I missing something?  

Until yesterday, I haven’t even felt the need to upgrade my software.  

Then Cultured Code announced an iPhone version of Things which syncs with the desktop.  That will do it for me.

So, I’m looking for somebody who can help me upgrade.  

According to iTunes I’m currently running v1.1.3.  I’d be interested to talk to anybody who has done this successfully.  I’m hoping it’s as easy as the initial unlock and jailbreak.

Also, while I’m at it …

Prior to the iPhone I used a Windows Mobile phone, and used Missing Sync to sync with my address book and calendar.  When I say sync I’m talking mostly theoretically.  It never really worked properly, randomly changing contact details around and dropping appointments into the ether.  

Very frustrating, and not really recommended at all!

What’s more, even though the software is now removed, it’s left some muddy footprints in my network settings:

There are literally hundreds of those dead connections listed.  I can only guess that it created a new entry each time I connected the phone to sync, and never cleaned up after itself.  It’s a pain because it means that this settings page takes forever to load, and I’ve also noticed that my Mac takes a long time to switch onto a different network connection (e.g. when I move between wi-fi points, or disconnect an ethernet connection).  Perhaps it’s somehow working through this list to check which connections are available?

Does anybody know a quick way to remove these?  

Any help with this would be much appreciated. :-)